9th > December > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

Publicists spin as MS seeks AOL-Netscape papers

The court of public opinion, possibly more important than the DC court, has been active over the last few days. Microsoft's claims that the AOL-Netscape deal makes the case moot continue to reverberate, but a foul is still a foul, says ProComp, the pro-competition pressure group set up to take pops at Microsoft. Microsoft filed yet another motion, this time asking for the court's permission to serve subpoenas on AOL, Netscape, Sun and unspecified investment banks to ferret out details of the deal. The SEC Web site has a major disclosure by the companies involved, but emails (if people still use emails for important business these days) might shed some interesting, not to say embarrassing, light on the background to the deal.
Graham Lea, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Sun plan to run Linux apps on Solaris

As expected, (Sun set to bring Linux to UltraSparc) Sun yesterday announced that it would work with the "Linux community" to complete a port of Linux to UltraSparc. But as part of the announcement Sun also tacitly conceded that it might have lost out to Linux - at least as far as applications are concerned. Linux for UltraSparc to some extent covers Sun's rear against cheaper rivals. Sun's good at high end servers, but vulnerable to cheap Wintel boxes, and now also perhaps vulnerable to Linux. But aside from that, Linux's highly active developer community would seem to be generating more software than the Sun "community" can. Otherwise, why the Sun plan to "add Linux compatibility to the Solaris operating environment." The way Sun seems to be planning this, it probably won't be difficult. The company intends the added Linux compatibility to allow its customers to "take advantage of the breadth of new Linux applications within the highly reliable Solaris environment." That is, they can still buy Sun gear and Sun operating software, but they can run Linux apps on top of it. So is this a generous move or a calculated hi-jack? Hmm... ®
John Lettice, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

A year ago: AGP chip to up the ante

Our colleagues at Computer Reseller News wrote in December that Intel is set to release the 740 graphics chip, an AGP sorta-thing which will come with 3D features. Our friends in the trade are horrified at this. It's only a month or so ago that a senior VP at Lentil admitted that his company had designs on the networking market and its attempt to corner the graphics market will add another nail to the coffin which is third party chip support, they think. Meanwhile, we note here at The Register that The Great Stan of Pulses is keeping pretty quiet about all the shenanigans between the DoJ and Microsoft. This, of course, is because there is also an investigation currently underway against Intel and it does not want to be seen to rock any kind of boat while Bill and Bill's feds battle it out in an ever-more acrimonious public row. The Register understands that even as we speak, the Lentil employees in rather a big building in Oregon are preparing a defence which they think even the Justice Department will crumble before. But we noticed over the festive season that Cirrus did some sort of re-org and our friends in the channel seem convinced that there isn't much room for third parties when Lentil's in the race. On the subject of US States, the awful Internet product WebTrends reports that in November, the top 10 cities were Palo Alto, Columbus, Ohio, Boca Raton, Schaumburg, Illinois, Vienna, Virginia, Mountain View, San Jose, Seattle, Washington, Falls Church, Virginia and Redmond, Washington. Most of these we have no trouble with, but we do wonder what goes on in Schaumburg, Vienna and Falls Church. Care to enlighten us? ®
The Register breaking news

Netscape launches lightweight Communicator

Netscape Communications is launching a slimmed down version of its popular Web browser aimed at bringing Net access to anything other than a conventional PC. If it proves successful, it would make the widespread acceptance of using small lightweight devices -- including personal digital assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones -- to access the Web more likely. Coincidentally, it ties in with AOL's strategy "AOL Anywhere" which intends to deliver the AOL service to all emerging interactive platforms ready for the mass market. Communicator 5.0 -- code named Gecko -- is so light on its feet its almost anorexic, said one expert who was just a little surprised to hear that the stripped-down browser could now be stored on a single floppy disk. According to the techies at Internet.com who've had a preview of the browser, the release did not include plug-ins, e-mail support or secure sockets layer (SSL) support. Nevertheless, testing did prove that the browser was "noticeably faster" than recent releases of Communicator representing a complete overhaul and rewrite of the browser engine, they said.
Tim Richardson, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Keep your worker bees sweet if you want your company to grow

The secret of a growing company is to keep your staff happy, according to the latest IT winners in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 report out this week. This year's league table of the UK's 100 fastest growing unquoted companies was rich in entrepreneurial names from the computer world, all citing a happy workforce behind their success. Progressive Computer Recruitment, the IT staff agency, was the fastest-growing company between 1994 and 1997 in the Virgin Atlantic sponsored compilation. It showed 198 per cent growth. The computer hardware channel was well represented, with Software Warehouse at number 13 and AGP Distribution at 25. Roldec Systems, Panacea Services, PC leasing company Systems Capital and assembler Taran Microsystems all secured places in the top 50. Steve Bennett, Software Warehouse founder and MD, said: "It's all down to the quality of the people you work with." Bennett has recruited family and friends to ensure 128 per cent three-year sales growth for the Birmingham-based PC retailer. The multi-millionaire, who left school at 16, said he was pleased Software Warehouse was in Fast Track for a second year. However, he said he didn't expect a mention in next year's list because the company is now concentrating on profit. He admitted: "It's difficult to increase both sales and profit at this pace." Other companies used employee incentives to combat the skills shortage threatening many in the industry. Sue Buddin, AGP Distribution marketing manager, was "excited and surprised" that the company was listed at number 25. AGP organises football matches to keep staff motivated in booming Hampshire. London-based reseller Panacea, the 41st fastest growing company, offered murder-mystery weekends, as well as bonuses and overtime pay, as motivation. Sales Director Anthony Bright said the key also lay in striking the right balance between margin and sales. Outside the top 50, London-based distributor Tai Computer Systems secured almost 80 per cent growth. No mean feat for only 13 employees. Brian Webber, Tai sales and marketing executive, said employees were the company's chief asset, and were involved in multi-tasking to keep them challenged. ADA Computer Systems, distributors Sol-Tec and CAE Office Supplies, and reseller Kingburgh were also listed.®
Linda Harrison, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Motherboard manufacturers, channel angry at lack of 370-pin parts

Sources close to Intel said today that the company has already started shipping volumes of its 370-pin Celerons at speeds of 333Mhz and 300MHz. And Intel has also started shipping 366MHz 370-pin ships in engineering quantities, the same source said. That follows reports from a number of motherboard manufacturers and distributors that they are having difficulty sourcing silicon. One distributor said: "So far I have not received any 370 pin parts, although I was expecting shipments in the first and second weeks of December. I haven't even had Intel picking notes for them yet." He claimed that large quantities of Slot One Celerons were sitting on shelves and suggested Intel wanted to purge these through the channel first. Taiwanese board manufacturer Soyo, in particular, is irritated at Intel's inability to supply parts in volume. "There's no point in shipping [370] motherboards in Europe until the beginning of next year because there isn't enough quantity in the channel," the source said. Other manufacturers including Evergreen, are also having trouble sourcing parts, he added. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Evergreen introduces 370-pin upgrades

US company Evergreen Technologies has shown a family of upgrade platforms which will upgrade machines using the standard PCI slot. The first upgrade in the Eclipse PCI family supports the Intel 440BX chipset and the 370-pin interface at speeds of 266MHz, 300MHz and 333MHz with integrated L2 cache. That will be available early next year. And Evergreen said that it will then introduce a Super 7 version supporting the K6-2 and future socket seven chips from Cyrix, IDT, Intel as well as AMD. This upgrade will use the VIA MVP 3 chipset and support bus speeds of up to 100MHz. According to Mike Magee (no known relation), CEO of Evergreen, it now offers the only solution to upgrade legacy systems to the performance level of PII processors. He said that the upgrade only takes a few minutes and there is no need to remove or modify processors or memory in existing machines. The upgrades will support up to 256Mb of PC66 and PC100 SDRAM modules, Evergreen said. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

No room at the inn?

If hotels want to make even more money out of hard-pressed travellers they need to fill their rooms with technology. Business people, it seems, want interactive TVs, printers and Net access in their rooms rather than simply relying on the mini-bar and adult channel for entertainment. So much so, some people are actually booking hotels purely on the level of sophisticated technology available in their rooms. The report -- published by Quadriga, a provider of technology specifically for hotel rooms, coincidentally -- suggests that Net access is just as important to guests as a swimming pool or gym. Beds, apparently, are fast becoming an optional extra. The report also reveals some interesting quirks about national behaviour. The French, apparently, are more likely to unpack their smalls on arrival, look out of the window at the view, and check the bathroom. The survey doesn't say for what. Italians, on the other hand, are more likely to take a shower and less likely to do anything else, whatever that means. And the Brits, predictably, make a beeline for the mini-bar and spend the rest of the time channel hopping. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Flashpoint's Rayat upgraded to MD

Sukh Rayat, the personable general manager of SEI Macro's components distribution arm Flashpoint, has been promoted to managing director of the unit. Rayat was general manager of the division when it started in 1994. He will have profit and loss responsibilities for Flashpoint, which had a turnover of $100 million last year. He will also look after the company's future strategies. He said: "Flashpoint is experiencing tremendous growth thanks in part to key franchise lines such as Cyrix, ATI and AMD." At the same time, Flashpoint announced it has created two distinct divisions -- Distribution and International Trading. Rayat has appointed Raj Suman as the distribution sales manager, while James Norris is now international trading sales manager. James Monjack will be business development manager. ®
A staffer, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Sage knows its onions

Accountancy software vendor, Sage, has announced increased turnover and profit for the year ending 30 September. Turnover was up 26 per cent to £191.5 million, compared with £152.1 million for the previous year. Profit before tax stood at £47.6 million, up 27 per cent on last year’s figure of £37.6 million. Sage’s year was marked by a number of acquisitions and sales, which the group’s chairman, Michael Jackson, highlighted as key elements of a strong financial performance. Direct sales divisions, Multisoft and Dataform were sold, pulling in an exceptional profit of £1.2 million, while in the US, Sage bought State of the Art, which has been merged into Sage Software. Software sales to new sites generated £91.2 million during the year, up from £64.4 million in 1997. Jackson said the company remained committed to its channel and was looking to strengthen the links with its resellers. "Our research into the UK market has shown us that the best way to stimulate sales in the reseller channel is not simply to sell our products to resellers but to work in partnership with them, providing them with the tools they need to develop their businesses." Jackson also said the millennium bug had generated a significant increase in sales as had preparation for the Single European Currency, which comes into being in 22 days’ time.®
Sean Fleming, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Cadence, Quickturn merge

Cadence said today it will merge with Quickturn Design Systems in a share-for-share deal worth $253 million. Cadence is an electronic design software and services company while Quickturn specialises in emulation systems and other engineering services for Ics and electronic systems. Said Jack Harding, CEO of Cadence: "As the complexity of chip design increases, the complexity of verification increases. By integrating Quickturn's hardware-based emulation approach with our software design and simulation systems, we will dramatically improve our ability…for faster development of high speed systems on a chip." The deal will be accounted for as a pooling of interests. ®
A staffer, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Good Anite performance follows group-wide reshuffles

Interim results for the six months ending 31 October, show an improved performance from systems integrator Anite. This comes in the wake of a round of reorganisations and acquisitions within the group, but Anite’s chairman said more work still needs to be done in the future. Profit for the period stood at £4.5 million, compared with a loss of £0.1 million for the same six months last year, turnover for the six month period was up 64 per cent at £81.1 million. In January, Anite sold of its UK networking division and then restructured its subsidiaries in Australia and New Zealand, along with those divisions that sell into the space, defence, manufacturing and distribution sectors. This restructuring work was aimed at disposing of loss making operations and saw Anite close its Bristol divsion. Acquisitions include the German consultancy firm BIV, which was bought today for £19.8 million. In August, Imasys, a company that sells workflow products into the local government sector was acquired for £5.5 million. The largest single division within the group, Anite Systems, recorded turnover of £54.4 million, compared with £39.4 million for the same period last year. Profit was £2.1 million, up fractionally on the £2 million for the six months ending 31 October 1997. Anite’s chairman, Alec Daly, said the decision to dispose of the networking group and focus on systems was contributing to improved performance but said margins still had to be improved. "Further work is required to improve the margins obtained, and we will remain cautious until the company moves decisively into profits growth."®
Sean Fleming, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Red faces all round in NEC-PB Intel chip fiasco

NEC Direct, a subsidiary of Packard Bell, slammed the use of non-Intel chips today as it introduced a sub-£500 Celeron based PC. Colwyn Munro, general manager of NEC Direct, said: "Basically people want entry-level PCs but they don't want non-Intel processors, 14-inch monitors and tiny hard drives -- and they are extremely wary of buying from unknown manufacturers." But that is likely to cause fury over at Packard Bell. Earlier this year, as reported here, they made a very deliberate decision to dump Intel processors and use Cyrix and AMD parts instead. Later, Munro attempted to rescue the situation. He explained: "Packard Bell and NEC are run as entirely separate entities. PB looks after consumers and NEC looks after the business side." Ahem. ®
The Register breaking news

Irish eyes are smiling

Cryptography specialist, Zergo, is in discussions with Dublin-based Baltimore Technologies, with a view to purchasing the Irish company. Both produce software for encoding data to be sent via the Internet, a market which analysts predict has the potential to grow in value to around $3.5 billion, from the $500 million it stands at today. Zergo’s turnover for the year ending 30 April stood at £13.2 million. Zergo, based in Basingstoke, floated on the London Stock Exchange in July. Baltimore is privately owned. If it goes ahead, the deal will inject fresh capital into Baltimore, without it having to go public. With a growing number of companies concerned about the onset of recession and general turmoil in the financial markets, mergers and acquisitions are being favoured as a way of bringing in new capital rather that floating on the stock exchange.®
Sean Fleming, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Lies, damn lies and…E-commerce revenue predictions

Market researchers are having a field day with e-commerce predictions. Last week e-Marketer said online retail sales for the year reached $4.5 billion and provided it's own prediction for future growth over the next couple of years. This week, those heavyweight researchers, Forrester, said that Internet Commerce could reach $3.2 trillion in 2003. Next week, no doubt, there'll be yet another prediction as the crystal ball gazers carry on making a living out of conjuring up numbers. If dollar prediction fatigue is setting in and the thought of yet another e-commerce survey fills you with such loathing that you'd rather run the risk of peddling PCs in China and face the risk of execution, help is at hand. Well, sort of. For instead of predictions, two companies have come forward and are actually revealing some "real" figures. Computacenter -- the largest UK-owned distributed IT systems and services company -- has said that it has (note, HAS) conducted more than £450 million of electronic business over the last year with more than 320 of its corporate customers. According to the company, this represents more than 40 per cent of Computacenter's sales. Even Big Blur has put some meat on the bones of its recent announcement that it is conducting $10 million of business a day online. In January this year, e-commerce generated $37 million for IBM, it claims. By October, this figure had climbed to $245 million -- or $8 million a day. $37 million -- or approximately 15 per cent of October's revenue was generated in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), drawing primarily from enterprise customer e-sites and ShopIBM, the company's own Net store. It even goes as far as providing a breakdown of where the numbers come from -- albeit basing it on the predictions for this month. "We expect that approximately 21 per cent of December e-commerce revenues will be generated through e-sites with large customers, 34 per cent from OEM partners who are buying SSD hard disks and storage systems, 34 per cent from extranets with Business Partners, and 11 per cent from ShopIBM on ibm.com," a spokeswoman said. Now, that didn't hurt, did it? ® Survey: online sales top $4.5 billion" IBM PC martyrs meet untimely end
Tim Richardson, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

E-commerce sales to reach $3.2 trillion in 2003

Sales over the Internet could generate $3.2 trillion by 2003 if governments and business co-operate to exploit the full potential of electronic Commerce. If they don't and miss a vital "window of opportunity", nearly $1.5 trillion could be wiped off the prediction severely denting the development of a global e-commerce economy, according to a study from Forrester Research. Forrester argues that significant collaboration between business and government agencies will be essential to achieve the full potential of Internet Commerce. "More than $1 trillion in global Internet commerce depends on how effectively business and governments can work together on shared goals," said Michael Putnam, an analyst with Forrester. "The hypergrowth period of Internet Commerce will be a maelstrom of activity, as key industries struggle with the impact of iCommerce on established business models. "A decided advantage will go to those firms and governments that can take decisive action early -- in the commerce threshold," he said. It's this "commerce threshold" that, according to the researchers, holds the key to any substantial growth. Make the most of this "window of opportunity" and Forrester believes e-commerce will really take off. Squander it, and the opportunity will be lost. According to the research, the US is the first country to reach this "magic" point and is providing a "benchmark" for other countries. Only last week President Clinton renewed the US's commitment to building a global framework for iCommerce, pledging to support self-regulation, strong consumer protection, and additional infrastructure development. Not surprisingly, the rest of the world lags behind. But a spokesman at the DTI, who broadly agrees with Forrester's premise, suggested this was good news since the UK was far better placed -- and had more time -- to take full advantage of any growth. "We certainly haven't missed the boat," he said. Indeed, in the UK, the Government's Electronic Commerce Bill is designed to create a legal framework for trading over the Net and is just part of Prime Minister Tony Blair's political drive to make the UK a centre for e-commerce. If Forrester's predictions are borne out, then between 7.5 per cent and 17.5 per cent of total sales in industrialised economies will be generated by e-commerce. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Europe drives PC sales growth

Champagne corks will be popping in PC sales departments this festive season, so says yesterday's IDC report predicting a 12 percent volume boost from October to December. European sales is the driving force behind this demand, with worldwide volume expanding 11 per cent to 89 million for the entire year. Vigorous growth for 1999 was also featured, with unit volume expected to reach 101 million. The growth stems from budget consumer PCs, new retail channels and the explosive rise in Internet users, and is led in Europe by Germany. The US forecast increase is 12 per cent this year, and even sales in suffering Asia have a projected growth rate of 5 per cent in the fourth quarter. The report names Compaq as the top worldwide PC vendor, followed by Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. It predicts Compaq will increase shipments 5.7 per cent worldwide, but will "lose 8.4 per cent in the US in 1998". Meanwhile, Dell's sales are expected to jump 67 per cent for the year. George O'Connor, research analyst at investment bank Granville Davis, said: "Although it is good that revenues are up and more business is flowing through the industry, it will be at the expense of lower margins. This pressure will be acute in the second half of next year, when end-users will be reluctant to buy computer products."®
Linda Harrison, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Datrontech junks RD Computers assembly

RD Computers, Datrontech's remarketing subsidiary, is putting PC assembly on the scrapheap. In future it will be a PC disassembler(dissembler?) only. RD Computers' plant in Witham, Essex will phase out computer assembly over next year to concentrate on its IT re-cycling business. The company makes budget PCs for resale through its Nationwide Computer auction outlets. Recycling is more profitable and faster growing area, with less competition than the system building, according to Mark Mulford, Datrontech Group CEO. He said: "We want to put all of our efforts into the re-cycling side of the business. As EU regulations become stronger, companies can't just dump redundant PCs, but will have to pay to have them taken away or dispose of them legally." He added this will increase work at the Essex plant disassembling PCs for recycling, stressing the continuation of the premises and staff. Datrontech bought the company in January last year for up to five million pounds.®
Linda Harrison, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Newbridge flogs Cambrian stake to Nortel

Newbridge Networks has agreed to pull out of Cambrian Systems and sell its stake to Nortel Networks. The Canadian networking vendor will sell its approximate 40 per cent holding in the company in a transaction valuing Cambrian at up to $300 million. Newbridge will continue to access Cambrian's dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) products through its existing OEM agreement.®
Linda Harrison, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

The New Standards War

If you have been in the PC business for more than a few years, you might remember the time when Windows compatibility was a big issue. If you've been around even longer then you might even remember when DOS compatibility was an issue. The fact that this isn't spoken about anymore is testament to the power of Intel and Microsoft …
Roy Taylor, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Courtroom shock: Internet Explorer bites!

DoJ computer software expert witness can't uninstall Internet Explorer. And what's more, he says, it bites. David Farber of the University of Pennsylvania today described his efforts to deinstall IE and replace it with Netscape Navigator, and said that even with his expertise he found it difficult. "Internet Explorer would come up and bite me and say, 'I'm here!'" he said in cross-examination. Of course the import of this rather depends on what bits of IE kept biting him. As Microsoft says, the browser is now integrated in the OS, so you'd expect bits to bite if you tried to rip it out. But as Microsoft also says, users are perfectly free to run rival browsers if they want - a strange pair of viewpoints to hold in your head at the same time. Farber's knockabout illustration however was intended to get over a serious and valid point. He compared software components to items in a shopping bag which should naturally be selected by the consumer, not a single supplier. Microsoft produces various products that could go into the bag, but increasingly it's providing a whole, 'integrated' package. "It would be better if I could break open that grocery bag and throw away the things I don't want," he said. "Give me access to the modules and let me choose among them." Judge Jackson is showing signs of being something of a swot when it comes to technology, so this heroic attempt to explain component software models by parable may not be entirely lost on him. It seemed largely lost on Microsoft attorney Steve Holley, who snorted that in that case Microsoft would need to produce 10,000 versions of Windows. But that's to be expected. Farber is basically suggesting Microsoft tear Windows and Office (Oh yes…) apart and turn them into plug and play modules. That naturally goes alongside opening up APIs sufficiently to allow other people's modules to plug into them, and with going open source to at least some extent with Windows. Microsoft's model (innovate, integrate, incorporate, as the company used to say) presupposes Microsoft as being the definer of standards, and the integration process moving the line that defines Microsoft's turf progressively out from the centre. Farber is effectively suggesting that this line be rolled back by opening up competition within the current circle. How far back, one wonders? It's obviously a recommendation Microsoft would never take up voluntarily, so one can understand Holley's response that these are the musings of an academic, and not grounded in commercial reality. But componentisation by fiat might start to cross Judge Jackson's mind as a possible remedy. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 09 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Sun recruits Insignia to boost embedded Java

Sun is beefing up its embedded Java efforts by sharing Java source code with British software developer Insignia Solutions. The two companies today announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding whereby the two companies would "work towards an agreement giving Insignia immediate [sic] access to Sun's source code for the Java platform." It seems fairly obvious that they know what they want to do, but that there's still some haggling to be done over the terms and conditions. According to Sun Java Software president Alan Baratz this is the first deal (or possibly first projected deal of a series. "We are sharing our source code with companies and individuals [what could he mean by this?] committed to compatible implementations of the Java platform," said Baratz. The Insignia deal, as and when it gets finally signed off, will clearly help both companies. Sun announced the completion of its embedded Java spec in early November, and at the same time HP unveiled its embedded Java alliance, which seemed a pretty clear move in the campaign to wrest control of Java away from Sun. Getting Insignia inside the tent will help Sun counter HP (although we can presume that the fact that they're working towards an agreement rather than announcing one means Insignia is trying to loosen the apron strings a bit). But Insignia itself needs a boost. The company is desperately clever, but its revenues from emulation software (SoftPC for Mac, and RealPC for Unix) are eroding. Earlier this year it sold its Citrix-derived product NTrigue plus a bunch of clients and a development team to Citrix. It then effectively bet the ranch on Java development. Insignia now has the Embedded Virtual Machine, and JENE, an implementation of Java for embedded systems. If one were cynical one might muse that here we have a very good development operation with product ready to roll, and a large company trying to quell an insurrection by accelerating development of products and specifications in just that area. JENE incidentally runs on Intel, Hitachi SH and MIPS, all of which are areas where Sun might be expected to be weak. ®
John Lettice, 09 Dec 1998