5th > November > 1998 Archive
The curious death of Apple's next-generation Rhapsody OS is likely to be one of the less-noticed sideshows of the Microsoft trial. The software is the reason Steve Jobs is running Apple today, and while Apple hasn't actually said flat-out that it's no more, its demise seems to have been one of the things Avie Tevanian and Microsoft's attorney were arguing about yesterday. Tevanian claims in his testimony, which was made public last week, that Apple had "embarked on an ambitious campaign to convince... ISVs to adapt their programs to make use of Apple's new APIs for Rhapsody". But "developers, including Microsoft, told Apple that they were concerned that Apple would not be able to obtain a critical mass of application programs written to work with the new Rhapsody APIs and that customers, accordingly, would not buy computers containing the new operating system. "Apple eventually concluded that it would be unable to convince a sufficient number of ISVs to develop applications for the new APIs. Most professional developers are simply unwilling to develop application programs for a new platform in a world dominated by Microsoft's Windows operating system. Thus, Apple abandoned its plans to introduce Rhapsody as a new operating system." But shall we be Microsoft attorneys for the moment? Good ones, that is, rather than the ones the company's got? Rhapsody, as announced in January 1997, was to consist of NeXT OpenStep-based APIs, a MacOS compatibility module and a Java virtual machine. The premier release had been due at the beginning of this year; the unified one, with Mac compatibility on board, by now. As regards those APIs Apple couldn't get developers to support, these are of course APIs that NeXT couldn't get developers to support. Avie knows this. Avie worked for NeXT before he followed Steve to Apple. The Mac compatibility module was there because Apple always knew this, and ex-IBMer Ellen Hancock, who did the initial Rhapsody announcement before she got Steved, certainly knew this from experience of OS/2 and Taligent. The theory of this school of OS development has not so far worked in practice, but it says you allow users to run their existing apps while making it possible for a whole new generation of compelling apps to take over in the long run. Tevanian knows this too -- OpenStep was never about getting Microsoft to port Office to it. And Apple's failure to get ISVs to port to Rhapsody was predictable, seeing that during the period it was allegedly trying it was also desperately trying to stop developers jumping ship from the Mac to Windows. Microsoft was not, of course, directly responsible for this. It may or may not have ultimate responsibility for where Apple found itself in 1997, but the developers were taking to the lifeboats of their own accord, and weren't about to buy even more of a minority OS from Apple. Now, about Apple abandoning "its plans to introduce Rhapsody as a new operating system" (note the phrasing). When did it actually do this? When the company announced its new OS strategy on 11 May 1998 it roadmapped MacOS 8.5 for this year and MacOS X for next, and it said: "Apple is paving the path to MacOS X with two important operating system software releases scheduled for 1998: MacOS 8.5 and Rhapsody." MacOS X was in some senses presented as an evolution of the Rhapsody strategy, and in another sense it did look like it was the death of that strategy. But there we have it, friends -- an Apple release of 11 May commits the company to the release of Rhapsody this year. So was this untrue at the time? If not, when was the decision to cancel it taken? Could we maybe think of this 'cancellation' as being represented by OpenStep (which Apple still has to support) going into 'maintenance' mode? (Note for non-IBMers -- maintenance means letting the poor saps who're stuck with it carry on using it, but making it progressively more difficult to do so). Looking at all of this, you could think that maybe strategic decisions at Apple under Jobs are being taken 'on the march', changed suddenly, and that history is being judiciously rewritten when necessary. With Rhapsody, Apple really abandoned an ambitious strategy it couldn't afford, and switched over to a cheaper 'back to basics' strategy instead. This was sensible, but it wasn't directly Microsoft's fault. Microsoft's attorney yesterday described Rhapsody as a "failed OS", but he could have made more of it. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
Readers have responded in fury and outrage to an article prompted by a senior source at the Object Management Group (OMG) claiming that Corba and Linux do not make happy bed partners.
Cisco posted profits of $559 million on revenues of $2.59 billion for its fiscal 1999 first quarter, yesterday. The figures show an increase in turnover of 38 per cent and a growth of 34 per cent in profitability on the company's results for the same period last year. Cisco warned that the first quarter profit was actually closer to $518 million, thanks to a one-time charge of $41 million as a write-off of in-process R&D acquired through Cisco's purchase of American Internet Corp. at the end of September. "We are pleased to report the 35th consecutive quarter of revenue and earnings growth," said Cisco's president and CEO John Chambers, without a trace of smuggness. He attributed his company's success to the increased acceptance of the Internet has a key role to play in business operations, and the growing demand for technologies that aid the convergence of voice and data communications. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Chip design software developer Cadence Design Systems is to axe 560 jobs and take a $36 million hit to its Q4 results, due next January, to pay for the losses, the company admitted. The cuts, which amount to 12 per cent of the Cadence's workforce throughout the world, are designed to reduce the company's cost structure by $8 million next quarter and a further $60 million in the next financial year. "The demand for our products and services is very strong," said Cadence president and CEO Jack Harding. "However, we have been dissatisfied with cost-effectiveness, particularly in the services business. This action improves our services margins and [will] streamline the company." Cadence's restructure follows its Q3 results, when it emerged that despite a 31 per cent increase in revenue to $308 million, the company's operational costs and expenses had increased by an even greater factor. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
When cornered, many animals counterattack, and so it was with Microsoft yesterday. Apple was the aggressor, and Microsoft squealed because the Mac maker was threatening to sue Microsoft for $1.2 billion over some patent issues. Avadis Tevanian, senior VP for software engineering at Apple, denied this, claiming that the $1.2 billion was just the value of Apple's patent portfolio. Microsoft spin doctor Mark Murray said if anyone was wielding a club, it was Apple not Microsoft. Although Apple's [possible] suit was groundless, "it could tie Microsoft up in legal knots for years". But how could that be? Surely any court would throw out a groundless claim? It seems as though there are revelations yet to come. Tevanian has a PhD in computer science -- his thesis being on the design of operating systems -- from Carnegie Mellon University, from whence cometh the Mach kernel. He was offered a job at Microsoft, but turned it down in favour of going to NeXT for nine years, where he was the primary architect for Steve Jobs. One abuse of the Windows monopoly being discussed in court is Tevanian's claim that Microsoft deliberately sabotaged Apple's code so that it would not run on Windows properly. Tevanian said that the incompatibilities that Microsoft introduced were not present in an earlier version of Internet Explorer, but were present in IE3 with Windows 95. Internal dissent at Apple was picked up by Microsoft, and Tim Schaaff, who worked for Tevanian, clouded the issue by saying in a deposition that he "didn't know what [to] think" as to whether Microsoft intentionally sabotaged QuickTime. Tevanian dismissed Schaaff's concerns by saying that they were not relevant because bugs in Microsoft code were Microsoft's responsibility. The reason for Microsoft's heavy breathing is that it sees Apple's QuickTime as not just an alternative to its own Netshow and Media Player, but the beginnings of an alternative platform that would work on Windows as well as in Windows-free zones. For a time, Apple thought the bugs were in its own code, but it became clear that this was not the case. Tevanian believes that his team should have been more aggressive about sorting out the problems caused to QuickTime by Microsoft but he did not think "they would get good answers". He had emailed Bill Gates, who arranged for a file format to be fixed quickly, but not the other problems. Microsoft decided to put up the aggressive Theodore Edelman as its attorney to cross-examine Tevanian. Some time was spent by Edelman gloating over Tevanian's corrected written testimony, but the reward was not worth the journey. Edelman's put-down came when he asked: "Don't you think the use of the word 'sabotage' is a bit of an exaggeration?" Tevanian snapped back: "It sounds fine to me." Edelman was unable to break Tevanian's testimony, but he did reduce the damage by getting him to admit that it was his personal opinion that Microsoft intentionally introduced incompatibility and misleading error messages (something Microsoft has allegedly done several times before, most notably with DR-DOS). One false error message in Windows 95 said that QuickTime could not be used to view video or listen to audio clips. Microsoft also made technical changes to cause QuickTime to fail in some circumstances, Tevanian claimed, and there was "solid evidence" to support this view, but it was not introduced yesterday. Tevanian also suggested that Microsoft had "a higher-order" strategy... "to disable or to prevent someone else from establishing a new platform" to threaten Windows, and that this "was a perfectly rational explanation" as to why Microsoft would introduce a bug. Unfortunately, Tevanian did not substantiate this claim. The key area being examined yesterday was whether QuickTime encountered ordinary bugs with Microsoft software, or whether Microsoft deliberately sabotaged the running of QuickTime by including code to create problems. Tevanian was asked whether he had any personal knowledge of Microsoft's motivations, and replied: "What other goal could there have been except to injure QuickTime in favour of Microsoft technologies?" However, he did not have any hard evidence on hand, it seemed. Unfortunately, Apple does not seem to have reverse-engineered the Microsoft code to prove what was happening. It did not help Apple that it would not sign a NDA with Microsoft (based on advice from Apple's legal department, because it could have inhibited the development of future products) and therefore Apple did not get betas of Microsoft's MediaPlayer, for example. Tevanian did give as his opinion that he had "a problem with [Microsoft] using [the threat to withdraw Microsoft Office for the Mac] to get us to do things we didn't want to do. It was a matter of using extreme power in the market to affect the terms of another business deal". Microsoft decided to liven up the afternoon with a demo of how easy it was to move from IE to Navigator. The demo worked for once, but Judge Jackson appeared to form the view, after looking at the complex instructions, that it was not easy to do this, and the demo ended up having the opposite effect to what Microsoft wanted. Legally speaking, the DoJ must show beyond doubt that Microsoft had a monopoly and had the intent to abuse it on a systematic basis. It is too early to assess whether the DoJ has the evidence, but Microsoft's adamant refusal to admit to a monopoly flies in the face of marketshare data and is clearly unsustainable. It therefore looks as though Microsoft is denying it has a monopoly as a last ditch defence, to drag things out as much as possible. The evidence that Microsoft has abused its Windows monopoly is getting stronger day by day. The DoJ is also trying to establish that Rhapsody, Apple's intended next-generation OS, failed because of Microsoft's market power: developers are not attracted to a platform that becomes largely over-shadowed by Windows. It looks as though Tevanian may be assisting Microsoft with its enquiries for a few days yet: Microsoft seems determined to ensure that the trial gets as boring as possible (and off the front pages), but it need not fear: each day brings new revelations about Microsoft's business practices. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
Having largely failed to convert Mac users to its OS, Be is now targetting the Wintel world with its next major BeOS release, version 4.0. The new version, due to ship early in December, also marks the first iteration of the OS that's ready for widespread usage, the company said. Previous releases were essentially oriented toward software developers and businesses keen to evaluate the OS' capabilities. BeOS 4.0 supports a wide range of hardware, including dual-processor Intel-based boxes, plus plug-and-play peripherals and add-ins. The OS will now support SCSI devices, colour printers and boasts compatibility with AVI and QuickTime video formats. USB support, however, has been relegated to a later upgrade due in the first quarter of 1999. As you can see from the OS' hardware support, Be is clearly aiming at the emerging Intel-based workstation business. The theory runs something like this: as multimedia begins to be incorporated into more applications, more users will want to do multimedia development work, and here Be reckons it can offer better performance at a lower cost that Windows. BeOS is an impressive system, thanks to its ground-up development, object-oriented design and database-based file system. However, there are some major rocks on its road to success. As an alternative OS, BeOS immediately runs up against Linux and all the support it has from users and, at least as far as verbal commitments go, some big software players. But Be isn't trying to beat Windows head on -- which is largely what Linux seems to be about -- so that's not too big an issue. Of greater concern is just who wants a separate OS for multimedia work? Arguably, the only ones who do are already using one. It's called Macintosh. True, BeOS' dual boot facility allows users to run Windows for mainstream stuff and BeOS for multimedia work, but how many people really want to be constantly restarting their machines everytime they want to swap apps? Speaking of apps, even Be admits there are only around 70 "really serious" developers working with its software. And while its not hard to imagine multimedia software specialists like Adobe and Macromedia knocking up BeOS apps in their labs, they're unlikely to release anything until they're sure there's a good base of users -- and that's what BeOS 4.0 really has to deliver. But since, generally speaking, the only users keen on installing completely new operating systems are hobbyists, we're back up against Linux. Perhaps Be's one shot at success was trying to get Apple to buy it. It failed then, and it's hard to see it succeeding now. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
The cutthroat German PC market has claimed another prominent victim, in the form of system builder Schadt ComputerTechnik. The company was presented with a bankruptcy petition on October 28. Based in Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart, Schadt turns over more than £100 million a year, and sells its PCs in more than 70 retail outlets throughout Germany. The company sells under Proline and Topline brands. The company is named after its founder and MD Karl-Heinz Schadt and employs 780 staff, according to Dun & Bradstreet. Germany is Europe's biggest and most competitive market. Unusually, indigenous brands dominate the market--Compaq for example ranks only tenth biggest PC supplier in the country. But German PC vendors have never been noted for their profitability. Siemens, Germany's biggest manufacturer, is looking to offload its Augsburg PC plant( capable of producing 1.4 million PCs a year). And loss-making Munich-based Vobis AG, Germany's pioneer assembler/retailer is still up for sale after CHS Electronics Inc. recently pulled out of a $660-million deal to buy the company. ®
The US' largest independent record label, Platinum Entertainment, appeared to distance itself from the music industry majors yesterday, by backing the MPEG-based MP3 digital music format. But though the rest of the music business continues to regard MP3 with dread -- hence the massive legal campaign being waged by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against Diamond Multimedia over the latter's MP3-based Rio player -- Platinum's move may be more canny than it sounds. The big problem the industry has with MP3 is the ease with which files can be copied and distributed. That makes it ideal for mass piracy, and this is exactly what has happened. There are now thousands of illegal copies of copyright music ready for downloading from the Internet. "While other labels may still regard MP3 as a controversial format," said Platinum's president and CEO, Steve Devick, "we see it as a powerful promotional tool." The key word here is 'promotional'. Platinum's deal with MP3.com, a member of the newly announced MP3 Consortium (see Diamond forms MP3 lobby body), will see the Web site distribute tracks free of charge. The label's goal is to generate interest for its recordings among the huge MP3 userbase how will then go off and buy albums. It's essentially the Internet equivalent of Radio One -- people hear singles for free and then spend £16 on the album. The point is, Platinum hasn't committed itself to release all its music on MP3, only promo material. In essence it's bridging the gap between 'legitimate' online music formats, like Liquid Audio, Dolby's AC3 and RealNetworks' offering, and MP3 -- the software equivalent of Diamond's recent decision to embrace Liquid Audio for Rio (see Diamond to add Liquid Audio to Rio). While MP3 isn't going to go away, any more than home taping is, there's little that bodies like the RIAA can really do about the problem -- penalising Diamond and complaining about Platinum certainly isn't going to help. Platinum's approach may be the only realistic way music sales on the Net can progress. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
European PC sales grew by 23.4 per cent in the third quarter, but revenue only increased by 13 per cent, Dataquest reported yesterday as buyers made a beeline for low-cost machines. "It was a record quarter in terms of consumer market growth," said Dataquest analyst Philip Williams. "That's what was driving the market." In terms of vendors, Dataquest's numbers showed Compaq stay in the lead throughout the quarter with an above average increase in sales of 33.4 per cent. It ended the period with a marketshare of 17.4 per cent. Dell and IBM were joint second, both on 8.1 per cent. However, Dell saw a massive increase in sales, leaping ahead some 86 per cent; IBM's sales grew 31 per cent. Siemens and HP came in fourth and fifth, respectively, with 6.3 and 6.2 per cent of the market. Thanks to the iMac, Apple's sales grew 25 per cent, an increase experienced solely in the quarter's final month. So the company ended up with a 2.8 per cent marketshare, not enough to put it in the top ten. France was the leading territory -- sales there increased 34.6 per cent, compared to 28.3 per cent in the UK and 22.1 per cent in Germany, though in terms of unit shipments these countries appear in reverse order. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
The South Korean government is intensifying its efforts to push Hyundai and LG to a quick solution of their semiconductor stalemate. A bevy of senior officials met with the top five chaebols (conglomerates) yesterday in a bid to push through the reforms that the South Korean government had promised the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But the focus of the meeting between finance minister Lee Kyu-sung and the commissioner of South Korea's fair trade arbitrator, was Hyundai and LG. Reports in The Korea Times said that both the government and the banks were pushing Hyundai and LG to settle on a third party sooner rather than later. The failure of both of the concerns to come to an agreement, even over an arbitrator, is deeply embarrassing for the South Korean government. Perhaps more importantly, earlier this year the IMF said that it wanted a swift resolution of the debt problems. ® Click here for more stories
AMD has admitted that there are obstacles to its plans to use one of its single chips to allow home networking. The admission is an embarrassing climbdown for the chip company. As reported here earlier this year, plans that AMD, in collaboration with Tut software to introduce home networking technology have foundered on German prohibitions. It is not just Germany that is currently scuppering plans for the home networking market. Sweden, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium all have rules which would prevent the technology taking hold without adequate safeguards. As a joint survey between AMD and research company Inteco points out, nearly three and a half million households currently have Internet access. What is more embarrassing still for AMD is that it did not appear to have researched the regulations governing the European market before launching the scheme at the Networks Show in Birmingham in spring. Now AMD is saying in a Q&A that it is developing the necessary filter designs for the countries in question. However, it is unable to give a date for the introduction. ®
It’s been another busy month for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which has had to adjudicate in more than a dozen complaints concerning the computer and telecoms industry. Lancashire-based Granville Technology group – trading as Time Computer Systems Ltd – had its wrists slapped for misleading consumers in the national press about the interest-free credit options on one of its Time machines. And Springboard Internet Services Ltd in London also received a ticking off for suggesting that net users could get unlimited access to LineOne for the measly price of £4.95 in one of its mailshots. Elsewhere, the advertising watchdog decided not to uphold a complaint about a newspaper ad by the computer rental company MicroRent plc which was accused of being anti Semitic. Under the headline TAKE A LOOK – at the real cost of PC ownership, the ad showed a picture of four people with long noses wearing thick glasses. But the ASA said that they did not believe the image portrayed caricatures implying Jewish stereotypes and ruled that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. However, The Register thinks Mr Magoo-lookalikes would have a pretty strong case.®
Following hard on the heels of recent success in the courts against unscrupulous software pirates Novell is now letting its lawyers loose on a New York company accused of copyright infringement false advertising and dilution of trademarks, among other claims. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges that Computer Add-Ons reproduced and used Novell's trademarks and logos in violation of Novell's rights. The suit also alleges that Computer Add-Ons tampered with the packaging of Novell software to make it appear that upgrade software was original software and that the company then sold the tampered product to unsuspecting customers that were not eligible for upgrades. Novell was recently awarded $25.9 million damages by a court in Utah after reseller Network Trade Center (NTC) was found guilty of pirating its software. It was also recently awarded more than $800,000.00 by an Atlanta court in its case against Galactech, Inc. which was found guilty of selling counterfeit copies of Novell’s NetWare server operating system.
On the day that the English celebrate the hanging, drawing and subsequent quartering of a Catholic who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, French company Dane-Elec reported that prices of DRAM have consistently risen all week. That is encouraging news for the industry, particularly given the fact that German conglomerate Siemens yesterday withdrew from the memory market, as reported here. The price rises this week also reflect the fact that shipments of PCs are rising, which is encouraging news for the whole market. Prices kindly supplied by Dane-Elec Register fact number PC100. The English couplet goes: "Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot." If it hadn't been for a couple of vigilant rosbifs, it is conceivable that Guido Fawkes might have been hoist by his own petard, gunpowder being a tricky business in those days... Click here for more stories
Internet-related business is set to expand from last year's value of $4.5 billion to $43.6 billion by 2002, claims market researcher IDC in its Worldwide Internet and E-commerce Services Market and Trends Forecast. The key phrase is 'Internet-related'. IDC is counting the broader range of services and solutions, such as Internet strategy consultancy, application development, networking and data security specialists, support service providers and outsourcing companies. Outsourcing in particular is likely to become a key component of the Internet services market, said IDC. In the US, spending on outsourcing Internet operations leapt from $350 millio to $613 million in the last year alone -- by 2002, IDC reckons it will have reached $3.6 billion. That trend certainly chimes with vendors' strategies -- the major announcements of late from the likes of Netscape, IBM, Sun, Hewlett-Packard and others have focused on ISPs rather than user organisations. IDC identifies the shift of the Internet's business focus away from content to commerce as the driving force behind the growth of Internet services. As companies are catching on to that fact, "they are finding themselves strapped for the necessary resources", said IDC senior analyst for Internet services, Meredith McCarty. A separate IDC survey, The Global Market Forecast for Internet Usage and Commerce, predicts the amount of business conducted on the Net will reach $400 billion in the same timeframe. Over the period 1997-2002, the number of customers buying via the Web will grow from 18 million to over 128 million. But while the US will dominate growth in the Net services market, the rest of the world will provide the bulk of Web buyers, in particular Asia, IDC believes. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
The chief executive of UK distributor Datrontech said today that rumours it was going out of business were absolutely baseless. Its share price on the UK stock exchange stands at 30 pence today, compared to a high of £3.60 when it floated three years ago. Mark Mulford, who said his job is to convert Datrontech from an entrepreneurial startup business into its adolescent stage, said the reports were the "downside of a small capped stock". The company, which is likely to make £4 million profit for its whole financial year, had suffered from the fact that DRAMs, which it distributes, had "gone into freefall" last year. But Mulford said that vendors it distributed, including Compaq, Intel and HP had all suffered their own hiccups this year and relationships with these companies were all still good. "Datrontech is transitioning from an entrepreneurial company and the reason I'm here is to organise the change management," said Mulford. His company has grown its SME business while subsidiaries like Data Connectivity and Portable Addons remained highly profitable, said Mulford. "Share prices can go up as fast as they go down," said Mulford. "This is still a young sector of the market." Datrontech's share capital is thinly traded, with much of its stock still held by the group's founders. ® Click here for more stories Click for story index
Seagate has announced its latest Cheetah and Barracuda hard drives, which offer data capacities of up to 50GB and data transfer rates of up to 28MBps. The Cheetah 18LP and Cheetah 36 provide 18GB or 9GB and 36GB of storage, respectively. Both fit the 3.5in form factor, but the 18LP comes in slimline casing. Spining at 10,000rpm, both drives offer sustained data throughputs of up to 28MBps. The two new Cheetahs also feature Seagate's new Just in Time seek technology, designed to provide faster access with less noise and power consumption. The 7200rpm Barracuda family now includes the 18LP, 36 and 50 models focusing on capacity rather than raw data access performance. Like the Cheetahs, the Barracudas are available in 3.5in units. The three new models offer sustained data transfer rates of up to 25.7MBps. All seven models are available in either Ultra2 SCSI or fibre channel modes. Volume production of the Barracuda 18LP and 36 will begin in later this month -- the 50 is due to begin shipping in March 1999. The Cheetahs will become available a month before that. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Intel and IBM confirmed they were beefing up their joint security initiative and said they were pushing to promote the common data security architecture (CDSA) spec as an industry standard.
Avie Tevanian's determined defence of his assertion that Microsoft tried to strong-arm Apple into abandoning multimedia playback took a spicier turn today, as the subject of infanticide just kind of spilled out.