As anticipated here, HP is switching its handheld PCs to the ARM processor line, and is to be supplied initially by Intel. HP and Intel are already partners in IA-64 design, and they announced yesterday that HP's next generation of handhelds would use Intel's new StrongARM SA-1100 processor and its companion chip. The machines, which HP is expected to announce shortly, will run Windows CE 2.1, 'Jupiter,' which is due for launch this autumn. The deal between the two companies is however likely to be a lot broader than appears at the moment. HP recently announced it had become an ARM licensee, and would implement versions of the chip line in a broad range of devices and appliances. Considering the breadth of HP's product range and ambitions, this could mean anything and everything, but obvious candidates include handhelds, laser printers, networking and test equipment. Intel meanwhile has recently made highly enthusiastic noises about ARM after a shaky start, but must surely still have to beef-up its development for the chip - it shed a lot of the old Digital developers when it bought the business, and although it will have rebuilt the team by now, it has ambitious plans for StrongARM for next year. HP's expertise will, following its acquisition of the licence, definitely be applied to ARM, so HP resources can help Intel, while HP is a potentially huge customer for Intel's ARM fabbing. HP is also one of those nice Intel customers who co-operate with the company, and who're committed to shipping Intel-based (i.e., IA-32 and IA-64) systems as their mainstream platforms. So no danger of Intel accidentally cannibalising its own revenues there. Plus, HP has been a major customer for Intel's old line of embedded chips. Which leaves Intel with a development partner, a nice big customer that will help keep its fabs churning, and seriously enhanced credibility for its StrongARM line. More customers will undoubtedly follow, and that's not at all bad for a company that gave every sign of never having heard of StrongARM when it wound up buying it last year. ® Click for more stories
Intel has started to open up more about its roadmap (detailed here weeks ago) for successors to the Pentium II, and for the continuation of the IA-32 architecture beyond the launch of IA-64 Merced. With the new designs, expected from 1999 through to 2001, Intel appears to some extent to be making increased efforts to segment the market, and in other ways to downplay the importance of Merced. The successor to the Pentium II is codenamed Foster, and is targeted to hit clock speeds of a gigahertz by late 2000 or early 2001. It will be aimed at workstations and servers, so actually it's a PII Xeon replacement, and it's expected to run some 32-bit apps faster than Merced, so Intel is covering its butt in the event of Merced not being a screamer initially, and/or if IA-64 software is stalled in development. Willamette will come in under Foster, aimed at the $2,000-$3,000 desktop PC and workstation markets, and like Foster will use a new 32-bit microarchitecture. Both chips will be 0.18 micron from the off. Intel also has plans for to fill in the gaps around this little lot and Merced. Tanner, the PII implementation using Katmai 3D technology, will be out early next year, followed by Cascades, the 0.18 micron PII implementation. And the Merced's follow-up, McKinley, is due out at 900 MHz in late 2001. ® Click for more stories
Cyrix has plumped for October 24 for its latest round of price cuts. In OEM quantities (of 1,000), new prices are:
The Nikkei put on another 6 per cent yesterday, making an astonishing 12 per cent rise in the last two days, but it remains to be seen if sentiment is backed by action from the Diet. The Dow and FTSE were essentially unchanged, but Nasdaq slipped 3 per cent. Wall Street's mood was one of caution about quarterly earnings and global economic weaknesses. Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman, noted in a conference speech that the US economy had weakened, and that "Asian contagion" had not gone into remission. Barnes & Noble, the bookstore, put on a modest 5.5 per cent after it became known that German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG was putting up $200 million for a 50 per cent stake in barnesandnoble.com. By some neat arithmetic, each company will put $100 million into the Web subsidiary, which means that Barnes and Noble does not have to find any extra cash. Amazon.com felt the draught from this deal and "a possible transaction" between N2K and CDnow (both music retailers and competitors), and dropped 14 per cent. Borders, another major US bookstore, fell 6 per cent. Motorola gained 5 per cent while AMD tumbled 14 per cent despite its good news about profitability yesterday. Dell fell 9 percent, and Cisco 5 per cent. Oracle put back 5 per cent after yesterday's fall of 9 per cent, which Oracle said resulted from a "highly misleading" Reuters' report about potential price cuts. AOL fell 7 per cent, and Microsoft lost 4 per cent to close at 94. Symantec managed to remain unchanged after downgrades and expected 2Q earnings some 10 per cent below earlier estimates. ® Click for more stories
The US Department of Justice has filed an antitrust suit against Visa and Mastercard, alleging the two credit card agencies have stifled competition in the emerging smart card business. The DoJ claims Visa and Mastercards' member banks -- many of whom are represented on the governing bodies of both card associations, which the DoJ says, with some justification, inherently diminishes competition -- agreed not to target each other in advertising campaigns and to exclude (presumably from ATM support and the like) cards issued by banks who are not members, such as American Express. The suit asks that banks be forced to align with one network or the other, and would formally end exclusion rules. ® Click for more stories
Compaq made 1000 workers at its Houston assembly plant redundant yesterday. The cuts are part of Compaq's streamlining operation following its acquisition of Digital, and an attempt to rationalise generally its manufacturing system. The move is the first stage of the company's plan to cut a total of 17,000 jobs, 5000 of them in manufacturing, announced in June. Of the latter, 600 will come from its Marlboro, Massachusetts plant and the remaing 3400 from international operations. ® Click for more stories
Global chip sales saw their first month-on-month increase of the year in August, rising 1.5 per cent, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. Total sales reached $9.81 billion in August, up from $9.66 billion in July. Breaking the rise down into territories, the increase represents a 3.4 per cent rise in the Americas, 0.7 per cent in Europe and 3.1 per cent Asia-Pacific. The Asian increase comes in spite of a 2.2 per cent fall in Japan, which is 30 per cent down on the country's August 1997 sales. Global sales were also down year-on-year, by 15.7 per cent, the Association said. European sales were down just two per cent on August 1997's figures. "Given all of the volatility in the global markets, these numbers are a positive sign for the semiconductor industry," said George Scalise, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association president. "We are cautiously optimistic about the industry's prospects for additional gains in the fourth quarter, because it's traditionally the most active chip quarter of the year." ® Click for more stories
Yahoo! posted Q3 profits of $16.1 million on revenues of $53.6 million, well up on analysts' predictions. For the same period last year, the company's revenues were $18.1 million, generating $681,000 in profits.
Oracle chairman CEO Larry Ellison is taking aim at Microsoft's core enterprise strategy, mounting an attack on client/server computing, which he describes as an evolutionary dead end, and more specifically taking a pop at Microsoft's 'servers everywhere' distributed computing model. Chairman Larry has a long history of this kind of outburst, famously describing PCs as 'brain dead' a couple of years back, and pitching the Network computer as the beast that would blow Windows PCs away. But this time, delivering the keynote at Internet World in New York, Larry seems to be shooting at the right target, rather than his own foot. Microsoft's view of the world is almost entirely driven by two factors; first, the Wintel platform of NT and x86 server isn't yet sufficiently scalable to rival centralised computing models based on Unix, mid-range and mainframe models, and secondly Microsoft's revenue stream requires per seat payment of licence fees. So on the server side its roadmaps have to be based on larger numbers of servers distributed around the organisation, and therefore on more favourable bangs per buck ratios in aggregate than, say, a Sun-based centralised system. On the client side, the Microsoft corporate 'tithe' will consist of client OS licence, Client Access Licence (CAL) per seat for access to the NT network, and single user licences for all the apps running locally. If the apps stop running locally, if Microsoft were forced to move to concurrent licensing (ie. customers only have to pay for the number of connections at any one time, rather than the total number that could connect), and if there were no need for a local PC and its associated OS licence, Microsoft would become quite poor, all of a sudden. So Microsoft needs for both technical and financial reasons to drive distributed computing -- but the model is flawed, and that's why Ellison is finally attacking the right target. Financially enterprise customers are growing more receptive to pitches that cost them less per seat in licences, and until such time as Microsoft produces the software that will allow distributed models to be managed as efficiently as centralised ones, distributed computing tends towards the chaotic and expensive. With NT 5.0 still a good way off, and the effectiveness of the cost of ownership and remote management features Microsoft proposes for it still doubt, this is a good time for Ellison to strike. Don't run the applications locally and hold the data centrally, he says, put it all back centrally where it belongs. It's an old song, but it can still play well, and note -- if Ellison directs fire at the server end, enterprise customers agreeing with him don't necessarily have to rip out their PCs and replace them with NCs. Not straight away, anyway. ® Click for more stories
Cripes! There in yesterday's wires was the headline from Dow Jones saying "Citrix Dn 11%; Microsoft Server Pricing worries Cited". So we tore to the text immediately. Which said: "Iraq said Tuesday it has yet to receive sufficient guarantees from the United Nations Security Council..." So there's something else the Wall Street analysts have to take into account when they're assessing stocks...
Packard Bell NEC has paid the US government $3.5 million to settle the 'whistleblower' suit brought by the Attorney General over allegations that the company sold computers containing old parts as new. The settlement is $1 million more than the company has already paid out in previous settlements in related suits. Former Packard Bell employee Abraham Gale claimed systems sold to the US military for resale to individual personnel were assembled from parts returned to the company from its retail customers. Packard Bell's contract with the US Naval Exchange Commission required the company to sell it completely new computers. The US government took over the case under the False Claims Act, which -- nicely, for Gale -- includes a provision for paying whistleblowers a share of recovered damages as reward for bringing the misdeeds to light. As yet, the Attorney General's office has not revealed whether Gale will receive a reward payment or how large that payment might be. Packard Bell ended the practice of including old parts in so-called new systems in 1995 (long before NEC took a controlling stake in the company) after settling a number of suits from consumers. The Attorney General's suit covers a period of six years up to that 1995 settlement. ® Click for more stories
It's not a done deal, but in exchange for Network Solutions, Inc. agreeing to surrender technical data about its procedure for domain name registration, the company almost certainly will have its contract, recently moved to the US Department of Commerce, extended until 2000. The House Subcommittee on Science looked at the proposal yesterday, now that it has the safety factor of having the means to let other organisations could do the same thing as NSI, if it so desired. NSI has data on 2.5 million registrations gathered over five years, and expects to be confirmed in its role as registrar. However, it will have to allow other organisations to sell domain names ending in .co, .net and .org by the second quarter of 1999 when US government control should cease completely. The pricing of domain names has not yet been decided. Ira Magaziner, the White House Advisor on such matters, pronounced himself "pretty happy with the level of consensus" although he recognised there had been some acrimony amongst the stakeholders. The principal remaining objections concern the bylaws of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), particularly civil liberties issues and public access to meetings. There was a rival bid from the so-called Boston Working Group, whose members include a range of corporations, lawyers and small business owners, that accused ICANN of ignoring the consensus. ® Click for more stories
Oracle is seeking partners for a spin-off of its Business Online operations, said chairman and CEO Larry Ellison yesterday. The Oracle unit is currently entering a beta in conjunction with Sun, and aims to conjure up what Ellison claims will be $6-8 billion worth of annual revenue in five years time. From Oracle's point of view, Business Online is a natural extension of the sorts of services the company currently provides to major corporations. Centralised network systems running enterprise applications are the bread and butter of companies like Oracle, but the Internet gives them the opportunity to offer similar services on a pay per use basis to smaller companies. These companies would effectively outsource some or all of their enterprise apps to external data centres which they could then access over the Internet. In theory this would give small to medium sized companies access to the class of application, and the level of global network infrastructure, that is currently only available to big companies, and while a lot of analysts have been thinking of the Application Service Provider (ASP) as the Next Big Thing on the Internet, but although there will undoubtedly be some crossover between Oracle's Business Online and ASPs, they're probably coming from different directions. ASPs will to some extent grow out of ISPs, and the applications users 'rent' won't necessarily be of a mission-critical cast. Business Online, on the other hand, is clearly more 'top down.' This means it's something of a risk for Ellison, because he could end up building it and then have nobody come, but on the other hand it could be mega. He told reporters in New York yesterday that although he wanted to cut other companies in on the spun-off company, Oracle would retain the majority. So clearly he thinks it will be. ® Click for more stories
The semiconductor slump has claimed another victim, and Scottish inward investment has taken another knock, with the news that disk drive manufacturer Seagate is pulling-out of its Livingstone semiconductor manufacturing plant, putting 275 jobs under threat. Seagate has been losing money, and has come to the conclusion that semiconductors isn't a business it needs to be in. Livingstone manufacturers chips for use in Seagate hard drives that are built in the Far East, and in the current climate there's enough semiconductor capacity available for the company to buy in the chips from elsewhere. The decision to pull out reverses an expansion strategy the company announced at the beginning of this year. Livingstone was to have $40 million spent to upgrade it, and the workforce expanded to 375. Seagate does now however hope to sell the plant as a going concern, so immediate redundancies aren't on the cards. ® Click for more stories
AMD is to launch the 400 MHz version of its K6-2 processor on 10 November, with the backing of a "top tier" vendor, according to sources close to the company. It's not yet entirely clear who the vendor is, but Compaq, IBM and HP are all candidates. All three companies have been successful in selling AMD K6 machines in the retail market in the past few months (Intel sales badly dented by AMD upstarts), and announcing record sales two days ago AMD said that, building on its success in the retail market, it was now poised to challenge Intel in the sub-$1,500 PC arena. But in order to be able to do this AMD needs the support of a tier one PC company with enough credibility to be able to sell AMD-based machines into the corporate market, and it also needs a fast enough part, which is where the 400 MHz K6-2 comes in. Prior to the 400 MHz announcement, AMD intends to roll out a 366 MHz implementation next week on the strength of a deal with Acer. Also next week, the company intends to outline its plans for the next generation K7 at the Microprocessor Forum in San Jose. ® Click for more stories
Anti-virus specialist Network Associates has launched an Internet portal aimed at users seeking a one-stop shop for PC "health and fitness". The service also includes a subscription component, McAfee's Garage, essentially a Web-based extension of the regular anti-virus software update scheme the company already operates. Subscriptions run from $4 to $8 a month, for which the subscriber gets access to NA's anti-virus, PC tune-up and data encryption software. The service also features a "travelling portal" add-on to Internet Explorer 4.0. This is essentially a new name for push technology. NA will pump virus and security alerts, context-sensitive search results based on the Web sites the user visits, and -- with the dollar signs ringing up in the eyes of NA executives -- adverts. In short, subscribers will pay for the privilege of providing NA with the opportunity of making even more money (a) through the sales of ads, and (b) by beaming users' with excuses to buy NA products. The portal itself will promote online software sales through partner Beyond.com. And, according to NA VP of marketing Srivats Sampath, the site will soon feature a comparative shopping service, provided by online marketer Junglee (which is now effectively an Amazon.com subsidiary) for clothes, PCs, videos, books and CDs and a number of other categories. NA's grand portal plan also includes the provision of UPS and FedEx package tracking, and postage stamp sales, according to reports in the US media. The company is currently negotiating with a partner to provide travel information and bookings -- it is also in talks with various Net search engines. All of which should bring NA's service in line with numerous already-established portals. While the subscription service vaguely makes sense -- it's an attractive way for re-presenting a service the company already offers -- the more mainstream facilities has the air of gimmick about it. Certainly, the current Wall Street infatuation with e-commerce companies and portals in particular would suggest NA's plans are aimed as much at boosting their own stock as anything else. And indeed Sampath hinted that this may be part of the company's gameplan. It also could be seen as a neat way of packaging and presenting NA as a company as something more than the sum of its numerous takeover-acquired parts, from McAfee and Dr Solomon and Secure Networks. ® Click for more stories
The new pan-European standard for modem approvals could cause major problems for users in some countries, says PC Card modem supplier TDK Systems Europe. The standard is intended to harmonise approval standards across the EU, but it appears to be running ahead of similar harmonisation among national PTTs. The CTR-21 standard was developed by ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), and published last month, so it's now possible for suppliers of non-voice telecoms equipment to gain Europe-wide CTR-21 approval. TDK says it has already done so for two of its products. CTR-21 is intended to run alongside existing national approval systems for a transitional period, after which it will become the only applicable approval standard. But the problem, says TDK, is that simple CTR-21 approval, and no more, doesn't guarantee that modems will work everywhere. In fact, it could mean that they definitely won't work in some countries. CTR-21 doesn't include pulse dialling, although there are still areas of Europe where this is used. And it also stipulates a response to ring signals higher than that generated by many Swiss exchanges, so a CTR-21 compliant modem probably couldn't answer calls in Switzerland. Which means it will still be necessary for modem manufacturers to take local factors into account when designing modems suitable for all European countries. Says Nick Hunn, product development manager of TDK Systems Europe: "We welcome the harmonisation [CTR-21] brings. However, while we can now cut through the red tape and introduce products throughout Europe more easily, sadly users are still stuck dealing with the distinct operating idiosyncrasies of Europe's telecommunications networks." ® Click for more stories
Microsoft has announced Windows CE 2.11, codenamed Jupiter, a week early, and says the software has already been shipped to 12 OEMs. But the new rev of the operating system, snappily titled the Microsoft Windows CE Handheld PC Professional Edition (the 'designed for Windows…' label will be bigger than the machines), has already been trailed by a number of manufacturers, including LG and HP. News of HP's ARM-based Jupiter device leaked out yesterday (earlier story). Microsoft says that there will be demos of some H/PC Pro Edition (the official abbreviation, we presume) hardware at the Developers Conference in Denver next week, and that the first units will actually ship in early 1999. Jupiter (screw the brand name) claims improved remote access, support for VGA and Super VGA displays and "alternative pointing devices such as a mouse." Why these are major breakthroughs is entirely beyond The Register. The OEM list is more interesting: Casio, Compaq, Everex, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, NEC, NTS Computer Systems, Samsung, Sharp and Vadem. Note that in the CE sales league tables only HP could possibly be termed a success out of this little lot, and may be the only one of them making money out of the standard. Also interesting is the way Microsoft is pitching Jupiter machines - desktop companions, not replacements for notebook PCs. Spookily, research from IDC cited in the Microsoft release "shows that there is demand in the corporate enterprise for large form factor PC Companions that serve as extensions to the desktop." This handily explains why people need bigger CE devices they can do more of their normal tasks on, but doesn't entirely explain why they don't need a subnotebook that runs Windows 9x, rather than a CE device. So is Jupiter the answer? What was the question, again? ® Click for more stories
We have been asked to remove references to a memorandum of understanding concerning the revival of the Acorn PC that appeared for a few hours on Acorn Cybervillage. Apparently this was a draft proposal -- not a heads of agreement - and was inadvertently leaked and posted. Failure to remove references to this draft memorandum could imperil negotiations with Acorn, we are told.