13th > September > 1998 Archive
IBM’s Network Computer Division has begun the rollout of a thin client system for Volkswagen. As a first phase 80 Network Stations are being deployed in the Brussels offices of VW’s IT department, but future expansion will take the system into other company departments and services. According to IBM one of the major advantages of the Network Station is that it provides an architecturally neutral platform VW can use to evolve its existing IT architecture. The company is using its existing mainframe applications while integrating them with SAP R/3, and Microsoft Office for personal productivity. "Principally, Volkswagen chose the Network Station because it offers increased productivity whilst at the same time reducing the 'total cost of ownership' against a comparable PC LAN environment," said Daniel Sluysmans, IT Services Manager at Volkswagen in Brussels. "IBM's thin client is easy to install and flexible. Whilst it's able to execute our existing terminal applications, it's also ready for Java applications, Windows NT, Internet, browsers and all possible graphical user interfaces, such as SAP R/3." ®
The latest skirmishing in the Microsoft antitrust case has resulted in a deal between Microsoft and the Department of Justice (DoJ) to put the trial back by another three weeks, until 15 October. The adversaries both spoke to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson about this on Friday, but he has yet to agree. According to the judge’s original schedule, the trial should have begun last week, but it has been beset by arguments and changes of tack by both parties. Microsoft has been complaining about ‘new evidence’ from the DoJ which it says takes the case in an entirely different direction, while Microsoft itself has caused some confusion by subpoenaing a clutch of adversaries in an attempt to show anti-competitive collusion in the Unix marketplace. But although further delay is probably in Microsoft’s interest, given that the company originally wanted a much longer period to prepare its case, Friday wasn’t entirely a good day for the company, which saw the DoJ’s attack move towards Bill Gates himself. DoJ lawyer David Boies presented a note by Gates from a January 1996 meeting with AOL boss Steve Case, which indicated that AOL would standardise on Internet Explorer in exchange for “favourable placement in the operating system.” This was a key victory for AOL, which had been battling feverishly to blunt the impact of Microsoft’s rival online system, MSN, since the launch of Windows 95 a few months before. MSN had originally been intended as the preferred mechanism for Windows 95 users to get online, and had itself attracted the DoJ’s interest because of this the previous year. By giving AOL parity, or something close to parity, Gates could therefore be seen as sacrificing his own online plans in order to get the largest online system in the world on-side. This is what Boies argues happened: "They were even willing to put a bullet in the head of something they had a lot of hope for," he said. Boies also pointed to a Gates email responding to a suggestion that Office programs be designed to work as well with Netscape Navigator as with Internet Explorer: “That’s wrong – I disagree with that,” is the wording Gates used, but what this meant is still open to some interpretation. Gates is clearly not saying (not here, anyway) that his programmers should go out and make sure Navigator doesn’t work with Office, and could argue with some justification that it’s no business of his to ensure a rival product works better. But Microsoft’s control of the operating system, and its integration of Explorer in the operating system, gives it some responsibility to provide companies like Netscape with the information they need to make their products work with Microsoft’s products. Where Microsoft’s responsibilities in this area begin and end has always been murky and fluid, even to Microsoft, so it’s a useful point of attack for the DoJ. ®
Hyundai has offered to break the deadlock between it and LG Semicon over the future of a merged chip business by offering to trade its TFT-LCD business for the other company’s chip business. Reports in the South Korean press claimed that the offer was Hyundai’s attempt to break the deadlock which has affected it and both LG since they agreed to merge their semiconductor businesses. But LG has turned down the offer and the two companies are still in deadlock over the deal they have both promised to implement. The South Korean government is now set to use an intermediary to resolve the two week long public row between the two companies, the reports said, with Federation of Korean Industries supremo Kim Woo-choong, likely to be the broker. LG turned down Hyundai’s offer because it said that the LCD manufacturing capabilities it was attempting to barter were not state of the art fabrication plants. Compared to Samsung’s ability to produce TFT-LCDs, both Hyundai and LG Semicon are far behind in terms of both technology and market share. But Samsung is not involved in semiconductor negotiations and stands to win even more market share from the other two chaebols as the embarrassing public row continues. ®
If you're going to Comdex/Fall and travelling through LAX with your notebook, note this fact and note it well. Because of the increased security caused by terrorist threats, perceived or otherwise, the security people who make you tip out your coins and keys, are now making you tip out your notebooks too. Once they are out, the locals give them a good going over and a brisk brushing with some type of electronic device. It would, of course, be unkind to suggest that IBM and its ilk is to blame. Because they've produced notebooks which allow diskette drives and CD ROMs to be extracted for weight reasons, they leave cavities... Imagine the chaos at Comdex.