26th > January > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Maritz confirms and denies MS threat over Mac Office

In court yesterday Microsoft exec Paul Maritz denied that the company had threatened to stop development of Microsoft Office for the Mac unless Apple adopted Internet Explorer. But it's the way you tell them - Maritz's written testimony confirms that Microsoft did pressure Apple by threatening to can Office for the Mac. As Maritz tells it in the deposition, Microsoft wanted a resolution to Apple's legal claims against Microsoft, and used Office as part of the negotiations. He discusses the attitude of Apple exec and prosecution witness Avie Tevanian: "Strangely, Dr. Tevanian appeared to believe that Microsoft's relationship with Apple would proceed on a 'business as normal' basis if such a lawsuit were filed. Microsoft told Dr. Tevanian at the meeting that it would make little sense for Microsoft to continue to invest in developing Mac Office if Apple started a patent war with Microsoft … We explained that Microsoft sought a better working relationship with Apple, one that would facilitate the development of innovative new versions of Mac Office and other technology initiatives, not renewed rancour." Apple was discussing various possible and actual (e.g. use of QuickTime code) infringements with Microsoft at the time, and according to Maritz was demanding $1.2 billion. What he is saying here in effect, however, is that if Apple went ahead and sued Office would definitely be cancelled. Office was perceived by Apple as vital for the future of the Mac, so it's scarcely surprising that the company gave in. But it gave in on several fronts, not just intellectual property. Says Maritz now: "Given the glacial pace and lack of substantive progress in the negotiations, Microsoft pushed for a unified arrangement addressing a range of issues to avoid the prospect that an agreement on one subject would lead only to further protracted discussions on other subjects, thereby undermining Microsoft's goal of stabilizing its relationship with Apple." Microsoft didn't quite get all it wanted, but we'll first look at what it wanted in June 96 (well in advance of the eventual deal), as defined by Bill Gates in a message to Paul Maritz (aha!) and Brad Silverberg. "I proposed that we swap technology including source code with no restrictions. The deal would look like this…" Gates suggests that Apple be given Internet Explorer source code "including updates" (which surely makes syncing development a bit tricky, if IE is part of Windows. Also "Security software and other definable pieces we can turn over to them (I need more ideas in this category - things that are separable enough we can turn them over to Apple …)" Here we see a classic Gatesian suggestion - he can't think of anything, but suggests a pile of miscellaneous stuff be assembled and shipped to Apple. He also offers "Blessing by us of Quicktime as a cool cross platform thing where Apple looks good and we align our strategies (this wouldn't have to mean much in practice. We are already planning to read Quicktime formats). Ability to take DirectX work and use those APIs (They know the games ISVs want this)." As Tevanian testified, given that DirectX is an MS competitor to QuickTime which would be expensive and difficult for Apple to work with, this is a poisoned chalice. Gates also suggests "Some commitment by us to make Mac clients work well with Windows NT server," the Apple contra deal being "Apple agrees to offer Windows NT servers for markets like publishing and education or at least 'bless them.'" This bit has little real significance, although when copied the message Microsoft OEM manager Joachim Kempin got terribly excited and observed "I would not be surprised if they would want a Mac UI on their version - if feasable [sic]." Out of this proposed deal Microsoft gets: "Apple endorses Microsoft internet explorer technology, DirectX and perhaps other things we give them. Apple agrees to maintain ActiveX support in the browser for a period. They agree to immediately ship IE on all their systems as the standard browser," and both get "patent cross licence." That deal, you'll note, is a little stronger than the one MS eventually got, but not much. It's also worth noting in the interests of fairness and balance that Bill's views differ markedly from the views of lower MS managers reported in Tevanian's testimony. They seemed to be pushing for immediate murder of QuickTime, while the worst you can accuse Gates of here is of trying to trick Apple into slowly suffocating it. But Gates' view of the relationship is different once the deal's been done. Tevanian mails him in August 97 asking who at Redmond he should be working with, and asking for help over IE disabling QuickTime. Gates mails Maritz with: "Who should Avie be working with? Do we have a clear plan on what we want Apple to do to undermine Sun?" But doesn't mention the QuickTime problem. By January 98, a worried Steve Jobs is calling Microsoft's Don Bradford complaining about MS threats (denied by Bradford) to shut down IE development. Says Bradford: "He made it clear that Apple could easily go back to preferring Netscape, if we quit delivering IE on Mac." Apple could indeed do this, as Microsoft is contracted to support IE on the Mac for five years, while Apple is contracted to ship IE with the Mac or any new platform for the same period. There's a get-out clause if MS blows it on functionality though. Having disposed of the IE quibble with Steve, Bradford reports back to his colleagues in less than glowing terms as regards the Apple relationship. "Believe we should shut down all IP discussions unless there's some 'greater good' that I'm not seeing…. Current MacJava plans end with IE 4.01." IP cross licensing deals, dontchalovem? We can see the relationship cooling here, with Gates focussing on getting Apple to trash Sun, the MS IE people cooling on Mac development, and the IP deals slowly evaporating. So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that a little later that year, Tevanian signed up for the antitrust action on the prosecution side. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

A year ago: Mips had its chips as Compaq-Tandem flips

If you cast your eyes back over previous issues of The Register, in particular No. 5, you will see that we were sat next to Eckhard Pfeiffer when he made his attack on our old mate Hans Geyer. (Now in Folsom, passim). We got a world exclusive for that story and unlike Alan Cane, who now writes comms stories for the Financial Times, we were sat next to Eckhard and even in the same room. That gave us the chance to glance at his notes as Hans was speaking where he made a list of the chip players in the industry and their respective market shares. On that list was Mips, Alpha, x86, PA Risc and Sun Sparc. So when The Register found itself for the second time in one day at the gruesome Landmark Hotel in Marylebone Road we were well armed with questions for one Brad Anderson, a strategic marketing manager for Compaq in the US. He was there, he explained, because his boss Mary had had to go to Maynard following the Digital-Compaq deal. He said: "I don't usually talk to the press" - a comment that made your staffer rub his mental hands with glee. We were indeed well briefed. The deal between Digital and Compaq had completely overshadowed the original reason for Eckhard being in town, which was to persuade the corporate world and its canine companion that the disappearance of the Tandem CS series was not a disaster - no far from it indeed. Indeed, the disappearance of the Tandem CS for some members of the Compaq ProLiant family was a positive boon to every card carrying corporation, claimed Anderson. ProLoteriats had more functionality and were cheaper, he said. Then followed an interesting conversation about the future of the rest of the Tandem line (upwards). So was the Mips platform for the Tandem family to disappear? Anderson said it was not industry standard chip architecture. We attempted to explain to Brad that usually when Compaq used the phrase industry standard it meant Wintel. Was, then, the Alpha chip industry standard. "It's more industry standard than Mips," he said. We left that subject there and moved on to clustering and in particular to the very famous fact that Tandem, before Eckhard grabbed it last year, had licensed its stuff to Microsoft for Wolfpack. What could this mean, we asked. Anderson claimed it meant little or nothing but did concede in passing that the original purpose of the trip, the E2000 announcement of scaleable stuff, was somewhat thrown into disarray by the Digital Compaq deal. Not to be unkind to Compaq, we suggested, did it not in fact mean that the whole carefully thought out marketing E2000 plan was now in total disarray. He could not go so far as to agree with that. Yet it is a fact that Compaq had better get its act together and quick to integrate Dec server offerings with Tandem and Compaq offerings, otherwise it stands to lose the confidence of all those people it loves and needs so much in the end user community. ®
Mike Magee, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Symantec chief seeks replacement

Symantec boss Gordon Eubanks has decided to sack himself as president and CEO. But he is not leaving the $600 million t/o company just yet –- in an interesting example of corporate governance, American style he is going to make himself chairman once he finds his replacement. The move is designed to let Eubank concentrate on the vision thing, while getting a (no doubt) highly paid grunt to put the strategies he comes up with into practice. Eubanks reckons the search for a new CEO will take a “few months”, but has set no deadline. In the meantime, he will carry on as president and CEO. &reg:
Drew Cullen, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

MS plans two for one stock split

Microsoft yesterday announced a two-for-one stock split, effective on 29 March. Stock splitting has more to do with psychology than the purported reason "to make our stock more accessible to a broader range of investors". But of course, this would only be true if a significant number of investors wished to buy one share because they could not afford around $160. The latest split is subject to shareholder approval on 12 March. The exact wording of the announcement gave away that the split was arranged so hastily that nobody had time to book a venue for the meeting, so its only "expected" to be held then. The purpose of the meeting is to approve an increase in the authorised common stock to allow there to be around five billion shares outstanding. It was specifically stated that no executives would make any formal presentations at the special shareholder meeting. The history of the Microsoft share price is the stuff of legends. An original share will now be the equivalent of 144 shares after the current split. The shares were launched at $21 on 13 March 1986, when Gates had some 45 percent of the company. Some arithmetic suggests that value of an original $21 share is worth $11,655, at last night's close. That's an increase of 555 times. This split is the eighth, with the previous one being in February last year. For the latest three splits, Microsoft seems to be splitting around the time the $150 mark is reached. Previously it had split at around the $100 mark. The advantage to shareholders is that splitting often gives the shares a boost by drawing attention to how much they have increased in value, attracting more investors and so driving up the price. It was probably decided on the spur of the moment at one of Microsoft's very informal board meetings that it would be better to split the shares now, soon after the obscenely profitable quarter that has just been announced, rather than giving that independent part of the media that still remains anything to use against Microsoft as the trial nears its conclusion. Keep your loose change ready for a split in IBM's shares: at $185, it's probably due. That's quite a recovery from the sub-$50 price at the end of IBM's dark period. ®
Graham Lea, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Creative Labs to offer digital music player

Creative Labs is to produce a digital music player to compete with rival Diamond Multimedia's Rio PMP300, according to the company's European brand manager, Eion Leyden. Quoted in the UK media, Leyden gave few details of the forthcoming product, but he did make the interesting comment that "MP3 will not rule the roost" and that Creative's player would support multiple formats from the word go. That suggests Creative is waiting for the outcome of the music industry's Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), which was formed last year to craft a universal standard for downloadable music that offers the flexibility of MP3, the current favourite of the Internet music scene, yet protects copyright material from piracy. The SDMI's recommendation will carry considerable weight, thanks to the support of the major record labels, the source of well over 80 per cent of the music sold across the world. Yesterday's formation of the Genuine Music Coalition (see earlier story), a grouping of 48 MP3 music distributors, independent record labels and led by music software specialist Liquid Audio, to back a modified version of MP3 with anti-piracy features, suggests even the MP3 supporters recognise the strength of SDMI and they must bring themselves closer to it. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Lycos CEO claims partnership ‘not imminent’

Lycos' talks with a major global media or telecoms company would appear to have stalled, according to comments made yesterday by the Internet portal's CEO, Bob Davis. Keen to persuade both markets and industry watchers that, despite such a deal, Lycos would remain an independent company, Davis also claimed no tie-in is imminent. Last week, Lycos' VP for international business development, Eric Gerritsen, told the Financial Times that the company is in "informal discussions" with a number of media and telecoms operations (see Lycos seeks investment partner, preferably non-smoker). Lycos is offering a 20 per cent stake in the company to encourage its partner -- Gerritsen refused to name names -- to promote it across multiple media. "We could do with the global clout a large media or telecoms group would bring," said Gerritsen. The increased interest in possible partnerships follows the acquisition of Lycos' rival, Excite, by US cable company @Home (see Merger makes Excite feel @Home). ®
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel changes its mind on PIII numbers

Chip Goliath Intel has caved in to pressure from a concerted attack on its integrity by the US media. Yesterday we reported it could do that if it wanted, and Intel didn't think it was a big deal. It confirmed this morning it will ship Pentium III (Katmai's) with the serial numbers switched off as default. People can then turn them on again if they want. Curiously enough, we were unable to switch off the serial numbers on our bicycles, mobile phones and social security documents at press time. Nor could we switch off the IP number from this terminal. ®
Mike Magee, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

UK Tandy stores sold to phone firm

The UK division of Tandy has sold all 270 of its retail outlets to mobile company Carphone Warehouse. Tandy was never allowed to call itself Radio Shack in the UK because the name was in use by a chap on Finchley Road. He was approached by Tandy 10 years ago and offered him a vast amount of UK pounds sterling. He refused to sell out, although the shop, which sold valves, plugs and the like, appears to have gone from Finchley Road. The UK outlets are to concentrate on selling mobile phones and accessories, which is a great shame. Although no-one ever seemed to buy their PCs or radios there because they were a tad expensive, the shops were great for picking up bulldog clips, serial cables and those little odds and ends us IT journalists seem never to be able to live without. According to Charles Dunstone, Carphone Warehouse's MD, the shops have performed much better in the last eighteen months and have good potential. ®
Mike Magee, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

ATI unveils Rage 128-based All-in-Wonder card

Graphics specialist ATI has announced its latest add-in card to feature its Rage 128 GL acceleration chipset. In addition to support for 3D games based on the OpenGL and DirectX 6.0 graphics technologies, the All-in-Wonder 128 also offers MPEG-2 decoding to play back full-screen, full-motion DVD movies on either the host PC's monitor or a TV. The card also boasts a TV tuner which can display multiple channels in thumbnail form, display Closed Caption subtitles, magnify individual channels, instantly replay up to two minutes of a programme and show broadcasts as desktop wallpaper. ATI even claims the All-in-Wonder 128 can be used as a digital VCR, allowing TV programmes to be digitised and stored on the host PC's hard disk (provided it's big enough, of course). ATI said it will offer the All-in-Wonder 128 in two versions. The first will ship in March and contains with 16MB of video RAM -- OEM samples are available now. A 32MB version will ship in the second quarter of the year. US pricing is $249 for the 16MB card and $299 for the 32MB version. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

LG workers go on strike

As predicted here two weeks ago, production of DRAM at LG Semicon in Korea has come to a stop because the workers have gone on strike. (Story: LG Semi strike threatened) The move has taken place because Hyundai, which will take over its semiconductor production, would not issue seven year contracts to LG Semicon staff. The workers at LG Semicon are, probably justifiably, worried about the future of their jobs. While some workers have stormed out of LG Semicon's fabs in South Korea, others have gone on a go-slow. Workers at the LG Semicon fab in Wales are also worried about their jobs but do not appear to have joined the strike action. ®
Mike Magee, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq moves closer toward Alta Vista spin off

Compaq is set to sell off Alta Vista in a move that will transform the Web portal and "take it to a new level". A number of reports from the US this morning appear to confirm a story published by The Register a fortnight ago which said that Compaq was about to part company with Alta Vista following last year’s acquisition of Digital (see Alta Vista to go it alone). Compaq is remaining secretive about specific details until a press conference scheduled to take place in the US today. The only thing spokesman Jim Finlaw would say was that today's meeting would "take [Alta Vista] to a new level". Speaking earlier this month, Alan Hodel, senior PR manager at Compaq US, refused point blank to be drawn on the subject. Yet Compaq's reluctance to discuss the matter has only served to fuel speculation over the last couple of weeks that something has been 'going down' behind the scenes at the Houston-based company. Indeed, analysts still aren't sure if today's meeting will announce a spin off -- or merely Compaq's intention to do so. Or, indeed, whether Compaq will disappoint many of the pundits who believe a sell-off is imminent, and announce something completely different instead. A fortnight ago Compaq announced it was to buy Shopping.com for $220 million to help bolster AltaVista's e-commerce credentials. ®
Tim Richardson, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Simply Computers subject of takeover speculation

Global Direct, part of the US catalogue and stationery giant, is in talks to buy East London's favourite off-the-page reseller, Simply Computers, according to industry sources. With UK offices in Greenock, Global Direct is expected to announce the takeover within the next two weeks. Speculation has been rife since before Christmas that Simply was up for grabs. One source within the reseller/assembler channel, said: "I've been hearing about this constantly since I got back after the Christmas/New Year holiday." Global Direct is a distributor for a whole range of products, including printers, modems, software, accessories and furniture. It was established in 1987, and is part of the US-based Global DirectMail Corp. Simply Computers is a well known PC assembler and reseller. Its turnover was £50 million for 1995/96, with £70 million projected for 1996/97. Both companies denied there was any substance to the rumours. ®
Linda Harrison, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq preps colour Windows CE Palm beater

Compaq is working on a Windows CE-based palm PC due for release this quarter, according to sources close to the company cited on US newswires. Codenamed Wyvern, the new device is Compaq's second attempt at producing a Windows CE machine. The previous device was a standard clamshell palmtop -- Wyvern, on the other hand, will be more akin to Palm's Palm series and Philips Nino. The stylus-operated device is said to sport a colour display and feature a series of buttons which launch specific applications. In a move that imitates Palm Computing's current strategy, Compaq will license Wyvern to other vendors. The company has already signed up Hewlett-Packard, which demoed a Wyvern-based device at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. A hardware licensing programme could be just what the Windows CE platform needs to begin making real headway in its ongoing race with Palm Computing's PalmOS platform. The availability of a ready-to-badge hardware might just tempt vendors previously shy of entering the palmtop market because the cost of developing a system from scratch given the potential low level of sales. That said, it doesn't appear that great queues vendors are forming up to buy into the Palm approach either, so Compaq may have problems finding supporters. Even Apple only managed to find a handful of licensees for its now-defunct Newton. ® See also 3Com readies Palm IIIx two months before Palm V is duePalm at fives and sevens over release schedule 3Com unveils wireless-equipped Palm VII Palm delays release of next-generation handheld
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft invests in UK cable firm

Microsoft is to sink $500 million (£302 million) into UK telecomms company NTL to jointly develop high-speed broadband comms links. Guildford-based NTL has fibre-optic telecomms networks across the UK and will now be working with Microsoft to deliver voice, video and data services across these networks. Barclay Knapp, CEO of NTL, said: "Microsoft believes in our vision of bringing advanced digital Internet, telephone and television services to consumers and businesses throughout the UK via all platforms." The two parties plan to work on further software and services initiatives throughout the year. The deal is good news for, bizarrely enough, Newcastle United Football Club. NTL already has plans to put in a £160 million bid to buy the club, pans which will be bolstered by the Microsoft deal. ®
Team Register, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

S3's Q4, fiscal 98 losses widen

Graphics specialist S3 saw its fourth quarter and full-year loss widen beyond expectations, when the troubled company released its latest figures yesterday. For the quarter, S3 lost $70.3 million on revenues of $41.5 million, well down on the $101.9 million in sales the company recorded in the same period last year. For the full fiscal year, the company loss totalled $113.2 million, including write-offs for impaired long-lived assets, underutilised wafer capacity and inventory obsolescence. Even without these, the company would have lost around $71.9 million, still more than Wall Street had anticipated. Revenue for the full year was $224.6 million, compared to $436.3 for fiscal 1997. S3's president and CEO, Ken Potashner, claimed the write-offs, although hitting the current results hard, would nevertheless significantly improve the company's cost structure for future quarters. Revenue for those future will be driven by the company's Savage 3D graphics acceleration chipset and alliances with PC vendors. IBM yesterday said it will use S3's Trio 3D accelerator in its new line of small business-oriented PCs; Fujistu has already agreed to bundle Savage 3D-based cards in its high-end multimedia machines. S3 is also betting on its ten-year patent licensing deal with Intel to give it a lead on its rivals, most notably ATI, the company that took over S3's role as the leading supplier of graphics technology to PC manufacturers. The deal gives S3 access to Intel's graphics infrastructure technologies and chipsets. "The Intel agreement gives S3 significant opportunities that our competitors don't have and we intend to leverage this strength to its fullest potential," said Potashner. "OEM and add-in-card customers worldwide have expressed substantial interest in doing business with S3 because of this partnership." Still, with ATI wowing the crowds -- and PC vendors, including Apple, in particular -- with its Rage 128 chip, S3 is going to have its work cut out for it. ® See also S3 retires Virge S3, Intel cuddle up ATI unveils Rage 128-based All-in-Wonder card
Tony Smith, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony, Sun to sign with Symbian?

Smartphone and communicator software developer Symbian seems poised on the brink of another major licensing deal, according to London market rumour over the past week. Both Sun and Sony have been mentioned, although this may well be based on the "I can't tell you, but it's a company beginning with S" class of tip. Psion shares kicked upward last week on the strength of an interview with Symbian CEO Colly Myers. Myers was quoted as saying that Symbian had several major unannounced licensees. A Symbian spokesman however was quick to stress that the company indeed has numerous licensees who will announce when they're ready to launch product. These licensees aren't necessarily going to end up as shareholders. Symbian spun out of Psion last year as a joint venture between Psion, Nokia and Ericsson, with Motorola joining in quickly afterwards. The dominant nature of the cellular partners plus the efficiency of Symbian's EPOC low resource operating system make it inevitable that a clutch of major partners will either have joined in already, or will do so in the near future. CEBit in March would be a logical time to announce, if the leaks don't get there first. Sony would be an interesting win for Symbian. Sony is one of the players in the CDMA market, and if it went for EPOC might well end up providing Symbian with some interesting leverage into the Qualcomm-Microsoft joint venture, WirelessKnowledge. This is frequently viewed as a potential Symbian rival, although WK itself (enough of these stupid long names) claims to be platform-agnostic. Sun would be interesting in other directions. Sun has ambitions when it comes to mobile telephony and Java, but isn't what you'd call a veteran player in the market. It could use a partner. The current shipping version of the Symbian platform, the Psion Series 5, is not what you'd call Java-ready. An intention was announced at its launch almost two years ago, but The Register's sources wrote the 5 off as not being powerful enough for Java some while back. So an upgrade due? ®
John Lettice, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Maxtor shipments surge

Efficiency was the name of the Q4 game at Maxtor, with the disk-drive vendor grinding out an improved set of results on the back of improved inventory turns,and "better utilisation of assets". Shipments, up 23 per cent at 5.3 million units compared with Q4 1997, obviously did the company no harm either. This represents another logistics triumph, according to Maxtor CEO Mike Cannon. "We maintained our time-to-volume leadership with our 4.3 GB/disk products and are in the midst of the fastest product ramp in Maxtor's history with these drives," he said in a statement. The company reported net income of $30 million on sales of $728 million of Q4, stacking up nicely on Q4 1997 sales of $489 million and net income of $3 million. Sales for the full year were $2.4 billion and net income was $31 million (1997:sales $1.4 billion, losses $130 million).®:
A staffer, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Cost cutting pays off for Adaptec

Restructuring is beginning to bear fruit for Adaptec, the dominant player in the RAID controller market. In an upbeat statement accompanying Q3 results, CFO Andy Brown said the company's cost cutting had "proceeded more rapidly than we originally expected". The company notes strong demand for bus adaptor products, and it is particularly pleased with a major design win for its new 64-bit product courtesy of a contract from Dell to fit the AAC-364 64-bit RAID adapter into new PowerEdge servers and PowerVault storage systems during the quarter Adaptec is also touting its ownership of the de facto software standard for CD-RW on the desktop. It says it will leverage this market leading position into the DVD market. Revenue for Q3 was $183.9 million and net income and $26.7 million. Strip out the contributions from the Peripheral Technology Solutions group (PTS), sold in parts to STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments, and net revenues were $159.6 million in Q3, 17.9 per cent down from $194.4 million in Q3, 1998. Net income was $29.2 million, down 13 per cent from $33.6 million excluding unusual charges and a change in accounting principle a year ago. ®
Drew Cullen, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony calls to ARM for PocketStation

Sony is to power its new PocketStation games PDA using the ARM7 RISC processor. The win, shared with Atmel, the ARM licensee that it is supplying the ARM 7 single chip controller, could produce a lucrative revenue stream for Cambridge-based ARM. Nintendo is thought to account for up to half of the business of MIPS, ARM's major rival for this sort of business. The SCPH-4000 PocketStation is designed for Sony PlayStation gamers on the move. Compatible software is downloaded from the PlayStation onto the PDA. The PocketStation will also include a clock, calendar and an infrared (IRDA) port. ®
Drew Cullen, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

STMicroelectronics profits ease

STMicroelectronics failed -- just -- to match Q4, 1997 profits, with net income in Q4 1998 faring 3.6 per cent worse than the year before. But results comfortably beat analyst expectations. The French semiconductor giant produced profits of $121.6 million, equivalent to 84 cents per share, for the quarter ended December 31, down from $126.3 million the year before. The consensus analyst forecast for the quarter was 81 cents per share. STMicroelectronics attributes the results to buoyant demand for chips used in cars, mobile phones and set-top boxes. The company claims it is better placed than its rivals to profit from this year's expected upswing in the semiconductor market. Q4 sales edged up 2.6 per cent to $1.13 billion, while operating income eased 7 per cent to $154.8 million. Gross margin held firm at above 38 per cent. STMicroelectronics is making great play for the system on a chip and embedded markets. In recent weeks it has beefed up its technology portfolio by buying Vision Technology, the loss-making Edinburgh-based vendor of camera on a chip products, and the peripherals technology chip unit of Adaptec. ®
Drew Cullen, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Symbian cellular allies and Palm back Sun's Jini

As if by magic, our earlier story (Sony, Sun to Sign with Symbian?) has received rapid confirmation via the licensee list for Sun's Jini, which was announced yesterday. By a massive coincidence, Ericsson Nokia, Motorola and Symbian are signed up, alongside a long list of other companies, adding up to what has to be seen as serious momentum behind Jini. Philips, also a Symbian supporter, and Sony, a possible Symbian licensee, are other wireless players supporting the new Sun standard. That doesn't necessarily mean Sun will take out a reciprocal Symbian licence, but the sight of the comrades moving in formation makes it clear there will be close co-operation. Most of the Jini licensees are significant in their fields, and apart from the cellular ones, the presence of Sun's new friend, America Online, is significant. AOL announced plans for an 'AOL Anywhere' strategy when it did the deal with Netscape and Sun, and Jini technology is perforce an obvious component of this. Bosch Siemens, Bull, Canon, Cisco and CA are also names to conjure with, as are Samsung, Seagate, Sharp, 3Com Palm, Toshiba and Xerox. The spread is broad enough to make Sun's chances of making Jini pervasive look good. We might however observe that the presence of 3Com Palm, but not parent 3Com, could be a slight problem. Didn't 3Com just strike an embedded networking related alliance with the other side, Microsoft? Tricky... Jini is intended as a sort of 'Son of Java' network-centric technology that will be used to connect the world, from dumb appliances upwards. Sun says this can include dishwashers, although as far as we can see the dishwasher licensee isn't specifically named (Sun says there is one). The basic idea is that devices automatically announce themselves and their capabilities to the network, then take it from there. Our trainspotting readers may note some overlap with projected future phases of Bluetooth there, and may also note that Intel, which is supposed to be doing those future phases, isn't a Jini partner. Yet? ®
John Lettice, 26 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Windows NT could triple enterprise upgrade costs – report

Our thanks to our good friends at Novell for drawing a recent Giga Information Group report to our attention. By a massive coincidence, the report gives Windows NT one hell of a kicking. Giga describes Windows 2000 as vapourware, points out that companies therefore have to go with NT 4.0 (which of course is what Microsoft recommends and funds via OEMs as a Windows 2K preparation strategy), and concludes that "a wholesale migration to Windows NT Server 4.0 will cost, on average, two to three times more than upgrading to NetWare 5.0." Giga's data, the outfit stresses, is based on NT's performance "when installed as the enterprise operating system across the entire corporate intranet/extranet." As far as Giga is concerned NT remains a "superior departmental server" - that however is bad news for Microsoft and good news for Novell as well. Microsoft pitches NT as scalable enough to run an entire enterprise network, whereas Novell says you can run NT at a departmental level if you like, but you really need NetWare 5.0 to handle the whole enterprise (and of course its departmental NT servers). Says Giga (which may not be getting any work from Redmond for a while): "Giga has spoken with several large corporate accounts that attempted to fully replace their existing network operating systems (NetWare, Unix, OS/2 Warp Server and even legacy Banyan Vines) with Windows NT 4.0 and were forced to stop in mid-upgrade because they could not achieve the same level of enterprise functionality with the Windows NT Server." This won't change, Giga reckons, until Windows 2K ships with the vital new components of Active Directory, advanced clustering and scalability features and Kerberos security. Today NT "is simply not the functional equivalent of more established operating systems such as NetWare and Unix." Particular higher cost areas for NT cited by Giga include the need for more hardware, greater network admin expenditure and the need to buy additional third party products to achieve the same level of functionality as currently found in NetWare and Unix systems. So you've got to buy twice as many NT servers for the same number of users, while the underlying protocols also affect performance. NT servers fall over more often, and take twice as many administrators. Plus NT ones cost more. Giga also suggests wait and see as being the best strategy for Windows 2000's claimed new features, and recommends you don't upgrade until you're through the Y2K issue, and that you wait some more "until at least the first Windows 2000 Service Pack ships." ®
John Lettice, 26 Jan 1999