1st > September > 1998 Archive

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Web causes depression – official

It's official: "Using the Internet seems to cause isolation, loneliness and depression." At least, that's the conclusion of a two-year Homenet study at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, undertaken by Professor Robert Kraut and his colleagues. The study, funded by the IT industry and the National Science Foundation,followed the social and psychological effects of Internet use by 169 people from 73 families in the Pittsburgh area. The researchers were surprised at the result. Kraut observes that the early history in the use of the telephone shows how misled telephone companies were by the initial usage. Early home telephone users were business and professional people, but there was mis-marketing because it was not appreciated by the telephone companies that other people would like to talk by telephone for no very specific reason. Use of the Internet at home leads to a decline in conversation and other social behaviour. Online friendships through chat groups and email are weaker than personal relationships, it was found. Teenagers are apparently the most vulnerable to adverse effects. Kraut recommends having the computer in a living area rather than a bedroom, to maximise social contact in the family. Shallow relationships were also characteristic of Web friendships, and resulted in a feeling of isolation. The research team believes that the negative effects are caused by Net time diminishing the time available for real life. Parents questioned about the teenage use of the Internet formed the view that Internet access is a better way for their children to waste time than watching television. ®
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Rohm on the Microsoft range

"File this in the fiction section" is Microsoft spokesman Greg Shaw's advice about Wendy Goldman Rohm's book "The Microsoft File. The secret case against Bill Gates" [Times Books, Random House, NY] to be published on 8 September. Rohm is a freelance journalist who uses a fly-on-the-wall style to describe scenes that Microsoft would rather keep hidden. Her sources include many interviews, some deep throats, and a few Microsoft internal documents that have not previously been seen publicly. Rohm's detailed references were dropped from the final text on legal advice. Her story dwells on examples of sexual harassment (the suit was dropped, Microsoft's Shaw says); and details of bugging devices that happened to be found in a hotel room occupied by John Cannavino of IBM the day before Microsoft was to make a lip-service commitment to support OS/2. For the main part, however, the book is an account of the first antitrust action against Microsoft, and the resulting consent decree. It includes the basic details of Microsoft's techno-sabotage of DR-DOS, the techno-piracy of products that Microsoft could not develop itself (Stac's compression of MS-DOS, for example) and anti-competitive marketing practices against any competitor. Most of this is in the public domain. Revisiting these near-forgotten episodes as Microsoft is about to answer the Department of Justice's latest accusations in court is of course deliberate timing by the publisher -- to cause maximum embarrassment, and maximum sales of the book. Microsoft evidently regards the potential damage as being sufficiently serious to start a disparagement campaign against the book, claiming that Rohm had "admitted" to "fictionalising" in the introduction. The campaign is not working, since the book is already being reprinted before publication. ®
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Tech stocks get pounding on Wall Street

Some say it's a recession, others a correction, but Monday's worldwide stock exchange slide following the trend set on Friday now has serious implications for the technology sector. The Dow Industrials declined 6.37 per cent to 7539, with the 512 point fall being greater than the 508 loss on Black Monday in 1987, while the Nasdaq composite index lost 140 points -- 8.56 per cent -- to close at 1499. The fall effectively wiped out all the 1998 gains. There were dramatic falls in Internet stocks, with AOL losing 14 13/16 to 81 7/16, Yahoo! 14 1/16 to 69, and amazon.com dropping more than 22 per cent to 83 3/4. The Amex Internet index fell 13.2 per cent. Amongst semiconductors, Intel gave up 5 13/16 to 71 3/16 and Texas Instruments 3 7/16 to 47 3/4. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index declined 8.3 per cent. Fears about the outcome of USA v Microsoft drove Microsoft down by 9 5/16 to 95 15/16, and the past four days have trimmed Bill Gates' savings account by around $9 billion. Netscape was 5 3/8 off at 18 1/8. PC makers finally fell after resisting significant falls last week. The winning loser, off 19 3/4 to 100, was Dell. Bay Networks managed a small gain, but Cisco was severely punished, falling 12 13/16 to 81 7/8. Wall Street economists remain optimistic that the US economy is in good shape, with high employment, low inflation, no sign of interest rate hikes, and therefore little prospect of a slump. Despite the Street increasingly defying the application of logic to p/e's that are beyond reason, investor psychology is holding up so far, but the situation is fragile. ®
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Siemens accuses LG Semicon of patent infringement

The battle between Siemens and LG Semicon was racked up a further notch yesterday when the German semiconductor firm accused the South Korean manufacturer of infringing its DRAM patents. Reports said that Siemens sued LG Semicon over seven patents and accused the South Korean manufacturer of manufacturing and designing DRAM products which infringed its technology. The action was taken in a district court in Delaware and seeks both an injunction against LG Semicon to prevent it from making and selling the DRAMs which allegedly breach its patents. In early August, Siemens CEO hit out at South Korean manufacturers for dumping products on the market, forcing it to close its state-of-the-art DRAM factory. At the time, newly appointed DTI minister Peter Mandelson backed up the complaint. But last week, the head of the Korean semiconductor association hit out at Siemens for the accusation. A representative for Siemens in Tyneside said she was unaware of the US action and did not know whether or not the action would be repeated here in Europe. ®
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Insight sues HP over imaging technology

Insight Development of San Ramon, California is suing HP because it says that HP has "misappropriated " its imaging technology. In particular, the company claims that HP had infringed an Insight patent and misapproriated trade secrets. HP has a non-disclosure agreement with Insight to use its Virtual Image (VI) technology in printing high-quality Web images. The case will be heard in the federal court in Oakland. With a five per cent increase in revenue and a one per cent increase in earnings in it 3rd quarter results, Lewis Platt, HP's CEO, did not regard the results as satisfactory so he has circulated a taped pep talk to HP staff. In it he laments that HP has "lost sight in recent years of some of the fundamentals that earned us our reputation" as a well-managed company. He did not regard the recent cost-cutting and growth rates as satisfactory and called for a change of attitude. The situation "won't turn round on its own," he said. He asked the staff to be as careful in spending HP's dollars as they would be in spending their own. HP has decided to have an internal communications broadcast system and has selected PointCast. The system is being used by around 1,000 people in HP's software and services group, and will be rolled out to 27,000 employees in the business unit. ®
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US versus Microsoft case takes further twist

With Bill Gates about to be interrogated for a third day on Wednesday, sources in Washington DC have confirmed that the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the state attorney generals have filed a response to Microsoft's request to the federal court to throw out most of the case. That is on the principal ground that the pro-monopoly court of appeals has ruled in Microsoft's favour. An edited version of the filings is expected to be made public later today. It is not now intended to extend the scope of the case significantly, despite new revelations, which suggests that there was probably some disagreement between state and federal lawyers. Evidently the DoJ has prevailed. However, the additional evidence may strengthen the government's case that Microsoft was trying to leverage the operating system monopoly to application software and Internet software, which would be illegal. The attorneys general are known to have obtained testimony from Apple, Caldera, Intel and Real Networks. The incidents recently resurrected include putting pressure on Apple not to add streaming audio and video to QuickTime; trying to persuade Intel to stop the development of native signal processing; adding spurious warning messages to beta versions of Windows in order to claim that DR-DOS (then owned by Digital Research) would not work with Windows and so replace MS-DOS; attempting to carve up the Internet software market with Netscape; and having an exclusionary relationship with RealNetworks to prevent the software being licensed to competitors. In a bizarre twist, Microsoft has subpoenaed Netscape for items posted to two private Netscape forums, known as "Bad attitude" and "Really bad attitude". Netscape employees say that Microsoft's probable intention is to seek to divert attention from itself by making public some of the posts, which are understood to be like an online complaints book and used for venting feelings. If Netscape employees have criticised the management, there could be some minor embarrassment. The parties will meet in court on 23 September. ®
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Big Blue gets copper bottom

IBM will announce today the shipment of copper interconnect technology on a flavour of the 750 Power PC processor. The 400MHz processor uses IBM-developed technology to speed connections on the chip using copper rather than the more conventional aluminium. The chip it will introduce had previously run at 300MHz using the aluminium technology. The first machines likely to use the re-vamped processor will be Apple Mac machines, both in new PCs and also in upgrade cards for Macs. But other chip manufacturers, including AMD, will also use the copper interconnect process in chips they manufacture. AMD already has a deal with IBM partner Motorola, which also has access to the copper interconnect technology. Intel, on the other hand, is unlikely to deploy similar technology until early into the next century. Although it is also working on copper interconnects, it lags behind Big Blue. Whether NatSemi-Cyrix will be able to use the IBM technology is subject to some doubt. Last week, it said it would switch most of its production from IBM fabrication plants to its own. ®
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Samsung samples 1Gb DRAM

The Korean press reported yesterday that Samsung has completed testing of a 1Gb DRAM module. The product has already started sampling and has been supplied to its partner Intel and to other PC vendors. The module, which uses a series of 256Mbit synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) chips is likely to be used in future generations of machines using advanced processors Intel is readying for next year. Meanwhile, the top five chaebols in South Korea are still on track for the swapping of their businesses on September 10, according to reports in the Korea Herald. ®
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Big Blue to sell Global Network

A report in the Wall Street Journal claimed that IBM has put its Global Network up for a sale, and has hired Merrill Lynch to put it out to tender. The unit could fetch as much as $4 billion, Big Blue hopes, but it would have to be a worldwide ISP which thought it was worth it. Four years ago, IBM pushed the Global Network hard as an Internet solution, not just for its own corporate customers but also for end users. The backbone is IBM's own international telecomms network across the world. The news could indicate that IBM is somewhat strapped for cash, coming as it does on the heels of a report that it wanted to sell off its printer division earlier this year. The Global Network is part of Big Blue's lucrative services division and accounts for around three per cent of the company's revenue. But sources close to the company say elements of the network is extremely antiquated, using copper infrastructure and token ring cabling which might not appeal to potential customers. Only large multinationals such as AT&T or British Telecom could afford to buy a $4 billion system. IBM would not comment on the reports at press time. ®
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Hitachi in fight over DVD right

The Hitachi Corporation is to introduce a camcorder next year which uses DVD Ram rather than videotape, according to reports on Japanese wires. That is a first for DVD memories applied to audio-visual equipment. Hitachi, which has been at the forefront of DVD, said that the RAM version will hold up to an hour of images on both sides of the platter. The move suggests that its deadly rival Sony may be positioning its mini-disk format as a method for recording images too. If the companies' R&D labs are capable of doing so, that could lead to digital cameras, which have yet to take off in the market, using DVD too. Sony has not yet finally committed itself to the DVD format, following a spat between all players in the market over the last two years. ®
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Japanese companies start divesting

Japanese companies, faced with increasing debts and decreasing revenues, are spinning off units in an apparent bid to gain valuable foreign currency. Toshiba today announced in the UK that it would rid itself of its air conditioning unit and merge its operations with US based company the Carrier Group. Toshiba boasted formerly that it was the number one air conditioning company in the UK. Air conditioning aside, Mitsubishi said yesterday that it was licensing its CD recordable drives to a Taiwanse company called CMC Magnetic. From October, CMC will make Mitsubishi's CDRs under licence. The problem major Japanese companies have are compounded by economic woes, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put down to lassitude on the part of the country. Earlier this year, Toshiba licensed a large part of its DRAM manufacturing capability to Taiwanese companies. ®
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AMD to ship 12 million K6 parts in 1998

AMD has responded to accusations it cannot produce enough K6-2s by delivering comprehensive figures which it claims vindicates its stance. A source close to AMD gave facts and figures showing how many wafers it had made and chips it had shipped. According to the source, close to senior AMD executives in the US, in the second quarter of 1998 it produced 2.67 million K6 parts. In the third quarter, he said, additional production was between one half and one million units. According to him, Q3 was entirely made up of hundreds of thousands of 350MHz K6-2 parts. In quarter four, he added, AMD will produce "substantial volumes" of the 400MHz part that is expected. Total volume of K6 production in 1998 was 12 million units, he said. In 1999, AMD will produce 20 million units. The cautionary statements AMD made last week, he said, were purely cautionary, given the figures he gave. Intel refuses to give any figures about wafers it creates or parts it ships. ®
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South Korea hits out at US, Japan and Australia

Reports in the Korean press will say tomorrow (Wednesday) that there are over 250 barriers to the country doing business in other countries, with unfair rules and systems operating in 61 countries. The SK Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy has hit back at unfair practices from countries including Japan, mainland China, Russia, Australia and the United States. But the UK does not come under attack from the Ministry. Nor does Germany, despite the invective Siemens delivered to LG Semicon in early August. Local newspapers say that Korean companies have barriers to their trade not only in Asia, but abroad. Those include problems with issuing visas, health taxes and even driving licences. The country will respond to the attacks against its integrity by sending delegations to the respective countries, asking them to look at the record, according to the reports. Such practices were damaging local industries, said the government official. The UK is probably exempt from the criticism because foreign and commonwealth Labour Party minister Derek Fatchett said in early July that it would help South Korea. Unfortunately, that came the same day as his colleague, DTI minister Peter Mandelson, accused South Korean DRAM companies of dumping their products in Europe and abroad. The UK government later described the apparent contradiction as a matter of “macro and micro economics”. ®
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Packard Bell NEC puts purchasing on global footing

Packard Bell NEC is to centralise its component purchasing operation into a single, global operation in a bid to cut manufacturing costs, boost margins and regain its former glory. The Worldwide Purchasing unit will be headed by Almarie Falbo, until recently Packard Bell NEC's VP for corporate customer satisfaction, a role that takes in oversight of the supply chain and product quality. The unit will initially cover the company's European, US and Asian operations, and will work to streamline each territory's relationships with suppliers, with the ultimate goal of increasing Packard Bell NEC's product margins. "Worldwide purchasing is a market-proven initiative that will increase our competitive advantage, improve margins, and leverage indirect costs," said chairman of the executive committee of the company's board, Alain Couder.
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Data warehousing grows more than 50 per cent per year

The market for data warehousing and decision support is set to grow by more than 50 per cent a year, US-based researcher Palo Alto Management Group (PAMG) has claimed. Reporting its findings, the company said added the market will be worth over $113 billion by 2002. Driving the growth will be the evolution of data warehouses into the basis for entire corporate information distribution systems, PAMG said. "Instead of having a relatively few so-called knowledge-workers accessing these warehouses, companies will be encouraging their employees, customers and suppliers to use the warehouse as a basic information resource as will government agencies wishing to inform millions of constituents," said the study's director, Michael P Burwen. PAMG studied 375 data warehouse users in the US, Europe and Japan, and found the average size of a data warehouse is currently 272GB, set to grow by a factor of 24 over the next three years. User access will increase even more dramatically, expanding by a factor of 42 from 2,200 people to 100,000, the study revealed. Full details of PAMG's research is published in its report on the study, Data Solutions II. Further information can be found at PAMG's Web site.®
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HP bundles free backup software with Sure Store

Hewlett-Packard has introduced a new software package to be distributed free with its Sure Store range of tape drives. This comes as Banner, a US research company release the finding of a recently completed study of the market for backup software in the US, UK and Europe. The research found that the three most important features customers look for are disaster recovery, ease of use and error reporting. Backup solutions are currently chosen from one of three main options: operating system backup applets; independent vendors software solutions; and free in-box solutions, like the one launched by HP. Each of these solutions is aimed at a different section of the market. HP's solution, Stac's Replica backup, is targeting the entry level to mid range server market segment - the biggest slice of the market. The survey from Banner found that 60 per cent of people use a dedicated software backup product. HP is trying to address the areas raised in the survey by Banner. The Replica software has drag-and-drop restore functions, one button backup, open file backup, built in scheduling and an installation/configuration wizard. It does not have a disaster recovery option, although this can be bought separately for about $150. The storage management software market grew by nearly 20 per cent between 1996 and 1997 according to IDC, but many people do not have proper protection from data loss. Paul Mason, an analyst at IDC, said: "A backup tool is not complete without open file backup, scheduling and disaster recovery." ®
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Asda signs Viglen for back to school PCs

Asda is cashing in on the start of the computer buying season , with a Back to School drive to sell cut price PCs. The supermarket chain will have PCs for sale in every store, retailing at £799. Asda claims this is £200 cheaper than most other outlets. The hardware is being supplied by Amstrad subsidiary Viglen, and will carry the Viglen brand. The PC runs on a 300MHz processor and has 32MB RAM and a 3.2GB hard drive. It comes with a built in 56Kb/s fax modem and 30 days free Internet access to Connect2. The machines will come bundled with Windows 98 operating system and the Microsoft Home Essentials suite of software. A spokesperson for Asda said the company would consider extending the scheme - if successful - so moving into the market space currently occupied by traditional PC retailers such as Dixons and Comet. Viglen is already working with Asda on the Computers for Kids programme. Under the PC for schools scheme, Asda customers are rewarded with vouchers for purchases they make at the supermarket chain, or for aluminium cans they collect for recycling. Asda says this is a one PC per school deal. Computers for Kids ends on October 4.®
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01/09/98 Daily Digest

Douglas-Mann apppointed Lynx chairman Lynx Group plc has named Stewart Douglas-Mann to succeed Roger Pinnington as non-executive chairman. Chief executive Richard Last thanked Pinnington on behalf of the board for his "contribution to building the Group over the past seven years, during which time the market capitalisation has grown from £5 million to over £200 million". Pinnington resigned on 28 August to "focus on other major corporate commitments". Sale proceeds fund Stratagem working capital Strategem Group PLC, the building products to computer services conglomerate, has sold two non-core architectural ironmongery companies, to Queenswood 102 Ltd for £1.6 million cash. The company said it would use the money for general working capital and to reduce group borrowings. Memory Corp turns to EASDAQ for fresh fund-raising Memory Corporation plc, the AIM-listed developer of DRAM technology, is to raise $10-$15 million, in a fund-raising exercise to accompany a move from AIM to EASDAQ. Game shares "good value" Game, the UK entertainment retailer, merits "Good Value" from Investors Chronicle. Pointing out that shares have fallen steadily since the company's recent post-flotation peak of 230p, the magazine says that on 16 times Merrill Lynch's forecast 9.8p EPS next year, "they don't look expensive". Game intends to open 19 new stores this year, as part of its drive to take take outlets up to 120 stores by 2001, up from 65 today. FTSE Index to reclassify hardware and software firms FTSE International is to split the FTSE IT index into separate sections for hardware and software & services, according to leading industry analyst Richard Holway. The change will take place on 1 January, 1999, he says. Microprose signs Digital River for Web direct push Microprose, the US-based games software label, is to sell its titles direct, including best sellers MechCommander, Civilisation II and Falcon 4, over the Web. The company has appointed Digital River to host and manage its ecommerce web site. Digital River will also provide Microprose customers with 24-hour phone-ordering services. And it will hand the physical distribution of MicroProse titles to Digital River's network of online software resellers. ®
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In brief: AMD pondering IBM Microelectronics deal

Sources told The Register late today that Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) was considering suspending its deal with IBM Microelectronics to fab out its K6 chips. Earlier today, as reported here, AMD disclosed figures of the wafers made by its fabs, suggesting that it is close to achieving critical mass on its processors off its own bat. Last week, NatSemi said it would be able to produce 75 per cent of its production without the aid of IBM Microelectronics by the end of the year. No-one from IBM was available for comment at press time. ®