Samsung pumps $50 million into AST
Samsung has injected a further $50 million into AST US in an effort to improve its financial position. According to a statement issued by Samsung's corporate offices in Seoul, Korea, the money will offset short term debts AST US needs to repay. Last year, Samsung bought the remaining 54 per cent of AST it did not own for $170 million but that was swiftly followed by massive layoffs at the PC firm, which used to be a contender against big companies like Compaq. Over three quarters of its work force have been laid off since the acquisition was completed, and AST Europe now consists only of a few personnel involved in winding up the rest of its operations. Earlier this week, a group of AST Europe ex-employees were in an industrial tribunal court for the third time. They are claiming they were unfairly dismissed earlier this year.
TI claims tiny chip breakthrough
Texas Instruments (TI) claimed it had made a breakthrough on chip technology by developing a method to create much smaller semiconductors. According to the company, over 400 million will fit on a chip the size of a human fingernail. They will support both analogue and digital technologies. The semiconductors will use a .07 micron process, and when productions starts will be used in applications where speed, weight and power consumption are at a premium. The chips are also likely to be used in the storage market to help speed up data access at speeds of several Gigabits per second. Bell Labs, a subsidiary of Lucent, announced it was working on similar technology last year. ®
Row between Siemens Nixdorf and VESA takes on US dimension
A further twist to the saga over Siemens Nixdorf's Powersave technology has emerged after the company announced it had been granted a US patent. Two months ago, industry association VESA sent out a letter to its members saying it was pulling parts of its monitor spec after it had failed to reach agreement with Siemens-Nixdorf.
TSMC claims rapid ramp in .25 micron process
The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has claimed that it has moved to .25 micron process rapidly in response to customer demand. The company said that it now has fifteen products using the technology emerging from its Taiwanese fab, which will ramp to around 15,000 wafers a month. Those products cover CPUs, programmable logic devices, DSP and multimedia products, said the company. According to TSMC, over 100 customers are running .25 micron design libraries from its 14 library partners. TSMC said it will tape out .18 micron technology in Q4 of this year, with production release at the end of the first quarter in 1999. The company also claimed it will produce a low voltage, low power .25 process for mobile applications and a logic based embedded DRAM process for DSP, mobile and networking applications. ®
Deloitte & Touche hunts for top 50 UK IT growth firms
Accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche has launched nationwide awards scheme to find the fifty fastest growing UK technology companies. The Fast 50 programme aims to "highlight and reward" the fastest performing companies in the sector. The bad news for the winners is that they get a plaque and the opportunity to attend a conference in the US - rather than cash. Deloitte & Touche has highlighted the IT, biotech and telecoms industries as areas of rapid growth, and claims that the awards scheme will enable it to get a snapshot of how fast these sectors are developing, and whether the world of finance can do more to help them grow rapidly. "There is a problem in the UK with venture capital funding," said Mike Berners Lee, national programme director for The Fast 50. "Its very hard for fast growing companies that need up to £1 million - once they get to a certain size they have to go to the US." Berners Lee said the results might make the UK VC industry take more interest in the high-tech sector, and look at more innovative methods of funding. Companies eligible for the Fast 50 must have been in business for three years, and will be ranked on percentage growth in turnover between 1995 and 1997. There is no size restriction and the parent company must be UK-owned. Details on Deloitte ®
Solid Data turbo-charges RAID systems
Cashing in on the plummeting DRAM market, Solid Data Systems, formerly Database Excelleration Systems, is releasing a line of SCSI-attached solid-state drives designed for I/O-intensive applications such as online transaction processing, Internet services and digital media. Gene Bowles, president of Solid Data said: "These are about turbo charging existing RAID systems that can't keep up with I/O-intensive applications." The new product line is released to coincide with the shift of vital applications away from the mainframe to open systems. Semiconductor-based solid-state drives (SSD) have failed to catch among IT managers on so far, Jim Porter, president of Disk/Trends told Information Week. Access speeds up to 10 times faster than magnetic disks, make the semiconductor disks vastly more expensive. However, as DRAM gets cheaper, SSDs can become more competitive. DRAM prices have fallen from $50 for 16 megabits of capacity to below $5. "The state of this technology is not unlike where RAID was six or seven years ago," said Bowles. He did not expect SSDs to push magnetic disks off the shelf, saying that the two technologies would be "complementary". SDS is releasing three models, with capacity's ranging from 1.34GB to 8.4GB of data. Prices start at $12,353 for a drive with 268MB of capacity and rocket to $138,000 8.4GB. Drives with UltraSCSI and Fibre Channel will be released later this year, along with drives that double the capacities of the three existing devices, Bowles said.®:
Datrontech posts interim profits fall
Datrontech saw profits fall by 19 per cent for the six months to 5 July, as memory prices plummeted and its UK components business also performed below expectations. Memory sales at the distributor were 48 per cent down on the previous year, but the results were boosted by profitable networking, storage and service business. Overall, turnover was up 6 per cent to £133.9 million for the half-year, with profit down to £2.6 million from £3.2 million. Interest charges paid by the distributor were up, as a result of higher interest rates and borrowing. In the first six months the interest charges were £15.4 million, compared to £8 million for the six months ended 31 December. Datrontech has warned that the performance of the memory and components business is unlikely to improve in the short term. The outlook for these divisions in the second half of the year has been downgraded. Speaking earlier this month, Datrontech CEO Mark Mulford said the problem with the UK components market was unclear, but he noted demand from system builders for components had been slow over the summer. Mulford said that over-stock in the channel in Q2 also contributed to the slow-down. The networking, storage and service business, where margins are significantly higher than the memory and components business, posted 37 per cent growth to £30.3 million after including the networking business of ICP, its recently acquired Dutch subsidiarr. ®
Datrontech turns to commodity networks
Datrontech is launching a new division, Datrontech Networking, to target the small and medium business market. This new section will be promoting network computing to the PC builder community and is intended to complement the higher end networking division, Data Connectivity. The new division aims to increase network competency in PC builders and provide support and training for vendors. A survey carried out by the company found that 32 per cent of respondents look for technical support as the most important quality in an networking equipment supplier. A further 21 per cent cited speed of response as their top priority. "Most significantly this section of the market is not looking at brands but at service," said Datrontech Networking general manager Tony Wand. The education and support services is intended to differentiate Datrontech in an increasingly crowded market, while, said training would encourage high levels of customer loyalty, Mark Davison, Datrontech business manager said. The company says that it has a head start since demand for networks -already high - is being driven by hype such as the government push to get schools online, and fascination with the Internet. Vendors are also aware of the diminishing margin in PCs, and are looking to networked computers to make a profit. They include: Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Seagate Software and Kingston Networking, according to Wand. "Most networking vendors desire a presence in the SME market. Many have produced products that fit the 10-75 node network perfectly and their problem has been no effective channel to market," he said. "Datrontech customers serve the SME market and we are perfectly placed to exploit this opportunity." ®
3M will go further in cuts
The Minnesota, Mining and Manufacturing company -- 3M -- is to cut another 500 jobs by the end of the year. That could well put subsidiary Imation in the frame as a spun-off company. That is more than it predicted. It will now slash nearly 5,000 jobs by year end and will take a charge of nearly half a billion dollars to help cut its expensions. But 3M, which owns storage firm Imation, said that it expects to make more money in the near future. The company said it will cut jobs worldwide and will review product lines that do not fit its profile. That could include subsidiary Imation, which so far has failed to knock Iomega, and its Zip drives off the top slot. ®
Cyrix links up with the channel
NatSemi sub Cyrix is to make it easier to communicate within the channel. The supplier has announced that more than 450 companies are now registered on its Cyrix Link programme, targeting system integrators in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Members get news updates from Cyrix in a fortnightly newsletter, technical information bulletins, a listing on Cyrix's site with a link to their own site. They will also receive marketing materials such as point of sale kits, demo CDs and product literature and have access to channel marketing programmes. Each member company will have its own dedicated phone line for support with trained operators. In the UK, Germany and France will have free phone support numbers while callers from other countries will be charged at standard BT rates. Nigel Dear, Nat Semi's European distribution manager for Cyrix products, commented: "It is essential to provide local PC builders and resellers with information and support specifically geared to their market needs." He said that the Link programme would establish closer relationships between Cyrix and its customers, and channel partners. More information about the program is on the Cyrix Website: www.cyrix.com/europe/index/htm.
Microsoft engineers accused of dirty tricks
Investigations into Microsoft's alleged anti-competitiveness have taken an unexpected twist with allegations that the company's employees had considered a dirty tricks campaign in the battle against desktop operating systems rival DR-DOS. According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft engineers discussed inserting a software bug in an early version of Windows. It quotes an internal Microsoft email dated September 30, 1991, in which David Cole, head of Windows development, said :"aaronr had some pretty wild ideas after three or so beers -- earleh has some too." If the bug detected a rival program, it would "put competitors on a treadmill" and "should surely crash at some point shortly later," he wrote. Cole also warned that any bug would need to be kept secret. "One, the pure distraction factor, and two, the less people know about exactly what gets done, the better," he wrote. According to The Wall Street Journal, Cole's message was response to the "challenge of DR-DOS. The email, contained in documents subpoenade by the US government in its 1995 anti-trust suit against Microsoft, forms a key plank in Caldera's case against the company. Utah-based Caldera accuses Microsoft of intending "to destroy competition in the software industry". The company is backed by Ray Noorda, former chairman of Novell, one-time owner of DR-DOS. Caldera, which bought DR-DOS from Novell, said that its operating system was shut out by Microsoft's OEM pricing tactics. It accuses Microsoft of forcing PC vendors to take MS-DOS bundled with Windows, thereby killing off DR-DOS's chances. ®
RM Group continues education market dominance
Educational reseller RM Group to continue its market dominance as the next academic year is set to begin, according to Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. The company's share have rise from just over 150 pence to nearly 400 pence in the last year on the back of speculation of government funding being directed its way. Mark Loveland, an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, said: "The thing you have to look at is government funding. RM is the present market leader and has been gaining market share over the last five years. It also released a very nice product at the beginning of this year, which makes it a natural tip for good performance." The government has allocated £400 million over the next four years to schools for spending on technology. Currently the average school spend less than one per cent of its budget on technology and DKB expects that school will tend to spend more in the future, approaching the four per cent of budget spent by the most technology focused schools.®
Outsourcing boosts Workplace margins
Network integrator Workplace Technologies increased sales by 30 per cent, to £40 million, and profits by 33 per cent to £1.3 million for the six months to 30 June. A hike in gross margin from 21.7 per cent to 23.5 per cent fuelled the impressive results as it focused on high-margin network support business. Workplace Technologies said that the results - the first since the company floated - were boosted by a number of large network support contracts, and these would increase as more and more customers contracted out support of their networks. MD Andrew Vaughan said that there was considerable scope for Workplace Technologies to increase its support services, as networks become more complex, carrying voice, fax and data leading more companies to outsource. "The higher margin business has continued to grow," he said. Network integration margins had also increased slightly, said the company. Workplace Technologies has more than 100 outsourcing contracts to support customer networks, including Daewoo Cars and Dixons Stores Group.
SAP software "hastened" company's demise
SAP has been ambushed with a $500 million law suit from the bankruptcy trustees of drug distributor who allege the company's R3 software hastened the company's collapse. Bart A.Brown Jr., Chapter 7 trustee for FoxMeyer, accuses SAP of fraud, negligence and breach of contract. The trustee is claiming $500 million in compensation, punitive damages and legal fees. In July, the trustee sued Andersen Consulting, the firm that implemented the SAP software at FoxMeyer, also for $500 million. At its peak, Texas-based FoxMeyer turned over $5 billion a year. The company went bust in March 1997, after failing to climb out of Chapter 11 ( which gives breathing space from creditors while companies attempt to restructure). According to the bankruptcy trustee, FoxMeyer signed a deal to buy SAP's R/3 in 1993. The system cost more than $36 million, $5 million of which was in software fees, the trustee alleges. ® Under the agreement, FoxMeyer would integrate all its logistics operations into one R/3 system. The trustees alleges that SAP told FoxMeyer in 1994 that R/3 was able to process invoices at only six of 23 warehouses. Even worse, the system could handle only 10,000 customer orders a night, compared with 420,000 under FoxMeyer's previous system, the trustee said.
Wafer yield to slow down AMD shipments
AMD has warned that it may not be able to supply enough of its 350MHz K6-2 parts. The company formally announced the chip today and priced it at $317/1000. But in a statement which a source close to AMD described as "frighteningly specific", the company gave warnings about both production and distribution of the part. The statement said: "Any forward looking statement involves risks and uncertainties including whether the company will be able to produce and distribute AMD K6-2 processors at higher speed grades." While most US corporations issue cautionary statements, it is rare for chip companies to be this specific. Other risks that AMD think could cause its 350MHz part to falter, include whether its customer base could be expanded. Worldwide economic conditions could also affect the conditions, said AMD. No one from AMD either in the US or the UK could be contacted for comment on its statement. ®
Oak completes Xerographics acquisition
Storage company Oak has completed its acquisition of Xerographic Laser Images and at the same time announced a major win with Orion Electronics. Oak specialises in producing semiconductors which will bring DVD devices to the home market, selling its technology to OEMs which use the technology. Today it struck a deal to resell its technology to a major manufacturer of Karaoke and CD video systems in Asia. The decoder chip -- the OTI 226 -- will ramp up in volume next month and will provide support for both VideoCD and DVD. But that poses the question as to which of these standards will be adopted worldwide. Oak has now creatred a consumer group to help resolve these problems, said Paul Vroomen, who heads up the division. It will create silicon for video disk players, cable, satellite and set top boxes. ® Its acquistion of Xerographic Laser Images forms part of its plans to move into the optical storage market. Seagate, in particular, is well advanced on optical storage standards, meaning that competitors like Oak will have to use semiconductors to accomplish the same future task. Oak said that XLI will now operate as a division of Pixel Magic, and will continue to supply silicon and motherboard solutions for image processing systems. XLI has a similar role and has technology that will give better resolution from printers, digital copiers, scanners, fax systems and other peripherals. Pixel Magic has a number of customers including Fujitsu, Sharp, Toshiba, Kodak and Ricoh.
NatWest launches online information service
Nat West is launching an online information service, called Zenda, that will supply travel information, cinema ticket availability, weather reports and sports results to all users, and banking information for NatWest customers. If the service is launched on a national scale, NatWest says it will add features to Zenda so that it will be able to arrange financing for property buying, research suitable property for the customer and talk to estate agents. The bank also plans to enable Zenda to plan weddings. The service will initially cost £5 per month while it is being piloted, rising to £10 per month if the service proves successful. 5,000 people are taking part in the pilot of the project.®
Reseller trio pool international accounts into new company
ENTEX has sealed the knot with its European reseller partner Info'Products and Japanese partner Otsuka Shokai Company, creating a new entity called The Global Alliance Personal Computer Services, LLC. The three resellers will pool all their international business through the company, in which each member will hold equal shares. The company will be headquartered in the US, suggesting that ENTEX is very much in the driving seat. A full-blown merger must be on the cards in the not too distant future. With combined revenues exceeding $8.5 billion annually with over 1.8 million PCs shipped each year, the company would be by some margin the world's biggest reseller. Currently, the three work together in 1Desk, one of a handful of meaningful international reseller alliances. But moving to a single company structure is the "logical extension of the success we have had with our international programme over the past three years," John McKenna, ENTEX president and CEO, says. He says the new company aims to" globally deliver consistent, high-level SLAs for product and support services". ®