9th > October > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

CHS shares fall on fear of Vobis deal collapse

CHS shares tumbled 24 per cent on Wednesday, following fears that its would fail to complete its proposed acquisition of Vobis, the German assembler/retailer. Computer Reseller News US cites "reports in the German press" which reveal that Vobis owner Metro AG, is considering selling off Vobis subsidiary MaxData through an IPO. Claudio Osorio, CHS chairman and CEO, last month reportedly told analysts and investors last month that the company would close the Vobis deal by the end of September. with the deal still not completed, US analysts are questioning CHS's ability to raise the necessary capital. Jeff Matthews, general partner at RAM Partners LP, a US investment firm, described CHS as "one big acquisition machine. If the acquisitions stop, the train goes off the track," he told CRN. A CHS European official declined to commment on the CRN story, while pointing out that the company had "never failed to complete an acquisition yet". CHS shares closed Wednesday (October 7) at $6,compared with a 52-week high last October of $30.75. In August, CHS moved stock exchanges from NASDAQ to the NYSE, in search of a more favourable share rating.® Click for more stories
Drew Cullen, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Roundup: Markets on 8th October

Great forces were at work yesterday in currency markets, and they'll have a profound effect on technology markets if there is not a fundamental reversal. Financial analysts and market theorists were at a loss to explain why currency markets moved in such extraordinary ways over the last two days. The only reasonable conclusion is that strange things happen when a financial system is "in extreme distress" as the FT Lex column put it this morning. Chartists were going back 25 years to find similar circumstances. The actual exchange rates and closing prices only tell part of the story. There are psychological factors that probably give more information than the figures. Financial markets have never been noted for being rational, but when they are unable to understand the irrationalities, there is considerable distress, largely caused by fear of a collapse because the market has risen too far. These things are hardly even the subject of whispers in the US, lest panic seizes the market: the focus for most investors is to maximise their pension arrangements by investing. The US dollar fell against the Yen as a result of speculation on a fall in the Yen, causing Tiger, a major US hedge fund managing some $20 billion (and reputed to have lost $1.8 billion of its clients' money in October) trying to buy Yen to cover its position. Their bet - that the Yen would weaken and the dollar strengthen - was wrong on the evidence of the last two days. Since Tuesday, the dollar has fallen Y20, and at one point was below Y112. Masaru Hayami, governor of the Bank of Japan, said the Yen's rise was too rapid. The bank had been hoping for a further fall in the Yen to help Japan out of recession by making exports cheaper. The Nikkei fell 6 per cent to 13,206, Nasdaq was down 3 per cent, and the FTSE off 3 per cent. The Dow ended only marginally down 10 points, but trading was at one point down 270. A case is being made by some for a strong Yen supporting Asian currencies, but the more likely result would be a significant further collapse in Japanese manufacturing. Exchange rate volatility on the scale seen yesterday will turn the semiconductor market into even more of a bazaar than it is now. Another trend is the extreme caution being exercised by financial institutions, which will not help technology companies with their existing bank facilities, nor make venture capital easier to get. With Japan in recession and the currency strengthening, the result could be a depression. Much of the Japanese current account surplus is invested in the US, and has the effect of ameliorating the US deficit. The likely result would be that the dollar will further weaken. There is already evidence that the Japanese are repatriating this overseas capital as the Yen strengthens. The result will be that US stock markets will be driven down - but if the trend were to continue and stabilise, it would have the effect of making US manufactures more competitive, and lead to a worsening situation in Japan and the Far East generally. To summarise: nobody really understands the current market forces, since sentiment plays such a large role. An adverse currency movement against the dollar had not been widely anticipated in the US. The consequences, if sustained, could be a strengthening of the US economy as imports lessened and exports increased. The Asian economies would weaken further, and the European high-tech industry would do better if the Asian technology industry faltered. ® Click for more stories
Graham Lea, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

DoJ posts final witness list

The final witness lists for the US vs Microsoft case, still scheduled for next Thursday but probably delayed until 19 October, were given yesterday. They are mostly as previously indicated, but the changes provide some clues as to current thinking. The DoJ has substituted Avi Tevanian, an Apple VP who would be able to elaborate on Microsoft's alleged attempts to subvert QuickTime and generally decrease competition in the multimedia sector. Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan was telling everybody yesterday that the DoJ is now trying to bring an additional case, since there is nothing about QuickTime in the original case. The story is in fact rather complex. Microsoft was caught red-handed with a couple of thousand lines of Apple code that just happened to make Video for Windows run faster. In fact, part of the code had been developed for Apple by the San Francisco Canyon Company, which was then contracted to write something similar by Intel. The code was then passed from Intel to Microsoft and ended up in Microsoft's code with the same comment lines as in Apple's code. It could well be that Microsoft was innocent in this case, but what can come out in court is a different matter -- it is how it comes out that counts. The other substitution is James Gosling, the developer of Java, who will be able to explain how Microsoft has been allegedly trying to subvert Java. The newly-released documents in the Sun vs Microsoft case show that the contract between Sun and Microsoft may just allow Microsoft to escape in this case. It appears from our reading that the decision will hinge on the definition of 'implemented' in the contract between Sun and Microsoft, which was drawn up in great haste just before Microsoft's conversion to the Internet in December 1995. It now appears that Microsoft may have set a trap in that contract. What Microsoft appears to have done was to have two critical pieces JVM code on its Web site for downloading, as required by the contract, but did not tell anybody where they were -- and made sure that the search engine could not find them. This will all be too much for Judge Jackson's court, and Gosling should be able to present the clear intention of Microsoft to subvert Java without the embarrassment of the possible inadequacy of the contract entering the proceedings. Microsoft has substituted sales VP Jeff Raikes for Yusuf Mehdi, who will be claiming that users were really keen to have Internet Explorer instead of Navigator. Raikes was also involved in negotiating with Apple. ® Click for more stories
Graham Lea, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

NatSemi research project to tackle spiralling chip fab costs

NatSemi has been selected as the lead company in a US industry/university research consortium aimed at improving chip yields and reducing costs. The three year programme is being funded to the tune of $18.6 million by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and aims at restoring the historical 25-30 per cent annual reduction in cost per function of semiconductors. Manufacturers can no longer expect these reductions automatically as chips are shrink to 0.18 micron and beyond, and feature size becomes more difficult to control. The lack of uniformity being introduced increases defects, and therefore reduces yields. The results of the programme will be available to the whole US semiconductor industry, and will concentrate on the patterning process. This is the stage where photolithography is used to place circuit layers on the chip, and the goal of the research is to make features more uniform. Critical Dimensions (CDs, or geometries) will be measured after the photolithography step so that process managers can make changes in the next step to increase yields. According to NatSemi this is critical, as the company has already narrowed variance at one of its own plants by 40 per cent. ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Netscape's Barksdale sees growth of thousands of specialist portals

Is Yahoo! doomed? That's certainly one possible conclusion of what NetScape president and CEO Jim Barksdale was saying at the launch of the company's new Custom Netcenter service yesterday. Today, he says, we have just a few 'custom portals' like Yahoo!, which have become major Web hubs, while the Custom Netcenter drive will allow businesses and ISPs to create "thousands of specialised portals." If Barksdale is right, that should mean that site traffic levels should flatten out between a lot of different sites which offer things that particular sets of customers want. This would clearly impact traffic on the handful of major portals we have today, and suggests - again, if Barksdale's right - that outfits like Microsoft and Disney who're determined to make it in portals are throwing their money away. Maybe, maybe not. One point to bear in mind is the fact that Netscape, for most of this year, has been telling us it's beefing-up its Web operations to challenge the likes of Yahoo! So Barksdale executes U-turn? Not exactly. The point of Custom Netcenter is that although it allows corporate customers, ISPs and so on to produce their own specialist portals, what they'll really be doing is personalising these portals using the raw materials, services, content, stock quotes and so on, alongside their own content. All of the Netcenter stuff they use is the sort of stuff that a portal needs to have in order to compete, so if Netscape has spotted a valid trend, then these resources will also allow other portals to join in. Provided their systems are set up to do it, of course. If not, they'll have an expensive time of it while they turn the tanker. Barksdale's pitch certainly seems logical, given that most people know what they want most of the time, and don't want a huge miscellaneous pile of stuff. So adequate personalisation for individuals will be a useful development, as will adding value to specialised 'mini-portals.' ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Oracle aims Oracle8 for Linux at Microsoft NT

Oracle says it has received 20,000 Internet developer registrations for Oracle8 for Linux, which it shipped yesterday, in less than two weeks, and has made the clearest indications yet that it sees Linux as a vital weapon in its bid to head-off Microsoft's Windows NT. Oracle software is available on NT, and earlier this week the company revealed IDC data that showed Oracle pulling away from Microsoft in NT database licence revenues. But Oracle's revenues from NT are concentrated at the high end - enterprise-wide and ERP projects that arguably compete with Oracle's Unix software. The IDC figures show Oracle's NT revenues at 35.7 per cent of the market, while Microsoft fell back to 30.4 per cent. Unit shipments increased 21.1 per cent faster than Microsoft SQL Server, but Microsoft is still fairly new to the high-end enterprise market, and from Oracle's point of view it still represents a serious threat from below. That threat will take the form of the old Microsoft 'integration' gag, so although the fact that it's beating SQL Server is heartening for Oracle, the company's real worry is increasing NT sales. The more NT shops there are out there, the more likely companies are to switch to the applications that Microsoft says work best with Microsoft Windows networks - and on Oracle's turf, that's SQL Server. So Oracle is effectively grooming Linux as an alternative to NT that can be used to destabilise Microsoft in smaller businesses and at departmental level. Linux runs on the same commodity platforms as NT, and Oracle can therefore use Oracle8 for Linux to start challenging SQL in its current markets, while still retaining its hold on the larger-scale markets that Microsoft wants to pitch SQL at. A key aspect of this strategy will be support. Oracle will be offering a high level of support to users and developers in order to boost uptake, rather than just selling the product, and the number of development licencees it has on-board already gives it a flying start. Some edited highlights from the Oracle8 announcement give a pretty clear idea of where Oracle thinks Linux and Oracle8 are headed: "The Linux operating system... is a low-cost alternative to Windows NT. Linux is an example of 'open-standard' software that proponents believe will help to lower commercial software prices... 'When compared with Windows NT, Linux offers more stability, better performance, and increased security for Internet service providers,' said Arvind Jain, senior product manager at Oracle's Intel Technology Division... The availability of the Oracle database and application server, combined with the upcoming release of Linux-compatible Oracle Applications early next year, is increasing acceptance of this low-cost alternative to Windows NT in the developer and user communities... 'other than NT, Linux is the only UNIX platform experiencing growth today,' said Arvind." Clear? Meanwhile we note that our old friend Jeff Papows of Lotus has been telling the odd journalist (any journalist turning up to UK Technology Week this week has to be pretty odd) that he regrets that there will be no Lotus Notes for Linux for the foreseeable future. Papows' flair for publicity would seem to have deserted him for sufficiently long to blurt this one out - with everybody else in the world bar Bill loving Linux, he's suddenly elected himself as a Great Satan. But at the moment he's probably right, he just could have put it more diplomatically. Linux, despite support from Intel, Oracle, Informix et al, is still pretty early on its voyage into the enterprise, so while Notes for Linux might make sense (if you think Notes ever makes sense), in two years, there's not going to be that much of a market now. ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft puts squeeze on reporter over leaked documents

CNet reporter Dan Goodin has been hit by a Microsoft subpoena demanded the return of "internal Microsoft documents" he says he used to produce recent stories. Exactly why Microsoft wants the stuff back from Goodin (if there is a 'back' for emails) is unclear -- Microsoft's internal documentation has been sprinkled across most of the planet over the past few months, so how come Microsoft doesn't subpoena everybody? And that Markoff guy from the New York Times has had a few good ones himself, so he must be pretty miffed by Microsoft starting with Goodin. Microsoft is seeking all documentation, including emails, that he used to produce the stories, and that's a situation we're pretty familiar with in the UK, although as we understand it it's less common in the Land of the Free. Typically companies will demand the return of 'their' property in order to try to track how the reporter came by it in the first place. But it's a high-risk strategy - some publishers will roll over, but reporters tend towards the martyrdom option, and the company involved usually ends up drawing more attention to the story than would have been the case if it had let it alone. The story in question (CNet story) quoted Microsoft as trying to acquire, invest in and do deals with companies to "take mindshare away from Sun". It also refers to the content of Microsoft documentation subpoenaed by Sun, but it's not entirely clear how much of the source material Goodin had was public domain (because as we say, a lot of this stuff has been out for some time). Microsoft may therefore suspect that Goodin's source or sources may lead to the Sun action against Microsoft. Microsoft is already claiming Caldera has been leaking court documents in that action, and the most plausible explanation is that the company wants to establish that this is happening in one or more of the other actions. That certainly makes more sense than the company mounting a quest to identify and extinguish an internal squealer -- that would probably just make them squeal louder. ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Dell aims for seven hour inventory turnaround

Dell will pile the pressure on its direct and indirect rivals next year when it plans to go to war on PC pricing by making huge savings on managing its inventory. Dell will shake-up its direct sales service, including sales through the Internet, in an attempt to increase order speeds and ultimately reduce its inventory turnaround periods from eight days to just seven hours, according to vice-chairman Kevin Rollins. The direct selling giant, which claimed it attracts two million hits a week on its Web site, believes the immediacy of the Internet can help the company cut its inventory time by enabling it to source every component it needs as and when it is required for an order. According to Padraic Allen, Dell's vice-president for manufacturing in Europe, this will enable the company to pass on any cost savings it makes in the form of cutting prices on its machines. "We are building relationships with our suppliers so that we can have quick and easy access to components and parts," he said. "This means when an order comes through, we can source what we need locally and finish orders more quickly. Once finished they can be out the door and on their way to the customer." Allen added that with component prices dropping by an average one per cent a month, Dell will be able to take advantage of current pricing as and when the order is made. This is unlike indirect manufacturers, which tend to have bought large quantities of components at a more expensive price, months earlier. "It's not unusual for the indirect channel to have inventory turnaround periods of between four and six weeks," said Allen. The indirect manufacturers therefore tend to be stuck with older prices in order to achieve good margins. "There is also the problem that stock can get stale very fast," added Allen, "therefore it has to be our goal to get inventory down to within a day." ® Click for more stories
The Register breaking news

Sugar prepares for Viglen bid

Alan Sugar has topped up his stake in Viglen Technology, the UK stock-market listed PC builder, by buying 9.766 million shares today at 24p. Following the surprise move, Sugar's stake in Viglen increases from 33.7 per cent to 41.7 per cent. This means that Amshold, Sugar's 100 per cent owned investment vehicle, is required under Takeover and Mergers rules to make an offer for all the shares in Viglen Technology it does not already own. Viglen directors, other than Sugar, say they will make an announcement in due course. In the meantime, they are recommending that Viglen shareholders should take no action. ® Viglen profits remain linear at best Click for more stories
Drew Cullen, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Packard Bell NEC to cut US workforce by 20 per cent

Packard Bell NEC has confirmed its intention to axe between 750 and 1000 jobs by the end of the year. However, the company said its European operation will unaffected -- the cuts will be made solely in the US, accounting for up to 20 per cent of the workforce. The decision was made as part of a major effort to cut costs, said a Packard Bell NEC spokesman. "This is a very tough thing to do," he said. "But as a company, it's the right thing to do." The cuts come after a difficult 18 months for Packard Bell, a period that has seen the resignation of founder Beny Alagem, NEC taking control of the company and merging it with its own operations, and a collapse in US marketshare from 20.4 per cent in August 1997 to 9.1 per cent for the same month this year. The news also follows the company's decision to pay $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed against it by the US government (see Packard Bell NEC settles whistleblower suit). ® Click for more stories
Tony Smith, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Apple set for $66 million Q4 profit

Apple will next week post a Q4 profit of $66 million -- if Wall Street's latest predictions come true. And any profit will see the company mark its fourth consecutive quarter in the black, and its first full year of profitability in three years. According to Boston research firm First Call, quoted on US Mac news site Macweek.com, Apple will post a profit of around $65.9 million, 49c per share on current prices. For the full financial year, First Call reckons Apple will make $230 million -- $1.71 per share. Its estimates are based on a poll of 19 Wall Street analysts who chart Apple's progress. In addition to the Q4 figures, the analysts expect Apple to stay in the black throughout 1999 and 2000, with an annual profit growth rate of around 15 per cent. ® Click for more stories
Tony Smith, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Judge dismisses Microsoft request for Netscape tapes

Microsoft attempt to use the courts to force to US academics has failed. The company wanted access to interviews conducted by professor David Yoffie of Harvard and professor Michael Cusumano of MIT for a forthcoming book on Netscape, Competing on Internet Time: Lessons from Netscape and its Battle with Microsoft. The interviews contain Netscape executives admitting they had made mistakes in their attempts to compete with Microsoft. But when the professorial pair refused to hand over the tapes, Microsoft sought the legal power to take them for possible use in its own antitrust case defence. However, US District Judge Richard Stearns threw out the case because the professors had shown the interviews were made in confidence. At the same time, he reserved the right to release parts of the tape should it be required in the forthcoming Department of Justice vs Microsoft trial. A Microsoft spokesman said the company is considering an appeal against the decision. ® Click for more stories
Tony Smith, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

HP launches network channel scheme

Hewlett-Packard has set up its first formal channel accredition scheme for networking products. Called NetGain, the programme delivers lead generation, better margin breaks and the free demo kit, and up-to-date product and market information. HP will supply all account management, training, and pre-and post-sales support, in return for "a proactive working relationship" with the company. The NetGain launch follows a successful pilot scheme with resellers including European Electronique, Data Techniques, GK Tricom and Ambient Communications. ®
A staffer, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Security Dynamic hires Rippon for UK channel drive

Security Dynamics has appointed Miles Rippon as UK channel manager. Rippon, who joins the company from UNIX distributor Sphinx CST, where he was southern sales manager, will run the company's Rapid Return programme. This is a scheme to double UK Var numbers from 25 to 50 by January 1999. To win accreditation, Vars must send two technical consultants for a three-day training course, ending in a exam which they pass to qualify. In return, Security Dynamics wiil draw up a joint business plan, and partner up on sales and marketing initiatives. Nasdaq-quoted Security Dynamics claims more than than 300 million copies of its RSA authentication and encyrption software are installed worldwide.®
A staffer, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Lotus chief scorns Linux

A dissenter has emerged among the host of industry bigwigs shouting their support for Unix derivate Linux. Step forward Jeff Papows, president and CEO of Lotus. Asnwering questions after giving the keynote at an event staged as part of UK Technology Week (see UK Tech Week off to a feeble start), Papows said: "All my engineers tell me this is a sound platform, and I'm a great believer in the model Linux exits in [ie. it doesn't cost anything, which is more than you can say for Lotus' offerings]. "But to me, at this point in time, I just cannot say Linux offers a viable proposition. There are just so many Unix variations." While Papows didn't rule out a move by Lotus to port Notes over to Linux and thus follow similar programmes recently put in place by Oracle, IBM, Netscape and others, he did suggest that an immediate conversion to the Church of Torvald was unlikely. "We'll be looking at a point release for Notes by the middle of next year," he said. "But at the moment Linux is just too risky." According to Meta Group analyst Ashim Pal, quoted on ZDNet UK (which, incidentally, has also begun quoting its own staff as industry visionaries), Papows is correct in his appraisal. "There is not a single enterprise vendor supporting [Linux] and there are no compelling benefits for spending millions of research dollars porting [Notes]," he said. "You're looking at two to three years before Linux will be viable for most companies." The Church of Torvald was unavailable for comment, but expect vast outporings of anti-Lotus flame-mails real soon... ® Click for more stories
Tony Smith, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Dataflex brings voice routing to corporates

Line-powered diallers -- currently used by telcos to route customers voice and fax calls over their alternative networks -- could soon be employed by corporates to take advantage of Internet telephony. SmartGem Manager from Dataflex Design Communications is a Windows NT and SQL Server-based system designed to enable least-cost routing diallers to be remotely configured overnight. The company claims that a single NT server connected to an ISDN 30 link could make up to 250,000 re-configuration calls per month or, when clustered together, service up to five million diallers. While the technology exists to enable international voice calls to be routed cheaply over Internet and Intranet connections, the ordinary corporate employee can't take advantage of such connections. However, using SmartGem it would be possible to transparently intercept fax, modem and voice calls and route them via corporate Internet connections. Employees wouldn't have to dial special pre-fixes or press any special blue buttons, the diallers handle all the necessary routing. So if a business sets up a branch in Sao Paulo, Brazil then all Latin American calls could be routed via an installed Intranet link. The system could even be deployed to use different ISP networks at different times of the day. To date SmartGem has been sold almost exclusively to telephone companies, but Dataflex is looking at ways of reaching businesses who wish to take advantage of multiple carriers of which there are literally hundreds in the UK. Formerly part of the Amstrad Group and now run with backing from venture capitalists, MTI, Dataflex was formerly best known as a UK-based modem manufacturer. However, demand for its diallers -- currently at around 130,000 per month -- is now way above the volumes achieved during is heyday as a modem manufacturer, claimed Gerry O'Prey, Dataflex's technical director. ® Click for more stories
Tony Dennis, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Inacom Vanstar deal creates world's biggest reseller

Inacom has emerged as the winner in the race to acquire Vanstar, the US reseller with the very public for sale tag around its neck. The combined group will be the world's biggest product reseller, with $7 billion annual billings and 12,000 staff. Inacom will gouge out $150 million cost savings through economies of scale. With Vanstar under its belt, the company has the kind of critical mass to enhance its growth potential. As if it weren't big enough already. What dows this say for the economies of scale for an Elcom -say - which has to make do with revenues of a mere $1 billion or so. Inacom anticipates a one-off hit of $120 -$155 million will pay for redundacies, purchase commitment cancellations, and elimination of duplication functions and facilities. On completion of the acquisition, Inacom will front up an additional $40 to $80 million to "align the combined companies' operations to meet the changing conditions of the industry". This sounds like management speak for even more redundancies. Vanstar has already announced a restructuring charge of $50 million for its Q2. For tax reasons, the Vanstar takover is constructed as a merger or pooling of interests. Vanstar shareholders will get 0.64 shares of Inacom common stock for each share of Vanstar Common stock. Warburg Pincus, ownere of 38 per cent of stock have voted in favour of the deal. Inacom expects the transaction will be accretive to earnings by the end of 1999. ® Vanstar seeks reseller divestment
Drew Cullen, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

So farewell then, Hayes?

Hayes has declared itself bankrupt and has sought Chapter 11 protection from creditors, it emerged today. "We made the decision to seek the protection of the Bankruptcy Court in the belief that this action would provide the most viable means of achieving our key goals of refocusing our business strategy and operations," said CEO Ron Howard The company will start work on a reorganisation plan and seek funding to put it into place. Hayes officials said interim funding was already in place, and the company is negotiating to put it onto a permanent basis. Hayes will also continue the restructuring scheme it adopted in August, which will see it focus on cable modems, voice-over-IP technology and broadband devices. The move came after the company posted a $14.2 million loss. ® Click for more stories
Team Register, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Compaq to embed Citrix ICA in CE devices

Compaq has licensed Citrix's ICA client for use in its C-Series handheld Windows CE devices. The ICA client for the C-Series will be available for download from Citrix's site from next month, and Compaq also intends to embed ICA technology in its handhelds. Compaq joins a long list of ICA licensees, IBM, HP and Sun being three of the more prominent, but in Compaq's case the deal goes a lot further than just an ICA client. Compaq has so far made a fair stab at cornering the server end of the Citrix WinFrame/MetaFrame market. The nice thing about Citrix from Compaq's point of view is that it costs out as being most advantageous for users to have extremely meaty servers to support their extremely thin clients. So while providing the channel with the aforementioned servers and a set of installation and set-up aids, Compaq recommends Wyse terminals to go with them, rather than building its own. ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 09 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Judge rules on Microsoft database: it's gibberish – official

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson today memorably described data handed over to the Department of Justice by Microsoft as "gibberish," and ordered the company to give the DoJ full access to its databases in Redmond. The adversaries have been wrangling over access to the databases for some time now, the DoJ saying it needs to be able to check out Microsoft's pricing policies, and Microsoft retorting that the DoJ doesn't have a big enough computer system to be able to handle the data. The data, in the DoJ's view, should be able to show whether Microsoft used discount schemes to encourage OEMs and other business partners to favour Microsoft software ahead of rival software. Microsoft's earlier efforts at providing this information without going the whole hog have fallen on deaf ears, or blind eyes. "I have been shown what you produced and it doesn't make any sense to me," said the good judge. This has been said on many occasions by those surveying Microsoft coding. So what is this software that the judge reckons is gibberish, and Microsoft says is too large and complex to function on any computers the DoJ has access to? (Try removing words from the end of the last sentence until you can read the hidden messages). SQL 7? Please, Lord... In the other half of the scales, a victory for Microsoft. A request by several news organisations, including Reuters, to be allowed to argue their case when the judge decides on what testimony will be secret was turned down. ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 09 Oct 1998