9th > November > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

A year ago: Slit One will be an integrated motherboard

Our friends at Infoworld repeat some speculation this weekend about a cut-down version of the PII appearing next year. We're mighty glad and flattered to have our friends over the pond read our stuff. But here at The Register we have a slightly different take on the now-famous Slit One technology, prompted by talking to both a pesky OEM with a particular "in" at Santa Clara and also a distributor, who will here remain unnamed. The US reports suggest that mighty Intel will dish out a version of the PII without the cache, thus making the whole package less like a waffle-toaster than it need be. This will make the whole lot cheaper, according to the US speculation. That isn't what our friend at the distributor tells us. Fully briefed by Intel on one of its famous roadmaps, he tells us that a Slit One like this is not on the horizon. Indeed, removing the cache RAM on a typical motherboard is only likely to result in a saving of between $7 and $12, he suggests. Our Santa Clara friend clarifies the position. It's well known that Intel wants the famous NetPC to succeed, given that it's a way of propagating its chips into realms so far un-reached. However, rather than go with the Socket 7 design for a new motherboard aimed at the NetPC market, instead Intel plans to create a baby-like motherboard with PIIs soldered firmly into the fabric of the thing, together with a stack of integrated other stuff including graphics and Ethernet support. That will then have, to use his words, "a bloody great heatsink" across the top of the babyish motherboard, to reduce the problems of not using the infamous Cartridge design. This will create a fabulous platform for Net PCs, according to Santa Clara because not only will it make the box much smaller but it will also cut out any opposition from other motherboard manufacturers. And while we're on the subject of cuts, here's the latest SP from our contacts in the industry. Intel will make almighty slashes in prices at the end of January on the PII, thus positioning the old Klamath design at the entry-level. The ceramic Pentium MMX chips will only have a limited life from that point with the 166MMX part disappearing sometime when the daffodils bloom on the ramparts of York, England. The next cuts will come at the end of March, but will not be nearly as great as the January ones.... Merry Christmas, then, to all those end users bamboozled, once again, into paying well over the odds for a technology that's going to be much cheaper three weeks after Rudolph goes back to Lapland... And in the meantime, between January and March/April, Intel will gently slide in the Deschutes technology as the next thing people are going to have to pay through the nose for. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Mike Magee, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Mid-year shipment for Windows 2K? Maybe…

Windows 2000 (aka NT 5.0) could ship as early as second quarter next year, if the timeline attached to a couple of promotional campaigns for the product is to be believed. Microsoft is due to kick these off next week at Comdex, and while that doesn't necessarily mean that Beta 3 by Thanksgiving will be achieved, it means it's close. For our non-US readers, incidentally, Thanksgiving is the weekend after Comdex. There are three programmes to be put into effect. A Windows 2000 Ready programme will be run in conjunction with PC manufacturers, whose mission, should they choose to accept it, will be to make sure their hardware is ready to run the new OS when it ships. Compare and contrast with the Windows 98 Unready programme Microsoft seemed to run prior to the launch of another product earlier this year. The other two are more interesting. The Business Ready Kit (BRK) is for the great unwashed, and is intended to encourage people to buy NT 4.0 machines that are ready to run Windows 2000. These people are not going to be encouraged to try to get onto the beta programme. The Corporate Preview Programme (CPP) is the one that tells us Microsoft thinks it has a shot at shipping Windows 2000 by May, and where the company is effectively juggling with razor blades. The CPP is aimed at a handful of Microsoft top customers, no more than a couple of thousand globally, and is intended to pull them into the evaluation process for Windows 2000 early. It was originally intended to kick off at the end of the summer as -- at least partially -- a NetWare 5 destabilisation campaign, but beta 3 slippage stopped that. Microsoft can't afford to have its major customers messing around with something that's embarrassingly unstable. Microsoft's plan for the CPP was therefore to get something that was viable enough to run networks on out to its key customers, allowing them to plan Windows 2000 deployments for six months or so down the line, and stopping them going wandering off investigating potential rivals. They're also supposed to be stroked a lot, so they feel they're part of an elite club, and that club's also supposed to be small enough for Microsoft to be able to really listen to what it says. A widespread beta wouldn't be viable, because the company couldn't do this, and would open itself up to criticism if (or when) smaller companies' key data started going south. It's not however absolutely certain that the current plan will work. The original Windows 2000 promo campaigns were put on ice at the last minute, when many of the execs involved were already tooling-up for them. More recent indications are that Microsoft has been thinking more in terms of Q3-Q4 for rollout. So has it been pulled forward again because things are looking better, because they've decided to pull some more features, because Bill's shouting, or because they're being hopelessly optimistic? On track record, probably all bar one of these is true. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
John Lettice, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

370-pin 366MHz Celeron to appear in January 1999

Sources close to Intel confirmed today that the first iteration of its 370-pin slot will appear at the very beginning of next year, as part of the chip giant's two pronged attack on its competition. But Intel is not -- as yet -- dropping its Slot One design for the Celeron, the sources confirmed. The first 370-pin device will appear in the first week of January at a 366MHz clock speed and with the Mendocino core and will be supported by a number of motherboard vendors, including Gigabyte. A distributor close to Intel's plans said: "370-pin is definitely going to be where the volume is. Gigabyte has gone predominantly 370-pin but that could easily change within the timeframe." He said that it was likely that Intel was taking advantage of the fact that other motherboard manufacturers, because of their material planning and supply of chip sets, were still making Slot One designs. It takes some board manufacturers three or four months to switch their plans, he said. The arrival of the 370-pin socket in volume made it far easier for Intel to differentiate its offerings into the budget, Pentium II midrange and Xeon categories. Intel refused to comment on pricing or other details of the launch in early January. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Nov 1998
5_pounds_sterling_money_cash_moolah

Compaq takes further direct step

Compaq will infuriate its channel in the middle of this week when it introduces a range of low-end desktop PCs sold to customers directly by its own sales staff. And the boxes may well be built by third parties, giving rise to fears of further job cuts at Compaq manufacturing plants worldwide.
Mike Magee, 09 Nov 1998
A cute cat in a jumper waves goodbye.... Pic via Shutterstock

Mulligan exits Datrontech

Martin Mulligan, Datrontech UK MD, has left the company after less than nine months in the job.
Drew Cullen, 09 Nov 1998
IBM logo

Big Blue gnaws at GnetFinity prices

IBM said today that it would slash prices on a large number of its NetFinity servers. That news comes only a few weeks after it said it was going to replicate its NetFinity Direct model in the UK, further antagonising its two tier distribution channel.
Mike Magee, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Memsolve bounces back after Customs raid

Memsolve, the Widnes-based components distie, is trading as usual, following a raid by HM Customs & Excise. Customs officials were joined by Intel and Microsoft representatives in the raiding party on 4 November. VAT-related paperwork, and a small quantity of CPUs -- "less than 20", according to Memsolve -- were taken away for further inspection. Chris Walmsely, Memsolve marketing director, said the company was an innocent victim. It had been drawn into Customs investigations concerning VAT fraud allegedly committed by a British-based supplier of Memsolve. Three weeks ago, Customs officials raided a computer parts supplier -- no longer trading -- in the North West of England. In the immediate aftermath of the raid, debt insurer Trade Indemnity withdrew new cover for Memsolve creditors. The decision was a kneejerk reaction and based on false rumours, according to Walmesley. "We have a strong positive cash flow and our bank is one hundred per cent behind us," he said. The company completed a record week of trading last week, even though it shut down on Wednesday (the day of the raid), he said. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Drew Cullen, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft probes UK hacks nervous systems

The Great Stan of Software has flown a heap of UK national journalists+dog over to Seattle. It's something to do with DNS and that stands for the Digital Nervous System....or is it just that its a charm offensive to give press favourable to Bill in the UK National Press?
Pan Demonium, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

LSA finds Utopia in UK

US-based Lilly Software Associates has bought out its UK reseller, Utopia Systems, for an undisclosed sum as part of its "orchestrated" move into the European market. The tie-up has come as no surprise to industry watchers since the Hertfordshire-based company only dealt with LSA products. What's more, LSA UK is already reaping the benefits of the arrangement and is already actively recruiting new staff as the parent company ploughs investment into its UK operation. "With this UK office, we're positioned to be a force in the European market," said LSA CEO Dick Lilly speaking publicly about the deal. The company is positioning the move as the last piece in the jigsaw in LSA's march into Europe. The first was to equip VISUAL Manufacturing, LSA's flagship ERP/APS software, to handle European currency and accounting practices. With revenues of £27 million, LSA is ranked just outside the top one hundred fastest growing companies in the US according to Inc Magazine. LSA produces VISUAL Manufacturing, a Windows-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), and Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) software package that manages total supply chain management. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Tim Richardson, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Bogus cheques used in computer fraud

A Brighton-based dealer has issued a warning for resellers to look out for bogus bankers drafts in connection with payment for components. Twin Computer Systems said it has been approached several times during the last eight months by buyers looking to purchase hard drives and Intel Pentium II 400MHz CPUs. On two occasions when orders where confirmed, bankers drafts bearing the names of The Wellcome Trust ltd and Trance Europe Ltd, worth around £10,000, were found to be stolen. The orders were not fulfilled and Twin informed the police. "We have received copies of some very respectable company cheques which have been tampered with," said Jeremy Pendry, MD of Twin. "I personally feel it to be my duty to inform people of this," he said. Derbyshire Fraud Squad confirmed that a number of people have been arrested and released on police bail in connection with obtaining computer equipment by deception. No one has been charged with the offence and police have said they are continuing their investigations. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Tim Richardson, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Valley reckons Microsoft case won't change The Beast

What does Silicon Valley think about the Microsoft case? Well, the San Jose Mercury News' poll shows that most (52 per cent of 3241 respondents) think that the lawsuit will encourage fair competition. As to whether it would fundamentally change the way Microsoft does business, 42 per cent thought not, although 25 per cent were unsure. In Boston, Microsoft has to wait for the outcome of its appeal against US district court Judge Richard Stearns' decision not to allow it to have access to the taped interviews of Netscape execs during the preparation of a book by David Yoffie and Michael Cusumano. This could take weeks -- there are fundamental issues of privilege, and with Harvard and MIT picking up the legal bills, the case could end in the supreme court if Microsoft wins, which tends to make appellate judges very cautious and hence slow. This action against Harvard must be a bit embarrassing for Microsoft president Steve Ballmer, who is a regent of Harvard. Bill Gates is still an undergraduate, of course. A little-noted incident last week is rather amusing. Apple VP Avie Tevanian was asked to read a complex Netscape document about DLLs handed to him by Microsoft attorney Theodore Edelman. The judge ordered a recess to give him some time, but on returning to court, Tevanian said he saw nothing meaningful in it. Edelman, who had increasingly upset Judge Jackson, suggested that Tevanian should study it over the weekend. The judge noted that Dr Tevanian "may have other things to do this weekend". It was an indicative moment. Microsoft was highly embarrassed by correspondence with Compaq showing that Microsoft threatened in June 1996 that it would cancel Compaq's Windows 95 licence unless Compaq agreed to restore the Internet Explorer icon on the desktop. At the time, Compaq preferred Navigator. Stephen Decker, Compaq's director of software procurement, explained last October in his testimony for the contempt case how Compaq had dutifully restored the IE icon to the desktop after Microsoft's threat. Now Microsoft has put on its Web site extracts from Decker's videotaped deposition in which he dutifully "refuted" part of the testimony by Tevanian. The appearance of this deposition on Microsoft's site is indicative of the extent to which Compaq is beholden to Microsoft. Mark Murray, Microsoft's spokesman, said after the hearing was adjourned last week that "there is no evidence that Microsoft, in any way, sabotaged QuickTime". This is not, we note, the same as saying "Microsoft did not sabotage QuickTime". Professor William Kovacic of the George Washington School of Law noted on Friday that if a policeman pulls you over and says you're driving at 75 miles per hour in a 55 zone, it's not a defence to say that "everyone else was doing it". Microsoft is increasingly falling back on this line of defence as documents undermine its denials. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
Graham Lea, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

DoJ subpoenas Gates' former girlfriend over Vobis

Stefanie Reichel, a former Microsoft manager who, according to Wendy Goldman Rohm's book The Microsoft File was once Bill Gates' girlfriend (and then Microsoft general counsel Bill Neukom's), made a deposition in the Caldera versus Microsoft case which is wending its way through the Salt Lake City district court. The DoJ has now confirmed that it has subpoenaed the tapes because it is interested in emails that appear to have been deliberately destroyed because they contained incriminating evidence about Microsoft's dealings with Vobis, and Microsoft's efforts to "persuade" Vobis to switch to MS-DOS from DR DOS. The DoJ has said that it is unlikely that Reichel would be called as a witness, but the deposition could give evidence that Microsoft had tried to obstruct justice, or give supporting evidence that Microsoft had used anti-competitive measures, so increasing the evidence of a general pattern of illegal practices. Charles Rule, a legal consultant to Microsoft, complained that the issue wasn't in the original Complaint [in May], but as the information only came to light recently, and it is said to contain the allegation that Microsoft destroyed incriminating evidence, this is unlikely to result in its being excluded by the judge. According to the Los Angeles Times, Reichel is an "unco-operative witness" in the Caldera case, and has hired a prominent LA lawyer to help her resist the DoJ's attempts to get her co-operation. Who could be guaranteeing her legal bills we wonder? Reichel was born in Germany and now works in marketing for the Americas Cup team. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
Graham Lea, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel to testify in Microsoft case today

A key tenet of Microsoft's defence will be an argument that it benefited consumers with its various practices. This appears to be rather hard to do, as there are few cases where there remains a competitor after Microsoft has cast its shadow over some software area that it wishes to enter. It would be hard for Microsoft to succeed in making in court the case that spokesman Mark Murray has been making on the courthouse steps -- that the DoJ brought the case to "benefit Microsoft's competitors". A problem for Microsoft is that the cost of Windows has been increasing while for just about all other software categories costs have been decreasing. There is a possibility that the case, if appealed, would go straight to the supreme court and avoid the court of appeals. A district court judge has the power to certify a case in this way if it is "of general public importance in the administration of justice". If and when this might take place is a matter of considerable conjecture, but as Microsoft now seems unlikely to capitulate during the present hearing, an appeal is very likely in the event that Microsoft loses this round. There is now much more awareness that decisions need to be made sufficiently quickly if they are to have any effect, but the courts still move too slowly for anything but a radical solution to be effective. Should Jackson find for the DoJ, there would still be a hearing to determine the remedies, which could take many months. Certainly Microsoft would like the case to go on for as long as possible, since the issues become less and less relevant with the passing of time, as happened in the last IBM antitrust case which was abandoned in 1982. It should be remembered that although Microsoft lawyers are getting most of the court time at the moment during the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses (because most direct testimony is being presented in written form), this will reverse itself when Microsoft starts its defence. This afternoon should see Steven McGready of Intel giving his testimony. He was the only DoJ witness who refused to give written testimony in advance, to speed up proceedings. The reason for this is not certain, but Intel is trying to be seen as being neutral, so it will just answer the questions posed in court. However, since that decision was made, Intel has become bolder and crossed Microsoft three times, at least: by continuing to work with RealNetworks; by taking a stake in Red Hat; and in supporting Unix. One of the topics that will be probed is native signal processing, which Intel wanted in its processors and Microsoft in its software. Andy Grove put it bluntly: "We just caved." ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
Graham Lea, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

LG, Hyundai desparate for European LCD partners

South Korean companies are desperately hunting for European companies to take over their LCD operations as they seek to escape heavy government penalties. Hyundai and LG Semicon, which both have LCD operations, are now under a geas from President Kim to sort out the problem which has prevented any chip merger. Both companies have until the 30 November to sort out their differences, which have so far fought off government attempts to arbitrate. Reports on Japanese and South Korean wires said today the divestment of their LCD operations might be the key. LG had pointed to a European company as holding the key. But Bob Raikes, a senior analyst at Meko, said: "Who would it be? Siemens? Or Philips? I don't think so." But a source close to the South Korean government told The Register today that their efforts to divest their LCD businesses was "too little and too late". Both LG Semicon and Hyundai Electronics declined to comment. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Mike Magee, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Compaq coy about selling servers direct

Compaq claimed today it would not follow IBM down the route of selling servers direct. That followed an ambiguous statement from Compaq earlier today that it would not say until Wednesday what its direct desktop PC strategy is. That will largely be a direct route. Graham Stewart, product marketing manager for Intel-based servers at Compaq UK, said in response to IBM's NetFinity price cuts across the board: "This is a belated attempt by IBM to catch up with us. We made our price cuts on servers last week." The price cuts, largely unreported in the worldwide press, were close to the cuts IBM made today, said Stewart. But, said Stewart, Compaq had no plans to sell Proliants through the direct channel. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Mike Magee, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

IBM slashes LCD and CRT monitor prices

The biggest computer company in the world has admitted that it is selling LCD monitors to its customers at below cost. The company issued a correction to a release it issued earlier today saying that it was keeping prices buoyant. IBM said it had a fresh 18in display at a breakthrough price. It also has 21in models available, at a price. The original statement gave mixed signals to the channel, with its T85A model priced at $2999. The T85D model was priced at $2849. The release IBM issued earlier today seemed to suggest the company was selling the LCDs and TFTs direct. The later release attempted to correct that. But the really strange thing is that the correction repeated the original mistake. Now what is IBM up to, we wonder? ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Mike Magee, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft launches SQL Server 7.0 in middle of US trial

Microsoft will tomorrow make a major push into the business market when it introduces SQL Server. It has many partners in the launch, including Compaq and Silvon. It is also organising a vast series of seminars, some of them free, to publicise the event. Towards the end of last month, the company said that sales of SQL Server in its Q1 financial period were the highest ever in revenue terms, with sales rising by 26 per cent. SQL Server 7.0, when it is released, will be part of a coordinated push into the corporate market, as part of its BackOffice and NT Server strategy, the corporation said. It will take both Oracle and IBM-Lotus head on. Greg Maffei, Microsoft’s CFO, said when his company announced its Q1 that it is continuing to gain market share against both these companies. BackOffice, and its different components such as SQL Server 7.0, were part of an integrated push to grow the market, Maffei said. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Mike Magee, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

SerCom lifts DCC's results

Irish conglomerate DCC plc today posted healthy interim results bolstered by the performance of its IT division DCC SerCom. The group showed an increase of 32.1 per cent in profit before goodwill amortisation and tax for the six months to September to IR£17.155 million based on a turnover of IR£367.706 million. DCC's largest division, DCC SerCom, notched up operating profit growth of 58.2 per cent from IR£3.818 million last year to IR£6.039 million. Turnover jumped 30.6 per cent from IR£110.062 million last year to IR£143.793 SerCom's computer hardware and software distribution business continued to do well generating excellent sales and profit growth, said DCC's CEO and deputy chairman, Jim Flavin. "We are especially pleased with the operating profit growth of 58 per cent in our largest division, DCC SerCom," he said. Tommy Breen, SerCom's MD, said that this was not a one-off and that the company had a record of strong growth over the last couple of years. He attributed much of the company's success to the growth in the PC and peripherals market as well as increasing its corporate customer base. On the strength of its interim results DCC plc is pay an interim dividend of IR£4.25p per share -- up 20.7 per cent on the IR£3.52 paid last year. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
Tim Richardson, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

New licensing service is Ideal

Ideal Hardware plc has launched a helpdesk to guide resellers through the minefield of software licensing. The helpdesk provides a dedicated registration service for software from Computer Associates, Network Associates and Seagate Software. Ideal says it plans to expand this number in the near future. Software licensing is big business for Ideal. The company is expected to turnover between £28 and £30 million in software this year, with 30 per cent of that from licensing. The helpdesk was set up in response to pressure from customers, said Jason Rabbetts, Solutions Business Unit director. "Licensing is often perceived to be an awkward process," he said. "Ideal aims to support resellers by ensuring the licensing process is as simple as possible." For more information telephone 0181 286 5018. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel aims Bluetooth efforts at ‘hidden computing’

Another aspect of Intel's networking strategy started to gain some flesh at the first Bluetooth conference in Atlanta earlier this month -- as one attendee, oblivious to the sinister implications, told The Register: "Intel is keen on hidden computing." Intel in fact seems to be pretty keen on all of the network aspects of Bluetooth, intended as a close proximity universal wireless connectivity standard, which are so far being ignored by the standard's mobile phone supporters. Bluetooth comes in as a sort of 'super-IRDA' that can connect devices automatically within a 10m range, and is roadmapped up from there. It's intended to be cheap, with component costs coming down to the $5 mark after a $100 launch late next year, and because it uses radio spectrum that is unlicensed and (largely) available worldwide, it's universal. That 'largely', incidentally, is a nod to Japan, France and Germany, where not all of the spectrum to be used for Bluetooth is available. The proponents aren't as yet sure how this will work, but there's an outside chance that a Western Bluetooth device arriving in Japanese airspace may accidentally shoot down F15s. Bluetooth is intended to be cheap enough to appear in all classes of devices, from computers through mobile phones and organisers to hi-fi and home entertainment systems. It seems to be weak in the latter category, because the consumer electronics outfits have plans of their own, but for the rest it has near-universal acceptance, notable hold-out being Microsoft, which hasn't joined, and hasn't given the project a yea or a nay. But if Bluetooth is universal, then you basically have a ubiquitous network infrastructure in homes and offices, just crying out for network software. Strangely, dealing with this does not seem to be an immediate priority to the companies devising Bluetooth (the founders were Nokia, Ericsson, Intel, IBM and Toshiba). The spec, which is currently at version 0.7, allows for things called piconets and scatternets, but they're not likely to come to the fore until phase three products, and even then there's no clear roadmap for how it will be done. The first phase products are likely to be cable/IRDA replacement systems, POTS data access adapters and things categorised as 'universal headsets.' At $100-plus per end, the cable replacement should garner few takers, but you could see it at $5. The headphones are just plain weird, and sound chillingly like the illogical conclusion of Nokia and Ericsson plans to take mobile telephony into consumer electronics. Reasoning that they need to sell more than one phone per person in order to keep growing, they're doing coloured phones, Swatch phones, limited edition phones... and they're casting envious glances at Sony. A Bluetooth headset will allow you to talk on your phone when it's in your bag, or listen to your Bluetooth hi-fi system. The Scandinavian duo must be reasoning that everybody bar one man thought the Sony Walkman was a stupid idea, and that nobody was going to wander round the streets listening to music. But truly, this is a stupid idea, and nobody bar the odd dork is going to wander the streets jabbering to themselves. The POTS data access adapter meanwhile looks like part of a solution in search of a problem. The 10m range is a killer, because if you envisage a single adapter somewhere in the home, there are going to be places where devices can't reach it. Bluetooth has the capability of stretching to 100m if you've got a higher powered unit at both ends, but that means repeaters and/or Bluetooth chains peppering buildings. DECT hasn't yet turned into a data standard, but adapters exist already, and its 300m range is a lot more comfortable. Its limitation compared to Bluetooth is that it is point to point, but the Bluetooth alternatives won't be out for over a year. DECT, of course, doesn't play in the US, but around half the delegates to Atlanta were European, and they seemed to be making a lot of the running. So what about the networking side? When Bluetooth devices are within range of one another, they'll exchange data and decide who's going to talk to who, and what they're going to say. A piconet is a small network of such linked devices (you can have up to seven connected at once), and a scatternet is a series of connected piconets. Arbitration here is to be carried out by the software, via something called Bluetooth Adviser which -- spookily -- Intel has volunteered to write. And hidden computing, that thing that Intel is so keen on? Well, you've got Bluetooth devices talking away to one another, sorting out your life and updating in the background, and there's no need for you to know what they're doing at all. It's all automatic. The reports from Atlanta indicate, as we say, that there's not a lot of general interest in this phase yet. The phone guys want to do phased product launches, something new (and no doubt horribly expensive) every year, so it's on the back burner. But not with Intel it's not. Intel is the company pushing hardest at the software end and, according to one delegate, "more and more Intel is coming up and saying 'we'll do drivers, we'll do layers for you'." What a kind company. We think maybe this little lot relates in some way to Intel's thin/embedded server plans, and that the Intel Ineverything strategy is starting to take form. ® Click for more stories Click for story index
John Lettice, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft fixes QuickTime, but says it didn't break it

In one of life's more bizarre coincidences, Microsoft today denied that it had deliberately broken Apple's QuickTime with Internet Explorer 4.0, said the problems Apple had were because of poor Apple programming and, er, posted a fix for the problem. "Apple's shoot-from-the-hip allegations and their decision to blame their own development mistakes on Microsoft in a court of law is not only wrong, but is harmful to the entire software industry, and more importantly it's harmful to our mutual customers," said Tod Nielsen, general manager of Microsoft's Developer Relations Group, who was not, we believe, saying this inside the court. But the text of Microsoft's post is rather more enlightening. "Mindcraft [which was involved in the fix] examined several cases where QuickTime multimedia plug-ins did not run as expected in Internet Explorer 4.0. The company discovered three root causes for the problems... Version 2.0.1 of Apple's QuickTime Plug-In fails to provide the resources, outlined in Netscape's instructions, that tell Internet Explorer that it can handle files with 'aifc', 'qt' or 'vfw' filename extensions..." A swift look at these "Netscape instructions" reveals that they're an unsupported guide to how you hack the Windows registry. As Apple software VP Avie Tevanian himself said in his testimony, Microsoft doesn't tell you how you do this, so it's revealing that Microsoft uses Netscape for the instructions. The instructions themselves, incidentally, were posted quite recently -- 24 April 1998. When was it Apple had the problem? Problem two is that IE "automatically gives precedence to ActiveX controls [such as ActiveMovie and WindowsMedia player] over plug-ins [such as the QuickTime Plug-In]. This can be overridden by use of the EnablePlugIn registry key, but Apple did not use this override key". Another one of those registry things, right? Tevanian makes the point that Microsoft is using the registry to police and restrict access, Microsoft seems to be confirming it. And for problem three, "Internet Explorer prompts the user either to play or to save audio files referenced using an HREF HTML tag in full-page mode. This means that, in some cases, audio files cannot be launched automatically. This is a feature of Internet Explorer, although users and installation programs can override it. Internet Explorer also gives precedence to ActiveX controls that support progressive download, although this can be overridden". So the Apple's poor programming problems seem to have stemmed from the company not doing workarounds for features introduced in IE 4.0. If they didn't know how to do this, Apple's developers must be very stupid people, right? Decide for yourself. Microsoft says: "Apple's developers wrote the QuickTime installation program incorrectly, ignoring specific directions provided by Netscape." These "instructions" can be found here -- again, judge for yourself. Oh, and Microsoft also says: "As in the Apple case now, RealNetworks created its own problem by incorrectly writing the installation program for its add-in media player, and then blamed it on Microsoft. RealNetworks has since admitted its error and corrected it." Not to our knowledge it hasn't. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
John Lettice, 09 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel writes lousy software, says Gates

Here's a puzzle. One of the long term Wintel buddies, Andy Grove of Intel, says Microsoft strongarmed him over Native Signal Processing and he caved. Another one, Bill Gates, says he never threatened Intel, and what's more Intel software stinks. Those of us who got the beta of Windows 1.0 will understand that Bill's something of an expert on low quality software, so we'll take notice of his video testimony this morning, which was deftly inserted by the DoJ prior to the Intel verbal testimony. Said Bill of Intel's programming: "We thought the quality of their work was very low as well as not working with any of our new Windows work... We may have suggested at some point that the net contribution of their software activities could even be viewed as a negative." The Register would refer the gentlepersons of the jury to any number of joint Wintel documents under the designation PC9x, point to whose hardware does cater for devices such as USB, and whose software has been somewhat deleterious in arriving so that people can actually use the things. Microsoft software -- scarce, but perfectly formed, we presume. Gates denies absolutely that he threatened Intel, while memos from Intel exec David McGeady say Gates wanted Intel's investments in the Internet stopped, and that at a meeting between Gates and Grove, Gates made threats about Intel support for non-Intel platforms. "Intel was wasting its money by writing low-quality software that created incompatibilities for users, and those negative experiences weren't helpful for any goal that Intel had," says Gates in his testimony. The "incompatibilities", however, seem to be schemes such as NSP which Microsoft did not cater for, and did not intend to cater for, in Windows. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
John Lettice, 09 Nov 1998