15th > September > 1998 Archive

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Senior Intel executive confirms 370-pin socket by year end

Albert Yu, senior vice president of Intel’s microprocessor products group, said today that the 370-pin socket version of the Celeron is now likely to arrive towards the end of the year. Speaking on the eve of Intel’s Developers Forum, Yu said that the primary reason for moving to the socket was because of cost considerations. The socket is aimed at the Basic PC end of the processor market. Yu said: “We are introducing a Celeron later on this year with a lower cost packaging. The 370-pin socket will appear towards the end of this year. The logic of using the 370-pin socket is to save costs. Our intention is to move the Slot One architecture to a socket architecture in the long term.” Future products based on the socket will follow, Yu said. There was no reason for Intel to use a socket seven processor for the Celeron because, he said, just cranking up the performance of a chip but not taking account of faster bus technology made no sense. "Socket seven is not just a physical socket but worked with the Pentium bus," he said. "You can’t just crank up the clock speed." He said that Intel had decided to create its Mendocino-Celeron processors, recently released, in spring of last year. Yu also said that by the middle of next year, Intel would be able to introduce .18 micron technology using six layers of metal. Layers four and five would have additional thickness to help diminish resistance, he said. "My mother asked me why we weren’t using copper," he said. "Copper does have lower resistivity but there is more than one way to get there. We’ve chosen to increase the thickness of aluminium to get the same result." Yu said: "We’re already designing product for .13 micron." He said that Intel was also at the stage where it was designing CPUs with over 200 million transistors but those processors would not be available until the year 2001. Intel had included areas of the CPU which performed self-testing and diagnostics and he said that more such real estate was planned. But Intel would carry on using the 486 instruction set. "Clearly there’s a legacy in using old instruction sets but we haven’t looked at that very aggressively," he said. "It’s a little dangerous to change that. We are working very aggressively to get rid of system legacy components like ISA." ®
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Intel says PCI-X last increment of bus

Intel has given a qualified welcome to the PCI-X specification proposed by IBM, Compaq and HP, but said that it was likely to be the last iteration of PCI. Mitch Schultz, head of IO initiatives at Intel US, said that the company had only just received the proposed specification. "In general our view is that it’s potentially very positive," he said. "It’s the last incremental advance of PCI and we believe that the industry has got to move to some fundamentally new architecture," he said. "We view the next step as a long term direction, perhaps holding good for the next 30 years," he said. While the PCI model had held good for some time, Schultz believed that research Intel had performed showed that another model was needed for high end servers. The direction Intel was proposing was based on how mainframes worked, and not on the PCI model, he added. The industry needed to work together to create its replacement. ®
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IE 5? What a surprise!!

Details have emerged about the nature of Internet Explorer 5.0, understood to be almost identical with Windows NT 5.0. The product, given in its preliminary beta versions to select developers and press, will use a multimedia rich approach to deliver 3D effects, according to one developer today. Intel and Microsoft are understood to be collaborating closely on the design, with the strong possibility that Katmai announcements -- expected in the next seven hours -- will leverage software in the labs. Extra instruction sets and a roadmap will be announced in the US then. Other software majors and minors are understood to be rallying behind the interface. But a source close to Intel told The Register today that he doubted if anyone would see NT 5.0 before the year 2000 dawned. That also left IE 5.0 in the same pickle, he suggested. Microsoft could not be contacted at press time. ®
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Quark abandons Adobe bid

Quark has dropped its bid for Adobe, following general scepticism and widespread user hostility. But the bid was never very credible -- Quark is a quarter of Adobe's size and did not suggest a price other than a premium over the market valuation (implying at least $2 billion would be needed). Nor did Quark sign up a financial organisation to give credibility as to how the money might be raised. It is likely that Quark expected Adobe's share price to drop substantially, making an acquisition more possible, but Adobe's share price has marginally increased since the bid was made. It also became clear at the Seybold conference last month that Adobe users did not welcome a merger. Quark's move was generally believed to reflect its concern over Adobe's forthcoming K2 product, which is designed to compete in the same market as QuarkXpress. John Warnock, Adobe CEO, speaking after his keynote presentation to the SPA meeting yesterday, admitted that Adobe had been slow in downsizing when it found the Japanese market shrinking. He said that Adobe had too many managers, so the focus of staff reductions was to eliminate many of these positions. Referring to the Quark bid, Warnock said that Adobe had received from Quark only the three letters posted on Quark's Web site. Warnock expected Adobe to return to 15 per cent revenue growth, and 25 per cent pre-tax profits, from the next quarter. On the product front, Warnock said in his SPA speech that there was a need for a combined authoring system for paper and the Web. Adobe would be considering technology acquisitions to develop such a product. Yesterday, Adobe announced the beta of ImageStyler for building graphical Web sites for small businesses. ®
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More memos trouble Microsoft as case delayed again

The twice-postponed Microsoft antitrust case has been postponed again to 15 October, but Microsoft - as was widely predicted - did not succeed in getting the case dismissed. In a 54-page ruling, Judge Jackson has released some fascinating glimpses of the Microsoft internal emails that had previously been filed under seal. Microsoft's crumb of comfort was that Jackson ruled that the 20 states' argument that Microsoft leveraged from one market (Windows) to another (browsers) was not consistent with the Sherman Act. However, Jackson allowed the argument that Microsoft "has attempted to monopolize the market for Internet browsers", which is perhaps the main point of Netscape's complaints. The new revelations by Jackson in his ruling include an email from Bill Gates that complained that "the Netscape/Java combination threatens to commoditize the operating system." There is also an email from Tod Nielsen to Gates: "We are just proactively trying to put obstacles in Sun's path and get anyone who wants to write in Java to use J/Direct." Microsoft VP Moshe Dunne emailed Gates admitting in effect that users found Navigator preferable to IE: "The stunning insight is this: to make [consumers] switch away from Netscape we need to make them upgrade to [Windows 98]. . . . We can leverage these assets to convert the Navigator installed base and eclipse Netscape's browser market share leadership. But if we rely on IE4 alone to achieve this, we will fail." Christian Wildfeuer agreed: "It will be more important to leverage the [operating system] asset to make people use IE instead of Navigator." Jackson also gave details of evidence that AT&T and MCI would like to have remained browser-neutral, but had to give in to IE because otherwise Microsoft would not allow them places in its Internet connection wizard. So far as the June 1995 disputed meeting between Netscape and Microsoft is concerned, Jackson notes that the facts are in dispute. Another hearing on Microsoft's motion to narrow the case will be held on Thursday. ®
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Novell says shipped NetWare 5 early

Novell has been shipping NetWare 5 ahead of schedule, and perhaps a year ahead of NT5. Yesterday Novell announced that a dozen or so Fortune 500 companies had already gone live with the product, which at last has the features that were missing from NetWare 4. NetWare 5 uses TCP/IP as a native protocol, and includes with appropriate migration tools, 64-bit storage indexing, and memory protection, and the Oracle 8 version 5 database instead of Btrieve, which could be a very important factor in view of the substantial lead that Oracle has over Microsoft's SQL Server. Novell also has in beta for delivery later this year NDS (Novell Directory Services) 2.0 for NT. NDS can also manage Domain Name System/Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol services centrally. Eric Schmidt, Novell's CEO, was asked at the chief information officer's conference yesterday in San Francisco about NT Server and Active Directory. He said: "I prefer to talk about shipping products", but that NDS would co-exist with and interoperate with NT and Active Directory. Novell's ZENworks, a management utility, is being given higher marks by reviewers than Microsoft's IntelliMirror, particularly because Novell's product can work with legacy systems whereas Microsoft's can only work with NT5 Workstation clients. Novell has a significant window of market opportunity while Microsoft is in vapour with NT5 (it is worth recalling that Microsoft has been talking about Cairo, as NT5 was then dubbed, since 1993). Ballmer said last week that NT5 would not be released for eight to twelve months, but what he did not add was that with so much new code (possibly 15 million new lines), there will be considerable caution in adopting it until the first flush of bugs are removed. There are many NetWare 3 users who have evidently decided not to upgrade to NT4, so the probability is that many of them will now upgrade to NetWare 5. Whether NetWare will prove able to gain against NT depends on the groundswell that Novell creates, and whether potential users will continue to wait for the vaporous NT5. ®
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Time Warner moves into Web retail

Time Warner made its move yesterday to become a Web retailer. Various divisions such as Warner Brothers' Studio Stores already have a Web presence, but the intention is to capitalise on the one billion page-views a month that TW's Pathfinder site receives. The company has not found the magic touch in the past, having established Pathfinder in 1994 and promoted it heavily -- despite calling it a "black hole". The CFO, Richard Bressler, was quoted yesterday as saying "We can't exactly see what the formula is for making money," despite the company's success in the mail order business, where it turns over more than $2 billion/year. The initial merchandise will consist of its own CDs, books and videos, but it expects to add other goods and services later. Murdoch's News Corp plans to open an online store next week to sell Fox-branded goods, and another to sell merchandise connected with Fox TV shows. Disney plans to expand its online retailing activities to include travel reservations to its theme parks. Being big is no guarantee of success. The oft-quoted Amazon.com and CDnow have yet to turn a profit. The hottest growth area at the moment seems to be auction sites, where online bidding continues for a period of days until a deadline. Even Sotheby's tried it in July, for books and manuscripts, raising $65,000 in the sale. ®
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Citibank buys into MS online billing venture

Citibank has bought into the clumsily-named MSFDC(Microsoft and First Data Corporation) joint venture, now renamed TransPoint, to corner the market for Internet bill paying. The undisclosed stake is a minority one, with the other partners having an equal share. The service is expected to go live later this year. Some 19 billion bills are sent through the US mail each year, and TransPoint aims to offer an Internet service to billers as well as the billed, using existing technology. At present, home banking services of the many small US banks offer some bill paying capabilities, but efforts are not well-coordinated. Hitherto, Microsoft has been treated with extreme caution by the banking community, although this new move lends some credibility to the TransPoint venture. Hedging its bets, perhaps, Citibank also has a share of the Integrion Financial Network, a banking community consortium (with IBM) to keep banks in the banking business. Integrion works in association with CheckFree, a rival of TransPoint. Whatever the outcome, interworking of the two systems would seem to be a high priority. Netscape has provided Citibank with most of its Internet infrastructure software, and hosts Citibank as the "anchor tenant" (but not editorial writer) of Netscape's Personal Finance Channel. The irony is that although Citibank operates in 100 countries, it is only present physically in nine states and DC as a result of archaic US banking regulations. ®
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Apple may seek help to meet iMac demand

Apple is believed to be considering outsourcing iMac production following the huge demand for the new consumer-oriented computer, according to Eugene Sapp, president of COO of SCI Systems, one of the world's largest contract manufacturers. Speaking at a NationsBanc Montgomery Securities investment conference in San Francisco, and reported on the US newswires, Sapp alleged that Apple is examining the possibility of signing up other manufacturers because demand for the iMac has outstripped Apple's ability to supply it. "The iMac is exceeding expectations. It looks like we may be bringing in some of that product," Sapp said. "[The iMac] seems to be putting a strain on [Apple's] manufacturing capacity." Certainly, an inability to build enough units has hit Apple hard in the past, with many new models attracting too many customers for the vendor to supply. Numerous reports of iMac failures suggest that Apple's round-the-clock programme of punching out the new machine may already be pushing too hard, though Apple seems to be experience no more failurers than any new machine might be expected to generate. SCI has produced Macs for Apple in the past. Indeed, its Fountain, Colorado plant was bought from Apple two years ago when the Mac-maker sold the facility as part of its measures to get back on track financially. ®
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Microsoft takes top slot in capitalisation

Yesterday, Microsoft passed GE as the US stock with the greatest market capitalisation -- $261.2 billion, compared with GE's $257.4 billion. The next IT stocks, in 7th and 9th place respectively, are Intel ($144.2billion) and IBM (120.5 billion). BillG's share yesterday was around $57 billion. Symantec had a setback, falling around 15%, after CEO Gordon Banks admitted to an investor conference yesterday that second quarter revenues would be down about $5 million after CyberMedia obtained a temporary restraining order from Judge Fogel, obliging Symantec to discontinue shipments of Norton Uninstall Deluxe. One financial analyst, Rob Owens of Pacific Crest Securities, reduced his second quarter's earnings estimate by 5 cents to 37 cents/share. Following the calling off of the merger between Tellabs and Ciena, both companies shares fell - 16 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. Dell was very active, encouraged by a statement from Kevin Rollins, its vice chairman, that PC sales are expected to increase 15 per cent on the year after an 11 per cent first half increase, suggesting a good second half. Its shares were up 1 5/8 to 59 1/8. AOL put on 3 to 98 and Yahoo gained 4 to 83 7/8, but Amazon.com dropped 2 3/8 to 73 11/16. Motorola rose 3 to 44 3/8 following disclosure of its plans for a set-top box. The Dow ended up 150 points or 2.7 per cent, and Nasdaq 24 points or 1.5 per cent. The Nikkei rose 2.2 per cent. ®
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Retail systems poised at crossroads

Retail information technology systems are currently poised at a crossroads as organisations consider the sheer complexity of the task ahead of them, according to a new study by the Aberdeen Group. Information Technology in the Retail Sector: The Integration Imperative, argues that companies who were pioneers with their earlier generations of point of sale networks now have to deal with multiple issues, not least of them being a higher degree of heterogeneity than found in other sectors, and the need to integrate their POS systems with their corporate networks. "Retailers have invested in point of sale networks and other examples of what was advanced technology at the time," says Donald Bellomy, Aberdeen Industry services senior consultant: "Retail, in fact, was arguably the first 'wired' segment of the economy. Retailers will fund IT expenditures when it makes good business sense." Bridging incompatible HQ and in-store systems is one challenge, others being the extension of the supply chain back towards suppliers and forward towards customers. Aberdeen says that there is currently no singler solution that can be used to achieve implementation, and the report analyses three major alternatives: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), inter-application linkage, and operating system interfaces. ®
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Storming performance from Psion Dacom

Psion Dacom reported 79 per cent sales growth in the first half of 1998. Sales rose to $40.5 million, up from $22.6 million in the same period last year. The company said that this reflected rapid expansion of all its major markets worldwide, and was optimistic about its future prospects. Psion Dacom has established partnerships with a number of big hitters in the high tech field. Most recently there have been licensing agreements with Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola for their digital cellular data interface and a worldwide supply contract with Dell Computers, for its Gold Card 56Kb/s PC cards. Gareth Hughes, managing director for Psion Dacom said that the Gold Card was the main drive behind the company's growth, but that was not the only strength at Psion. He commented: "With the positive reception to our new NetGlobal range of Ethernet cards and the increasing popularity of our GSM and ISDN upgrade kits, the company is well positioned for further growth." Psion Dacom regards itself as being particularly influential in Europe where wireless technology has proved popular. The company extended its lead in the PC Card modem products market in Europe where Dataquest said that it accounted for 16 per cent of European shipments in 1997. Hughes claims that the company's continued success is due to a significantly improved product range. This, he says, has resulted in a better choice of products for customers. ®
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NatSemi signs up for Tut HomeRun

National Semiconductor is preparing for an explosion in home networking by licensing Tut Systems' HomeRun technology for use on its single-chip Ethernet physical layer transceiver solution. Financial details were not released. Tut's system is intended to use existing phone cabling in the home to run networks. Analysts estimate that in the next two years, 30 million US households will have multiple computers. According to Nat Semi, HomeRun technology will provide these users with a simple way of networking their computers, allowing them to share Internet access and peripherals without disrupting normal telephone lines. Nat Semi will be able to target two markets, home and Ethernet, with one solution. "The inclusion of this new technology is a major step in our strategy to support the dramatic increase in TCP/IP traffic, whether within the home, over the Internet, or private networks," said Robert Penn, senior VP of National's Communications and Consumer Group. The resulting product will be called PHYTER, and is scheduled for production in the first half of next year. It will be compliant with the specification for low-cost networking using existing telephone wiring, to be published this quarter. ®
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Intel pushes thin server ‘appliances’

Intel is targeting the burgeoning small business sector with a new line of thin server appliance products that it says will make it easy and cheap to network between two and 50 PCs. The products will be sold as part of Intel's InBusiness product line and will be available this year. Brad Romney, Intel's small business networking operation manager, commented: "Thin server appliances will usher in a new era of technology use for small businesses. For the reseller channel, these new devices will represent a completely new category of products to sell and service into new and existing accounts." Dataquest's senior industry analyst James Staten, says that the thin server appliance market segment will grow by some $14 million, to exceed $16 billion in revenue by 2002. Romney said that thin server appliances were akin to household objects like toasters and microwaves, in that they are designed to perform a single function and need very little maintenance. The first of the products was launched earlier in the year, the InBusiness InternetStation. This provides multiple users with Internet access without multiple ISP accounts, modems and phonelines. NetportExpress PRO/100 print servers are also available. In a white paper, Intel outlined key criteria that thin server appliances should meet: It should do one thing well, be low cost with no head count license fees. It should have the scope for expansion at a later date, be physically designed to perform its task and be manageable via the Web. More info from Intel's networking Web site. ®
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Intel's Barrett outlines PC futures

Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, has opened the Intel Developers Forum in Palm Springs by outlining what he sees as the future of the PC. At the same time he said that there needed to be industry wide initiatives to address technological and security problems. Those include building security into CPUs, chipsets and motherboards to make e-commerce safer, he said. Barrett said: “Today there are 150 million PCs connected. By the end of this century there will be 300 million connected computers. By the year 2005, there will be one billion connected machines.” He said: “PCs are very difficult to use. The face we have only 50 per cent penetration in the USA means we have to make them easier to use.” Intel’s policy of segmenting the market will continue, said Barrett. He said that StrongARM technology was complementary to its own Intel architecture and the technologies will continue in parallel development teams with designers leapfrogging each other. “We expect to see those developments coming out on a bi-annual basis,” he said. He said: “1999 will probably be the most intenstive year of product introductions we’ve had for some time.” Katmai CPUs will be introduced in the first quarter of 1999 and will be intended fo rich data types and high pefomance multimedia. Intel would follow on by introducing higher speeds of this Katmai technology throughout the year. He said that Intel was introducing a publishing unit to provide technical information about PC99 and other PC specifications, called the Intel University Press. Intel was pushing ahead with its production of its IA64 (Merced) technology, Barrett said. “Merced is still targeted for production in the middle of the year 2000,” he said. At the same time, Intel will continue parallel development of IA32 platforms. ®
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Katmai out of the bag

Intel has provided sneak details of its processor roadmap up until the year 2001 and has also given additional details of the Katmai instruction set it will introduce early next year. Albert Yu, senior vice president in charge of the microprocessor unit, said that the development of additional instructions in Katmai was driven by the need for rich data applications, including MPEG and voice recognition. The Katmai instructions will offer better performance than existing IA32 chips, said Yu. “In the P6 architecture there are key elements including dynamic execution and multitransaction P6 bus. With Katmai we’ve included instructions which offer streaming, additional media instructions and concurrent SIM-D architecture.” He said: “Typically, you fetch, execute and store but with this new capability (streaming), you can fetch, fetch immediately and you don’t have to wait.” That gives up to 10 per cent better performance, Yu claimed. Intel, he said, will introduce its Tanner technology in the first half of next year, aimed at the workstation and server market. That processor will start at speeds of 500MHz and come with various cache sizes and different chipsets. In the second half of next year, its Cascade .18 micron technology will be arrive. It will offer “much higher” speeds than 500MHz and have integrated cache to give better price performance, Yu said. Soon after Intel introduces the Katmai chip, it will introduce its Coppermine technology, said Yu. That will be Katmai based but come on .18 micron process technology, arrive at speeds of greater than 500MHz and come with integrated second level cache. Intel will introduce another Celeron running at 366MHz early next year in different packaging. Yesterday, Yu said it would introduce a 370-pin package towards the end of the year. All Slot One based Celerons will eventually migrate to this packaging, he said. In the mobile sphere, Yu said that it will introduce higher speeds than 333MHz. Yu claimed that Intel was still on track for its Merced and its McKinley microprocessors. “We aim to get production in the middle of 2000 and at the moment we’re doing exhaustive testing,” he said. “We have just about every OS working in simulation and we’re moving on track.” He said Intel had more than one Merced slated. Its McKinley chipset, he said will arrive in the second half of 2001 and use the same instruction set as the Merced. “We have another one beyond that [McKinley] and the work has already begun,” he said. ®
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Intel thinks intelligent fridge will rule roost in 2005

Intel has outlined a vision of the future where entire families’ lives will be controlled by a know-it-all PC built into the superstructure of a house.
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Intel at centre of plan to end DVD theft

Intel has devised a scheme to prevent people from stealing DVD content from different sources and then replicating them using sophisticated copying systems. The plan, based on the 1394 bus, which is intended to protect content, could put an end to simple chip replacement techniques. Intel, in conjunction with Sony, Toshiba, Hitachi and other players, is creating what it describes as “tamper resistant software” coupled with no user modifiable parts, is intended to protect copyright content through all phases of distribution, transmission and playback. A digital transmission licensing administrator (DTLA) has already been appointed, with the first generation of key protection arriving in Q4 of this year. He or she is “currently operating out of a cubicle at Intel’s HQ in Santa Clara”, according to a source. The first implementation of the specification, version 0.9 is already available. It has been accepted for some time that the DVD consortium’s idea of producing disks which can only be read in their own areas, for example, the US, Japan and Europe, is compromised by dealers and others simply substituting a chip in a DVD ROM which allows any format to then be read. ®
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Intel’s Basic PC plans could be fatally flawed

If there are going to be one billion PCs across the planet in the next few years, they’ve got to be a lot cheaper than they are now. This premise is central to Intel’s plans for market segmentation but the concept is also shared by Stan Shih, Acer’s CEO, as well as rival chip companies Cyrix and AMD. This week, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), Craig Barrett, CEO of the company, gave an indication of just how this plan might be assured. It is based on the removal of so-called “legacy” elements in a PC, such as ISA slots, coupled with cheaper microprocessors using the 370-pin slot, as well as smaller chassis designs. But it turns out that Intel’s figures might only shave a matter of a few dollars off the price of a PC, and in so doing, could also have an impact on the performance of a machine. Intel’s strategies to lower the cost of a PC depends on the following features, according to a slide it showed at IDF this week. The plan partly depends on PC designers using Windows drivers for so-called soft migration. Under this scheme, Windows 98, for example, could take care of both the audio and the modem on a PC, using the so-called Audio Modem Riser. Another component in the plan is the use of the 370-pin Celeron. It is much cheaper for Intel to make a package, using a socket, than to design a Slot One based system. This, in effect, is a climbdown by Intel, which after telling everyone that the original Celeron, released in April, would offer them better peformance, have now admitted that they did not need to lead PC vendors and end users down that route. The whole Celeron family will move to the 370-pin technology, while Intel will, however, retain Slot One for other members of its processor family. And in early January, we are likely to see a 366MHz pin-based chip using Socket 370. So-called “legacy removal” depends on the dropping of ISA slots and their replacement by other technologies. USB seemed to be that flavour of the month in Palm Springs. Other elements in the plan include the use of the Micro ATX form factor motherboard, “smart integration” of chop sets, and the use of a 90 watt or lower power supply. There are several Achilles’ heels in Intel’s arguments, which could, however, leave it without a leg to stand on. If soft audio and soft DVD are used in the PC design, there is bound to be a performance hit. Using Windows 98 will reduce performance of both and only a small amount of money is saved anyway. One Intel engineer said: “Audio and DVD are not quite there, yet”. If audio performance is hit, end users are going to notice the difference and want to plug a relatively inexpensive card into the system. Using soft modems is also likely to hit performance but suffers from another problem. Attendees at the forum were treated to a new word called homologation this week. This, put simply, means that assemblers of machines using the soft modem spec will still need to have such systems certified by the governing telecomms authorities in their regions. One answer could be for Intel to lower the price of its processors to a point where it doesn’t make a gross margin of 45 per cent plus on its parts. However, for Intel, this route is blocked because its entire business model and its future R&D depends on such profits. Although it is now generally accepted that PC sales are set to grow, and to grow in healthy volume, the real question is whether people will be satisfied with a system which, however cheap, is second best. Intel does not want to go it alone on its plans to rid the world of ISA and to make systems cheaper. But, at the same time, it will find it difficult to persuade its partners to take the leap into this brave new world unless it is persuaded to trim its own profits. That is unlikely. ®