16th > September > 1998 Archive
Real Networks has licensed Intel's Indeo video compression technology for use in its forthcoming video streaming software, RealVideo GE. The Indeo Video 5 codec is designed to specifically leverage features offered by Intel's processors. Intel has always stressed the benefits to viewers of Internet-based multimedia of upgrading to faster Pentium II processors. The deal with Real Networks, supplier of one the most popular Internet audio-video technologies (certainly the best-known), gives it an opportunity to push that angle further. Real Networks, on the other hand, gets to use Indeo 5's Progressive Download technology, which allows the user to stream video of whatever image quality and framerate best suits their Net connection, irrespective of the quality of the source file on the server -- Indeo drops frames and further compresses the dataon the fly as it's streamed to the viewer. According to Intel, that makes it easy to use a single file to serve users on a wide variety of Internet connections. This scalability has been a part of Apple's QuickTime technology for the start, and was brought to Internet video streaming with QuickTime 3.0. ®
Dane-Elec has scored a Europe-wide agreement to supply Hitachi Compact Flash and ATA memory cards through its European reseller network. It intends to integrate both product families into its Cube memory selector. The Compact Flash and ATA cards are available in 8-45 megabytes and 8-150 megabytes respectively. According to Dane-Elec UK general manager Alan Stanley their addition to the range will help the company address the growing demand for memory cards for portable PCs and portable information devices, digital camera data storage and similar applications. ®
The Clinton administration is to further relax the US regulations on the export of cryptography technology. Restrictions will be eased on encryption systems used to protect data carried over networks, following proposals from a consortium of network specialists, led by Cisco, submitted to the US government in July. Controls will also be relaxed on sales of encryption technology to specific industries, such as insurance, medicine and ecommerce. The export regulations have been especially criticised for their restraining effect on ecommerce, so the moves to free companies' activities in this area are likely to be welcomed. Until now, US companies have only been able to export data scrambling products that use up to 56-bit encryption keys, and even then they have had to commit themselves to providing law enforcement agencies 'back door' access to encrypted messages. However, a special case was made for non-US financial institutions to whom US firms could sell encryption software of unlimited strength. Under the new regime, insurance companies, medical record holders and ecommerce operations will also be given unrestricted access to unlimited strength cryptography. According to government sources quoted on US newswires, the government will also back away from requiring prior approval of 'key recovery' agents, who can provide law enforcement agencies with access to encrypted messages. The sources also suggested US companies will be allowed to export powerful encryption technologies to their own overseas subsidiaries provided they do not then share that technology with non-US companies. ®
Oracle is to launch an outsourcing service, Oracle Business Online, within the next few weeks. According to Mark Jarvis, Oracle's senior VP of worldwide marketing, quoted on the US newswires, Business Online will provide small to medium-sized companies with hosted business applications running on Oracle's Applications software, and third-party applications based on its database. Jarvis said Business Online will also offer other services, such as human resource outsourcing. The host systems will be based in a new data centre the company is currently building, he added. The service harks back to the early days of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's vision of network computing. That concept involved users interacting with NCs linked via the Net to online database file servers as virtual hard disks. It's essentially this 'back end' system that forms the heart of Business Online. Though users will initially communicate with the system by PC, it won't be too hard (assuming it all works, of course) to point out down the line that they simply don't need that power, disk space, etc, and wouldn't they prefer one of these here cheaper NCs instead... Still, the original Oracle NC architecture foundered on users' unwillingness to trust their data to an Oracle server and software miles from site, so whether businesses have changed their minds on that score remains to be seen. ®
Tivoli Enterprise, announced yesterday, is a suite of products for systems and network management -- a market that is currently worth $11.4 billion according to IDC, and growing at 16 per cent/year. Among the big-name customers trotted out for the launch were Ford, the Halifax, and Reuters. Tivoli is an IBM company, headquartered in Austin, Texas that sees itself in the business of "harnessing technology chaos", and providing software for companies that "view IT management as a strategic weapon". The product has been under development for several years and is said to have the capability of managing enterprise resource planning applications (although only SAP is supported in the initial release: Baan and PeopleSoft are to follow, apparently. In addition, a variety of major databases, Internet and web environments, middleware (IBM MQ Series and CICS receive specific mention: fancy that), as well as users' applications can be managed. It is said to be more scalable. Tivoli claims that its Enterprise product (previously code-named Tsunami) is the first management software to offer self-installing, self-updating management agents, and that it has the ability to manage "hundreds of thousands" of network devices and desktops with a three-tier architecture. The lightweight agents were developed in association with IBM's artificial intelligence research group. Previously, Tivoli was available for UNIX, NT, NetWare, and OS/390. It is now pre-installed in OS/390, and versions for the AS/400 and OS/2 (it's not dead, you see, just snoozing) are now available. No Mac version was announced. Tivoli Service Desk, a product for measuring service delivery to internal customers, was also released yesterday. ®
Lotus has posted public betas of version 5 of Notes, Domino and Domino Designer on its website for public downloading. Notes is an integrated email and collaboration client with a browser and messaging. Domino is a family of servers for secure enterprise messaging and Web applications. Domino Designer is a Web application development environment. The technical improvements in Notes/Domino 5 are focussed on native HTML and MIME support, better browsing, email management, calendaring and scheduling. The Domino server platform is said to have better management, "push" capability for new application dissemination, a scalable LDAP directory that can have more than a million entries, and CORBA interfaces. All the reports seen make a great issue out of the public beta being two weeks later than announced. It is strange how products that are a few years late, from a certain large software company, are not castigated for lateness in the same way. The announcement was made on the first day of Lotusphere conference in Berlin, which started yesterday. Presumably the final release of the products will be available at least by the Orlando Lotusphere in January -- release in the fourth quarter had been announced. Lotus said there is, or will be, versions available for 32-bit Windows, Solaris/SPARC, AIX, HP-UX, Power Mac and OS/2 -- but not NetWare, which Lotus has decided not to support. Novell was unable to comment on the reason for the decision made by Lotus earlier in the year. Support for Microsoft's IIS is mentioned, but not for Netscape products. Pricing information has not yet been disclosed. ®
London software house Webdevelopment Ltd has secured £1.25 million funding for expansion into the US, through a syndicated equity investment by 3i, Thames Valley and Elderstreet Investor’s Club. Webdevelopment, which received £750k from 3i in an earlier round of funding, said it plans a fresh fund raising exercise for the first half of next year. It declined to disclose the size of the equity stake already released to outside investors. Webdevelopment has developed an “advanced web content management system” for the corporate market, called MediaSurface. This is designed to address what Webdevelopment dubs the “content crisis suffered by organisations with frequently changing information on their intranet and Internet websites". Mediasurface enables authors, editors, designers and managers to administer “continually evolving content for reuse in many possible media including intranet, Internet, CD-ROM and print-based publications”. With a UK customer base that includes Reuters, Webdevelopment claims the product has generated “massive interest” among key players in the US. It now has the money to build a sales and support operation there.
It has barely been selling for a month but already Apple's iMac is spawning imitators. US newswire news.com quoted an analyst from US investment bank Piper Jaffrey who claimed Korean manufacturers TriGem and Korean Data Systems had teamed up to form a joint venture, called E-Machines, to produce a $599 iMac-style PC. The as yet unnamed iMac rip-off will offer a 333MHz Intel Celeron CPU, 32MB RAM, 3.2GB hard disk, 56Kbps modem and 14in monitor all squeezed into a designer all-in-one case. Unlike the iMac, said Piper Jaffrey's Ashok Kumar, the E-Machines box would ship with a built-in floppy drive and be "fully upgradeable". He added it would ship in the first quarter of 1999. The emergence of E-machines' plans came hot on the heels of Intel CEO Craig Barrett's demonstration of his company's prototype consumer PC/information appliances at the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, California. Barrett showed a series of industrially-designed machines based on a 500-MHz Katmai processor, 128MB of memory and four USB ports. Industrial design has always been an Apple USP. Intel's efforts are certainly more serious than E-Machines', which -- assuming it exists at all -- first has to deal with the fact that E-Machines has already been nabbed as brandname. Monitor specialist Radius had it for a while, thanks to its acquisition of monitor maker SuperMac, which itself bought E-Machines -- yet another monitor vendor -- back in the early 90s. SuperMac was later sold to Taiwanese scanner specialist Umax, which obtained its MacOS cloning licence through the deal, so maybe it has a claim on the name too. ®
Tony Blair's crusade to recruit and train 20,000 millennium bug-busters is fizzling out into a very damp squib. The Government has set aside £26 million for the progamme, which has attracted just 24 recruits in its first three months, The Times reports. With a budget of over £1 million per pupil, the standard of teaching had better be good. The government says that it is early days, and is not concerned about low levels of interest, but Y2K specialists are worried. Sally Tate, joint MD of IT training company Prince, warned the Government will miss its target, unless it takes urgent action. "Everything is ready but there is very low interest," she told The Times. "When we phone companies, they don't think there is a problem." ®
Intel has spelled out future directions it will take after the PCI bus has reached its natural end, and said that it already had designed products based on new designs. That follows an early statement two days ago, when the head of IO at Intel US, Mitch Schultz, said that the PCI-X spec endorsed by IBM, HP and Compaq would not fulfil future computing needs. John Miner, VP and general manager of Intel’s enterprise server group, said at a keynote speech at the Intel Developers Forum that the future requirements of high end servers would not be served by PCI. He said: “There is a significant amount of headroom in PCI still to be used in the industry. The PCI special interest group (SIG) will work closely together to make the PCI bus as good as it can be. However, if you look at the future requirements of servers, there are significant needs that cannot be met by extensions to the PCI bus.” That became particularly evident in multiprocessor systems, said Miner. “The PCI bus puts a significant load on the system processor. In a four way system, one of the processors does nothing but process PCI interrupts, “ he said. He claimed that in a transaction processing requirement, the ability to add thousands of devices was critical. “Out of the box expansion would be nice and it would also be nice to have a very high availability giving a near non stop environment,” he said. He said: “We will work with the SIG and continue to innovate around the PCI bus. And we will work with the industry on next generation IO technology that addresses future needs.” * Miner said that Intel has cooperated with the different Unix vendors to create a specification for interfaces available for the Unix/Linux community.
Inprise - formerly Borland - has just unveiled a bridge that links Distributed Computing Environment (DCE) servers with the Object Management Group's Common Object Request Broker (CORBA). DCE was introduced ten years ago by the Open Software Foundation (now swallowed by the Open Group) as a distributed computing framework that was vendor-neutral and robust. Inprise's Entera is used as a Rapid Application Development (RAD) environment to hide some of the complexity of middleware programming. The next logical step was to Web-enable applications that support DCE by connecting to the CORBA environment, with its Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP), resulting in the Inprise DCE-CORBA Bridge.The result is that legacy systems can be integrated with e-commerce applications using the Bridge, and taking advantage of DCE security. The DCE or Entera servers are linked to the Bridge by the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) communications service, with IIOP the other side of the Bridge linking to CORBA clients on the Internet. DCE does not directly support TCP/IP, so the new Bridge makes it possible to keep back-end DCE applications and Web-enable them in a CORBA environment without any reprogramming. This is heady stuff, but it is part of Inprise's new focus away from direct competition with Microsoft and towards Java and Internet distributed enterprise applications. Inprise has now had five consecutive profitable quarters, so the turnaround plan put in place by CEO Del Yocam is looking successful. ®
Intel is to segment its notebooks into high and low end offerings, and will attack the low end of the market with Celeron chips available in both 370 pin and cartridge versions. At his keynote speech at the Intel Developer Forum today, Robert Jecman, manager of mobile platforms, said that Intel would also introduce its .18 micron Coppermine technology for notebooks in the second half of next year. He also announced the release this week of a low power, four watts chip 266MHz with MMX processor. Jecman said: “There’s a clear differentiation in a number of areas between a $2,000 and a $1,299 notebook. Those include the processor, the screen size, and whether the screen is a TFT or DSTN screen. Our expectation in 1999 is that systems will be specifically designed for these markets.” He also revealed more details of Intel’s Bluetooth microwave technology, which he claimed will work across the world and enable notebooks to communicate more easily. “We’re hoping to have demonstrations of product by the end of next year,” he said. “We’re working PC OEMs and with people like Ericsson." Intel is also developing a complementary technology using radio frequency which will provide a longer range than Bluetooth, he said. That technology will also work with PCs, as well as notebooks and mobile phones. ®
RM profits from National Grid for Learning RM Plc reports "significantly increased demand" for its RM Window Box products including RM SchoolShare, following the introduction of the Government's plan to build a National Grid for Learning. RM, is the UK's dominant technology supplier in the UK schools sector. And it is set to profit handsomely from the £100 million expansion of school IT budgets, set aside for the National Grid. Under the scheme, RM plugged more than 2,000 schools to the Internet,with more than a third plumping for ISDN connections. And -- in line with Government projections -- more than 90 per cent are primary schools, RM says. Infobank shares rise on Lotus deal Infobank and Lotus Development have signed two trading agreements to set up secure software distribution on the Internet.Infobank's AIM-listed shares moved up sevem per cent on the news. TrustMarque International, a subsidiary of Infobank, is to encrypt and distribute Lotus and IBM software. Decryption keys will be issued once payment and user authentication details are confirmed. Another subsidiary, Infobank Software Corporation has been appointed the first of these resellers in Europe and the UK. Terms of the channel agreement, including security arrangements, have yet to be finalised. Anite options Anite Group plc director John Hawkin has been awarded an option on 1,316,000 company shares, exercisable from 15 September 2001 at 47p each. Yesterday's share price was 46 pence, but a high of 67 pence per share has been reached this year. Reflex results The Reflex Group has recorded a pre-tax profit of IR£206,000 for the half year to 30 June 1998 including charges of IR£16,000. After tax, the figure falls to IR£161,000. In the same period last year, the group reported a loss of IR£154,000. Operations comprise two UK subsidiaries both of which supply short term data processing facilities to the industrial and services sectors throughout the UK. Both daughter companies, Short Term Rental Systems in London and First Rental in Cambridge, traded profitably during the period. In a statement, Reflex said it plans to keep focused on its subsidiaries while looking for other areas in IT that could be profitable. Memory Corp awards Savage options On 11 September this year David Savage, CEO of Memory Corporation has been granted 375,000 options at an exercise price of 18p. This is the first such award he has received. Good start for Misys financial year With the first quarter results in hand, Misys has proclaimed a good start to the current financial year. In a statement at the company's AGM, chairman Kevin Lomax, reported "a strong order intake across the group", and expressed confidence in another year of good progress. ITG finds US partner GX Networks, a subsidiary of Internet Technology Group (ITG), has beefed up its overseas presence through a "strategic partnership" with US ISP Concentric Network. Backed by Concentric, GX will be able to offer a wider range of services to a larger market and can use its new partner's US ATM network. Concentric in turn gets access to GX's UK meshed frame relay backbone and STM-1 transatlantic connection, giving it a foothold in Europe. Kyocera nabs £4 million deal Kyocera has won a £4 million deal to supply Nationwide Building Society with 2,500 printers. The installation will be handled by Computacenter, Nationwide's incumbent reseller.
Intel’s architecture labs have produced 3D software which will take advantage of Katmai instruction sets and provides an information management system. The secret project, codenamed Miramar, allows information to be organised in such a way that URLs and other often used files and addresses can be placed in a virtual 3D environment. A source close to the project said that the software is intended to be licensed to other companies and it will not be available for another two years. The user interface does not compete with Microsoft software, he said. “The architecture labs spend their time developing projects that will increase processor revenues,” he said. Of course, Intel isn't the first to try something like Miramar. Apple embarked on a similar project, codenamed HotSauce, in 1995, which utilised the company's proposed Meta Content Format (MCF) data storage format to present everything from individual files and directories up to Web sites and database as 3D space. ®
Disk drive manufacturer Calluna has reported it is making good progress. However, the claim, made at the company's AGM, may not be enough to rebuild confidence in the company. Last week, its shares fell nine per cent before recovering. In a statement, company chairman Alan Bates warned that it was a critical time for the company as it began production of the CT1040 Type III disk drive. "The transfer from development to production has inherent attendant risks. First orders for the CT1040 have already been received," he said. Forward orders rose to 85,000 units from 50,000 in August. Industry observers had been expecting more bullish news, one marketmaker said, and were a little disappointed. Bates said Calluna was still waiting for demand to build up for its Hardwall product, but added that it had signed distribution agreements with Effigy Solutions and Micro Central, both covering Europe, North America and the Far East. The company is also strengthening its sales and marketing teams, recruiting new staff to promote its products in Europe and the US.®
Corporate storage needs will grow by 50 per cent in the next year, with storage for Windows NT being a critical issue, according to research firm Macarthur Stroud International. The main drivers of the market are email and messaging, data sharing, ERP and imaging finance. The survey was carried out among 450 medium to large European companies. The report found that people are starting to regard storage as a separate buying issue. According to Hamish Macarthur, this has increased competition within the market. The report concludes that data sharing is set to increase annually at 40 per cent through to 2000, and that respondents regarded 50 per cent of data as 'mission critical'. IBM is regarded by customers as the major vendor in the storage systems market. IBM's position as the major player in the market was attributed to the sheer scale of the company. "While IBM may not have the biggest market share, it is the most known name in the market," said Andreas Gallmeister, IBM storage marketing manager. He went on to say that IBM's cross platform approach has put it ahead of other competitors who may only cover one or two market segments.®
Rambus has announced a component validation programme, designed to smooth the transition to Direct Rambus memory systems next year. Standard procedures required for verification in the new system will make it easier for customers to integrate the new products, Rambus said. Validation procedures are being established for all the major components of a Direct Rambus memory system, which are the Direct RDRAMs devices, RIMM modules, RIMM connectors and clock components. "Shorter product life cycles force vendors to debug, test and qualify components in ever-decreasing amounts of time, said Nathan Brookwood, PC semiconductor analyst at Dataquest. "The Rambus Validation programme provides an excellent example of how vendors can innovate in the design of their products, and in the way they test and ensure interoperability of their offerings." OEMs and component suppliers have been quick to show support of the programme. "Moving to higher speed technology can be a challenge," Jan Janick, VP of desktop development and systems at IBM. "Knowing that the components are validated to work to the system specification will shorten our system integration cycle and ensure a high level of quality to our end users." Rambus says that Direct Rambus technology will enable the DRAM industry's highest level of performance to date, providing 1.6 gigabytes per second of peak bandwidth from a single device. It will also span multiple generations of DRAM devices, through 1-gigabit densities. More product info is available from Rambus' home page.®
Standard and Poor’s has marked down Adaptec’s credit rating from “stable” to “negative outlook”. The credit agency concluded that sustained weak margins or diminished financial flexibility could lead to lower ratings next year. Adaptec says that the change in outlook is due to challenges inherent in its business realignment programme and the tough competition in the market. The company's corporate credit rating stayed at a double B plus, and its debt rating held on to its double B minus. This shows financial flexible finances offset by a narrow business base, according to Adaptec. Adaptec has the largest market share for SCSI chips and adapter cards, but says sales have been hit by a shift to cheaper PCs, and the squeeze on margins at the higher end of the market. LSI Logic's acquisition of Symbios also increases the levels of competition in the market. The company says it will be more cautious in its approach to growth and will focus on its core businesses and well-established markets. Meanwhile, a number of senior managers have left the company. ®