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JPMorgan Tech Conference: Et Tu, i2? Now Is the Season of Software's Discontent

SAN FRANCISCO -- Look, it's no fun for the corporate chieftains, either.

In this season of malcontent, when company after company has laid a bleak or fuzzy view of the future at investors' feet, it's understandable that a lot of folks in techland wish that someone -- anyone -- would accentuate the positive.

But with the rare exception of those saints at PeopleSoft (PSFT), or the hard-talking suits at Siebel (SEBL), few executives have stepped up to the plate. It's just that there's not all that much good stuff to talk about.

Bill Beecher, CFO of a recently righter-sized i2 Technologies (ITWO), explained that point to investors at the JPMorgan H&Q Technology Conference Tuesday, as he tried to issue a mea culpa for the company's disappointing quarter and the revised guidance it gave on its conference call last month.

"The guidance we gave out the other week was not something that we were happy doing," Beecher explained to the audience, before showing them a revenue slide of the company's first sequential down quarter ever. "But it was necessary due to current economic conditions."

Right. It seems we've heard that before, somewhere. Can you show me the way to a place called Everywhere, Bill?

Perhaps to make sure he didn't stake himself too deeply in the things-are-pretty-much-gonna-suck-for-the-next-two-quarters camp -- and you know whom you are -- Beecher hedged his comments with some positive language, albeit not of the immediate future.

"We feel good -- this is not a guarantee," Beecher was careful to interject, "But we feel good that things will pick up again by the end of the year."

There you go. There's a nugget you can focus on. Be positive.

But then, Beecher went on to muse about the way things were and got back to the glum theme hanging over his presentation. Basically, you could tell from his delicate delivery what he thought about the not-too-distant past.

"Business in 2000 was a unique phenomenon," Beecher said. "And capital financing in 2000 was a unique phenomenon. I'm not trying to give a negative picture, but instead, a cautious, financial picture."

The message: He doesn't like doing it either. But he's got to do it all the same. Remember that next time you wonder why few people are accentuating the positive right now.

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