The teams are putting their final preparations in place with only 10 days until the world's greatest sports competition kicks off.
No, not footballers but marketers and spin doctors of the IT industry who are looking for that extra yard to keep their brands in touch while most of the world's eyes fix on the playing fields of Japan and South Korea.
At the best of times it's difficult to gain a glimmer of interest in the latest version of BlogWare, however paradigm-shifting. But this is the worst of times, this is the World Cup.
So what to do? Easy: find the football angle, no matter how spurious, and link your product, your service, somehow, anyway, to World Cup 2002. Then bombard the press.
Our email boxes are fuller than the French trophy cabinet with World Cup IT angles. Is anything else going on? No? Do we care? No. Would we normally write about these companies, products, technologies etc.? Nay, Nay and three times nay. But it's The World Cup and some of us are already hooked. So here goes:
First up the official tech sponsors of the World Cup: Avaya, which is providing the network infrastructure and Yahoo! which is a key partner in a scheme to offer video highlights of World Cup games over the Net for the first time.
FIFA, the sport's governing body, has come under criticism for not showing live streaming footage of games, but is there really the broadband infrastructure in place to make such coverage an enjoyable viewing experience?
TV on a PC
Fans stuck at work may want to check out the WinTV USB from Hauppauge which claims to be able to turn a PC screen into a TV. It's available from retail outlets for £49, and providing you can get it to work (you need access to a TV aerial - a potential stumbling block), it might be useful.
If this fails, there's no shortage of services to keep fans informed of the progress of teams during the competition, and that's where content providers and telcos enter the fray.
Reuters is providing a live ticker feed of news on important games, which we understand from Reg readers is not available to Mac users. Shame!
Virgin Mobile is offering a subscription service that allows fans to receive World Cup text alerts for £4.99. It also has plans to offer World Cup ring tones, graphics and even voicemails.
Birds and bee keepers
Carphone Warehouse repeats the widespread warning that offices will be deserted in June because of the World Cup. This 'bunk off' dilemma can avoided by using Carphone Warehouse's battery powered Mini-TVs and the World Cup Goal Flash text alert service, it suggests.
Happy users of this service include 'Honest' Barry Darango, one of England's loudest market traders and Robert Carpenter Turner, one of the country's leading Bee Keepers, Carphone Warehouse reports. How representative these two fine gents are is questionable, and we reckon most bosses will take a dim view of 'out of office' workers immersed in watching their battery TV - rather than digging the roads.
All this flow of information about the World Cup is likely to be used by virus writers in disguising malicious code, Graham Cluley (a football agnostic) of AV vendor Sophos warns. Warning of the need for vigilance because of the possibility of a David Beckham virus or worms that pose as World Cup screensavers and the like allows Sophos to reiterate its message about safe computing.
But safe computing (not opening suspicious attachments and the like) should be practised all the time if it is to have any effect, and what Sophos seems to be doing here is recycle its warning about Valentine's Card messages in the hope of getting extra coverage
And what if that starts giving the bad guys ideas?
Returning to the tournament, Intrusion Detection System vendor Secos is providing the catenaccio for FIFA's World Cup Web site. Secos reckons its technology will prove as effective at keeping out Internet attackers as the famed Italian defensive system.
Bend it like Beckham
If you're "the world's largest provider of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software and consulting services", like Fluent, it's hard to get coverage at the best of times. So let's applaud its involvement with boffins at the University of Sheffield and Yamagata University, Japan, in unravelling the mysteries of how football players bend free kicks.
Using wind tunnel testing, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and other computer simulation techniques the partners in the research hope to gain insights into the swerving the ball, which might then be applied to teach young footie stars of the future.
There is no escape
So hardware firms are immune from this football obsession? Think again. Last December, Toshiba (which is supplying laptops to officials and volunteers involved in the World Cup) launched the 2002 FIFA World Cup Model, Libretto Adidas edition (which incidentally features a 600MHz Crusoe processor). Packard Bell also has a football dream team PC stocking retailers' shelves in Europe.
Other vendors in the consumer market are wasting no effort in getting their names mentioned in the press by giving away goodies (Sony Vaios, Playstations, games and the like) to England squad members.
Enterprise equipment vendors are also trying to gain some attention.
Equiinet has put together a top-10 guide for employees who want to keep up with the World Cup during work time including the priceless tip that "if on-line viewing fails you, keep a mini TV under the desk and tie your shoelaces regularly".
This Viz-style advice comes from affable Welshman Bob Jones, whose favourite sports are Rugby and BT-baiting, and whose firm Equiinet provides equipment that is designed to prevent staff Internet abuse.
Equiinet advises that such rules should be relaxed over the World Cup period, and who am I to disagree - I'm off to Japan to see my third World Cup.
Normal service in the IT market will be resumed on June 30. ®
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