20th > October > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

US vs Europe wireless trade war looms

A couple of months back US Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard said he welcomed an EU decision not to discriminate against US cellular standards. We said (Earlier story) he was actually issuing a coded warning. Which now seems to have been the case, as US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky yesterday told reporters that the US was "very, very concerned" about European moves to shut US mobile phone manufacturers out of Europe. In what constituted the most bellicose statement on the subject yet Barshefsky said the US was looking at a variety of WTO (World Trade Organisation) issues connected with the adoption of third generation cellular standards. She also set out the US government's stall on the matter. The US government wants the EU "not to adopt exclusionary standards and instead let the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) and other international forums look at this issue." By threatening the EU with the WTO, Barshefsky could be on the brink of unleashing a full-scale trade war. The WTO is the international club set up to promote free trade and the abolition of barriers, and regularly hears claims from the US, Europe and Japan that one or more of the other two are unfairly restricting trade via tariff barriers, regulations and so on. But if the US decides to go the distance it will be taking matters a notch further, because it will have to argue that a general European standards definition process is an unfair restriction of trade. This isn't entirely breaking fresh ground - the standards set by many countries in many areas (electrical, automotive, food being obvious examples) have been attacked in the past for being restrictive. These however tend to be standards which at least ostensibly are aimed at protecting consumers, whereas the standard the US will now be taking a pop at is one designed to benefit consumers and to stimulate the adoption of new technology. Barshefsky's claim that it's designed to shut US manufacturers out is therefore fighting talk. That will be helpful collateral damage for the likes of Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens and Alcatel, but it's not a primary objective. The key difference between the US and Europe on wireless systems is that the US favours letting the market decide on standards, whereas Europe drives them via ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute). ETSI fulfils some of the functions of the US FCC, but it defines things much more, and more broadly, and doesn't regulate as the FCC does. By calling for the third generation standard to be 'looked at' (note that she doesn't say 'defined') internationally Barshefsky is effectively demanding that ETSI throw away much of the work it's done on the European G3 standard, UMTS, and ultimately is calling for ETSI to stop defining standards at all. But she can't be calling for the ITU to define a single standard, because if we're going to let the market decide, a single standard globally will also be restrictive. This will be a deeply unattractive prospect to the European industry, which is poised to start rolling out UMTS services. The Europeans will talk, certainly, but they'll be looking to use the cards they already hold to better their position at the ITU, and they'll also use other bodies to fight their corner. Nobody in Europe is going to be willing to capitulate entirely to the US, and they'll point to the success of GSM in Europe and the disastrously slow deployment of digital technology in the US as proof of their point. Hilariously, the US will no doubt point to this as evidence of the opposite - Europe's strong position in digital wireless, they'll say, has been unfairly won via the imposition of restrictive standards which damage US manufacturers. So it looks like it could be war. ® Click for more stories
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DoJ springs trap for Bill Gates

The US Department of Justice aimed straight for Bill Gates at the opening of the Microsoft antitrust trial yesterday, comparing and contrasting the video testimony he'd given with what he'd said in earlier Microsoft internal documentation. Gates won't be in the court and his credibility, not to mention his courage, is clearly going to come under heavy fire. Steve Houck, the lawyer leading for the 20 states and the District of Columbia (whose action against Microsoft has been merged with that of the DoJ), drew attention to Gates' absence as a witness for Microsoft: "Given Mr Gates' key role in these events, the only explanation for his failure to appear is his lack of intestinal fortitude." But DoJ special counsel David Boies led on the credibility thing. On one of the three tapes played, Boies asked Gates whether he was aware of the DoJ claim that Microsoft had tried to divide the browser market with Netscape. Gates replied: "I think somebody said that is in there" and went on to say that he had read about the claim in the WSJ in April this year. A second video clip had Gates denying that he was involved in the 21 June 1995 meeting with Netscape at which it is alleged that the browser market carve up was discussed. "I wasn't involved in setting up the meeting," Gates said, and claimed he played no part in the allegation that Microsoft wanted the Windows browser market and was willing to let Netscape have the remaining markets for its browser. Clip three had Gates being asked whether he had responded to an employee question about whether it made sense to invest in Netscape, to which he replied that it did not (a bad decision, as it turned out). Then Boies produced a document written by Gates shortly before the meeting with Netscape which said: "I think there is a very powerful deal of some kind that we can do with Netscape [in the browser market] I would really like something like that happen." Having sprung the trap, Boies showed the fourth video extract in which Gates was shown a message he had written, in which he said: "We could also give [Netscape] money as part of the deal, buy a piece of them or something." The only conclusion that could reasonably be drawn from the video evidence is that Gates was not telling the truth about the Netscape meeting, and did indeed orchestrate it. Boies went on to extend the attack to Gates' involvement in attempts to bully other companies, Intel being a prime example. Microsoft was accused during the summer of forcing Intel to abandon some software development, and Gates has gone on the record as denying that anything of the sort took place. But Boies produced a Gates email saying to Microsoft executives that he would be happy not to give AMD backing if Intel abandoned its plans for Java. Intel arch-rival AMD had at the time been negotiating with Microsoft. Boies didn't establish that such a proposal was made to Intel (although Intel did back down), but said it was an example of Gates putting together a deal that could pressure Intel. "If you stop supporting my competitor, I'll stop supporting your competitor," Boies said. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories
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Zilog brings 8-bit pricing down to 39 cents

Once upon a time there was a company called Zilog which, before Intel even got to be a medium-sized company, supplied the Z80 CPUs that powered rather a lot of Sinclair Spectrums and ran the CP/M OS that provided a fair old slice of the pre-Intel desktop computing market. And indeed there still is a company called Zilog -- it's just announced the Z8E000 microcontroller at 39 cents a pop, for volumes of 500,000 and above. But does it run CP/M? It's part of the Z8Plus family of microcontrollers, and is 8-bit. It has 512 bytes of OTP program memory, 32 bytes of register (no relation) file RAM and a 16-bit timer. Old 8-bit CPUs didn't die, they just went heavily embedded, and while the newer entrants to the embedded market reckon that it's going to shift over to 32-bit, and they'll make a lot of money out of that process, at price points like these the old guard are obviously going to be difficult to shift. When ARM can make it into Zilog's proposed list of application it'll know it's really arrived: "sensors, battery chargers, switches, motor control, handheld meters, thermostats, power supplies, smoke detectors, toys, air flow control, clocks, lamp dimmers, robotics, motion detectors, displays and scales." Dull stuff, eh? The impression Zilog gives that we're talking about the CostCo of the semiconductor market here is reinforced by the pricing of the real time in-circuit emulator, programmer, assembler and GUI software you need to design for the Z8E000 -- a whole $99. ® Click for more stories
The Register breaking news

Motorola buys into low resource Web browsing start-up

Motorola has bought a minority stake in Online Anywhere, a San Jose start-up developing software to make it easier for low-resource devices with variable-sized screens and limited bandwidth to browse the Web. The company, founded last year by a group of former students from Bombay, is building systems that dynamically reformat Web pages for different types of display, and which will help enable voice-driven access to the Web (this has been a Big Thing for mobile phone manufacturer Motorola for some time). The most important thing about Online Anywhere's technology is that it doesn't need Web sites to physically reformat their pages for non-PC devices, and instead uses remapping server technology, so that the page is remapped on the fly for the particular connected device. "Online Anywhere's technology enables people to access the Internet from a PDA, TV or phone, even though each of these devices have different displays," said Ronjon Nag, vice president and general manager at Motorola's Lexicus Division, part of Motorola's newly formed Internet & Networking Group. Online Anywhere also proposes to offer an ultra-thin client for non-PC devices (expect to see this in future Motorola handsets). This pushes the complexity of accessing the Web onto the remapping server, and presumably devices using this client will be faster and more effective than ones that don't. According to Online Anywhere, however, the thin client is optional. ® Click for more stories
The Register breaking news

Only two per cent of Internet spend last year was on content, says Zona

Zona Research's latest predictions for the Internet and intranets are that the market, worth $49.21 billion last year, will be worth $142 billion by 2001. And, wouldn't you know it, Zona reckons the smallest components of the total 1997 spend were be "creation, control and content", at three, two and two per cent respectively. Zona aggregates the market for Internet and intranet products and services into something it calls the Adjusted Gross Internet Product (AGIP), which is what the total numbers are. But the company doesn't seem to have noted in its report (Internet and Intranet: Markets, Opportunities and Trends) that the two per cent spend on content, apart from destabilising The Register's IPO plans something rotten, could be interpreted as confirming everything the critics say about the Web: 250 million pages and there's nothing on 'em. But seriously, the report gives an idea of where the priorities are, and where the money's going to go. Communications took the biggest (65 per cent) share with $32.43 billion, containment next at $11.59 billion (24 per cent) and consumption $2.06 billion at four per cent. That means that the intranet/extranet aspects of the Web have been looming large, and that e-commerce and content are still pretty much in their infancy. This will change, although looking at journalists' wages historically we wouldn't be at all surprised if the content percentage didn't budge. Zona figures that the electronic economy will grow to over $204 billion in Web-based transactions by 2001. Transaction revenues last year in the US were $10.4 billion, and are estimated at £31.3 billion for this year. But give us a break, Zona -- don't you think these people are going to want to read something interesting when they're transacting? ® Click for more stories
The Register breaking news

HP rolls out $999 super-CE machine with added connectivity

Hewlett-Packard unveiled its first ARM-based 'Super CE' machine yesterday, (see HP switches to Intel StrongARM for Jupiter CE machines) and said the $999 Jornada 820 would ship in the US next month. The machine runs Microsoft's Windows CE, Handheld PC Professional Edition (aka Jupiter) and weighs-in at 2.5lb. HP is by far the leader in CE machine sales, but is pushing integration into the network and synchronisation in order to make its position even more dominant. The company has funded development of an implementation of Starfish Software's TrueSync, TrueSync CE 2.0, for use with the Jornada (we think this might be Spanish for 'bad day') and HP's earlier handhelds. The form this synchronisation takes maybe says a little about the direction CE is going in with Jupiter. TrueSync CE 2.0 allows HP users to synchronise their calendar, contact, notes and to-do information with a Rex Pro card, so you maybe stop thinking about your HP as being the pocket device you carry everywhere, and think of the Rex Pro as the pocket device instead. Rex Pro was developed by Starfish in conjunction with Citizen and Franklin, and is designed to synchronise with standard PCs. Starfish itself was founded by former Borland boss Philippe Kahn, and recently became a subsidiary of Motorola. ® Click for more stories
The Register breaking news

Speculators ramp up EDO and FPM DRAM prices

The cry of disbelief, heard not for the first time today, comes from the disillusioned customer, who has just fallen off their chair when you revealed the price of the memory he gladly took from you last week for 30 per cent less. Yes, it's happened again. Memory prices are rising, but not at the normal few points a day rate. The fact is, we’ve seen an overnight rise of over 30 per cent on the price of EDO and FPM DRAM. Those of us in the memory business have seen it coming for a long time -- we have prattled on about impending price rises, but to no avail. The UK customers have or had managed to keep their suppliers' profits to a bare minimum, by being extremely selective with their purchasing. The shortages were bound to come. However, there has been a sudden rush of unexpected demand for these products. Whether it is a short-lived festive boost to the market or a longer upturn in the upgrade market as a whole remains to be seen. With too many suppliers fighting for too little business, and too much product in the market, the buyer was king. Now the king is dead, or perhaps, suffering from a strong bout of the flu. Most DRAM makers concentrate their efforts on leading edge technology like synchronous DRAM, and there are many plus points for being first to market with the largest, fastest products. Innovation commands respect and brings top dollar to their coffers. So what’s happened? FPM DRAM is now very rarely used in new machines. So demand has dwindled and, like all products in this industry, when they reach the end of their life cycles the price rises. EDO and FPM DRAM have long been unprofitable for most manufacturers because the price has been driven down to cost and sometimes below it. So you don’t have to be Einstein to realise why most DRAM producers have eased production or even discontinued these products. So what does the future hold? Typically, when the memory market enters all-out panic mode, everyone starts purchasing. DRAM manufacturers start listening. They see that the price is more attractive and they react accordingly, but not overnight. It will take time for the market to reach equilibrium. It's not yet known how likely the installed base of machines that use EDO and FPM modules will be to upgrade, or how much risk is involved in diverting production to make a fast buck on an unknown demand. Does anybody have the inclination to fill this sudden demand? The answer is almost definitely yes -- but this time, there are many indicators to show that the take up will be slow. I believe the Taiwanese manufacturers have taken well to this area of the market. They may find an unexpected niche, and this will help them in time and turn them into market leaders for this type of product. So what does the end user do in the mean time? Like all price hikes, you have to believe that sudden 30 per cent increases in the price of products is not normal, especially products traded world-wide on a massive scale, as DRAM is. There is definitely some speculation and profiteering going on. I don’t believe that anybody, anywhere has millions of EDO and FPM DRAM sitting on their shelves just waiting for the right time to release them onto the market, so I can only deduce that the price will remain high, not at today’s levels but the sub-$2 16Mb EDO or FPM DRAM is a thing of the past. Until next time... ®
The Register breaking news

Microsoft trial: How it will proceed

The general legal case is that Microsoft has contravened antitrust law, which in the rest of the world tends to be called competition law. The 'antitrust' is, in fact, inappropriate today because business practices involving trusts, which were used to get round ownership issues (hence antitrust) are usually not an issue. Monopolies are not illegal if they are acquired by offering better products or services, but it is illegal to use monopoly power to maintain market share or to use monopoly power as a lever into other markets. The DoJ has to establish a Microsoft pattern of behaviour that is illegal. If the DoJ wins a preliminary injunction, it says it will seek "additional permanent relief" to restore fair competition. Although an AT&T-style break-up of Microsoft has often been discussed, informed observers do not believe this to be a likely outcome. Although a jury can be used at an antitrust trial, it is unusual and one is not being used in the present case in Washington. However, there will be a jury when Microsoft meets Caldera in Salt Lake City next year for Caldera's private case against Microsoft for anticompetitive business practices against DR-DOS -- something that will not be welcomed at all by Microsoft, which wanted to move the case to Washington state, but failed to achieve this. Of the 12 witnesses for each side, only one -- Steven McGeady of Intel -- has refused to submit testimony in advance to be sworn into the record, so that only cross-examination would be necessary, to save time. There are 1,229 exhibits for the case so far -- most of them are emails. Judge Jackson has still not ruled on the DoJ emergency motion requesting that Microsoft be ordered to grant the DoJ experts access to Microsoft databases that have details of Microsoft sales of Internet Explorer and Windows. The court yesterday rose earlier than expected, but Microsoft must have been relieved to have more time to hone its opening position which will now be presented this morning. Jim Barksdale, chairman of Netscape, is then expected to be the first witness for the DoJ. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories
The Register breaking news

Microsoft spin doctors spin to blunt attack on Gates

The Microspin was started yesterday by Bill Neukom, Microsoft's general counsel and former unsuccessful Democrat candidate for the job of Washington state attorney general before he joined Microsoft. As he entered the court, he said that "the relevant evidence, the admissible evidence, will show that Microsoft is a vigorous but a very fair competitor". On leaving, he observed that the excerpts from Microsoft documents were "dangerously and unreliably out of context". Spokesmen Jim Cullinan and Mark Murray were actively defending Microsoft. Murray said that the DoJ's characterisation of the Gates memo about Netscape was "a complete fabrication and distorts the facts about Microsoft's relations with Netscape". A theme common in Silicon Valley, and one encouraged by Microsoft, is that it is not the job of the government to be in the software design business; and there should be freedom from government interference in the regulation of the software business. Microsoft frequently suggests that the arguments used by the DoJ against Microsoft are "the same old tired allegations" -- and tries to create the impression that just because complaints have been made previously, they should be swept aside. A common Microsoft PR line is that Microsoft acts in the interest of consumers and technical progress. Many pressure groups are offering opinions about the trial. Citizens Against Government Waste, in conjunction with the Technology Access Action Coalition, has suggested that 83 per cent of respondents to one of its surveys thought that the pursuit of Microsoft was a waste of public funds. The groups also found that in the twenty states taking action against Microsoft, 14 attorneys general are running for re-election, whereas only nine are running in the remaining states. Anthony Martin, the self-styled "founding father of the anti-Microsoft movement" is also offering opinions. Ron Chernow, author of Titan: the life of John D Rockefeller Sr., described Gates as "the chief Titan of the late 20th century", and observed that unlike Rockefeller who had been reviled for most of his life, until recently Gates had been regarded as a hero. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories
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Prosecution says Gates led plan to crush Netscape

Microsoft was portrayed by David Boies (pronounced "BOYCE") for the DoJ as being worried by Netscape's lead in browser technology, and Sun's Java. One of Microsoft's responses was a strategy to leverage the Windows monopoly to gain browser market share, Boies said. Another response was to steer ISPs to exclusive contracts for IE in return for having their logo on the Windows Internet screen. Boies said that Microsoft's strategy was not to make things better for consumers, but to create a competitive barrier for Netscape. There was clear evidence that Microsoft planned the integration of Windows and IE as a means of thwarting Netscape, he told the court. After Netscape refused the market sharing agreement, Boies said that Microsoft set out to identify the sources of Netscape's revenue and block them. Microsoft decided to give IE away, and lose a potential $120 million from IE sales, in order to harm Netscape (at the time, Netscape's browser was not free). Boies said this was all done with the explicit knowledge and at the direction of Gates. Boies also pointed at evidence from Microsoft's contracts with AT&T. Although AT&T wished to remain browser neutral, Microsoft's contract prevented this: Brad Silverberg, a Microsoft executive, told AT&T that its contract was not negotiable. Boies said that this was an example of Microsoft using monopoly power to require ISPs to give preferential treatment to IE. Boies also introduced a February 1997 memo from Gates to Intel saying that Microsoft would not support an AMD technology if Intel stopped the development of a Java-based product. Boise told the court that these were the very things that antitrust law was designed to prevent. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories
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Sybase posts profitable Q3

Sybase has beaten Wall Street expectations and turned predictions it would just break even during its third quarter into a profit. The database specialist posted a profits of $2.2 million on revenues of $210.2 million. That represents a fall in revenue from the same period last year, down from $233 million, but a significant improvement in profit, up from a loss of $6 million. Sybase CEO John Chen said the results were in accordance with the company's gameplan. "We continue to make progress in our efforts to maintain profitability and enhance our product and service offerings," he added. ® Click for more stories
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HP unifies server business

Hewlett-Packard has merged its Enterprise Systems, and Software and Servives divisions in an effort to unify its development and delivery of corporate server systems. "The merger supports our belief that IT solutions must have equally strong components of hardware, software and services," said Ann Livermore, HP VP and general manager of the merged operation. The new group will emply 44,000 people and is worth $15 billion, according to HP head Lew Platt. No job cuts will be made as a result of the merger -- HP has, after all, been shedding plenty already as HP struggles to cope with financial troubles engendered by the Asian economic crisis. Combining the company's server sales operation with the group that sells solutions and services based upon those same servers makes sense, said analysts. It allows HP to focus its efforts on promoting high-marging services business by viewing the hardware as just one component in the solution. Full details of the new organisations structure will be released within the next few weeks, said Livermore. ® Click for more stories
The Register breaking news

Casio launches Windows CE software operation

Casio has formed a separate company to develop Windows CE applications and begun shipping three titles for the handheld PC platform. The new organisation, called CasioSoft, will initially develop business-oriented applications. Its initial offerings, CSI Project, CSI Outliner and CSI PowerPack, offer additional features for the CE version of Microsoft Project, agenda and lists management tools, and file management utilities, respectively. However, CasioSoft product manager Brad Nemer admitted the company may look to other markets too. "It's conceivable there could be other products beyond what exists now," he said. "We could write applications for WebTV on Windows CE even if Casio doesn't make one. We're interested in wherever the market goes -- auto PCs, phones, watches, whatever." CasioSoft will certainly provide a boost for Windows CE devices, which has attracted fewer ISVs than rival palmtop platforms Palm and Psion. Casio's own CE machine, the consumer-oriented Cassiopeia, suffers from just such a paucity of third-party apps. However, Casio's move is likely to prove more important in the long run. CE has yet to prove itself as a handheld PC platform, but it's more interesting when seen as the basis for other devices. Sega's decision to base its DreamCast games console on CE puts the OS into a far wider world than the one Palm -- or Epson's EPOC, for that matter -- currently inhabits. EPOC is clearly moving toward the intelligent cellphone market, as is Palm, but the games business is potentially more lucrative. And not just games -- DreamCast's use of CE provides it with sufficient comms infrastructure to provide users with Internet access. It's kind of like Apple's ill-fated Pippin project, but coming from the other direction, extending the games market with extra functionality rather than attempting to sell a games console to people who already own a PC. In any case, for CasioSoft, the expertise it gets developing and marketing consumer CE software now could help it later when DreamCast, which is projected to be well ahead of current consoles, ships. DreamCast is unlikely to stimulate wider demand for Windows CE per se, but it will increase demand for developers with CE experience. ® Click for more stories
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Kauffman joins Ten-TV

Technology Education Network Inc, Ten-TV, has poached IT training veteran John Kauffman, formerly with Azlan Training and CBT Systems. Kauffman is joining as European operations manager, aiming to expand Ten-TV’s business-to-business distance learning business in the European marketplace. Ten-TV is a leading distance learning company based predominantly in the US, but Doug Upchurch, executive director of the Information technology Training Association, said the coup, “is another example of Ten-TV beefing up their presence in the IT training space.”
A staffer, 20 1998
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How Microsoft squeezed Netscape out of contracts – Barksdale

Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale will take the stand in the Microsoft antitrust trial later today with his testimony already in the court records. Barksdale will be cross-examined on his testimony, but in accordance with Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's wishes to speed up the trial, the text of his 127 page deposition was released by the DoJ late last night. Unsurprisingly, the deposition is wide-ranging, alleging a concerted Microsoft campaign to destroy Netscape by altering Windows software to disadvantage rival browsers, by restrictive contracts, and by giving away the browser free, or even paying ISPs to distribute it rather than Netscape Navigator. Barksdale covers the meeting of June 1995 where Netscape claims Microsoft offered to carve up the browser market with it, and says that in exchange for steering clear of the Windows browser segment Netscape would be made a preferred Microsoft partner, giving it privileged access to API and technologies. This is an area that's been well-trodden in the past by Microsoft's critics -- applications developers have complained about 'secret' hooks in the OS that were known only to Microsoft's developers. So Barksdale is claiming not only that Microsoft concedes such things exist, but that the company does use them as a competitive weapon, granting or declining access to them as it chooses. Says Barksdale: "I have never been in a meeting in my 33-year business career in which a competitor has so blatantly implied that we should either stop competing with it, or the competitor would kill us... I have never heard nor experienced such an explicit proposal to divide markets." After Netscape declined the offer, Barksdale says that Netscape's ISP customers were slowly picked off. It had over 1000 ISP browser contracts in 1995-96, but now Barksdale says practically none of these remain as originally negotiated (although Microsoft here might observe that it would be a strange ISP that was still paying Netscape $20 a pop when Navigator's been free since last winter). AOL went exclusive with Internet Explorer, and the fact that Explorer was free shoehorned Netscape out of other accounts. He describes how Erol, then a major US regional ISP, defected: "According to Erol's CEO, Microsoft not only offered Internet Explorer for free, but also offered to pay 20 per cent of the $600,000 a month Erols' spends in advertising along with some other attractive incentive he didn't disclose." Other ISPs dropped Navigator complaining that they couldn't afford to pay Netscape when Explorer was free, even saying that they still preferred Netscape as they did so. Barksdale also covers the Compaq episode, when Microsoft threatened to withdraw Compaq's Windows 95 licence. Microsoft's case here is that Compaq was making changes to Windows in contravention of its licence terms, and that these terms are intended to protect the integrity of Windows. Barksdale, however, says that what this boiled down to was that Microsoft would terminate Compaq's licence if it removed IE and substituted Netscape, or even if it put the Netscape icon alongside the Explorer one. In addition to this, Barksdale cites a long list of OEMs he claims have been forced at best to offer Netscape only limited contracts. Basically, he's painting a picture of how Microsoft set out to cut off Netscape's air supply. Nor did the giveaways stop at IE -- Barksdale claims that some corporate customers were given free upgrades to Windows 95 in exchange for standardising on IE internally. These are at the moment largely allegations that Microsoft can deny, but that's exactly why the DoJ and Microsoft are tussling so hard over access to Microsoft's databases. If Microsoft has been offering special terms or even subsidies in order to knock Netscape out of OEMs, ISPs and corporate customers, this should show up from the numbers in its sales databases. If not, then Microsoft could no doubt exonerate itself by letting the DoJ see the figures. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories
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Broadcom tweaks cable modem chip for Europe

Broadcom Corp’s first single chip for cable modems is now available for European markets, customised and made compliant with the recently-approved International Telecommunications Union J.112 cable modem standard. Available already in the US, the BCM3300 chip is designed to cope with high-speed Internet access and Voice over IP (VoIP) applications. Broadcom’s President and CEO, Henry Nicholas, said: “It represents the first single-chip integration of all of the communications and protocol functions needed for broadband interactivity and Internet access." Broadcom reported its third quarter financials only last week, announcing profits of $8.1 million compared to a loss last time, and the company signed a number of strategic deals during the quarter, including an alliance with MIPS Technologies. Broadcom will use MIPS processors in a range of forthcoming products, including cable modems, digital set-tops and Ethernet adapter cards, and the BCM3300 chip interfaces to the MIPS CPU. Tim Lindenfelser, Broadcom's vice president of marketing, said there is growing European interest in cable modems and high-speed Internet access. He added: “European manufacturers can use the customised BCM3300 in advanced cable modems at very attractive consumer price points, [placing] European cable operators in a very competitive position to provide high-speed Internet access over cable. Telephony over cable should generate profitable new revenue streams.” The chip’s architecture is IP-based, leveraging the Web’s native format and avoiding the overheads of cell-based protocols such as ATM. The protocol addresses variable length IP packets, catering for integrated data, voice and video network. The BCM3300 is available in sample quantities as a 256-pin ball grid array at $50 in 10,000 piece quantities.
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Who will buy these wonderful patents?

Toshiba Corp said the sale of intellectual property rights could garner up to 100 billion yen ($870 million) by 2003, and the Japanese giant announced yesterday that it will sell designs drawn from several business units, including PC and data storage. The company is making definitive moves to control its research and development overheads in view of an anticipated 25 billion yen loss ($217 million) for the first half. Some IT designs will be sold to Toshiba’s competitors and a wider range of intellectual properties will be on offer to Toshiba’s 300 partners and subsidiaries. Spokesman Takashi Tanaka told Bloomberg that the world’s largest manufacturer of notebook computers must take steps to cover its R&D costs. He said that the R&D budget is being slimmed by around four per cent, down to 310 billion yen. ®
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HP touts stress-free, EMC-rich strategy

Hyped as ushering in a new era of stress-free enterprise storage, HP’s new strategy got the thumbs up from analysts with the Aberdeen Group. Senior analyst David Hill said: “HP is positioning itself well to compete in the changing storage market with a broad range of high availability and online and offline its fibre channel systems.” HP’s storage systems are based almost exclusively on EMC’s very clever technologies and the new systems include an Intelligent Storage Server for backup and increased uptime. It uses disk-to-disk backup and shares storage libraries between multiple servers. Also new is the Fibre Channel Model 1010D High Availability Storage System for critical reliability. Other features include utility automation; software-based storage attached network management capabilities that trigger and send alarms in the event of device failure; and DLT library improvements include support for Windows NT with a boot capability from DLT devices. ®
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Digital TV to lead information appliance market

Devices bringing the Internet to the TV will lead a massive 76 per cent annual growth rate for the information appliance market between now and 2002, an IDC report, Forecast of the Worldwide Information Appliance Marketplace, has predicted. The company also highlighted the Internet-enabled game console and PDAs as important platforms for information appliance. On the other hand, consumer NCs have failed to ignite the marketplace. According to IDC, there are will be some six million or so NetTV units around by the end of the year, 1.4 million of them being sold in 1998 alone. It expects the overall figure to rise to 55.7 million by 2002. It's not an unrealistic number -- in some ways its positively conservative -- when you consider that IDC is figuring not only WebTV-type boxes into the equation but digital TV decoders, which will provide Internet access through broadcasters' interactive TV services. In the UK, Sky Digital isn't offering Internet access yet, but it intends to shortly, as will terrestrial digital broadcaster On and cable-based digital services. Ditto the US digital broadcasters. But what IDC doesn't appear to have attempted to predict is what the take-up of these services will be -- will 55.7 million digital TV boxes mean 55.7 million more Internet users? This is the question on which the entire information appliance business is predicated, and the fact is, as the report puts it, "the consumer NC client is derailed", the answer may not be what the gurus of general public Internet access want to hear. IDC asserts that the failure of the NC to take off has largely come about because of the arrival of low-cost PCs, and it's an entirely reasonable assertion. It's also very telling. If the putative NC buyer opts for a cheap PC instead, it's because he or she wants to do all the other things you can do with a PC -- write letters, do home finances, engage in a few crafty Quake sessions -- and not with an NC. Fine, but what about all those folk who don't want to do all that -- users who just see the Web as a kind of souped-up Teletext? Well, IDC's prognosis says there effectively aren't any. Internet access simply isn't on most consumers' agenda. So the likelihood is, of the many buyers of digital TV receivers -- assuming the general public wants digital TV, and there are strong reasons to suggest they might not, at least for some time -- relatively few will use their set-tops for Internet access. Still, there are areas where Internet connectivity will play a key role, and that's where IDC's references to game consoles and PDAs (now called Smart Handheld Devices, or SHeDs -- how quickly the IT industry tires of perfectly reasonable acronyms...) come in. The next generation of games consoles will support multi-player gaming via the Internet either through built-in modems or add-on packs. To what extent they will also provide access to the Web for information retrieval is less clear, but they will have to have some way to displaying Web pages (to allow users to find opponents and bouts). In any case, why prevent your machine being bought as an Internet access device even if there's only a slim chance people will want that rather than games? That's clealy the approach Sega is taking with its Windows CE-based DreamCast machine. IDC reckons there will be some 15 million Internet-enabled consoles in use by 2002. ® Click for more stories
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Microsoft on Trial

During the period of the Microsoft antitrust trial The Register will be maintaining this page in order to provide readers with easy access to all our trial coverage. If you've a special interest in the trial, then we suggest you bookmark this page. If you have a special interest in avoiding the trial, we suggest you unplug your computer now.
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Oh No! not another convergence story

Nortel Networks is showcasing a raft of products and systems at NetWorld+Interop, its first major trade show since the August acquisition of Bay Networks. CEO John Roth is delivering the keynote speech in Atlanta, focusing on future possibilities, including the total integration of voice and data and the delivery of anywhere-anytime communication. Roth will theorise about a new era of networking, staking Nortel’s claim to, “the unoccupied space where data and telephony networks, driven by the Internet, are expected to converge.” Nortel, which sponsors NetWorld+Interop to the tune of $5 million, will demo a range of LAN, WAN and telephony systems and the current integration between Bay and Nortel products. New products include software for the Accelar* 1000 routing switch family, offering redundant Multi-Link Trunking for increased bandwidth and resilience. There are two new additions to the LAN-ATM switching family along with Phase 3 of Passport 4400. Version 2 of the Contivity Extranet software includes support for branch offices with the LAN-to-LAN VPN and new digital certificates; and Nortel will announce alpha sites for VDSL Broadband Access for digital, video and high-speed Internet access. ®
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Intel does not use toilet rolls…

For weeks we here at The Register have been intending to write a story about Intel's vast consumption of toilet rolls. We repeatedly asked the question, given that there are 60,000 people or so working for the Great Stan. We were worried about pollution, given reports years ago by the Republic of California that there was something wrong, somewhere, with an aquifer. Ahem. We finally got the response, although it was from someone who used to work for Intel....Strong language follows...She said that Intel does not use toilet rolls. "We don't have time to crap at work so have to do it at home under the HomeShit(r)(tm) programme. If an employee can't wait, they have to send it by email."
Emerson, 20 1998
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DVD shortage now, gluts in 1999

The DVD market is drastically undersupplied as Japanese production of pick-up heads remains slow but demand for DVD-ROMs speeds up rapidly. Global demand for DVD-ROM peaked at 300,000 units a months between January and June, jumping to 900,000 in September as PC manufacturers increased their OEM orders. Observers say the shortfall should decline as supplies of pick-up heads grow quickly, and some analysts warn that ramping up DVD-ROM production now and early next year could lead to glut by late 1999. Executives from Acer Peripherals told the Nikkei that demand in the retail market may be well below the 80 million units forecast earlier this year, probably nearer 10 million. Acer said that retail demand for DVD-ROM remains 'relatively insignificant'. ®
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'Linux made it, so what's the problem?' says Microsoft attorney

Hitting back at the case laid out against his employer by the Department of Justice yesterday, Microsoft attorney John Warden described it as being an effort "to demonise Bill Gates... long on rhetoric and short on substance". He then proceeded to rely on, er, rhetoric and to recruit Linus Torvalds as exhibit A. "This is not really an antitrust case, but a return of the Luddites," said Warner, adding for the benefit of couch potatoes that the Luddites were a "19th Century group that went around smashing machines". This, The Register has to tell you, is something of a couch potato precis of what the Luddites were about, but there you go. Yesterday, the DoJ laid out a series of specific allegations of anticompetitive activity on Microsoft's part, while today Jim Barksdale of Netscape heaped more allegations onto Microsoft's corporate head. But Warner chose not to address them directly, at least for the moment. He sought to show that the lines between OS and application were too blurred to be defined specifically, saying: "The evidence will show that the drawing of hard and fast lines is not just difficult, but is impossible." Microsoft Office was a platform that developers could use, just as much as they could use Windows, he said. Basically, Warden is here trying to fight the case on the issue of where the boundaries between the OS and the app lie. He says it's impossible to define this point, QED Microsoft's integration activities can't be argued with. As regards the small matter of Microsoft's dominant position in the OS market, Warden pointed out that the company's position is by no means unassailable, and cited Linux as the evidence. "As Linus Torvalds has shown, one person in Helsinki, Finland [the country insert is another couch potato aid, we fear], can quickly write the core of a sophisticated operating system now used by millions of people." Our Linux readers will no doubt be cheered by the suggestion that -- at least for the purposes of evidence -- Linux now counts as a real threat to Windows. Struggling students developing state-of-the-art operating systems will also be comforted by no less a person than Microsoft's attorney asserting that they really do have the potential to take out Microsoft. And presumably, as nobody's ever suggests that Microsoft has attempted anticompetitive action against Linux, that could count as evidence of Bill's bona fides as well? ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories