29th > December > 1998 Archive
There’s a Sanskrit word called samsara, highjacked by perfume company Guerlain for smelly stuff, which is richly expressive of the nature of chip giant Intel. The word is made up of two parts, sam which means “together” and sara which means flowing, so expressing the idea of this world being a ceaseless round of movement. At The Register we’ve attempted to cover future developments throughout 1998 so thought it worthwhile to outline Intel’s ceaseless movements, its corporate samsara, for next year. Entry Level PCs Day four of 1999 opens with Intel’s introduction of 366MHz and 400MHz Celeron chips using a 66MHz front side bus (FSB). Both will have a Mendocino core and will be followed later in the year by higher speed Celerons as Intel begins to move out its old Pentium II line in the wake of Katmai-Pentium III (see below). The company has still not decided whether or not to introduce a 100MHz FSB for the Celeron. Marketing considerations weigh against its introduction at any early stage. The company will choose the occasion to cut prices on its previous Celeron chips to a price which means they will rapidly enter the Chip Gulag (i.e. disappear). Intel will rapidly move its channel and its OEMs to the 370-Socket motherboard. It now has support for the cut down board from a reasonable number of Taiwanese manufacturers. Our information is that Rise, with its partner Acer, may attempt to compete with Intel on the 370-Socket front. Intel is faced with increasing competition from AMD, Cyrix and other smaller imps of chipness at the low end. It doesn’t take Mother Shipton to predict that it will continue to fight what it considers the good fight and continue its slash and burn policy at the entry level. AMD has said it will resist this market pressure in 1999. Katmai-Pentium IIIs And what it means for Pentium IIs… Our information is that Intel will use the occasion of the Superbowl game to announce the arrival of the Pentium III. While Intel still remains shtum on the name, that does not matter quite as much as its significance in the market place. The formal launch of the Katmai-Pentium III is on the 28 February, although it will be no surprise to us here at The Register if Intel attempts once more to steal a march on the competition by doing it all a bit earlier. Katmai-Pentium III will initiatially come in 450MHz and 500MHz versions, and although the initial 1000 prices are supposed to be $530 and $760 respectively, it is not outside the bounds of reason if Intel cuts these prices pre-launch, to give Katmai-Pentium III an extra boost and in an attempt to scupper its rival AMD, which is introducing its K6-3 (Sharptooth) at the same time. During the year, Intel will introduce faster versions of the Katmai-Pentium III, and this means a heap of price cutting on the Pentium II family, which is nearing the Chip Gulag. It will demonstrate its evil intentions on the 28 February when it slashes and burns prices on the PII/400 and PII/450. Further price cuts are slated to follow in early April 1999. Despite the lack of support from games companies at the Intel Developer Forum this autumn, the company is still insisting that the 70 or so additional instructions in the Streaming SIMD (Screaming Cindie) instruction set is aimed fairly and squarely at the gaming market. Mobile Celerons, Mobile PIIs January 1999 will be a busy month for the Satan. As well as introducing its Mobile PII/Dixon family on the 25th, at speeds of 333MHz and 366MHz, we will see Celeron mobile processors. This is Intel’s attempt to make sure that the Cyrixes and Rises of this world don’t eat into the low end notebook market – a potentially lucrative field. Initial clock speeds will be 233MHz, 266MHz and 300MHz, with prices ranging between $100 and $200 in units of 1,000. Xeon family Intel introduces its 450MHz/2Mb Xeon family on the 4th of January. There will also be a 1Mb version with prices of around $3,700 for the former, and $2,000 for the latter. These chips are intended for the high end server market but demonstrate just how cunning the Great Satan is. There is little essential difference between the Slot Two and the Slot One Pentium IIs aside from the additional cache. They offer PC vendors a chance to sell ridiculously expensive servers but from Intel’s point of view subsidise many of its lower end processors. Coppermine, Cascades and other silly code names In the second half of next year, Intel makes a number of important chip introductions based on .18 micron technology and higher clock speeds. Coppermine is likely to be a 600MHz clocked jobbie using a 133MHz FSB, with level two cache included on the processor. This is aimed at power users at both the desktop and the notebook level, although Joe D’Elia, senior semiconductor analyst at Dataquest UK, thinks that the introduction of Direct Rambus makes this question of FSBs for Intel chips all a little academic. Cascades is a .18 micron Xeon version of the foregoing and will run at 600MHz and 666MHz. Intel says 667MHz but this is a crude attempt to dodge its Great Satan of Chips tag. A Tanner 550MHz chip will be introduced in the same period. Although Willamette is supposed to be released at the beginning of the year 2000, our sources tell us they will not be surprised if Intel shifts this forward to the last or even the third quarter of 1999. Willamette has a new P6 architecture – expect Intel to migrate this down to other processors at the end of the year. Expect further announcements on its IA-32 and IA-64 architecture at the next Intel Developer Forum, held early next year. Year 2000 and onwards This is where Intel’s samsara really begins to kick in. What with Merced, McKinley and the rest, it’s hardly worth thinking about yet. Our information is that while Intel is still on course for Q2 2000 for a first Merced, it is still desperately trying to whip up support from both PC manufacturers and ISVs for the platform. There could be an interesting clash next year when Eckhard Pfeiffer’s Compaq starts evangelising its Alpha. Intel and the FTC It’s entirely possible that Microsoft versus the US will still be running when Intel versus the US opens in February. We shall be covering the Intel case in as much detail as we have covered the Microsoft case. ® RegistrOid 1999 According to Knaresborough seeress Old Mother Shipton, 1999 is the year when the world ends. Born in a cave in Yorkshire in 1488, she is said to have predicted the invention of the steam engine and the telegraph. How did she know about the Year 2000 bug?
Larry Ellison's yacht Sayonara has won the Sydney to Hobart yacht race after storms which cost six other sailors their lives. And Ellison told reporters that the race, which Sayonara won for the second time, was life-threatening and dangerous, with his only goal to get him and his crew back in one piece. He is unlikely to compete in the race again. Seventy vessels pulled out of the race but Sayonara won it ahead of Aussie boat Brindabella. Sayonara was not caught in the storms. ®
Toshiba has developed a pair of 2.5in hard disk drives for slimline notebook PCs. The first offers 10GB of storage space and is 12.5mm thick. The second is slimmer (8.45mm) but can hold only 6.4GB of data. Both drives will begin shipping to OEMs next month. Pricing to non-Japanese PC vendors has yet to be confirmed, but pricing puts the two drives at Y120,000 and Y80,000, respectively. ®
The US Department of Commerce is this week at last set to issue new, relaxed regulations covering the export of powerful encryption software. The regulations will be based on the US government's latest policy on data encryption, which was announced back in September. The new regulations will permit the export of 56-bit encryption technology -- the greater the number of bits in the 'key', the harder the software lock is to pick -- after the exporter has passed a Commerce Department one-off, 15-day approval procedure. After the review, the products can be exported to all but seven nations (deemed by the US government to be too dodgy). Encryption software using 57 or more bits will also be eligible for export, but only to a select list of 42 'safe' nations and then only to Internet merchants, finance, insurance and medical companies. These firms will not be required to implement key recovery mechanisms, which could be used by official bodies to gain access to encrypted data. ®
US record label Capitol, a division of British-owned industry giant EMI, forced two of its artists to remove free music tracks encoded in the MP3 format from the Web this weekend. However, despite the music industry's ongoing paranoia over the MP3 format, Capitol's move seems to be more about its relationship with the musicians concerned -- Billy 'White Wedding' Idol and the Beastie 'Fight for your right to party' Boys -- than the use of MP3 per se, though that too has played a part. Idol is signed to Chrysalis -- the record label founded back in the late 60s so Jethro Tull could get a decent recording contract -- which was bought by EMI in the late 80s. According to music industry sources, Capitol refused to release Idol's latest album, so artist and label are now in negotiations to terminate his recording contract with Chrysalis. Idol's work has been released in the US under Capitol's Java Records subsidiary, so perhaps Sun Microsystems' lawyers might like to take a look at the deal too... Idol posted two tracks from the unreleased CD on the MP3.com Web site three weeks ago. However, Capitol demanded they were both removed, which is what has now happened, apparently to ensure Idol's exit talks were not jeopardised. The Beasties, meanwhile, have been squabbling with Capitol for some time, ever since the band posted MP3 tracks of concert recordings on their official Web site. Some tracks were initially pulled, then put back. Ultimately, all the MP3 songs were removed, replaced by lower-quality RealAudio versions. That suggests that Capitol has no problem with the availability of the tracks, only with what format they're released in. So maybe MP3.com president Michael Robertson has a point when he says: "They [Capitol] see this as a crack in the dam. If every artist did this, it would legitimise MP3." ®
Norway's supreme court has ruled that remotely exploring computers connected to the Internet is not a crime. The ruling sets a precedent that any system connected to the Internet (at least those in Norway) can be legally probed for security leaks. The ruling follows a case brought by the University of Oslo against a private security company, Norman Data Defence Systems (NDDS). NDDS had been contracted by a Norwegian news service to demonstrate the security pitfalls of Internet-connected systems for a TV programme. The company used a number of standard techniques to probe the University's mail system and determine who was connected to the institution's computers. NDDS claims the tests were conducted simply to see what information could be garnered using standard Internet protocols. No personal data was accessed. However, the University took NDDS and the individual engineer who carried out the tests to court. Both the company and the engineer were found guilty of an attempted break-in and misuse of computer resources to which they had no right of access. NDDS was fined and ordered to pay for repair work on the University's network. An initial appeal overturned the break-in charge, but now a second appeal, to Norway's supreme court, has seen the misuse charge quashed too. "The essence of the ruling is that if you want to join the Internet, you have to assure that you're protected," said NDDS CEO Gunnel Wullstein. "If you don't want to be visited, close your ports". ®