Put some punch back into life

The cost of this one-way sprint from the winter-bound north to the Caribbean is painfully close to $8000.

What's the rush?

Apparently, the majority of Concorde's passengers promptly jump in limousines and head for the ritzy west coast, where they soon get busy doing nothing - laying on the beach and sipping rum punches. And, no, they can't have chosen Concorde just to maximise their holiday time because the preferred route home is via boring old subsonic 747.

Again, what's the rush?

The truth is, this coral island of archetypal swaying palm trees, slow ocean sunsets and oiled bodies - you know the drill - has a nasty habit of reminding you just how busy Western lifestyles can be, and how computer technology only seems to make it more so.

I've just been reading the local Bridgetown rag, The Broad Street Journal, and was dismayed to see one columnist trying to turn up the pace of this island society. No doubt the writer is talking up the local economy but, to be frank, most of it is hot air.

His first contention is the need for all businesses to operate at "Internet speed". This translates, apparently, as the need to accelerate the time-to-market of all products, getting it down to as little as two months. Now, I've sat and listened to IBMers talk about the ever-shortening time-to-market for their ThinkPad notebooks, which makes sense, really, when you consider how often faster, hotter (literally) CPUs rear their silicon heads. But does this apply across non-IT markets? Do you need a new species of breakfast cereal on your kitchen table every eight weeks? No, I didn't think so - but because the Internet has become a marketing concept as much as a communications medium, you'll probably get it whether you want it or not.

The second contention of our Broad Street correspondent is that the so-called "Internet speed" of business affects consumer expectations of delivery. "For some reason, when we buy something off the Internet we want it now," he says. "That's a real issue for us to contend with - market forces at work."

Market forces are one thing, but the people I've observed buying online are basically very happy if the product turns up at all - they buy online for convenience, product range and price, and are realistic about shipping times. If better communications along the supply chain help to chop a week off the delivery time, that's well and good, but let's not go down a ridiculous path that heightens our technology-fuelled expectations to the point that we get enraged because our Amazon order hasn't arrived an hour after we click "Add to Cart". In other words, let's be enthusiastic but let's be real.

So you've just started a new year, decade, century and millennium (one of the great excitements of which will be that within a few months you won't have to read or hear the word "millennium" any more). What pace do you want to move at? What's the rush? Go on, confess that one of your New Millennium's resolutions was to slow down a bit, stop to smell the roses, and all that.

In another country, in another newspaper, I read an interesting letter to the editor about the pace of technology uptake in developing countries. The fascinating aspect of the letter was that the author was writing on behalf of his wife - she was too busy working in those developing countries and just didn't have time to write a two-paragraph letter.

For that woman working at Internet speed, I prescribe a rose, a rum punch and a Caribbean sunset.

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