13th > November > 1998 Archive

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A year ago today: Those crazy Koreans

Just when Korea's electronics big three have been exercising themselves on how to deal with the difficulties caused by being in the DRAM market, Korea's number 22 company, Dongbu Group, proposes to spend $2 billion on a DRAM plant. In the long run, of course, we're all going to need memory, so there's money to be made out of having expertise in building it, but if you're in construction, steel, chemicals and want to get into the IT business, right now is surely not the time to choose DRAM as the first phase. And the Korean economy itself is currently in an - um - interesting state. Dongbu says it's getting the technology to produce 64 and 256 megabit DRAMs from IBM, which is also going to buy products and help it develop the next generations of technology. Production starts in 1999, and we're not sure whether Dongbu knows more about the DRAM market than we do, whether IBM knows more about the Korean economy than we do, or both. ®
The Register breaking news

Mud flies as Microsoft brief goes for Intel exec's throat

Relationships within the Wintel alliance have been much more hostile than had previously been realised, it emerged during the third day of Intel VP Steve McGeady's evidence. The most acrimonious cross-examination so far took place yesterday when Microsoft attorney Steve Holley of Sullivan & Cromwell tried to give McGeady a rough time in the witness box. At one point, Judge Jackson intervened and admonished Holley about one of his lines of questioning: "What is the point of this? What are you trying to demonstrate? Are you just trying to embarrass him?" The judge also wanted to know if McGeady was in the court "with the blessing of your CEO". McGeady replied that "blessing" would be too strong a word, and when the judge asked to what extent he was testifying for Intel, McGeady said "in some cases", although he admitted that his presence in the court did not help Intel's relationship with Microsoft. Holley has a distinguished history of shady and ungentlemanly behaviour during an earlier phase of the DoJ case against Microsoft, and we shall return to this later. Several contentious issues that arose today show that the pot was indeed calling the kettle black. Holley accused McGeady of insulting Andy Grove by calling him "Andy 'Mad Dog' Grove" in an email to James Clark, chairman of Netscape. However, Andy Grove has declared himself to be paranoid in his book Only the Paranoid Survive, so the remark to Clark is of little importance and cannot realistically be interpreted as being vindictive. McGeady discussed with Clark whether he should testify for the government, if asked. A video of Ron Whittier, McGeady's boss, noted that he (Whittier) had heard Microsoft executives claiming their policy was to "embrace and smother" competitors, which supported McGeady's testimony. Holley challenged McGeady about not having written down in his notes Maritz' remark that Microsoft should "extinguish Netscape's air supply" [ie. browser revenue]. McGeady said that there was no danger that he would have forgotten such a remark. Holley also accused McGeady "that he didn't add [the words 'embrace, extend, extinguish'] to [his] notes because you made them up later". (See also Intel exec made up quotes, says Microsoft attorney.) McGeady stood his ground: "This is absolutely untrue and I resent the implication." Holley tried to establish that McGeady was repeating the air-supply remark from something that Larry Ellison had said, which allowed McGeady to quip that "I haven't learned much from Larry" and then disclose that he [McGeady] had leaked the story to the New York Times, which published it in January this year. Holley produced an evaluation from Frank Gill, McGeady's then-boss, that accused McGeady of having "fucked things up" and suggesting that McGeady was a "prima donna". But it was after all Maritz who had noted that "unfortunately McGeady has more IQ than most [Intel people]". If this was apparent to Maritz from brief meetings with McGeady, it would have been even more apparent to the presumably lower-IQ execs at Intel, who may well have resented this young upstart. McGeady directed the software group of IAL, but had a leave of absence later in 1995 to do some research at MIT Media Labs. McGeady said that one reason for his sabbatical was that Microsoft had requested that he not be part of some joint Intel-Microsoft programmes. Holley tried to establish that this move was a result of "irresolvable difficulties" with his superiors, and produced notes from a meeting with Frank Gill, an Intel exec in which Gill complained of McGeady's "belligerence towards Microsoft". Holley took exception to McGeady having entitled one of his memoranda "Sympathy for the Devil". It turned out that McGeady had thought of the title because Microsoft had chosen the Rolling Stones song 'Start me up' to launch Windows 95 (and paid $4 million for the pleasure, although higher payments have been claimed): McGeady was just using the title of another Rolling Stones' song as a "literary allusion". To Holley's considerable embarrassment, he recited a verse: "If you meet me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy, have some taste. Use your well-earned politesse, or I'll lay your soul to waste." McGeady's explanations seemed to be logical enough, and certainly well within Microsoft's own rules of tough but fair play. But this is not the end of the story, which now requires some Register time warp. It was a matter of great embarrassment when Holley, who acted for Microsoft in the first antitrust case, was caught passing a document filed-under-seal to Linda Himelstein, then Business Week's legal editor, in September 1995. Although the document concerned another case, it emerged that Holley could be subject to contempt of court proceedings, and that his firm had lax procedures for handling confidential materials. It was revealed by Milo Geyelin in the Wall Street Journal [Law firm's gaffe over sealed records, 4 October 1995] that Holley contradicted testimony from Himelstein, with the result that a Business Week lawyer produced to a court records of some dozen conversations that Holley had had with Himelstein. It was there recorded, and thus came to public knowledge, that Holley had criticised an outfit worn by Anne Bingaman, the former DoJ head of antitrust, who had negotiated the consent decree with Microsoft. The notes also show Holley "making biting personal snipes about Ms Bingaman and saying that 'everyone on her professional staff thinks she's out of her mind'." To make matters worse, Holley was appointed to the New York City Bar Association's Committee on Professional and Judicial Ethics in 1992, but had hardly acted ethically himself. But that was not all. Holley, it seemed, had been a regular deep throat to Business Week during the Microsoft antitrust case. Sullivan & Cromwell apologised publicly, but the damage was done. It is most unwise of Microsoft to unleash an attorney whose own ethics are demonstrably wanting. David Boies, the DoJ's trial attorney, may himself be in a spot of personal trouble. He is being investigated by the Federal Election Commission for asking friends to donate $1,000 to a Democratic candidate, and then reimbursing some of these amounts subsequently, because they were potentially violations of campaign-finance law. Boies says he didn't reimburse anyone. The original complaint apparently came from opponents of Boies. Surely he has not been set up by some malevolent person or organisation? ® Complete Register trial coverage
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It's Comparex Holdings now, so mind your Ps and Qs

South Africa's largest channel company is changing its name from PQ Holdings (Persetel Q Data Holdings) to Comparex Holdings. The change will take place officially on November 16 and has been initiated to reflect the international flavour of the group's activities, the company said. PQ Holdings was created just over a year ago through the merger of Persetel and Q data. In 1996, Persetel acquired 40 per cent of Hitachi's European distributor Comparex Informationsysteme GmbH, until then owned totally by German chemicals giant BASF. In 1997, the company acquired majority positions in Telemation and Kryptokom (Germany), Comtech (Belgium and Luxembourg), Nomea (France) and Datelec (Switzerland). In 1998, PQ PQ Holdings acquired the European operations of US-based Anixter Communications Inc (ACI), adding further to its networking capabilities in Europe. ACI had operation in the UK, Holland, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Sweden. PQ Holdings also took control of Comparex by increasing its stake from 40 per cent to 75 per cent It's this that has enabled the company to fall behind the Comparex brand, the company said. Comparex Holdings will receive secondary listing on the London and Frankfurt stock exchanges next year. ®
The Register breaking news

Motherhood and Connect Pie

Hewlett-Packard can't seem to put a foot wrong when it comes to mothering its channel siblings, claims independent researcher IDC. It believes Connect -- H-P's umbrella channel marketing programme -- is one of best IT channel schemes in Europe and other similar schemes from competitors simply don't match the structure and organisation of H-P's investment. Brian Pearce, the author of H-P Connect -- H-P's Master plan For Branding the Channels, says the company is a perfect example of a manufacturer realising it must look after its channel partners. "I know it's nothing new," said Pearce, "but Connect should reduce confusion and make it simpler for the channel and customers." Great news for H-P's 65,000 resellers throughout Europe who can rest easy in the knowledge that from now on, they're going to be mollycoddled by the company. It's estimated that around 18,000 resellers in Europe will have signed up to Connect by the end of the year, which still leaves two thirds of the resellers still waiting to attach themselves to H-P's apron strings. Bless. ®
The Register breaking news

Lynx on the prowl

Lynx Holdings plc has posted strong preliminary results, despite the poor performance of its automotive systems business. Turnover was up by 50 per cent from £120.75 million to £180.75 million,sending pre-tax profits soaring 35 per cent from £9.8 million to £13.25 million. "These results demonstrate our ability to deliver sustained profits and earnings per share growth," said chief executive Richard Last, in his first statement as chairman. Contributions from the company's financial systems business were a highlight of this year's record performance. But the automotive systems business under-performed, failing to make much impact on profit. Lynx Tesoft, the company's automotive systems business in Spain, was the sole high point in this sector. It continued to dominate the market there, supporting no fewer than five of the country's top six motor manufacturers. Software and systems accounted for £60.86 million of the company's turnover, generating an operating profit of £8.11 million. Lynx's computer services division had another good year increasing turnover by 46 per cent to £124.57 million. The group has been active over the last year making a number of acquisitions including Globelle, Clifton Reed Training, Tenhill and Dataware. Earlier this month the company acquired High Wycombe-based computer and telephony integration company Exepos for £3.3 million. ®
The Register breaking news

Prism managers bid to take firm private

Managers at Enfield-based Prism Leisure plc have offered to buy back the company in a cash deal worth £6.25 million. The offer by Linkwell -- the vehicle created by Prism's management for the takeover -- is for 75 pence a share. Turnover has fallen from a high of £33.5 million two years ago to 31.1 million last year. Profit fell sharply last year to £830,000 from £2.7 million. The CD and computer games wholesaler is highly dependent on the Christmas trade. ®
The Register breaking news

EU complaint filed over BT-AT&T operation

AT&T's announcement earlier this week that it will be selling British Telecom Concert voice and data services to major US corporations has triggered a complaint to the EU. The two companies earlier this year announced a $10 billion joint venture in the same field, but this has yet to gain EU clearance. The European Commission won't reveal the source of the complaint, but it is likely to be Cable & Wireless. The complaint argues that the AT&T announcement represents the implementation of the proposed agreement before it has been approved -- the EU decision on this needn't be made until January. AT&T, a long-standing whinger in the halls of the Commission (sometimes about its new friend BT), denies that this week's deal has anything to do with the joint venture company, which it says has yet to be named. But this could be a tricky one to argue. The Concert services being offered are of course those which were previously sold by the BT-MCI Concert alliance. Having failed in its attempt to take over MCI, BT struck the joint venture deal with AT&T on the rebound. The joint venture intends to sell services to major multinationals in the same way that Concert, which is now a BT-only operation, did. BT Concert will provide a major component of the new -- definitely not going to be called Concert, no sir -- company. Worldcom got a jolly good smacking from the Commission before it was allowed to buy MCI, and if Brussels reckons AT&T is trying to pre-empt or circumvent its processes, the US giant could find itself seriously in the soup. ®
The Register breaking news

McGeady to Grove: goad Microsoft into provoking the DoJ

An intriguing email surfaced in yesterday’s court proceedings. In December 1996 Intel exec Steve ‘prima donna’ McGeady wrote to Andy ‘Mad Dog’ Grove: "Microsoft could be goaded into doing something really stupid and anticompetitive, finally enraging the apparently placid antitrust police." This could be – and was – represented by Microsoft’s attorney as evidence that McGeady had a serious axe to grind when it came to Microsoft. Outside the court the representatives of the saintly Mr Grove are still stressing that Intel is entirely neutral in the antitrust battle, and studiously turning a blind eye to the Intel loose cannon tussling with Microsoft inside. But saintly old Andy has himself said in the public prints that he “caved” to Microsoft over NSP, and while he hasn’t specified why, McGeady is making a fair stab at this for him. But why would McGeady have sent him such an email in 1996? You could take the Microsoft view that this is a crazy person badgering his boss with unhelpful suggestions. Or maybe you could look at the context. At Comdex the previous month Microsoft had rolled out Windows CE, its strategic operating systems for hand-held devices, and it used a range of rival processors, not Intel ones. It was clear at the time that Wintel was falling out big time, and the hastily-prepared release “adding” support for Intel (alongside Motorola and ARM) of 11th December that year didn’t help much. Nor did the failure of CE for Intel to ship shortly afterwards help. People keep trying to tell us this release didn’t happen, but we’ve got it, and here’s a snippet: “Microsoft confirmed that work with Intel on porting Windows CE to Intel 486 and Pentium processors has been under way for quite some time and that the port was nearly complete. Microsoft and Intel anticipate that the two companies will be able to support development of products based on Windows CE and Intel processors, including the Ultra Low Power Intel 486 SX, by January 1997.” Work “under way for some time” is clearly complete rubbish. At the time McGeady was emailing Grove the Wintel adversaries were squaring-off against one another, and Grove was probably trying to stitch up some kind of deal. McGeady’s suggestion might therefore have been helpful under the circumstances, although we’re sure St Andy is resourceful enough to have thought it up of his own accord. ® Complete Register trial coverage
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Intel Taiwan investment suggest DSL-ready scheme

Intel has bought into a United Microelectronics spin-off company specialising in DSL chip production. Significantly, Taiwanese company Integrated Telecom Express (ITeX) uses DSP techniques for its products. The company is currently shipping chips compatible with the G.Lite DSL standard, the splitterless ADSL intended to simplify the technology and make it possible for products to be sold over the counter, just like modems, rather than having to be installed by telecoms engineers. Intel has been active in promoting DSL and G.Lite, and the (undisclosed) stake in ITeX may have effectively tipped some of the company's hand as far as its plans for the home market are concerned. ITeX technology will require greater CPU horsepower, but will make the DSL peripherals themselves cheaper, so its products could be useful components of DSL-ready consumer units. Several manufacturers, including Dell, already have DSL-ready machines in preparation. ®
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Intel to buy into Be

As Be officially announced the latest version of its multimedia OS and detailed Hitachi's decision to use it in its PCs, it emerged that Intel will next week announce it is taking a stake in the company. BeOS 4 is the first version of the operating system targetted at mainstream users as opposed to developers, the principal audience for previous releases. As revealed here before (see BeOS 4.0 set for December release, the new version is aimed at graphics and multimedia users working on or planning to shift to Wintel from the Mac. Essentially, the OS is being pushed as a way of gaining a Mac-like experience on a Windows machine. Be says it has improved the compatibility between BeOS and Windows -- allowing the former to access the latter's files, harmonising keyboard shortcuts between the two, and adding support for Windows networking, for example -- believes users will want to use both OSes. It's a sensible approach, not least given the paucity of native BeOS apps will force anyone who uses it to regularly reboot under Windows and run software not available in Be versions. Which is why Hitachi's bizarrely named Flora Prius PC is a dual-boot system offering Windows 98 and BeOS 4. Of course, how many users will ultimately get fed up of swapping over to Be just to run a couple of multimedia apps will remain to be seen, so for all Be's talk of supplementary operating systems it still needs to encourage development of applications. And unless they see a significant user base, that isn't going to happen. All of which makes you wonder what Intel sees in the company. Taking a stake in Red Hat to get a handle on Linux seemed reasonable since Linux is a hugely popular, albeit among the more technologically enthusiastic, OS, whereas Be is still stuggling to move out of the MacOS' shadow. Linux is also gaining plenty of support from big league hardware and software vendors. Be, on the other hand, isn't. Clearly, Intel wants to be seen to be supporting the widest range of operating systems that run on its hardware. It too has often been seen to be in Apple's shadow when it comes to multimedia and graphics hardware, even if that's purely a matter of prejudice. Encouraging an Intel-based multimedia OS might help to counter that. ®
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AMD predicts huge jump in turnover

The CEO of chip company AMD said yesterday that he expected revenues to soar over the coming years as the company rolls out a range of new products. Jerry Sanders told financial analysts that sales next year could amount to $3.7 billion, rising to $4.4 billion in 2000 and nearly $6 billion in 2001, according to reports. The San Jose Mercury News reported that AMD will have shipped as many as 14 million K6-2s by Q2 next year. Its Sharptooth technology, expected next year, will also capture market share in the small and medium business sector. ®
A staffer, 13 1998
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Intel owns up to motherboard bug

Intel has confirmed that a bug in some motherboards it manufactures can cause machines to hang but claimed that the problem is now fixed. Certain SE 440 BX2 motherboards, dubbed Seattle 2, have a power glitch that scrambles BIOS settings and can damage the Flash BIOS. The bug has no effect on the processor, according to a representative. He said: "We identified the problem in October and have created a utility for distributors and dealers which will let them identify if a particular motherboard has a problem. "When we launched the BX, the motherboard was called Seattle and Seattle 2 was launched in October with a power modification to support Katmai." The fix for the problem involves adding two decoupling capacitors to the motherboard, he said. End users who encountered the problem should return faulty machines to their retailer or dealer, he said. In practice, the "very few" faulty motherboards are easily identifiable because the machine hangs very quickly, he said. Because Intel had identified the problem early on, relatively few motherboards suffer from the condition, he added. ®
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Diamond to axe up to 180 jobs

Diamond Multimedia is to cut 20 per cent of its workforce -- 180 jobs -- in a move to cut costs. It will also be trimming its product line, shutting some offices and attempting to tighten control of its inventory, both in-house and in the channel. In fact, Diamond originally hoped tackling inventory problems would be sufficient, but, as William J Schroeder, Diamond's president and CEO said, "we concluded further changes across the company were necessary to reduce our overall operating cost structure". Hence the job cuts. Diamond will also drop a number of its low-margin products. Schroeder didn't mention specifics, but its hard not to conclude that this means most of the company's consumer-oriented graphics cards will go. Schroeder said the company will instead focus on high margin, "more proprietary" (almost all of the consumer company's sounds and graphics cards are based on licensed technologies, such as Riva's TNT graphics engine and Aureal's 3D sound system) products, in particular professional 3D graphics cards for Unix and Windows NT, its HomeFree home-networking line and the Rio MP3 music player. The company expects the moves to cost $17-19 million, to be taken as a one-off charge on its Q4 results. ®
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VAT fraud investigations ramp

Customs & Excise has ramped up its campaign against European VAT fraud and yesterday arrested 10 people accused of a £15 million mobile phone scam. The police and Customs seized both cash and mobile kit in a raid called Ginger, which also involved police in Germany, Denmark, Spain and Belgium. The department has now woken up to the threat, it appears. For the last two years, memory and computer distributors have complained of widespread VAT fraud which has damaged their business and their margins. Alan Stanley, general manager of Dane-Elec UK, which distributes memory, said: “We’re still being hurt by VAT fraud. Now that memory prices are rising, it’s going to happen even more.” There are several variants of the fraud. Sometimes crooks take advantage of different VAT rates in Europe, while at other times they import kit at a zero rate and then charge VAT on products they sell. ®
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The MP3 scene comes of age

Roy Taylor's MP3 article is a little uninformed in certain areas. For instance, the MP3 technology (officially MPEG-1 layer 3), which has been used for music since early 1996, encodes audio in an 11:1 compression scheme. An average two minute file, uncompressed (either raw audio from a CD or WAV file) at 44.1kHz stereo takes up 174Kps, equating to about 20MB, can be compressed to approximately 1.95MB (not 4-5MB as published) or as I like to say. 'a meg a minute'. MP3 can use either 112kbps or 128kbps (14Kps or 16Kps) if the desired sampling rate is 44.kHz in stereo. Other options There are other options for even better compression, but quality degrades. CD quality MP3 files (112 or 128) can be effectively streamed across an ISDN line and with new technologies such as ADSL and Cable, they can be downloaded much faster than they can be played. Currently I have 384kb ADSL, which can get a three minute song in one minute. MP3s are liked for more than just the ability to get "music for free", though that's most people's major reason. Often I have noticed that MP3s I find across the Internet are not always what you can find in stores, either encoded from bootlegs or from various live recordings. I personally enjoy the ability to choose what songs I download, almost 'radio-on-demand' which previously has never existed (unless you owned a 100-disc changer and a bunch of CDs). I can make my own compilations and place them on any medium -- tape, CD, MD, MP3 player or the computer -- without any quality loss. It's interesting to note that ever since the RIAA's symbolic (and unjust) suit against Diamond was overturned, many large companies who previously were in neutral camp regarding MP3s are now either announcing their own products (Samsung) or are in the development stages (Adaptec and quite a few Asian companies.) Burn this Diamond and Adaptec are now working together to make a product that can download an MP3 off the internet and burn it to an Audio CD, as a part of EasyCD Pro (and see Liquid Audio, Adaptec unveil Net-to-CD music pact. In addition, new Diamond soundcards are being bundled with MP3 encoders. I have followed the MP3 scene very closely since the beginning. I've watched great efforts come out of the MP3 scene, such as WinAMP, MacAMP, layer3.org, scour.net, etc (which weren't around when I got there). And I've also seen my CPU utilization drop from crazy (50 per cent on a Cyrix P120+) to unnoticable (0.5 per cent on a PII 450.) Digital future or digital demise It has been harder and harder to find MP3s since the RIAA cracked down, because the RIAA sees the digital future as its demise, and it will do everything to stop new technologies (like MP3) from coming into play if those technologies conflict with large music companies' profits. Think, in ten years, there won't even be a need for large record companies. As an artist, you could hire an independent recording studio to record your works, and distribute them over the Internet. From there, agents could listen to your works and decide if they wanted to invest in your act, at which point you'd have the money to hire an artist for photographs and cover art, hire an agent to book performances, make you a music vid, etc. You wouldn't be pressured to get out x songs to put on a CD, instead you could make the music as it comes to you. It's sickening, the truth of the music industry today: an artist makes a CD, which is put out by a large recording company and sold for approx $11 (to retailers) who then sell it for $13-15. Of that, only a small percentage, $1-2, goes to the artist -- the rest is kept for either production costs or profits for the large music companies. Liquid Audio -- the acceptable face of compromise A close friend of mine is a very successful musician in computer games, and has always been on the forefront of music technology. He distributes demos of his music in the MP3 format, and is gearing up to make his own album. However, MP3 isn't encrypted or copyrighted in any way, and since he wants to distribute his music via the Internet (as well as CD) MP3 isn't a good format for the distribution of his music. Instead, he has chosen Liquid Audio, which is basically a similar compression algorithm to MP3, except it can be copyrighted and has limits on how it can be distributed. Liquid Audio may be the format that artists will eventually embrace because of this. Diamond's portable Rio player is going to be able to load both MP3s and Liquid Audio files into it (see Diamond to add Liquid Audio to Rio), which is a good first step for LA's acceptance into the thriving Internet music market. Roy Taylor replies I bow to your technical knowledge which is clearly so much better than mine. I was glad to see, however, that you are in agreement with my central argument, which is the significance of MP3 in changing the way that we record, store and listen to music. ®
Nick Punt, 13 1998
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Microsoft moves Chromeffects onto back-burner

Microsoft has suspended the development of Chromeffects, its much-heralded Web-oriented 3D and multimedia technology. Technically, the technology isn't dead, but it's now seems highly unlikely it will see light of day in its current form. "We are stepping back and redesigning Chromeffects to better meet both our partner and customer needs," was the spin Microsoft put on the news. The decision was made "based on developer feedback". Announced in July, Chromeffects development work was recently put under Microsoft's DirectX development group. Chromeffects were designed to leverage DirectX's game-oriented technology into the Web, so the move made a lot of sense. Key to Chromeffects was the use of Extended Markup Language (XML), the Microsoft-sponsored planned successor to HTML. XML allows almost any type of data to be formatted and displayed in a Web page through simple text commands, just as HTML uses text commands to format text and graphics. Chromeffects used XML to send low bandwidth commands to the client browser which would then use DirectX to generate high bandwidth 3D graphics. It's not dissimilar to the approach being taken by the like of iD Software with the next generation of multiplayer games. Quake III Arena, for instance, keeps Net traffic to an absolute minimum, instead relying on the client to do more of the work calculating where objects will be and how to render them. However, the DirectX managers now seem to have decided they don't, after all, want to pursue this line of development. Chromeffects project lead, Eric Engstrom, Microsoft's general manager for multimedia, has been moved to the company's MSN portal operation, where he will become general manager for Web product development. Whatever Chromeffects work that will continue will become the responsibility of Deborah Black, general manager of Windows presentation technologies. She will also take over work on NetShow, Microsoft's streaming media technology. Re-labelling NetShow as a 'presentation' project from a 'multimedia' project reveals Microsoft's thinking behind the culling of Chromeffects. Given the pasting the company has had during the current DoJ trial from Apple software VP Avie Tevanian for its efforts to knobble QuickTime, and similar complaints from streaming media specialist RealNetworks, its hard not to see all this manoeuvring as a response to the antitrust case. Changing NetShow's designation makes it appear less obviously a threat to multimedia technologies like QuickTime and RealPlayer. Chromeffects competed with both these products and every other dynamic Web technology, such as Macromedia's Flash and Shockwave, and even Java, and that's not something Microsoft wants right now. ® Full Register trial coverage
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Big Five chaebols slapped with Big Fines

The five largest chaebols (family concerns) in South Korea have had swingeing fines levied on them by the government’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC). The fines were levied because of illegal intersubsidiary trading, according to English language newspaper The Korea Herald. Hyundai came off worst, with a fine of 9.1 billion won, Samsung was fined three billion won, Daewoo 4.5 billion won, LG 2.2 billion won and SK was fined 3.7 billion won. According to a report from the FTC, 33 subsidiaries of the five groups were involved in illegal deals. Earlier this year, the FTC fined the big five 72.2 billion won. ®
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Second-stage PowerPC G4 details emerge

Tantalising details have emerged of Motorola's plans for the forthcoming PowerPC G4 processor. According to information received by Apple-oriented Web site MacOS Rumors, the first G4 CPU, codenamed 'Max', is designed to push the transition between old, G3-based hardware and new systems designed specifically for G4. Max will be made available in 300-500MHz clock speeds, utilise 0.18-micron copper wiring technology, contain two 32K on-chip L1 caches and support up to 2MB of backside L2 cache. A 1.8V processor core will offer reduced power consumption. The chip will also provide a new 128-bit 'MaxBus' bus technology, which allows CPUs to communicate directly with each other in multiprocessor systems. However, older 64-bit '60x' buses will also be supported. Max will be 30-50 per cent faster than the PowerPC 750, and will ship with Motorola's AltiVec vector processing extensions for greater performance gains in graphics and multimedia applications. It is scheduled to ship in volume by the middle of next year. Beyond Max lies 'V'Ger' (named after an alien entity in the first Star Trek film, trivia fans). Initially running at 500MHz, Motorola has it mapped out to 800MHz and beyond to 1GHz. V'Ger will contain multiple Max cores, all of which can be switched on and off, on the fly, according to performance and power consumption requirements. 0.15-micron supports higher clock speeds while keeping power comsumption down, and further performance is gained from an on-chip L2 cache. The chip will support up to 8MB of external L3 cache, but it's unclear how much difference this will really make unless the on-chip L2 is actually quite small. V'Ger should ship late 1999, early 2000. ®
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Sharp loses sense of humour as profits slump 86 per cent

Sharp has not done well. Firstly, its interim net profit has fallen by 86 per cent for its half year. And, secondly, it has made itself look a laughing stock in the UK by paying chat-show host Clive Anderson £11,000 for speaking for 12 minutes to its salesmen at a gig in Gloucestershire. The Sharp Group said that its drop in profits was due to a fall in the price of LCDs and semiconductors. Prices dropped by 30 per cent during its half year, a company representative said. But it must still have some money around if it can afford to get Clive Anderson to tell jokes for 11 grand. Apparently, the results were flat because Sharp felt Anderson did not tell enough jokes. ®
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Apology to Intel Corporation

At The Register we now believe that we have written wholly unjustifiable stories about large chip company Intel. Far from it being a raving, paranoid Satan that does what it likes to innocent companies, countries and individuals, we now believe that it is actually a caring, sharing community of fair minded people which has the best interests of the whole world community at heart. We at The Register therefore unreservedly apologise for ever describing Intel as the Great Satan of Chips, wish that it had succeeded in its legal action against us and know now that Andy Grove is a saintly, white-haired soul who truly cares about the community. May Beelzebub himself protect Andy in the future. And may the devilish legions that we now understand to belong to the Great Satan of Software be forever damned. That is, until the FTC case against Intel starts next February. ®
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Borland duped by fake accountess

A woman with one O level defrauded Reading-based software company Borland International UK of almost £90,000 and was only found out because of a misplaced digit. Ruther Ferraro, who lied on her CV to obtain the £64,500-a-year senior accountancy job, was jailed for 30 months for her crimes. The Register is a tad surprised that Borland (now called Inprise) had that much money for her to steal. Nonetheless, the compay's misfortune should be a lesson to everyone: never employ an accountant who is as highly qualified as Ms Ferraro, it can only lead to trouble. ®
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UK Webbees grow like Topsy

Seven million adults in the UK -- around 15 per cent of the 18+ population -- regularly use the Web and that figure is increasing by around 6000 a day, according to internetTrak research. The figures show that Web penetration in the UK is at the same level today as it was in the US two years ago and that during the last six months, the UK has been experiencing similar growth rates to the US. As a result, Web penetration in the UK is growing faster than in France and Germany, the two other European countries featured in the research. Around 1.6 million people have bought a product or service online in the last three months and a further 2.9 million expect to spend still more cash online next year. All of which appears to show that the UK has a healthy interest in the web despite the high cost of accessing the internet in this country. Conducted by NOP on behalf of Ziff-Davis, Yahoo! and Dell, internetTrak provides a snapshot of Web-life that provides much food for thought but little else sustenance. While there is little doubt that the web is becoming a part of everyday life -- especially for gathering information -- people are unhappy at the sluggishness of Web access and navigation. They are also still unsure about the security of buying online and feel more comfortable with handing out their credit card details over the phone than they do online. Despite all the optimism, the viable reality of e-commerce is still appears to be some way off. ®
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Lycos and Tripod in three-legged race to attract advertisers

Advertisers and electronic retailers will be able to pitch their wares to specifically targeted Net audiences in the UK following a deal between Lycos Bertelsmann and Tripod. The tie-up is intended to attract a bigger share of the advertising spend on the net by offering companies "guaranteed 100 per cent accurate targeting for their online promotions". If the success of Tripod in the US (where three million people have already built their own home pages since 1992) is mirrored here in the UK, thousands of people could soon be living in cybercommunities (or 'Pods'). By offering business and home users the opportunity to build Web sites for free without the need for any HTML skills, Tripod and Lycos hope to attract enough people to make this particular UK cyber community just as appealing to advertisers. Lycos Bertelsmann -- a joint venture between Lycos and Europe's largest media company -- believes this is the way forward which is why it has invested £7.5 million in improving existing infrastructures to manage the predicted demand for Tripod. According to the latest research, Lycos and Tripod may be on the right track. In the last six months more than a million people in the UK have become web users. And of the seven million adults who use the web in the UK, a quarter of them have bought goods and services online. ®
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Viglen too sweet for Sugar

It seems Alan Sugar's eye for a good deal may have backfired in his bid to gain full control of his PC firm Viglen. His stake in the company is now around 42 per cent after paying out 24p a share - a price at which he feels the company is undervalued. With such a recommendation, Viglen's remaining shareholders are being advised by investors to hang on to what they've got. ®
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Dell does bloody well

PC company Dell showed IBM and Compaq its mettle today when it turned in Q3 profits of $384 million on equivalently buoyant increases in turnover. It made $384 million on turnover of $4.82 billion, an increase in profitability of 55 per cent. If its profitability and turnover increases, it will hit nearly $6 billion by the end of the year at that rate of growth. That will confound IBM and Compaq, both of which turned their channel policies on their heads during this year. While Compaq has shown signs of stagnancy during the year, it cannot, however be written off. Earlier this week it announced further plans to go direct but still has a lot of problems on its plate, particularly the integration of Digital and Tandem. Dell sales were buoyant throughout most of the known world, meaning that chip supplier Intel was right in its forecasts earlier on this week. Dell is an Intel-based company. Europe, in particular, was far rosier than expected, with sales climbing by 68 per cent in the quarter. ®
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Samsung readies fast floppy replacement

Samsung has announced a challenger to Iomega's 100MB Zip and Imation's SuperDisk in the high-capacity floppy disk replacement market. The Pro-FD uses 123MB diskettes, but retains compatibility with old 720K and 1.44MB floppies. So too does the 120MB SuperDisk drive, but like the Zip, Imation's system is slow. Samsung claims it drive offers data transfer rates of 5MBps and is twice as fast as tradional floppy drives when it comes to using older media. It also sports a 128K data buffer. That puts the Pro-FD ahead in speed terms of Sony's forthcoming HiFD product which offers 200MB of storage, but transfer data at just 3.6MBps and is only compatible with 1.44MB floppies, as is the SuperDrive. There is also a question mark over Sony's commitment to its format. It originally promised to release the first HiFD drive in the Spring of this year, but the date was later revised to Summer 1998, and has now been put back to this Autumn. That said, Pro-FD drives won't be available until Q3 1999, so perhaps Sony still has time to throw in a couple more delays before in needs to launch. Samsung reckons its in with a chance of success in a market that has largely failed to do what it set out to do and completely replace the 1.44MB floppy. Zip's lack of backward compatibility ensured it was only ever going to be seen as an alternative, not a replacement. Imation has that role fully in mind for SuperDisk, but as J S Lee, MD of Samsung's Electromechanics division put it, "growth in the floppy replacement market has been hampered by the high cost of... components". That's why while some vendors have backed SuperDisk, most notably Gateway, NEC and Compaq, its largely been as an option rather than a standard part of the spec in place of the floppy drive. Lee claimed Samsung has made significant cost improvements on parts and media, ensuring Pro-FD will be more attractive to OEMs than its rivals. ®
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Free watch for UK hacks as kit falls over

Vendors selling Millennium Bug solutions are resorting to ever more bizarre stunts as the time for them to continue making money runs out. This time it is a watch which will expire. Meanwhile, the gravy train for PC manufacturers will roll on as companies, panicked by stories which vary from nuclear power stations going phut to pacemakers stopping their owners dead, swap to brand new machines. Computer Experts UK invited a bevy of journalists to a party in Drury Lane last night and watched as four PCs, produced by Dell, Compaq, Hitachi and Gateway all duly fell over when their clocks were pushed forward to 1 January 2000. And Ian Partington, MD of Computer Experts, said: "The truly scary thing about the Millennium Bug is its unpredictability. There is simply no telling what problems one errant bit of data will cause when introduced into an ordinary PC." The four machines which fell over were a Dell XPSD333 bought in late August, a Fujitsu ICL Technicl bought last week, a Gateway G6333 bought late August and a Presario 5130 bought on 2 September. None of the PC vendors were willing to talk to The Register today. Each journalist who attended the gig was given a Millennium Watch, showing the current time and the number of seconds left to doomsday. We were not told whether or not this watch will cease functioning when the champagne bottles are de-corked. ®
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iMac sales reviving?

CompUSA has claimed that a mix of bundled peripherals and a hire purchase plan have revived flagging Apple iMac sales. The US retailer, the largest in the States, reported that last weekend saw iMac sales shoot back to their highest level since the machine's launch in the second week of August. Sales remained high through September but then began to fall off, as the initial hype died down and the Apple faithful had all been catered for. According to ZD Market Intelligence, US iMac sales in September were 50 per cent down on those recorded in August. Last month sales slipped even further. The data was compiled from interviews with Apple resellers. And according to PC Data, the iMac slipped from the number two best-selling computer to the number three slot between August and September. Apple recently released a low-cost hire purchase scheme Apple targets low-income families as iMac sales decline was intended to attract a wider audience of users, specifically those who might consider a computer to expensive a purchase. Still, it's perhaps too early to suggest demand for the iMac is ramping up in any significant way. The sales CompUSA recorded were largely the result of a special weekend promotion bundling free Epson printers and Umax scanners with the machine in addition to the Apple $29.99 a month hire purchase scheme. ®
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Modem business splits from Cirrus

Cirrus Logic Inc is to create a separate company to handle its PC modem business. Ambient Technologies Inc will acquire Cirrus' PC modem products and become a licensee of its patents. The modem business, which employs about 40 people, only accounts for about 6 per cent of Cirrus' consolidated revenue. Sold under its own name and the Crystal brand, Cirrus supplies products to the mass storage, communications, consumer electronics and industrial markets. ®
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ENTEX now nimble says CEO

US reseller giant ENTEX Information Services -- is undergoing major reorganisation, in a bid to make itself more nimble. The creation of two new business divisions should be completed by the end of the year, the company said. With 1,500 employees, ENTEX's Technology Acquisition Services Division will continue to offer hardware and software solutions providing distributed computing technologies to large businesses. The division will be headed by John Lyons who has been named President of the Technology Acquisition Services Division. ENTEX's Services Division will focus on expanding the scope and scale of the company's desktop outsourcing and enterprise network and consulting services. With more than 680,000 systems under its management, the company believes desktop outsourcing represents one of its largest growth areas, said Rick Nathanson, President of the services division. "This reorganisation is a crucial step for ENTEX," said CEO John A McKenna Jr. "We are creating two nimble organisations that will be empowered to effectively and efficiently make the swift business decisions that today's marketplace demands," he said.®