1st > December > 1998 Archive

Intel moves into e-commerce software

Intel is to buy privately-held e-commerce specialist iCat Corporation for an undisclosed sum - and, for that matter, for undisclosed purposes. The Seattle-based company has been in operation for five years, and produces secure e-commerce software and services, working for a number of large companies, but also offering 'do-it-yourself' online storefront systems for smaller businesses from its Web site. Intel's buying the company can probably be seen as boosting the company's portfolio of small business Web and networking offerings, but it clearly also takes Intel rather spectacularly into the heavy-duty software business. iCat's Electronic Commerce Suite will run on Windows 95 and NT, but it also supports Sun Solaris, SGI IRIX and HP-UX. So Intel Unix implementations can no doubt be expected PDQ, and here we have Intel getting into the kinds of areas its old buddies at Microsoft don't want it in again. ®
John Lettice, 01 Dec 1998

Adaptec puts Ultra2 into Linux source

Adaptec says it has now provided all the tools, product and documentation for the development of Ultra2 Linux drivers. Ultra2 capabilities are now in the main Linux source, and are to be released in Red Hat's Linux 5.2. According to Red Hat Ultra2 developer Doug Ledford, Linux support of Adaptec is "better than anything previously available to the Linux OS community." Adaptec says it sees the Linux development model as being a benefit to the PC industry, and that it will continue to provide SCSI chip design and host adapters to key Linux developers, along with product information for quality assurance labs to Linux distributors. ®
Team Register, 01 Dec 1998

Pace chooses C-Cube for NTL set-top system

Pace Micro Technology is to provide the set-top systems for the rollout of UK cable company NTL's two-way digital cable network. NTL has 25 per cent of the UK cable market, covering 5.2 million homes. The Pace systems will use C-Cube's AViA@tv set-top platform, which will provide Web access, hi-fi audio/video, browsing, email, chat, pay per view, games and home shopping. Pace is involved with 18 broadcasters world-wide, and claims to be the only company holding set-top box manufacturing contracts for all three digital TV platforms in the UK: cable, satellite and terrestrial. Separately, C-Cube yesterday announced that Pioneer had also adopted its platform, which uses a Sun microSparc processor. ®
Team Register, 01 Dec 1998

Apple, Imatec lawsuit talks collapse

Apple and imaging software developer Imatec have failed to reach an agreement to prevent the latter's $1.1 billion patent infringement lawsuit against the Mac maker reaching the courts. However, the first hearing is unlikely to begin before next March, over a year since Imatec filed the suit in New York. Imatec's case centres on its allegation that Apple used Imatec-patented technology in its ColorSync software. ColorSync provides the Mac with a device-independent colour system ensuring the colours created by scanning an image are accurately reproduced on screen and in hard copy form. This isn't possible without such technology because all three devices generate colours in very different ways. Apple introduced ColorSync in 1993, but claims the software is based on technologies that it had been offering since 1985 -- before Imatec's patents were granted in 1992. Adobe has been offering a device-independent colour model as part of PostScript Level 2 since the late 80s, and other companies, particularly monitor manufacturers, were offering devices for calibrating displays based, to an extent, on matching colours with printed output before 1992. Imatec's patent speaks of images "formed on the video monitor screen and measured using a photometer" which are then "reproduced on hard copy and may be measured using a densitometer". The two values are "entered into a computer system and used to adjust, on a pixel-by-pixel basis, the electronic controls of the hard color reproduction system to compensate for any deviations from accurate reproduction". That implies a system predicated on the use of extra colour-sampling devices, operating in real-time, leading to a two-pass process in which the image is printed, tested, adjusted and then printed again, this time with the correct mix of colours. It's a moot point whether it covers such tasks in advance and building the appropriate adjustment into the system software, which is essentially what ColorSync is all about. It simply collates colour information for different devices and modifies image data as it moves from one supported device to another. That may explain why Imatec appears to have changed its tack slightly since the initial filing. Its pre-trial deposition claims Apple acknowledged that it didn't have a policy in place for checking new products against existing patents. Imatec's intention is that, had Apple checked the patents database, it would have seen Imatec had some sort of prior claim on the technology and that it would have therefore come to some kind of arrangement with the developer. That, of course, presumes Apple hadn't done so and found that the two technologies don't clash, hence its decision not to communicate with Imatec. ®
Tony Smith, 01 Dec 1998

Intel posts 440ZX, 440ZX66 chipset specs

Intel has posted details of its new 440ZX and 440ZX66 chipsets on its Web site -- even though it has yet to announce them officially. The two chip-sets have been designed for Pentium II and Celeron-based systems, respectively. Both support a maximum RAM space of just 256MB, and neither is capable of handling multiple processors. Essentially, both appear to be cut-down versions of the 440BX chipset for OEMs who don't require that set's full range of features, but want more than the 440LX and 440EX provide. ®
Team Register, 01 Dec 1998

Sega ships 150,000 Dreamcast consoles at launch

Sega sold 150,000 Dreamcast machines at the WinCE-based, 128-bit next-generation games console's launch in Japan on Friday, the company said yesterday. That figure represents all the machines Sega had lined up to supply stores' customer pre-orders. It's telling that the statistic doesn't include sales beyond those early orders -- Sega has had a problem ramping up volume because of difficulties NEC has had supplying it with the PowerVR 2 graphics chip at the heart of Dreamcast. NEC's problems earlier forced Sega to cut back its sales predictions. It originally hoped to sell one million Dreamcasts by the end of the year, but is now saying only 500,000 will ship. The one million target has been moved back to next March. ® See also Sega issues 'Dreamcast bonds' to fund console launch NEC admits it delayed Sega Dreamcast
Tony Smith, 01 Dec 1998

Shortage of PII 333MHz and 350MHz now acute

Demand for Pentium II 333MHz and 350MHz has so outstripped supply that there is an acute shortage of parts, a distributor has warned. Two weeks ago, Intel admitted that there was heavy demand for the PII processors, while yesterday it said that the PII 233, 266MHz and 300MHz were not now generally available. At the time, Intel said that supplies would begin to catch up with demand in a few weeks, but Mark Davison, processor product manager at UK distributor Datrontech, said today there is still a shortage. He said: "The shortages are still bad. My order book is strong but there will be a lot of people that can't ship machines before the end of the year." Datrontech, he said, was trying to move its customers to the 400MHz and the 450MHz parts, but the difference in price between the 350MHz and the 450MHz PII is around £100. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Dec 1998

Aliens 1: Intel 0

We owe the microchip revolution not to Intel but to aliens, if allegedly official top secret US government documents, released on the Web yesterday, are true.
Tony Smith, 01 Dec 1998

Mendocino the culprit in Pentium II scam

End users are being warned that a scam where Pentium II processors are substituted for Celeron Mendocino chips could dent their expectations. According to the report, unscrupulous Taiwanese manufacturers are inserting 333MHz Mendocino chips into Slot One cartridges and passing them off as PII/333 parts. A UK source, who declined to be named, said: "The Mendocino is more powerful, speed for speed and spec for spec than the equivalent PII. If it had 256K cache on it, it would outperform the Pentium II." Once in the case and with some additional circuitry, the processor is practically unidentifiable, he claimed. The price delta between the 333MHz Celeron part and the PII/333 processor is around $20, giving additional margin, he said. An Intel representative said: "We recommend that people only buy through approved channels. We frown upon such practices. Re-marking is a bad thing generally." ®
Mike Magee, 01 Dec 1998

Can the AOL-Netscape deal be made to work?

With the dust now settling on the AOL-Netscape-Sun deal and the details now filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, it's time to step back for a moment and consider the implications. The fixers included John Doerr, a venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers who is on the boards of AOL and Netscape. Significantly, the deal allows his firm to liberate its investments. The deal also looks like an excellent exit strategy for Netscape shareholders. It is known that Steve Case, AOL's CEO, and Jim Barksdale, Netscape's CEO, both attended a Kleiner Perkins conference in Aspen in June. It would have been surprising if they had not arranged to meet again to work out a deal when Barksdale was in Washington giving evidence at the beginning of the Microsoft trial, since AOL's office is a taxi ride away. Miles Gilburne of AOL, who brokered the complex AOL acquisition of CompuServe, was the key AOL negotiator. Larry Sonsini, the ace industry fixer from Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati represented Netscape. The structure of the deal is complex, and was set up to minimise tax burdens. Apollo Acquisition Corp was set up by AOL for the transaction, which will be a reorganisation under Section 368 of the Internal Revenue Code, becoming effective as soon as a certificate of merger is filed in a few months. It requires the approval of Netscape's shareholders, who get 0.45 of an AOL share for each Netscape share. The deal is structured as a pooling of interests, which makes it possible to minimise how the acquisition affects the balance sheet. Netscape had 99,938,928 shares issued and outstanding. The deal is worth $4.2 billion. AOL had a capital stock of 1,800,000,000 shares of which 459,333,610 were issued and outstanding. Share options for Netscape staff will be maintained, since it is seen to be important to retain the staff. Netscape will cease to exist as a legal entity and become a division of AOL. As usual, not too much attention appears to have been played to the non-US aspects of the deal, and European partner Bertelsmann's role will need to be defined. The strategic development and marketing alliance with Sun is a three-year agreement designed to enhance e-commerce for the AOL and Netscape brands. Doing the deal as two separate transactions lessens the tax liability, which would otherwise have affected the bottom line of both AOL and Sun's accounts had Netscape been split between them. The cultural differences in the companies are very pronounced, so the decision to keep the separate geographical locations (Virginia and California) is probably a wise one. The companies have worked together in the past: Netscape had incorporated AOL's instant messenger service into its browser, and Netcenter incorporated AOL's digital cities product. But if their greatest common interest is in fact their opposition to Microsoft, it's a silly reason for the merger. So far as the effect on the Microsoft trial is concerned, there are factors that superficially favour both sides. AOL/Netscape is anxious that the deal is not presented as a fire sale, but the DoJ would prefer that interpretation. Microsoft wishes it to be seen as a ganging up by powerful industry forces against Microsoft, and with $4 billion involved, Netscape was far from being mortally wounded by anything that Microsoft did to Netscape. The remedy already proposed -- that Microsoft be obliged to distribute Navigator -- is less likely since the dynamics of the industry are changing far faster than the legal case is proceeding. For AOL to have two heavily-used Web sites does not spell success. So how does AOL expect to make money on the deal? Well, Case said he was impressed how Netscape had turned "away from browsers and platforms to high-growth portal and e-commerce opportunities" but that does not exactly equate at making a billion dollars a year to pay for the deal. The envisaged synergy with AOL, CompuServe, ICQ and Digital City has to translate into new revenue, and that is likely to be rather difficult to achieve. It amounts to AOL being successful at fulfilling its dreams for e-commerce, and we believe, an Internet terminal. We do not envisage Netscape making much money from Netcenter as a portal with the present business model. Users are fickle. Advertising budgets devoted to Web sites are likely to be moved quickly if the advertising is seen to be ineffective. Users will increasingly switch off graphics to achieve faster rendering, and the more sophisticated ones will use browsers like Opera that allow animation to be switched off. The real anomaly is that with AOL having 92 percent of its users on IE (at least since the Microsoft deal marketing deal), it cannot readily push them to Netcenter. Tools like Netscape TuneUp for IE have a very low market awareness and are unlikely be adopted on a large scale. Likewise, ICQ - AOL's appallingly named instant communications and chat portal - is hardly likely to "promote the downloading and registration of the Netscape client software" on a large scale. AOL users are at the dumb end of the spectrum, and are mostly not keen to get involved in installing software. Certainly the biggest unknown factor is how AOL can leverage Navigator sufficiently. Probably it can't, and is really relying on some as-yet undefined boost for its next generation of AOL software, possibly based on Internet terminals, so getting away from Microsoft dependency. It is uncertain whether Microsoft would be prepared to renew its deal with AOL if it became clear that AOL planned to introduce Windowless Internet terminals. Netscape has quietly developed a new, small browser called Raptor that might be used by AOL in an Internet device. Indeed, this is one area where the deal could make sense: a revival of the NC. It is by no means certain that the Microsoft-AOL deal will be renewed on the same terms, and AOL's inclusion in Windows is now less important, especially as Microsoft has been moving the folders down the hierarchy. In addition, one of the outcomes of the case against Microsoft may well be some ruling about how Microsoft deals with companies like AOL, to AOL's benefit. It is however most unlikely that any company that planned to stay in business would bet its future on the outcome of the present case against Microsoft. The future of Mozilla, the open-source Netscape browser code, seems safe, in view of what Case has been promising (and because it is not possible to take back what has been given away), but it is interesting that it has not been taken up by many large commercial organisations yet. So far as the Linux liaison is concerned, this was a pet project of Andreessen, but his future has not yet been defined. It is not likely that Sun would not be too enthusiastic about giving away Linux instead of selling Solaris. The value of Netscape's e-commerce software for Sun remains to be seen. It will depend on how keen Sun is to sell it. There is an opportunity there, but Sun's history is of being a conservative company that does not normally move unless it sees a profit. In the present deal, getting Netscape as a $500 million hardware customer was evidently sufficient. All the talk of "Sun's e-commerce hardware" is marketing hype: Sun has well-engineered hardware and well-oiled software, and so do several of its competitors, not least IBM, HP and Digital-as-was. A side-deal for Sun is that Kiva Software, a developer acquired by Netscape in 1997 (including what is now known as Netscape Application Server), have better products than those obtained from middleware company NetDynamics, which Sun bought for $160 million earlier in the year. Sun says it will sell products from both. Java is still an unknown factor for the deal. The Java opportunity is knocking on the door more loudly than ever before. Perhaps the right building consortium for Javaspace has now been found, since AOL has said that it would use Java in the next generation of Internet devices. We see the best prospect for the success of the deal as being for AOL to develop its own Internet devices (which Case has dubbed the "AOL Anywhere strategy"), with Raptor as the basis of a new browser. We would not be surprised to see Corel WordPerfect being part of the picture, and of course the servers would be by Sun, with Java playing a significant role. The deal does not have the solid product that the IBM Lotus acquisition had. Even the WordPerfect acquisition by Novell had a real product, although the dynamics were wrong at the time. It is now seen that mega deals must have product and a business model: the Lotus deal had both, but the WordPerfect deal had only product as a result of the failure of the DoJ to bring the right case against Microsoft in 1993. The Netscape deal seems to have products without much market potential and only a vague business model, which does not auger well. Some key questions remain. Can AOL really be worth 350 times its earnings? Can AOL earn at least a billion dollars a year to pay for the deal? We think not, and see the failure of this venture as more likely than its success. If that happens, the Internet sector would suddenly lose its glamour, and be starved of access to capital. Then, the one company with plenty of it could step in and buy any pieces it wanted. That's probably Microsoft's strategy, although it may not yet know it. ®
Graham Lea, 01 Dec 1998

Microsoft misses NT beta three deadline

Microsoft has missed its promised deadline of shipping NT 5.0 beta three by Thanksgiving Day and has now quietly said the beta will be ready in Q1 1999.
Mike Magee, 01 Dec 1998

Linux Worm attacks continue despite warnings

Red Hat has posted a patch on its Web site after it emerged that the latest version of Linux, release 5, has been found to be susceptible to attack from a Worm virus. The Worm targets ISPs' Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) servers running Intel-based hardware controlled by Linux. It subverts essential components of the OS from which it can attack other networks while remaining hidden from the system administrator. The patch fixes the server's security weakness that allows the Worm to enter the system, and is built into the latest release of the OS, version 5.2. Hackers have been increasing their attempts to spread the Worm ever since details of the problem emerged in June thanks to work conducted by Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). Most of the current crop of Worm-based attacks appear to come from other major US educational centres, used as relay points. ®
Team Register, 01 Dec 1998

Software sniffs out cheats on the Web

Time could be running out for people who like to copy others' work by downloading it from the Internet and claiming it as their own. A team at Birmingham University has developed a program, called Vocalyser, which is being put to good use in the English department, spotting students that have plagiarised work. Apparently, some students have started buying essays from the US over Internet. Vocalyser will check submitted essays for key words, and great slabs of text, that appear elsewhere. The Register is surprised to hear that such a hardworking body of people as students would sink so low as to steal other people’s work just to avoid a spot of honest hard work. Maybe the powers-that-be at Birmingham University are just over reacting, though. Imitation is, after all, said to be the sincerest form of flattery. And to illustrate this point, The Register would like to thank NewsNow and the Press Association, among others, for all the sincere and flattering manner in which our stories keep appearing on their Web sites. ®
Sean Fleming, 01 Dec 1998

Big SK Five subs under government threat

The South Korean government is talking tougher and will get tougher with the big five chaebols (family concerns). Reports in tomorrow's papers in South Korea will say that the Ministry of Finance and Economy will shut down subsidiaries Hyundai, LG, Samsung, Daewoo and SK which cannot be clearly demonstrated make money. That follows a high level investigation into the way debts are shunted around in the conglomerates. The South Korean government, faced with pressure from the International Monetary Fund(IMF), is likely to take action at the beginning of next year, unless the chaebols reform their ways. Meanwhile, LG said it is to restructure its TFT group. Only a few weeks ago, Hyundai did the same. The LCD units are seen as unprofitable in the peninsula. ®
A staffer, 01 Dec 1998

Equator readies entry into media processor market

US chip developer Equator Technologies is set to unveil its MAP1000 media processor this week. Its unique selling point: the chip delivers DSP and ASIC functionality through software written in a high level language. Equator's chip is provides hardware developers with a platform through which functionality like MPEG decoding and 3D graphics engines can be developed and, more importantly, quickly revised and updated through software. If Equator has its way, MAP1000 will replace the hardwired chips currently being used in digital TVs, set-top boxes, printers, and other peripheral devices and consumer electronics systems. The chip features built-in 230MHz RAMDAC, NTSC/RGB display controller, real-time video scaler, video transport channel interface and AC link for audio codec. In essence, it's halfway between a full-blown microprocessor and a DSP -- imagine a kind of trimmed down AltiVec-based PowerPC or 3D Now!-equipped K6-2. The idea is to bring the flexibility of mainstream software development with the tight focus of dedicated chips. Equator supplies the chip with development tools and reference materials to allow developers to quickly roll-out relatively simple apps like MPEG stream manipulation. The processor component is derived from Hitachi's Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) development word, and Equator has financial backing from the Japanese giant. It also supports partitioned SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Dispatch) operations, has a clock speed of 200MHz and is based on 0.25-micron technology. Equator claims it can process 3.2 billion MAC 16-bit multiply/add operations, 1.6 billion 32-bit floating-point operations and 20 billion pixel-level operations per second. The MAP1000 also supports up to 64MB of external SDRAM/SGRAM at speeds over 130MHz. ®
Tony Smith, 01 Dec 1998

Vocalis launches talking Web sites

Speech recognition specialist Vocalis Group plc wants people to talk to Web sites instead of viewing them using traditional graphics-based browsers. The Cambridgeshire-based company wants to sign up 1000 companies in the UK to take part in a trial next year that will test the appeal of using their text-to-speech technology. Using any phone, users simply dial into a site fitted with Vocalis' SpeecHTML software and request the information they require. The system also enables users to conduct transactions over the phone just as they would use a normal Web browser. Vocalis claims that this is a cost-effective way of offering information for those who don't have ready access to a PC since all they need is a telephone. Moreover, companies using the scheme don't have to operate call centres or employ staff to handle enquiries because the information is translated into speech from the text they already have prepared. "This pilot is the first step in providing every company with a telephone information and transaction service as part of their Web facilities," said Mike Williams, business development director at Vocalis. A spokeswoman for the company denied that this technology would be made redundant once hand-held devices providing Web access become widely available. But she did conform that anyone with a particularly strong accent, speech impediment or a bad cold may encounter problems using the system. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Dec 1998

SoS hits out at VCs

Peter Mandelson has slammed venture capitalists and pension funds for not investing more in hi-tech start-ups. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said unless more cash is pumped into these services it could jeopardise the UK's future economic prosperity. Speaking at the British Venture Capital Association (BVCA) annual dinner, Mandelson called for more finance to be invested in high-tech start-up companies. "It is clear that we need to finance more of these innovative, high-tech start ups and see them grow into the dynamic, world beating companies of the future," he said. "But I am particularly concerned that the pension funds and others maybe overly cautious when it comes to venture capital and investing in innovative, early stage companies." In the US, more than five per cent of pension fund money goes into venture capital. In the UK, that figure is just 0.75 per cent. As a result, around 60 per cent of the money raised by UK-based venture capital comes from America. BVCA chairman Clive Sherling said the minister was right to draw attention to the problem. And he agreed with Mandelson that pension funds should do more to help new companies. While the rhetoric from the secretary of state is broadly welcomed, some industry insiders have said that if the government is serious about this, it should offer tax breaks to investors. Mandelson has suggested that he is looking into the issue. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Dec 1998

Wireless LANs are go

Proxim has come out with the largest share of the wireless LAN market, according to an IDC report into the wireless network market which predicts massive growth in this sector over the next five years. The California-based LAN manufacturer leads the competition with 30 per cent of wireless LAN network interface cards (NIC) shipments, IDC said. The IDC study, Wireless LANs: Worldwide Market Review and Forecast, 1997-2003, went on to say market growth is expected to exceed 30 per cent each year, with wireless LAN shipments reaching more than four million by 2003. IDC also said that Proxim came out top in the world-wide wireless LAN frequency hopping market, with 47 per cent market share. Frequency hopping is employed in retail, warehousing and manufacturing, taking up 65 per cent of wireless LAN NIC shipments by transmission technology. ®
Linda Harrison, 01 Dec 1998

EU members fail to agree on crypto directive

EU technology minister Martin Bangemann yesterday slammed France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Portugal for the "old attitudes" to new technology, after the four failed to agree with other EU member states on a unified cryptography policy. Britain, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands believe that specific technical requirements for a secure electronic signature system should be set by the expanding e-commerce market, and not by the EU. Their opponents, however, believe a lead should be taken by member states to encourage consumer confidence. Speaking after the meeting ended with no agreement between the two camps, Bangemann sided with the UK and its supporters, saying that those countries demanding a legislated approach had not realised how fast e-commerce technology was changing. Rigid controls would cause trade conflicts, he warned. "[Some] member states are not aware what they are doing," he added. "They are underestimating the developments in information society technology. They believe they can meet these new developments with their old attitudes." Concern over the security of online transactions, which electronic signatures are designed to ensure and authenticate, has been widely seen as the key stumbling block to the widespread acceptance of e-commerce. The draft EU directive aims to put electronic signatures, providing they are certified by authorised third-parties, on the same legal footing as handwritten signatures. However, the European Commission wants the directive to focus on the certification and authorisation processes, not the technology underlying them. ®
Tony Smith, 01 Dec 1998

Hire Intelligence posts second ad for franchisees

Hire Intelligence, the Australian PC rental company, is attempting to expand its UK market share by seeking franchisees through newspaper ads. A second ad appeared in the Times today, asking for businesspeople to come forward and buy franchises for £30,000-38,000. It claimed annual profits of £83,500 on capital (including stock) of £133,250 could be achieved. The company first came to England last July, opening a franchise in Maida Vale, London. Since then, two subsidiaries of this franchise have opened in Glasgow and South East London. Steve Taylor, Hire Intelligence's senior sales executive in the UK, said these latest additions had largely resulted from the ad in the Times earlier this year. He said turnover for the Maida Vale franchise had started at £2000 in the first month of operation, and now stood at £90,000-100,000. He also outlined next year's plans to roll out franchises in Birmingham, Reading, Manchester and Dublin. Desktops account for about 60 per cent of Hire Intelligence's business, mainly Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. The remaining 40 per cent notebook business is mostly Toshiba. ®
Linda Harrison, 01 Dec 1998

Heppe hops home from TDK Europe

PC Card modem specialist TDK Systems Europe is to gain a new MD when the present incumbent, David Heppe, returns to his native US later this month. His replacement, Keith Marsden, was formerly MD at Grey Cell Systems, the company TDK bought in September last year. Indeed, the company only just changed its name from TDK Grey Cell back on 1 October over to TDKS Systems to bring it in line with its US and German operations. Marsden confirmed that he will be taking over the reins at TDK next week. "I suppose I keep on popping back up like an old penny," he joked. He is perhaps best remembered within the UK modem industry for his short spell -- all of 20 days -- at the helm of rival PC Card modem manufacturer, Megahertz. Marsden was there for less than one month before Megahertz was acquired by US Robotics, now part of 3Com. Furthermore, he was only been at Grey Cell Systems for 18 months before its acquisition by TDK. He has acted as a consultant for TDK since the Grey Cell acquisition. This time the prospects for TDK Systems being acquired by another venture presently look very slim indeed. David Heppe is rumoured to be joining old friends who run a video equipment manufacturer based in Grass Valley, California, and will be working on developing digital processing equipment for the broadcasting industry. ®
Tony Dennis, 01 Dec 1998

Opinion: Give Microsoft a break

If you read the pages of The Register regularly you'd think we had some obsessive-compulsive attitude which meant we disliked Microsoft. Some of us actually sort of love Microsoft here. These are the people, after all, who gave us cut and paste, real time. It was possible to cut and paste using GEM from Digital Research and it is true that GEM was much faster than any version of Windows anyone has ever seen, processor speed-wise. But GEM was not very colourful, was it? Even using SVGA and XGA very highly expensive monitors and graphics cards, it always had that bluish look about it. Windows is colourful. All the hardware manufacturers agreed at the time, and since, for that matter. Monitor manufacturers spoke of Windows on the glass and how the glowing colours displayed so well. Yes, we love the Great Santa of Software. Like Intel, it has kept us PC journalists in work for many years. And long may that continue, Linux nothwithstanding. A very merry Christmas to you all... ®
Mike Magee, 01 Dec 1998

E-commerce in red-tape bondage threat

The government's plans to turn the UK into a thriving centre of electronic commerce could be jeopardised if it becomes too obsessed with rules and regulations. Paul Barker, a consultant at KPMG, warned that over regulation could severely hamper the UK's progress, although he did broadly approve of the government's measures, as outlined in the Queen's speech last week. "The government should avoid the temptation to over-regulate as this could inhibit, rather than encourage the adoption of e-commerce," he said speaking at a seminar. "If the government were to insist on issuing licences to all companies before allowing them trade electronically, this could add an extra layer of bureaucracy that might stifle innovation," he said. But a spokesman at the Department of Trade and Industry dismissed the claims saying that too much red tape would not hamper the development of e-commerce. Over-regulation is at the forefront of our minds, he said, and the last thing we want to do is pass legislation that will straitjacket business. This is particularly important when it comes to e-commerce -- especially since no one knows what it will be like in ten years time, he said. The electronic commerce bill is expected to be debated in the spring and could be made law by the summer.®
Tim Richardson, 01 Dec 1998

Charity begins at home

Outsourcing giant, EDS, is investing £2 million over five years to support an arts-based urban generation project in Salford, Greater Manchester. The Lowry Project, named after the Salford artist, is a development which includes an art centre, two theatres, three art galleries, and a number of restaurants and bars. The site is based in the Salford Quays area of the city, which was the site of much rejuvenation in the late 1980s. The total cost of the redevelopment is £170 million. EDS will provide IT infrastructure and services as part of the £400,000 per year partnership. The investment will centre on the Lowry Centre's Digital World Centre, part of the exhibition which will enable people visiting the centre to see IT equipment in use and view next generation technology. The Digital World Centre will also host post graduate research projects run by Salford University. The Lowry Centre has been singled out to be the National Landmark Millennium Project for the Arts.®
Sean Fleming, 01 Dec 1998

Microsoft tells press what to think about Java

Microsoft hasn't been getting a terrific press so far in the antitrust action, but today the company seems to have had a spectacular bout of lateral thinking. What about pulling all the journalists in and telling them what it all means before, er, it all happens? It's an interesting innovation, anyway. Microsoft was today expecting the arrival in court of Sun VP and Java creator James Gosling, so it held a press conference to explain what it was all going to mean, and the arguments it was going to make. Radical, yes? Apparently the memos were all a ghastly mistake. In 1996 Bill Gates did indeed say that Java scared him, and at that time various Microsoft execs did indeed go into overdrive over the threat of Java. But hey, they were misinformed. According to Microsoft group product manager Charles Fitzgerald, most of Microsoft's emails concerning Java stem from 1996, and were written in response to the hype from Sun. Sun has indeed been the unwilling supplier of numerous 'Java will kill Windows' memos and anecdotes (as produced by Microsoft in the Sun-Microsoft action), so you could say Fitzgerald has a point. Sun really was/is out to get Microsoft, so when news of the projected invasion came, well, naturally Microsoft's hard-hitters were going to get pretty verbally voluble. But that was then, and this is now. Disarmingly, Fitzgerald points out that all of this stuff was before the shortcomings of Java became known. Java, he says, doesn't work as advertised, and is a lowest common denominator solution. So Java turned out not to be a danger, so Microsoft execs stopped exchanging stinking memos about Java after 1996. Ben Slivka, who was handling Java strategy at the time, can't have heard this, and wrote to Gates in April 1997: "How do we wrest control of Java away from Sun? …How we turn Java into just the latest, best way to write Windows applications?" (Unfortunate not 1996 Java memo story). Apart from that, once it had decided Java was a mess (yes, there's more to this intriguing pitch), Microsoft attempted to help Sun out of its difficulties. Seeing what a pig's ear Sun was making of the whole thing, Microsoft placed its efforts behind the development of a Windows implementation of Java that would work better and faster, thus giving developers more choice. Fitzgerald apparently (we weren't invited, strangely) didn't explain how these efforts dovetailed with other initiatives -- like, for example, licensing a JVM from HP because Microsoft's own wasn't battle-ready yet. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 01 Dec 1998

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