21st > December > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

A year ago: Intel to slash PII prices next month – 233MHz this month

The pesky OEMs who for some treason don’t think Intel is all heart, tell us that there are huge PII prices coming early, rather than later in January next year. According to our source, Intel was going to slash prices towards the end of January but has now brought its cunning plans forward. Indeed, as we went to press, we were told by one of the pesky ones that Intel will cut the price of its 233MHz Pentium II on the 27th or 28th of December - crafty, eh? Great Stan’s spin doctor says that the company is unable to give any information about future price cuts. Meanwhile, the truth will out about Intel’s plans for the MMX platform. Aside from the death of ceramic MMX chips in 1998, Intel’s extensions will, the same source suggested, now be included in its Katmai family, as revealed here earlier. This will be the famous Pentium III platform, with samples going out to the favoured news towards the end of 1998. ® A year on, Santa Clara is still not Santa Claus…
Mike Magee, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Acer attempting to sell semi division

Sources close to Acer have indicated that more troubles are ahead for the Taiwanese company, following a profit warning the company made two weeks ago. The 44 per cent profit target for 1998 conceals further problems at Acer, the source said. Earlier this year, Stan Shih, CEO of the company, said that he was taking over the running of Acer Semicon (which includes the former TI investment), while two presidents of Acer America lost their jobs because that division failed to make money. But Acer, which turned in profits for the previous two years, managed to turn in profits by selling property, according to the source. Now, however, the only property left in Acer's hands is for the Taiwanese software park but it cannot sell them because it has committed to a government scheme for a science park in southern Taiwan. Shih is attempting to sell off the loss making semiconductor division but unless he turns the unit round, cannot pump money into software development. However, the same sources tell The Register that several large names have already pulled out of the new science park because the land is unsuitable for development. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel poo-poos 100MHz Front Side Bus Celeron

Intel said today that reports it was producing 366MHz and 400MHz Celerons with Front Side Bus speeds of 100MHz were spurious. As reported here last week, that doesn't mean that Intel will not produce 100MHz FSB Celerons. Both AMD and Intel have collided over Front Side Buses recently. (Story: AMD, Intel locked in bus war) It's just that Intel has not made its mind up yet. A representative said: "Let's speculate accurately out there, guys.." He added that the leak of ZD Net US "was up to its usual standard of accuracy". Again, as revealed here much earlier, some Katmai products will have a 133MHz FSB but Intel is worried that if it produces a 100MHz Celeron, it will make ordinary people think twice about paying more for a Pentium II. ® Intel, in Santa Clara, is no relation to Santa Claus, in Lapland
Mike Magee, 21 Dec 1998
Sorry we're closed

ST Microelectronics to buy half of Mitsubishi's flash

Reports in Eurotrade said that Mitsubishi Electric will sell half its German flash memory capacity to French company ST Microelectronics (formerly SGS Thomson). According to the same report, Hitachi will sell its wafer production to company Shin-Etsu Chemical in April of next year. That story was reported earlier this year but was vigorously denied by Hitachi at the time. ®
A staffer, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

3Com pumps up Palm platform with wireless stake

Networking giant 3Com is boosting its Palm software capabilities by taking a $6 million stake in little-known Aether Technologies. Aether develops software for connecting mobile computing devices to wireless networks, something 3Com is interested in using to enhance its already successful PalmPilot handheld computer. Sales of the PalmPilot (now renamed the plain old Palm) account for some ten per cent of 3Com's turnover, but the majority of these sales have been to home users. 3Com wants the Palm to taken seriously as a corporate computing device. Along with sales of USR modems, 3Com has found itself sitting on top of a considerable consumer business, having lost ground to Intel in sales of network interface cards to business users. It hopes to establish itself as a major corporate player in information appliances, and intends to use the Palm as a platform to do this -- going head-to-head with Windows CE and Epoc (Symbian's operating system, used in Psion handhelds). Taking an interest in Aether will enable 3Com to promote Aether's software and make sure that it always has ready access to it as the use of mobile devices in connection with business networks grows. It is understood that Aether first caught 3Com's eye when the networking vendor discovered that many of its Palm customers were also subscribing to data services managed and maintained by Aether. The latest version of the Palm (Palm VII) was unveiled earlier this month and can be connected to the Internet via wireless communications. ®
Sean Fleming, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Now Samsung and Daewoo at hammer and tongs

A bitter row has broken out between mighty South Korean chaebols Samsung and Daewoo over the proposed transfer of their car and electronic industries. Over last weekend, South Korea president Kim fired one of his ministers for objecting to Samsung exchanging its auto division for Daewoo's electronic division. And Daweoo staff upped the ante by taking out an advert saying they blocked the transfer of the subsidiaries. Both Samsung Motors and LG Electronics employees have gone on strike. The intransigent position Daewoo has adopted mirrors that taken by LG two weeks ago, which has so far resisted all attempts to allow US Wall Street consultant Arthur Little to broker a deal. LG and Hyundai are supposed to sort its deal out by the end of this week. And in the latest twist, South Korea president Kim appointed a Samsung executive Namgoong Suek as the minister for information and communications, the Korea Herald reported. We here at The Register wonder just how long of all this can go on... ®
The Register breaking news

Oasis' record label to distribute MP3 singles free via Web

UK independent record label Creation Records has decided to begin posting its singles on its Web site a month before they reach the shops. Creation, which handles the likes of Oasis, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Bob Mould and now Ronnie Spector, will begin offering singles for download free of charge early in the new year. Not all artists' work may appear this way -- Creation can only do so provided they give their consent, presumably because the online exploitation of their music isn't part of their contracts -- but if Creation reckons it's a good idea, many of its artists will too. The singles will also be removed from the Net when the singles go on sale through traditional outlets. It appears a decidedly odd move, given the recording industry's apparent hostility to the Internet, but look a little closer and it becomes rather more canny. Creation chairman Alan McGee likens the plan to playing singles on the radio. In other words, it's a promotional gig -- you encourage people to buy albums by enticing them with some of the catchier tunes. The singles market has been shrinking for years, largely as buyers have opted for albums and as the adoption of the CD has made singles inevitably more expensive. You might have once paid around 99p for a 7in single; a CD single costs around £4 and is padded out with remixes and other stuff most buyers probably don't want. These days it's just too expensive to buy a single to see whether you might like the album -- most casual listeners will listen to Virgin FM instead. Which brings us back to McGee's comment. By putting the tracks out on the Net, he's hoping they will become widespread and those who like what they hear will pop out and buy the album on CD. That's one of the key strands of the argument MP3 proponents make when defending the digital format from the criticism of the major labels. It's not yet clear what format Creation will use for its free tracks, but MP3 has to be the most logical choice in the circumstances since this is a mass distribution exercise and not about making sales up front. It's a bold experiment, and undoubtedly one that the big labels will be watching closely, Sony Music, in particular, since it owns 49 per cent of Creation. Sony is already believed to have stamped on Creation's e-commerce attempts, now at last launched but with a ban on sales to non-UK customers. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Intel makes Scrooge-like Celeron pricing decision

Intel’s decision to introduce far more powerful 366MHz and 400MHz Celerons on the fourth of January was described as “deeply cynical” today. The chip giant has advertised the previous versions of the Celeron processor extensively in the run-up to the Christmas period, but will slash the prices of its 300MHz and 333MHz parts when it releases the new chips. Three years ago, Intel attracted similar criticism when it released chips with MMX extensions just after it had pushed the previous processors to first time buyers. Rana Mainee, European research director of AMD, which also produces microprocessors, said: “I agree it is deeply cynical and unfortunate this should happen, but more and more people have wised up to this and defer their purchases until after Christmas.” Market research company Inteco figures showed that the split was roughly half and half, said Mainee. He said: “Intel has always felt they have to clear out the old stuff over Christmas. People who buy at Christmas are typically first time buyers who don’t know the difference.” AMD has never been guilty of such cynical action, claimed Mainee. “If you look historically over the last two years, we bring out new microprocessors in Q2, which allows people enough time to design them in for the Christmas period,” he said. The processors will come in 370-pin sockets. Earlier this month, Intel was accused of dumping its previous Slot One processors into the channel. The company declines to comment on its pricing strategies. ®
Mike Magee, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Register WebCam

You can expect to see the following characters: Tony Smith, Drew Cullen, Mike Magee, John Lettice, Justine Boland, Linda Harrison, Sean Fleming and Tim Richardson
Team Register, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Rise to announce Socket 370 breakthrough

Chip clone company Rise is expected to announce this week that it has signed a deal with a third party to provide fab facilities which will allow it to make Socket 370 parts next year. Rise, which has its HQ in Santa Clara, is one of around 150 or so "fabless" companies and the deal will represent something of a breakthrough for the firm, which currently employs 100 people. Although no one from the company will yet say who the partner is, Rise believes that the growth of the Basic PC notebook and desktop markets will allow it to compete with larger players. A representative said that Intel and AMD are concentrating on the high end of the Basic PC market. Rise claims that its products' low power consumption and good performance will allow cheaper prices than either Intel or AMD. The chips will work with Socket Seven and 100MHz chipsets as well as 370 pin parts. Its mP6 and Mp6II products have three way superscalar architectures, decoupled superscalar pipelines and native execution. Rise claims that Wintune 97 shows around a 15 per cent increase over Pentium II core performance at the same clock frequencies at 200MHz. ®
Mike Magee, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Handset vendors buy in expertise

Motorola is to buy Lucent Technologies’ handset development unit in an attempt to boost flagging digital phone sales. The deal will see Lucent's consumer wireless phone operations go for an estimated $200 million, according to reports in today’s Wall Street Journal Europe. Motorola will hope to put Lucent’s technology to good use in the digital mobile phone market. It has so far dominated the analogue market, but has recently been outpaced by Nokia in digital phone sales. The move was described by James Parmlee, analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston, as "a win for Lucent and for Motorola". The buyout follows hard on the heels of Nokia’s purchase of voice-over-IP firm Vienna Systems for $90 million. ®
Linda Harrison, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Virtual Internet reverses into Charriol

Charriol plc -- an AIM-listed company -- is coughing up £15 million for Virtual Internet in a bid to reposition itself as an Internet services group. The deal is in effect a reverse takeover by Virtual, as Charriol is a shell...existing as a company in name only. Founded two years ago by Jason Drummond, Virtual Internet provides a number of services including hosting Web sites, registering domain names and supporting e-commerce and e-mail services. It has a number of high-profile clients including Nestle and Littlewoods, and hosts around 9,000 Web sites. It recently entered a three-month trial with AOL to become the sole provider of domain name registrations, e-mail, e-commerce and Web-hosting for the portal's UK business. Once the deal has been completed Charriol will change its name to VirtualInternet.net plc. Drummond will become the major shareholder with almost 70 per cent of Charriol's enlarged issue share capital. He will also be appointed a director of the company. The company is also on the prowl for other acquisitions in the IT sector and has confirmed that it is already in talks with a number of prospective businesses.®
Tim Richardson, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Govt investment to make ‘no impact’ on hi-tech start-ups

The government has hit back at criticism that its proposed £50 million Enterprise Fund will only yield around £6 million for venture capital investment in hi-tech start-up companies. In a report in today's Financial Times, the newspaper said only £6 million would be available for venture capital investment in the hi-tech sector unless spending on an existing small company finance scheme is cut. But a spokesman for the DTI said the figure quoted in the FT was a "little on the low side" and added that it wasn't the government's place to spend taxpayers' money on venture capital investment. Instead, he believed the measures sent out strong signals to the venture capital community affirming the government's position that the UK's future prosperity lies in hi-tech innovation. But a spokesman for the British Venture Capital Association reasserted the view of its chairman, Clive Sherling, who said that any government-backed fund providing between £5 million and £10 million would have "no impact" on the level of investment in the sector. The criticism comes in the wake of the government's Competitiveness White Paper which was unveiled last week by the secretary of state Peter Mandelson. Critics have pointed out that there is no new money available and that DTI has simply juggled its £1.3 billion a year budget to divert funds away from traditional manufacturing towards more hi-tech initiatives. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft plays smart card leapfrog

Microsoft will literally have a licence to print money if joint venture talks with De La Rue come off. The software giant is prepared to take a "strategic stake" in De La Rue to underwrite the co-operation of Europe’s biggest banknote printer in developing Windows for Smart Cards. De La Rue is big in bank note printing (a curiously unprofitable business) security printing, and in magnetic swipe cards. But it simply does not have enough money to compete successfully in the smart card market, according to yesterday’s Financial Mail on Sunday. De La Rue’s financial PR spin doctors appear to be working overtime on this one. Reports of a De La Rue deal first surfaced in The Sunday Times in October and faithlessly reported here. The story now has more meat on the bone with the FMoS leak. De La Rue prints security certificates for Microsoft, but it now seems that the software giant’s real interest lies less in Coca Cola–style bottling plant vertical integration -- than in opening up new territories for the Windows OS. Microsoft “has been a late entrant into smartcard software, with De La Rue its most enthusiastic backer”, according to the FMoS. It notes a "strained relationship" between Microsoft and the financial services industry. De La Rue has by contrast "a longstanding relationship with most of the world’s banks". Schlumberger of the US and GemPlus of France account for 75 per cent of the world’s smartcards, sales of which are expected to grow nearly 400 per cent to £4.25 billion by 2002, the FMoS reports. ®
Drew Cullen, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Demob happy Court shows pointers to Microsoft Trial verdict

Some subtle messages from Judge Jackson have been overlooked in the general end-of-term atmosphere in Washington. Judge Jackson has started referring to "Gates" and not to "Mr Gates". Such subtleties are found in criminal trials in the UK when after a verdict of guilty, the prisoner is referred to by surname only. Fancy that. On the other hand, the judge is looking much more relaxed about the length of the trial, since he said, for example, that he "would rather err on the side of excess" [in the length of video extracts] "than running the risk of not playing counter-designations" . Microsoft head lawyer Bill Neukom sloped off at lunchtime on Wednesday: perhaps he had been summoned by Bill, but it could be that he was just going shopping. Judge Jackson said that it was "perfectly all right" that he had been replaced by Tod Nielson as the Microsoft representative. Depositions from Philip Barrett (VP of RealNetworks), John Romano (operating manager, HP home products division, Asia-Pacific), Mal Ransom (VP marketing, Packard Bell NEC), and Curtis Sasaki (group marketing manager, consumer and embedded technologies, Sun) were admitted but not played. Extracts from the deposition of Joseph Kanicki of Dell were included in the transcript, but the deposition has not yet been released by the DoJ. Admitting rather than showing the deposition extracts allowed everybody to leave for the break a day earlier. One of the results of the stampede was that the exhibits associated with the depositions were not admitted before the break. Justice was not exactly seen to be done, as the extracts shown in court would of course have a greater impact than those for which just a transcript was provided. An additional 15 so-called non-party depositions are likely to be admitted rather than played in court, after the recess. John Warden for Microsoft said that Microsoft had filed a Motion to exclude the deposition of Phil Schiller of Apple as it was, in his view, based on hearsay. Judge Jackson reserved judgement. Another document that Microsoft was about to file, Warden said, was Microsoft's Representation about allegations by Edward Felten that Microsoft had made "some change to the Windows update site that he believed interfered with is add/removal program". It was interesting that Felten never used the word "add" – just "remove". It was, in effect, an admission that Microsoft had failed in its cross-examination of Felten. Judge Jackson then turned to two pending Motions. The plaintiffs (both the DoJ and the states) wanted the judge to allow cross-examination by two attorneys. The judge said he did not want to change his rule that there should be one cross-examiner, but remained willing to listen to further argument, particularly if the claims by the DoJ and the states differed on the issue being cross-examined. Steve Houck for the states told the judge that a very important area where there were differences between the DoJ and states' case was with respect to remedies. Because the states wanted to secure effective relief to overcome violations of the law, he thought it important to ensure that the record would support the relief the states sought. Judge Jackson said: "We are a long way from any relief at this point. we are not dealing with relief." Interesting that the judge had not phrased this "if he found for the plaintiffs" – It seemed to be a telling moment. Judge Jackson added that he did not like the idea of collusive cross-examination or a co-counsel with "fresh wind" cross-examining a witness after exhaustive examination by the lead counsel. Microsoft had a pending Motion requesting access to documents in the AOL Netscape acquisition. It was very surprising how little all the lawyers present in court, and the judge, knew about the likely procedure so far as any regulation of the Netscape acquisition by AOL was concerned. It was therefore even more surprising when the judge ruled that Microsoft could see, subject to any protective order, the terms and conditions of the transaction. It seemed probable that Microsoft would get access to secret business information that might help it competitively in the future. Should there be a protective order for the documentation, theoretically the information will only be accessible to Microsoft lawyers. Houck noted that there was a lot of confidentiality associated with the documents, and that he wanted the states to have the same access as Microsoft to the documentation. The judge agreed. ®
Graham Lea, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Recyclers call for EU directive to be scrapped

The recycling body ICER (Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling) has hit out at the proposed EU directive affecting PC recycling, warning it could cost vendors and retailers £500 million a year. The industry body also claims the directive, which aims to reduce environmental damage through discarded electrical and electronic goods, is too wide-ranging to be effective. An estimated 6 million tonnes of electronic waste is dumped every year, and there are believed to be around 1 million unused PCs in Britain. The directive, in its second draft, makes vendors responsible for taking back old machines when they sell new ones. Joy Boyce, ICER chairman, warned it could push up prices on all new electronic goods. Boyce, also head of corporate affairs at ICL Multivendor Computing, said the directive also failed to provide the necessary environmental improvements. She said: "It’s too wide-ranging. It would be better to concentrate on those aspects of the electrical and electronics waste-stream which have the greatest potential to do damage to the environment." Jon Godfrey, commercial director at PC recycling and remarketing company Technical Asset Management, described the directive in its current state as unworkable. He said there was also a great deal of confusion surrounding what actually constituted recycling. He admitted to being disappointed with the directive. "It’s supposed to be about the environmental impact of hazardous waste. But it seems the manufacturers had more influence than the recyclers did on the second draft of the directive." The directive also sets targets for the amount of recycled material used in new PCs at around five per cent. Godfreys - who would like to see a minimum of 15 per cent - described this as "too little too late." ®
Linda Harrison, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Microsoft Trial: those depositions keep rolling in

With time on its hands, the court turned to videotapes to entertain itself for a couple of days until it could decently sneak away for the holiday season. A peculiarity of the US legal system is that by agreement both the plaintiffs (the DoJ or the states) and the defendant (Microsoft) can question a witness who is being deposed. This is done at a convenient location for the witness, with a court-certified reporter, videographer or "realtime " reporter present -- but no court official to act a referee, other than perhaps a DoJ paralegal. The person being deposed is usually represented by an employer-supplied counsel, pre-programmed to shout "objection". Either side can depose a witness, and typically the deposition is longer than a 100 pages (of 25 lines to a page), so it is a merciful release that only the highlights are shown in court and become part of the record. A further peculiarity is that either side, subject to the federal rules of procedure, may designate extracts (with the non-deposing side counter-designating extracts). Microsoft used gamesmanship in the depositions shown last week by diluting the carefully chosen sections that the DoJ chose to support its case with a great deal of extraneous baggage. The extracts demanded by Microsoft took four times as long to play as those selected by the DoJ. By contrast in the Gates video extracts, Microsoft struggles to find any extract that can be shown to put Gates in a better light. The judge does not normally get to know which side designated which parts, but there is no absolute rule on this. The attitude of the witnesses is quite interesting, depending on which sideis doing the questioning. In hostile circumstances, they are subpoenaed if they will not submit willingly. There were some displays of what may be politely called individualism, especially where Microsoft attorneys were the inquisitors. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the depositions was the ignorance of some of the attorneys on both sides, and their lack of adequate preparation for the depositions.
Graham Lea, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Disney roughed up by 1,000 pound gorilla in browser negotiations

Steve Wadsworth, VP of Buena Vista Internet Group, a subsidiary of Walt Disney from 1995 until 1998, was deposed by Sandy Roth of the DoJ San Francisco Division. Roth said that Bill Spencer, Disney's account rep, described the windows desktop as "Microsoft's crown jewel" during negotiations. He also bragged that "AOL gets most of their subs from Windows" (meaning of course by having an icon present in Windows). But as soon became apparent, Disney would only benefit from any relationship with Microsoft if Disney agreed to some significant Microsoft demands. Disney had to promote the downloading of IE to users who did not use IE, and not promote, market or even mention Netscape on its website. Nor could Disney even link to a page that mentioned Netscape. When the heat was being turned up during the investigatory phase of what has become the present action, Microsoft evidently had second thoughts about the severity of its agreements, and relaxed them by sending an email that announced that marketing and promotion restrictions would not apply. This in itself was a interesting move, since the text of the substantive contract was not modified so that it would be had to say exactly what was and was not allowed. icrosoft however could claim, for legal purposes, that it had relaxed its contracts. The original agreement would not have allowed Disney to promote the Disney channel on Netscape's Netcaster, and Microsoft did its worst to stop Disney from having any collaboration with Netscape. Bill Spencer said that Microsoft would invoke the disputes resolution path specified in the agreement, and give 30 days notice of contract termination -- as well as removing Disney's logo in the interim. Wadsworth noted: "Bill [Spencer] also made it clear that Brad [Silverberg, a Microsoft VP] believes we will back down because we would be screwed to pick Netcaster over Microsoft. I pointed out to Bill that I didn't like being strong-armed, and that this approach to the relationship is only going to screw it up." Wadsworth wrote on one exhibit: "We are being roughed up by the 1,000 pound gorilla." Microsoft has been compared to a big gorilla several times in the past, but the weight is normally given as between 600 and 800 pounds, so it seems that the gorilla is getting more threatening with the passage of time. Microsoft's perception of itself is a little different, since the Microsoft Encarta encyclopaedia suggests a maximum weight for a gorilla of 400 pounds in natural surroundings, although it could be fatter in captivity. ®
Graham Lea, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Slapped wrists for EDS

Outsourcing and services giant EDS has agreed to compensate a UK local authority following a series of blunders. EDS has been running housing benefit payments on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames since last year. The system fell into near collapse earlier this year with delays in payments becoming so protracted that some private sector landlords started refusing to take tenants who were in receipt of benefits. EDS has pledged to pay an undisclosed sum into a fund which will be used to pay voluntary organisations, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, which have been overrun with calls for help as a result of late payment. Some councillors within Kingston have been calling for EDS to have its contract taken away from it, but no decision has yet been made. ®
Team Register, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

SCO ‘forced out of desktop market’, deposition reveals

Wayne Bergland is VP of US field sales for SCO and was subpoenaed in August by the DoJ. The main points he made were that SCO had had to get out of the desktop business because of Microsoft's competitive practices and now concentrated on the server market. SCO's five largest OEM licensees were Siemens, Compaq, Lucent, Unisys and NCR, although Lucent use SCO products in telephony, and not desktops. In introducing the videotaped deposition of Ron Rasmussen (VP of the volume systems group at the Santa Cruz Operation), David Boies, the DoJ special trial counsel, pointed out that Gates had identified SCO as an operating system competitor, although it was not mentioned that Microsoft has a significant financial stake in SCO. Rasmussen, who was subpoenaed by Microsoft, was evidently unhappy at having to be deposed for six hours. He was asked if SCO's operating system products came with any Internet-related technologies and replied that he could answer the question, but "I could probably take up all six hours". Unfortunately for Microsoft, there were many ways that the bundled Netscape browser could be removed from SCO operating system, so Microsoft made no headway. Microsoft had in any event decided not to port IE to SCO, as it evidently regarded SCO as having a server OS rather than a desktop OS. ®
Graham Lea, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

NCI dislikes proprietary standards

David Limp, the VP of marketing for Network Computers Inc, was subpoenaed by Microsoft and interrogated in July by Stephanie Wheeler for Microsoft. In effect, Limp gave her a brief tutorial, and in answer to a question made the case for a GUI being optionally part of an operating system, preferring himself to think of it being an application. The deposition was only of marginal value to the DoJ, showing essentially that Internet software could be chosen from a menu. For example, IBM had licensed NCI's modification of Navigator for its Net Stations. Wheeler had evidently not previously heard of Free BSD, so her question as to whether it was "available for licensing from sources other than NCI" was unlikely to earn her much respect at Fort Redmond. She must have been puzzled when she found out that NCI's browser could be removed without harming the operating system. One of the more wacky questions was asked by an unidentified DoJ or state lawyer: "How would it affect NCI if Java and HTML were to become proprietary standards, and NCI were not the company to control those standards?" Limp: "So NCI doesn't control the standard at all? So that's the first part of the question that doesn't really ring perfect. The second part of the question is that you used the term that's in the industry, which is an oxymoron, by definition, which is proprietary standard, so I probably should define that. There's often times where standards are -- start as standards, but because they become ubiquitous by one vendor, that they're taken over, and it's happened many times. “SNA architecture from IBM, their networking architecture, is an example of where a proprietary standard was created. Everybody uses it, but one vendor controls it. "However, if HTML and JavaScript, or Java for that matter, became under the auspice of one vendor, whoever it would be, it would hamper our ability to innovate, and we innovate in the form of the web in many ways because we take a browser from Netscape -- they're doing a lot of the innovation for us -- then we repackage it and rewrap it and that kind of thing, and then we add our own innovation around it. “But if there wasn't multiple people out there driving the standard and that kind of thing, then we would be hampered completely. You know, we wouldn't be able to innovate anymore. It would be impossible”.®
Graham Lea, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Caldera reveals OpenLinux OEM distribution problems

Bryan Sparks, CEO of Caldera, was deposed by Richard Pepperman for Microsoft in July in Salt Lake City. Sparks admitted that Caldera had encountered problems trying to distribute OpenLinux through OEMs, although since his testimony was taken, the situation may well have changed. It seemed from Sparks' testimony that Microsoft had been watching OEMs very carefully for signs of deals with Caldera, especially in view of the Caldera v Microsoft case now scheduled for trial in June. This case is concerned significantly with Microsoft's alleged use of anti-competitive techniques against DR-DOS. Microsoft had a special interest in finding out what Caldera was doing. Pepperman produced some local newspaper cuttings, in an attempt to show that Caldera was biased against Microsoft, because of headlines like "Provo company applauds action against Microsoft". It all just was a case of tribal loyalty, and supporting the local team, of course. An interesting document from August 1996 showed that Sparks considered Caldera to be undercapitalised for its ambitions and that he favoured securing public or venture capital. Caldera had as a corporate focus shaking up traditionalists in the industry by using unusual development methods, such as Internet contractors. ®
Graham Lea, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

OEMs toe Microsoft line

PACKARD BELL NEC Mal Ransom of Packard Bell NEC was subpoenaed in August by the DoJ and cheerfully admitted in his deposition that PBN pre-installs 100 per cent of its PCs with Windows 98, but just occasionally it slips out a few PCs with Navigator instead of IE. He subsequently said that PBN could sometimes ship "a proprietary operating system" with Unix (Windows is not seen to be a Microsoft proprietary OS). The cardinal sin was evidently to ship a PC without any OS. This demonstrates very well Microsoft's fear that home users at least might prefer to acquire a naked PC and transfer software from their existing machine. Jon Kies, a senior product manager of Packard Bell NEC gave a deposition under subpoena to Karma Giulianelli of the DoJ in September. PBN took advantage of Microsoft's relaxation in licensing regime to delete the IE icon, and IE in the start menu, for its versa LX and SX lines. Kies mentioned that PBN had found that customers preferred to make their own choice of browser, and that it was better not to pre-install both browsers since some customers were wary about removing anything. Attorney Stephanie Wheeler for Microsoft pursued an aggressive line with her objections, claiming fault with any question that contained a poke against Microsoft. Kies agreed that PBN would like an option to remove IE in Windows 98. Hewlett-Packard John Romano of HP was subpoenaed by the DoJ and deposed in August. He confirmed that component prices for PCs had been decreasing, but the price of Windows 95 had gone up. Romano detailed how Microsoft prevented HP from offering any choices to customers as to which interface they wished to use. HP was also prevented by Microsoft from offering a tour of features to new users. Microsoft even required HP to submit pre-releases of its PCs to Microsoft so that Microsoft could decide if they would approve them or not. HP gave in. At one point, HP wanted to run another operating system prior to booting Windows 95, but time constraints prevented the realisation of such a plan. HP also found its support calls increased by 10 per cent as a result of Windows 95. Microsoft did give HP permission to change the look of two required screens, but not the functionality. Just goes to show Microsoft's power over its OEMs? DELL Extracts from the deposition of Joseph Kanicki of Dell were admitted, but his deposition was not made available by the DoJ. He admitted that some Dell customers wanted PCs without browsers. Kanicki thought that removing the modem would do the trick, but did not evidently understand much about denying access to a proxy server. Microsoft pointed out that Dell was a good friend and had the freedom to put whatever browser it wanted on its PCs. It sounded as though Dell was a trusty OEM on day release, rather than behind bars, and was very anxious to please its jailor.
Graham Lea, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Sun puts in the boot with Microsoft trial deposition

Brian Croll, director of product marketing for Sun's Solaris, was subpoenaed by Microsoft. He gave away nothing to his Microsoft inquisitor, who turned out to be Theodore Edelman (described in Microsoft's Slate webzine as "vampire-like"), the man who also failed to break Avie Tevanian of Apple. Microsoft was trying to show that HotJava for Solaris is integrated with the Solaris desktop. When Croll was shown a Sun document about the HotJava browser, he said he did not know what the author meant by the words – an argument that even Gates has not used to any effect. He put the boot in when Edelman did not apparently know the difference between a Mac and an operating system. Edelman evidently thought he could win some points because the word "integrate" was used a few times in Sun's sales literature, failing to understand that "integrate" was a marketing term, and that the browser could be removed by the user. Edelman persevered: "the document, it uses the word ‘integrate', doesn't it?" Croll tried to be helpful: "Apparently in the document it says integrate . . . I don't know what they mean by integrate . . . You know, words mean what you want them to mean." He knows all about Alice in Wonderland, it seems. Croll's deposition was in July, but one of his comments gave some insight into the Sun's thinking about Netscape: Edelman: Is there anything about that market that provides a reason for shipping the HotJava browser with Solaris? Croll: Yes. What I was saying earlier about having a degree of control over the browser and its technologies, that's critical because that's linked very closely to whether a server is useful or not. Edelman: What do you mean by that? Croll: You think of it this way: it's two sides need to talk to each other. If the browser can't talk to the server, then we can't sell servers. So, if we lose any kind of control over whether the browser can talk to our server or not, it will be very difficult for us to sell servers. Edelman: And how, if at all, does that affect your choice of which browser to ship with Solaris 2.6? Croll: One of the factors is we want to have one that we have some agree of degree of control over. So, HotJava is obviously something that Sun has control over. Edelman: Is the choice of the HotJava browser, does that relate to any perception that customers demand HotJava as opposed to a different browser? Croll: No. Edelman: Why not? Croll: They prefer to have another brand-name browser. Edelman: What's your basis for that? Croll: Just customer visits and hearing what people say and market share numbers and so forth. Edelman: And what have you heard in that respect? Croll: Typically, people value the Navigator brand, very, very deeply. Curtis Sasaki, was deposed by Theodore Edelman for Microsoft in July, with three lawyers for Sun, two DoJ lawyers, and one lawyer each for the states and Microsoft. In view of the testimony admitted, it was a severe case of overkill. Edelman showed his depth of preparation when he asked if Microsoft Office ran on the Java OS. He asked how many licenses there were for the Java OS (and was told 36, with 21 licensees for the HotJava browser and one for HotJava views). Microsoft then made the point in its daily press briefings that the browser was too slow. A point made by Sasaki was that many businesses did not want their employees to have access to Web browsing, a non-facility that Microsoft is unable to offer. ®
Graham Lea, 21 Dec 1998
joe_mcnally_2

Compaq goes server crazy. But which chip? And which flowerpot?

Compaq is set to release a veritable bevy of servers first thing in the New Year but will be compromised by the fact that both Alpha and Intel processors are used. US magazine Infoworld breached an apparent embargo last Friday by publishing details of the servers, which will also include a workstation or two as well -- of Alpha and Intel flavours. According to the American newspaper, Compaq will announce four separate 4-way systems on January 4th and will also upgrade its ProLiant server range. Repeated calls to both Compaq and its UK PR company today failed to elicit confirmation of the launch in the UK, which is expected to come a little later here in Blighty. The Alpha system, pre-announced by DEC spokespeople before Compaq completed its takeover earlier in the year, will be dual-processor 500MHz Alpha chips, accessing over four gigabytes of memory, as previously revealed here. And towards the end of the month, once more Compaq will be faced with another conundrum as workstations with both Alpha and Intel chips are rolled out by Compaq-DEC. ®
Mike Magee, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Barclays signs CyberCash for e-commerce authorisation

Barclays Merchant Services (BMS), the division of Barclays Bank that handles credit card transactions, has signed US digital money company CyberCash to supply secure payment software for BMS' forthcoming Internet payment system, ePDQ. BMS is probably better known to consumers as PDQ (Pretty Damn Quick), the brand name of its in-store credit card transaction machines. The CyberCash deal is part of BMS' move to bring a PDQ-style service to UK e-commerce merchants. Barclays is hoping to push ePDQ as the definitive system for authorising and accepting credit card payments over the Web. This isn't the first time Barclays has worked with CyberCash. Last year, it licensed the digital money specialist's CyberCoin system, offering it to UK Internet users as BarclayCoin. The service went online in October 1997 in a trial in preparation for a full roll-out this month. However, like CyberCoin in the US and the numerous other digital cash and micropayments systems, BarclayCoin has failed to attract the big name merchants without which it's unlikely to attract consumers. After all, if your favourite Web-based store doesn't accept digital money, you're not going to sign up for something like BarclayCash. CyberCash has itself had problem coming to terms with the lack of consumer interest in an Internet-based currency. For all the (largely unproven) security scare stories, most buyers are happy using their credit cards for online transactions. And the anticipated market for micropayments -- paying small amounts for individual news stories or shareware downloads, that kind of thing, all of which would be uneconomic from a credit card basis since the issuers' fees are too large for merchants to make money on sales of about $3 or less -- has failed to materialise. So CyberCash has been remodelling itself is as a purveyor of credit card transaction systems, which is why it bought ICVerify (another purveyor of credit card transaction systems) back in April. Certainly Barclays hasn't been shouting about BarclayCash of late -- particularly odd, since it's supposed to be going live this month -- and it would seem that, like the supplier of its software, it reckons the future of e-commerce is the credit card not e-currency. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Dec 1998
Lego Godzilla

Taiwan in turmoil over preferred lists

The island of Taiwan is preparing itself for further pressure from Red China by preparing lists of foreign companies it favours as potential investors. At the end of next year, the tiny peninsula of Macau will be relinquished by the Portuguese to the authorities on the mainland, in the wake of frenzied gang attacks by triads. But sources in the island of Taiwan claim that the island still does not want to be part of Red China, despite sabre rattling from the authorities in Beijing. Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs are, according to the same source, producing lists of foreign firms which could be interested in investing in the island. Those which are on the "A" list get preferential treatment but the two government ministries are at daggers drawn over the different companies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a preferential list of companies which is strategy based. It wants companies to help Taiwan join the World Trade Organisation. The other government department's list is based on technology transfers which could or even might be accomplished. The prime minister and his cabinet are currently mulling over which of the two government departments will get the green light. But according to our correspondent on the island, it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which could well win. IT companies are understood to be those preferred by Taiwan's PM. The whole issue is complicated by the fact that Red China and President Clinton appear to be close on the issue of Taiwan, while Japan and many other Far Eastern and South East Asia governments differ substantially, as well as in trade terms. When Clinton visited the region earlier this year, he said that Taiwan was a part of Red China. ®
The Register breaking news

Carrera careers ahead

Carrera is promising one of the UK’s most significant IT job creation schemes when it relocates to north London next year. The UK vendor will invest over £1.5 million in its headquarters shift and expects to create more than 100 new jobs over the next three years. It plans to open two more retail technology centres after the success of its central London operation. The move follows the PC and networking manufacturer being named as one of the country’s fastest growing technology companies in the Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 50 awards. Privately owned Carrera has increased turnover from £4.2 to £20 million since it was founded in 1993. Colin Collier, Carrera MD, put the growth down to investment in R&D and customer service. ®
Linda Harrison, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

PSINet blames Energis for network problems

PSINet -- one of the world's largest corporate Internet service providers (ISPs) -- has said problems that have been dogging its network will be resolved today. An engineer from Energis -- the telecoms network provider -- is currently working to fix problems that have brought frustration and disruption to business customers over the last two weeks. PSINet has tried to distance itself from the problems claiming that the blame for any breakdown in performance ultimately resided with Energis. The telecoms company admitted that customers were experiencing problems during peak times and pointed to a "large increase in traffic" as the cause of the faults. "We're implementing a new networking plan which should deliver improved performance," said a spokeswoman for Energis, who also admitted that customers of Cable & Wireless and Planet Online -- the ISP it acquired during the summer -- were also experiencing problems. In an attempt to provide a short-term fix some customers were transferred to analogue lines during the worst of the problems but PSINet claims it is still unable to say exactly how many companies have been affected. Energis' insistence that it prides itself on it high level of customer care has been questioned by one disgruntled customer who said that it "simply wasn't good enough". "We weren't told of the problem in the first place and were never informed of when it was going to be put right," said Drew Cullen of The Register. "It has really hacked us off that we have had to investigate this problem with our journalist hats on just to find out what's going on. "Why couldn't they have told us instead of leaving us in the dark all this time? I don't call that customer service." Energis -- whose customers include the BBC, Boots the Chemist and Eurostar -- said that a "network enhancement programme" is being put in place which should help increase network capacity. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

AMD says it will take on Intel on notebook front

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), which manufactures clone x.86 processors, said today it will take on chip mammoth Intel in the notebook market next year. Rana Mainee, European market research analyst, responding to the introduction of a whole clutch of Celeron PII/mobiles next year -- as previously revealed here -- said Intel's price cutting techniques did not frighten him. He said: "The mobile market is a longer design market but we have made considerable inroads in the last six months." AMD, he revealed, would not hesitate to cut prices where necessary to increase the share it had gained. He said that AMD would continue to keep its prices 25 per cent below Intel's, and that it would probably cut its prices after the launch of 366MHz and 400MHz Celerons next January 4. (See separate story). But AMD will be following others in the queue. Cyrix introduced notebook products at Computex in June this year. And Rise and IDT are also set to join the lucrative notebook fray. ®
Mike Magee, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Computer piracy is sinful, says Israeli court

Copying software illegally -- or even buying it -- could spell religious trouble for those involved. This news comes after a religious court in Israel ruled that piracy was now officially a sin. A report in The Jerusalem Post said the rabbinical court of the ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit movement has ruled that copying computer programs and buying pirated software are now forbidden acts. Anyone involved in the trade is a "sinner", the court said. A spokesman for the Catholic Church said that since piracy is technically theft, and theft is a sin, then "yes, technically, it was a sin". "To qualify, a sin be something wrong and also must be premeditated," he said. "It must be both objectively and subjectively wrong," he added, stopping short of entering into a full-blown theological debate on the subject. No one from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) -- which monitors and dispenses retribution of a more earthly variety for software infringements -- was available for comment. ®
Theo Logy, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

PC prices crash in US

PC prices have fallen through the floor in the US prompting speculation that the UK could be hit by a price war in the new year. The cost of a PC plummeted to an all time low in November as a third of all consumer machines sold cost less than $800, according to market researchers PC Data Corp. Registering a drop of seven per cent between October and November, PC Data says that prices have fallen by 26 per cent from a year ago. Such downward pressure on UK prices could preface a shakedown in the home PC market. With smaller retailers struggling to keep pace with the high street big guns like Dixons, which uses its purchasing power to undercut its competition. Manufacturers may also struggle to continue to play in the retail market if margins continue to plummet. "That certainly is a big drop," said UK PC analyst Robert Cashman from Context. "But I think it's unlikely to happen like that here in the UK. We may experience some price reduction but nothing on that scale," he said. Tumbling prices in the US are obviously not going to ruin Christmas for the bigwigs in the UK market. No one was available for comment from Compaq, Dell or IBM -- perhaps they were all enjoying some seasonal festivities of their own. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

NatSemi's Fairchild buys Samsung wafer unit and staff

Samsung has received an unexpected injection of cash from a semiconductor company. Fairchild Semiconductor bought Samsung's high value power device wafer fabs in the South Korean peninsula for $455 million. Design staff are also included in the deal. National Semiconductor (NatSemi) bought Fairchild in conjunction with some VCs last year. While the cash involved will be very welcome to Samsung, it is likely to be a surprise to many in the chip industry. The original Fairchild spawned senior staff at Intel, NatSemi and AMD. Samsung has so far prided itself on vertical integration but vowed last week to follow President Kim's instructions and spin off non-vital units. ®
A staffer, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

Datrontech flogs training arm

Datrontech Group is continuing to tidy its straggling businesses by offloading its IT training arm less than two years after buying it. The £4.2 million cash sale of Expertise Group to Dalkeith Inns aims to reduce the component distributor's borrowings and move it closer to its core businesses of PC distribution and networking. Expertise made a pre-tax profit of £410,313 on £3,019,569 turnover for the ten months ended 31 October 1998. The training company has three offices in the Midlands and the North of England - Washington Tyne & Wear, Altrincham and Hinckley - employing 17 trainers. Expertise is the third and last part of the former Xenon Holdings to be sold off. Datrontech acquired Xenon in January 1997 for up to £3.6 million. Xenon's other two arms – an Isle of Man dealership and a networking services arm were then flogged, leaving Datrontech to tackle the technical training part. The announcement coincided with the distributor changing the earn out arrangements for the directors of its PC assembly and recycling subsidiary, RD Trading. The Essex company, also bought in January 1997, will concentrate solely on recycling computers. As a result, the earn out period will be extended for one year. Datrontech has also issued 48,619 ordinary shares of 5p each to partly fund the acquisition of Datrontech in Poland and the Czech Repulic. The deferred consideration for 1 January to 30 June 1998 was payable at 150 per cent of £173,570 profit, paid to Tim Close (105 per cent) and Tim Vincent (45 per cent). Only one third was to be issued in shares, with the balance in cash. ®
Linda Harrison, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

HP slashes PC prices across the board

Hewlett Packard has taken pre-emptive action against its rivals IBM and Compaq and taken the axe to a number of its product lines by as much as 20 per cent. The cuts cover corporate PCs, its Brios, its Kayak workstations, its Omnibooks and some of its high end server products. Said HP, it can now sell a VE corporate machine with a Celeron 333MHz chip, a 4.3Gb hard drive, 32Mb of synchronous DRAM and Lan card for $774. Compaq and IBM were not prepared to say whether they would follow suit on the reductions, although The Register is aware there is much slashing and burning in the lead up to a large number of product introductions early next year. ®
A staffer, 21 Dec 1998
The Register breaking news

IBM set to rejoin PowerPC triumvirate over AltiVec support

IBM looks set to adopt Motorola's AltiVec PowerPC extensions after all. Quoted in an interview with EE Times, Mike Attardo, general manager of IBM's Microelectronics Division, said the two companies will soon "come to a solution" to their eight-month disagreement over the technology. Motorola first announced AltiVec, a set of vector processing instructions designed to bring to the PowerPC the ability to manipulate streamed data alongside in parallel with its regular processing operations, back in April. Soon after, IBM said it would not be supporting the technology, and it looked liked the co-developer of the PowerPC would begin to move away from the chip, not least because Apple, one of the biggest buyers of PowerPC chips, had thrown its weight behind AltiVec as a key component of its plan to offer faster machines than the Wintel world. Now, the company seems to have realised its original stance might have been a mistake. "The three companies are motivated to co-operate, and we will co-operate," said Attardo. What kind of deal the two CPU manufacturers have worked out remains to be seen -- Attardo did not go into the details of the agreement. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Dec 1998