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Polis Report

Hotel Hardware

By Michael Learmonth

The hardware and software hucksters of the information age tell us that a future of "ubiquitous computing" is in store, when even the most mundane activites--such as opening a door or watering the ficus--will become tasks for the microchip. But now that computer terminals have been pushed onto just about every desk and into every home, what's the next frontier?

Well, Manou Mobedshahi says it's the hotel room. Or the Airport Hyatt in San Jose, to be more precise. Mobedshahi, who saved the '60s-era hotel from the wrecking ball last summer, is spending about $10 million to make the 474-room Hyatt the first-ever fully wired hotel.

Mobedshahi, who also owns the historic Sainte Claire in San Jose and the ritzy Sherman House in San Francisco, announced the launch of the "digital hotel" while flanked by Mayor Susan Hammer and Scott Lewis, president of 4th Network, the San Jose company that will provide software and support to the hotel's network. In the audience, representatives from Microsoft, Cisco, Softbank, Yahoo, E*Trade and CyberCash nibbled honeydew melon and bran muffins as their mouths began to water at the implications: "two million business hotel rooms worldwide, and all of them need computers." To their credit, no one got up to sing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Each room, Mobedshahi said, will be equipped with a Pentium-class PC plugged into a T-1 line, printer, copier and fax. "San Jose is a place people come to work, not for leisure or vacation," he announced. "CEOs will love this. You send your workers to this hotel, and they will work." Then the mayor chimed in: "Let me tell you that you can have fun in San Jose, too."

Fourth Network's Lewis said there will be games on the Hyatt's machines. But if the popularity of in-room movie rentals is any indication, business guests find ways to enjoy themselves faster than you can say www.nakedladies.com. What comes next? "Hi, I'm Tom Bodett from Motel 6, and we'll leave the computer on for ya."

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From the April 10-16, 1997 issue of Metro

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