20th > January > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Microsoft earnings hit new records – keep it quiet though

Microsoft last night reported record results for its second quarter, but the announcement was more subdued than for any previous quarter. Even 11 hours after the announcement, there was no press release via PRNewswire, as usually happens, and no available recording of the financial analysts conference call with CFO Greg Maffei. Only the investor relations part of the Microsoft website had the results, and it was not billed as one of the top stories. Perhaps profits of $1.98 billion on income of $4.94 billion for the second financial quarter were just a bit too much to be cool at this particular moment. That's an increase of 38 per cent on revenue and a monstrous 75 percent increase in profits over the same quarter last year. Microsoft denies it is a monopoly, as Richard Schmalensee, its economics witness, is currently testifying in Judge Jackson's court. In keeping with Microsoft's desire to keep a low profile, we thought we would report to readers some of the lowlights that so easily manage to get omitted from the financial press and elsewhere. Whenever Microsoft claims great growth for a product or service, without any supporting hard data on numbers shipped (and we don't mean percentage increases), it usually means that the result was poor. Exchange was credited with 4.5 million client licenses, but OEMs love Exchange because users need so many servers to cope with the clients. It's strange that there were no figures for Exchange Server though. SQL Server 7.0, the former Sybase product that Microsoft has tarted up and renamed rather naughtily to lean on the venerable SQL name is growing at "nearly three times Oracle's CY98 growth rate. So the secret is out: SQL Server cannot be doing well, because there's no hard data here, and relative growth rates disguise the truth: only sales dollars really count. NT Workstation sales were 3 million in the quarter, which is not very many considering the reliability of Windows 98. Microsoft claims "more than 25 million units of NT Workstation have now been licensed. NT Server sales however were just "strong", and we know what that means, although they outshipped all other server operating systems. But there again, Microsoft ignores Linux, which Schmalensee was saying had more than 4 million server sites, at least until a few days ago when the story was suddenly changed. Regionally, the Americas revenue was up 34 per cent, EMEA up 37 per cent, Asia up 14 per cent, and OEM up 48 per cent on the year-ago quarter. OEM sales are proving to be the powerhouse of growth (reaching $1.796 billion in the quarter), but making Microsoft more vulnerable to any downturn in PC shipments, which means the present quarter. Productwise Microsoft gives little information: platforms (which includes WebTV) were up 50 percent; applications and tools up 27 per cent, and interactive media and other up 36 per cent. For American taxpayers, the good news was that Microsoft is having to pay more than a billion dollars in taxes for the quarter. Microsoft has in its money box $19.237 billion, and its income from investments was a derisory $337 billion for the quarter. This money is not serving shareholders well - but what could Microsoft buy with it? Not British Telecom, anyway. Microsoft did buy 2.7 million of its own shares over the quarter. As ever, Maffei was pessimistic about Q3 and expects a decline of $300 million in revenue sequentially. Carla Lewis of Microsoft investor relations said "That would be normal . . . seasonal behaviour coming off a holiday high". What kind of high could she mean? Let's finish on an upbeat note: assuming these unaudited figures are correct and that somebody has counted the cash and checked those funny little accounting practices to defer revenue, it was a crackingly good quarter at the wrong moment. We didn't see any mention of the risks associated with the outcome of the trial, but no doubt that was an oversight, and there will be a one-liner in the 10-Q to be filed with the SEC. Wall Street loved it and marked MSFT up. It had reached $161.375 on Reuter's Instinet, although the close was $155.625, up 3.9 per cent on the day. The financial analysts all got their predictions horribly wrong, with their consensus for earnings of 59 cents/share being somewhat below the 73 cents result (they were only 24 per cent wrong). They don't mind, however, because most have big handfuls of Microsoft stock. Perhaps Judge Jackson will mind however: if he had Microsoft stock he would have had to disqualify himself from the case. ®
Graham Lea, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel apologises to Dixons for high price jibe

The Great Stan of Chips has apologised to Dixons after its CEO, Craig Barrett, accused the UK high street giant of selling PCs at inflated prices. A source at Dixons is reported to have said: "We've actually received a letter of apology from Intel and we're satisfied with that." Barrett's comments about "ludicrous" pricing were made last November at Comdex Fall. Soon after, the former trade and industry secretary, Peter Mandelson, instigated an investigation into Dixons' pricing by the Office of Fair Trading. While this letter has resolved the bad blood between Intel and Dixons, the UK retailer is still gunning for PC manufacturer Fujitsu. Fujitsu has been in bullish mood since it began selling its desktop and notebook PCs in Tesco supermarkets and Texaco petrol stations last year. Asked why it was keen to bypass the traditional retail channel and sell through supermarkets, Fujitsu, in the guise of sales director Frank O'Brien, cited Tesco's more flexible approach to margins and price points -- the implication was always that the leading lights of the UK retail channel had got a little too used to higher margins. Dixons is now pursuing legal action against Fujitsu after the PC vendor accused Dixons of reaping high profit at the expense of manufacturers and customers alike. The comments appeared in an article published by channel weekly newspaper PC Dealer. ®
Sean Fleming, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

3Com and MS team to build NT into networking gear

Microsoft has won 3Com backing for its embedded NT strategy, with the announcement yesterday of a broad-ranging alliance between the two companies. 3Com is to open a development centre near Microsoft’s Redmond HQ, and the companies propose a range of converged products incorporating 3Com and Microsoft NT/Windows 2000 technology. The deal will increase Microsoft’s ability to resist the "embedded server appliance" strategy that’s being built by its old partner (and in the networking field, deadly 3Com rival) Intel. As Intel has fleshed out its plans for building greater intelligence into networks and network equipment it’s become abundantly clear that there’s little room in them for the kind of large, resource-hungry multi-purpose server OS Microsoft specialises in. The rival Microsoft-3Com plans have a heavy embedded component to them, and that’s likely to increase. For public carriers and service providers 3Com intends to migrate its Total Control systems, which already use NT, to Windows NT Embedded, as and when it ships. 3Com will also embed Windows 2000 Server in its CoreBuilder 9000 LAN switch, and use of Microsoft OS technology in other product lines, including the SuperStack II, is also being investigated. Plans for the home seem vaguer, but are clearly vital to the pair. They say they’re "collaborating on home LAN and broadband access solutions" which will be available in the first half, and on Microsoft’s recently-announced Universal Plug and Play. The timescale probably means the companies are going to start off with relatively loose bundling deals, but Microsoft clearly needs to get networking technology into the home before somebody else (e.g. Intel) does, so the alliance obviously has to go further. Again, embedded NT seems a likely candidate, and the intended form here is likely to be fairly simple networking devices that allow several PCs in a home to communicate and use DSL pipes to get to the outside world. Ultimately this also obviously overlaps with the Universal Plug and Play project, which is Microsoft’s slightly Java-esque plan to roll interoperability out beyond the PC space. ®
John Lettice, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Research into cost of Web access shown to be wrong

Datamonitor, which claims to be one of the largest IT and communications research firms in Europe, has fallen victim to the sheer pace of the Internet and to its own sluggishness at publishing reports. Yesterday, the Financial Times led the business and IT press in a wave of coverage that swallowed Datamonitor's research hook, line and sinker. It concluded that the UK is the most expensive country in Europe for Net access and households have to pay three times more than their Nordic cousins. Wrong. The UK may have been the most costly country sometime last year when the research was carried out but that certainly isn't the case now. By the admission of consultant Stephen Adshed, the research was carried out before Dixons launched its Freeserve service at a time when there may have only been 100,000 or so free Internet subscribers in the UK. Even so, Datamonitor went ahead and published its results despite the fact that the situation had changed. Worryingly, the FT suggests that UK is still the most expensive country in Europe when it comes to Net access despite the introduction of Freeserve. Wrong again. According to Adshed: "It is likely now that the UK has slipped down the charts." Trouble is, where? To be honest, no one knows -- and nor are we likely to find out, not when it takes researchers five or six months to publish their findings. With 700,000 active accounts to its name no one can dismiss the impact of Freeserve on the marketplace. It would also be foolish to dismiss the contribution made by the other services providing free Net access. Unfortunately, it appears that Datamonitor has done just that. The pace of Net life is blistering. Blink, and you miss it. Go to sleep for six months -- what do you expect? ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Linux drives growth of server OS market

The 1998 PC server market was driven not by hardware but by software, according to the latest data from market research company IDC. While the hardware side of the business slowed down considerably -- revenue growth hit just eight per cent, well down on 1997's 42 per cent and 1996's 50 per cent -- sales of server operating systems grew by 25.2 per cent, compared to 15.3 per cent in 1997. The two statistics may not be unrelated. Given the increased power of desktop PC hardware, it's not hard to imagine many server buyers running cheaper desktops as servers rather than selecting machines specially designed and configured for that role. That scenario is to some extent confirmed by the massive growth in shipments of Linux, which makes far lower demands on server hardware than the likes of Windows NT and NetWare. As IDC reported last December (see previous story), Linux shipments in 1998 grew by a massive 212.5 per cent to take 17.2 per cent of the market, up from 6.8 per cent in 1997. That figure only covers copies of Linux shipped through distributors like RedHat -- copies downloaded for free via the Web haven't been considered since, says IDC, there's no way of measuring them. How much higher that pushes Linux's marketshare is difficult to say, but the point is it will be some way above the IDC figure. Windows NT Server grew at 27.2 per cent, to take 36 per cent of the market. Novell NetWare grew 13.6 per cent (last year its share shrank some six per cent) and ended up with a market share of 24.1 per cent. The combined varieties of Unix (excluding Linux, though) took 17.4 per cent of the market, growing just 4.1 per cent in the process. In terms of revenue, Unix came out on top, followed by NT and NetWare, but given the relative pricing structures of each OS, this shouldn't surprise anyone. Linux brought in just $33 million worldwide, but that's still a healthy figure for the likes of RedHat, SuSE and co. On the hardware side, Compaq retained its market lead, though its share fell four per cent to 29 per cent, thanks to inventory problems and "distractions" from the Digital takeover, according to IDC. Hewlett-Packard also (just) retained its market position, hanging on to the number two slot with a 13 per cent share. Its revenue grew by 36 per cent, and impressive increase driven by improved product and marketing strategies. Still, it wasn't as impressive a performance as that demonstrated by Dell, which grew 76 per cent to match HP's 13 per cent market share. IBM was a single point behind, at 12 per cent. IDC predicts that the trend of diminishing growth experienced by the PC server market as a whole in 1998 will be reversed this year, thanks to a rebounding Japanese market, increased sales to small businesses and ISPs -- the market sectors both Dell and HP are targetting -- and the effect of Intel's server-oriented Xeon processor. The company also highlights what it calls "whitebox" servers, such as Corel's NetWinder and Cobalt's Qube, as drivers of growth. Given many such devices use Linux, they should boost the free OS' market share even further. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Citrix and ASPs to build on Microsoft licensing changes

Citrix and its business partners are poised to benefit from Microsoft’s revision of Windows NT Terminal Server pricing earlier this week (Earlier Story). Terminal Server is based on Citrix technology, and the new Microsoft licensing structure will allow Citrix’s MetFrame product to be rolled out across the Web. The key change from Citrix’s point of view was the introduction of the Internet Connector licence for Terminal Server. For a fee of $9,999 this allows 200 anonymous concurrent connections to a Terminal Server system, so at last makes it feasible for Application Service Providers to give Internet users access to Win32 server applications on some kind of rental or fee basis. Citrix has been waiting for Microsoft to introduce something of this sort for well over a year now, and Citrix partners such as Telecomputing have been ready to roll with more widespread ASP programmes just as soon as the licensing model allowed it. Citrix now says it will deliver a version of its MetaFrame product packaged for Internet use, and speaking to The Register last night Telecomputing co-founder Jostein Elkeland said the move would be of great benefit, although he stressed that the ASP business covered a wide range of platforms, rather than just Win32. Norway-based Telecomputing offers data centre management and back-office support for enterprise applications, including security, helpdesk, back-up, data storage and client support. While in general Application Service Provision is something companies are testing rather than selling, Telecomputing has the distinction of actually having customers for real, live services. The company currently works with a range of European organisations, and has been rolling out its services in the US via an alliance with UUNET WorldCom. The arrival of the Internet connector licence means that Telecomputing can now offer its services to a far wider range of customers - according to Elkeland, a major deal with an unnamed telecommunications company is in the works. ®
John Lettice, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun signs Sony, Philips to bring Jini into the home

Ahead of next week's official launch of its Java-based Jini networking technology, Sun yesterday announced partnerships with Sony and Philips to bring the technology into the home networking arena. The agreement centres on establishing a development effort to allow Jini devices to communicate with HAVi, a Philips-devised technology which will allow hi-fi separates, VCRs, TVs and PCs to be connected throughout the home. Based on FireWire (aka IEEE 1394), HAVi essentially merges networking, hi-fi interconnects and SCART cables into a single cabling system. It provides the necessary software infrastructure for connected devises to identify themselves automatically on connection or power-up to other networked machines and communicate across the network, allowing consumers to build functioning networks simply by plugging devices into each other. Each device maintains a registry of the network resources available to it. So, say, your HAVi amplifier will know it's connected to a CD player, a VCR, TV and speakers, and can route data from source to output point accordingly. Each machine has a Device Control Module -- in IT we call them drivers -- which abstracts operating idiosyncrasies into a consistent interface the rest of the network can understand. All this, of course, is pretty much precisely what Jini does, so patching up their respective drivers, registries and messaging systems shouldn't overly tax each company's software guys. But the deal is really more strategic than developmental. Tying Jini into HAVi gives it a neat edge on Microsoft's competing Universal Plug and Play (UPP) thing, or at least that's what Sun is hoping. The only snag is that the deal doesn't preclude Microsoft from linking UPP to HAVi -- indeed, it already has access to it, thanks to a deal done to license HAVi-based technology from Sony. The difference is that UPP is essentially an attempt by Microsoft to put the PC at the heart of home entertainment, whereas Jini is a far less PC-centric. In turn, that makes it more attuned to the HAVi 'peer-to-peer' approach. Still, while the IT business is largely founded on the idea of competing technologies rather than co-operative ones, the consumer electronics world is, generally speaking, the opposite. That means the HAVi supporters, whose number includes Toshiba, Grundig, Matushita, Hitachi, Thomson Multimedia and Sharp, in addition to Philips and Sony, are unlikely to favour Jini over UPP or vice versa. Soon enough it will work with both, and Sun and Microsoft will be back to square one. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Online organiser Jumps at chance to make your life less hectic

An online personal organiser complete with diary, e-mail and address book has been launched by Internet start-up Jump Networks. The free service is designed to make busy lives less hectic and can be accessed by anyone with a connection to the Internet. Jump! is being billed as the only free and completely connected calendar, email and address book on the Web, yet a simple Web search reveals there are more a dozen similar services available online. "The trend towards free Web-based messaging, calendaring and scheduling services continues to gain momentum," said Mike Comiskey, senior research analyst at IDC. "Jump!'s integrated offering on its Web site offers a one-stop-shop that could prove attractive to consumers and business professionals alike," he added. He could be right. A similar service being offered by SuperCalendar.com is currently closed to users because of excessive demand. Apparently. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

IBM to offer Rambus alternative

Following yesterday's reports that a number of chip-set vendors, including VIA, Acer and SIS, are backing the PC133 SDRAM specification as a short-term alternative to Rambus' Direct DRAM (see Chip-set vendors prepare for Rambus shortage), it has emerged that IBM will be producing 133MHz SDRAM memory products. According to US magazine Maximum PC, Big Blue has already produced PC133 samples and intends to begin volume production in time for the second quarter. That's the time-frame Intel has set for the release of its Camino chip-set, the first to incorporate Direct DRAM, chosen by the Great Satan of Chips as the next memory standard. As reported yesterday, even Intel is working on a transitional memory technology, S-RIMM, which allows SDRAM memory chips to be placed on a Rambus Inline Memory Module (RIMM). "Our memory customers have expressed a strong interest in PC133 as an evolutionary step between PC100 and DDR [Double Data DRAMs, another possible intermediary step between SDRAM and Rambus]," said IBM marketing manager Walter Lange, quoted in Maximum PC. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Online jobs site looking to boost share of market

UK recruitment Web site Taps.com has advertised more than 50,000 jobs since June 1996 and the company is currently generating revenues of more than a million pounds a year, the company has claimed. Backed by a consortium of companies including Harvey Nash, TCS Advertising, Delphi, Hyperlink and Robert Walters, the site is attracting more than 250,000 job seekers to its site each month. And as one of those rare Web sites that is currently making a profit, Taps.com is eager to grow its market share. Specialising in the finance and IT sectors until now, Taps.com is planning to extend its reach and include more sales and marketing jobs in the coming months, and has recently launched a Irish edition of its UK and European service. "The response we're getting from advertisers is that they're getting a better quality of candidate for vacancies," said Affie Panayiotou, marketing manager at the Mayfair-based company. As well as running recruitment campaigns, the site also provides additional content for users such as company profiles and is free to jobseekers. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Western Digital to cut 750 jobs

Storage specialist Western Digital is to axe 750 jobs, nearly six per cent of its worldwide workforce, after announcing a loss of $82.3 million for its second quarter on the back of declining sales. That sales slowdown saw revenue for the quarter fall to $738.6 million from the $969.6 million is recorded for the same period last year. At that time, it recorded a loss of $145.2 million, so at least the company made more money this time, despite shipping fewer products. Western Digital's recovery plan involves the extension of a major cost-cutting programme. Most of the job cuts will be made by the consolidation of the company's two Singapore plants into a single site. The company said it expects to take a hit of $45 million in the next quarter to cover the redundancies, which are the latest of some 3250 jobs Western Digital has terminated since October 1997. President Chuck Haggerty also predicted improved trading conditions will help the company's recovery -- largely through increased sales to big-name PC vendors. The $190 million the Western Digital said yesterday it is hoping to raise from a public stock offering will help too. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

56-bit crypto code cracked in a day

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a worldwide team of Web users has succeeded in cracking the 56-bit Data Encryption Standard (DES) in under 23 hours. That record-setting figure beats the previous attempt, made by the EFF alone, which took 56 hours by around 33 hours 45 minutes. The code was broken using the EFF's specially designed code-cracking computer, Deep Crack, plus an Internet-connected network of 100,000 PCs, collectively known as Dsitributed.net. The operation was promoted by encryption specialist RSA Data Security, which offered $10,000 to anyone who could crack the 56-bit code in under 24 hours. The company's aim was to drive home its claims that 56-bit cryptography, the maximum strength that the US government permits for export, isn't sufficiently secure to protect sensitive data. Cracking the code isn't a subtle process -- essentially the system runs through all the possible combinations of bits in the key until it hits upon the right one -- but the EFF and Distributed.net's efforts show that the technology now exists to make that trial and error process run sufficiently quickly to make this approach feasible. Still, as RSA president put it, "any key size will eventually run out of life", which is why it believes the rules on powerful encryption should be relaxed to allow it to export software that uses much longer keys. The 56-bit DES system was introduced in 1977, and it's now past its sell-by date, says the RSA. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft witness claims Netscape browser share hardly fell at all

Microsoft witness Richard Schmalensee yesterday made the interesting claim that despite Microsoft's best efforts, Netscape's share of the browser market only lost five percentage points from the beginning of 1996 through to the third quarter of 1998. Practically any survey you'd care to name puts Netscape in a downward spiral from a dominant position down to 40-50 per cent by last summer, but according to Schmalensee, they're wrong. And as a matter of fact, Microsoft must be wrong too. Check out Microsoft's view of the browser market in 1997 (DoJ exhibit 8) and you'll see the company figured it had knocked Netscape down from 60 per cent to 55 per cent in the last six months of the year. Microsoft also stated its actual browser market share at 40 per cent for 1997, and 48 per cent (projected) for 1998 (exhibit 14). The virtual standstill Schmalensee claims would, one might observe, have surely caused severe ructions in Microsoft's high command -- you give the browser away free for nearly three years and you only dent Netscape by five per cent? There's gonna be a hanging... And then there's the small matter of Netscape's browser licensing revenues going through the floor from Q2 1996 onwards (exhibit 10) -- how come this money was going away, if free Microsoft browsers weren't having significant effect? Schmalensee's pitch is somewhat radical, to say the least. He says most independent surveys undercounted AOL subscribers in 1996 and early 1997, as AOL cached the most popular Web sites, so survey systems didn't track the hits. He uses data gleaned from surveys made by Market Decisions Corp and paid for by Microsoft. This says that Netscape's share was near 50 per cent in early 1996, rose to 57 per cent, and then fell back to 45 per cent. But curiously, although Microsoft does publish results from these Market Decisions surveys (as part of a response to earlier DoJ data), a Microsoft press release of January 1997 (source, er, Market Decisions and Zona) claims IE as "the fastest growing Web browser across the board". Market Decisions claimed IE use had grown 260 per cent since March 1996, while Zona found a rise in use from eight per cent to 28 per cent from August-December 1996, while Netscape lost 13 per cent in the same period, down to 70 per cent. Numbers, schmumbers... ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

We're neck-and-neck with Yahoo!, claims Lycos

Lycos has moved into spitting distance of taking the number one Internet portal position, the company claimed today, citing the latest statistics from market research agency Media Metrix. MM's figures show the percentage of Web users accessing Lycos rose by 15.4 per cent between August and December 1998, from 40.3 per cent to 46.5 per cent. That puts the portal right behind market-leader Yahoo!, which ended up with an audience reach of 48.2 per cent, up from 47.5 per cent over the same period. According to MM, during that time Excite's audience reach fell one per cent to 29.2 per cent of Web users, while Infoseek rose from 21.3 per cent to 22.1 per cent, an increase of 3.8 per cent. The researcher defines audience reach as the "the percentage of Web-active individuals that visited a site once in the given month", so the figures give no indication of user loyalty, simply of the number of people who passed through the site. Interestingly, unlike Lycos, Media Metrix doesn't make a distinction between portals and other Web-based information centres, such as MSN and AOL's Web presence -- it describes them all as "Web properties". Presumably that's why both AOL and Microsoft are missing from the data supplied by Lycos. In comparison, the figures on MM's Web site put AOL at number one and Microsoft at number two with audience reach figures of 53.5 per cent and 48.9 per cent, respectively. MM's site refers to the November 1998 alone, but they August to December average is unlikely to be much different. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Energis to become takeover target

National Grid's decision to sell-off Energis could leave the telecoms group open to a take over in the next couple of years, analysts have predicted. By selling off between 71 and 75 million Energis ordinary shares -- around a third of its stake -- National Grid has been accused of merely cashing in on the telecoms boom. But yesterday's announcement that National Grid is to raise more than £1 billion from the sale of Energis could also be good news for investors eager to jump on the hi-tech share bandwagon. When the company was first floated in December 1997 its share price was listed at £2.90. In a little over a year its price has rocketed to nearer £16.50. It has now increased still further, leaving Energis' share price hovering today at around £17.50 -- an increase of more than 6 per cent on Tuesday's close. As the telecoms group that carries Dixons' free Net access service, Freeserve, Energis has received huge amounts of publicity over the last three or four months. But analysts warn that this particular runaway success story won't necessarily generate a lot of cash for the company since margins are so tight. What's more, the telecoms watchdog, OFTEL, is considering regulatory changes in the coming months. If it decides to alter the pricing model that telecoms companies get for carrying calls, it's possible that free Net access model that has sustained a revolution among UK ISPs may no longer be viable in its current state. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

IBM and AMD join Microsoft-led home standards group

The battle to set standards for smart devices in the home has become even more fiendishly complicated with the news that a clutch of 28 "participants" including AMD, IBM and Diamond Multimedia have added their support to the barely-known Home API Working Group. Home API was formed to general disinterest last October, the promoters (ie. the ones who actually call the shots, as opposed to the participants) being Compaq, Philips, Mitsubishi, Honeywell, Intel and Microsoft. The group is working to develop a common programming interface for computer control of home devices, and says its goal is "to accelerate the development and deployment of computer controlled home devices including consumer electronics, security, lighting and temperature control systems". Windows for lightbulbs? Bet your bottom dollar that we’re talking Microsoft standards here. The final approved version of the spec is due by mid-year, with an SDK implementing the APIs on Windows shipping shortly afterwards. Home API will, the Working Group claims, complement Home Audio/Video Interoperability (HAVi), will interface with CEBus and Home PnP (a relation of Universal PnP?). It will also be capable of interfacing with Sun’s Jini, but is being pitched as being better because "Jini requires all devices to speak the same Java-based protocols [whereas] Home API provides a way to integrate simpler devices that speak arbitrary protocols into a unified control environment". What we need now is some kind of Working Group that provides a mechanism to integrate all standards-setting bodies proposing arbitrary protocols into one huge, totally transparent pile. ® See also Sun signs Sony, Philips to bring Jini into the home
John Lettice, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Pat Boone to front Arizona Y2K campaign

They sure take the Year 2000 issue seriously in Phoenix, Arizona. According to Y2KNET this week will see the first of a series of Y2K preparedness events to be held in the Phoenix area. The two day Phoenix Town Hall meeting will have singer Pat Boone as master of ceremonies. Boone, it says here, "has been actively involved in helping families become prepared for the Year 2000 Computer Crisis. Committed to raising public awareness of this global problem, he was quoted in the January issue of Vanity Fair as saying, ‘It’s time to bring Y2K to the dinner table.’" Hot stuff, no? But Pat’s a pretty appropriate MC - never mind Y2K-compliant, we don’t reckon he’s even 1980s-compliant. He’ll be dealing with a glittering panel of stars, including the show-stopping author of Electric Utilities Y2K, the producer of the Y2K Family Preparedness video series, and the founder of Y2K Women. Funnily enough, attendance is free. But we’re a bit disturbed to learn that women might have some kind of Y2K compliance problem.
John Lettice, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Ideal signs up Soyo

Ideal Hardware is making a fresh foray into the motherboard business. At the Computer Trade Show in Birmingham today, we learnt that it will recruit Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer Soyo as one of its vendors this Friday. The distributor formerly sold Elite motherboards but the Soyo deal means it will be able to supply more components in a single box, the source said. Soyo is one of the medium sized Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers and produces products which allow a variety of x.86 parts from vendors including Intel and AMD to run. ®
Team Register, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Maxdata moves into notebooks

Maxdata launched into the notebook business at the Computer Trade Show today. The company has sold monitors in the UK for the last two years and is set to float on the German stock market in June. The company is part of large German Metro group, which at one time owned Vobis and Peacock as well as Maxdata. Peacock was sold last year, while Vobis, which still has several hundred stores in Germany, is up for sale. At the end of last year, two banks agreed to form a holding company called Divag, which is masterminding the sell off of Vobis and the Maxdata IPO. Maxdata has sold notebooks into the German market for some years, and its launch of the Intel based units, under the Artist brand, is aimed at dealers selling into the small and medium sized market. ®
Team Register, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Microtronica unites with MMD and Multichip

Microtronica, part of large worldwide components distributor Arrow, today announced it had completed its plans to unify its own business with MMD and Multichip. Les Billing, MD of the company, said today that it will bring all three companies under the same roof and now will address four sales channels. Those include corporate, major OEM, general sales desk and the sub distribution market. The head office is now based in Uxbridge, Middlesex. ®
Team Register, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Revolving door hits Compaq server manager

The brain drain from Compaq UK is continuing. Graham Stewart, who replaced Hugh Jenkins as the server product manager at Compaq UK is leaving to join Hewlett Packard. In the past few months, a number of senior executives have left Compaq UK as part of the world wide restructuring caused by the merger of Compaq, Digital and Tandem. ®
Team Register, 20 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel to launch high speed home network products

Intel is to launch a range of high-speed DSL home networking products this spring, the company revealed at the Yankee Group Networked Home Symposium earlier today. The products will be compliant with the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) specification, which uses existing telephone wiring to connect computers and allow them to share Internet access, printers and files. Intel hasn't yet been specific about the particular products, but says they'll operate at 1Mbps. Intel Home Networking Operation general manager Dan Sweeney said the products would contain "both the hardware and software necessary to deliver a simple, powerful home network". This suggests that Intel intends to extend its embedded server appliance strategy into the home. Funnily enough, the announcement comes just the day after Microsoft and 3Com announced an alliance aimed at this very market, among others (see earlier Story). ®
John Lettice, 20 Jan 1999