CeBIT 98 bites peregrinator hard
Diary of days dazes a staffer
A year ago Our first appointment at CeBIT 1998 was with Intel, as it happens, fortuitously. It turned out that its stand, in Halle 13, was just behind the entrance gate from the Messe railway station. Here, Great Stan had its famous van along with several BunnyPeople, whose chief function seemed to be to grab hold of visitors and shove them onto the stand. Gordon Graylish, director of marketing of Intel architecture, Emea, greeted us upstairs. The main thrust of his message was that the Pentium II had achieved over 50 per cent penetration around a month ago, meaning that it had succeeded. No, he said, it was untrue that Intel will offer the Covington-Celeron to first tier customers at a different rate to the others. There is still plenty of growth in the market and the Western European and North American adoption of the technology was now in sync, although it had lagged behind for three or four months. Graylish was in charge of Intel's push into the total cost of ownership (TCO) but had the grace not to mention that until we did. The Internet would push sales even higher, he said. We were supposed to meet the mobile people at 10 am but they didn't show, meaning we had a chance to look around the Halle. Close to Intel's place was a huge stand from Apple, which resembled a fortress. Cooperative money from its partners helped out in the space round the ramparts. Psion Dacom, just opposite the Apple fortress, was cock-a-hoop about the deal it had just struck with Ericsson. It now has just about all of the big players under its wing, with Nokia and Motorola already in the bag, as exclusively reported here. Psion Dacom has formed a partnership with Ositech Comms, a Canadian company, to produce Ethernet PC Cards together. Ositech has expertise in driver support and this means we can expect new modem products to appear. Intel was to hog most of our first morning at CeBIT. At 11 am, we trucked along to see Dr Albert Yu, its senior VP of microprocessor products, demo a 702MHz Pentium II, specially tweaked for the occasion. Actually, the performance meter on the screen showed a Pentium Pro inside, but that's the sort of creature a PII is anyway. Yu talked in some detail about the Intel CPU roadmap and said that the 2-way Deschutes - which he referred to as a Pentium II SVW processor - would arrive sometime in the middle of the year. As revealed here in November 1996, it will come with huge amounts of cache, running at the same speed as the CPU (hopefully, we wonder). The server chips, in the second half of this year, will run at 400MHz and 450MHz, using the 450SWS chipset and a 100MHz bus. That, he claimed, will give it a performance boost of around seven times the Pentium Pro architecture. He said Intel would actually give it a different name to the infamous Pentium II SVW. Yu then rolled on the obligatory SAP exec, which creature duly endorsed the architecture. Cough. Towards the end of the year, Intel will roll out a Celeron running at 300MHz with integrated Level 2 cache. In the second half of 1998 it will start to ramp up the Covington thingie. Again, as predicted here earlier, it will release its Katmai chip and as we had been unceremoniously kicked off the AMD stand a little earlier in the morning, we were unable to ask Dana Krelle why its infamous 3D K6 had still not made its appearance. It is, after all, the end of March. (Do a search for the Versailles gig). Yu held up a tiny sliver of chip designed for mobiles - it being the Deschutes Mobile solution but we couldn't help wondering why it hadn't just designed a similar sort of creature for desktop PCs too. This baby, according to Intel-speak, is called the Mini Cartridge module. Amdahl had obligingly taken us to CeBIT and so the next couple of hours we interviewed a clutch of its executives. The biggest news, on the first day at least, was that IBM Global Services had licensed its TDMF technology; something of a win for Amdahl, The Register thinks. The day after, we talked to senior VP Yasusha Tajiri, brought in from Fujitsu when Amdahl was acquired last year. He enlightened us about the changes he was making to the company, disclosed that the Fujitsu-ICL name (FinFin, passim) had disappeared, to be replaced by Fujitsu Computers, and also told us that Amdahl would acquire another software/services company later this year, after Amdahl made a profit. In the press office, we learned that Siemens Nixdorf had re-organised itself but it always makes that announcement at CeBIT anyway; that Bull had a new chief executive, but it's always doing that anyway; and that Kyocera had announced a colour printer and two new Ecosys models. But it was in the press office that we learned that our exclusive information about IBM doing a deal with Fedex was far from dead, despite the fact that Compaq had pitched in to try and steal the huge order from under Big Blue's nose. And although Intel's Graylish had told us a few hours earlier that it had made the deal with Network Computer Devices (NCD), because "the industry wanted a standard specification for NCs", that Big Blue would announce a standard spec for NCs which would have nothing to do with Intel, whatsoever. Cough. Because we'd been with Amdahl, we'd missed a meeting with NatSemi-Cyrix, but the boys in the shape of Forrest Norrod and Steve Tobak, came over to see us. We'd met Steve before and declined his business card, but he forced it on us, saying: "You haven't had this one before". Indeed, we hadn't because the National logo had now displaced the Cyrix affair. Cyrix announced a 266MHz version of its 6X86MX chip and the boys told us that the .25 micron version was close to appearing in volume. The next day, The Register found itself on a helicopter, courtesy of Cirrus Logic, frightening the cows by making its landing in a field 40 miles outside Hanover. Here, we were treated to very noisy sounds in five-way stereo, with much talk of woofers and sub-woofers and other creatures of the same ilk. The Cirrus boys and girls told us, without so much as the shadow of a blush crossing their faces, that Intel was doomed and that its sort of consumer technology was not a patch on their own. But its customers appear to be Philips, Psion and ARM - and while it is still closing a deal with major OEMs (see our Comdex 97 report, passim,) for elements of its Crystal Division's technology, it was unable to tell us who they were. The execs denied earlier reports in the week that it was up for sale but had some interesting things to say about the NLX form factor. This widely touted motherboard has still not made its appearance in large numbers - a fact also confirmed by Intel (see earlier). Best quote from Cirrus Logic: "The [Psion] Organiser 5 is the Apple Macintosh of 1998." Is that an endorsement or a condemnation, we wonder? Footnotes from CeBIT? Readers may have heard of Viglen, taken over by Amstrad some tad ago. According to one source, it has an HR manual which has the following advice for its staff (we paraphrase). Staff at Viglen are under pain of instant dismissal if they have sexual relationships with other members of staff. However, if they do, they are instantly to inform their line manager. ®
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