LAS VEGAS -- Give Michael Capellas some credit -- he's sure getting the hang of this CEO thing. At the very least, he knows how to deliver an upbeat industry-conference keynote speech, even as the flames are licking at his company's heels.
Completely ignoring yesterday's news of losses and layoffs, and making only a few light jokes about the company's recent accounting scandal and bankruptcy proceedings, Capellas kicked off the Networld + Interop show here Tuesday with a speech
that focused on the future of computing, a future he sees as being entirely IP-based.
While the themes of his talk were predictable and not necessarily news to the N+I attendees (all applications moving to IP, voice becoming just another application, yada, yada), Capellas' spirited presence and tone were admirable, given the challenges that MCI faces. He even adroitly handled a failed demo of the MCI/Microsoft's teleconferencing application, moving quickly past it and onto the next subject -- ignoring the irony apparent to attendees, who know that it's one thing to talk about such pie-in-the-sky applications, and quite another thing to make them work.
And while some might question his networking chops (given that his career experience lies mostly in the worlds of software and hardware), Capellas showed his confidence by concluding his keynote with a brief open Q & A session with the audience, a welcome bit of exposure rare from leaders anywhere these days.
In all, attendees might not have learned much about how MCI will tackle its various challenges, but at least investors and customers might be able to take some comfort from the fact that the company's leader is able to think on his feet, and has a better than average grasp of where the future of telecom is headed. Whether or not MCI is a viable part of that future is the big, hairy question with a mean streak -- and that gorilla is going to want an answer sometime soon.