15th > December > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

A year ago: Inventory Whacks 3Com Q2

3Com's inventory problems made a severe dent in its fiscal second quarter profits, knocking them down to $15.1 million on $1.2 billion sales, against $115.7 million on $1.4 billion the previous year. The company has cut back shipments while excess stock clears from the channel, and has a class-action suit over its modem pile on its hands (see previous issue). Chairman Eric Benhamou says the company is prioritising inventory management and shifting to new technologies to dig itself out, but as the company misjudged the modem market badly last year, its not at all clear why it thinks it will get it right this time. Eric told analysts that an imminent resolution to the question of 56K modem standards (we hadn't heard this - any dope, readers?) could boost growth in 98, but again, it's not obvious how this will boost 3Com's growth. ®
Drew Cullen, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

The Ghost of Video Depositions Past

The spectre of Bill came to us in a dream last night, announcing himself as the Ghost of Video Depositions Past. Clinking the CRTs he was condemned to drag behind him forever, he fixed us with a mad stare and told his story. "it was Neukom," he said, "Bill Neukom. He's the one who told me, 'say nothing Bill, tell 'em you can't remember. And take your time with the replies.'" But what happens? "That smart-ass DoJ lawyer David Boies is taking his time with the viewings." The Ghost of Depositions Past, who'd been getting ready to settle down with wife, kid and a book of baby names for the one that's on the way, can't go in his home without shuddering. "It's got these huge.., er, I can't remember..." We prompted him helpfully. "Screens?" "That's right, those things. One on every wall. Now Boies is going to show some more of those, er..." "Videos?" "Yes, those things. The things that show up on the other things." "If I'd known that the networks wanted me on prime time, I could have told those guys what a great job Microsoft was doing with the Windows 2000 and that those stories about needing a gigabyte of RAM to run NT, sorry 2000, were exaggerated. And why should I do a deal with Novell to use NDS, as Maritz and Allchin want? We'll just clone NDS in the next version if we can figure out how it works. But Neukom said keep NT out of this, we don't want the Feds messing with that too. After all, who'll give a damn about Windows 98 in 2001? When the users finally discover all the bugs we added to Windows 98, plus the few that were already there, they'll be demanding to get at Windows 2000." With that, the ghost clinked off. And seeing we were now wide awake, we had some more port and stilton. Tune in tomorrow for more visions... ®
Graham Lea, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Sun, Oracle launch assault on NT

Sun has become the first company to sign up for Oracle's Raw Iron project, which is intended to run Oracle8 directly on top of an OS kernel. In a widely-predicted move (Earlier Story) the two companies yesterday announced a software cross-licensing deal. Oracle has already tested Sun's Solaris kernel for Raw Iron, alongside FreeBSD, NetBSD and the Linux kernel, and in November said that the first machines would ship early next year. The Sun deal brings this closer to reality - Solaris kernel-based systems are now promised for March. Raw Iron itself can variously be described as NC version 2 or the return of the mainframe. The general idea is that Oracle's database software can sit directly on top of a stripped-down microkernel type OS, so you kind a kind of dedicated database box. The software ought to run a lot faster without a general purpose OS like NT or indeed Unix in the way, and if the software and hardware is designed properly maintenance and support costs should be lower, because there's a lot less to break inside the system. You can see how some of the NC ideas come into it here, albeit at the server end of the spectrum, while if you've got high powered machines that are tailored just to do database, then maybe you've got a mainframe or similar. If Oracle can make the concept take off it stands a good chance of heading-off Microsoft's bid to get NT up into the nerve centres of the enterprise, and Sun's a pretty good partner for the company at this level. Sun is not however a totally plausible partner for the whole shebang - the company's relative weakness further down the scale is evidenced by its recent snuggling up to Linux, so really Oracle needs other partners here. Oracle keeps saying it's talking to Dell and Compaq about Raw Iron, but as yet neither of the two have twitched. Intel's server appliance group (Earlier Story) however looks like a useful vehicle for Oracle to get its ideas accepted in the PC space - as Dell and Oracle are both supporters of the Intel initiative, look to Dell coming out with systems around the middle of next year. And also look to Raw Iron and Intel server appliances merging. Intel has a vision of multiple limited task servers of different sizes being sprinkled around networks, so while Oracle itself has been coming from the database angle, they needn't be just about databases. ®
John Lettice, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Expert's IE uninstall program ‘breaks’ after MS sees source

DoJ expert Edward Felten yesterday describe a mysterious breakage in his demonstration IE uninstall program (Earlier Story). He sent the source code to Microsoft, and then it stopped working. "You provided the source code... whereupon there appear to have been product changes by Microsoft?" Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson sounded somewhat incredulous, as well he might be. Felten's deposition describes in detail how Internet Explorer can be uninstalled from various versions of Windows, and also describes the construction of a prototype uninstall system that will remove Windows 98 from IE 4.0 (yes, we know, but after we typed it wrong it sounded such a great idea). Felten says he sent the source code for this to Microsoft in September, and that on 4 December (that is, just a few days before Felten was originally scheduled to take the stand), two small changes were made that interfered with Felten's approach to giving Windows 98 without IE access to the Windows Update facility. It's not immediately clear what those claimed changes were, but Felten says he was able to make changes to deal with them. Shall we think of this as a strange coincidence? Another strange coincidence was that Microsoft attorney David Heiner claimed that Felter's program disabled access to Windows Update. If Felter had gone onto the stand a little earlier, before he'd fixed the problem, his program certainly wouldn't have allowed access to Windows Update. But these must all be coincidences - any other interpretation would mean that Microsoft has been juggling with razor blades. The Windows Update feature is one of the more problematical aspects of Felten's uninstall efforts, because it goes some way to integrating the client machine with Web-based and Microsoft-run help, update, and (saints preserve us) network management facilities. The changes Felten claims Microsoft made must therefore have been made at the Web site end. Felten has already said that Update insists on the use of IE 4.0, and that this is unnecessary for the provision of the facility. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

MS retreats after judge slaps down attorney

Microsoft pulled the plugs on its cross-examination of Edward Felten yesterday, earlier than scheduled, and probably a lot earlier than expected. Microsoft attorney David Heiner had earlier collected a telling-off from the judge, and this probably destroyed his ability to question Felten further. Lead Microsoft attorney John Warden claimed the change of plan was because Felten didn't really have much to say, but it looks a lot more like a retreat in disorder. Felten's testimony is good, solid evidence that the association of Explorer and Windows isn't as close as Microsoft claims, and that the 'integration' is dubious, even anti-competitive in nature. Having this guy without that much to say on the stand for a couple of days, saying this over and over again, clearly wasn't going to be a winning scenario for Microsoft. Judge Penfield Jackson's rebuke of Heiner meanwhile shot holes in any alternative strategy. "You're playing word games with him now," he said. "He's told you a dozen times or more there is code in each of the files, some of which pertains to browsing functionality and some to Windows. To continue to pursue this in the hope he will make a slip of the lip is not appropriate cross examination," Jackson said. Jackson clearly felt Heiner's questioning was fact-free, and simply designed to trip Felten up. Once he'd throttled that one, Heiner maybe didn't have any more questions to ask. But it's worse than that for Warden and his team. Microsoft's attorneys have spent a lot of time and effort on trying to catch witnesses out, and as the judge has clearly become hostile to this approach, the defence strategy is now in big trouble. Warden joined the rentaquotes on the courthouse steps to claim victory, saying that the government had failed to establish what code was Windows, and what browser, so had failed to demonstrate that they were separate products. Heiner had repeatedly asked Felten this inside the court, but now he's not allowed to, the steps will have to suffice. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel staff start book on proper name of the Katmai

Now what is Intel going to call the Katmai when it's released February end? Sources tell The Register that the former contender, Pentium III, is now out of the picture. Too many characters for the special department at Intel that regulates these things. Someone reckons the family is going to be called the Pentium 2000. Hmm...too close to Microsoft. Remembering the success of the Pentium Pro family, another wag has suggested either the Pentium Prozac or the Pentium Pro Plus. But it seems the winner of the competition could be the AMDeon. ®
Socket Tuomey, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Elonex eyes potential windfall

The PC industry could be set for one of the biggest shake ups of recent years. UK PC manufacturer Elonex is attempting to prove that it owns the rights to power management technology used right across the industry. Last week Elonex took out lawsuits in the US against Dell, Packard Bell-NEC and Micron for alleged patent infringement. The furore surrounds technology for reduced power-consumption in colour monitors. Earlier this year, Elonex stopped Siemens using its power management technology, claiming it had invented it first and already licensed it to Hewlett Packard. If successful, the UK manufacturer could be in for a major windfall, while other manufacturers could find themselves handing over large bundles of cash to Elonex. Bob Raikes, research analyst at Meko, agrees that the implications for the industry could be significant. "If Elonex can prove that it does indeed have the patent, it could go knocking on everyone’s door, asking for compensation." Keith Warburton, executive director of the Personal Computer Association, said: "The financial implications could be massive. Whoever holds the patent could hit every PC manufacturer for every PC sold over the last four to five years." ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Body to define ‘official’ Internet music standard

The Recording Industry Association of America will today announce a consortium of music and IT companies which will develop a standard system for delivering music via the Internet. The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) is believed to have the backing of EMI, BMG, Sony, Universal (Seagram's music division and the new owner of Polygram) and Time Warner -- the five biggest players in the music business. Technology companies invited to join the SDMI include Intel, Sony, Microsoft, Lucent and IBM (which is already working on a downloadable music system, with the backing of various major music companies' US operations). The SDMI's goal, according to a draft press release obtained by Variety magazine, is to define an "open standard that will ensure compatibility and interoperability among products and services" so that "a legitimate digital marketplace can emerge". In other words, it wants to develop an Internet equivalent of the audio CD standard, Red Book. Whether the SDMI will set out to develop its own system or simply evaluate current offerings, such as Liquid Audio's eponymous format, AT&T's a2b, the infamous MP3 and Dolby's AC3, and propose one as the standard will remain to be seen. But whatever format emerges as the 'industry standard', it's highly questionable over whether it can do what the music business wants it to: displace MP3. While Public Enemy band member Chuck D claims to have been ordered to pull MP3 files from the group's Web site by his record label, DefJam (owner: Sony Music), there doesn't seem a lot else the industry can do to suppress MP3. Artists claim MP3 has the industry running scared because it puts the power back into their hands. But pretty much all the industry needs do to sew up this little loophole is add a digital distribution clause to its recording contracts, as Sony and others have already begun to do (see Sony to re-sign artists in bid for full online rights). No, the problem with MP3 lies not the artists but the punters. Most MP3 users aren't pirates but the modern day equivalent of the kids who used to tape each other's albums. That isn't going to change just because the music industry launches an alternative download format -- especially when the 'official' format doesn't offer any advantage (sound quality, say) over the 'unofficial' one. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Government to put hi-tech firms before environment

The government could be willing to sacrifice the protection of environmentally sensitive areas in order to promote the development of high-tech companies. It is launching a six-month review on how planning policy could be improved to create "clusters" of hi-tech industries. In short this will see normal planning restrictions go to the wall to enable business parks and other developments to be built on green-field sites. The government wants to do all it can to promote hi-tech industries in the UK believing that this is essential to secure the future economic success of the country. But environmentalists have warned of the dire consequences for endangered species in the UK. News of the government's review of planning priorities -- which should produce a policy statement next summer – has coincided with a critical report published by the World Wide Fund for Nature warning that a number of species in the UK could be in danger of extinction. The shorthaired bumblebee is already presumed extinct while the skylark, water vole and the song thrush are all on the endangered list, the report warned. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

AMD, Intel locked in bus marketing war

Intel is likely to introduce a Celeron processor with a 100MHz bus next year but will wait until Katmai is released to differentiate these processors from its low end chips, it has emerged. But the possibility of a 100MHz Celeron is likely to confuse end users, already bewildered by a plethora of clock speeds, different chip flavours and branding campaigns. Yesterday, AMD claimed it had an edge on Intel's technology because it would have a frontside bus of 200MHz on its forthcoming K7. (Story: K7 architecture to stay slottish) However, end users and others should beware because AMD and Intel are not comparing apples with apples, warned senior Dataquest UK analyst Joe D'Elia. He said: "The front side bus tends to be where the DRAM is concentrated. Yes, Intel will do a 133MHz front side bus, unfortunately they will not connect DRAM to it. Next year, the chipsets will support Direct Rambus with a direct connection to the processor at 800MHz and that is independent of the front side bus." D'Elia said: "The K7 bus is totally different -- it doesn't have a bus in the same way -- it has a point to point bus, so everything connected to it has its own access." Chip companies should not use front side bus speeds as a marketing device, he said. "If they do so, they're not comparing apples with apples". He said: "Mendocino is the same core as Deschutes so it can run at 100MHz but whether Intel decides to do so is purely a marketing decision. Intel has to differentiate the Celeron from the Pentium II. If they can get it to run at the same bus speed, people would ask why should they buy Pentium IIs." D'Elia said: "When Katmai comes out with the 820 chipset, it will work with Direct Rambus later next year and then Intel can differentiate it from the Celeron. At that point, Intel could release a Celeron with a 100MHz bus." But the slot architecture is unlikely to disappear for Intel processors, said D'Elia. He said that the slot architecture was necessary for processors at the high end because it gave greater flexibility, particularly at the high end. "Xeons do need the ability to have different cache sizes," he said. "High end machines couldn't do it on a single die using present technology and it would be too expensive anyway. Nor can you put the cache on the motherboard because you would have performance degradations." An Intel representative said: "The Pentium II will never be socketed." Roadmaps showed slot architecture up to the end of next year at least. He confirmed it was feasible to create Celerons with 100MHz frontside buses but said no decision had yet been made about whether Intel would release one. As already revealed here, Intel will release a 366MHz Celeron in early January, a 433MHz Celeron in February and a 466MHz Celeron after that. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

French Internet strike ‘a success’ claims organiser

French Web surfers have become the latest group to stage an Internet strike and claim success. However, France's monopoly telco, France Telecom, appeared resolutely unaffected by the users' actions. The strike, in which users refused to use the Internet for 24 hours from midnight on Saturday 12 December, was staged as an attempt to persuade France Telecom to introduce a flat rate for Internet dial-up charges. The strike's sponsor, the Association of Unhappy Internauts, wants France Telecom to charge F200 ($36) per month for unlimited local calls instead of the current tariff which bills users for each call they make at different levels according to the time of day. The Association claimed yesterday that 50-90 per cent of users signed to France's main ISPs had boycotted the Net during the 24-hour strike. France Telecom remains opposed to such a model -- instead, it prefers to offer discounts to heavy users. However, there are as yet no signs that it will increase the level of discount offered as a result of the strike. The French strike follows similar actions in Spain, Germany and, most recently, Portugal. UK users are also planning action against British Telecom. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Misys is cool for C-ATS

Software group Misys is attempting to establish itself as a risk management company following a £36 million bid for US firm C-ATS Software. C-ATS sells to banks looking to manage their exposure to hedge funds and derivatives. Misys chairman, Kevin Lomax, said combining this with his company’s credit risk tools would create an end-to-end risk management service. Last year, C-ATS recorded a loss of $2.6 million on turnover of $18.5 million. Lomax said C-ATS needed help in improving its distribution in Europe and South East Asia. Last week, Misys lost its place in the FTSE 100 list. ®
Team Register, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

South Korean president enters LG Semicon, Hyundai spat

In a further twist in the proposed merger of the semiconductor wings of giant chaebols LG and Hyundai, the president of South Korea, Kim Dae-jung, demanded the merger go through. That follows earlier reports that the proposed deal was in tatters because LG refused to allow Wall Street consultant Arthur D Little to broker a deal with Hyundai. According to the Korea Herald, President Kim told a local radio station that the merger of the semiconductor units must go through. And Hyundai Electronics president Kim Young-hwan fanned the flames between his company and LG Semicon by claiming it had refused to sign a contract with Arthur D Little. LG has claimed that it can go it alone without merging with Hyundai. But both have a deadline of 24 December for the merger. The intervention of President Kim and his hard line statement makes it likely that punitive action will be taken against LG and Hyundai if they further protract the merger. ®
The Register breaking news

Acquisitions aid Computerland UK growth

Computerland UK half year results soared 89 per cent on the back of two acquisitions. But integration costs were blamed for more sluggish profits growth at 27 per cent. Sales for the six months to October 31 1998 were £19.4 million and profits were £507,000 (1997: £10.3 million and £308,000, respectively), Graham Gilbert, chairman and MD said first half profits were also affected by a loss of £88,000 in the company’s remote support operation. This division is set for break-even in the second-half of the year. Nottingham-based Computerland UK operates from eight branches, based mostly in the Midland and the South. In March and April this year, the company beefed up its business with the acquisitions of Leicester-based Netman, and KDL, a corporate reseller with offices in Chelmsford, Birmingham and Manchester. Integration of sales, service and back office functions is now complete, according to Gilbert, leaving the company in an “excellent position to realise the full benefits of our recent acquisitions during the second half of the year." November trading for the group is in line with expectations, and the board expresses confidence in the outcome for the full year. ®
A staffer, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Whips crack away over missing PCs

Agriculture minister, Nick Brown, is under fire from parliamentary colleagues over the disappearance of two notebook PCs, together valued at around £11,000. The PCs were removed from the Whips Office on 27 July, when the MP lost his job as chief whip and were taken to the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) where he took up his new position. Ann Taylor, the new chief whip, was said to be so angered by the loss of the computers, and the sensitive information they held, that she demanded MAFF pay £11,000 to have them replaced. The matter came to light when Tory MP, Richard Page, tabled two written questions asking how much money MAFF had handed over. Page is a member of the public accounts committee. A statement from MAFF said that the users of the notebooks had wanted to hang on to them when they switched departments, rather than get new ones. ®
Team Register, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Shortage of 350MHz PIIs spreads to 450MHz parts

The shortage of 350MHz Pentium IIs now appears to have had a knock on effect on higher end processors, with reports that there is now some difficulty in sourcing 400MHz and 450MHz parts. But Intel is sticking by its official statement it made three weeks ago, when it stated there were some constraints on 350MHz Pentium IIs. That has caused some distributors and dealers to persuade customers to buy 450MHz PIIs instead. However, sources close to Intel suggested that part of the problem was that increased demand in the fourth quarter had caught some of its OEM customers on the hop. The order cycle for OEMs is around 90 days, meaning that increased demand had meant they had underestimated their orders for the fourth quarter of the year. The shortage of 350MHz Pentium IIs still continues, notwithstanding the latest reports. According to Mark Davison, processor product manager of UK distributor Datrontech last week, some of his dealer customers were using 300a and 333MHz Celerons instead. A reader of The Register suggested that a Celeron 300A could "easily be run at 450MHz with no extra cooling". He said: "Celerons with cache are really PIIs, they even have ECC L2 cache." However, Intel has repeated its cautions about end users attempting to make Celerons behave like fully fledged Pentium IIs. Another source at Intel said: "PIIs have 512K L2 running at half core speed, Celerons have 128K L2 running at core speed. PII L2 is off die, Celeron L2 is on die. Only the P6 architecture is shared. Mendocino is a completely different bit of silicon from PII." She said: "Hell, run them at any speed you want. When you blow it up we’ll be happy to sell you another because you won't get them under guarantee. It's your call." ®
Mike Magee, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Phone Bills R Us

Latest in a rapidly lengthening line of people offering free Internet accounts is Toys R Us. But subscribers wanting to call the Toys R Us Internet telephone helpline will find they pay dearly for the privilege. The giant of the toy retail world is to start giving shoppers access to the service this week. It is being put together in connection with Cable & Wireless and ICL, and includes IE4 and Microsoft Outlook Express. Subscribers will get five email accounts, 10Mb of Web space, and a free email-based help facility. The telephone helpline, however, will run on a premium rate phone service which will cost callers £1 per minute. As most users’ problems will occur when they are trying to connect, rather than once they are online, the free email help will come as small comfort to the majority of Toys R Us Internet subscribers. No-one was available from Toys R Us to defend the decision to provide such a costly help service. ®
Sean Fleming, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Barbie pulls Carmen Sandiego

Barbie is an American Icon - a particular delight with girls everywhere as well as a certain subspecies of male homosexual. The Register admits also to a certain affinity to the dolls - from time to time we take time out from our My Little Pony Abbatoir to dust down the office Barbie collection. Favourites include: Stepford Barbie - she does everything you want without you even asking; Artie –Transexual Barbie – you can’t even see the joins; Dolly John Deere Barbie – half tractor, half sheep, wholly genetically engineered.
Drew Cullen, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Tariff talks topple

Talks at the World Trade Organisation, aimed at reducing the number of IT products hit by tariffs, have been delayed. Attempts to draw up a list of some 200 IT items which should be free of duties by the year 2000 have been on-going since 1997 but continue to flounder. Talks will resume in February. A provisional list has been put together, and agreed upon, by the US and the European Union. But it ran into difficulties in June when Malaysia wanted more consumer electronics items included and India objected to suggestions that radar and navigational equipment should be included on the list. ®
Team Register, 15 Dec 1998

Cisco to buy 5 to 15 companies in 1999

Cisco CEO John Chambers has targeted between "five and fifteen" companies for acquisition over the next 12 months. All of them specialise in the voice and video broadcasting over networks.
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Solo coder offers Win 98 IE uninstall routine

DoJ expert witnesses aren't the only ones who've been working on separating Windows 98 and Internet Explorer 4.0. The Win98 IE Extraction Project posted a beta INF file that is intended to automatically remove IE from Windows 98 just yesterday. As far as we can gather, the project is a solo effort by an enthusiast, one Shane Brooks. He says he doesn't have anything against Microsoft products, even insists he likes some of them, but says on his site: "Along the way I think that Microsoft forgot the single home user that cannot afford the latest gear, that doesn't want a 24 hour internet connection, that doesn't want to upgrade all the time - or that simply doesn't have the dollars to keep up with the fast pace of computer developments. I found myself asking... Why?" He says he wanted to run 98 because it was an improvement on 95, but he didn't want to run IE 4.0. And because everybody said you couldn't separate the two, it seemed like a challenge. Brooks describes the results of his efforts as 98lite (NB, warning people, we haven't tested this yet, so caveat emptor) and claims the system's snappier, and he's got 40 megabytes more disk space. He also recommends the Litestep alternative shell as a further improvement. We're not sure Bill is going to like this you know, Shane. The code is downloadable for free from Shane's site, and he describes it as "Donation Ware" - if you like it, feel free to send hardware or money. Larry Ellison, Scott McNealy, go for your wallets. ®
John Lettice, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Acorn poaches ST Microelectronics design team

Acorn Group PLC is beefing up its digital TV business by poaching a seven strong chip design team from ST Microelectronics. The company wants this team so bad it is setting up a £2 million chip research centre in Bristol (UK base for ST Microelectronics), just so they don’t have to move to windy old Cambridge. Acorn has confirmed its intention to scrap new PC development -- as previously reported in The Register. "We have decided to exit PC development because it is not economically sustainable to us," CEO Stan Boland said in a statement. The company is also going to junk its name, because it carries "too much baggage", according to Boland, or so Observer in the FT reports. The new name to be announced early next year will be "more reflective of our silicon and software future and less opaque", he says. Well, the meaning of Acorn is clear enough. The Latin for Acorn is glans. Glans clitoris and glans penis -- Chambers tells us -- are respectively the extremity of the clitoris and of the penis. We can assume the etymology was forged from the shape of the Acorn. As to "too much baggage" -- how will Acorn PC users take this? Acorn's PC sales slumped from £8.5 million to £3 million in the first half of this year. However, Acorn's 15,000-strong user base, were probably on order strike. They were all waiting for Phoebe, or the Risc PC 2, which was supposed to ship in November. Acorn says it will carry on building PCs to order. And it indicates its willingness to licence Risc0S 4 to a consortium of Acorn dealers. The company retains a 50 per cent stake in Xemplar, with Apple, another opaquely named brand if ever there was one(Change that name!). ®
Drew Cullen, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Fact – MSN won't chop Net access service in the UK

The Microsoft Network (MSN) has no plans to pull the plug on it UK Internet access service -- as long as it stays viable. But Gillian Kent, group marketing manager at MSN UK, stopped short of saying that MSN would retain it.s subscription service come what may, conceding that if the "business was no longer viable, there would be no point staying in it". Kent was responding to news that MSN is pulling out of Canada. As of 1 February 1999, MSN will cease offering online access in the country. Earlier this year MSN also ceased dial-up operations in France and Germany. "The UK is still a viable business proposition for us," said Kent, stressing that MSN would continue to provide a quality service and high-speed Net access for its customers. But acknowledging that market conditions are changing, she highlighted the contribution Freeserve and other free Net access services had made to the sector in the UK. "Freeserve has upset the apple cart as far as ISPs go and has provided a great opportunity for people coming online," she said. "We know what's going on in the marketplace and we're keeping a very watch over it," she added. Some reports have suggested that MSN's departure from the Canadian access market is yet further proof that the company doesn't see itself as a simple ISP, wanting instead to concentrate on securing its position as a major portal. If that's the case, then it can only be a matter of time before MSN decides to drop its dial-up service in the UK. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

‘British reserve’ blamed for UK e-commerce inertia

UK businesses are in danger of being swept aside by US companies unless they start taking e-commerce seriously. And unless British companies begin to make their presence felt in the e-commerce marketplace, foreign competitors could start trading in the UK -- effectively squeezing them out of the domestic market. The warning came from Gary Walker, acting manager of C&W's Internet Services, who said that "British reserve" is holding back the development of e-commerce in the UK. "We're in danger of suffering from inertia," he said, citing the example of Amazon. "The technology is available and the market is growing but companies need to get a move on before it's too late," he said. Earlier this year the Institute of Directors (IoD) published a report which appears to back Mr Walker's view of British reserve. It showed "worryingly low levels of knowledge and responsibility for IT among UK businesspeople when compared to their foreign counterparts and ...UK companies were far less likely to invest in IT innovation". The government will launch its competitiveness white paper tomorrow and is expected to outline a number of areas to help the UK make the most out of e-commerce. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Gates video – Microsoft's ‘hit team’ to get IBM into line

Back in 1994 Bill Gates asked his staff how come IBM was helping Lotus. Senior VP Joachim Kempin wrote back recommending that something called "a WW hit team" should be sent into IBM, "whereby the OEM relationship should be used to apply some pressure." Hit teams? Bill not knowing things? Yes, it's those pesky videos again. Today's 45 minute bulletin added the novel spice of Bill sending an email where he confessed he didn't know something. "This is one topic I really want to try to get to the bottom of. Why does IBM help Lotus so much? Is there anything we can do about this? Should it become an issue in our global relationship with IBM?" We'll help him out here. It's 1994, Microsoft has been at war with IBM for the past couple of years, and IBM figures that by helping Lotus it will counter Microsoft's influence. IBM probably also believes that Microsoft's alternatives to Notes aren't entirely battle-ready. Lotus believes it should leverage as much out of IBM as it possibly can, but sneakily carries on developing for Windows. Bill's puzzlement is remarkable, under the circumstances. But Kempin takes him at face value. You'll recall Kempin as the cute operative who was so keen on switching over to a rental/annuity system for Microsoft software sales (Microsoft's plan to levy annual rental fee for Windows). He mails Bill (along with today's president, Steve Ballmer) back, saying he'll do whatever it takes to kick Lotus out of IBM, but that "[I] strongly believe we need a WW hit team to attack IBM as a large account, whereby the OEM relationship should be used to apply some pressure." Bill's video comments (remember this is his video deposition) is a lot less interesting than the Kempin email itself. Gates says a WW hit team is a salesperson, and explains that Microsoft internally might refer to someone as a "WW hit team" if "they're world-wide and they're trying to sell to someone who is a large account." That's actually quite forthcoming for Bill, but analyse what Kempin said. He expressed his belief that Microsoft needed a hit team. We do not, naturally, believe that a team is one person. But if we need a hit team, that means first that there isn't one in this case, and second that such teams are commonly-employed by Microsoft. For what? Again, back to Kempin: "To attack IBM as a large account, whereby the OEM relationship should be used to apply some pressure." Some pressure for what? To kick Lotus out of IBM? A fair-minded observer might presume that Microsoft as a matter of course formed special-purpose teams whose brief was to leverage existing relationships with major OEM customers in order to achieve other (not necessarily related) Microsoft objectives. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 15 Dec 1998