Proctor & Gamble Inc’s Olestra is fat-free fat. It has some great attributes – it passes through the body without being digested or absorbed, so it has no calories, meaning an ounce of Olestra potato chips would have no fat and just 70 calories, compared to 10 grams of fat and 150 calories in conventional chips. However, it is alleged to have some less pleasant attributes – possible depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and blood carotenoids. There is also a high risk of diarrhea and abdominal cramping, according to critics, and an even more socially embarrassing side effect that as a family newspaper we forbear to mention. This side effect was, queerly enough, reproduced in the collective brains of journalists worldwide this week, as a result of the wave of fat- free Grand Alliances and Portentous Somethingorothers that have swept the industry like Ebola for some reason. Actually, the reason is mainly Spring Internet World in that City of Angels, LA. A rash of mental Olestra-containing announcements have left us calling for a global ban on the emission of pointless alliances, grand strategies, and corporate mutual appreciation society meetings. First we had the Gang Of Four Who Don’t Like Microsoft And So Will Bolster Up The OMG – Somehow, of Tuesday. Not to be outdone, Hewlett-Packard’s grand strategy for yesterday was called ACT (Access, Collaboration and Transactions), a set of words claimed to enable corporations to radically improve productivity, customer responsiveness and market reach for their Intranets. A breathless Hurwitz analyst was suitably amazed, dubbing it a broad, compelling vision of what companies can do with an Intranet. In other words, HP Professional Services will come in and make your intranet ten pounds lighter and more attractive to an opposite intranet with cool software from Netscape, Marimba, Informix Universal Server, and Pointcast, and quite possibly a zillion other companies, but we got lost with all the new services With Names In CAPS. Not to be outdone, Microsoft Corporation had its own grand alliance announcement for yesterday: a virtual wonderfulness called the Networked Multimedia Connection (NMC), lining up its fraternal 800 pound gorillas in networks and chips, Cisco Systems Inc and Intel Corporation to break barriers for multimedia in business, establish standards, and collaborate on open testing and marketing of intranet solutions. The three intend to provide support and resources for multimedia applications developers, service providers and corporate information technology (IT) managers, collaborate on the development of networked multimedia technologies, and implement and promote industry standards. The Networked Multimedia Lab, a complete end-to-end networked multimedia facility for development and interoperability testing, will open at Cisco at the end of the month, and promised are NMC toolkits, with software development kits from all three, will be offered in conjunction with the Lab. Standards the three companies intend to support include IP Multicast, a definition for sending one copy of information to many recipients over a network; the ITU H.323 standard, which defines how PCs can share audio and video data over computer networks; and the ReSource reserVation Protocol (RSVP), which provides a means for networks to support special quality of service applications. More than 20 companies have already demonstrated support for the NMC, and their names and gushes can be read at https://developer.intel.com. (Sadly, this announcement seemed to have at least a fact or two, which may explain the absence of an analyst sounding as if he was seeing the end of Close Encounters for the first time.) Digital Equipment Corporation’s chairman Bob Palmer was unable to announce a Grand Alliance, but he did stun one and all by revealing that the web was, wait for it, swift emerging as the universal computing platform of choice. Other zingers Mr Armani downloaded as part of his keynote: apparently there’s something smashing on the way called the information superhighway (Bob! purleeze!), the impact thereof on electronic commerce and consumers etc to be highly impactful. Digital, it now emerges, has a two-pronged strategy for this great thing. Three technology trends will provide the support and reliability needed for exponential internet growth, and luckily DEC still sells two of ’em: 64-bit computers and high-speed networks, patently great news for anyone still holding DEC stock. First, it is investing in new technology to build a web infrastructure that provides greater capacity, reliability and security, which are key to unlocking the global, networked economy. Second, it is helping leading-edge companies shape the future internet landscape, by preparing and empowering them to capitalize on emerging markets. And don’t forget society, a good thing to meander on about at the end of any self-respecting keynoter’s keynote: The potential for revolutionizing education, for re-invigorating our national political dialog, [and] for transcending geographic and national boundaries is almost unlimited, Wow, what a relief to know that someone’s thinking about all that stuff. Finally, we have Colliance, a worldwide Unix-NT integration service from HP, which is so plainly an obviously good idea and a perfectly sensible way for it to make more money that we’re a bit worried that it hadn’t been doing it already. Gosh. Can’t anyone do any work out there and actually release something that doesn’t exist in any other dimension other than marketing? In other words, let’s have some fat back in our potato chips, please.