4th > November > 1998 Archive

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Government victimising Gates, says Microsoft

Bob Herbold, Microsoft COO, said in his introduction to Microsoft's videotaped response to Gates' deposition that the government's case was becoming "an unfair attack on Bill Gates, one of the great innovators of this century." (Yes, we listened twice to be sure we had that right.) Herbold accused the government of using a videotape rather than facing Gates in person: "It's unfair," he complained,"It's a trick to get around the judge's limit of the number of witnesses, and a gimmick to get headlines rather than getting at the facts." If Herbold is so keen to see Gates give evidence, perhaps he should suggest to Bill that he appears as a witness for Microsoft. After all, when a company is accused of illegal, anticompetitive practices by the government, the CEO usually leads the defence from the front. Herbold continued: "Microsoft chairman Bill Gates answered truthfully and openly during the three days of depositions". The government, he said, was working to advance the interests of competitors. In one of its recent motions, Microsoft criticised Avadis Tevanian of Apple, whose cross-examination starts today, for giving opinions about economics when he was not qualified as an economist. Herbold, who used to work for a seller of soap flakes, was so ignorant about the software industry that in a major speech some time after he joined Microsoft he referred to DOS as "dee-oh-ess". Herbold also took it on himself to give a speech on DNA a few days ago, but there is no evidence of Herbold having a qualification in molecular biology. The Microspin that Microsoft introduced yesterday was to get a Microsoft legal consultant, a certain Joseph diGenova, previously attorney general for the District of Columbia, to say that (or be told to say that) "This was an extraordinary deposition of an extraordinary man... Mr Gates' testimony was truthful and accurate, and it was precise..." He certainly earned his fee. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories
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PC age over, says IBM

Lou Gerstner, CEO and president of IBM, said earlier this week that the age of the PC is over. But in a speech he gave to the Japanese press, the highlight of which was Lou demonstrating a ThinkPad that fits on your head, rather than on your feet, he failed to elaborate on whether it was just IBM that took that stance. Gerstner claimed that no-one needed the type of functionality PCs deliver on a desktop, and waxed lyrical about how well IBM's Global Services unit was doing. He did not give market figures on IBM's share of the PC market but the company, which introduced the first em, IBM compatible PC in 1981, has steadily lost market share to upstarts Compaq and Dell -- and others -- over the last two years. Sources close to IBM tell The Register that Gerstner now wants to concentrate on profitable parts of IBM's business. That, he said, explained why Big Blue had taken the decision to dump its two tier channel strategy, once Gerstner's pride and joy. ® Click here for more stories
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Olivetti saga not over yet

A report in London's Financial Times said that the chief executive of Olivetti has pulled together a fresh set of investment. Robert Colaninno, who took over operations at Olivetti after convicted fraudster Carlo de Benedetti stepped down last year, has persuaded Luxembourg company Bell had taken an eight per cent stake in the company. Bell has Colaninno, Italian banks, Chase Manhattan and a number of Italian businessmen as shareholders. But Olivetti has denied that the move is any way hostile to German major Mannesmann, which has a two per cent share in the company. ® Click here for more stories
A staffer, 04 1998
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Hyundai unit spin off will retard LG merger

The long-postponed merger between South Korea companies LG and Hyundai looked further off than ever today. Hyundai has made a decision to beef up its chip production and dump other computer units, including its LCD and telecomms business. It will also drop its notebook business. While that will go some way towards appeasing government investigators and banks, Hyundai's decision is bound to antagonise LG. The two chaebols (family concerns) are in stalemate over a proposed new company which would consolidate both of their chip business into one unit. At issue is which would have the controlling equity in such a company. The South Korean government has attempted to appoint a third party to look after the affairs of such a company. ® Click here for more stories
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Sun tries to head-off HP real time revolt

In what looks remarkably like an exercise in shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, Sun has announced "the intent to develop real-time extensions to the Java platform". On Monday HP, Microsoft, Siemens and 12 other embedded companies formed a breakaway group to push for ""an open, vendor-neutral standards process for real-time extensions to Java" -- strange coincidences R US… When the Real Time Java Working Group was announced (see HP alliance throws down Java gauntlet to Sun), HP said it hoped Sun would join. This is possibly a forlorn hope, as the Group is a further manifestation of HP's determination to open up Java standards and loosen Sun's control over them. Sun's latest announcement meanwhile looks rather like a refusal. Says Mark Tolliver, president of Sun's consumer and embedded division: "Sun's goal is to provide the highest quality implementation of real-time for the Java platform, providing the industry with a standards-based product they can count on for flexibility, performance and interoperability." Which is also what the HP Group intends to do. Sun's initiative does however have the support of IBM, up to a point. Says Jan Jackman, IBM director of Java software: "We think it is critical that Java continue to evolve with input from the industry. IBM has worked closely with Sun on this process, and will continue to support an open forum for the development of the Java platform." Nice fence Jan -- you comfortable? Sun has also announced it has completed version 1.0 of the EmbeddedJava specification, and has shipped the development release based on it to its licensees. This will compete directly with HP's Chai family of products, around which the company's fans seem to be clustered. So the battle is hotting up. Somewhat humorously, Sun's announcement bends over backwards to stress how pure the development process is under its custodianship. Here's a good example: "The EmbeddedJava specification has undergone a stringent creation process with Sun's partners in the embedded systems industry. Input from Sun's licensees and the public has resulted in an open specification that addresses the needs of embedded developers and manufacturers." So that's all right then. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
The Register breaking news

New York e-cash experiment flops

Citibank and Chase Manhattan have pulled the plugs on one of the largest electronic cash pilots to date, having failed dismally to generate significant enthusiasm from the public. The two banks issued 100,000 people with cards, but discovered that the users averaged an annual spend of less than $20. Heads are being scratched over the reasons for the failure of the experiment. It was confined to New York's Upper West Side Manhattan, so it may have been too limited in scope. Within the test area the vendors who installed it also generally took credit cards, so maybe here it was seen as an unnecessary duplication. And in stores such as newsagents that only take cash, the users tended to use cash rather than e-cash. What actually happened was that the experiment failed to achieve any kind of critical mass or mindshare early on, and then collapsed ignominiously as users and vendors both lost interest. But that doesn't mean, say the e-cash proponents, that such systems will never succeed. Simpler, more transparent mechanisms for loading cash onto the cards may help (most of the Manhattan users only loaded their card once), as may multi-function cards, incorporating credit, charge and e-commerce features. The banks may also have to change their pricing approach. Citibank and Chase wanted to charge users and vendors for using the cards, and though the fees were small, there was considerable resistance to this. It also makes it difficult to figure out why you would want to use one of these rather than an ordinary credit card. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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Europe losing the plot on Web, says Gartner

This month's 'Europe is falling behind on the Internet' story comes from the Gartner Group conference in Cannes, where research director Alexander Drobik claimed electronic business in Europe was between 12-18 months behind the US. Gartner reckons the usual suspects are to blame. Slow liberalisation, cost of Internet access and an inadequate legal and security framework. The detailed list is interesting. Gartner says that the different European countries all have different rules for security, tax and censorship, and European Internet infrastructure and legislation have not kept pace with Internet usage. Europe's failure to address encryption for security, tax and censorship purposes is also a major hindrance to e-commerce development. But is there not an element of the standard US 'we've arrived, now it's time the rest of you caught up with us' approach here? As The Register recalls the US telecoms industry only recently got itself liberalised, and appears not quite to have got there yet. US encryption policy is a running sore, and the US 'make the Internet a tax-free zone' is largely a wacky idea that popped (or was put) into Bill Clinton's head, and is now confusing the issue like hell. Practically all of the 'obstacles' Gartner lists are matters that are being tackled both by Europe and the US, and the ways they're being tackled will of necessity intersect (punctuated often by muffled shrieks from the smoke-filled rooms of the World Trade Organisation). Europe's frameworks are certainly developing slower than the Web, but then so are everybody else's. Phone calls are cheaper in the US, but really that's about it folks. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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Microsoft misses rush to register Windows 2000 trademark

History is repeating itself. When Microsoft launched Internet Explorer, it quickly emerged it didn't actually own the name, and the Beast of Redmond was forced to make hasty financial reparations to ensure it could continue using the name. Now, less than a week after announcing that Windows NT 5.0 will be released as Windows 2000, it has emerged that that name has already been taken. Whoops. The owner, according to G2 News, if one Robert Kerstein, erstwhile CFO of McCaw Cellular. Kerstein trade-marked the name two and half years ago for his Encyberpedia web site. So far, Microsoft has yet to respond to the news. As for Kerstein, who claims he has never been contacted by Microsoft regarding his ownership of the Windows 2000 trademark, it's not hard to imagine the dollar signs ringing up like an old-style cash register in his eyes. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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Microsoft readies embedded version of NT

Microsoft has an embedded version of NT in alpha, and intends to go into widespread beta with the product in the first quarter of next year, the company claimed yesterday. The product, which is based on NT 4.0, is intended to ship later next year. This will be followed up by a version of Windows 2000 embedded, which will ship after Windows 2000 itself, the product formerly known as NT 5.0. Microsoft has a number of different embedded projects in the works, but NT Embedded is probably the most peculiar. The company reckons it will be complementary to Windows CE, the other embedded systems and to NT Server itself, being used in areas where full Win32 and BackOffice integration are necessary. This would seem a somewhat narrow market, as the product will surely be large and resource hungry, so not appropriate for use in low-cost devices. Microsoft has however had some success in deploying NT-based EPOS systems, the general idea being that these integrate into NT-based corporate 'digital nervous systems'. So despite brave talk about potential markets, we're probably really talking about a rev of NT that will go onto heavily locked-down and ruggedised EPOS and commercial/industrial workstations. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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Microsoft, Qualcomm to challenge mobile phone outfits

Microsoft and Qualcomm are to form a joint venture wireless data operation next week, according to US reports. The ostensible aim of the company, which will be independent of the two founders, will be to promote wireless and computing convergence, but it will inevitably be seen as a vehicle for the pair to recoup lost ground in the cellular market. Microsoft has fought hard to get CE adopted by mobile phone companies, but has been largely unsuccessful, and earlier this year saw the formation of Symbian, the Psion, Nokia Ericsson and Motorola joint venture that intends to define standards for communicators and smart phones. Qualcomm meanwhile is largely unloved by the mobile phone old guard, and could use some backing if it's to avoid terminal isolation. As practically everybody hates the principals, you could call it a marriage made in hell. But it may make some sense. Qualcomm has recruited a fair old gaggle of supporters internationally for CDMA, and the supporters expected to jump on board the venture next week can be expected to include these. CDMA is (and Qualcomm keeps telling us) and appropriate platform for third generation broadband wireless data, and while it's been difficult so far for Qualcomm and its friends to get it accepted, the appearance of a combination Microsoft-Qualcomm CE-CDMA platform or reference design could give it a hefty shove. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
The Register breaking news

Diamond to add Liquid Audio to Rio

Diamond Multimedia and Internet music specialist Liquid Audio have agreed to work together to promote "secure downloadable music" to the mainstream. In essence, the deal is all about incorporating Liquid Audio's music encryption technology into Diamond's Rio digital music player. Both companies are portraying the agreement as a way of extendeding the range of formats the device supports, but it actually represents a major change of mind on Diamond's part. As reported previously by The Register, Diamond found itself in a whole heap of trouble with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which objected to Rio's use of the MP3 digital audio standard and the scope it provides for the mass illegal copying of copyright music tracks. For the time being Diamond has been permitted to sell Rio (see Diamond wins right to ship Rio music player). However, the RIAA remains hostile to Rio and is continuing its attempts to get the device changed to bring it into line with US copyright protection law. Diamond's move on Monday to form the MP3 Association (see Diamond forms MP3 lobby body), a body tasked with promoting MP3 as a valid foundation for a digital music market, seemed to suggest the company was set to clash with the music industry again, but the Liquid Audio deal changes that. Liquid Audio's system provides for tightly encrypted downloadable music tracks which can only be played on the user's personalised software. It also provides a robust royalty payment mechanism. In short, it does exactly what the RIAA would like Rio to do: ensure the industry gets paid and make illegal duplication practically impossible. So by adding Liquid Audio technology to Rio, Diamond is effectively saying the RIAA was right after all, and it will now be a good boy. Presumably the company hopes that will keep it safe from future costly legal action -- even with the backing of its fellow MP3 Association members, Diamond doesn't possess a fraction of the resources the music industry can bring to bear. However, Diamond hasn't yet gone so far as to abandon support for MP3, so the RIAA's opposition to Rio continues, said a spokesman. But it's not hard to foresee the company de-emphasising the MP3 side of Rio, though whether the rest of the MP3 Association, most of whose members sell MP3-encoded music, will be quite so keen on the plan remains to be seen. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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Web security wholly inadequate, company claims

Mark Fabro, head of the professional services division of Secure Computing, said that companies were woefully ignorant about security, not only with the Internet, but at every level, including operating systems. The company numbers intelligence agencies and other blue chip firms as its clients. "Web servers across the world are currently being compromised and you only ever see two per cent of the problem," said Fabro. Large companies, military organisations and banks moved swiftly to cover up such breaches, he claimed. And the problem also applies to operating systems too, he said. "NT can be made secure but not clean out of the box," he said. "Modifications must be made." But the problems applied to all operating systems. "Linux is as bad as NT but in different ways," he claimed. He said that current firewall solutions which did not use "hardened kernels" were fundamentally insecure. "You have to take an OS, get a licence for the code, manipulate it and re-write it, ripping out everything you don't need," he said. The company has just opened a UK wing of its services division. ® Click here for more security breaches Click for story index
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Liquid Audio, Adaptec unveil Net-to-CD music pact

Adaptec and Liquid Audio have agreed to cooperate on the integration of the latter's music encoding system into the former's CD burning tools, Toast and Easy CD Creator, to allow users to download music tracks and save them on audio CD. The deal mirrors a similar agreement announced between Liquid Audio and Diamond Multimedia (see Diamond to add Liquid Audio to Rio). According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the Internet will account for around 15 per cent of music sales and be worth some $2 billion. That growth will trail the increasing availability of CD-R drives and consumer-oriented CD recorders. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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4 November 1998: DRAM prices

Prices kindly supplied by Dane-Elec Click here for more stories
A staffer, 04 1998
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CAP proposes stamp of approval for Web advertising

The advertising industry's self-regulation organisation, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is proposing a scheme to ensure UK Internet advertising is, in the words of the law, "legal, decent, honest and truthful". The CAP's plan is to institute a kind of kite-mark for banner ads, used to indicate those companies whose advertising has follows the CAP's code of practice and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rulings. Complaints against Web advertising would be investigated by the ASA, with the possibility that persistent offenders would be ejected from the scheme and be prevented from advertising on sites hosted by members of ISP bodies such as the London Internet Exchange (Linx) and the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA). Ultimately, persistent or deliberately misleading advertisers would be referred to the Office of Fair Trading for legal action under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988. The CAP is inviting consumer organisations, the advertising industry and interested parties to comment on its proposals, published on its Web site. "Statutory control of the Internet is virtually impossible, but the Net lends itself well to a system of self-regulation and consumers can have confidence in the advertising they respond to on the site if it is seen to be legal, decent, honest and truthful," ASA Director General Matti Alderson says on the organisation's Web site. The CAP's proposed scheme makes that idea a reality, said an ASA spokesman. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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NTT takes law into own hands over NEC allegations

Asia's economic woes may be responsible for a new wave of bizarre business ethics after Japan's largest phone company said it is going to cut its orders to NEC after it emerged that the latter deliberately overcharged the country’s Defense Agency. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT) wouldn't say by how much it would penalise NEC for it alleged faux pas but revealed that it could be enough to "hurt NEC’s business". NEC –- which supplies radar systems and other equipment to the military -- was slammed earlier this year overcharging the Defense Agency by Y2.4 million, then conspiring to minimise the refund by offering job to retiring agency officials. Several NEC and DA operatives were indicted over the affair, which also prompted the resignation of NEC's chairman. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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Yahoo! climbs into bed with BT

BT and Yahoo! are flexing their corporate muscles in the ISP marketplace to create pay-as-you-go access to the net via Yahoo!’s UK’s web site. With no monthly subscription or registration process, users of Yahoo! Click will simply be charged a penny a minute above their normal phone tariff for net access. The fee is added to their BT bill -- just like the telecom giant's existing Click scheme. Simplicity is being touted as one of the key reasons why some of the UK's 5.9 million web users will drop their existing ISPs in favour of this new service, although the comfort factor associated with dealing with two well-known brands is also likely to be just as attractive Fabiola Arredondo, Yahoo! Europe's managing director, said the new service offered value for money. However, the numbers simply don’t add up for anyone who uses the Net for more than ten or twelve hours a month. BT also confirmed that it was in talks with other companies to offer similar joint-branded Click services, but BT's director of internet and multimedia services, John Swingewood, refused to give any more details. The service will be available from the Yahoo! UK & Ireland web site from 30 November. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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ICM Computer Group makes ‘healthy gains’

ICM Computer Group plc is quietly confident about its financial progress over the past year and expects to increase its market share as it strengthens its contract client base, according to chairman George Hayter. Speaking at the company’s first AGM since it floated on the Official List in May 1998, Hayter said the company had performed well and had a good formula in place for continued growth. Hayter also confirmed that there had been a ‘high level of interest’ in the company’s new disaster recovery centre in Manchester, which is due to open at the end of the month. ®
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OMG objects to Linux

A press release issued by the Object Management Group (OMG) was described today by a source close to the group as a farrago. The release, headlined "Corba on Linux gains momentum", was "stupid and senseless", the source said. "Linux is freeware while Corba costs money," she said. "This is silly, just plain silly. Linux is the software equivalent of Viagra and raises false expectations." According to the OMG release, more and more of its members have requested support for Linux. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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Mita executives busted

A further twist in the ongoing saga of photocopier company Mita came yesterday when three senior executives were arrested in Japan. Yoshihiro Mita, the president of the bankrupt firm and two of his senior executives were arrested on suspicious of paying ¥872 million in illegal dividends. But the arrests are unlikely to interfere with Kyocera's plans to take over the company. Japanese courts have cleared the acquisition, a representative at Kyocera said. On the 19 August, Kyocera's president, Kensuke Ito, said his company would bale out Mita. The two companies had a joint venture in which Kyocera would manufacture the laser engine for the machines. ® Related Stories Kyocera white knight comes to Mita's aid Kyocera investigators move in Click for more stories Click for story index
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Siemens prepares to rid itself of semiconductor business

In a bid to pre-empt leaks -- "Our experience has shown we can't keep such things secret," said president and CEO Heinrich Pierer -- Siemens today announced its fiscal 1998 results and revealed details of its plan for sustainable growth. Central to the strategy is the company's withdrawal from the components business. The key section of Siemens' Components division, its semiconductors operation, will be listed on the stock market. Pierer claimed the motive behind the move was nothing to do with the Semiconductors division's earnings -- some areas, he said, including power semiconductors, high-frequency ICs and chipcard ICs continued to be strong and contribute to the company's bottom line. "The primary reason is the high demand for capital, which we can no longer satisfy alone over the long term," he said. "The semiconductor business is marked by high, yet unsteady growth with huge fluctuations in earnings. This has a major impact on the company's overall results." The IPO, he added, would "open up new entrepreneurial opportunities" within the company and make the business well suited for "partnerships or mergers". The company will also seek the best way to divest itself of its Passive Components and Electron Tubes section, said Pierer, probably by selling it to Matsushita. These moves, plus changes to Siemens' industrial operations, represent the sale of around DM17 million, one-seventh of Siemens' worldwide total revenue, or as Pierer put it, 60,000 employees. It's not clear whether this includes the jobs cut as part of the closure of the company's Tyneside fab. However, he showed some confusion over where these jobs will go. "This does not mean 60,000 jobs will be lost. On the contrary, these jobs will have a far better long-term perspective in a different constellation," he said ungrammatically. We naturally expect news of a merger with the people of Betelgeux, one of the major stars in Orion, real soon now... Siemens' 1998 results showed profits rise just two per cent to DM2.66 billion. However, despite the sale of the company's Defence Electronics group, restructuring charges brought that down to a loss of DM1.74 billion. Orders rose six per cent during the year to DM119.6 billion, while sales grew by ten per cent to DM117.8 billion. The Semiconductor operation was highlighted for its negative contribution to Siemens results -- it lost DM1.2 billion compared to a profit of Dm109 million last year. Siemens Nixdorf saw a "light decline" in earnings thanks to "massive pressure on prices in the entire industry". ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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NEC admits it delayed Sega Dreamcast

NEC has responded to Sega's complaints that the company was responsible for significant delays to the manufacturer's forthcoming next-generation console, Dreamcast. The company responded to an email from an investor in Videologic with an admission that it was indeed to blame. "We had some trouble modifying the PowerVR 2 [graphics chip] for the Sega machine, which led to the delay of the total development schedule of the new chip," said Hajime Kinoshita, an NEC investor relations manager. "For that reason, NEC's shipment of the new chips to Sega is behind schedule." The PowerVR 2 was developed by Videologic, hence the investor's concern. Kinoshita pledged that NEC was "making every effort" to ramp up chip production and thus minimise the effect the delay has had on Dreamcast shipments. Sega originally complained that its goal of one million shipments of the new console by December had to be revised to Spring 1999. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
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AMD executives parade round in flowerpots

At VNU's prestigious PC Dealer awards we were not a little perturbed to recognise AMD spin doctors wandering around with flowerpots covering their heads. Can anyone explain this one to us?