16th > October > 1998 Archive

Motorola spawns new group aimed at auto industry

Motorola reorganisations are rapidly taking on the hue of some kind of Maoist 'continuous reshuffle.' The company's latest move is the creation of a new group aimed at automotive communications as a unit within a broader-based group that was itself reorganised earlier this year. The Telematics Communications Group (TCG) is being spawned by (deep breath) the Automotive, Component, Computer and Energy Sector (ACCES), which acquired the computer bit when it engulfed the old Motorola Computer Group in the middle of the year . Former MCG boss Joe Guglielmi was kicked upstairs to ACCES president shortly afterwards. The shuffling does however make sense. After the debacle that was its attempt to mass-market PowerPC desktop and portable machines, MCG and Motorola's PowerPC developed turned more towards embedded areas, so its association with ACCES became more logical. Beyond that, the automotive electronics business is increasingly extending into computer and communications areas, so TCG is intended to pull together the relevant Motorola products and technologies in order to pitch systems to the auto makers. These will include telematics (i.e. automotive communications) hardware and software, Built-in wireless phones, GPS systems and infotainment software and servers. TCG will be headed up by Marios Zenios. Motorola claims to have won more contracts in the automotive sector than any competitor, so by forming TCG it intends to capitalise on this strength and head-off new competition from rival computer and communications companies. ®
John Lettice, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

ARM shows off chip for 400 MIPS smartphones

ARM yesterday released details of a next generation family of low-cost chips that will bring 400+ MIPS performance to set-top boxes, organisers and smartphones. The ARM10T processor cores are designed to be portable to 0.25, 0.18 micron processes and beyond, and prototypes will be available in the middle of next year. The ARM10T, or 'Thumb,' is binary compatible with the earlier ARM7T, ARM9T and StrongARM families, and like the earlier Thumbs uses a compressed 16-bit extra instruction set which allows it to deliver 32-bit performance at 16-bit prices. The latest version has an optional Vector Floating-Point unit capable of delivering 600 MFLOPS. "The ARM10T processor offers our customers the next level of flexibility. They can choose an ARM solution for every level of performance," said Robin Saxby, ARM CEO. "The ARM10 Thumb Family continues our proven business model. We ensure architectural consistency while making our processors available through world leading semiconductor companies." Dave Jaggar, Lead Architect of the ARM10 Thumb Family and VFP10 coprocessor development described the ideas behind the new processor family: "To keep the area and power down, we avoided the complexity and cost of a full superscalar machine. We still achieved our performance objectives by exploiting unique features of the ARM architecture to achieve a high degree of internal parallelism from a single-issue machine. The Vector Floating-Point instruction set is completely new, so we had the opportunity to design something very fast, yet very lean, by considering the algorithms required by the key applications and applying the available silicon where it really made a difference. "At these clock frequencies the cache and memory interface designs have an enormous effect on performance, so we've gone to the next level of sophistication in those areas too." ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Goodbye to Quarterdeck as Symantec snatches it up

Symantec yesterday announced it would be buying Quarterdeck for $65 million plus the assumption of the utilities outfit's outstanding debt. The deal, which will help reduce the effect of any negative outcome of the current Network Associates suit against Symantec, marks the sticky end of a once-great company. Quarterdeck was one of the earliest companies to have its key product disrupted by Microsoft's development, although even Bill Gates' worst critics today would describe the Microsoft developments in question as reasonable. Quarterdeck made it big with Desqview, a way to run multiple applications in Dos, and when Windows gradually eroded the need for this, did memory management instead. Again, that became less important as Microsoft enhanced its OS so it did the things it should have done in the first place. (No, really…) As we recall, some years back Quarterdeck acquired a patent governing the application of multi-tasking in Dos. This may now be irrelevant for everything bar DR-Dos, and we're not sure what happened to it. But maybe Gordon Eubanks would care to take a look in the Quarterdeck safe, and if it's still there, figure out something to do with it. More immediately the Symantec CEO will be looking to Quarterdeck's technology as a possible get-out from the Network Associates suit. Network Associates is suing Symantec, claiming Norton Uninstaller includes code owned by Cybermedia, a company it bought earlier this year. Last month a US judge told Symantec to stop selling Uninstaller, so it looks bad, and Quarterdeck provides an escape hatch should the worst happen. ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Roundup: Markets on 15th October 1998

Many high tech stocks had a good day yesterday as a result of Greenspan's elixir: the Fed chairman cut a quarter per cent off the federal funds rate to 5 per cent, and also from the discount rate for bank loans, making it 4.75 per cent - the first change since January 1996. This sent the Dow up 331 points (4 per cent) and Nasdaq up 4.5 per cent to 1611. What was unusual is that the rate was adjusted between meetings of the Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) - the next is on 17 November, which may signal another reduction. The move is seen as recognition of deteriorating markets, but there are risks with such a policy, as was seen in the 1987 crash. In Tokyo, the dollar fell to Y116. Japan's current account surplus rose to Y1.16 trillion in August, up 44 per cent from a year earlier. Exports rose 0.7 per cent and imports declined 5.5 per cent, with industrial production falling 1.3 per cent compared with July. Satoru Kishu, chairman of the Japanese bankers, asked the government not to make the injection of public funds into the undercapitalised banks compulsory. It does not look good for the IT sector, and the Japanese economy looks as though it will continue towards recession. In Europe, there is much navel gazing because of the introduction of the euro, with fears that when the European central bank takes over, there will be a severe slowing of the economy. The UK will have additional options in fiscal policy not available to the continentals. Dell gained 10 per cent on news from John Legere, its Asia Pacific president saying that Dell would take market share there, which seems a little optimistic. CEO Michael Dell has sold $509 million of his shares since August, but he still has about $12.5 billion in the company. These disposals are not unusual: he does this regularly to diversify his portfolio. Lewis Platt, CEO of HP, told the Gartner symposium yesterday that HP's growth would fall. Gartner estimates that HP's Unix sales account for 14 per cent of its $43 billion sales, with PC servers making up just 5 per cent. It was perhaps unwise of Platt to stress how HP is moving to Wintel, but it does explain why Sun is picking up disaffected HP Unix customers. Microsoft was up 5 per cent on optimism about its fiscal Q1 results on Tuesday, with the financial analysts salivating. Jeffrey Maxick of Madison Securities raised his earnings estimate to 51 cent/share, saying that Windows 98 had "really surpassed their widest dreams". We wonder whether he or his company has a Microsoft position. There is considerable uncertainty as to what will happen to the share price during the trial. Amazon.com yesterday launched itself into the UK and German markets, with the great advantage that shipping will be from warehouses in those countries, so cutting a major cost in ordering from the US-based service. In April, the company bought the UK's Bookpages and Germany's Telebook. Bertelsmann tried to buy into Amazon.com, but could not agree terms, so bought 50 per cent of barnesandnoble.com for $200 million recently. Amazon's market cap is approaching $5 billion, and its profits are still negative. Micron, which has being doing well as it shares have doubled since January, announced internally yesterday it would restructure into subsidiary corporations in November, owned by Micron Electronics. Novell has put on 22 per cent in the last week, and IBM reached a new high of $138.75, closing up 4 per cent. Open Market was happy with a 28 per cent increase after AOL agreed to license its Transact business-to-business software product for an undisclosed sum. AOL put on 10 per cent. Other gainers were Intuit 11 per cent; Adobe 10 per cent; Cisco 9 per cent; Yahoo 7 per cent; AMD, 3COM, and Electronic Arts 5 per cent. ® Click for more stories
Graham Lea, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Sun, Unisys head pack of encouraging results

Sun shares rose 4 per cent on net income up 5 per cent to $114 million, giving 29 cents/share earnings, 2 cents up on the year earlier, and twice what financial analysts had expected. Revenue growth was 19 per cent. Sun showed it was gaining market share from HP and IBM. A new 64-bit version of Solaris is expected on 27 October, which should give Sun a two-year lead over 64-bit NT. Michael Lehrman, the CFO, reported that the order book was better than for the quarter just reported. Currency fluctuations impacted revenue negatively by 2 or 3 percent. The document management sector has taken a bruising on the expectation that financial markets and Y2K uncertainty would slow expenditure in tackling the 80 per cent of company information that is still not computerised. In the past month, Filenet has fallen 71 percent, Documentum 45 per cent, and PCDocs 34 per cent. However, yesterday, Documentum put back 32 per cent of this fall after its Q3 showed eps at 19 cents, ahead of estimates of 17 cents, and ignoring costs associated with a merger with Relevance. Unisys income for its Q3 rose to $96 million from $51 million a year ago, with profits doubling to 26 cents/share. Around two-thirds of Unisys' revenue is now from the services sector, including acting as a software house for major corporations. Lawrence Weinback, the CEO who took over last year, has reduced debt by $1 billion, exited the PC manufacturing business, and bet its future on Wintel. The shares went up 9 percent. Rational produced some good results, sending its shares up 22 per cent. The 14 cents/share beat the financial analysts by 2 cents. Revenue was up 26 per cent to $95 million, compared with $75 million a year earlier. Excite fell 6 per cent after trading closed, despite reporting Q3 earnings of 2 cents/share, 4 cents up on financial analysts' expectations. Revenue was $44 million, up from $16 million a year ago. The challenge is to make a profit from its $86 million ($70 million cash) co-branded services and revenue sharing arrangement with Netscape. The $57 million upfront cash that Excite recognised in its second quarter will now be amortised, by agreement with the SEC. Boole and Babbage pre-announced its Q4 at 34 cents/share, up from 24 cents a year earlier, and rose 7 per cent. USWeb rose 22 per cent after its results. ® Click for more stories
Graham Lea, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Bytes bought by USKO

Bytes Technology Group, the Epsom, Surrey corporate reseller, has been bought by South African IT company USKO Ltd. Terms were undisclosed. BTG said its new parent company would fund the company's drive for growth. "For our customers it means increased credibility, enhanced resources and access to a far wider skills base", the company said in a statement. The entire management team has signed three year contracts, while all staff become stakeholders in a "growing business". BTG focuses on networking solutions based on the Microsoft platform. It lists storage management and thin client technologies as particular strengths. UKSO is one of a clutch of South African IT companies entering the European scene in recent months. Founded in 1911, the company's roots lie in manufacturing. But in the last 12 months it has built a IT division throught the acquisition of "top South African IT companies and IT solution providers".®
A staffer, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft doesn't know about enterprise sales, says HP boss

Microsoft's enterprise sales team probably won't be entirely impressed by reports of HP CEO Lewis Platt's keynote at Gartner's ITExpo Symposium yesterday. "They're trying hard," said Lew helpfully. "[But] they don't know a lot about the enterprise space." That of course is why HP is allied with Microsoft, and Platt says his company is helping build a "robust enterprise NT." Whether or not this means we get to blame HP for slippage in the NT 5.0 schedule as well as Microsoft, we know not. The real theme of Platt's address was the company's alliances with Microsoft and Intel, the value HP could bring to them and the way HP could use the relationships to leverage its position. But at the moment neither of these look like they're panning out precisely as HP intended. Intel's focus recently has been shifting away from Merced and towards more mass-market IA-32 chips. It's worth noting that the current Intel roadmaps show Foster/Colusa, which will be the major sellers in 2000-2001, as powering 2-4 CPU servers, and Merced 4-8, initially, with the architecture eventually going up to 32. Platt's determination to apply the experience HP has of large Unix servers to the Wintel space is therefore to some extent undermined by Intel's focus. For the immediate future, it may be more or less on its own for 8-way and above. Microsoft's problems over NT 5.0 will themselves have an effect on HP's scalability plans. Until the latest target dates were announced late in the summer, Microsoft's executives were working internally to a Q1 ship date for NT 5.0. This was certainly a case of hope flying in the face of all the facts, but the slippage clearly causes major problems for HP. The company is basically trying to transfer its Unix enterprise approach to Wintel when many of the pieces needed to implement it there are still missing. HP has now moved Wintel servers over to an enterprise group that consists of both Wintel and PA-Risc platforms, but it's in severe danger of offering customers a confused sales pitch. Piquantly, at the Symposium Platt seems to have been ambushed by a couple of Gartner Group's analysts who said they reckoned HP lost 10-15 per cent of customers because HP lacks support and consulting services. Useful things for enterprise sales, these. ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel stakes Micron for $500 million

Intel has bought a $500 million stake in Micron Technology, the company which, after its takeover of TI's memory operations earlier this year, is the flagship of the US DRAM business. The Intel investment represents approximately 6 per cent of Micron's stock. According to Intel, the investment is part of the company's strategy "to support the development and supply of next generation memory products and to help drive PC industry growth by accelerating the development of Direct RDRAM," Rabus' high speed memory technology. The investment will also however help Micron out - the DRAM company claims that it will have no digestion problems in assimilating TI's meory operations, but with its old enemies from Korea facing serious financial difficulties, Micron has a golden opportunity to go onto the attack, provided it has the money to do so. As Intel says: "By providing additional financial resources, the investment by Intel should enhance Micron's competitive position in the DRAM industry." Quite. according to Micron president Steve Appleton the company will have Direct RDRAM products on the market by Q3 99. Significantly Intel president Craig Barrett says that the investment will ensure "an adequate supply of memory components, particularly RDRAM." Barrett's trips to Korea earlier this year were claimed by the various warring camps among the Korean chaebols as being a prelude to investment in Samsung or LG, but the truth may be that he was looking for an advantageous deal with a stable source of memory, and that after a look at seoul's finest, he's plumped for the US of A instead. ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Tadpole sandwiches hardware operations

Tadpole Technology has hived off its hardware business into a separate subsidiary, Called Tadpole-RDI, the business combines Tadpole’s Unix laptop manufacturing arm, with RDI, the Californian rival acquired from TriGem in August. The Americans appear to be running the show at Tadpole RDI - Carlsbad, California is the headquarters of the operation and the senior appointments carry American nomenclature – president this, and il vice-presidente that. Tadpole RDI is a monopoly by default, rather than by design, as RISC chip powered laptops is not a game many people want to play. As proud owner of the tiny Unix hardware laptop market, with SPARC and PA RISC iterations, the company should make money. But that’s a wait and see. Tadpole Technology’s other operating busines, Cartesia, supplies Java-based field information systems for telcos and utilities. We’re not sure what that means either, but Tadpole expects great things from the software. The latest version gets its first airing this week at a trade show at Birmingham’s NEC. ®
Drew Cullen, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft licensing policy could price NT out of UK schools' reach

Microsoft's antipathy to concurrent licensing (Gates under fire over upgrade pricing, licence policies ) is going to trash NT's chances in the educational sector, and in the UK will make it entirely unviable as part of the National Grid for Learning programme. "We just could not afford it, even on the 25 machines currently MSed," one IT co-ordinator told The Register. The Register's appeal earlier this week for testimony from the people with whom concurrent licensing is, in Bill Gates' words, "unpopular" has so far had a zero response rate. The educational market however is an obvious area where concurrent licensing is the only viable solution. The National Grid for Learning is intended to develop towards universal access to computers for UK pupils, but by the nature of things only a percentage of those with access will be connected at any one time. The UK numbers are fairly easy to figure out - schools could have anything in the region of 500-1,000 pupils, or thereabouts, but currently will be operating computer networks that might have just a few dozen stations. Paying Microsoft's fee for every single seat is going to be way beyond any of their budgets. Our informant says his school is currently running a combination of Unix and Citrix WinFrame. "The WinFrame software works fine. The Unix part of this system chugs along sorting out errors and needs little attention." NT however is not winning friends and influencing people. "The NT server needs daily attention... We are told that the next upgrade will bew the WTS =[Windows NT Terminal Server] with licensing which would mean that with 650 users we just could not afford to use it." From Microsoft's perspective, it gets worse: "The government's policy is going to hit the wall if they think that schools are going to find the per seat money to line Bill's pockets... Linux or BSD is beginning to look very promising... Thank God I can fall back on the Unix server when the going gets too tough." ® Click for more stories
John Lettice, 16 Oct 1998
The Register breaking news

Acorn builds Castles in the Air

Acorn has breathed a little life into its hardware platform with the appointment of Suffolk reseller Castle Technology Ltd (CTL) as worldwide distributor. The contract could be seen as a holding operation, while Acorn continues its discussion with its Dutch company ( unnamed but widely assumed to be Begemann, the finance house that scooped Tulip out of the gutter earlier this year). CTL’s status following any Dutch takeover is unclear. But in the meantime, Acorn will continue to “produce its best selling range of computers (RISC PC, A7000+ & N/C network computer)”. One might quibble at the term “best seller”, but it seems that Acorn has made a sensible decision. Without this commitment, Acorn would have flushed its user base down the toilet. Not so wise when there is still some moolah to be extracted from its small but devoted clientele. “Further development and enhancement of this range will be announced at a later stage,” according to Castle. Does this mean Phoebe, the long awaited upgrade to the RISC PC. Word on the Acorn dealer street is that CTL will also offer RISC OS4 as upgrades for existing machines, a move described as “significant” by one. ®
Drew Cullen, 16 Oct 1998