9th > September > 1998 Archive

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FTC grounds man in online fraud case

The defendant in an alleged Internet fraud case has agreed to be grounded from Internet commerce for life as part of a settlement with the US Federal Trading Commission (FTC), according to a report in today's New York Times. The Florida man is claimed to have collected thousands of dollars from buyers in online auctions without delivering any computers. The FTC intends to reimburse the alleged victims with seized assets. The agreement with the FTC doesn't mean he admits his guilt, but according to the terms of the deal he's going to be truthful and somewhat wireless from now on. The man isn't allowed to misrepresent his identity in commercial email or misrepresent any facts material to a consumer's buying decision, and the FTC also has the right to monitor his finances to check compliance. ®
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Motorola may delay full Iridium service

Motorola is backing away from full commercial availability of its Iridium satellite phone system this month, according to US reports. Iridium is due to go into service on September 23, and the launch of five satellites yesterday brought the network closer to completion, but the deadline seems to be too tight. Although the company has said the first calls on Iridium will be made via a Motorola satellite handset, few people have actually seen this piece of hardware yet. And although Motorola says the network is now operational, it concedes that one satellite is experiencing "operational difficulties," and will be replaced. The company says this does not however affect the performance of the network. Motorola has launched 79 satellites in total to achieve its target of 72 operational, and will launch a further five in total. Motorola also says that its ground gateways are "planned to be operational when commercial service becomes available," but doesn't specify when this will be. Reportedly the company is now planning to announce a limited trial of 5,000 handset units at an eye-watering $4,000 a pop. But the calls will be free until Iridium is really commercial. * As The Register went to press, reports surfaced in Asia that Iridium will now go live on 1 November. ®
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Microsoft says had Sun permission to modify Java

Sun's case against Microsoft opened yesterday with testimony from Microsoft applications and tools group VP Robert Muglia. Muglia claimed that in negotiations with Sun's Alan Baratz in 1996 Microsoft had repeatedly said that it intended to modify Java code. This meets Sun's case head-on. Sun is seeking a preliminary injunction stopping Microsoft shipping Java until it makes its version compliant with Sun'' requirements, and is arguing that by modifying Java to use Windows-specific features Microsoft is in breach of its licence agreement. Microsoft has however always argued that it had Sun's permission to do so. At the moment, however, Microsoft's case also hinges on cost. The company is arguing that pulling Java and altering it to Sun's specification would cause massive disruption, cost it a lot of money and damage the industry. As a preliminary injunction would only be granted if the case seemed conclusive to the judge, these arguments are influential at this stage. Alan Baratz and Java author James Gosling are due to testify today. ®
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Andersen Consulting thinks Europe is a ball game

"Most European executives fail to understand the linkage between electronic commerce and current business issues," claims a study just released by Andersen Consulting at the IDC European Forum. Rather naively, Andersen suggests that this would "jeopardise the continent's long-term competitiveness" -- as though Europe were some ball game team that had to play to win. There's no doubt who is waiting on the touch line to be offered the job of coach. The study results were based on interviews with some 300 senior executives. It does not seem to have occurred to Paris-based Rosemary O'Mahony and her team, who undertook the study, that because of what may be simply called cultural differences, US executives are likely to respond differently to interview questions than European executives. Andersen says that there is not a great difference between the views of US and European executives so far as the future impact of e-commerce is concerned. However, around twice as many Americans thought that e-commerce was currently significant in their businesses, or represented a serious threat to their organisations. Two drawbacks to the report are that the interviews were conducted over the period December 1997 to July 1998 (a long time in the Internet age), and the sample size prevents meaningful breakdowns to be made by European country which is unfortunate because other evidence suggests that buying behaviour varies significantly from country to country. There is an underlying belief that the first mover will somehow win the e-commerce prize -- and that competitive pricing and delivery cost and speed will not cause businesses and consumers to switch suppliers by visiting a European competitor site that became available later than a US site. The conclusion that there are two possible scenarios -- eEurope" or "dead end" -- seems far fetched. ®
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Novell: Romancing the Stone

Chris Stone, senior VP of strategy and corporate development for Novell, was the founder and guiding light of the Object Management Group, and is therefore a thoroughly-structured person. His day trip from Boston brought a simple and direct message to the IDC European Forum: directory services had the power to transform the nature of business over connected networks. He lamented that there was no efficient file and print service on the Internet, and that the naming system was bad: searches mostly yielded too many items. His sales message was that Novell leads in its ability to cache the Internet, and that the way to build the network was through directory-enabled services -- and, oh yes, Novell had a product called NDS that could help. It was rather scary when Stone advocated a digital persona, or Global ID for the Internet -- something like an Internet social security number, he suggested. For very many surfers, it was the ability to be anonymous that was so important. Stone saw portals as destination sites, beneath which there were flat files. Users had to log on from site-to-site, instead of being able to burrow away in a rabbit warren in sure and certain knowledge as to where each tunnel went by virtue of a directory and a map. Novell had not been asleep, Stone said, but he did concede that perhaps it had taken a nap. Novell's strategy was now to directory-enable the network, with the directory managing Java servers. ®
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Jan Baan: Calvinistic man with attitude

The Baan Company is a company with attitude, and Jan Baan, the Calvinistic founder and Chairman, offered his view of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to the IDC European IT Forum in Paris. Of the several hundred ERP players, Baan saw only a few surviving. Baan's philosophy towards enterprise software differed from that of his major competitors -- most particularly in avoiding big updates. Baan believed in making it possible to link "the customer of the customer to the supplier of the supplier". Baan said that the next big developments for Baan were to improve sales, and to deal with knowledge structures. He advocated a multi-vendor approach to supplying the components, but when he said: "I do not believe that one monopolist can control the world -- no-one likes that" there seemed to be a contradiction with Baan's declared policy of having a such a close relationship with Microsoft. Perhaps fortunately for Baan, Bill Gates had said the previous day that Microsoft did not intend to enter the enterprise resource planning market. The componentised approach for business processes used by Baan allows users to update a component at a convenient moment. Baan envisaged components being supplied by different players, in two to three years' time. ®
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McNealy goes all touch and feely (by satellite)

Scott McNealy, Chairman, President and CEO of Sun Microsystems (does that add up to three salaries?) appeared by satellite transmission to deliver his one-liners for the IDC European Forum in Paris. His physical presence had apparently been requested by Department of Justice lawyers in Washington in a matter close to his heart. Asked about some support that Sun was offering for NT, McNealy said: "You don't go to Coca-Cola to buy Pepsi, you don't go to Ford to buy BMWs, and you don't go to Sun Microsystems to buy NT". Sun was just being pragmatic and making available some interoperability capabilities, he said. In the future, "Sun will ship NT when Microsoft ships Solaris." McNealy saw no role for PowerPoint or MS Word on the Internet: "PowerPoint is the most insidious product ever produced. When PowerPoint is outlawed, only outlaws will buy PowerPoint." "Services is where all old technology and computer companies go to die. Sun is not moving to a services model; we're moving to a technology and products model." McNealy did admit ruefully that when Sun announced it was making Solaris available essentially free for academic use, Sun's Internet servers were overwhelmed with enquirers. "Dell is not a computer company, it is a broker that adds as little value as possible. Nobody should own the alphabet . . . you should not be able to charge when you invent new alphabet characters like "N" and "T". Apropos of nothing, McNealy offered the comment, "Big hat. No cattle," with a glint in his full-screen visage. ®
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Cyrix slashes chip prices

Cyrix has slashed the price of its processors in a further bid to weaken Intel's hold on the processor market. The company said today that the price of its new part, the MII-333, will be $135/1000, while the MII-300 will drop to $75/1000. The 6x86MX will now cost $45 in quantities of 1000, while the PR266 will now cost $72. National Semiconductor (Cyrix) said that the changes take place from today and the 333 part is now shipping in quantity. Sukh Rayat, general manager of Flashpoint, a non-Intel distributor, said that if his dealer base did not want Intel, their next branded choice was AMD. However, if they did not care about brands, they chose either IDT parts or Cyrix parts. ®
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IDT suffers from gross overcapacity

IDT is still producing too many chips. Today it announced details of its plans to restructure its business following poor financial results for its second quarter. The company, which makes the x.86-compatible range of WinChips, as well as a number of other semiconductor products, said it was still suffering from overcapacity, despite the closure of its San Jose fab. IDT said that it will make an additional charge of between $115 to $140 million in its second quarter. It had anticipated making a charge of between $50 to $60 million in that period. The overcapacity, claimed IDT, was because the size of its Oregon fab as well in advances it has made in scaling its .25 micron process technology. "The review revealed that currently projected production volumes and related cash flows from the Oregon facility would not be sufficient to recover the carrying value of that manufacturing facility," the company statement said. Len Perham, IDT's president, said: "This situation and IDT's own technology advancements have created significantly more capacity than we can reasonably in the near term." ®
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Europe will lead on growth

Europe could become the dominant IT marketplace, beating even the US. That's how Hewlett-Packard CEO Lewis Platt sees the situation. Taking questions after a speech given at IDC's European IT Forum in Paris yesterday (see HP's Lew lays down Lew's Laws), Platt admitted he was pinning his hopes for HP's success on Europe following a downturn in the company's US business. "The US is actually starting to cool. You will see in the next few months pretty widespread examples of the US cooling off," predicted Platt. At the same time, emerging markets, once seen as the source of superior growth, are weakening. "Korea is an excellent example," said Platt. "We grew from zero to a billion dollars faster there than we have ever grown to a billion dollars in any other country. [But] there's no way we're going to do $400 million in Korea this year -- a 60 per cent drop in sales." However, in contrast, Europe is looking very positive, said Platt. "The best news right now comes from Europe," he added. "Europe is the growth leader for our company and we hope that continues to be the case for the next couple of years until we get things straight in Asia." ®
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SK government gets angry at Hyundai, LG

The South Korean government is putting pressure on LG Semicon and Hyundai to resolve their differences over management of the merged semiconductor company they will form. According to reports in tomorrow's edition of the Korea Herald, the Minister of Finance and Economy, Lee Kyu-sung said that ambiguities in the chaebols' ownership structures were certain to cause disputes. He is pushing LG Semicon and Hyundai to resolve their differences by the end of the month and threatened to appoint outsiders to manage the company if the disagreements were not resolved by then. At the same time, the newspaper reported that the World Bank would re-think $2 billion in rescue funds if the South Korean government gave the big five chaebols special treatment. Separately, Samsung announced it will create corporate bonds which will raise one trillion won in the next three years. The money is for financing redundancies and spin off plans it has. ®
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Internet server market set to double

The market for Internet servers is set grow by 114 per cent 1998, according to new research from Dataquest. The market will hit $13.27 billion this year, more than twice the $6.27 billion worth of servers sold in 1997. Leading the market will be mid-range systems going primarily to ISPs. This sector alone will grow to $41 billion by 2001, said Dataquest, and continue to dominate the server market through 2002. Mid-range systems accounted for 67 per cent of all server purchases last year, with revenue reaching $3.97 billion, compared to $1.60 billion for the entry-level Internet server market. Sun was the leading vendor, with 22.3 per cent of the overall Internet server market, followed by HP at 19.6 per cent. Still, there is room for other vendors, reckons Dataquest. "It's important to remember that the Internet server market is still in its infancy and has the kind of dynamic qualities that promise not just change, but very quick change," said Kimball Brown, VP and chief analyst for Dataquest's Intranet and Web Servers Worldwide programme. "As a result, significant opportunities exist for vendors that do not currently reside in the upper reaches of the revenue and shipment picture." ®
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Hi-tech leaders seek cash for domain name body

IBM, Netscape, BT, MCI and nine other leading IT and telecoms companies have banded together to take over the Internet's domain name system. The 13 will soon jointly announce the formation of the Global Internet Project, an organisation that will seek $500,000 donations from major Internet companies. The money will be used to fund a new, non-profit body which will oversee the issuing of domain names. The move follows last June's announcement by the Clinton administration that it will phase out government management of the Internet -- provided the Internet community can reach a consensus on how it will take over the maintenance of key Net functions. "The Clinton administration threw down the gauntlet and we're trying to pick it up," a source close to the Global Internet Project told the Reuters news agency. Control of domain naming has become a major issue as the chief top-level names -- .com, .org and .net -- have become increasingly crowded and as companies have sought domain names that more closely match their own brand names. These key commercial domain names are currently controlled by Network Solutions, the company licensed by the US government via the National Science Foundation. However, Network Solutions' licence will expire at the end of the month, creating room for the non-profit body the Global Internet Project is proposing. Reuters' source compared the new body to air traffic control: "The airlines don't run the air traffic system but they depend on it, juts like we depend on the Internet. We just want it to work." ®
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Gates stunned by success of Windows 98

Dawdling on his way back from Paris, Bill Gates has apparently been telling the Portuguese that windows 98 sales so far have been far better than Windows 95's early sales were, and that they've exceeded all his expectations. Readers with non-goldfish memories will however recall that the run-up to the Windows 95 rollout was punctuated by noisy statements by Microsoft about the amount of disk (for thus it was in those days) and CD cutting capacity it had secured, and how many million copies of 95 upgrades would go into the retail market in time for the launch. These efforts were of course somewhat futile, just as previous ones by Microsoft to hype operating system sales through the channel had been. Operating systems get sold, by and large with new machines, in 1998 Microsoft is a lot more capable of getting PC manufacturers to switch over to the new OS than it was in 1995, and in 1998 a lot more PCs are selling than did in 1995. QED, Windows 98 sales outperform Windows 95. Bill obviously hasn't got time to check out his own OEM deals. ®
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Deutsche Telekom adds ECI to ADSL team

Deutsche Telekom has added ECI Telecom to the list of suppliers for its ADSL network. ECI will be working through its local German partner DeTeWe and will be supplying its ADSL-based Hi-FOCuS Broadband Access to the Home system. The Deutsche Telekom system is intended to provide broadband Internet, video and multimedia services to an initial 28,000 subscribers in eight cities, rising to 43 cities subsequently. Deployment will be carried out through to the end of 2000. One of the advantages of Hi-FOCuS, says ECI, is that it allows different kinds of services to be carried over the same copper infrastructure, and its traffic management capabilities allow it to support four classes of service, which will allow Deutsche Telekom to produce differentiated services for different classes of subscriber. The order is the second major deal ECI has struck recently. It won its first commercial order earlier this year from Kingston Communications of the UK, which is introducing a service next month. ®
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IBM readies Flash-beating hard disk

IBM is set to take the wraps off the world's smallest disk drive. Dubbed the Microdrive, the tiny unit, which weighs less than a single Walkman battery, will have a capacity of 340MB. Due to ship in the middle of next year, the drive will be aimed at highly-portable products like digital cameras and electronic organisers as an alternative to Flash memory. The drive, while not yet up to the capacity demanded by portable PC users, could nevertheless also find a role as a back-up medium. Flash, while commonplace, remains a slow and expensive technology. Indeed, it the cost of Flash storage that many analysts blame for the low capacity of current digital cameras, a problem that is holding back the market for these devices. IBM said that the Microdrive will be compatible with products that currently use Flash memory. Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi and Minolta are considering using the Microdrive in future products, IBM added. ®
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Intel headbutts gang of three over PCI

Reports on the US wires last week that Intel was being precluded from a gang of three of the biggest PC vendors, were firmly rebutted by Intel today. Stories said that Compaq, HP and IBM were pressing ahead with a specification called PCIX, while Intel was dragging its heels. The spec, allegedly the result of Compaq and HP conspiring together against the Great Stan of chips and Dell, the Great Stan 0f Hardware, already includes Intel, the company said today. The representative said: "Intel is a member of the PC Sig as are the other three. The enhancements should be worked through the PC Sig process. "Our plans for the platform include PCI as a cutting edge technology for some years to come." Intel is married to the PCIX process. But many questions remain about the new specification. Peter Glaskowsky, a senior analyst at The Microprocessor Report said it was unclear whether the PCIX spec used advanced features including command pipelining or disconnection to allow multiple transactions to proceed at the same time. He said it was also unclear how many slots it would support, and whether it would support the various AGP standards. Intel refused to answer these and other questions. Backward compatibility, in particular, is an issue, said another analyst who declined to be named. * Bootie Note. Eight years ago, two of The Register staffers found themselves at the joint development site at Boca Raton, run by both Intel and IBM. While the manager of the joint enterprise was out, we both noticed lots of data buses, all named after streets in the locality. ®
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IBM fails to keep up with Toshiba and Compaq

As predicted here early in August, Toshiba and Compaq duly rolled out re-vamped version of their notebook lines, to coincide with the launch of the PII/300 mobile chip from Intel. But IBM does not have a ThinkPad using the chip, the company admitted today. That will mean future channel conflict, as the few distributors who sell notebooks in Europe and the UK, are being forced to sell small form-factor PCs at a reduced price. Over the next few weeks, Toshiba, IBM and Compaq distributors will be forced to discount stock, albeit with price protection, because of Intel's launch. Distributors told The Register last month of Compaq, Toshiba and IBM plans. ®
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ARM ships inexpensive evaluation board

ARM has released a low-cost board created to help system engineers evaluate ARM processors quickly and easily. The AEB-1 (ARM Evaluation Board) costs $150 and ships with connection cable, power supply and basic documentation. It also comes with version 2.11a of ARM's software development kit (SDK). However, this is only licensed for 60 days' evaluation use. The board sports 128KB SRAM, 256KB Flash memory, ARM7DI 32-bit RISC CPU core and "everything necessary for potential customers to benchmark ARM code, learn ARM assembler and assess the ARM tool chain", the company claimed. The ARM SDK provides developers with a complete IDE hosted on Windows 95/NT 4.0, including project manager, compiler/linker, debugger and documentation. The AEB-1 can be ordered online. ®
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US company claims S/390 mips breakthrough

A Fremont company has claimed it will offer commodity based mainframe MIPS. Fundamental Software claimed it had "redefined" the low end of the S/390 market. It is using what it claims are "standard" high volume enterprise grade server hardware as the basis of its offering. FS' systems, called the FLEX-ES product line, competes with the CDS 2000 and IBM's P/390, the company said. Flex-ESL's base system includes 128 megabytes of memory, an internal RAID subsystem and expansion offerings. The company coined a new word to describe its offerings -- multiprise solutions. The company is a Californian startup. ®
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MSN gets revamp

Microsoft Network (MSN) is launching an update of its Portal site, msn.co.uk 1.6. The changes to the site, designed to make it easier to navigate, have been based on feedback from users in the UK. The new version will be launched 16 September. The feedback came in the form of emails from users and research using focus groups. The two main finding were that users wanted more personalisation, and faster, simpler navigation. The updated version has a more magazine like layout. Information is found in larger, chunked categories: Football, Entertainment, News, Business, Chat and Computing. Users can also add any piece of information on the site to their own home page. According to MSN UK, the Internet is changing, becoming more commercial and more functional. Judy Gibbons, director of MSN in the UK, said that portal sites are representative of that change. "It is therefore vital for Microsoft to establish a presence in the field, right from the word go," she said. MSN has over 100 partners providing information to the site. partners have reported increased hits to their own sites since signing up. PC Pro said that hits had jumped to four or five times the previous level. Currently most of these relationships are not fee based, but MSN said that the site had potential for distribution revenue as the Web matured. The current site recorded 560,000 unique visitors in August and about 17 million page views. This is the Private Eye site. ®
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Lass gets rusticated at Oxford University

At Oxford University, the president of the Students Union was alleged to have used her PC to cheat on an exam.
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09/09/98 Daily Digest

RBR sale “on the verge” RBR Networks founders Rory Sweet and Ben White are on the verge of “another mega-deal which could net them nearly £15 million each”, according to the News of the World. Channel speculation has centred around the imminent acquisition of RBR by Datatec, the South African-owned networking equipment reseller and distributor. Jewel in the RBR crown is the highly-prized Cisco franchise. White and Sweet are forecasting sales at RBR Networks to top £80 million this year. The Cirencester, Gloucester company has seen turnover jump from £3 million in 1994 to £7 million in 1995, £23 million in 1995 and £50 million last year. ITE funds ESOP scheme with share issue ITE Group PLC is to issue 21.7 million new ordinary shares in relation to its employee share option scheme. DSG reports encouraging computer sales Dixons Stores Group reports “encouraging sales” of computer and communications products in its latest trading statement., announced at today’s AGM. The company says TV sales, ahead of digita, and domestic appliances are weaker. Like for like sales for the last nine weekss are one per cent up on the comparable period last year, while total sales are 14 per cent ahead. Computerland UK dishes out share options to finance director Computerland UK PLC has awarded its finance director Michael Kent, an option to buy 70,000 ordinary shares at an exercise price of 200p each. The options are exercisable any time between 9th September 2001 and 8th September 2008. Computerland shares closed yesterday at 210p, down from this year’s post flotation high of 369p. Cadcentre chooses Altrincham Cadcentre has selected Altrincham, Cheshire as the home for its new international customer support centre.