19th > November > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

IBM testimony sets scene for attempt to prove Microsoft monopoly

John Soyring, previously in charge of IBM OS/2 development, had an unhappy role to play as the representative of a company humbled by Microsoft's business practices. His written testimony contained a gloomy history of the rise and fall of OS/2 - down to 6 per cent of sales in 1996 compared with Microsoft's 92 per cent, according to IDC. Soyring's testimony pointed out that "many of the agreements under which Microsoft licenses tools to ISVs restrict use of the tools to developing for Windows", with the consequence that developers often could not use the same tools to develop for OS/2. Microsoft swiftly pointed out that IBM did exactly the same thing, but failed in its marketing efforts with OEMs when it had the opportunity - and of course it did not help when the PC Company went with Windows early on, and subsequently with IE. Soyring drew attention to a Microsoft trick - including redistributable code which made it very difficult to port applications to OS/2. The bottom line was that Soyring admitted that ISVs "have no commercially viable choice but to license Windows and to offer it on the vast majority of PCs they ship." Soyring continued with a litany of problems that confronted IBM, and which it usually had not had the foresight to avoid. The clincher, of course, was the impossibility of duplicating the functions of several thousand APIs that can be changed by Microsoft as it wishes. IBM's Web Explorer browser was separate from OS/2, but it was soon technically outmoded. Microsoft attorney Steven Holley tried to show that the browser was integrated into OS/2, since IBM's promotional literature speaks of browsing being "integrated" and "built in" to OS/2, but the argument was too thin. Soyring said that this was marketing language and not a technical description. The real point of Soyring's testimony was to set the scene for a proof that Microsoft has a legal monopoly in Windows. The sub-text of his written testimony was that there is an extremely high barrier that prevents new entrants from competing with Microsoft. The implication was meant to be that if IBM could not manage it, nobody could - but this argument is flawed because of IBM's management mistakes with OS/2. The point of the tools argument was to give evidence of another kind of barrier to market entry erected by Microsoft. IBM has also had the chance, if it believed that Microsoft was acting illegally, to take on Microsoft in the courts with a private antitrust action, but chose not to do so. Soyring also elaborated on the combining of Windows with IE, observing that "It can be done in ways that make it relatively easy or relatively difficult to separate them" depending on how tightly the developer wished to integrate the programs. Soyring also testified that "Microsoft does not provide on a timely basis the information that would be required" for the development of any competing product. At first, this might seem to be unsurprising, but there is a body of law concerned with the abuse of a dominant position (especially in Europe) that makes such practices anti-competitive if carried out by a dominant player. Soyring did a good job of setting out the issue of the first screens. Testimony from a company like IBM is likely to influence Judge Jackson, especially as it was given in a cool way as part of an historical account of what happened, without hype or any hint that IBM might later be seeking damages. Soyring's testimony elaborated the dynamics of the marketplace, and in one sense at least, Microsoft could use the example to its own benefit: "see what happened to mighty IBM with its operating system when IBM was a stronger brand than Microsoft: the same could happen to Microsoft". IBM's actions also gave Holley the chance to suggest that IBM's customers must prefer Windows as IBM loads it exclusively on its PCs, and not OS/2. The second day of Soyring's cross-examination, which concluded yesterday, was notable for Judge Jackson's sustaining a DoJ objection to a question by Holley. "Do you think it's appropriate, Mr Soyring, for six of the largest software companies in the world to agree with each other to collude with one another against Microsoft?" We shall never know Soyring's opinion on this, which is a pity. His then-boss John M Thompson, IBM's software group executive, emailed Sun CEO Scott McNealy on 13 August 1997, saying: "we must minimise the performance gap between Microsoft's implementation [of Java] and the implementation shipping with Netscape's Navigator. We must engage our other partners to bundle Navigator and/or Java-compatible JVMs with their products." Thompson suggested that he would call Eric Schmidt at Novell and asked McNealy to call Larry Ellison at Oracle and get Ellison to call Apple. Thompson's message also suggested that the collaborators "put Microsoft on the defensive" over Java. Microsoft would of course like to prove a conspiracy against it, but despite producing Thompson's email, it was just the usual Microsoft refrain that nobody loves Microsoft. There is no legal problem with a collaboration where the collaborators do not have dominant market power, and Microsoft's basic line of defence that "everybody does it" is legally unhelpful to its defence. Holley tried to play the card that the six collaborators eclipsed Microsoft in terms of combined revenue, but lost the point when Soyring snapped back "except in market capitalisation." Holley also introduced an email from IBM Internet strategist Rodney Smith to Sun VP and Java general manager John Kannegaard about a plan for Sun and IBM to collaborate broadly. Holley asked Soyring if the email concerned an agreement Sun had with IBM not to enter the database business or the systems management area, but Soyring said he did not know. Judge Jackson evidently did not like Holley's line of questioning, since he called the lawyers from both sides to the bench and recessed the court. It is likely that he admonished Holley, since there appeared to be no other reason to recess. Frederick Warren-Boulton will be cross-examined today. His evidence is directed at proving, legally, that Microsoft is a monopolist and that it uses its monopoly power to lever itself into other markets. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

IBM's ‘plot’ to destabilise Microsoft exposed in email

Pot called the kettle black in court yesterday, as Microsoft attorney Steve Holley produced emails that showed IBM exec John M Thompson plotting with Sun and Netscape against Microsoft. And while the 'everybody does it' line may not ultimately do Microsoft much good, they do show how fuzzy the line between alliance and cartel can be in the computer business. In August of last year Thompson, head of IBM's software operations, wrote to Scott McNealy of Sun and Jim Barksdale of Netscape with a view to neutralising the impact "of some of Microsoft's recent announcements." These "recent announcements" had been of a great deal of interest to the Java camp, as they essentially provided the first early warning of the Microsoft Java strategy that Sun managed to derail earlier this week. For example: "I'd like to clear up a misconception that is put around in the industry, which is that Microsoft, by virtue of our contract with Sun, is obliged to ship those Sun class libraries, that large OS replacement layer that Sun is trying to basically get everyone in the world to ship. Our contract does not require us to ship those libraries. And we have no intention of shipping another bloated operating system and forcing that down the throats of our Windows customers." Paul Maritz, in a 23rd July 1997 presentation. In the same presentation Maritz also described the other irritating (from Sun's point of view) aspect of the Microsoft Java policy. Windows was the main platform for the computer industry, developers would write for it first, so developers would logically write for the Windows "superset" of Java first, and from there deal with the rest of the industry via Sun '100 per cent pure' Java if they wished. Aside from being a worry for Sun, this was a worry for IBM, and for Thompson in particular. He had been in charge of the IBM software development operations that had been effectively blocked via the mechanisms described by John Soyring (Earlier Story). Thompson had tried to get around these on his own with multi-platform development mechanisms within IBM, but had failed. So to intercept Microsoft this time around, a broad alliance was needed. His Barksdale-McNealy email says he has "signed specific IBM resources to work with your team" on Java projects that will throw Microsoft "onto the defensive," and adds: "We must engage our other partners to bundle other Navigator," and Java products. In a later message he volunteers himself to work on Eric Schmidt of Novell, and suggests Larry Ellison be brought on board to help with Apple. At that time Apple had pulled out of the anti-Microsoft camp and allied with Microsoft instead, so Thompson seems to have been trying to win the company back. The extent to which this 'plot' matters is at least debatable. Thompson was clearly unsuccessful in getting his unspecified partners to bundle Navigator, and much of the Java activity in the intervening year has been pretty embryonic, so we can't yet judge the success of whatever he was doing there. If he had succeeded to the extent of locking Microsoft out of markets through deals and pressure, it could certainly have been an antitrust matter. But he didn't, and there's no obvious evidence that any such plan would have stood a chance. Microsoft's production of this stuff in its defence is certainly useful for historians, and makes it clear that everybody would do it if they could. But we knew that anyway, right? Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft to quadruple money from RealNetworks stake sale

The split between Microsoft and RealNetworks has reached its logical conclusion, with Microsoft announcing it's to sell its 10 per cent stake in the company. And it's no doubt a source of some considerable irritation to RealNetworks that the stock price in currently around four times the $8.99 a share Microsoft paid 15 months ago. RealNetworks' breach with Microsoft closely parallels the arguments Apple has been having with the company in open court over QuickTime. Company boss Rob Glaser (ex-Microsoft himself) testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings earlier this year, and claimed Microsoft had broken his company's media player, just as Apple's Avie Tevanian claimed Microsoft had broken QuickTime. As with QuickTime, Microsoft retorted that it was RealNetworks' fault. But Glaser had the added disadvantage of having apparently tried to trade not testifying for having his problems with Microsoft resolved, so as a witness he didn't look entirely pure. The big problem for RealNetworks, however, was that it was part of a Microsoft strategy that had been superseded. Microsoft had intended to integrate its technology, but switched to concentrating on its own media player instead. (Note for conspiracy theorists - as part of its alliance with Apple, Microsoft resolved all intellectual property disputes, including the use of QuickTime code in Microsoft's media player. This happened after the investment in RealNetworks, and may have been influential in the change of plan.) Once the integration deal was no more, and relations had been trashed by Glaser's testimony and outbursts, the two companies were effectively competitors. RealNetworks is now in bed with AOL, Netscape and IBM, among others. Microsoft says it wrote to RealNetworks in June saying it wanted to cash out via a public offering, but although RealNetworks was initially interested, it has gone cold on this more recently. Still, quadrupling the value of the stake should help the Redmond latte fund. ®
John Lettice, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Dixons claims Intel losing budget PC market share

Dixons has hit back at Intel after the chip giant's CEO claimed the UK retailer charges "ridiculous margins" for PCs. Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, made the comments at Comdex/Fall yesterday, backed up by senior VP Paul Otellini. Barrett, when he visited London last, cavilled at European sales and made references to some outlets selling product at higher than necessary prices. But his latest statement seems surprisingly blunt, and will deepen the perception that Intel is losing marketshare to clone x86 chip makers, including AMD and Cyrix. That, at least, is Dixons view. A Dixons statement said the group "can make no sense of this comment" but added that Intel was losing marketshare in its stores, which include superstores PC World and Currys. "What is really happening is that we are selling more PCs in our stores that have non-Intel chips in them and their market share has fallen considerably," the statement said. The Dixons Group introduced its first sub-£500 PC on 30 October 30, powered by a Cyrix processor, as first revealed here. But last week Asda joined the rush to sell PCs through its chain of supermarkets and described "some retailers" as selling units at too high a price. Intel announcements over the last few weeks show that the company is taking the entire budget PC market seriously as its market share is eroded by competitors. ®
Mike Magee, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft wins PC Week most honest company award

The DoJ has obviously been barking up the wrong tree as far as Microsoft is concerned. The Great Satan of software was earlier this week exposed not as a bunch of scummy, lying, conniving market manipulators but as a company showing high "standards of frankness with corporate customers and placing high value on customer suggestions and needs." This interesting and from Microsoft's point of view welcome revision of received wisdom comes from the editors of PC Week, who at Comdex awarded Microsoft the PC Week Corporate Partner Candor Award." As we understand it the field of entry for these prestigious gongs consists of PC Week corporate partners, presumably outfits in the PC industry which have some kind of connection with the mag. The Register's 'corporate partners' give us money, but what PC Week does with its corporate partners is PC Week's business, as far as we're concerned. The corporate partners ("or editorial advisory board," it says here - are they the same thing?) decide on who gets the award, and according to PC Week editor in chief Eric Lundquist, "It seems like a new Microsoft. This year, our Corporate Partners found that Microsoft is shifting gears and being more responsive -- which is a welcome change." Careful Eric - as we read that, you may be misinterpreted as meaning that up to the last year Microsoft has indeed been a bunch of scummy, lying etcs. It turns out the Candor Award is an annual event, and you might care to sit down before we tell you who won in 1997. No, we'll let you guess, it was the obvious one. ®
John Lettice, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Syquest founder ships 2GB Orb

Storage specialist Castlewood Systems has finally begun shipping its long-awaited Orb removable hard disk drive to OEMs and system builders. Orb offers a capacity of 2GB, magneto-resistive heads and an EIDE interface that transfers data at 12.2MBps sustained, the company said. Two external models will follow in January, one with a parallel port interface, the other an Ultra SCSI version. Castlewood was formed in 1996 by Syquest founder Syed Iftikar and quickly began promoting Orb. It promised to ship the drive quickly and offer it at a price well below rival products like Iomega's 1GB Jaz and Syquest's 1.5GB SyJet. Shipping around a year later than planned, but Orb will come in at $199.95 for the external models, less than both the 1GB and 2GB versions of Jaz. It's also faster -- the Iomega products' sustained data transfer rates are 6.6MBps and 8.7MBps, respectively. ORB cartridges will cost $29.95, roughly a quarter of the price of a single 2GB Jaz cartridge. ® See also Iomega to update Zip to 250MB Syquest finds buyer
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Misys sales thrashed

Misys shares took a beating yesterday, the same day the company learned that one of its major shareholders had strengthened his funding in the company. The share price fell 25.5p to 383p, with analysts saying the illiquidity of Misys stocks makes it vulnerable to market movements. Mike O’Leary, Misys business development director, increased his number of shares in the company by 4,335 1p ordinary shares to 889,561 yesterday. This makes O’Leary the fourth largest shareholder in the software and services group. George O’Connor, research analyst at Granville, said: “Many IT stocks have been subject to little trading but erratic price changes in the third quarter. Therefore, when you do get any movement at all it makes a dramatic difference like the one seen here.” The increased share move was the result of savings’ related options reaching maturity on 1 October. ®
Linda Harrison, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Azlan turning round but Net launch overdue

Network distributor Azlan is showing signs of recovery but is attempting to reassure suffering shareholders that an overdue Internet business launch will give it a further boost. Azlan’s shares rose 2p to 46.5p yesterday after figures indicated the networking distributor was recovering financially. The group, still under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office after a £30 million ‘black hole’ was found in its accounts, showed turnover up 9 per cent to £154 million. Operating losses went down to £354,000 for the six months to October 4, against a loss of £6.4 million the same period the previous year. Losses per share were cut from 14.2p to just 0.3p, but no dividend will be paid to shareholders for the year ending April 3, 1999. However, yesterday Azlan claimed long-suffering shareholders would benefit from a £3 million investment in an Internet business. The company, which distributes networking products for Cisco Systems and IBM, will offer a comprehensive service over the Internet. George O’Connor, research analyst at Granville, countered that the move itself would not boost share prices. He said: "It’s now critical that distributors get into the Internet arena to follow their competitors." Connor said that the problem also lay in the long-term pessimism from the city towards distribution in general. He added: "There is a lot of uncertainty in this sector." Clive Longbottom, strategy analyst at CSL, agreed, but said the Azlan results were better than expected. The six-month operating losses included an exceptional charge of £560,000 relating to a company restructure, resulting in redundancy and severance costs. ®
Linda Harrison, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Mulligan sited at Making Markets?

Martin Mulligan has been sighted at fellow ex-Datrontech George Evans’ latest enterprise, Making Markets. One of The Register’s sleuths spotted the former Datrontech MD’s name in the company visitors’ book on Tuesday. However, the said reporter was almost laughed out of the office at the “ludicrous” suggestion of any working relationship. Evans was adament that Mulligan, his successor at Datrontech, had only “popped in for a cup of tea.” Mulligan has been very elusive about future business plans since leaving the distributor earlier this month. Interested companies in the Mayfair area should probably put the kettle on just in case. ®
Linda Harrison, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

DoJ learns tricks from Microsoft spinmeisters

With the mainstream US press starting to doubt the credibility of Gates' deposition (it "cast doubt on Gates credibility": NYT; "a deep divide between what Gates and prosecution witnesses recalled of crucial events": San Jose Mercury; "a rumpled and slouching Gates repeatedly denying threatening Intel": Washington Post), maybe the DoJ is learning a few PR tricks. The best day for most computer industry announcements is generally reckoned to be Monday, in order to feed the weekly trade press. So what is the DoJ doing? Showing extracts from the Gates videotaped testimony each Monday. Microsoft's PR has been getting very shrill, claiming that Gates' public image was being "distorted", and that the trial shouldn't be about "Gates' posture... haircut... the kind of soda pop he drinks, or whether he pauses for ten seconds or 15 seconds before answering a question in his deposition [actually 25 or 30 seconds would have been a better metric]". Perhaps if Gates had been less evasive in his answering of questions, there would not have been so much of a story, but his general demeanour during his deposition (and during his earlier deposition in Caldera versus Microsoft) has electrified the courtroom and created a serious problem for both his lawyers and PR handlers. Microsoft PR accuses poor Glenn Weadock of having no "expertise related to... computer programming" which means that either Microsoft or Weadock is lying. Microsoft became apoplectic when it heard that "Weadock's report [sworn testimony, actually] "purports to show that some PC customers would prefer not to have Internet explorer technologies [Microsoft means a browser] incorporated in Windows 98." Microsoft went into sales-pitch mode, conceding only that "a few customers might prefer a different product design... " by which was meant a choice of browsers, and not one welded-on. The usual exit line was there: it was ridiculous that "government bureaucrats and attorneys should tell software companies how to design products for consumers." This line echoes general Silicon Valley concerns about any government interference -- generally a Republican stance - whereas Microsoft also likes to play a Democratic line to its staff and Microsoft developers. Microsoft's courthouse steps attack on OS/2 for its size is particularly cheeky, since it was Microsoft that made the first version of the product so large. IBM was horrified when Steve Ballmer told IBM how large it would be. The general Microsoft line about OS/2 is that it struggled because of self-inflicted wounds, and there is some truth in that. Of course, IBM's greatest mistake was to entrust its software development to Microsoft, but Soyring was probably instructed to keep off that embarrassing topic, which could reflect adversely on IBM's management. It was a little unfortunate for Microsoft that its press release opposing IBMer John Soyring's testimony was issued just before the preliminary result of the Sun v Microsoft case became known. Microsoft says: "Microsoft is the largest distributor of Java technology..." This statement should be of interest to Sun's lawyers, since Microsoft is not allowed to claim that its offerings are "Java" technology. Microsoft had been requiring ISVs that wanted to use the "Designed for Windows 95/NT" logo to ship only Microsoft's version of Java, but a report by Dow Jones yesterday mentioned that Microsoft "says it has done away with the licensing practice and intends to abandon its logo program." That's new, and not without a reason - presumably Microsoft is concerned about the legal issues. The Sun preliminary injunction is more relevant to the present case than Microsoft would like to admit, with the Microsoft spin being to admit, as Microsoft associate general counsel Thomas Burt did yesterday, that: "We may have gone beyond our contractual rights, but it does not create an antitrust violation." That is strictly true considered in isolation, but it is the whole pattern of Microsoft's behaviour that created the alleged violation, and Microsoft's actions towards Java are unhelpful to its defence. The relevance of the Sun case was underscored yesterday when Holley raised issues connected with it with Soyring. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Inprise offers to cure Microsoft's Java deficiency

Inprise, the company formerly known as Borland, has made a tragic and blatant bid for free publicity by offering to licence its Jbuilder "100 per cent pure Java" development tools to Microsoft, now the latter's look like they might be toast. Speaking from what sounds like a sake-soaked Inprise conference in Tokyo yesterday, Inprise chairman and CEO Del Yocam said: "Inprise is ready to help Microsoft, Sun and customers of both companies obtain the benefit of 100% Pure Java cross-platform technology by licensing our JBuilder technology to Microsoft… We recognise that many customers could be adversely impacted by the injunction against Microsoft and therefore we want to offer a solution that will enable Microsoft to quickly comply with the ruling from the US District Court." Just the other day of course Microsoft was whacked with an injunction forcing it to stop shipping its version and start shipping 100 per cent pure within 90 days. Microsoft's options include attempting to overturn the injunction, which it will do, and implementing an alternative solution. The company will certainly be looking at this right now, but as it has a viable Java-aware partner in the shape of HP, Del's phone may not be ringing in the immediate future. ®
John Lettice, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Infoseek gets go-ahead for Disney deal…

Internet portal Infoseek admitted yesterday that it is indeed attempting to renegotiate its search engine deal with Netscape. At the same time, it emerged Bell Atlantic is to sell almost all of its share in Infoseek, even as the portal finalised its purchase of Disney's Internet subsidiary Starwave and the commencement of their unified Web strategy. Netscape informed Infoseek last week that it wished to change its working relationship with the portal. Infoseek provides users of Netscape's own portal, Netcenter, with access to its search engine under a contract due for renewal next March. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing made by Infoseek, Netscape wants to reduce Netcenter users' exposure to the rival portal by making it appear in a less prominent position on Netcenter's pages. With portals rushing to expand their userbases and thus the revenue they can net from Web-based businesses and advertising, Netscape has clearly decided it doesn't want its vistors dashing off to rival sites. At the same time, Infoseek doesn't want to lose visitors. Netcenter also features Lycos' search engine, so it may also seek to modify its agreement with that portal too. Netscape's decision comes as Infoseek's third largest shareholder, Bell Atlantic, informed the SEC it intends to sell one million of its 1.2 million Infoseek shares. Bell Atlantic's Electronic Commerce Services division owns the shares. It also accounts for 8.7 per cent of Infoseek's 1997 revenue thanks to a deal in which it supplies the portal with its BigYellow Internet directory. As yet, Bell Atlantic has not commented on its reason for making the sale. Fortunately for Infoseek, the move did not prevent shareholders giving it the go-ahead to acquire Starwave for 43 per cent of Infoseek's outsanding common stock. Infoseek has also sold Disney further shares and provided a warrant to acquire more, all in exchange for $70 million cash and a $139 million promisory note. That will in turn allow Infoseek, Disney and Starwave to combine their resources and develop a new portal called the Go Network. In addition to becoming the front-end for Disney.com, Go will also work with ESPN.com and ABCNews.com, the latter matching rival broadcaster NBC's deal with Microsoft's MSN. ® See also Netscape to buy user-maintained Web directory AOL, Netscape discuss closer ties Netscape buys Web marketing company
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 1998

Win95 bug could spread to other CPU platforms than AMD

A software problem with Windows 95 that prevented AMD K6-2s from working properly may have the same effects on Intel processors. And even Cyrix CPUs may be affected. The software bug in Windows 95, which Microsoft claims it has fixed, means that K6-2 processors can crash at start-up. But the software problem is not just confined to AMD processors, according to a senior software engineer. He told The Register there is no conceivable reason why the Win95 bug should just affect AMD chips. Microsoft has refused to make the $35 patch freely available, insisting that users have to go through official channels to obtain it. The technologist said: "The bug seems to be with Win95 (not the K6-2 CPU), and will happen with Pentium II CPUs as well, once these get faster. By the way, this is not the first time timing bugs has occurred. Early versions of programs written with Borland's Turbo Pascal DOS compiler will crash on fast CPUs." Fast, he said, included Pentium-class CPUs. An Intel representative said: "So far there is no issue. I've had no information on this problem occurring with the Pentium II family." And a Cyrix representative said: "We've had no information about this at all." Meanwhile, a large VAR in the US, said that it had the IOS problem on a K6-2 350MHz and could not find the patch on Microsoft's site. He said: "We couldn't find the patch so we called Microsoft and to get the patch they were telling us that we would have to set up a phone support service account which would cost us $US35. We thought this quite ridiculous." And another end user told The Register that the patch Microsoft employs is only for OSR2.0 and refuses to install on the original version of Windows 95 which he has. He said: "So do I upgrade to Win98 at some cost or to OSR2, which is illegal because Microsoft doesn't sell OSR2?" Microsoft has still not responded to the questions we asked it three days ago. ® Related Stories
Mike Magee, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Cisco to add NDS support to CiscoAssure

Cisco and Novell announced their intention to ensure broad compatibility between their software and hardware products, as predicted (see earlier story). The agreement covers Cisco's CiscoAssure policy networking products and Novell Directory Services (NDS). The first fruits of the deal will be Cisco's Network Registrar IP Registration Services, which is interoperable with NDS, and the User Registration and Tracking Service, which will gain NDS support in the first half of 1999. The two companies will also propose extensions to the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) to the standards body in charge of the standard, the Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF). However, Cisco reiterated its support for Microsoft's Active Directory (AD) as its core directory service -- "CiscoAssure products will use the standards-based Active Directory client to operate in multi-directory environments," the company said. AD is due to ship as a component of Windows 2000 (aka NT 5.0) next year. The company said it intends to offer a new Cisco-branded product that ties into AD. Development of that product is separate from the CiscoAssure line. Cisco's press release also mentioned its Cisco Service Management product, but didn't indicate whether it too will be made to interoperate with NDS. Instead, it too will use "Active Directory client to operate in multi-directory environments". In essence, all this amounts to Cisco offering NDS for those who want it, but not recommending it as an alternative to AD. The deal may not have been as wide-ranging as pundits predicted, but Novell does come away from it with another big-name supporter under its belt to add to Lucent and Nortel. ®
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

AOL claims Dixons Freeserve bubble will burst

Defectors tempted by free Internet access from Freeserve are beginning to return to AOL's fold because of the high cost of Dixon's technical support line, the top online service has claimed. And despite Freeserve's phenomenal growth, AOL has experienced no substantial drop in membership, it maintains, although it concedes that people have defected to its rival access provider. AOL's claims follow Freeserve's boast earlier this week that it had become the most popular ISP in the UK after netting more than 500,000 accounts and relegating AOL to second place (see Freeserve spells end of AOL's UK supremacy). And the news coincided with a story in today's Daily Telegraph slagging off Dixons for charging punters too much to use its Freeserve technical support line. The £1-a-minute telephone helpline is used by people who find it difficult to log onto the Internet. "If people start getting bills for £100 they're going to get pretty hacked off," said one disgruntled Freeserve customer speaking in the Telegraph. "People look at this and think it's a free service -- they don't realise," he added. A spokeswoman for Dixons said running up a tab like this was highly unlikely since the company calls people back after 20 minutes if a problem remains unresolved. Typically, calls only last around four minutes, she said. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu takes aim at Tosh Libretto with new LifeBook

Fujitsu has added two new notebook computers to its range, claiming they'll no longer be a burden to lopsided mobile workers. The LifeBook B110 (nicknamed Bilbo, sorry, Biblo) is the world's smallest, lightest high-performance notebook PC, claims Fujistu, and is about the same weight and size as a paperback book. A Biblo with an Intel 233MHz MMX Penitum II with 8.4in TFT screen, 32MB SDRAM (expandable to 160MB), 3.2GB hard drive and 2MB Neo Magic 2160 video controller will set you back £1,199 (inc. VAT). The new LifeBook L series is the latest incarnation of the sliceable concept launched by Fujitsu two years ago. With all the main PC elements contained in the main lightweight unit, it can be easily snapped into a separate MobileDock which carries extra interfaces such as CD-ROM, floppy drive and a second battery. Complete with Pentium II CPU and a 13.3in screen in an inch-thick package that weighs less than couple of bags of sugar, prices for the LifeBook L starts at £1,999 (exc. VAT). ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Hitachi Data Systems to cut 400 jobs

Hitachi Data Systems is to axe 400 employees, 14.5 per cent of its worldwide workforce. The cuts will be applied across HDS, the company said, but details of how the cuts will affect individual territories has not been revealed. HDS has offices in 31 countries. The company blamed changing market conditions. "We are changing because the global marketplace is changing," said CEO Yoshihiru Koshimizu. HDS is a joint venture between Hitachi and EDS. Revenues for the fiscal year ending 31 March 1996 were $1.6 billion. In September, Hitachi announced a series of redundancies resulting from the slump in the semiconductor market. ®
Team Register, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel strikes Pentium MMX set-top deal

Intel and set-top box company Neon Technology have announced a Pentium MMX-based version with built-in ADSL and Ethernet support. Neon, a 1995 Internet appliance start-up, produces a range of products based on Intel, Cyrix, SGS-Thomson and AMD x86-compatible silicon and using 32-bit posix-compliant RTOS (ie. non-Microsoft) operating software. The new box uses an MMX chipset from Intel’s Embedded Microcomputer Division (which we think is a new subdivision) for CPU intensive tasks, including running full-duplex voice over IP and RealNetworks’ RealPlayer 5. The addition of ADSL and Ethernet places it at the top of Neon’s range of devices. Neon’s set-top products are essentially designed to offer standard Internet facilities in a set-top box package, and include an HTML 3.2 browser with Javascript and SSL 3.0 for secure e-commerce. The Intel deal seems to be a further sign –- if one were needed –- that Intel hardware no longer necessarily needs Microsoft software. ®
John Lettice, 19 Nov 1998
The Register breaking news

Iomega clik! wins backing of Compaq, Agfa

Iomega has signed Compaq and Agfa to support its 40MB clik! drives, which it claims will be available in the first half of next year. However, the letters of intent signed by both Iomega partners doesn't actually require them to ship products using the technology. Compaq said it will fit clik! drives to some future models in its Windows CE 2.0-based C series of handheld PCs -- and even then it will only be available through the manufacturer's direct sales service. It will appear in "1999 as a specially priced retail bundle". Agfa, meanwhile, promised to "begin exploring building clik! drives into future digital imaging products". In short: 'well, we'll see if we can add the drive, but we're not necessarily going to ship it'. And, given the non-binding nature of the support agreements, it doesn't even have to bother doing that. Clik! is a small form-factor removable disk system for devices too small for Zip drives. It's target markets are digital imaging products, like cameras, and palmtop PCs, so the signing of Compaq and Agfa is more about stressing that market emphasis than providing a comprehensive list of suppliers. Originally announced at Comdex two years ago, clik! has been promoted as 'coming real soon now' every year since. According to Iomega, the delay is a result on ongoing quality assurance testing, but Compaq and Agfa's insistence on ensuring there letters of intent to support clik! don't actually force them to do anything suggests they have doubts that Iomega can get the drive out of the door by the new deadline. ® See also Iomega to update Zip to 250MB
Tony Smith, 19 Nov 1998