3rd > November > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

Microsoft challenge to testimony rebuffed

The Microsoft trial dealt exclusively with procedural issues on Monday morning, with the two sides wrangling over what could and could not be heard. Microsoft had slipped in another Motion on Friday evening, very similar to the one it used in an attempt to challenge the inclusion of Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale's testimony. The motion challenged the inclusion of some of Avie Tevanian's testimony as "hearsay". The Microsoft legal team is engaging in gamesmanship by filing the day before the testimony is to be given. It is clear that its purpose is to put the DoJ under pressure, since Microsoft has had the documents for several weeks and could have acted earlier. Microsoft is rather reticent about posting these motions on its Web site. The DoJ is now asking Judge Jackson in its response to order that Microsoft file any further objections to written testimony by Friday. Microsoft asked for large sections of Avie Tevanian's testimony to be disallowed on three grounds: hearsay evidence; the need for expert witnesses to present certain testimony; and testimony not based on Tevanian's personal knowledge. The DoJ's Response contained an important observation: that since each side is limited to 12 main witnesses, those who testify should be given some latitude to report information obtained from other people in their companies, since the witness is offering sworn testimony. Judge Jackson agreed, and decided to admit the whole of Tevanian's testimony. The videotape was released to the media about an hour after it had been seen in the court, but the quality was poor. Network congestion made it impossible to watch on many Web sites shortly soon after it was released. TV network ABC decided to stop trying to show the video and switch to voice, which was much better. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
Graham Lea, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Lawyers spin after Gates video

The cordon sanitaire that has surrounded Bill Gates and prevented any public embarrassment was breached on Monday afternoon. John Warden, Microsoft's trial attorney, may well have been going slowly under instruction for the last two weeks, so that the first tape of Gates deposition -- and the one that would be most publicised -- would be seen just before US election day. This would have the effect of minimising the negative headlines as election day front pages are less likely to have any detail and in-depth comment about Gates' performance. Microsoft's PR team must now hope that public interest in the Gates video testimony wanes. Microsoft can then concentrate on spreading its own spin on the proceedings to the majority who have no direct knowledge of what is really happening. Judge Jackson decided after consulting lawyers for both sides and spending around an hour considering the issue that the tape could be released to the media after the court had heard it. He then adjourned for the morning, saying that "I will anticipate with some pleasure the viewing of deposition testimony, beginning at 2pm". Jackson is increasingly accepting the arguments from the DoJ rather than Microsoft. It is not unusual for a federal judge to prefer the government side, but in this case, it is quite possible that Jackson was not pleased to be overruled by the court of appeals over his December interim injunction, and the appointment of Professor Lessig as a special master. An email Paul Maritz in January 1997 is going to be very hard to explain away: "To combat [Netscape] we have to position the browser as 'going away' and do deeper integration on Windows. The stronger way to communicate this is to have a 'new release' of Windows and make a big deal of it." The email casts some light on the hatching of Windows 98, and is a smoking gun, showing intent to integrate the browser with Windows to harm Netscape, and not in response to customer demand, as Microsoft likes to claim. Stephen Houck, the lead attorney for the 20 states and DC, has carved out a role as the media's deep throat on the case, since he has little chance to say anything in court because of a decision by Judge Jackson that only one attorney from each side may ask questions of a witness. He has taken to doing his deep throat act on the courthouse steps, alongside Mark Murray and Bill Neukom, Microsoft's spokesman and head lawyer, respectively. Houck volunteered that Warden objected to the video of Gates being released to the public, and wanted just the text released. Murray interrupted Houck and disagreed with Houck's interpretation. At this rate the courthouse steps will soon be a public debating forum, rather like Hyde Park Corner. Mysteriously, Neukom's courthouse steps statements are word perfect when they appear in comment on Microsoft's Web site, but don't seem to appear elsewhere. Murray claimed that the government (as the DoJ is generally referred to) wished "to paint Mr Gates in a negative light" and make the revelations "sensational". Murray's claim that Gates "answered the questions in a precise and accurate way" was perhaps the most misleading statement of the whole day. Boies did not comment on Gates deposition outside the court room, but observed that "The court will have to determine what weight to give what parts of the testimony". ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
Graham Lea, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Gates squirms on screen as memory problems re-emerge

Apple VP Avie Tevanian's cross-examination yesterday may well mark the day when Microsoft began to fall seriously behind, and the reason is quite simply that Gates' videotaped deposition has harmed Microsoft's defence greatly. Gates' credibility as a witness is minimal. He is unresponsive, rarely answering the question directly, or gives a response that is not an answer to the question. He often pauses for an inordinate time before giving a non-committal response, and frequently claims not to remember what happened, which does not accord with other evidence about his memory, which is generally regarded as exceptional. Presumably he has been advised to be as non-committal as possible, and claim a lapse of memory. Gates did not act like a CEO and chairman of the largest computer company in the world. He seemed incompetent, and on the basis of his responses, disengaged from the business of the company. Gates looked very uncomfortable, exhibiting several times a childlike petulance at finding himself being relentlessly quizzed on matters that could not easily be explained away. He exhibited his full range of mannerisms, including rocking on his chair. It was very interesting that Gates claimed that there was a company policy that prohibited "dividing markets", and that contravening the policy was a reason for disciplinary action. It sounds as though some staff members are likely to be thrashed, although whether they will be able to claim as a defence that they were 'only obeying orders' is not yet certain. For his part, Gates claimed under oath not to be aware that Microsoft made a market dividing proposal to Apple. Some of the questioning at the three days of depositions was by Steve Houck, attorney for the 20 states and DC. Gates frequently resorted to denying any recollection of sending or receiving key emails, or having conversation with people. Gates might just as well have taken the fifth (amendment) and refused to answer on the ground that he might incriminate himself. It is hard to relate the questioning of Gates to the documents he is being shown (most of which have not yet been unsealed -- ie. placed in the public domain), although quotations from some were included in the DoJ's Complaint and Memorandum in May that started this phase of the investigation. Microsoft internal emails produced to him frequently contradicted his deposition. The taped extracts did little more than confirm much that was hitherto suspected, but Gates' behaviour, body language, defiant attitude and humbug said a great deal. The revelations were in emails that were quoted. An example of the dialogue suffices to demonstrate the nature of his responses. Gates emailed VP Paul Maritz and others, saying: "I want to get as much mileage as possible out of our browser and Java relationship here." In other words, a real advantage against Sun and Netscape. "Do we have a clear plan on what we want Apple to do to undermine Sun?" David Boies, Doj trial attorney: Did you send this email, Mr Gates, on or about August 8, 1997? Gates: I don't remember sending it. Boies: Do you have any doubt that you sent it? Gates: No. It appears to be an email I sent. Boies: What do you mean when you asked Mr Maritz whether or not, "we have a clear plan on what we want Apple to do to undermine Sun?" Gates: I don't remember. At Microsoft's request, the videotape included a section where Gates said that resolving the patent dispute in which Apple had sued Microsoft was a key objective in 1996 and 1997. Microsoft trial lawyer John Warden's reason for wanting this passage inserted was to distract from an email Gates wrote on 23 June 1996 wherein he said he had "two key goals in investing in the Apple relationship" which were to maintain the market share of Microsoft Office in the Mac market, and to get Apple to "embrace Internet Explorer in some way". Gates said he was unable to recall indicating, as John Ludwig of Microsoft put it, that his "top priority is for us to get the browser in the October OS release from Apple. We should do whatever it takes to make this happen". The documentation contains the evidence that Microsoft linked an investment of $150 million in Apple to Apple agreeing to take IE, but Gates denied this. Microsoft documents show that in fact an additional $100 million was paid to Apple to settle the so-called patent dispute (which translates as Microsoft having been caught with a sizeable amount of Apple's QuickTime code). A particularly revealing email from Ben Waldman of Microsoft (he's the guy in charge of Mac application development) to Gates directly contradicts Gates' assertion that there was only an internal debate at Microsoft as to whether Microsoft should update the Mac version of Microsoft Office, which Apple regarded as very important for its survival at the time. Waldman wrote: "The threat to cancel Mac Office 97 is certainly the strongest bargaining point that we have, as doing so will do a great deal of harm to Apple immediately. I also believe that Apple is taking this threat pretty seriously." By threatening to withdraw Mac Office 97, Apple's agreement to prefer IE to Navigator and settle the dispute over the QuickTime code was easily obtained. It was just another example of monopoly power being used in a very focussed way. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
Graham Lea, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Chapter 11 looms for Syquest

Storage firm Syquest late yesterday said it had suspended its operations and was considering its future, including the possibility of taking refuge under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy rules. It stopped trading on the US stock exchange at close of play. The move follows a bad year for all storage companies, but Syquest in particular has been particularly hard hit. Three months ago, it said it would cut nearly half of its jobs worldwide but the hammer blow came last week when its credit facility was sharply reduced. Although Chapter 11 is one alternative for Syquest, it is far more likely that its assets and any existing goodwill will be snapped up by another storage company, marking yet more consolidation in the storage business. ® Click here for more storage Click for story index
Mike Magee, 03 Nov 1998

Leaked Microsoft memo outlines anti-Linux strategy

An internal Microsoft document leaked over the weekend confirms that the company view Open Source Software (OSS) in general, and Linux in particular, as real threats.
John Lettice, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

East is red, says Dell

Direct PC company Dell yesterday opened a manufacturing plant in Xiamen in a bid to capture the growing market for PCs in communist China. Earlier this year, the company opened sales operations in major conurbations in the country. The hardware firm has already captured the People’s Liberation Army as a customer, and also has the Ministry of Information Technology in its grasp. But it has its sight on China Telecom and other major government organisations. Compaq, at present, has the lion’s share in the People’s Republic but Dell wants a chance to knock it off its perch. While non-US companies have a growing market share, the bulk of machines shipped in China are home grown. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
A staffer, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

HP makes four-way bid for networks

HP has introduced a four way NetServer box using four 400MHz Xeon CPUs and at the same introduced Fibre channel and Ultra 2 SCSI Rack Storage subsystems. The LH4 offers storage capacity of 12 drives and includes integrated controllers. The system will support up to 4Gb of buffered EDO memory and will ship next month with a UK street price of £5,400, HP said. At the same time, HP also introduced version 4.1 of its TopTools software. This, claimed the company, allows administrators to control HP, Compaq and Big Blue boxes from a single monitor using browsing software. The NetServer RackStorage 12GC, claimed HP, is a breakthrough in fibre channel subsytems, offering fault tolerance over distances of up to 10 kilometres. The Ultra SCSI external storage enclosures are the first of their type, the company claimed. ® Click here for more storage
A staffer, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

CPU and component famine likely next year

A UK distributor said today that the glut of PC components the industry has seen in 1998 will turn into a famine next year as a combination of circumstances begin to bite the market. Mark Davison, microprocessor manager at Datrontech, said that a lack of investment, coupled with increased demand for PCs, will lead to shortages not only in memory products, but in CPUs, motherboards and hard drives. He said: "Next year will see the biggest shortage of components we’ve ever seen. There's only a finite amount of production in the world and there are only so many CPUs that can be built. It takes time to build new fabs." He said that it won't just be processors that are affected. Motherboards are also likely to be in short supply. "Distribution customers buy the majority of brands from one of half a dozen vendors," he said. "They themselves have production capacity capped because of raw materials, chipsets and so forth. It's the same with hard drives." He claimed that semiconductor companies are closing fabs faster than they open them. "I haven’t seen any moves predicting an upturn," he said. "The majority of our customers buy from hand to mouth and perhaps they should think of a different business model." The shortage is likely to hit in mid-1999, said Davison. Practically every manufacturer of components had either slowed or otherwise constrained production this year, and the first three quarters were flat. Other factors likely to exacerbate this situation was increased demand from large corporations, and, later in 1999, smaller companies, eager to buy new kit to avoid any problems with the Y2K bug. An Intel representative said: "Big corporations will be buying new equipment in the first half of next year just to be on the safe side. In Q3, they'll consolidate with the equipment they have. Towards the end of next year, small companies will do the same thing." However, he claimed that it was unlikely that there would be constraints on CPU production. However, Intel is shutting Fab 6 in Arizona in Q1 1999, Fabs 7 and 9 in New Mexico in the year 2000, and Fab 5 in Q2/Q3 of 1999. Although Intel's stance is driven by its move to smaller die sizes, the company is known to have put a freeze on recruitment because of demand for its parts slowing earlier this year. It will not give figures on the number of parts it manufactures worldwide. While its competitors are ramping up their production of parts, if demand for PCs increases during next year, Davison’s predictions may well be true. Dataquest has already said it expects to see memory prices bounce back up in the middle of next year due to a similar combination of market forces. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Mike Magee, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

HP alliance throws down Java gauntlet to Sun

In what will inevitably be seen as a direct challenge to Sun, Hewlett-Packard yesterday emerged as the ringleader of a group of companies pushing "an open, vendor-neutral standards process for real-time extensions to Java". HP also rolled out a new family of Java products for the embedded market, which are available for licence under the 'Chai' banner. The formation of the Real-Time Java Working Group certainly isn't good news for Sun, but for the moment falls some distance short of a full-scale breach with the company on HP's part. The Group's membership consists largely of embedded systems specialists, the big names apart from HP being Siemens and Microsoft, and of necessity it will concentrate on defining standards for the embedded market. This quite possibly puts it on a collision course with Sun, which takes a Microsoft-like 'we define the standards' view when it comes to Java, but whereas Microsoft has consciously attempted to fragment Java, HP's policy is considerably more Sun-friendly. HP wants the Java standards processes to be open, but it also wants to retain compatibility. At the same time there are enough major Java supporters out there who agree with HP (IBM, Intel, Novell) to make it more realistic for Sun to negotiate than to start a war. The Group intends to "accelerate the use of the Java programming language in real-time embedded systems by allowing any company to participate in the creation of real-time extensions". It intends to work with "all participants in the embedded industry -- RTOS vendors, appliance and device manufacturers, ISVs and virtual machine vendors". The Chai product family meanwhile positions HP nicely to benefit from the process. HP is offering ChaiServer and a Chai Developer kit for embedded systems developers, and has also announced the availability of ChaVM Version 2.0, a virtual machine that complies with the Java VM specification. The ChaiVM is available from ISI, Lynx, QNX, Microware, Microsoft, Aplix and Enea OSE for their operating systems and from HP for other environments. Real-Time Java Working Group members Access, Aonix, Cyberonix, Enea OSE Systems AB, Hewlett-Packard, Intermetrics, Lynx Real-Time Systems, Microsoft, NewMonics, OMRON, Plum Hall, Rockwell Collins, Siemens, TeleMedia Devices and Yokogawa Electric. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
John Lettice, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Iomega proposes ‘Zip Everywhere’ strategy

Iomega is pushing its 100MB Zip drive at peripherals manufacturers in an attempt to give the aging storage technology a new lease of life. The basic plan runs something like this: Iomega will persuade scanner, printer and Net TV vendors to build Zip drives into their products. The way Iomega sells it, the scheme is all about liberating users who have "been held hostage by the serial cable". As an example, the company cites its first design win, the forthcoming Microtek ImageDeck scanner. ImageDeck's built-in Zip drive allows users to create digital photo albums directly. Presumably when a Zip-enable printer comes along, they'll be able to slip in a disk and print out the picks, again without having to use a PC. Of course, unless monitor manufacturers also build Zip drives into their displays, no one will ever be able to see your photo album, but Iomega doesn't seem to have figured that one out. Essentially, Iomega appears to want to replace the network with Zip disks. This is nonsense (a) because the network is patently a better way of transferring data between peripherals let alone PCs and (b) because you still need a PC to tidy up your scans and do all the other stuff machines can't do for you, such as write emails and critiques of Wittgenstein. And there's the rub: Iomega's real agenda here is to get more PC vendors to build in Zip drives as standard rather than simply offer them as optional extras. With hard disk becoming ever more capacious and network bandwidth and connection speeds increasing, it's become increasingly unnecessary to use portable storage. So users don't specify Zip drives so often, so vendors don't order as many, and Iomega finds it has to come up with new methods of winning them back. It's not just a problem for Iomega -- Syquest's decision to suspend operations (see Chapter 11 looms for Syquest) is just a more extreme symptom of the same malaise. Imation hasn't had a great deal of success persuading vendors and users to choose its 120MB SuperDisk -- and that's compatible with 1.44MB floppy disks. Sony's superior alternative still hasn't come to market. Still, it may be onto something with the Net TV angle. Working on the assumption that many set-top box users won't have access to a PC -- otherwise why use a set-top box? -- users may come to demand some kind of storage, but it's more likely to be some kind of DVD-RAM product than a PC-oriented technology that's now looking long in the tooth. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Tony Smith, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

MIPS goes all precious on us

Chip company MIPS has unveiled its future roadmap with three families codenamed Jade, Opal and Ruby. Jade is a 32-bit chip family that is based on MIPS 3000 family, and wil be available in both optimised and synthesisable cores in the second half of next year. The Opal family will consist of 64-bit RISC chips, equivalent to the R5000 famly and available as embedded CPUs and also as a custom processor core. The Ruby family is also based on 64-bit technology and will be aimed at high end embedded RISC applications. These chips will come with high performance integer and floating point execution units, MMU and optimised data and instruction caches. MIPS has obviously not given up the ghost on its chip technology, despite the fact that Compaq-Digital has publicly stated it will dump its processors in favour of its own Alpha products. ® Click here for more chip stories
A staffer, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

ilion raids Metrologie for new UK MD

CHS subsidiary Metrologie UK is looking for a new managing director following the surprise resignation of Rob Johnson. Johnson is moving to rival distributor ilion as MD in the new year, replacing chairman and CEO Wayne Channon in the role he had been overseeing since the departure of former MD Allan Mack earlier this year. Channon will now revert back to his role as chairman of ilion Group plc and concentrate on running the pan-European business. Metrologie's finance director Michelle Robins has been named acting MD until a replacement can be found. &reg:
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Xavier posts record interim results

Record results from all three of its operating divisions have catapulted the half-year pre-tax profits of Xavier Computer Group to £723,000 -- an increase of more than 44 per cent on last year. Interim results published today revealed that Xavier, Bleasdale and CSL all performed ahead of budget reporting record results for both turnover and operating profit. While Xavier and Bleasdale posted operating profits of 16 per cent and 38 per cent respectively, but the star performer was Jersey-based CSL which managed a mammoth 62 per cent jump. With order books for the second half of the year apparently healthy, it seems that Xavier's executive chairman Nicholas Barham has plenty to smile about. Despite the bullish report the directors are not recommending paying an interim dividend. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

ATM fends off IP, Insight claims

ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) still remains the strongest choice for public and private network interconnectivity despite the rise of IP (Internet Protocol) according to a new report from New Jersey-based telecommunications analysts Insight Research. The report claims that ATM has evolved to become the best approach for merging many different types of traffic onto a single network while still maintaining high performance. According to ATM: Services and Technology at a Crossroads 1998-2003, traditional carriers will be more comfortable with ATM solutions as the next evolutionary step in upgrading their voice networks, while newer carriers will be more willing to consider other alternatives such as IP. Insight also predicts that global retail service revenue to business and home users will jump from just $168 million this year to $7.3 billion by 2003. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

DOCData slashes workforce by one third

DOCdata UK is to axe 95 jobs - around a third of its workforce - in a bid to make the company more profitable. The UK arm of the Dutch-based company - which produces audio and multimedia CDs - has borne the brunt of the losses with a further 25 jobs going at the company's California operation. The redundancies have been blamed on low sales and operating losses. DOCdata UK chief executive David Rozalla confirmed that the Battersea-based company would make the cuts 'across the board' and said in spite of offering voluntary packages most of the redundancies would be compulsory. Although DOCdata UK is cutting its workforce by nearly a third, Rozalla said he anticipates that capacity would only shrink by around 5 per cent. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

3 November 1998: DRAM prices

Prices kindly supplied by Dane-Elec Click here for more stories
A staffer, 03 Nov 1998