18th > September > 1998 Archive

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Microsoft under threat from Intel on data mining front

The Register has learned that Intel has a data mining application, close to release, which will further exacerbate rifts between it and Microsoft. Intel is developing data mining and slicing software, codenamed Sonoma. Following fast on yesterday’s Miramar news, the further secret development is bound to alarm Intel’s close partner, Microsoft. Sources said yesterday that Intel has, in its labs, a three dimensional graphical user interface – codenamed Miramar. The same sources said the GUI does not compete with Microsoft NT or any other operating system front end. Sonoma, the data mining application, uses a graphical user interface to present data on the World Wide Web. Unlike Miramar, product is close to completion and will be licensed to Intel’s partners. It will be out by the end of the year and Intel will license it to database vendors, the source said. No one at Intel is prepared to either confirm or deny the existence of the software, which depends on Katmai extra instructions to function in the way that the software developers intend. ®
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Greenspan gloom hits Euro stocks

It couldn't last - four successive days in which the Street did well. Yesterday's falls (Nasdaq down 44 to 1646, Dow down 216 to 7874) was caused, it seems, by non-US sentiment concerning Alan Greenspan's Congress speech on Wednesday. It was shrugged off in the US, but Asian and European markets fell, reflecting his wait-and-see approach to interest rates. Tech stock winners were few: AMD (up 6 per cent on analyst optimism), and Ascend Communications (up 6 per cent on news of a pending partnership with Alcatel to develop faster Internet equipment), but Alcatel fell $12 1/16 to $19 1/4 (that's a drop of 39 per cent) after the French telecom equipment company said it would not meet expectations because of Asian and Russian investment cuts. The Paris Bourse must have blushed at this old friend going down so fiercely -- and it dragged the sector with it: Nokia, Ericsson and Nortel all shed a few pounds. In Silicon Valley, National Semiconductor put on 4 per cent, Adaptec 5 per cent, Syquest 11 per cent, NCD 4 per cent Losers were Excite (down 9 per cent); Lycos (down 7 per cent); Cisco (down 5 per cent); AOL, 3Com, Intuit (down around 4 per cent); and, Dell , IBM, Microsoft (down around 3 per cent). On the IPO front, Internet auctioneer eBay, underwritten by Goldman Sachs, is going ahead. Whereas most Internet content providers rely on ads and sponsorship, eBay takes a cut from sellers and buyers, and even makes a small profit doing so. Future Media Productions, a CD maker going to DVD, was founded in 1994 and is looking for $40 million in its IPO. It was founded by the three co-founders of Packard Bell. By the way, the Packard Bell name was chosen because it was thought that the names of Packard and Bell had a good resonance in the industry, and not because of any connections. So there you are. ®
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Judge nixes Microsoft bid to narrow case

Microsoft failed to persuade Judge Jackson to exclude what it dubbed "extraneous issues" concerning six companies in yet another court document, filed a few hours before yesterday's hearing. The Extraneous Six are of course Intel, Apple, RealNetworks, Sun, Caldera, and Bristol Technologies. There is new information in the filing about Microsoft's relationship with Apple. Microsoft says it is alleged that it "intentionally developed incompatibilities between Windows operating system software and Apple's multimedia product [QuickTime]." Hands up those who think . . . and while you've got your hands up, do you also think it was true that Microsoft (allegedly) attempted to induce Apple to abandon Windows streaming audio-video development in exchange for Microsoft's abandoning the development of similar software for the Mac? And did Microsoft (allegedly) induce OEMs and ISVs not to support Apple's multimedia software? Thank you. You can all put your hands down now. Microsoft's filing said that if evidence from the Extraneous Six is allowed, "then the schedule for trial and the procedures to be observed should be adjusted to reflect this profound change in the nature of the case" -- meaning Microsoft wanted another delay. This time the DoJ is unlikely to support Microsoft's desire, as it did twice before, so the door keepers at the filing office of the courts should not slam the doors early tonight. In the 30-minute hearing, Judge Jackson denied Microsoft's motion "without prejudice to appropriate direction at trial" and said that he was "not prepared at this point to say I would not hear evidence". It is now looking like a six- to eight-week trial rather than the originally envisaged 30 days. Microsoft said that the DoJ was attempting to combine a number of lawsuits, but the DoJ maintained that the issues are necessary to demonstrate a pattern and practice of monopoly power, as required by a Section 2 Sherman Act case. The DoJ says that the issues corroborate "a series of [Microsoft's] anticompetitive activities". David Boies, the DoJ's ace trial lawyer whose salad days were spent on winning the epic IBM antitrust case, said that the evidence would show "the state of mind" of Microsoft executives at the time. ®
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Net naming conundrum conclusion in sight

Domain interruptus is edging towards a solution. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the administrator of the naming sytstem, and Network Solutions, inc (NSI), which registers the names, finally released yesterday jointly agreed bylaws and articles of incorporation for a new corporation. It is the intention that these documents, with only minor drafting improvements being permitted at this stage, will be sent to Ira Magaziner, Clinton's advisor in the matter, before by the 30 September deadline when NSI's contract expires. Hundreds of people and organisations have contributed comment, including the International Forum on the [US government] White Paper, in Geneva at the end of July. The new changes in yesterday's draft are directed at improving openness, and establishing some form of membership and electoral process. There will be a board of nine members, and nine additional at-large members. There will be some provision to obtain a geographical balance. Yesterday, the National Science Foundation ceded its authority over the Internet to the US Department of Commerce in a move to make the transition to private-sector management easier. ®
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Citrix ships SCO and Linux thin clients

Citrix has shipped Linux and SCO Unix ICA clients for its WinFrame and MetaFrame servers; the company says it now supports all of the seven major versions of Unix, including Solaris, HP-UX, IBM AIX, Digital Unix and SGI IRIX. The new clients will allow Linux and SCO machines to run Win32 applications on NT servers, and are available free of charge as a download from Citrix’s Web site. "With our new ICA clients for Linux and SCO Unix we now support every major version of Unix," said David Weiss, Citrix director of product management. The Linux client, which was developed for RedHat 5.1, is a particularly important addition, given the recent rise in applications support for the OS. SCO is also important to Citrix’s strategy of catering for all major platforms. According to IDC, SCO OpenServer and Unixware accounted for more than 40 per cent of world-wide Unix licence shipments in 1997. ®
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IBM demos wearable ThinkPad

IBM's Wearable PC is only a prototype, but it was demonstrated by IBM in Tokyo this week. It has a three-inch screen in a head-mounted display, invented at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center, and can have a microphone for speech commands using IBM's ViaVoice. The screen has 320x640 pixels, with a 256 grey scale, although SVGA colour is under development. The processor is a 233 MHz MMX Pentium, with 64 MB of RAM, a one-inch IBM MicroDrive with 340 MB, an infrared port with up to 4 Mbps, and a Li-Ion battery giving 1.5 to 2.0 hours. At present it uses Windows 98 for demonstration purposes, but IBM said rather pointedly that W98 may or may not be the operating system used if it is manufactured. It is essentially a ThinkPad 560X that weighs around 300 grams, with the headset weighing 50 grams and a hand-held mouse weighing 20 grams. IBM envisages that it could have applications in maintenance work, equipment repairs, and even when checking-in airline passengers at the gate. Depending on price, we see it as an ultimate fashion accessory, and for nerds who believe they need email while mobile. Meanwhile, for grown ups, IBM announced yesterday that its IntelliStation M Pro with a 450 MHz Pentium II had beaten an HP Kyak XU Pentium II 400 MHz in the BAPCo benchmark (435 to 412). IBM's point was to say that it was really serious about selling NT workstations. ®
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Intel network scheme means war with Microsoft

Is Intel now at war with Microsoft? A read of the small print of the company's "Thin Server Appliance Strategy," announced earlier this week, makes it abundantly clear that the two companies are on a collision course. The Intel announcement was reported here, but has attracted little attention, no doubt because it was 1: About networking; 2: Largely unintelligible, and 3: a bit weird. But Intel's stated views on what a thin server appliance should be make it obvious that it should not be a Wintel box. Intel envisages thin servers as being simple, single task appliances that will typically be used by small businesses to provide specific kinds and levels of networking functionality. In one sense they're not going to be 'servers' at all - what Intel now refers to as the first such appliance, the Internet Station, was launched in January, really falls into the router category. But as Intel is now using the 'S' word about this and future appliances, we can presume that the company is thinking in terms of adding processing horsepower to various items of networking connectivity, and thus extending Intel's processor business outward. The strategy might use x86, but it sounds a lot like one that will find something useful for Intel's StrongARM developments. On several counts, Intel's "key product criteria" for thin server appliances will go down like a lead intern in Redmond. They have to be low cost (which actually may signal a change in Intel's strategy), and they "should be priced affordably based on functionality and should not require additional per seat licence fees" (our itals). This is important for two reasons - first of all, the mere fact that per seat licence fees should come up makes it absolutely clear that Intel is envisaging something with enough functionality to be considered as a server, and second because it's diametrically opposed to Microsoft's licensing policies. Intel also says the devices should be single function, and not be "cluttered with additional capabilities that will complicate the device or add unnecessary costs." This certainly doesn't sound like an operating system that comes out of Redmond. But most ominously, "Since these devices are designed to perform a single function, the hardware and operating system platforms should be designed for that specific function." This clearly fits a lot more closely with the Sun/Oracle NC view of the world than with anything Microsoft builds, or wants to build. If Intel really goes ahead with these devices, then it's clearly war. ®
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Elcom rejects buyers

Elcom International, the US-owned corporate reseller, has abandoned its attempts to find a cash-rich buyer. Directors have voted to continue as a “standalone” company, and have parted company with investment bank Salomon Smith Barney, hired last year to find a suitable new parent company. Proposed deals were not “in the best interests of its stockholders”, according to Elcom. Elcom last year hired the investment bank, because its share price was too low to enable it to expand in Europe through acquisition. Last week, the company circumvented the ownership problem, by setting up an international European alliance of dealerships, under the leadership of UK MD Phil Garnar. Elcom said it was not in any substantive talks with any prospective buyer, but it would conduct discussions “when appropriate”. It is contractually bound to pay commission to Salomon Smith Barney, if any transaction takes place “with certain parties” over the next year. Elcom is keen to shore up its share price by initiating research coverage – -currently it does not have a single analyst tracking the company’s performance. The company says revenue trends in the US and UK are “favourable” with service revenues increasing. It is also making good progress with operational efficiencies, it says. ®
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Jenkins departs Compaq for HP

Hugh Jenkins,Compaq UK enterprise manager, has left the company, after 10 years service, for a new job at Hewlett-Packard. His former boss, enterprise director James Stevenson, is holding the fort,until the company finds a replacement. “We regret Hugh’s departure,’a Compaq representative said. “During his time here, he helped us build leadership in the server market, especially on the Windows NT platform.” Robin Shuff, formerly Digital’s channel sales manager, has left the company take up a new role at Ultima, the Reading-based corporate reseller. His departure is amicable, Compaq said. ®
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Mantech buys UK document management business

Mantech International Corporation has acquired the imaging and data capture business of Seel Ltd, the Livingston, Scotland supplier of forms processing solutions. Terms were undisclosed. The acquired division operates in the UK banking and commercial sectors and will complement the business of Advanced Recognition Ltd (ARL), a UK company bought by Mantech earlier this year. Virgina-based Mantech is a privately-held company that specialises I”n telecommunications, advanced application development, network integration and support, and customized business applications”. The company’s new Proform software runs on NT Platforms with SQL Server.®