18th > November > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

Sun win knocks wheels off Microsoft Java plans

Sun claimed a major victory over Microsoft yesterday when a California judge granted a preliminary injunction forcing Microsoft to stop shipping its version of Java, and ordering it to start shipping Sun's. On the evidence that's come out of the Sun-Microsoft case so far it looked like Microsoft had a good chance, but District Judge Ronald Whyte has decided the reverse. The judge has granted the preliminary injunction because he feels Sun is "likely to prevail on the merits" in the main court action, which is scheduled to take place next year. If he hadn't thought Sun had a good case, then he would not have granted 'injunctive relief' in this way. The evidence from the case does not necessarily support this view, however, and the injunction may well be vulnerable to appeal, as the preliminary injunction granted to the DoJ almost a year ago was. Microsoft has argued in the case that its contract with Sun gave it permission to modify Java, while Sun has produced evidence which indicates that Microsoft's intent in modifying Java was to 'pollute' and fragment it, thus neutralising it as a threat. The Register, incidentally, has some theories as to why this strategy will be unsuccessful anyway, and we hope to get around to publishing them soon. Some of Microsoft's strongest evidence came from emails written by Sun executives who, on reading the contract, concluded that Microsoft was indeed being given the right to change Java, and that Sun's negotiators had therefore screwed-up. In deciding that Microsoft probably does not have that right, it seems the judge has taken intent into account, and discounted the narrow legalistic approach Microsoft has taken. If Sun didn't mean the contract to say that, then…. Well, then what? In its legal battles over the past year, Microsoft has repeatedly turned to the fine print and eschewed the big picture. This worked in the case of the DoJ preliminary injunction, as although the judge granted it on a similar basis to the one used by Judge Whyte, the appeal court ruled in favour of the narrow legal interpretation. The DoJ didn't mean it to say Microsoft could integrate whatever the hell it liked in Windows, but nevertheless that's what the consent decree said. So Microsoft may get the Sun injunction overturned as well. That however doesn't help it in the long run, again as the DoJ action is showing. The major problem facing Microsoft now is that, although it can defend on a narrow legalistic basis, arguing that its many contracts allow and require this, that and the next thing, it's vulnerable to the big picture. In the antitrust case the DoJ simply has to establish a pattern of anti-competitive behaviour, and this could easily be done via a web of contracts which individually may be perfectly permissible. The evidence produced by Sun, although not necessarily much use in a line-by-line argument over contracts, does seem to indicate a cynical, anti-competitive plan to destroy a rival in order to maintain Windows' dominance. So it's sauce for the DoJ, if not for Sun. Judge Whyte's injunction will have no obvious effect on Microsoft immediately. It has 90 days to stop shipping its version and start shipping Sun's, and it doesn't have to recall product. But the real effect, if Microsoft doesn't get it overturned swiftly, is that it will knock the wheels off of Microsoft's destabilisation campaign. Its non-pure Java development tools now have a limited shelf life. The plan was to use Windows momentum in order to get developers producing Windows Java apps in preference to general Java apps, but if they can't see continuity in the Microsoft Java strategy, developers won't buy that. So if Microsoft can't get the injunction overturned fast, Sun has won, whether it wins next year or not. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Be raises $25 million for future development

Intel has invested in 'alternative OS' developer Be, as predicted (see Intel to buy into Be). A number of venture capital firms also chipped in, bringing the total sum raised by Be to $25 million. The company did not reveal what proportion had come from Intel coffers, and neither did the Great Satan itself -- one of it spokesimps said: "We don't reveal the level of investments we make. We didn't with Red Hat, and we won't with Be." Other terms of the investment were also kept under Intel's (red?) hat. He added: "Intel is [an] operating system agnostic. We're keen to see as wide a range of OSes as possible running on the Intel platform." ®
Tony Smith, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Justice throws Microsoft OS/2-shaped lifebelt

Has the Justice Department thrown Microsoft some handy red meat in the shape of John Soyring? The IBMer, now director of Network Computing Software Services and formerly in charge of OS/2 development, took the stand yesterday, but the appearance of the O word could be exceedingly helpful for Microsoft. Soyring pointed out that restrictions in Microsoft developer contracts limited the ability of developers to produce applications for non-Windows platforms, and somewhat exquisitely pointed out that giving customers the ability to choose their own browser and to modify the user interface hadn't harmed OS/2. Well, yes… But the catastrophe that was OS/2 has so many IBM fingerprints all over it that it will be virtually impossible for the prosecution to establish that it was all Microsoft's fault. And so far, Soyring's testimony hasn't gone anywhere near the most obvious Microsoft sins from that saga. Microsoft can reasonably argue that it's none of its business to bankroll rival products by allowing developers to use its tools and code to develop apps for them. Soyring argues that OS/2 was impeded because it didn't have critical mass of apps, whereas Windows succeeded because it did have this. Microsoft meanwhile on the court steps argues that OS/2 failed because it was too resource-hungry. But the two rivals did start from approximately the same point - there weren't many Windows apps around when OS/2 2.0 (the big one, as was intended) first shipped, and OEMs did not as a matter of course ship Windows with their machines. Microsoft did an excellent sales job on the OEMs and created the momentum for application development, while IBM did not. Microsoft's methods may or may not have been robust, IBM's abilities however were demonstrably feeble. The parts of the Microsoft-IBM relationship which might be worth examining, but which don't appear to be being looked at, concern the nature of their agreement prior to the breach, and Microsoft's 'ambush' of OS/2 2.0 with Windows 3.1. Microsoft was as far as their agreement was concerned supposed to be carrying on running with Windows as an entry level system. Users would then migrate to OS/2 as the system matured, and as it became more realistic from a hardware real estate point of view. Microsoft was also supposed to be developing Portable (i.e. non-Intel) OS/2, but wound up developing a rival product, NT, instead. Basically, it stabbed IBM in the back. Then with the ambush it stabbed it in the front. When IBM rolled out OS/2 2.0 with Windows 3.0 support, Microsoft moved the goalposts to Windows 3.1, denying OS/2 2.0 critical application support early in its career. Microsoft did of course have to persuade developers to switch over to the new version fast (and actually, get developers on board, because it didn't have many then), but it succeeded. IBM, on the contrary, conspicuously failed to win developer mindshare despite (to some extent because of) several years of different developer programmes, shifting market positioning and shifting strategies. Career-wise, it may be helpful for IBM execs from the period to blame Microsoft, but the long list of IBM screw-ups points to an entirely different explanation for the failure of OS/2. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Sun judge says ‘unfair business practice’ key to Microsoft injunction

Sun has won a preliminary injunction against Microsoft over Microsoft's attempt to subvert Java (Related Story). Federal Judge Ronald Whyte of the San Jose district court said that Sun was "likely to prevail" at trial and that Microsoft must make its Java offering compliant with Sun's specification within 90 days. Microsoft has 15 days to tell the court how it intends to do this -- and it means changing Windows 98 and IE, but not a recall. Microsoft spokesman Greg Shaw said that Microsoft plans to appeal. No date has been set for the main trial, but it would not be before the current Microsoft trial in Washington ends. Sun has "demonstrated a reasonable likelihood" that the contract "does not authorise Microsoft's extension of the Java language and its corresponding modifications to the Java language compiler". But perhaps the most important revelation was Judge Whyte's comment that "The court finds that negotiating for or enforcing the… licensing terms constitutes an unfair business practice. Microsoft does not argue that these licensing provisions bear any utility which outweighs the harm asserted by Sun." The "unfair business practice" identified by Judge Whyte was Microsoft's requirement that its licensees must use and distribute only Microsoft's version of Java. This result is of major consequence for the Washington trial because the practices that Microsoft has used against Java are at the core of the DoJ's accusations against Microsoft. The strongest part of the DoJ's case is in fact the allegation that Microsoft deliberately takes draconian steps to extinguish any technology that might challenge its Windows monopoly -- and Java is of course the strongest challenger. Microsoft developers who have been using Microsoft's Java tools will be upset by the ruling. But the key point has yet to be made in the Washington court - that Microsoft's compelling reason for wanting control of the browser was as much to stop the distribution of Java technology as extinguish Netscape. The DoJ Complaint does specifically mention this: "Non-Microsoft browsers are perhaps the most significant vehicle for distribution of Java technology to end users. Microsoft has recognised that the widespread use of browsers other than its own threatens to increase the distribution and use of Java, and in so doing threatens Microsoft's operating system monopoly. For this reason, a presentation to Microsoft CEO Bill Gates on January 5, 1997, on how to respond to the Java threat emphasised 'Increase IE share' as a key strategy. (MS7 005529-44)." Microsoft must now support Sun's Java Native Interface (JNI) in the JVM, and will have to turn off those Microsoft-specific keywords in its developer tools that were used to create incompatibility and pollute Java. Sun is of course hoping that Microsoft will decide to include its own Java, which would be a better PR move for Microsoft in the circumstances, although Microsoft's basic instinct is more likely to be to snuggle up to HP's version. Microsoft VP Paul Maritz said in a conference call last night that "the option of not supporting Java is open to us" but this is seen to be sour grapes rather than a realistic option. If the preliminary injunction is upheld at trial, this indicates a possible direction for remedies, if Microsoft loses the first round of the current case in Washington. Microsoft's great fear about Java has been that it would have the effect of "commoditising the [Windows] platform", as Microsoft email put it. This is one direction that could be reinforced by Judge Jackson. The other (and more effective) measure would of course be for the court to declare that Windows is an "essential facility" (there's a great deal of case law about this, and it was cited recently when Intergraph won its preliminary injunction against Intel) and put the source code in the public domain, including the documentation of all interfaces. Legally, the interim Sun decision tells Judge Jackson that Microsoft did have an intent to monopolise. The result is more important than if the same assertion had just been made in court by Java-creator John Gosling who will be appearing as a witness, since the San Jose result is a judicial finding that carries more weight. Gosling will now have to reinforce the arguments and will have less need to prove the issues. The timing could hardly have been better for the DoJ, especially with John Soyring of IBM currently giving evidence, and Comdex at its peak in Las Vegas. IBM is effectively the major proponent of Java applications, as documents just released by Washington court show: In an email on 6 November 1997,Microsoft VP Joachim Kempin said that "the Java religion coming out of the [IBM] software group is a big problem… "Overall we will never have the same relationship with IBM that we have with Compaq, Dell and even HP, because of their software ambitions. I could deal with this just fine if they weren't such rabid Java backers." Furthermore, the timing of the release of the San Jose decision may not be accidental. US courts are far more political than in the UK, and the release of the ruling yesterday is quite probably a coded message by the judge. It does not bode well for Microsoft, but Sun, IBM and the Java lobby will be pretty happy. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Syquest finds buyer

Syquest, the hard drive manufacturer which has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, said it had found an unspecified buyer. It said it has signed a letter of intent and the sale will depend on the deal being finalised by 25 November. Long-time rival Iomega is known to be interested in buying Syquest's assets. The transaction, if it succeeds, will mean the buyer will obtain patents and other intellectual properties, manufacturing equipment, finished product, work in process and raw materials. Syquest will be operating on a skeleton staff until the deal is made. Last week, employees turning up for work found the company's HQ locked. An internal email said the company had been served with a notice to quit the premises. Iomega's share price has shown a strong surge in the last few days. The deal will include provision for products already sold through its channels or to end users. ®
A staffer, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Samsung to spend $250 million more in Austin plant

Samsung Electronics is to rationalise the parts of its semiconductor business which do not specialise in memory. At the same time, it announced that it is to invest $250 million more in its Austin 64-Mbit DRAM fab. That is a joint investment with Intel. It will also spend $400 million in its display facility in Tijuana, Mexico, it said. According to reports on South Korean wires, Samsung Electronics will sell production facilities which make transistors and ICs. That business accounts for 30 per cent of its semiconductor turnover. Samsung has apparently found a foreign buyer for its non-memory semiconductor facilities, but declined to say which company had expressed interest. ®
A staffer, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel appoints first clutch of Euro-resellers

Intel said it had appointed its first fully accredited resellers in the European region. Otek Computers in Cardiff is one of the first, said Intel. Other resellers include Dutch companies Dyme and Quibus. The programme which was announced some weeks ago, allows qualified resellers to use a logo, gives financial incentives, enhanced hotline telephone support and access to Intel's network design centre. Intel wants to recruit around 500 in the Emea region by the end of this year. Adrian Bond, MD of Otek, said high end products are becoming more complex and his customers want support, guidance and specific technical knowledge. ®
A staffer, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Games software in Europe to boom

A report by the European Leisure Software Producers Association (ELSPA) said that games software will be worth $6.44 billion in Europe this year. But the market will slow in 1999 and start to show a decline in the year 2000, ELSPA said. Last year, PC games was worth $2.39 billion in Europe, while the console market was worth $1.94 billion. According to the report, sales of 32-bit systems will peak this year, and software sales will peak at $6.78 billion in 1999. Growth will also be fuelled by increased sales of DVD units. ®
A staffer, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel pursues further networking purchases

Intel is on the acquisition trail as it continues its strategy to drive further into the networking hardware market, admitted CEO Craig Barrett, yesterday. "We'll probably make some more acquisitions," he said. "We're looking at some people." Intel has already bought networking companies Case Technologies and Dana Communications, and its $185 million purchase of Shiva is already in progress. It also has a stake in Xircom. The Shiva deal will extend Intel's product line of network interface cards (NICs) and low-cost switches into the SME arena. Intel also offers corporate-oriented gigabit Ethernet switches. Further purchases are likely to offer volume products into which Intel leverage its processor expertise to add chips that integrate greater levels of network functionality, bringing production costs down as demand soars. ®
Team Register, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

NCD scores thin client deal with EDS

EDS has adopted Network Computing Device's ThinStar Windows-based Terminals and Explora network terminals for use in its thin-client corporate systems. The devices will be supported by EDS Network Computing Services and deployed within heterogeneous networks. NCD is the producer of Intel's 'official' lean client reference design, and has been consolidating its position as one of the major players in the market, neatly balancing itself somewhere in the middle, between NCs and WBTs. Earlier this week the company said it was to buy Tektronix's thin client operations. "EDS Network Computing Services provides easy access to consistent versions of applications and real-time data so every networked team member can work more effectively, regardless of their location, platform, or device," said David Endicott, vice president EDS Distributed Systems Management. "The NCD thin client families are good examples of the simple desktop devices that facilitate centralised management and control of networked applications used to benefit our clients." Late thin client news: Yesterday Citrix's Vegas customer base extended next door, to Caesar's Palace. The company has now succeeded in implementing thin client systems in two of the major Vegas casino-resort operations, and it can now be only a matter of time before it makes it down the Strip as far as Ballys. In a retaliatory strike, Dell yesterday said the Citrix systems in the new Bellagio were using scads of Dell server. ®
John Lettice, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Proxim banks on CE for wireless expansion

The sudden explosion of interest in a series of different (and dare we say, mutually incompatible) wireless networking systems for the home and office has prompted a counter-strike from the old guard at Comdex. Wireless networking specialist Proxim has rounded up a group of 16 partners using its systems, which incidentally have the advantage of being for sale already. Proxim's customer base has so far tended to be relatively specialist, using pricier wireless networking systems when necessary rather than adopting them wholesale, and this so far has been the story of wireless networking's failure to take off. The imminent spectre of cheap, ubiquitous wireless networking can therefore be expected to galvanise companies like Proxim into action. One major breakthrough that may turn out to be crucial is the inclusion of Proxim's RangeLAN2 wireless technology in the latest edition of CE, Jupiter aka Handheld PC Professional Edition. This has allowed producers of CE devices to start integrating wireless networking in their machines, and as it'll be a while before the various alternative wireless connectivity systems get themselves de-flaked, Proxim probably has about a year to run with the ball. Partners showing at Comdex include: Casio, Citrix, Fujitsu, Futuresoft, HP, Hitachi, Internec, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, NEC, Odyssey Software and Sharp. ®
John Lettice, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Lucent signs content deal for embedded appliances

Lucent's real-time operating system venture, Inferno, has signed a strategic marketing agreement with Internet content service provider InfoSpace.com. The double act is one of the first signs that information appliances are starting to shake down as a combination of device itself and content and services, rather than as simple pieces of hardware. Lucent's Inferno operating system is intended to be the core of Inferno-embedded appliances for sale to businesses and consumers, and is being marketed to OEMs as part of an Inferno turnkey Information Appliance Suite, which will now include InfoSpace services. InfoSpace includes yellow pages, white pages, maps, stock quotes, city guides and classified advertising, and allow content services to be customised for vertical markets. Typically Lucent expects Inferno devices to include screen phones, wireless handsets and set-top boxes. More ominously one of the first Inferno-embedded information appliances is the Philips IS2630 screen phone, which includes an Inferno-enabled browser. Philips has a knack of not being terribly successful with pioneering paradigms of this ilk, and of course just a couple of weeks ago was involved in the termination of its disastrous mobile phone joint venture with Lucent, Philips Consumer Communications. But Lucent is no doubt hopeful that Inferno will have proper customers too. ®
John Lettice, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Vodaphone shows increased profits, sales

Vodafone has posted improved profits, with the company predicting a shortage in mobile phones over the Christmas period. The UK’s largest mobile phone group saw pre-tax profits leap 60 per cent to £477 million for the six months ended September 30. Turnover was up 34 per cent to £1.56 billion, with Vodafone saying there was no sign that the slowdown in economic growth was affecting this area of business. UK turnover rose 11 per cent to £966.5 million, but operating profits were only up 7 per cent to £302.6 million due to cost cuts. Chris Gent, chief executive, estimated that 1.5 million new subscribers in the UK would sign up in the Christmas quarter. He put this down to tariff cuts and pay-as-you-go deals, saying he expected a shortfall of around 50,000 phones during the period. The Vodafone prepaid service reported 419,000 customers at the end of September, against 51,000 a year ago. ®
Linda Harrison, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Testimony points to corporate hostility to integration of IE

The news of Sun's preliminary injunction and the start of John Soyring's evidence almost eclipsed attention from DoJ expert witness Glenn Weadock's evidence, but there were some interesting developments. Richard Pepperman, an attorney for Microsoft, continued his attack on Weadock, claiming that his research methods were questionable. Weadock had interviewed a number of users from a list provided by the DoJ, who had in turn been fed some leads from Netscape. The problem for Microsoft is that the DoJ is the plaintiff in the action, not the defender of Microsoft, so such an ambush cannot have any legal weight. The DoJ does not have to show that many people are indifferent or insufficiently knowledgeable to make choices [with the result that choices are fast disappearing]. Weadock would not be shaken from his view that "a browser is not a commodity, it is an application". Scott Vesey, a Boeing product manager who was originally named as a witness but appeared on video, was characterised by Microsoft as a low-level employee. This is a standard Microsoft ploy that is even used against Microsoft vice presidents who have made some remark that grates with Gates. Boeing, it turned out, did not want to distribute IE with Windows 95 so it used the earliest version, which does not have IE. The DoJ also produced evidence that Gateway and Packard Bell did not want to have the IE icon compulsorily cluttering the desktop. An email from James von Holle to Gayle Mclean at Microsoft noted: "we need to be able to remove icons the customer does not want. We want IE to have 'uninstall' for as much of the code as possible without disabling the system." Von Holle saw desktop 'clutter' as being confusing to users. John Kies of Packard Bell said on video that he was concerned that installing IE and Navigator would take up a great deal of disk space. Steven Holtzman, a DoJ attorney, quizzed Weadock as to how Novell bundled a browser with NetWare. Weadock said: "It's a very loose bundling. It offers customers significant choices, such as whether to delete the browser." Internal email at Microsoft showed that the earlier inability of IE to work with Unix and the Mac OS was a key reason for many corporations not choosing IE over Navigator. An interesting February 1998 Compaq document unearthed by Weadock showed that when a sample of Dun & Bradstreet companies was quizzed, it was found that 80 per cent of them wiped the disk of new PCs and reinstalled OSR2 [version 2 of the OEM release], or the browser-less retail version. The courthouse steps spin from Microsoft was that consumers had always had complete freedom of choice" while the DoJ said that the court of appeals ruling "did not give Microsoft the right to prohibit the removal of a browser by an OEM". ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Netscape to buy user-maintained Web directory

Netscape's scheme to expand its Netcenter Web portal took a step further yesterday with the announcement that the company intends to buy Internet directory service NewHoo. It's an interesting purchase. Many commentators have made much of NewHoo's use of freeware, but that's probably as much about saving money as Net anti-corporatism. That the latter is part of NewHoo's agenda is clear from both its name, which is remarkably similar to a certain commercial portal, and its Web site, which is also remarkably similar to that of the same commercial portal. The site is compiled and maintained by volunteers, and, according to the company, is a serious attempt to create a meaningful search system for a network that has expanded beyond the capacity of automated search engines and the "small editorial staffs" that run the likes of Yahoo! "Instead of fighting the explosive growth of the Internet, NewHoo provides the means for the Internet to organize itself," the organisation says. "As the Internet grows, so do the number of net-citizens. These citizens can each organize a small portion of the Web and present it back to the rest of the population, culling out the bad and useless and keeping only best content." For Netscape, that translates into a large body of enthusiastic users who will, it hopes, both boost its user base and continue to provide it with a high quality directory service. Users have become the chief target of portals, and buying user bases is now one of the most common reasons for acquisitions. Earlier this month, Netscape bought Web-based promotional operation AtWeb and Microsoft bought Web advertising body LinkExhange, both as much for their users as their products and technologies (see earlier story). Of course, quite how NewHoo's users and editors will take to providing Netscape with information and support will remain to be seen. NewHoo's bosses are playing the open source software card, relying on Netscape's decision to make its browser source code available to all to win over NewHoo users. But Netcenter is just as commercial as Yahoo! and co., so it will be interesting to see how NewHoo users react to the acquisition. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

AMD users go through roof at $35 fix for K6-2 crash

Users have reacted in disbelief and fury that they will have to pay $35 for a software patch which will fix problems they have with K6-2 processors. (Story: AMD K6-2s crash with Win 95) AMD is not making the patch, which fixes a problem in the Win95 operating environment, available on its Web site. The reason for that is because of commercial considerations, a company representative confirmed today. But the issue has prompted harsh criticism of both AMD and Microsoft. One reader said: "If I was AMD, I'd be posting this on my site, minimally with a direct link to where you can download it from Microsoft's site. AMD is useless in this matter. "Microsoft doesn't want them to put up a Win95 patch because it wants everyone to use Win98 instead and a patch that makes it work could possibly influence people to buy AMD systems with Win95 instead of Win98." Two months ago, The Register revealed that IBM was still supplying systems running Windows 95 because end users either did not want to use Win98 or were considering upgrading straight to Windows NT. (Story: IBM offers downgrade from Win98 to Win95) Another wrote: "The reason you can't find the patch on Microsoft's site is because they want you to pay $35 for the patch. This is outrageous because it is a limitation of their software algorithm caused by the fact that the K6 is too fast." A senior source at AMD said: "I can't understand why there's a commercial issue here for Microsoft. We try to give whatever treatment is possible for our end users." However, two independent Web sites have thumbed their noses at both Microsoft and AMD and posted the patch on their sites. The first is at altx86 and the other is at pairnet. Microsoft declined to comment on the story at press time. ®
Mike Magee, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

AOL, Netscape discuss closer ties

Netscape and AOL are in talks to embed Navigator into AOL's online access software, the Wall Street Journal has reported. The companies are also discussing co-marketing agreements that include building tighter links between AOL's online service and Netscape's Netcenter portal. That's hardly likely to win over some of the Net's more anti-corporate users, whose support Netscape is hoping to gain through its purchase of the NewHoo 'alternative' search engine and Web directory (see Netscape to buy user-maintained Web directory). The WSJ also reported that the two-month-old talks, if successful, could see AOL taking a stake in Netscape and winning a seat on its board. The duration of the discussions suggests the negotiators are waiting on the outcome of the Department of Justice case against Microsoft as an agreement between the two companies. Both AOL and Netscape will be keen to forge links now that details of the former's agreement with Microsoft effectively to support Internet Explorer exclusively in return for Microsoft's agreement to include an AOL installer in Windows 95. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

A year ago: Compaq's Eck gives Keno speech

You can find this story, from last year's Comdex coverage, at this URL, complete with pictures of Eckhard Pfeiffer's brand new haircut...®
Mike Magee, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Cisco, Novell to announce compatibility agreement

Cisco and Novell are to announce an agreement that will see both companies making their products broadly compatible by integrating Netware Directory Services (NDS) with Cisco's hardware, according to sources quoted in the New York Times. However, the agreement doesn't bring the two companies as close together as many pundits had anticipated. Cisco will not be licensing NDS as it has done with Microsoft's Active Directory, and the router specialist will continue to develop its Networking Services for Active Directory, a set of software products based on Microsft's directory system set to ship with Windows 2000. Still, the deal does put NDS on a par with Active Directory as far as Cisco hardware support goes. And Novell has been granted access to Cisco-specific components of the Directory Enabled Networking (DEN) spec. That will allow NDS to manage DEN-enabled Cisco kit. Cisco and Novell are also believed to have agreed to co-operate on new technology to allow NDS to store networking hardware configurations and automatically send those settings to any device on the network. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Liquid Audio wins Iomega support

Iomega has agreed to bundle Liquid Audio's digital music software with future storage products -- in a special version keyed to specific Zip disks. The first fruits of the deal are likely to appear early next year when Iomega begins to ship its 250MB successor to the popular 100MB Zip drive (see Iomega to update Zip). Both companies will also sponsor a new Web site, Tunus Collectus, that will offer a monthly music club to encourage users to download tracks from "popular artists". The site will be maintained by online music retailer SoundStone.com. The agreement follows similar deals Liquid Audio has cut with Diamond Multimedia and Adaptec -- Diamond will support Liquid Audio's downloadable music format in the Rio player, and Adaptec will support it CD-ROM burning software (see Diamond to add Liquid Audio to Rio). Intel invested in Liquid Audio in August. Liquid Audio is certainly the clear winner here. It has been pushing its downloadable music system for some time, but has struggled against MP3, the MPEG-based digital music format that user love but the music industry hates, thanks to the way it makes music piracy easy. On the other hand, the business loves Liquid Audio, which includes copyright protection and payment tracking features. The commercial market for downloadable music is still in its early infancy, but when it begins to mature, Liquid Audio wants to be seen as the standard, and has been quietly doing deals with music companies, Web music retailers, and PC and storage suppliers to build up the kind of market presence it will need to win out ahead of the likes of Dolby and RealNetworks. Iomega, of course, wants everyone to rush out and buy bucket-loads of Zip disks to store their music collection on. Why anyone would want to do keep music on clunky cartridges rather than the CDs they're used to (and will play anywhere), is anyone's guess, but Iomega clearly reckon enough people won't yet have CD-R drives handy to make Zip an alternative. And, just to make sure, it's tying of downloaded tracks to specific disks. You'll be able to move disks between machines, but not copy tracks off them. Which ties in nicely with the plan Iomega announced a few weeks' back to persuade set-top box manufacturers and consumer electronics manufacturers to start building Zip drives into their kit. Zip disk replacing CD as the music medium? Insane? You have your answer, but clearly Iomega has another. ® See also Roy Taylor: PC killed the music publisher
Tony Smith, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Key IBMer jumps ship to join Spring

John Botten (53) has abandoned his 31 year career with IBM to become group COO at IT services group Spring. He leaves his top position at the vendor to join Wirral-based Spring on 1 January 1999. He will report to Karl Chapman, group chief executive, and join the board of Spring. Botten also served on the main board of IBM UK, and had held many positions at the company. These included UK operations director, head of systems integration, and director of education services. He had been commercial director of IBM UK since 1994, and his responsibilities at IBM included troubleshooting and negotiating projects and bids. Botten said he was leaving IBM at the end of December. He stressed his reasons for moving were “nothing to do with IBM”, saying he was looking forward to the new challenge at Spring. He refused to elaborate further on what his main responsibilities would be, saying the specifications of the new position were still under discussion. Spring, created in 1989, is a fully quoted public company, with over 2,600 employees. Spring’s Chapman said he was delighted at having persuaded Botten to join the company. ®
Linda Harrison, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

IBM takes DB2 to the masses

Recognising that a gloop of middleware applications is not the easiest thing in the world to demo, IBM Software did the sensible thing and invited a bunch of European hacks to pig out at a Mexican restaurant, near the Las Vegas Convention Center. While the journalists tucked into their tacos, IBM showed off its latest take on the sub-enterprise market. It’s called The IBM Small Business Suite for Windows NT, and it squeezes DB2 and Lotus Domino into a new -- and much cheaper -- form factor. The suite is designed to supply “everything small and growing businesses running on the Windows NT platform need to transform their businesses into small businesses”. It combines email, calendaring and scheduling capabilities, fax and modem pooling services, and application templates for office directories, on-line discussion, document management and “other business management tasks” and of course, the famous relational database. The suite server is built around DB2 Universal Database and Lotus Domino messaging and costs under $500. Bundled into the suite client are Lotus Notes Desktop, DB2 Universal Database and Netscape Navigator , which costs under $100 per pop. Customers can licence up to 100 users. All very well, but what small business actually has the expertise to use this stuff? IBM recognises this could be a problem too –- “small businesses don’t buy middleware, they buy apps”, IBM honcho Steve Solazzo told the journos, as they waded into their refried beans. So the company is gunning hard for channel resellers and ISVs to build services and one-stop solutions around the suite. Solazzo has a very long job title -- vice president of Solution Developers and Small/Growing Businesses, IBM Software. Usually, the longer the job title at IBM, the more insignificant the job: this does not appear to apply in Solazzo’s case. At his disposal is a worldwide marketing programme of “many tens of millions of dollars”, which he is pumping into end-user awareness activity -- such as TV advertising and roadshows carrying the theme “ebusiness for small business”. The company is also investing heavily in feet on the street -- and bums on call centre seats -- in channel support. Ian Bonner, worldwide head of channel sales for IBM Software, is to see his staff expand from 125 to 225 over the next year. A call centre channel support team recently introduced, will grow from 150 people to 250 people, Solazzo says. IBM says it has the world’s biggest portfolio of NT-based offerings- over 250-strong. It also reckons the time is ripe for a full-blooded assault on the small and medium business market (which it defines as companies with fewer than 1,000 staff). And ebusiness is the battle cry. From a series of customer focus groups , IBM has learned that small companies want to do ambitious things with their Web sites. The wish list includes transaction processing, real time inventory checks, links into supplier and customer sites -- 24/7 operation, robust, scalable software -- in other words, they want exactly things that big companies want. And this is stuff that IBM can do in its sleep. Capability and deep pockets are always welcome, but are they enough? These days as any fule kno you don’t get fired for buying Microsoft. ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Cisco network academy to create extra nerds

Cisco Systems is ploughing 1 million into the UK to help ease the skills shortage in the networking industry. The Cisco Network Academy programme, which was launched formally today by Cisco CEO John Chambers, is part of a global effort by Cisco to raise skill levels in IT. In particular, he said he hoped the money would educate and train more people to meet future networking needs. Five regional academies have already been established in the UK as part of the programme. The money will be used develop curricula, provide training and pay for the necessary hardware and software needed to equip schools and colleges. The initiative is part of Cisco's European-wide education programme. Worldwide, there are almost 1,000 Cisco Networking Academies which have been developed specifically to prepare people for a career in networking. According to Datamonitor Research, Networking is currently the fastest growing sector in the IT industry and is forecast to become a £5 billion market in the UK by 2001. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Proxim sinks jaws into Bluetooth

A bunfight over wireless LAN standards, is stopping the technology from gaining mainstream acceptance, according to Proxim, the California-based wireless LAN card vendor. Seven major proposed standards are competing for mindspace in the wireless LAN market, and divisions between rival contenders are holding back the market, the company claims. Brian Button, VP for sales and marketing at Proxim , a proponent of Open Air from the Wireless LAN Industry Federation (WLIF), attacked 802.11 and Bluetooth on cost and technology grounds. Speaking at Comdex, Button claimed that 802.11 is an unworkable solution as it requires too much power from the devices for which it is intended -- namely portable computers; PDAs and handheld terminals. And he reckons that Bluetooth will fail -- as it won’t reach its projected price point of $5-$6 per computer. He estimates the technology will come in at best around the $35 per unit mark. Open Air -- the specification to which Proxim's product range are built -- has been included in the Windows CE Professional Edition. Other standards include: two separate version of the IEEE's 802.11 (wireless Ethernet) standard plus SWAP (a home RF networking standard); Bluetooth (a wireless standard promoted by the major mobile phone handset manufacturers); plus DECT and HyperLAN (European standards for wireless telephony and wireless networking respectively). While wireless computing standards share the same available spectrum -- 2.4GHz -- there is little compatibility even among product purportedly built to the same spec -- such as 802.11. There is also an Atlantic divide -- while Open Air may be triumphant in North America, DECT and Bluetooth enjoy considerable backing in Europe. Register bizarre factoid -- simultaneous with slagging-off 802.11, young Button is no doubt also promoting Proxim's complete range of product, including the Proxim RangeLAN802 IEEE... er... 802.11 compatible range... ® See also Proxim banks on CE for expansion
Tony Dennis, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Corel to offer Linux WordPerfect Office 2000 for free

Corel president and CEO Michael Cowpland has promised his company will provide its WordPerfect Office 2000 suite to Linux users free of charge. And the company has its eyes on Citrix's approach to computing with a technology that allows the OS to run Windows applications remotely. Speaking at Comdex, Cowpland said Corel was taking on a Red Hat style approach to sales for the forthcoming productivity suite. While a CD version of the product will retail for around $50, individual users will be able to download the suite for free. The announcement follows Corel's previous decision to make the standalone WordPerfect 8 for Linux free for personal use. It also marks a further stage in the company's shift away from Java. WordPerfect was one of the few off-the-shelf software companies to commit themselves to Java versions of their producivity tools, but in the end WordPerfect Office for Java never made it beyond beta. In the Corel scheme of things, Linux has effectively replaced Java. "It's just not robust enough as a complete platform," said Cowpland, describing the Sun technology. "Linux is going to be the next big thing." "Linux is going like a rocket," he added. "It's telling us that no, it's not going to be a one-platform world." Java still has a role in Corel's plans, however. It will provide the link between Windows and Linux -- Corel is developing JBridge, a technology that allows Java-enabled browsers running in a Linux environment to run Windows applications, much in the way Citrix's MetaFrame allows Unix, Mac and Windows clients to access applications running on an NT server. JBridge is due to ship by the second half of 1999. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Soft soap replaced by hard surf

Brits are surfing the net instead of watching the comings and goings in Albert Square or Coronation Street, according to three surveys. But pornography could be pulling many viewers away from their favourite soaps, one of the surveys concluded. Viewers are increasingly turning off their TVs for their home PCs, logging on between 6pm and 8pm - the times of the accursed soaps. But in the UK, six o'clock in the evening is when call charges get cheaper. The surveys, conducted individually by Microsoft, internetTrak and Lycos, agreed that time spent at home with the computer was increasing. The Microsoft survey, based on a two-year study of 500 UK families, found PC owning households now only spend fifteen hours a week watching the box. This is four hours less than the national average, with the same people spending 7 hours a week at their computer. The Lycos survey of over 6,000 Internet users found that 53 per cent had shopped online. With internetTrak saying as many as 1.6 million Brits had made an e-commerce purchase within the last three months. In the third survey, by Internet company Lycos, 47 per cent of people had reduced their television viewing time in favour of a computer screen. However, although it was revealed that these converts benefit financially, it was debatable if people were completely abandoning their weekly dose of soap smut. Microsoft showed that the richer you are, the more time you spend at your computer, with those earning over £30,000 admitting to 11 PC hours per week. Twenty two per cent of respondents to the internetTrak survey confessed to spending their time visiting adult entertainment sites. ®
Linda Harrison, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

LG opens Aladdin Park in Karachi

In one of those disingenuous, but disturbing releases that South Korean companies occasionally perpetrate, The Register was interested to see that LG had opened a theme park in Pakistan's capital city Karachi which has already attracted 20,000 people. Said LG in the release: "It is fast becoming the place for family outings in Pakistan." And what does it offer? Well, there's the LG Cottage. ®
Aladdin, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel back-tracks on PC-on-a-chip integrated CPUs

Intel has decided it's not quite as averse to the PC-on-a-chip concept as it used to be, and confessed it will offer such a product in 2000. According to Intel's senior VP of server architecture, Paul Ottelini, quoted on CNET, the Great Satan will use integrated CPUs to attempt to win back ground at the low end lost to the likes of Cyrix and, in particular, AMD. "In 1999 you'll see the integration of a lot of functions on the chipset, and in 2000 you will see integration between the processor and the chipset to take advantage of the transistor budget," said Ottelini. That "advantage" will come as Intel shifts to a 0.18 micron process, allowing more transistors -- ie. more functionality -- to be built into each processor. Intel has never been keen on integrating non-CPU functionality onto its chips, leaving it to others, most notably National Semiconductor's Cyrix subsidiary, whose MediaGX processor, which adds comms and 3D graphics to the CPU, is the only PC-on-a-chip product on the market. However, in the emerging ultra-low end of the business, which is pushing PCs at $599 or less, demand for not only cheap but integrated processors is growing. Nat Semi's strategy for MediaGX and its successor, M3, is largely predicated on high demand for such chips, not only from low-end PC vendors but from information appliance suppliers too. The higher the level of integration, the fewer costly extras the vendors has to build into their PC, and the easier it becomes to compete at such low prices. Net Semi has made some very rosy predictions for that sector of the market, and Otellini's comments suggest Intel thinks it may have a point. Equally, it's keen to fight back against low-cost mainstream processors, such as AMD's K6 family, IDT/Centaur's WinChip and the soon-to-ship mp6 chip from Rise, some of which have beaten it on price/performance. Integrated CPUs, either as next-generation Celerons or as a new line underneath them, could be powerful weapons for winning that business back. Analysts and commentators speaking at last month's Microprocessor Forum suggested Intel was moving away from the low-end, but that's clearly no longer the case. "We are not willing to live with the share [of the market] we have," said Otellini. "We will win the business back company by company." ®
Tony Smith, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Comdex 98 updated: Intel's CEO has strange streak

The CEO of Intel has revealed a strange streak in his nature, our correspondent at Comdex, Mike O'Processor, reports. Skulking around the edge of the show, Mike noticed Esther Fison, the famous journalist, participating in an incorrect hour with a not very funny American comedian called Bill Maher. Barrett made an indirect reference to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his sidekick Peter Mandelson when he suggested that the Post Office should be shut down in favour of PC terminals. Mandelson is notoriously non-PC ready. He got back from a trip to the US four weeks ago and pronounced himself rapturously in favour of the Internet. Pity he didn't have a PC in his office at the Department of Trade and Industry then... Barrett said that governments should mind their own business and not interfere with Internet content. Strange, then, that Intel employees, unless they are senior spin doctors, are not allowed to view Former and Current Employees of Intel. Libertarianism has its limits then, even with Intel. * Register Oid µ As we went to press, we had an email from a senior Intel employee who says there is now no restriction on the URL above. So maybe Craig has seen the light? It's always nice to see someone converted from five volts to 3.3 volts...or even 1.9, which is the cuttlefish...®
The Register breaking news

Fabless chip companies are flawed, AMD claims

The going will be tough for new fabless CPU companies –- Rise, Transmeta and others of that ilk –- predicts Dana Krelle, AMD vice president. Fabless companies are operating a flawed business model, which will turn them into bottom feeders, he claims. “Only by innovating ahead of Intel are you able to add value,” he says. Fabless chip companies will be unable to do this, he says. “The trouble with foundries is that they want their 50 per cent profit margin,” he says. Throughput at contract foundries is rarely at optimal capacity, he says. And operators do not supply access to bleeding edge technology at the design stage. The upshot is that fabless chip design companies into the unprofitable, down market sector. “It’s a business that’s damn hard to survive,” he says. Krelle bases his judgement on his previous life with Nexgen, a CPU house more or less forced into merger with AMD a few years back. “There used to be two big fabless chip companies – Nexgen and Cyrix – where are they now? Nexgen is part of AMD and Cyrix is part of National Semiconductor.” Speaking at Comdex, Krelle argues that AMD has pulled far away from the rest of the pack – including NatSemi. “Intel and AMD are the only two companies that share both following characteristics: ownership of foundries and multiple, top-notch design teams that keep innovating on a multi-generational basis.” The inference we are to draw is that NatSemi/Cyrix is hamstrung because it works on single lifecycle upgrades. With the introduction next year of the K6 Sharptooth and the K7, is ready to take on Intel in all market segments, Krelle claims. Operating at 400MHz clock speed, Sharptooth outperformed the Intel Pentium II 450MHz in ZD Winbench tests, in a demo shoot-out arranged for The Register’s benefit at AMD’s meeting rooms in the Las Vegas Convention Centre. “We’re not optimised for clock, we’re optimised for performance,” Krelle said, in what sounds like a well rehearsed soundbite. At one point Atiq Raza, AMD’s co-chief operating office and chief technical officer, ambled in, explained the company’s difficulty in positioning Sharptooth against Katmai, and then ambled out again while discussing an email concerning a meeting Microsoft with an underling. Now what could that be about, we wonder? Sharptooth is pitched at the performance segment of the market – and will take into the high-end consumer business, Krelle says. He rejects suggestions that Sharptooth is a short shelf life transitional technology, bridging K6-2 and K7. When the chip moves to .18 micron level production at the end of 1999 t becomes feasible that Sharptooth becomes the entry-level product,” he says. K7 will fit inside PCs in the $1,995 -$2,995 bracket, Krelle revealed. The K7’s strong floating point performance will take it into the graphic intensive market. We imagine that Intel-hater Intergraph will be among the first in the queue to place their K7 orders. In a demo, Krelle put the K7- powered PC through its paces, in which a DVD software version of Godzilla the movie was played. Graphics performance was certainly impressive. And launch date for the K7? “This is first silicon,” Krelle says. “We’re on track (for shipping) for the first half, next year.” It’s a tough life being the Avis of the computer industry. Trying harder in AMD’s case means having to second guess Intel on technology and market positioning fronts. Pricing is not such a big issue, according to Krelle, secure in the knowledge that any price war would hurt Intel more. Wall Street punishes any Intel failure to meet the numbers very severely. “It is a fine outcome when a market ends up with two companies, both of which are nicely profitable,” Dana Krelle, AMD says. “That’s the way it works in many industries.”
Drew Cullen, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Compaq opens new Reading colour direct thing

Compaq has unveiled its colourful new 12 million Service Solution Centre in Reading purpose-built to provide multivendor support for 14,000 products from 1,300 vendors. The building is a tribute to it designers who made extensive use of vibrant colours on the walls, stained glass and wavelike MDF curves to create a unique working environment. The pink and blue chairs in reception are reminiscent of those used at this year's Tory party conference and the metal-look doors complete with imitation rivets are straight out of the BBC's popular DIY show Changing Rooms. Depending where Compaq's 250 support staff sit they'll either be in the pink or seeing red. They could even be staring straight ahead at big blue walls. It may not be feng shui, but Compaq's "holistic" approach to customer support means that by this time next year the Service Solution Centre (SCC in Compacttalk) is expected to handle around 100,000 calls a month. Compaq also took the opportunity to announce three new support products which it hopes will help generate enough business to make the 12 million investment worthwhile. The packaged services - which make use of plastic calling cards - can be purchased from Compaq dealers and are believed to be the first of their kind in the UK. "It is not cost effective for a company's IT department to be the helpdesk for every employee," said Gareth Cadwallader, director of customer services. "With Compaq multivendor support software support, employees get the immediate, personal attention they need, whilst allowing the IT manager to focus on priority issues and proactive systems management," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Compaq: a half-apology

A penitent hack at The Register will not make a formal apology to Compaq for dishing the dirt at the company's brand spanking new Services Solution Centre in Reading. Your mucky journalist with the byline above trampled mud throughout the £12 million building during a whistle stop tour of the formerly spotless hi-tech complex. The fact that his car broke down a mile away and he had to navigate muddy roadworks and cross three fields to get there is no excuse. He's been told to wipe his feet in future. But not by us. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Nov 1998