5th > January > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

IBM loses in e-symbol war

Big Blue today looked like it backed the wrong symbol when it invented KeyBUK. A search of our keyboard has revealed that the small letter e with two strokes through it -- the symbol of the Euro -- is harder to find than the mighty $, the former mighty £ or even the tiny µ or weak currency the yen. UK keyboard users are used to swapping the # sign for the £ sign on American keyboards and telephones. Big Blue trademarked its symbol for e-commerce, the one that looks a bit like an @ sign, but failed to trademark the new Euro symbol. Meanwhile, here in Mayfair, W1, we have managed to corner the market in the symbol ® It does mean registered, after all. ®
Arthur Moment, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Why Microsoft wanted to buy Intuit

The uneasy relationship between Intuit and Microsoft can be traced back to at least early 1990 when Intuit discussed collaboration on a finance program for Windows with Microsoft. By late 1990, Microsoft told Intuit that it intended to compete, having induced Intuit not to develop a Windows program. Despite very strong competition and a price war with Microsoft, Intuit managed to hold and increase its market share. Microsoft offered Money at a price that was widely thought to be loss-making in its attempt to buy market share. It came out in court when Microsoft was being stopped from acquiring Intuit by the DoJ that then Microsoft VP Mike Maples had told Bill Gates that he "tried to be non threatening, but let him know we would do something aggressively". That behind the scenes something' consisted of threatening Intuit with a billion dollar Microsoft development programme for personal finance software if Intuit did not agree to be acquired. Intuit held out until October 1994 when it was agreed that Microsoft would purchase Intuit for $1.5 billion in Microsoft shares (or some 12 per cent of those outstanding). This would have been the highest-cost acquisition to date in the software industry (and would have risen to $2.3 billion because of the appreciation in Microsoft's share price). Microsoft was well aware that Intuit produced a new update of its software for each tax year, and that some 70 per cent of users bought the update. The potential for Microsoft to bundle Intuit products with Windows 95 updates, was clear. Mike Maples was forthcoming about the reason for the acquisition: "we were going to spend most of our energies dealing with existing competitors" unless Microsoft neutralised Intuit. Clearly Microsoft saw more value in Intuit than the immediate bottom line -- this was seen at the time to be control of the future of personal online banking. The personal finance/checkbook software market was (and is) strategically important to Microsoft. The banking community was also highly sensitive to the possible role that Microsoft might play, if not checked. One of the sensitivities about the Intuit acquisition for the industry was that Intuit was one of the few companies to have competed with Microsoft and win. The DoJ shared the concerns that had been expressed by Judge Sporkin, who was examining the consent decree, about the merger, and after an intensive investigation and the commencement of a legal action by the DoJ to prevent the merger, Microsoft withdrew and paid Intuit a termination fee of $46.25 million. Intuit still has around 65 to 80 per cent of the market with its products, and although Microsoft has spent a great deal developing and promoting its Money product, market forces have operated, with the first mover in the market maintaining its advantage. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

MS moves to block Intuit testimony

In his direct testimony Intuit CEO William Harris fingered Microsoft for discriminatory and exclusionary behaviour, forcing Intuit to agree to have no dealings with Microsoft's competitors. Harris' testimony deals with a significant part of the DoJ's Complaint that started the present action last May: the power that Microsoft has to control the first screen on boot-up, and the future consequences of this. Microsoft has filed a Motion to have parts of Harris' testimony struck from the record because it consists of "hearsay statements, immaterial discussions of events not at issue in the case" and the like. But Harris had direct discussions with Pete Kight, the CEO of CheckFree Corporation, which Microsoft had approached as a partner for the proposed WinATM project, so the evidence is hardly hearsay'. He also received information from Mike Maples, then executive VP of Microsoft. It seems that one of Microsoft's real concerns is that Harris' testimony reveals a Microsoft strategy to make many Web pages only viewable with Internet Explorer. In addition, Harris is the first DoJ witness to make some suggestions as to remedies (which Microsoft asks the Court to ignore in its Motion). Harris pleads for "operating system neutrality," but this is unlikely to give Intuit the flexibility it would wish because of the very real difficulty of enforcing it. Microsoft makes the dismissive claim that Harris' testimony mostly reads "like a position paper written by a lawyer representing one of Microsoft's competitors", but if a lawyer did assist, it was with a very light and rather inexpert touch. The written testimony does not refer to the most powerful potential remedy: for the Court to declare that Windows is an essential facility (although this was mentioned by Harris from the witness stand). Ironically, Intuit had helped to bring about its utter dependence on Microsoft by stopping development of versions of its products for other operating systems. Intuit's garrotte is at least partly self-inflicted, and Harris' statements such as: "I have formed a genuine respect for [Microsoft] and its employees" and that Microsoft makes "good products" do little to advance Intuit's cause. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

DoJ stirs pot over MS sabotage denial

After Microsoft cut short the cross-examination of Edward Felten last month, it filed a Representation to the court that it had not sabotaged Felten's prototype program to remove browsing capability from Windows 98. The DoJ has now filed a very strongly-worded Response asking for Microsoft's Representation to be struck from the record as it is "little more than a Microsoft press release, improperly captioned as a pleading… containing erroneous and misleading attempts to introduce facts through unsworn testimony of Microsoft's counsel". The DoJ claims that Microsoft wanted Felten off the stand so that it could create its own spin about what was, no doubt, some entirely coincidental and innocent tampering with how Felten's program ran. It would have helped Microsoft's case though if it had not admitted that the testing of Felten's program was completed in September 1998, rather than December 1998 as had been previously claimed. It was also a pity that Microsoft VP Jim Allchin, who is slated to give evidence to oppose Felten's, had not claimed when he was deposed that the testing of Felten's program "was not complete" so that he couldn't (and wouldn't) answer any questions about it. It now appears that he may have been obstructing the DoJ. Meanwhile, Judge Jackson is being asked by the DoJ to allow it to investigate further by interrogating Allchin again and undertaking additional discovery to ascertain the facts before Allchin is cross-examined by the DoJ. Alternatively, the DoJ wants this part of Allchin's deposition to be struck (with the implication that perjury is at issue). The DoJ is extremely indignant about this apparent lying in the Response, and draws attention to Microsoft's heavy-footed spin doctoring by means of attempts to introduce unsworn testimony from Microsoft's counsel, as well as making "frivolous and defamatory" statements about what Felten was purported to have said. It would seem that Microsoft thought it could get away with filing a Motion that was intended to help it smooth over a very troublesome aspect of the case -- the removal of browsing from Windows 98 -- but it has misfired badly. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Intuit exec claims MS pressure killed Compaq deal

The difficulty that William Harris, Inuit's CEO, faced in court yesterday was that Intuit is a shining example of a company that has successfully managed to hold Microsoft at bay - at least so far. On the surface, this made it difficult for the DoJ to show that Microsoft has monopoly power, but Harris' direct testimony contained abundant evidence that Inuit was squeezed into agreements with Microsoft that stopped it forming alliances as it chose. Harris' point that Intuit users could switch to rival products such as Microsoft Money, whereas Microsoft Windows users could only switch with great cost or difficulty to an alternative operating system product, did not sound to be very important, although the ease of switching is in fact a significant factor in competition law cases. Microsoft tried to argue that it was superior Microsoft technology in IE that made Intuit decide in 1997 to adopt IE exclusively, and not the lure of a link to Intuit from Windows. It was not a convincing argument. Harris had a similar story to tell to those of Apple and AOL so far as the use of IE rather than Navigator was concerned: the real estate that Microsoft had to offer, in the form of a position for an Intuit icon in a folder, was too valuable to make possible an independent arrangement with Netscape, at least until the DoJ was breathing down Microsoft's neck and Microsoft's resulting relaxation of its restrictive exclusivity requirements. It is surprising that Microsoft had not sought money from Intuit for including its icon with Windows 95. John Warden, an attorney for Microsoft, sarcastically asked Harris if he was proposing an "interstate operating systems commission". Harris elaborated on the circumstances in which Compaq broke its agreement with Intuit in order not to upset Microsoft. Compaq evidently felt rather sheepish about the demonstration of this weakness, but Intuit did not sue. Outside the court room, David Boies, the DoJ's special trial attorney, made the point that even a company with an 80 per cent market share could not enforce an exclusive contract with Compaq against Microsoft's wishes. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

UMC to fab Rise chips

Sources said that Taiwanese company UMC (United Microelectronics Corp) will be the foundry that will make the mp6 family of processors for x.86 start up company Rise. UMC, a Taiwanese company, has access to the x.86 technology and the foundry ability to make the parts, the source said. Last month, we reported that Rise was aiming to produce Socket 370 parts. (Story: Rise to announce Socket 370 breakthrough) Rise is now actively recruiting distributors for its processors both in Europe and around the world. Also last month, Rise struck a deal with Acer Labs Inc (ALi) to use the Aladdin chipset for its mobile platform. (Story: Rise wins Acer chipset support) Three years ago, UMC settled a patent infringement suit with Intel, receiving a sum of money from Intel in exchange for stopping making 486 clones. Intel had sued UMC in July 1994 for an alleged infringement of its patents. An Intel representative said that the underlying technology behind the Socket 370 was proprietary. "The socket itself is just mechanics," he said. Intel would not object to x.86 companies producing 370 boards provided they did not infringe Intel's intellectual property. ®
Mike Magee, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Vodafone plans rival Airtouch bid

UK cellular leader Vodafone is attempting to outbid Bell Atlantic's $45 billion offer for Airtouch Cellular, according to US sources. A Vodafone offer for Airtouch was rumoured last year, but it appears Bell Atlantic's bid in the past few days has prompted the British company to make its move. Aside from being higher, a Vodafone offer may attract Airtouch because of similarities between the companies' strategies. Airtouch has major investments throughout the world, while Vodafone over the past few years has been investing world-wide too, buying stakes in a string of cellular providers. An Airtouch merger with Bell Atlantic would allow for some consolidation of non-US holdings, but the main event would be the creation of a far larger US cellular operation. The creation of a giant straddling the Atlantic would certainly be a part of a Vodafone-Airtouch deal, but there would be far greater opportunities for co-operation and expansion of the two companies' European mainland operations. ®
John Lettice, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq stays tight lipped over Ts&Cs

Compaq resellers face an uncertain start to the New Year as the PC giant continues to sit on its plans to reduce the number of resellers it will sell to directly. According to channel sources, Compaq plans to double the sales targets for these tier one resellers, making it impossible for all of them to hang on to their direct relationship. It has still not issued revised plans - including the long awaited amended terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) - for the top tier of its channel. One source said that resellers will now need to turn around £12 million per year in order to hang on to tier one status. Tier one resellers are able to take advantage of greater discounts and marketing rebates from Compaq, but will lose out if they are forced to buy from the distribution channel. He described the move as "a kick in the face" for those who play heavily on their direct relationship with Compaq. Jackie Raybould, Elcom operations director, said the hybrid distributor/reseller would not be kicked off the list, but said she was still waiting to see the revised Ts&Cs. She said the contracts were originally promised late last year, then by New Year, but had still not arrived. Raybould warned: "Many who have been de-listed probably don’t even know about it yet." Another industry source said: "Compaq is delaying sending out the Ts&Cs because it hasn’t been able to finalise them yet." Nick Offin, Compaq channel sales director, denied the vendor was cutting back on its number of resellers in this category. He said: "We will be sending out new contracts to our channel this week – but there will be no change to the system reseller status." ®
Linda Harrison, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Contractors' lawyer tells MS to withdraw ‘invalid’ contracts

Microsoft is being accused of attempting to intimidate temporary contract workers into signing away their rights to benefits, according to the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers. MS' relations with contractors are presently the subject of litigation, and according to the Alliance, new contracts introduced this year are intended to stop contractors from benefiting from any settlement. In its email newsletter The Washtech-News, the Alliance claims that Microsoft's new Temporary Personnel Agreements (TPAs) have added a section which says contract employees will not be entitled to any Microsoft benefits, even if a court or government agency determines that they were common-law employees of Microsoft while at the company. Ongoing class-action litigation on behalf of Microsoft contractors may well determine that very thing, so Microsoft is in effect trying to get contractors to sign away their rights to any settlement. Steven Strong of law firm Bendich, Stobaugh and Strong, which is representing contractors, says the new contracts are invalid, and combine an illegal waiver and a misrepresentation of the employees' status. Microsoft classes them as contractors, while Strong says they are common-law employees entitled to full Microsoft employee benefits. Strong has asked Microsoft's lawyers to tell the company to withdraw the contracts, and threatens an injunction of Microsoft doesn't retract the requirement to sign. ® (Alliance Web site)
John Lettice, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

LCD PC display market set to grow in 1999

A market research company said today that sales of flat screen desktop LCD displays will experience strong growth during 1999. Bob Raikes, director of research at UK company Meko, was responding to reports that Sharp would manufacture 50,000 14-inch or greater LCDs per month during this year. Raikes said: "For a long time, this was a phoney market. There were lots of products available but few sales. Last year, the market started to be real, particularly in the US, largely due to the prices coming down." He said sales in 1999 will far exceed last year's figures. "This year, things should really take off by a factor of three or four times," he said. But the CRT (cathode ray tube) market is still healthy, said Raikes. "This market is still growing and there's been a big shift to 17-inch displays because of prices," he said. ®
Mike Magee, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Mobile frenzy boosts market values

Mobile phone companies saw their market values leap following bumper sales in the run up to Christmas. Some 2.5 million mobiles were sold prior to Christmas - three and a half times the number sold in Christmas 1997. In Q4 98, Vodafone added 933,000 new connections to its lists, a 287 per cent increase on the same period last year, and saw £2.25 billion added to its market value - which is currently £32 billion. Cellnet saw the biggest rise year-on-year with 658,000 new subscribers - a 341 per cent increase on Q4 97. Orange boosted its new member numbers by some 294 per cent - 512,000 new Orange users joined in Q4 98, compared with 130,000 who joined in Q4 97. One-2-One added 439,000 new users to its ranks, an increase of just 113 per cent on the number of new members in Q4 97. Analysts predict that by the year 2000 some 39 per cent of the UK population will have a mobile phone. The rapid uptake of mobile phones has been attributed to the popularity of pre-paid services. ®
Team Register, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Big cache Xeons launched for big cash

Intel formally introduced three 450MHz additions to its high-end Pentium II Xeon chip family. The processors come with 512K, 1Mb and 2Mb of level two cache and are aimed at the server and workstation markets. The chipset and processors will support four way symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) machines. Intel claimed that systems using the 2Mb version of the 450MHz Xeon gave 10 per cent better performance than a 400MHz Pentium II Xeon with 1Mb of level two cache. The chips cost $824 for the 512K version, $1,980 for the 1Mb version and $3,692 for the 2Mb version. ®
A staffer, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

VideoLogic boosts UK channel

Graphics and audio component manufacturer, VideoLogic, has given its UK channel a shot in the arm by signing a distribution deal with Imago Micro. Imago Micro will take on the full range of VideoLogic products, which includes 2D/3D graphics accelerators and audio products for PCs, games consoles and arcade machines. Imago will also distribute the VideoLogic Sirocco speaker system, designed to replicate Hi-Fi sound on the PC. Ian Vickerage, managing director of Imago Micro, said: "With an arsenal of revolutionary new products for all aspects of gaming and multimedia, Imago will be in a very strong position to attack all areas of the UK market, and as a result have a significant impact on VideoLogic’s business." ®
Team Register, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Elcom streamlines ecommerce operations

Hybrid dealer/distributor, Elcom, plans to bundle all its ecommerce business into one wholly owned subsidiary called elcom.com, replacing existing online sales division Elcom Systems. It will continue to design and build technology, but will move the emphasis towards buying kit electronically. Elcom.com will go live this month and also add items such as office furniture and stationery to its portfolio of goods available over the Internet. Paul Rose, vice president of Elcom Systems Europe, compared the company’s need to launch the subsidiary as a separate company to Richard Branson’s enterprises. He said: "Like Branson, with his Virgin trains, a new business leads to alternative ways of gaining finance." But there were no plans for Elcom to launch a copy-cat around the world hot air balloon escapade. Rose added that Elcom Systems would continue as a software developer offering outsource procurement services, but would be merged into elcom.com to offer a more rounded business. ®
Linda Harrison, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel bucks general semiconductor decline in 1998

A survey by Dataquest Europe said that most of the top tier chip companies, with the exception of Intel, Philips and ST Micro, suffered big declines in sales in 1998. Joe D'Elia, associate director for Dataquest Europe, who compiled the report, said: "Semiconductor vendors around the world are glad to see the back of 1998." He said that the future of the DRAM memory market, in particular, was unclear, after suffering its third bad year in a row, hit by over capacity. The Asian financial crisis affected the entire industry during 1998. Intel, however, managed to buck the trend, and kept its number one position in the market, growing by 4.3 per cent over 1997 with sales of $22,675,000,000. Second was NEC, which suffered 19.1 negative growth, amounting to revenues for the year of $8,271,000,000. The other players who recorded negative growth were Motorola, at -14.2 per cent, Toshiba at -16.5 per cent, TI at -18.4 per cent and Samsung at -18.9 per cent. However, Hitachi fared the worse in the top ten, showing negative growth of 26.2 per cent, amounting to revenues for 1998 of $4,649,000. European companies did better than expected. Philips Semi turned in growth of 1.4 per cent, producing revenues of $4,502,000, Siemens showed a 12.4 per cent growth, and ST Microelectronics (formerly SGS Thomsen), recorded a seven per cent growth. ®
Mike Magee, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

ISP Prodigy wins four-year court battle

Internet access providers in the US are not legally responsible for defamatory emails or newsgroup postings even though they may have carried them. This ruling in New York State draws a line under a libel suit that has dogged Net access provider Prodigy since 1994 when, according to one judge, some "infantile practical joker" pretending to be 15-year-old boy scout Alex G Lunney, posted a message threatening and defaming a named scout master. Lunney's father, a former prosecutor, filed the suit against Prodigy on his son's behalf, saying that the service provider was liable for the transmission of the scurrilous email. His case rested on the notion that since Prodigy used filtering software, it should have been able to control the content. In 1995, the courts ruled in favour of Lunney saying that online services can be sued for libel if the provider takes steps to control its subscribers' messages. Now that this decision has been overturned -- and openly criticised by the judges who heard the appeal -- it joins a mounting body of evidence supporting the assertion that a service provider is a "passive carrier" (much like phone companies) and therefore cannot be held responsible for messages ferried along its service. Ironically, the unanimous decision relied heavily on a case brought before the courts in the 1940s, enabling Prodigy's attorneys to make the analogy that the transmission of email is no different to the transmission of a telephone message, or a telegraph message. Although the ruling has no specific legal relevance for the UK, it has been welcomed by pressure groups in favour of civil liberties and freedom of speech. Had the decision gone the other way, it could have dealt a massive blow to the development of the Internet since service providers would have been made liable for all the messages they carried regardless of whether they knew about them or not. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

SAP profit warning saps UK strength

SAP issued a profits warning and caused shares in UK IT companies to fall on the Stock Exchange this morning. The German software company said that while sales for 1998 rose by 40 per cent, its earnings growth at 15 per cent was below its expectations, due to falling sales in the Japanese market. Shares in CMG fell by 75 pence to 1,525 pence, Misys fell by 10.75 pence to 453 pence and Logica by 12 pence to 519 pence. However, UK SAP partners, including Diagonal plc and Druid Group plc were not affected by the warnings. ®
A staffer, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Poirot catches up with Gates cream pie terrorists

The long arm of the Belgian law has finally caught up with the two miscreants who cream-pied Bill Gates last February. The price of turning His Billness into a temporary confectionery Freddie Kruger is apparently around $90 a head, which does seem like something of a bargain. The practice of entartement, as it is known in French, had not however hitherto been punished in Belgium, so presumably Bill Gates is a more dangerous character to cake on than the numerous other important people Belgian entarteur Noel Godin has decorated. Gates apparently didn't press charges, so the Belgian flicks have clearly done it all of their own accord. Or maybe some minions made a few heavy-handed suggestions concerning the Belgian version of IE 4.0, if you know what we mean. Nice little country you've got here, mate - pity if it sort of suddenly became incompatible... ®
John Lettice, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Corel beefs up support for NetWinder Linux machines

Corel Computer is preparing to pitch its NetWinder Linux-based network computers at larger customers, following the signing of a service and support deal with Wang Global. Wang operates over 15,000 engineers and technicians world-wide, and these days specialises in providing round-the-clock service and support to international corporations. In teaming with Wang, Corel is therefore clearly signalling that it thinks the time is right to take Linux into more commercial environments. So far the NetWinders, which use a 250 MIPS StrongArm CPU and a Red Hat-based OS, have been positioned mainly as low-key development systems, but the additional of a high level global support system will allow Corel to market them more heavily, to a broader range of customers. The deal with Wang takes the form of a preferred provider service agreement giving Corel customers access to Wang Global support. It covers the CorelVideo videoconferencing system as well as NetWinder, and will be offered as a package to major customers. The package will include on-site support, installation and warranty services. ®
John Lettice, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Amazon.com sales rocket

Mega online bookstore Amazon.com has reported fourth quarter sales of $250 million -- almost four times what it made during the same period last year -- but it's unlikely to lower net losses, the company has warned. Joy Covey, Amazon's CFO, blamed the disappointing news on "aggressive product pricing" and increased fulfilment costs as staff worked round the clock to meet what she claimed was a massive surge in demand for books, videos, CDs and last minute gifts. Amazon attracted over a million new customers during the run-up to the holiday period and shipped more than 7.5 million items -- more than the company moved in the whole of 1997. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Review: Freeserve – free Dixons interconnectivity

The Register tipped up to a branch of Dixons in New Bond Street yesterday to try out Freeserve, its Internet service which is free. The disks are free at any branch of Dixons, and presumably PC World and Currys too. We installed it on our ThinkPad 600, which has Win98 installed, fully expectant that it would turn out to be a good thing. The free CD ROM installed easily, even asking us if it was OK to delete our version of IE 4.0. We blithely answered "yes", clicking the 3D button and not even realising the grief this was likely to bring. After installation, we noticed that both our copy of IE 4 when booted and Outlook Express looked a little different from before. In place of the nice Microsoft "E" symbol, we now had the groovy FS Internet logo. And on our desktop we still had the groovy Microsoft "E" symbol as well. When we connected to our ISP (PSInet), we obviously booted up IE 4 expecting to be connected to our favourite and default site (The Register). Instead, we had a strange message which ran as follows: "ERROR: The requested URL could not be retrieved. While trying to retrieve the url http://www.theregister.co.uk/ the following error was encountered ERROR 101. This means that… That was all there was, apart from a broken GIF at the bottom and a message saying "Network Appliance, Web-Caching powered by Network Appliance. Generated by NetCache/3.3R2D12@www-cache.freeserve.net:8080 Mon, 28 December 1998 04:42:30 GMT" At this point we thought it was just a matter of caching software so tried to fix that in IE 4. We couldn't fix it. So we then thought, Ah we'll remove IE4. Oops. IE4 is integrated with the Windows 98 operating system. We called a technical representative at Freeserve who explained that it was impossible to uninstall IE 4 from the operating system. So where does that leave us now? With a ThinkPad 600 which isn't quite what it was. We expect we're gonna have to re-instal Windows 98. ® BootRoid 101. Five minutes after we posted this story, we had a nice email from a chap at AltaVista who told us we had to disable the Proxy Server -- which we did. Still hasn't got rid of the poxy FS logo though. Thank you for that, that's what we call service. We are still awaiting the call from FreeServe technical support...
Mike Magee, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple launches 'world's fastest PC'

Apple unveiled and began shipping the latest generation Power Mac G3 machine today, which it claimed is the fastest personal computer, offering the best graphics and the best design. The new G3 is based on a 400MHz PowerPC 750 processor using copper technology (Apple is buying chips from both Motorola and IBM) with 1MB of backside-configuration L2 cache. It also ships with 100Mbps Ethernet (Gigabit Ethernet is an optional extra) on the motherboard, which also sports ATI's Rage 128 graphics acceleration chipset, making its first appearance in a personal computer. The motherboard contains four PCI slots, three of them 64 bits wide -- the other is a double-speed slot. The machine can take up to 1GB of RAM and 100GB of storage space though three IBM 36GB UltraATA hard drives. CD/DVD-ROM and Zip drives are also included but, as anticipated, Apple is not including a floppy drive. Nor will the new G3 use SCSI as its peripheral connection system -- instead, it contains two FireWire ports, plus USB ports for serial connections. However, Apple intends to offer a cheap SCSI adaptor card to support users' existing SCSI peripherals. Design-wise, the new G3 follows the pattern set by the iMac: lots of curves, plenty of translucent panels and handles. More interesting is the way users access the computer's internals -- one side of the machine is a simple fold-down hatch ("it's called a door", quipped interim CEO Steve Jobs) on which the motherboard is mounted. Prices for the new machine begin at $1599 and rise to $2999, depending on memory, storage and networking configuration. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple apes Swatch as iMac ships in multiple colours

As iMac sales passed the 800,000 mark, Apple announced the latest revision of the consumer computer, increasing its spec, lowering its price and introducing a range of new colours. The new version, which began shipping in the US today, sports a 266MHz PowerPC 750 (aka G3) processor, up from 233MHz, and a 6GB hard drive (up from 4GB). The price falls from $1299 to $1199 -- earlier iMacs fall to $1049. The iMac will continue to be available with its distinctive translucent blue casing, but buyers will now be also able to choose from purple, green, orange and red -- though Apple names them after fruit to allow them to be trademarked and thus forcing peripherals manufacturers to pay the Mac maker to use them. Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs suggested keen iMacs fans might like to consider collecting the entire set. Actually, not long after taking up his current position, Jobs did say he would like Apple to become in some ways the IT equivalent of trendy watch manufacturer Swatch, so it seems he's had his way at last. Jobs also claimed this approach to computer design would "take consumer computing to a whole new level". However, The Register would like to remind readers that ICL offered a line of coloured Wintel boxes back in the late 80s. To be fair, these were bog-standard PCs sprayed red, blue or green, and so not quite a swish as the iMac, but the principle's the same. Speaking at the MacWorld Expo keynote in San Francisco, Jobs unveiled the latest iMac buyer statistics, taken last month, which showed that the structure of the market for the computer has changed little since its introduction. While the percentage of first-time computer buyers and Wintel users migrating to the Mac did increase, from 29 to 32 per cent and from 12 per cent to 13 per cent, respectively, that still leaves the combined total of existing Mac customers at 55 per cent. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple drops QuickDraw 3D in favour of OpenGL

As a sign that it has finally abandoned the 'not invented here' philosophy that dogged it for most of its life, Apple has licensed the industry-standard 3D graphics technology, OpenGL, and said it will use the Silicon Graphics API in preference to its own, more sophisticated QuickDraw 3D API. OpenGL will be integrated into future versions of the MacOS, said interim CEO Steve Jobs, speaking at this year's MacWorld Expo, held in San Francisco. Jobs declined to specify which release of the operating system will be the first to support OpenGL, but its likely to be sooner rather than later. QuickDraw 3D was developed in the early 90s to provide the Mac with a system-wide 3D graphics engine to help it better compete with Unix workstations, most of which were using and continue to use OpenGL. In the end, QuickDraw 3D made little impact on Apple's ability to compete in that arena, but fared slightly better as an enabling technology for 3D games acceleration (much in the same way as Microsoft's Direct3D API), a role that led to OpenGL's widespread adoption by the Wintel gaming world. Indeed, it's as much for that market as for the more high end stuff that Apple has licensed OpenGL now, a move that received vocal support from leading 3D games developers, specifically Id Software's John Carmack, programmer of Doom, Quake, Quake II and Quake Arena. Carmack has been calling for Apple to adopt OpenGL for some time. Most of Id's games were developed under NeXTStep/OpenStep (both of which use OpenGL), and not DOS/Windows, even though that's where they were destined to be played. While Carmack has been fairly keen on Rhapsody/MacOS X, both derived from NeXTStep, thanks to Apple's purchase of Jobs' old company, Apple's insistence on sticking with its proprietary QuickDraw 3D API rather than embracing OpenGL drew much barbed comment from the shoot-'em-up supremo. Now he can have his favourite OS 'back', Carmack is clearly a happy fellow, and went as far as to commit to a simultaneous release of Quake Arena on the Mac and the PC. He also gave the first public demo of the new title using a Power Mac G3. It's fairly certain that all this means QuickDraw 3D will soon be dead. Jobs said that Apple "will make OpenGL the standard API for developers". Fortunately, there are only a couple of Mac games that support solely QuickDraw 3D as a way of accessing graphics acceleration hardware -- 3Dfx titles are rather more commonplace -- and few serious software tools that require it. And most QuickDraw 3D functions can be easily mapped onto OpenGL or other APIs to ensure compatibility. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

MacOS X Server to turn iMac into fully-fledged NC

Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs effectively admitted that the iMac was a Network Computer after all today when he announced that the first commercial release of MacOS X Server will be available next month. Early iMac buyers quickly discovered that the computer had been designed to boot from a network. That, plus its built-in 100Mbps Ethernet port and lack of floppy drive, suggested that the iMac had indeed been the result of Apple's development of an NC, a project unofficially announced a year or so earlier by Oracle CEO, Apple board member and Jobs chum Larry Ellison. The missing component was the server software needed to make all this work, and that has finally arrived through MacOS X Server, and demonstrated at MacWorld Expo by booting a diskless iMac from a Power Mac running the new server OS. "The iMac thinks everything is being done locally," said Jobs, "whereas in fact its all being done on the server." He added the MacOS had been specially modified to allow this to work, but its not clear whether that applies to all versions of MacOS 8.1 (the first release the iMac shipped with) and above, or simply the release that the iMac ships with. According to Jobs, in most cases using a high performance Mac server as the storage medium via a 100Mbps Ethernet link is faster than using local storage. However, Apple is more likely to sell the technology to administrators of small scale networks, particularly in education, who want to reduce many of the headaches of managing individual machines. MacOS X will come bundled with an Apple version of the Open Source Web server application, Apache, plus Apple's own Web interactivity host, WebObjects, which the company is now beginning to pitch as an application server platform, if Jobs' Expo keynote was anything to go by. The OS will also support both Java and BSD Unix applications. It will ship next month for $995, which allows any number of clients to be connected to the server. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

PlayStation emulator launched for Mac

Mac users could soon have access to one of the largest selections of computer games in the world, thanks to a neat utility from developer Connectix. Connectix Virtual Game Station (VGS), released today at MacWorld Expo, allows any Power Mac G3 and iMac to run almost all PlayStation titles out of the box. The snag: will Sony, developer of the PlayStation, let Connectix get away with it. VGS is based on Connectix's well-established CPU emulation software, most notably VirtualPC, which recreates a full SoundBlaster-compatible MMX Pentium-based PC in software. VGS does the same thing, but this time the hardware is the PlayStation. Emulation isn't a free-ride technology, and the downside here is a hefty CPU and bus speed requirement, needed to match the performance of the Sony hardware's dedicated graphics processors. Which is why the software only runs on "factory original" G3s, and not lesser machines fitted with CPU upgrade cards. Connectix also said it couldn't assure full compatibility with every PlayStation title, since some games bypass the standard APIs to perform certain tricks. The big problem, though, comes from Sony. Connectix clearly hasn't developed VGS through official channels -- if it had worked with Sony on this one, the software would have been called Virtual Play Station, not Virtual Game Station, for a start. Connectix argues that VGS is good for Sony since it has the potential to expand the market for PlayStation games by a huge margin. As we understand it, that's where Sony makes its money, not on £99 consoles, so maybe Connectix has a point. And at $49, there aren't going to be that many users who pass on VGS, even if they only want to play a couple of titles. Sony, however, may think different. And while you may have thought the company had enough to do worrying about the Nintendo N64, the Sega Dreamcast and developing the next generation of PlayStation, market leaders can still get snooty about the small-scale rivals they can do something about. Connectix, for its part, is playing a cautious game. According to a spokesman, it's only selling VGS at MacWorld this week, presumably to garner sufficient sales to cope with anything Sony's lawyers may decide to chuck at it. Incidentally, Connectix's oppos were happily pointing out to all and sundry that VGS will not be made available on Windows, much to the pleasure of the gathered Mac aficianados, who clearly failed to realise that such a release would be pointless -- most PlayStation games are already available in native PC format. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 1999