3rd > December > 1998 Archive

Mandelson spins like a gyroscope do

A little underground creature (The Lambton Worm) tells La Registra that the deal between Siemens and the Departure of Trade and Industry (DTI) including Chinese consortia could have fallen through already. Reports selectively leaked to The Sunday Times by some Lambton style worm could easily be as flakey as we thought when the story was writ by us last Sunday. Spinners and bouncers at the Departure of Trade and Industry, of course, refuse to comment...
Ananda Adnana, 03 Dec 1998

Two years ago: Register guddles trout while Intel goes fishin’

Intel has some interesting things afoot but surely one of the most intriguing is what to tell its end users and its OEMs about the Klamath and Deschute designs up-a-coming. Two British magazines were brave enough to stand up to threats emanating from Intel's legal department last month and published information about its plans in the face of a possible intellectual property suit. (This would have been a test-case in the UK and Europe - possibly around the world, can journalists be bound by non-existent NDAs - anyone remember the Spycatcher case? Secondly, the info was also published on the Web). One of the problems Intel undoubtedly has, is that Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers are a little leery about licensing the new slot technology. After all, will they put themselves in the hands of a monster company with perhaps, might we suggest, monopolistic intentions? Cache companies have also expressed concern to The Register that the new designs could place them in a similar position. But possibly the more intriguing question is how Intel does the magic trick of changing pin outs on Pentium Pros and still keeping its "loyal" user base. OEMs at several large companies have confirmed the truth of the update Intel gave them in October. The favoured few (hi Dell, hi Gateway) are likely to have Klamath introductions in mid year. There will be two offerings, one a 266MHz/512K card with error correction and the other a 233MHz/256K without. Intel is also offering two thermal solutions for the Klamath, one with an ATX style heat sink and the other using a so-called LPX/L solution. The chipset at introduction will be 440LX based. How, then, does Intel persuade end users and OEMs they should punt on the Klamath river? Intel will attempt to push the argument that the Pentium Pro 200/512 offers the best performance for quad systems while the Klamath is suited to the low-end server market. The other way to persuade infidels is that the Pro will have greater volume than the Klamath in the first half of 1997, although that will change in the second half of the year, with the Pro ramping down. The Q1 card price of the Klamath will be $725 for the 233/512 offering, a price that includes the Pro chip, tag memory and 117/133MHzburst synchronous memory. The Klamath will be a commodity offering. Intel is very likely to keep pricing of its Pro 200, 180 and 166 chips stable when it releases its next prices in February next year. That will give some stability to the Pro market as it introduces the Klamath, which will, of course, have MMX extensions. The Klamath design will pave the way for Deschutes, which comes in Slot 2 configurations at the beginning of 1998. Intel dubs this a "faster Siskiyou" meaning it will use a similar chip design with a few relatively insignificant changes for bus ratios between 266and 300MHz. It will also have a 64-bit GTL and memory bus. While the Klamath is intended for 1-2 processor designs, the Deschutes is aimed at 1-4.Clock speeds will be a maximum of 266MHz for the Klamath and300MHz for Deschutes. Both will come with 16K level one cache, both will use the MMX extensions but while the Klamath will initially be aimed at the volume desktop, the Deschutes design will be targeted at the high end. The differences in chip set design are that the Klamath will use the 440LX chipset while Deschutes will use 440BX chipsets, whatever they are. Eventually, the Slot 2 Deschutes design will offer as much as one to two megs of cache memory and will be based on 450NXtechnology. Other OEMs The Register >has discussed this matter with tell us that Intel will eventually introduce notebook technology based on these daughter cards designs. One thing the pesky OEMs and other people in the industry would like to know from Intel but have fat chance of getting any answer to is why the company still turns in margins in excess of 65 per cent while everyone else in the industry has seen their margins shot to shreds over the last two years. We think we should be told... ® From The Register Issue 38, 15 December 1996
Mike Magee, 03 Dec 1998

Urinate on Java? Nope, Bill doesn't know what this means…

The bailiff in the Washington courtroom was hard-pressed yesterday to keep order - again, the Gates video extracts had the audience rolling in the aisles. As usual, as soon as the extracts were finished, the tape was rushed out of court to the waiting TV vans to be relayed to the nation, except that some channels may have found it necessary to bleep out a rude word. Gates has a lot of trouble over what he did or did not know about Microsoft Java development, and claims that he was not sure if J/Direct was being developed at Microsoft, at the time it was being developed there. And then there's the problem of what Ben Slivka meant when he sent Bill that email about urinating on things. Now read on… Boies: Mr. Gates, you've been sued by Sun Microsystems over Java, have you not? Gates: There's a lawsuit with Sun. Boies: Well, there's a lawsuit with Sun, and it's a lawsuit with Sun relating to the use of Java; right? Gates: It relates to a very specific contract that we have with Sun. Boies: And does that very specific contract with Sun relate to Java? Gates: It's a license to various Sun technologies related to Java. Boies: Now, you're familiar with that lawsuit, are you not, sir? Gates: Not very. Boies: Not very? Do you know what the contentions in that lawsuit are? Gates: No. (End of segment: 75 lines omitted) Boies: Did you ever try to find that out? Gates: What? Boies: What the claims were more than your present knowledge. Gates: I read something that was on our Web site about four days ago. Boies: About the Sun lawsuit? Gates: Yeah. Bob Muglia had some statements. Boies: Other than that, did you ever try to find out what Microsoft is being charged with, what they're alleged to have done wrong? Gates: I've had discussions with Maritz saying: Do I need to learn about this lawsuit? Do I need to spend a lot of time on it? Boies: What did he say? Gates: He said, no, he's focussed on that and I can focus on other things. Boies: Is one of the things that you're focussed on trying, in Mr. Slivka's words, to wrest control or get control, if wrest is a word that you don't like, of Java away from Sun? Gates: No. (End of segment: 7 pages omitted) Boies: Isn't it a fact, Mr. Gates, that in addition to whatever other reasons you say you had for what you did with Java and Windows APIs, part of what you were trying to do was to prevent Java from having a wide enough distribution so that it could support programs that could be used on platforms other than Windows? Gates: We had no way of preventing Java from being used on other platforms. It is used on other platforms. Boies: That wasn't my question, sir. My question is whether or not part of what you and Microsoft was trying to do was to limit the distribution of Java sufficiently so that you could thereby limit or reduce the extent to which applications were written that could be used on platforms other than Windows. Gates: No. In fact, we sell the most popular Java tools in the market. Boies: It is your testimony, then, sitting here, that Microsoft was not at all motivated by a desire to limit the extent to which Java could be used to develop applications programming that could be used on platforms other than Microsoft's Windows? Is that your testimony? Gates: Yes. (End of segment: 1 page omitted) Boies: Did Microsoft believe that Netscape's browser was a means of distributing Java API? Gates: Well, Netscape had some APIs in its browser. I'm not sure if you would refer to them as Java APIs or not. Boies: It's not a question whether I would refer to them that way or not, Mr. Gates.- what I'm asking you is what you and Microsoft believe. And my question is: Did you and others at Microsoft believe that Netscape's browser was a method for distributing Java APIs? Gates: There were APIs in the Netscape browser. I don't think they were strictly Java APIs or even in a direct sense specifically. Boies: Have you completed your answer, sir? Gates: Uh-huh. Boies: Can I have the question read back again? [The following question was read: Boies: It's not a question whether I would refer to them that way or not, Mr. Gates. What I'm asking you is what you and Microsoft believe. And my question is: Did you and others at Microsoft believe that Netscape's browser was a method for distributing Java APIs?] Boies: Can you tell me that, sir? Gates: There were APIs in Netscape browser some of which under some definition of Java APIs you'd call Java APIs. Boies: And was there concern within Microsoft that the distribution of these things that you say could be called Java APIs would adversely affect Microsoft? Gates: Our concern is always to get people to develop Windows applications. And to the degree that there's other APIs people to develop to, there's some competition for the attention of developers and focussing on those APIs. But that doesn't relate to distribution. Boies: Can I have my question read back again, please? [The following question was read: Boies: And was there concern within Microsoft that the distribution of these things that you say could be called Java APIs would adversely affect Microsoft?] Boies: Could I have an answer to that question, please, sir? Gates: No, not the distribution. Boies: Let me ask you to look at a document that has been previously marked as Government Exhibit 514. The first message in this exhibit is an email from Paul Maritz to you and a number of other people dated July 14, 1997; correct, sir? Gates: That's what it appears to be, yes. Boies: Did you receive this e-mail, sir? Gates: I don't remember it. But I don't have any reason to doubt that I did. Boies: Mr. Maritz writes to you in the third sentence, "If we look further at Java/JFC being our major threat, then Netscape is the major distribution vehicle." Do you see that, sir? Gates: Uh-huh. Boies: Do you recall Mr. Maritz telling you in words or in substance that Netscape was the major distribution vehicle for the Java/JFC threat to Microsoft? Gates: No. Boies: Did you believe in July of 1997 that Java/JFC was a major threat to Microsoft as Mr. Maritz writes here? Gates: It was a significant issue for his group in terms of how ISVs would choose to focus their development in the future. Boies: Did you believe in July of 1997 that Java/JFC was a major threat to Microsoft? Gates: In the form that it existed as of that day, maybe not. But if we looked at how it might be evolved in the future, we did think of it as something that competed with us for the attention of ISVs in terms of whether or not they would take advantage of the advanced features of Windows. (End of segment: 2 pages omitted) Boies: Now, in a prior answer you said you didn't understand how the browser was a distribution vehicle. Does this refresh your recollection that at least within Microsoft in July of 1997 Netscape was viewed as the major distribution vehicle for Java? Gates: Not for Java. And in my view, the browser wasn't a key distribution channel. Maritz may or may not have agreed with that. But you can always ship the runtime with the applications. Boies: Mr. Maritz here says, "Netscape is the major distribution vehicle." Now, it's clear to you, is it not, sir, that he means the major distribution vehicle for Java and Java Foundation Classes? Gates: He doesn't mean for Java. Boies: Well, sir, he says - Gates: I told you many times about the use of the word "Java." And I'm not sure you heard me. When people use the word "Java," they don't mean just Java. Boies: So when Mr. Maritz here used the word "Java," in this email that you say you don't recall receiving, you're telling me that he meant something other than just Java? Gates: He -- I bet he meant some runtime APIs, not Java. Boies: Okay. Let's assume that you're right, let's assume that when he talks about Java he means Java runtime APIs. Would you then agree that what he is saying here is that Netscape is the major distribution vehicle for Java runtime APIs and Java Foundation Classes? Gates: That appears to be what he's saying in this email. (End of segment: 2 pages omitted) Boies: Let me ask you to look at a document that has been marked as Government Exhibit 256. This is an email to you from Tod Nielsen dated August 25 1997, with copies to Brad Chase. Did you receive this email, sir? Gates: I don't remember receiving it. But I don't have any reason to doubt that I did. Boies: Let me ask you to look at the seventh paragraph down. That's the third paragraph from the bottom, the last sentence. That says, "So, we are just pro-actively trying to put obstacles in Sun's path and get anyone that wants to write in Java to use J/Direct and target Windows directly". Do you see that, sir? Gates: Uh-huh. Boies: Do you recall being told in or about August of 1997 that Microsoft was trying to put obstacles in Sun's path and get anyone that wants to write in Java: to use J/Direct and target Windows directly? Gates: No. Boies: Do you know why Microsoft was trying to put, "obstacles in Sun's path"? Gates: I don't know what that means. Boies: Do you know why Microsoft was trying to get anyone that wants to write in Java to use J/Direct? Gates: Yes. Boies: Why was that? Gates: Because J/Direct allows you to make calls that show off unique innovations in Windows and make, therefore, make Windows more attractive. (End of segment: 1 page omitted) Boies: What is J/Direct? Gates: J/Direct is a way of allowing Java language code to call native OS functionality. It's a fairly clever thing that we have done. And others now use that term to refer to it when they let their OS functionality show through as well. (End of segment: 17 lines omitted) Boies: Why was J/Direct developed by Microsoft? Gates: To make is easy for people who choose the Java language to call the unique runtime features in various operating systems including Windows. Boies: Why do you want people to write in J/Direct as opposed to Java? Gates: They are writing in Java. You only use J/Direct if you write in Java. Boies: Well, what Mr. Nielsen says is that Microsoft is trying to get anyone that wants to write in Java to use J/Direct. Do you see that? Gates: That's right. And that means writing in Java. Boies: And why do you want to get anyone who wants to write in Java to use J/Direct? Gates: Because that gives them a way of calling unique Windows APIs that allow us to show off the innovative features in Windows. (End of segment: 10 lines omitted) Boies: My question is why you were trying to get program developers, independent programming people, to use J/Direct. Why were you trying to get them to do that? Heiner [A Microsoft lawyer]: Certainly asked and answered. Gates: Because it allows them to get at the unique API functionality that's in the Windows product and show off the innovations that we do there. Boies: But you didn't have to? Gates: Tell me some other way. Boies: Well, I'm asking you. If you tell me that that's what you say is the only way that you could think of for them to do it, that's your testimony. I don't get to testify here. If I did, there would have been a lot of things I would have said along the way. But since I don't get to testify, all I get to do is ask you questions. And my question to you is whether there was a way, that you were aware of at the time, to let people see all of what you refer to as the functionality of Windows without getting people to write to what you refer to here to use J/Direct if they wanted to write in Java. Gates: J/Direct is exactly the work we did to make it possible and reasonable for people writing in Java to call the unique Windows APIs. Boies: Have you finished your answer? Gates: Yes. Boies: Okay. Now, were you aware of other ways of accomplishing the same result that you considered and rejected at the time? Gates: What time is that? Boies: The time that you developed J/Direct. Gates: We don't know what that time is. Boies: Well, you may not know the exact year. But do you know that when--were you aware when J/Direct was being developed within Microsoft? Were you aware of it at the time? Gates: I'm not sure. Boies: Did you know it was being developed? Gates: I'm not sure. Boies: Did you have any discussions about the development of J/Direct? Gates: I was not involved in the design of J/Direct. Boies: I'm not asking you whether you were involved in the design of J/Direct. I'm asking you whether you were aware at the time that J/Direct was being developed that it was being developed? Gates: I'm not sure. Boies: Did you ever have any discussions with anyone about the development of J/Direct at or about the time it was being developed? Gates: I don't think so. Boies: At the time that J/Direct was being developed, did you know that people were trying to develop J/Direct? Gates: It's just a thunk. Boies: My question is: Did you know that they were trying to develop this thunk? Gates: I doubt it. Boies: Did you participate at all in any discussions as to what alternatives there were to the development of J/Direct? Gates: Before it was developed? Boies: Let's start with before it was developed. Gates: No, I don't think so. Boies: What about during the time it was being developed? Gates: I don't think so. Boies: How about after it was developed? Gates: I don't think so. (End of segment: 12 lines omitted) Boies: Let me show you a document that has been previously marked as Government Exhibit 253. In the middle of the first page there is a message dated May 14, 1997, from Ben Slivka to you and others. Did you receive this email on or about May 14, 1997? Gates: I'm not sure. But I have no reason to doubt that I did. Boies: When Mr. Slivka writes as he does in the second paragraph, "This summer we're going to totally divorce Sun," do you know what he's referring to? Gates: I'm not sure. Boies: Did you ever ask him what he was referring to? Gates: No. Boies: In the next to last, or in the last sentence, actually, in the last sentence of the second paragraph, Mr. Slivka writes that "JDK 1.2 has JFC." And is the JFC there the Java Foundation Classes that you referred to earlier? Gates: It's one of the many JFCs. Boies: What is one of the many JFCs? Gates: The one in JDK 1.2. Boies: Is the JFC in JDK 1.2 part of what was described as a major threat to Microsoft? Gates: I have no idea which JFC that sentence written by somebody other than me referred to. Boies: Well, the sentence written by somebody other than you was written to you; right, sir? Gates: It was sent to me. Boies: Yes. And it was sent to you by one of your chief, one of your top executives; correct, sir? Gates: In an email. Boies: Yes. And that's a frequent way that your top executives communicate with you; correct, sir? Gates: Yes. Boies: Now, Mr. Slivka here says that Microsoft is going to be saying uncomplimentary things about JDK 1.2 at every opportunity. Do you see that? Gates: Where's that? Boies: That is, "JDK 1.2 has JFC, which we're going to be pissing on at every opportunity." Gates: I don't know if he's referring to pissing on JFC or pissing on JDK 1.2 nor do I know is what he specifically means by "pissing on." Boies: Well, do you know that generally he means by pissing on he's going to be saying and Microsoft is going to be saying uncomplimentary things. Gates: He might mean that we're going to be clear that we're not involved with it, that we think there's a better approach. Boies: Well, as you understand it, when Mr. Slivka says he's going to be pissing on JDK 1.2, as you seem to interpret it, at every opportunity, do you interpret that as meaning that Microsoft is going to be saying uncomplimentary things about JDK 1.2? Gates: I told you I don't know whether pissing applies to JFC or JDK. Boies: Well, he's going to be pissing on or Microsoft is going to be pissing on either JDK 1.2 or JFC or both according to Mr. Slivka. Is that at least fair? Gates: That's appears to be what the sentence says. Boies: Yeah. And as the chief executive officer of Microsoft, when you get these kind of e-mails, would it be fair for me to assume that "pissing on" is not some code word that means saying nice things about you, that has the usual meaning that it would in the vernacular? Gates: I don't know what you mean in this kind of email. Boies: The kind of email that is sent to you by executives in the course of your business, Mr. Gates. Gates: So all emails I get? Ben Slivka's not an executive. Boies: All the emails you get from people telling you that they're going to piss on competitive products, that's what I'm talking about. Gates: I don't remember mail like that. it looks like I got one. But believe me, it's not a term that's commonly used. Boies: But you have no reason to think that he means it in any way other than the normal meaning of that term, do you, sir? Gates: I think it's a term of multiple meanings. In this case I think it means what you've suggested it means. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 03 Dec 1998

PC will take over the industry – Gates

Bill Jekyll has been giving halting, forgetful and obfuscating testimony on video, but it seems Bill Hyde is still available for funerals, weddings and bar mitzvahs, if reports of a lunchtime gig yesterday are to be believed. Speaking at a lunch organised by the Manhattan Institute, which we understand is a libertarian organisation named after the eponymous Project, Gates was on the attack, predicting that the PC will inevitably take over the world. Sun's strategy, which Bill Jekyll had been having trouble wrapping his head around (Transcript), was just a sales slogan, while "the PC model has defeated every other model." And there's more. The next battleground, said Bill Hyde, was on Sun's home turf. NT-based PCs would be taking on powerful Unix servers, and would prove that the PC could beat them. Gates modestly accepted that Microsoft hadn't yet proved that PCs could do this, "but we will. The PC model will take over the rest of the industry." ®
John Lettice, 03 Dec 1998

Diamond countersues US music industry association

Diamond Multimedia is suing the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) over the latter's earlier attempt to sue Diamond. In the peripherals arena from which Diamond hails, suits against you, invariably citing patent infringement, are usually responded to with a countersuit of your own, and it looks like Diamond's action is almost a case of the company's lawyers operating on autopilot. Diamond's countersuit alleges the RIAA's original action was little more than an attempt by the music industry to prevent the commercial exploitation of an emerging market -- music encoded in the MPEG-based MP3 format and made available for download via the Net -- which it doesn't control. It wanted to restrict Diamond's ability to trade, and, in short, the action contravened Federal and Californian antitrust and business practice law. Oh, and the RIAA tarred Diamond with the same brush it used in the suit to point out the massive levels of piracy of copyright music that is taking place on the Net, almost all of it made real easy by MP3. That, says Diamond, has hurt our reputation. Indeed, Diamond's suit specifically denies all material allegations made against the company by the RIAA. Diamond's case hinges on statements made by RIAA officials that, it alleges, indicate their case against it was all part of a conspiracy on the part of the music industry. The trouble is, industry bodies are supposed to act on behalf of its members -- that's what they're there for. So it's going to be hard to separate conspiracy from an industry's genuine concern over music piracy. Diamond quotes a statement from RIAA president Hilary Rosen from the Wall Street Journal: "The only reason for the action against Diamond is that they are jumping the gun to exploit the pirate market instead of waiting and working toward the legitimate market." There are many Web sites that sell legitimate MP3 files on behalf of bands and independent labels, and Diamond will say that's who it's interested in working with. That said, it's impossible for its Rio PMP300 player, the machine at the heart of the RIAA suit, to distinguish between a legal MP3 file and a dodgy one. Diamond also points out it responded to the RIAA's concerns by adding a serial copy management system to the Rio to prevent it being used for mass-duplication of files. The RIAA continued with its suit, and that, says Diamond's lawyers, proves it had a more sinister agenda. That's a fair point, and perhaps the most valid argument Diamond's lawyers have. Of course, the downside to all this is that the RIAA's case was essentially chucked out, and it's not at all clear that Diamond's reputation has been damaged. Arguably, its has benfitted from the case because of the publicity the RIAA's suit gave to Diamond, Rio and the MP3 music scene. So the countersuit begins to seem more an act of petulance than a quest for justice. Rio has only been shipping for a couple of weeks, so it's way too early to say whether sales might have been affected by the RIAA's negative spin. Then again if it does experience poor sales, that may simply be down to the fact that Rio costs three times as much as a personal CD player and ten times the price of a Walkman... ®
Tony Smith, 03 Dec 1998
IBM Headquarters, Armonk, NY

Alarm bells ring at Big Blue brekker

Just before Doug LeGrande, general manager of IBM's PSG Emea was about to stab his business partners in the front, the fire alarm went off at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel, Baker Street.
Mike Magee, 03 Dec 1998

Cutthroat LCD competition grinds to a halt

The freefall in LCD prices is coming to an end, with forward contracts for the 12.1 inch notebook form factor rising for the first time. Prices for 14 and 15 inch monitors are stabilising, Stanford Resources analyst Sweta Dash revealed. Speaking at the firm's 15th annual Flat Information Displays conference, Dash noted that the "days of uncontrolled price cuts in the TFT-LCD supply chain are coming to an end in the final month of 1998. "By Q1 99, only the customer with the most buying power will be able to avoid a price increase for 12.1-inch producs. For the larger sizes we see a slowing of price cuts to $5 to $10 per quarter, rather than the $40 to $50 drops seen at the beginning of 1998." According to Stanford, the high-low price range for 12.1 inch displays for Q398 was $210 to $300, down from $230 to $325 in Q1, 1998. ®
A staffer, 03 Dec 1998

Fujitsu and Toshiba pool DRAM efforts

Fujitsu and Toshiba are to pool their efforts in DRAM development, the two companies announced in Japan earlier today. According to Japanese reports, the two companies will co-operate in DRAM development from one gigabit upwards, and also intend to cover next generation products, including flash memory. Earlier this year Fujitsu announced the end of DRAM production at its fab in Co. Durham, UK, and in common with other Far Eastern manufacturers has been trying to switch production capacity away from unprofitable DRAM, and towards more profitable logic devices. The Fujitsu-Toshiba deal however signals that, although the collapse of memory prices has hit all of the major Far Eastern manufacturers hard, they still see a long term future for DRAM production. ®
Team Register, 03 Dec 1998

Dell raises storage aims

Dell is inching its way into the high end storage market with the launch of three new products next week. The great Satan of direct vendors is increasing its storage portfolio on Monday by unveiling the PowerVault 200S JBOD, the PowerEdge Expandable RAID Controller 2 and the PowerVault 130T tape library. As with previous storage products, Dell is buying in its devices from other vendors. The 200S is from Eurologik but with a Dell design tweak, the RAID Controller comes from Adaptec and the 130T from Storagetek. When asked how it planned to break into this established market, Dell’s European storage business manager, Steve Lewis, said he was confident there was room for everyone. He added that Dell would use the same tactics as were employed in its launch into the server market - by offering consultancy services. Dell will be working with Unisys and Wang in this area. Astley Gayle, EMC business development manager, expressed no surprise at Dell's attempt to break into the storage arena. He said: "It's going to be a huge market that will be irresistible to the big players." However, he didn't view Dell as a major threat. "Dell's playground is desktop computers, laptops and work group servers. EMC is playing on a level above that - the high end."®
Linda Harrison, 03 Dec 1998

Bungs, browsers and bow-wows

Netscape is wooing staff with cash and perks for their pets to stop them jumping ship before AOL's takeover comes into being. One of the bung-like incentives on offer is an extra month's pay, as the browser giant attempts to ward off industry poachers. AOL CEO Steve Case told Netscape's 2300 staff in Mountain View, California, that they were prime targets for headhunters. But Case said he wanted them all to stay at the "cool company", saying staff will still be able to have their beloved pooches sitting at their feet in the office. Those crazy Americans will also be able to enjoy roller hockey at lunchtime. Netscape was started four years ago by Marc Andreesen, the company floated one year later, but saw its share of the browser market halved to 40 per cent after Microsoft started giving away Internet Explorer. Netscape will disappear as a separate company after the $4.2 AOL takeover. ®
Linda Harrison, 03 Dec 1998

3Com opens PalmOS to developers

3Com subsidiary Palm Computing announced yesterday at the Palm Worldwide Developers Conference (DevCon) that it will open the PalmOS source code to third-party developers. Details of how developers will gain access to the code and what they'll be allowed to do with it are scare, but that hasn't stopped many members of the Open Source community from leaping up and down, hallooing Palm's name to the reverberate hills, and predicting a flood of cheap Palm clones rustled up by developers who can now eaily port PalmOS to their hardware. But does this make sense for Palm? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, no. As some cannier Open Source supporters have pointed out, there's a big difference between allowing developers to see how the APIs they write to work, and allowing them to tinker with those APIs and the code code behind them, even in some kind of moderated environment a la Linux. So why talk about opening up the PalmOS source code? Palm has now reached the stage where it has proved itself as a viable platfrom. It has rushed ahead to become, as 3Com CEO Eric Benhamou said at Comdex, 3Com's fastest-growing product line, and now it's time to consolidate that advance. One of the best ways of doing that is to begin widening the market for your product, and one of the best ways of doing that is to licensing it to third parties. And, indeed, Benhamou told Comdex attendees that Palm will soon begin an aggressive licensing programme, seeking partners who want to take the Palm platform into new markets. Going the whole hog and placing PalmOS in the Open Source space would speed up that process, but ultimately take control of it away from Palm, which isn't what the company wants. Even if it retains control of the hardware, it wouldn't be long before some enterprising programmer figures out a way of running PalmOS on, say, a Windows CE device. At that point Palm's revenue stream really begins to dry up, and since it's in the business of making money, it's clearly not going to be too keen on letting that happen. Instead, it makes the PalmOS source available to developers to allow them to extend the scope of their development efforts and to show that it doesn't want to restrict those efforts in any way other than retain ownership of the OS. So are there any circumstances where releasing PalmOS under an Open Source software licence makes sense? Probably not. The key benefit of Open Source is the vast array of development effort it unleashes. That's good for the platform, but as we've seen not so good for the developers of the hardware that the OS runs on. The only way for it to work for Palm is if the sale of its hardware isn't tied to the software -- in short, if the devices are so ubiquitous that manufacturers can compete on the basis of their products being better than other vendors'. Palm may sell a lot of machines now, but in such a volume commodity market it would have to sell a great deal more but at a considerably reduced margin. 3Com has never been a volume supplier, and it's hard to imagine it allowing the Palm platform ever become that kind of business. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Dec 1998

Dixons stunts DVD market, ex-Intelers claim

Dixons has been accused of inflating prices -- again. This time, the high street retailer is being blamed for the lack of interest in DVD (digital versatile disc) technology because it is charging too much for titles. Bryan Welsh, MD of online retailer DVDplus, believes that manufacturers and retailers have a responsibility to stimulate the market but claims Dixons simply isn't pulling its weight to promote the product. He said that by keeping prices high, it is stunting the development of the DVD market. Last month Dixons was stung after being attacked by Intel CEO Craig Barrett who accused the retail giant of charging "ridiculous margins" for its PC equipment. Such harsh criticism is unlikely to bother a big player like Dixons. However, The Register can reveal that the management team behind DVDplus all worked for... you guessed it... Intel. "Yes, I've met Craig Barrett a couple of times but I don't know him," said Welsh, who denied any claim that the attack on Dixons was orchestrated in any way. But this latest twist should be more than enough for conspiracy theorists everywhere -- and the writers of the X-Files, who appear to be in need of some fresh ideas. A spokesperson for Dixons denied the company was becoming paranoid and that it was being singled out by competitors. When you're as big as we are you have to accept that these kinds of things happen, he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Dec 1998

E-business gone sour for IT professional

The Register is shocked to hear that a £60,000-a-year regional manager for an "unnamed" American computer company has been busted for dealing his own version of e-business. Gareth McGee, from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, narrowly escaped a jail sentence after he bought ten ecstasy tabs with intent to supply them to his wife and friends as part of his birthday treat. Take our advice, stick to jelly and ice cream next time, all right Gareth.®
Author, 03 Dec 1998

3Com unveils wireless-equipped Palm VII

3Com has finally unveiled the next version of the Palm handheld computer, ending months of speculation over what it might come up with. The new machine is not, as anticipated earlier this year, the slimline device codename Razor, but a modified version of the current Palm III offering. The Palm VII -- what ever happened to IV, V and VI? -- provides wireless machine-to-machine communication through a built-in two-way radio. Each Palm VII will also ship with an account on Palm.Net, which will connect the machine to the Internet for the price of a $10 monthly subscription fee. Palm.Net is provided through BellSouth Wireless Data's cellular network, but 3Com said because the underlying technology and protocols are network-independent, it may be expanded to other service providers at a future date. In fact, that network-independence is essential to rolling out the Palm VII beyond the US. To overcome the long-standing problem of displaying complex Web pages on handhelds' small monochrome screens, Palm VII users simply send short database-style queries across the wireless connection. Palm's servers process that query via Web search engines and send back the data in a proprietary form that the Palm VII can easily interpret and display. The Palm VII uses a similar streamlined process, called iMessenger, for handling email. 3Com claims that this approach reduces not only expensive and power-gobbling wireless airtime but the processing overhead at the client end. The company said the device will achieve "weeks of performance" on two AAA batteries. The Palm VII will undergo field trials early next year, with the final rollout scheduled for "later in 1999". It is expected to retail in the US for "less than $800" -- $799.99, in other words. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Dec 1998

ICL balm soothes Memory Corp Easdaq knockback

Memory Corporation has bounced back from last month's disappointing EASDAQ debut with a £3 million Europe-wide deal to supply memory upgrades for Epos machines built or serviced by ICL. The contract is described as a "breakthrough" deal for Memory Plus, the bespoke assembly subsidiary of Memory Corporation. Scottish-based Memory Corp is gunning sales of $500 million in three years. This target is difficult enough to achieve, following the company's refusal to plunge wholeheartedly into free-for-all memory broking, a market where you can gain massive turnover, so long as you are prepared to within the margin parameters (+3 per cent at best; -2 per cent at worst). Now Memory Corp's war chest for acquisitions and channel development looks decidedly bare, following its embarrassing failure to raise much from its move to Easdaq. Easdaq may have five analysts checking out each listing, compared with one,on average, poring over the ledgers of firms listed on AIM, the UK's junior market. But investors are suspicious of memory vendors, wherever they are listed, judging from the lamentable response to Memory Corp's Easdaq debut last month. On 20 November, the company announced that it raised only £2.325 million, compared with industry expectations of £20 million. Memory Corp intends to spend all the new money on expanding direct and indirect sales channels in Europe and the US, as well as technological developments. It doesn't look like getting too far on either score with that sort of kitty. We suspect another round of investor presentations are in order from CEO David Savage. The company clearly has difficulty getting across the message that it is an intellectual property play (GOOD), as well as a memory distributor (VERY BAD). And its almost back in the black. We think the company is still undervalued -- and some of us w ould even consider taking a punt -- if we could work out what Global Depositary Receipts were, where to get them and how to buy them. The company ceases AIM trading in January next year. ®
Drew Cullen, 03 Dec 1998

Videologic loss shrinks 87 per cent

Videologic has cut its loss by 87 per cent over the last six months. Reporting its first-half results, the company revealed it was only in the red to the tune of £378,000, down from £2.93 million in the same period last year. The news came as Videologic and partner NEC announced they were sampling the latest chip in the PowerVR 2 graphics accelerator line, the PowerVR 250. Indeed, Videologic laid its financial turnaround at the door of the PowerVR 2. Designed by Videologic and manufactured by NEC, the chip was selected by Sega for its 128-bit games console, Dreamcast, which launched last week and shipped 150,000 units on the first day of sale. Videologic receives royalty payments for every PowerVR 2 used, and if Sega's attempt to sell its Naomi games system, also based on PowerVR 2, to Namco prove successful, Videologic is likely to see its revenue growing significantly. Already, 85 per cent of the company's revenue comes from chip royalties; the rest comes from sales of the its line of multimedia products. In fact, Videologic MD Geoff Shingles predicted the company will soon move out of the red. "We expect to be profitable in the second half," he said. The company hopes that profitability will be increased by sales of the Power VR 520, the first chip in the family that integrates 2D and 3D graphics accleration. Aimed at the PC market, the chip is optimised for the Pentium II processor and AMD's 3D Now! Technology. The chip provides all that users have come to expect from advanced graphics processors, but as yet no performance benchmarks have been released to enable comparisons with rival products from 3Dfx, NVIDIAg and S3. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Dec 1998

PointCast strategic investor becomes buyer

Internet push technology specialist PointCast is set to announce its acquisition by an unnamed Internet backbone provider, according to reports in the US media quoting "knowledgeable" industry sources. The revelation follows the company's announcement last week that it was close to signing a strategic investor (see PointCast finds investor -- at last), and its launch of UK and German offshoots earlier this week (PointCast launches UK, German editions). The UK version is sponsored by British Telecom, which could easily be described as an Internet backbone provider. PointCast was formed to pioneer an Internet broadcasting system, the PointCast Network, that automatically 'pushes' information to Net users as an alternative to forcing them to go out on the Web and actively 'pull' data to them via a browser. However, bandwidth limitations have long since prevented push technology from becoming the dominant data delivery system as companies like PointCast originally predicted. Instead, users have turned to portals like Yahoo! Excite and Infoseek, and online services like AOL to place all the information they need in one single site. That has left PointCast struggling for funding -- efforts to overcome that included an aborted attempt to sell the company to News Corp, and last July's IPO, cancelled at the eleventh hour. Since then, the company has been talking to possible investors, seeking a cash injection in return for a minority stake. While the latest news doesn't advance the overall situation from last week's 'strategic investor' announcement, talk of a buyer suggests the investor may have decided they want a controlling interest rather than the much smaller stake originally discussed. Given the bandwidth issues that have so far held back PointCast's technology, an Internet infrastructure company would, if the rumours are correct, seem a sensible partner -- allowing content and content delivery to be brought together. However, it's worth remembering the current keenness of portal companies to buy in differentiating technologies, ideally with large bases of users attached, such as MSN's purchase of LinkExchange. PointCast would be a good source of both technology and users. The British Telecom link is also worth watching. BT is pushing hard to ramp up its online services, particularly from a content perspective, and has the bandwidth to make a service like PointCast work. While its content efforts have so far been aimed more toward consumers, the company isn't unaware that businesses are more into information delivery than home users. PointCast's technology would allow them to build a high-cost, targeted service for business. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Dec 1998

3Com to buy EuPhonics

3Com is to buy audio software developer EuPhonics for $8.3 million, it has emerged. According to 3Com officials, the company will use EuPhonics expertise to bring sophisticated sound processing technologies to its modem and network interface cards (NICs). The first products to include EuPhonics products will appear in Q2 1999, 3Com said. "It just makes a lot of sense to bring these two technologies together," said Bob Suffern, VP of business development for 3Com's personal comms division, quoted on CNet. "In the long run, what we'll be doing is audio-enhancing all of our communications products." 3Com will take the purchase as a one-off charge in the second quarter of its 1999 fiscal results. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Dec 1998

Cars trek down from Samsung to Daewoo

As part of a big deal in South Korea, Samsung will transfer its cars to Daewoo while the former will take over its electronics business. Who knows if telecomms are involved? Or President Kim's limo? Daewoo Electronics, a little known division of the major South Korean chaebol, is likely to allow Samsung to take its electronics division in return for a nascent business the other chaebol has. Daewoo makes money out of cars. Samsung doesn't. The latest shift in the big five chaebol (family conglomeratre) deals means that in the UK, Dixons and other subsidiaries of the company, may soon have to deal with another company. Both Daewoo and Samsung refused to comment at press time. ®
A staffer, 03 Dec 1998

New top dog at Big Blue

IBM has appointed Carl Symon as chairman and chief executive for the UK and Ireland. Symon is one of those trusty employees who has been at IBM since time immemorial (1969 to be precise). Starting his colourful career at Big Blue in Kingston, Jamaica, as a marketing representative, he moved through the ranks, working in the Philippines, Canada, Hong Kong and the US. His most recent appointment was general manager of industries in Latin America. Symon succeeds Khalil Barsoum, who has taken up the post of general manager of industries for IBM, the Middle East and Africa, and remains chairman of IBM in the UK. ®
Linda Harrison, 03 Dec 1998

MacOS 8.5.1 fixes bug Apple claimed wasn't a problem

Apple is preparing an update for MacOS 8.5, due to ship early next year, but possibly in line to appear later this month. The new release, MacOS 8.5.1 interestingly appears to solve a problem that Apple had previously denied existed, despite numerous complaints from users. Since the release of 8.5, many Mac owners have informed Mac-oriented Web sites of difficulties getting freshly upgraded machines to boot successfully. In some instances, drive partitions were overwritten, destroying users' data and applications. Despite a growing body of evidence for the problem, Apple claimed it had been unable to replicate users' symptoms. Indeed, Apple has yet to acknowledge the problem. However, 8.5.1 is believed to contain a new version of Apple's hard drive formatting utility, Drive Setup 1.6.2, which will install a more robust hard disk driver, according to source close to the company, quoted on Macweek.com. The update will also fix several bugs that emerged in Sherlock, Apple's new unified search system capable of tracking down data on the Internet, connected hard drives and network servers simultaneously. Shortly after the release of 8.5, Apple issued a statement that it had identified problems with Sherlock and was working on a fix. At the same time, software incorporates a number of fixes that address glitches in the current version of the MacOS. Bugs reported to be squashed in 8.5.1 include a memory leak that causes AppleScript scripts to hide RAM from the rest of the system until it crashes, problems with the OS' asynchronous I/O that also generates memory problems, most notably with the FileMaker database, and improvement to the OS' support of third-party Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) devices. MacOS releases follow a bi-annual schedule, with major releases shipping late summer and point upgrades posted on the company's Web site early in the following year. That routine suggests a January/February release date for 8.5.1, but Macweek's source claimed the update will ship sooner, sometime this month. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Dec 1998

French companies claim chip lead

ST Microelectronics (formerly SGS Thomsen) and the Bull Groupe said today they had made a breakthrough in chip technology. The surprise announcement (both companies are French) is related to the European Eureka project. The so-called "Deep Submicron CMOS Process with Advanced Computer Application" is part of an operation developed by the European Union, it emerged. The EU (European Union) classification number is T505. It is a single system on a chip, but Europe is far behind the US in such systems. However, Groupe Bull said it would use the semiconductor system in its mainframes, which are pervasive in the EU, especially in France and Germany. ®
Michael Magee, 03 Dec 1998

Microsoft Europe to pay staff in Ecus

An email sent to staff in Microsoft Europe has disclosed that they will be paid in Euro currency from the first of January next year. But that has raised questions about currency exchange, given that the United Kingdom (UK) has not yet settled a rate for exchange. The insider claimed that the email meant UK staff would lose out if the story is true. She said that Microsoft had not yet established whether or not it was a pay rise or a pay decrease. Microsoft refused, as usual, to comment. ®
An insider, 03 Dec 1998

Cabletron in dire straits

Any hopes that Cabletron had picked itself up after a disappointing year has been squashed after the third biggest producer of computer networking equipment warned of a fiscal third-quarter loss. Cabletron said it would report a loss of around ten cents a share, before charges, despite earlier predictions that it was expected to earn 11 cents a share. Revenue will range from $330 million to $340 million -- compared with $331.8 million last year -- the company has said. Cabletron blamed the loss on poor sales. This latest batch of bad news has come as bitter disappointment to the company and analysts believe it leaves Cabletron with little room for manoeuvre. Unless there is a dramatic turnaround, Cabletron will either have to team up with another company or find a buyer. "I don't believe they will survive on a go-forward basis unless they find a partner," said Craig Johnson, an analyst with the Pita Group. But Megan Graham-Hackett at Standard & Poor's Rating Service is even more blunt. "They've got a couple of assets that are attractive enough in a rapidly consolidating industry. They're definitely positioned to be taken over," she said. Cabletron's position has been made even more acute because it's been saddled with an outdated product line, analysts are saying, as it tried to compete with rivals Cisco Systems and 3Com which have both introduced more advanced products. The New Hampshire-based company has said it will publish the quarter's results on 21 December. Earlier this year Cabletron spent $372 million acquiring a number of companies including NetVantage, FlowPoint, Ariel Communications Systems Group and Yago Systems. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Dec 1998

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018