24th > August > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

Imaging software firm warns of hardware difficulties ahead

An imaging software company has issued a profits warning which it said will extend into the year 2000 because OEMs which use its products in their products are failing to sell as many machines as they had anticipated. Peerless Systems reported that while its second quarter results showed an increase in net profit and turnover increased by over 40 per cent, the outlook for the sector will be disappointing in the future. That caused its shares to plunge on Wall Street by over $13. However, the implications for Peerless customers, some of which are large OEMs, is likely to be far more severe. Peerless had a turnover of $8.5 million in its second quarter and showed net profits of $1.5 million. The hardware companies which use the Peerless imaging software have been hit by lack of demand as well as the Asian economic woes which have seriously affected many manufacturers during the course of the first nine months of 1998. Peerless shares stood at just over $7 on Wall Street when trading closed on Friday. ®
Mike Magee, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

Oracle buys into convergence

Database giant Oracle bought a convergence-based software company on Friday for $12 million. The company acquired Versatility, a US company which manufactures call centre software, in a bid to beef up its front office products, compete wth PeopleSoft and SAP and also meet a demand for a market which is showing firm signs of growth. Large computer firms like Compaq and IBM are implementing extensive call centre technology and staff to increase their competitiveness in the market but Oracle is missing out on selling front end software products which could link into their extensive back office database systems. Compaq, for example, earlier this year opened a large call centre in Glasgow, Scotland, which uses a customised and Internet based front end for use by its channel partners, while IBM has recently opened a similar centre just down the road in Greenock which will act as a support centre for a large chunk of western Europe. Oracle is believed to have acquired Versatility so that it can develop systems which will take advantage of convergence in this lucrative market. ®
Mike Magee, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

Hyundai, Samsung and LG ready to swap

Local newspaper The Korea Herald said Saturday that the top five conglomerates in South Korea will announce their plans to swap businesses on September 10. But there is still doubt whether Hyundai and LG will be ready to do much more than exchange minor businesses, putting further pressure on already enervated DRAM prices worldwide. Last week, creditor banks moved into the offices of Hyundai, Samsung, LG, Daewoo and SK, the top five chaebols in the country, and are expected to rush out a report recommending which subsidiaries should be spun off or sold. The week before, the government had extracted a letter of intent from the top five to exchange businesses between themselves. The reports from South Korea said that trade unions in the country warned that the economic reforms in South Korea could lead to as many as 300,000 personnel being laid off, which is sure to spark further labour unrest. Two weeks ago, there was a brief general strike as a result of earlier layoffs made throughout South Korean industry. September is likely to be a crucial month for the memory market as a result of the moves. While prices showed some signs of stabilising two weeks ago, last week memory distributors and manufacturers said that average prices of DRAM had fallen again. In September, the European Union is also likely to begin investigating the three South Korean DRAM manufacturers for alleged dumping, according to sources in the memory business. So far, Hyundai, LG and Samsung have all procrastinated about swapping their potentally lucrative memory businesses. Despite a severe drop in prices during this year and last, many analysts, and the influential Semiconductor Industries Association (SIA) have forecast that the long term outlook for semiconductors is good. ®
Mike Magee, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

US magazine reports Y2K problems with NT 4.0

InfoWorld said Friday that tests it had performed in its laboratories showed a potential problem when Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 applications accessed the real time clock (RTC) on PCs. According to the magazine, many applications, particularly in the financial and manufacturing field, directly access the RTC, which still has problems with Year 2000 compliance. Spreadsheets and word processors also use the real time clock to reference essential clock sensitive information, the magazine said. The report said that when InfoWorld technicians used a utility called CMOSView with Microsoft NT 4.0, the value of the real time clock was 0000. Windows 95, on the other hand, managed to read the value correctly. PC manufacturers are still floundering with problems caused by the real time clock but Microsoft will give little re-assurance to its end users, other than saying its Office applications are year 2000 compliant. Earlier this year, it was reported that global positioning satellites (GPS), widely used as navigation aids, could also suffer year 2000 problems. ®
Staff writer, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

Ikon buys Rockliff

Flying in the face of a class action suit and other allegations back home, US owned Ikon Office Solutions has snapped up another UK reseller. Last year saw Ikon buy Manchester-based Redbox, with turnover estimated to be around £5 million. This time round, the object of Ikon’s attentions was Rockliff Computers, another north west of England company (headquartered in Runcorn). Rockliff’s turnover for 1997 was in the region of £45 million. According to a statement issued by Ikon, Rockliff is the largest privately owned IT specialist in northern England. “This is an exciting addition to our already broad service offering, giving us increased expertise in IT services, particularly computer network design and consultancy, and further signalling our investment in a total office solutions offering to our customers,” commented David Mills, President of Ikon Office Solutions UK. ®
Sean Fleming, 24 Aug 1998
flag.South Korea

Koreans hit back at allegations of dumping

The Korean Semiconductor Industry Association (KSIA) has hit back at allegations by the CEO of Siemens that IMF funding and "suicidal pricing" was responsible for the decision to close a fabrication plant in Tyneside. In a letter in today's Financial Times, Hye-Bum Choi, director of the KSIA, said that the Korean semiconductor producers rejected "as totally ridiculous" the allegation. On August 2, Heinrich von Pierer, CEO of Siemens, blamed suicidal pricing as part of the reason for his decision to close the fab. Mr Hye-Bum, in his letter, said that Siemens could not ignore "an unequivocal and specific promise" the Korean government had made that IMF funds will be used to repay foreign debts and increase foreign currency reserves. Further, Mr Hye-Bum said that Siemens was unfairly blaming the Korean big three or the downcycle. "There is no reason to single out Korean producers for a worldwide phenomenon which concerns all producers," he said. "The Korean producers have taken drastic steps to reduce the overcapacity in the memory market by suspending investment plans." The day Siemens announced the closure, Peter Mandelson, the new head of the Department of Trade and Industry, contributed to the row by blaming Korean overproduction. But that conflicted with a double message as Derek Fatchett, from the Commonwealth & Foreign Office, promised the Koreans more investment. However, industry sources say that the European Union is continuing to take the allegations of dumping seriously. According to those sources, the EU will launch an investigation in September. ®
Mike Magee, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

Big Blue claims encryption breakthrough

IBM said today that it has achieved something many software developers thought impossible, unbreakable encryption to provide security for e-commerce and other transactions. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and mathematicians from IBM's research labs, have worked together to create a technology called the Cramer Shoup cryptosystem. According to Big Blue, the method, which is named after IBM researcher Victor Shoup and Swiss Federal Institute mathematician Ronald Cramer, the method will avoid attacks on security by adding an additional layer of calculations to make existing encryption more powerful. Previous claims of "secure encryption" have all been thwarted by teams or individuals who have managed to break them, often within hours. IBM said it will license the technology free of charge to software and other interested parties and that it will also use the method in future versions of its own products. ®
Staff writer, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

Informix cocks snook at Bull

Informix has re-shuffled its European management structure by appointing Richard Snook as president of its Emea group, reporting directly to CEO Bob Finocchio. Snook was poached from Bull Information Systems in the UK, where he held the position of chief executive officer. He had worked for Bull since 1989. Before then, Snook worked for 19 years at ICL, working on third party channels and other partnerships. A representive from Bull said: "He hasn't worked for the company since last December." She sent a document which claimed to prove it. Finocchio has been attempting to fill the gap left by the departure of former Emea head Mike Harrison for some time, according to an Informix representative. Finocchio said his appointment was a "major addition" to the executive team. ®
Team Register, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

Tiddler's expansion plans come unstuck

Poorly rated paper has put the kybosh on IAT Multimedia's agreed takeover of US distributor Atec. Swiss tiddler IAT said it "terminated" the $77 million-stock acquisition following accountants' advice on both sides that the transaction would dilute future earnings. So much for IAT's wildly ambitious expansion plans. IAT, which sells computers in Germany under the Trinology brand and is a manufacturer of "visual communication devices", had wanted to spearhead US expansion through Hauppauge, New York-based ATEC's distribution and sales structure. IAT said the companies are now in talks to form another "strategic relationship". An obvious way around the embarrassing failure for the deal to complete is for ATEC to buy IAT. But it is difficult to see what ATEC would gain. According to Bloombergs, IAT had sales of just $5.88 million last year, while Atec reported revenue of $114.5 million for the nine months ended March 31. IAT would have been unable to absorb the write-off against earnings, analysts say. Whatever, ATEC has a big, fat for sale price over its head. ®
Drew Cullen, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

HP beefs up CD-RW line

Hewlett-Packard has strengthened its portfolio of storage products with a line of CD-Rewritable (CD-RW) products that "redefines the price/performance equation in this rapidly growing market". Products include new top-of-the-range the HP CD-Writer Plus 8100 (shipping from September 1), an internal IDE CD-RW drive, and the existing CD-Writer Plus 7200 models at cheaper prices. CD-R media is the lowest common denominator for media interchange on the desktop, rivalled only by the 1.44MB floppy, said Wolfgang Schlichting, research manager at IDC. "Additionally, CD-RW media interchange is quickly becoming viable since most new CD-ROM drives have adopted MultiRead specifications which allow these drives to read all CD-R and CD-RW media." The new HP CD-Writer Plus 8100 is an internal rewritable IDE drive that reads data at up to 24X transfer speed and writes at up to 4X transfer speed. The drive contains HP Fast Format, which allows users to format a CD-RW disk in less than 5 minutes - an industry first, according to HP which say the process once took an hour to complete. The CD-compatible drive provides users with up to 650MB of removable data storage capacity, and is bundled with a clutch of software utilities from Adaptec and HP. Disk labelling, CD-mastering, sound recording, drag and drop saving, and automatic data retrieval and back up software are all included. Retail prices start at £279(EX VAT). ®
Team Register, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

ATI wins big chip deal

ATI Technologies has won a major deal to supply graphics and video semiconductors to General Instrument for set top boxes. According to a press release from the company, GI wants to build 15 million set top boxes which will use the ATI chips. That is likely to guarantee ATI a steady stream of revenue over the next five years with the chip sets for each of the set top boxes worth an estimated $20 apiece. The set top boxes built by GI will be deployed by US company Tele-Communications, which is selling them to its cable customers, largely for Internet-based services. ®
Team Register, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

UK online banking to lose out to competition

Seven million people will be banking online by 2003, but UK companies could lose out to new competitors by not offering enough to consumers. According to a report from Fletcher Research, the Web’s potential in the financial market is huge, but online offerings are currently poor. The report’s findings show that as UK customers are ready to go online: in 1995, 10 per cent of interviewees thought they would be banking online by 1997, but in reality only 0.3 per cent of the UK population manage their finances on the Web. This discrepancy is due to companies offering an inadequate service, said Fletcher. Few companies are encouraging customers to move online – only five per cent offer discounts. Also the quality of Web sites is low. 22 per cent of sites do not have an email link to the company, and few make any attempt to generate leads from visitor to the site. The report says that this is a dangerous strategy for the companies to take since they will be facing tough competition from US companies and other competitor, and risk losing market share. US companies are using the reach of the net to compensate for their lack of physical presence in the UK. “British personal finance companies have missed the opportunity to build a loyal online customer base over the past two years,” said Benjamin Ensor, the author of the report. “This market has tremendous potential for growth, but UK companies are failing to grasp the nettle.” Unless UK companies start to take the market seriously, they will find themselves out in the cold, he said. The report is based on the examination and analysis of 115 financial Web sites, and follow up interviews with 50 industry players. ®
Lucy Kewney, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

Channel to get educated by IT Net

IT Network is to educate the channel. The company is providing specialist IT training videos from its Web site, designed to provide resellers and end users with relevant and concise information about the information technology world. Richard Williams, editor of the IT Network, said: “In an information age where having immediate access to the right information is essential, while keeping costs to a minimum, the IT Network training videos come into their own. Flexibility is the key in today’s workplace and the IT Network is dedicated to providing a free authoritative information service that adapts to working life.” The videos are a series of half hour technology guides. The IT Network says that the videos are there to provide relevant information without incurring the usual high costs associated with IT training. Registered users of the IT Network can access the videos as many times as they want, 24 hours a day and without charge. Each video comes with a transcript and is linked to other Web pages with relevant and useful information. Topics covered in the currently available videos include: CTI, data security, digital video, multimedia and DVD, NT Migration, removable storage and SAN storage management. There is another series planned which will cover areas such as voice over IP, remote access technologies, network management, mobile computing and telecommunications. ®
Lucy Kewney, 24 Aug 1998
The Register breaking news

HDD market set to steady

The hard disk drive (HDD) market will level out in the next six months, buoyed up by the Christmas season and the manufacturers cut backs earlier in the year. Prices will continue to fall, but the rate of the decline will decrease as availability falls in line with demand. The industry has been suffering from a chronic oversupply problem, but that should tail off in the last quarter of 1998. The desktop market will continue to find things tough, especially in Asia. Manufacturers in the east will continue to suffer since the economic situation does not allow for long term planning. In contrast, the mobile market is “taking off” said Seamus Twohig, hard drives product manager at Ideal Hardware. Fewer manufacturers are competing for market share, and demand in that arena is high: “Just think about the big shift over to telecommuting,” he said. The SCSI market will still have problems with oversupply and will feel pressure from IDE drives. However, it will benefit from a significant increase in capacity recently, and the rapidly expanding market for Internet servers. Twohig said that he expects to see a 36GB capacity 3.5 inch drive within the next nine months. “SCSI is becoming synonymous with capacity and performance,” he said. Competition from removable drives such as Iomega’s Zip drives will be less significant, said Ideal Hardware. “Their bubble seems to have burst, although SyQuest now seems to be offering competitive products,” Twohig said. ®
Lucy Kewney, 24 Aug 1998