27th > January > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

A year ago: Compaq poised for all-out war on IBM

As we all know, up until last Monday Digital was a company that had been going through a painful reconstruction and downsizing owning to the unfortunate decline of its mid-range market. It has been selling off various divisions over the years, but the bottom line remained that it was fighting on too many fronts for the resources it had available. It's been maintaining development of a Risc processor line, Alpha, when the remains of the companies that should to be in the 'upscale of the PC' sector were slowly giving in and heading for either Intel or Wintel. It had been trying to maintain an uneasy and expensive balance between Alpha and Intel platforms and NT and Unix software (plus Open VMS), it had been trying to develop USPs in Internet/intranet, and it had been maintaining a large sales and support arm. So what did it want to be? Sun? IBM? Compaq? EDS? All of the above? The large pile of Digital strategies did connect to one another, and they all had some plausibility to them, so 'all of the above' was effectively the right answer, except that Digital couldn't afford it. Couldn't afford it, that is, until last Monday. Skip the obvious analysis that Eckhard Pfeiffer and his trusties at Compaq (given his recent employment record we'd like to know who they are) are going to storm in there and make Digital efficient. Obviously the PC line and the execs across the board will bear the brunt of the savagery, but Compaq's ability to fund Digital means that most of the rest could - and we think, will - be transformed into a pretty efficient fighting machine. Pfeiffer reckons he's beaten HP already, so IBM is the only target left (we don't think he's thought deeply about Sun yet). Our Register Man of the Year actually rates Alpha, and while Compaq doesn't seem to want to get into the fab business, it could use a non-Intel mid-range to mainframe platform for taking a pop at IBM's mid-range. Compaq also could use NT and Unix development teams, and Eckhard could use the clout of Alpha and Merced development of both to shoulder his way into the strategic planning rooms at Microsoft and Intel. Microsoft actually appears to need Digital Alpha NT development for the 64-bit version of NT 5.0, while Intel execs may now be having another look at which particularly Digital patents it might need for Merced. Just imagine our Eckhard poring over the Digital-Intel lawsuit secret files - what will he do with them? Sure, Compaq might just slash and burn and add a huge sales force to its existing operations, but the combination of vastly enhanced political power and across-the-board ('soup to nuts,' as Lou B Lou delightfully puts it - not where we put our soup, but there you go) assault on the last enemy must be an entrancing one. Careful though Eckhard - people can choke on nuts. ®
John Lettice, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Windows refunds and the law

With the rise of the open source movement, an increasing number of users find they don't use the copy of Windows that invariably comes with their new PC, unless they have purchased it from a specialist OEM. It's understandable that they feel peeved at having to pay what is known as the Microsoft tax, so any possibility of getting a refund from the OEM is likely to be of interest. The upshot is that 15 February has been decreed as Microsoft Windows Refund Day. The current movement started when after heroic efforts, Australian Geoffrey Bennett obtained an Australian $110 refund from OEM Toshiba. (Linux user wins refund) Microsoft is of course playing it very cooly, with spin doctor Adam Sohn claiming that there is "no provision in any of our contracts telling OEMs they can't ship something else" or, he says, a naked machine without an operating system. It's strange that you can't therefore buy one from a convenient local source. Of course, the unstated concern is that Microsoft is petrified at PCs without Windows lest users load Windows illegally, any OEM caught shipping naked PCs is unlikely to get a fair deal on Windows in the future. The advice to those seeking a refund has been to ensure that an alternative to Windows is loaded first, so that Windows is not used. An interesting issue that does not seem to have been raised is that the BIOS (basic input output system) is in a sense an operating system, so that the BIOS treats the operating system as an application. Going back to the origins, there was a common factor in Gary Kildall, who invented both the BIOS and CP/M, the first recognisable operating system for microprocessors. Most readers will be familiar with CP/M: it was ripped off and became the basis of Microsoft's DOS, which lives today in Windows 9x. So far as retail versions of Windows are concerned for those who were horrified to read the terms of the Microsoft end user licence (EULA) and did not want to accept them, it is possible to get a full refund from the retailer, but it may not be easy. The terms of the EULA are contained in a shrink-wrapped box and are unavailable at purchase time, so they are unenforceable in the English courts. Partly this because they are treated as proposed modifications to the law governing the purchase of goods. In addition, Microsoft backed away in a case where it was about to lose on account of it being a third-party, would-be enforcer unacceptable to the English courts. Ironically, the Scottish courts are less fussy about this, but it has yet to be tested. (Nae bather- we'll just pit the heid on them - Scottish Ed) ®
Graham Lea, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Embrace and smother – how the MS strategy works

Reports so far of Paul Maritz's testimony so far this week have largely been confined to repeating his denials - he didn't threaten to cut off Netscape's air supply, and Microsoft didn't force Apple to ship Internet Explorer. But he did, apparently, tell Intel Microsoft would "embrace and smother" Netscape. Yesterday in court two Intel sworn depositions claiming this were produced, and Martiz was thrown back on the defensive - he couldn't remember, and as the meeting wasn't taped, he couldn't prove he didn't say it. But The Register has as usual been doing its homework, and as always will be attempting to put matters into context. First, the air supplies and smothering. The air supply allegation was made by Intel's Steve McGeady, who testified for the prosecution. McGeady seems to have been a down-the-line Netscape and Java supporter who nevertheless had frequent contact with Maritz. Maritz was actually impressed by him, in an antagonistic sort of way. He tells Bill in April 1996: "I explained our strategy of 'optimising' Java for ActiveX and Windows [to 25 Intel executive staff], and how we should be working together on this, but I fear that McGeady will try to obviate this (unfortunately he has more IQ than most there)." McGeady may even have been smart enough to hear those inverted commas around 'optimising'. Yes, they are there in Maritz's original email, and if he's not using them to give Bill a playful dig in the ribs and point out that what we really mean is pollute, we'd like to hear alternative suggestions. The 'pollute' interpretation of course makes it another instance of "embrace and smother," only for Java this time. Maritz regretfully observes that he'd been told "McGeady is to be seconded to MIT and taken out of line management, but this doesn't seem to have happened." McGeady had probably had his card marked in November of the previous year, at an MS-Intel summit where Maritz headed the MS team. Intel had explained things to him (according to McGeady's report of the meeting). "We told MS that we are using non-MS products (except for NT) in the initial version of our server. Reasons: 1) Our OEMs are asking for the products we are using; 2) MS does not have a complete product set, specifically with respect to integrated HTML authoring and document management; and 3) MS has not treated us as a customer." So there's plenty scope for friction between McGeady and Maritz, but unless others come forward, the "cut off Netscape's air supply" crack McGeady claims Maritz made can't be proved. But we'll look at what Maritz has been saying about Netscape. Today, he says: "I'm not aware of any action we took specifically to restrict Netscape's browser." In 1997 however he was saying: "To combat Nscp, [does the Redmond spellcheck reject the N-word full out?] we have to have position the browser as 'going away' and do deeper integration on Windows. The stronger way to communicate this is to have a 'new release' of Windows and make a big deal out of it… IE integration will be the most compelling feature of Memphis [Windows 98]." So when he says "specifically restrict" he may be taking a somewhat restrictive view of the meaning of the expression. In a May 1995 memo, integration of the browser isn't obviously what he's talking about, but he is talking about integration: "Priority #1 is to not lose controls of key interfaces and protocols that applications/titles use. O'Hare needs to evolve into an extensible client that encourages 'online applications' to take full advantage of Windows and other MS assets. It needs to extend to allow this exploitation to occur both in the dimension of extensions to HTTP & HTML per se, and in the dimension of allowing application specific protocols & formats (e.g. via DocObj). As part of keeping control of the client, we should distribute our client pieces (both basic framework and extensions) as widely as possible, and we should encourage other vendors of browsers (e.g. Netscape) to use these extensions." Here Maritz is clearly talking about extending Microsoft protocols across the Web, thus locking users into the Windows platform. As relations with Netscape haven't broken down into hot war yet, Netscape gets its full name, and is viewed as being co-optable to the strategy. Yesterday under heavy questioning he finally conceded that the deal Microsoft offered Netscape was highly unusual, but he didn't go as far as saying that the proposal was for a carve-up, as Netscape claims. We'll just take a little run through the 'embrace and smother' line of thinking before we call it a day. Bill Gates you'll remember announced Microsoft's Internet turnaround strategy in December 1995, but in that very month, after he's made the presentation, he's raging to Maritz and Silverberg about plans to charge for what was to be the Windows 98 shell. "It is a complete change for me to hear you think IE 3.0 is separate from the shell," he raves. As well he might. But although he's just announced Microsoft's new 'embrace the Web' strategy, he's still ploughing along on the same furrows we saw Maritz at just now. "I am the one who thinks sharing Win32 applications over the Internet is important. I am still dealing with the myth that HTML somehow is far better for sharing than serialised Windows calls and that Windows calls are obsolete." Then he pulls it back to the shell: "Given how little backing Win32 sharing has inside Microsoft I feel it has to be available for free so Win32 has a chance of being a popular API that people understand can allow for sharing of visual displays." So with Windows 98 Bill didn't intend the integrated shell to bring the Web to Windows - he meant it to extend Windows across the Web, embrace and smother - and there, he just said it. ® ter.co.uk/content/archive/10095.html">Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel's Merced is undead

Intel has confirmed it is still on schedule to ship Merced in the year 2000 with production samples going to its customers in June. That follows claims from an Alpha developer on the comp.archnews forum that the Merced platform is dead. According to the engineer, IA-64 has a number of features which will be very hard to implement. Predication, he says, is very complex with multiple outstanding loads which depend on the memory consistency model being used. Bits to designate independence of operations will bloat the I stream by at least 25 per cent. "Even the stuff that Intel has talked about aren't really simple to implement with any great performance. It appears Merced is dead. It rests on HP's chip in 2001 or 2002 to see where things really are. Three more years, do you really want to wait?" However, an Intel spokesperson said the Merced project was still firm. Rumours of its demise are untrue. It is undead. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Banshee leads 3Dfx revenue surge

3D graphics leader 3Dfx yesterday reported fourth quarter 1998 revenues of $60.7 million, up 273 per cent on the $22.2 million recorded for the same period last year. However, the increase in revenue did not translate into equally expanded profitability -- for Q4 98, 3Dfx made $2.09 million; the Q4 97 figure was a barely-lower $2.07 million. For the full year, the company made $21.7 million, well up on the $1.7 million loss it posted last year. Revenue for fiscal 98 totalled $202.6 million, up from last year's $44.1 million. Observers put 3Dfx's success down the launch of the company's 2D/3D graphics acceleration combo, Voodoo Banshee, which was licensed to a wide range of OEMs. However, the future looks less certain. The company's next major release, the Voodoo 3 3D games accelerator, is looking weak compared to rival products, at least as far as the most recently published specs. Are concerned. At the same time, 3Dfx managed to alienate many of its OEMs by buying graphics card manufacturer STB in a $141 million stock-swap. That effectively sets 3Dfx up as a direct competitor to most of the companies it has been selling chip-sets to. The STB deal is due to be completed in March. ® See also 3Dfx buys STB for $141 million ATI reports record Q1 sales, profits S3's Q4, fiscal 98 losses widen nVidia IPO a success
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Creative Labs spins multiple music player plans

Creative Labs was in some confusion yesterday over its commitment to produce a digital music player to rival Diamond Multimedia's Rio PMP300 portable MP3 machine. First, the device was in development, then it wasn't and finally it was on again. After the publication of reports from Creative's European brand manager, Eion Leyden (see Creative Labs to offer digital music player), that the company was planning a multi-format music player, other company spokesmen were quick to leap in to claim such comments were overstated. The company had not committed itself to products such a device, they said. However, later in the day, company officials made an abrupt U-turn and confirmed Leyden's original comments. A portable music player is in the works and will be available "soon", a spokesman told Maximum PC magazine, though no specification details were forthcoming. "We're leaders in audio, and this is a natural extension to that," said a spokesman. "It's a technology that our 60 million plus SoundBlaster customers may want to use." ®
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Amazon Q4 sales go through the canopy

Amazon.com yesterday reported sales for last year rose by a staggering 313 per cent -- up from $147.8 million in 1997 to $610 million in 1998 -- but reported an operating loss of $74.4 million, even further into the red than the $31 million the company reported the year before. Much of that gain was down to an impressive fourth quarter which saw sales increase to $252.9 million -- an increase of 283 per cent on the same time last year. However, that's not too surprising given the seasonal increase in sales and Amazon's moves to expand into video and gift sales. The relatively high loss this year -- given how much more money it actually made in sales -- is largely the result of acquisitions, such as the companies that became Amazon's UK and German subsidiaries. Amazon also said that its UK division had performed well but failed to give any details. An Amazon.co.uk spokesman said that the company didn't want to publish any sensitive information that might somehow be damaging. Instead it said that combined sales in the UK and Germany nearly quadrupled over the third quarter last year. UK stationer WH Smith -- which has recently announced major plans to develop its online business -- reported its Internet sales of books rose by 70 per cent to £1.7 million since 1 September last year. And the well-known UK bookstore chain Waterstone's -- one of the very first e-commerce sites in UK -- said it was selling books to people in more than 70 countries, and that orders were growing by 30 per cent a month. Amazon.com continues to stake its claim as the world's -- and the UK's -- leading online bookstore, yet it may find its position squeezed by more established brands. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said 1999 would see the company build a "significant distribution infrastructure", suggesting that while the company's revenues will continue grow, it remains likely the company will continue to show a loss. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel hit by price protection scam

Intel has said it expects to receive an explanation from components distributor Avnet, following allegations that three of its sales staff were suspended for making bogus price protection claims. The chip giant said it expects a report from Avnet by tomorrow outlining what has happened and explaining what remedies Avnet plans to put in place. The employees at Avnet's PCC components division in Stevenage allegedly broke seals on Intel processor packages and replaced Intel chips with grey product, according to this week's PC Dealer. It was believed the staff then went on to apply for price protection from Intel for the chips, but were caught out when the vendor conducted an investigation. A former Avnet employee was also believed to be involved. An Intel representative told The Register: "Avnet will send us a report today or tomorrow on what has happened and what they are planning to do about it." Avnet UK refused to comment. Didier Gerfaud, Avnet's European communications director, admitted: "I'm aware of some rumours, but the response is still the same... No comment." Avnet, a US semiconductor and components distributor, has three divisions in the UK -- Avnet Access, semiconductors; Avnet Time, passive and interconnect; and Avnet PCC, PC components. It started the UK operation in 1991 after acquiring the Access Group Ltd, a semiconductor distributor based in Letchworth. Last year's worldwide sales for the group stood at $5.92 billion. ®
Linda Harrison, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Tick, tock – it's overclock time again

Reports on various hardware sites that Celerons are not locked for overclocking are untrue, Intel is insisting. Dr Tom Pabst, who edits Tom's Hardware Page, said he has definitive word from an Intel employee that the current generation of Celeron's do not have overclocking protection built in. But an Intel spokesperson in the UK has re-iterated his warning to enthusiasts that they should not rely on Celerons to be capable of overclocking. He said that at the moment, a number of Celeron processors are available which can be overclocked. But as Intel increases its production, consumers will find chips are prevented from being overclocked. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Sex change Webcast postponed at last minute

A sex change operation due to be broadcast live on the Web tomorrow has been postponed due to "pre-operative complications". A man -- known as William -- who should have left an unidentified hospital somewhere on the West Coast of the US as Julie, will now have to wait until the surgeon, who doesn't want to named, feels that it's safe to proceed with the operation (This is beginning to read like a soap-opera - Ed). William/Julie is currently "at risk" if the six-hour procedure goes ahead, the surgeon said. "We are extremely disappointed that the surgery will not take place as scheduled, but the health and safety of the patient must come first," said Seth Warshavsky, president of IEG, the adult entertainment company which is behind the broadcast. Anyone who has already paid $9.95 in advance to watch the operation will get a refund, said Warshavsky, who also said that another date would be set for the operation. But this has failed to convince sceptics who believe this is nothing more than a hoax and that it has been contrived simply to gain publicity. The gender change operation was originally scheduled to take place last November. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

MIPS wins Toshiba and NEC

MIPS signed deals with both Toshiba and NEC to license its next generation of 64-bit chips. The chip, codenamed Ruby, is likely to be available by the end of 1999. The companies gave no financial details of the deals, and it is unclear what the processors will be used for. The deal will give MIPS some respite. Last year, Compaq announced it would no longer use its processors in its machines. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Internet Technology Group goes Dutch with acquisition

London-based Internet Technology Group (ITG) has bought Dutch ISP Internet Facilities Europe (IFE) for £4.27 million in a move that marks the company's first major step into the European corporate Internet services market. IFE provides Web hosting services and high-speed Internet access for businesses throughout Holland. Its customers include Siemens-Nixdorf, Silicon Graphics and Fox TV. The Dutch operation will begin marketing services presently offered by ITG's UK subsidiary, GX Networks, once the deal has been finalised. "Acquiring IFE is a significant move for us," said Laurence Blackall, chief executive of ITG. "We now have a great opportunity to start leveraging our significant network investments in new markets... and [this] will enable us to start building up the GX Networks brand in Europe. "This deal provides us with a first class entry point into the European corporate market, with some excellent cross-selling opportunities," he said. Last week, ITG said it planned to expand its telecoms networks after being awarded two licences by the Department of Trade and Industry. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple to honour free support pledge

Apple has bowed to pressure from the US Federal Trade Commission to honour promises of free technical support it made user its Apple Assurance scheme. The FTC charged Apple with deceptive advertising following in investigation prompted by complaints that the Mac maker had begun charging certain users for technical support even though it had once promised free help for the as long as they remain Mac owners. According to Mac news site MacWeek, Apple will now provide anyone who bought an Apple product in the US between September 1992 and April 1996 with free technical support. The offer also applies to the owner's immediate family. In addition, anyone who bought an Apple product during that period and who was forced to pay the $35 support fee the company introduced in October 1997 will receive a refund. Despite Apple's agreement to honour its advertised promises, it does not, according to the FTC statement of the case, accept that it violated the law. However, that's language typical of a settlement made to avoid court action. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

RealNetworks loss shrinks, revenues double

Internet streaming media software developer RealNetworks saw its loss narrow following a near doubling of its revenue when it reported its latest quarterly figures yesterday. The company reported a loss of $600,000 on revenues of $20 million. That compares to a loss of $2.59 million for the same period last year. Revenue for Q4 97 was $10.3 million. However, because RealNetworks restated the charges it has taken as a result of the acquisition of rival developer Vivo in March 1998, the Q4 98 loss in fact came to $1.1 million. For the full year ended 31 December 1998, RealNetworks' revenue was $64.8 million, up 98 per cent on last year's $32.7 million. The company was in the red to the tune of $6.1 million. Add in the effect of the Vivo takeover and that figure rises to $16.4 million. The company also claimed that the number of registered users of its RealPlayer software passed the 50 million mark, making it the biggest growing consumer desktop application in 1998, according to market research firm Media Metrix. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft modifies temporary worker contracts

Microsoft has complied with a court order requiring it to remove from its employment contracts clauses requiring temporary workers waive any rights to damages from forthcoming legal action against the company's employment practices. The order was issued on 14 January by US District Judge John Coughenour during court action instigated by a group of temporary workers who claimed their contracts were unfair (see Contractors' lawyer tells MS to withdraw 'invalid' contracts). Microsoft does not consider such workers as regular company employees and so their contracts exclude them "for the purposes of receiving compensation, insurance or benefits from Microsoft". Up to 6000 staff -- one third of the workforce -- at its Richmond HQ are classified as temporary. The case's plaintiffs allege that many so-called "temporary workers" in fact have worked at Microsoft for considerable lengths of time, and believe that, for that reason, they should receive similar benefits to their full-time colleagues. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Linux to get first commercial game release

The latest title in the hugely popular Civilisation series of 'God sims', Civilisation: Call to Power, is to be released on Linux, the first time a major commercial entertainment release has shipped on the platform at the same time as the Windows version. The port is being handled by Loki Entertainment under licence from Civilisation's publisher, Activision. Loki will also take responsibility for marketing the Linux version of Call to Power, which will ship "shortly after" Activision's release of the Windows version. The game will ship through retail and mail order outlets with a similar price tag to the PC version, Loki said. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Linux in-car MP3 system to ship in March

British hi-fi start-up Empeg has begun production of its forthcoming in-car MP3 player, the company has revealed. The move comes after the unit passed US and European electromagnetic emission tests. The Empeg-Car system was announced last October (see UK firm announces MP3 player). The device contains up to 28.2GB of disk storage (the base model contains just 2.1GB of storage), allowing users to store some a massive 476 hours of MP3-encoded music, the equivalent of 500 albums. The unit also features a FM stereo tuner, and can be removed from the host vehicle's dashboard for security and to load it with music tracks. Because the Empeg-Car is effectively a StrongARM-based computer running the Linux operating system, Empeg hopes the device will not fall foul of the kind of legal battle that briefly held up the release of Diamond Multimedia's Rio portable MP3 player. Computers are exempt from US legislation requiring consumer devices capable of recording music to pay a royalty to the music industry. Empeg will ship the system with Windows 95/98/NT software to allow MP3 tracks to be downloaded from the Internet and piped over to the Empeg-Car's hard drive via a serial or USB link. The company says the machine will ship in March. US pricing is expected to be around $949, excluding shipping costs; in the UK it should retail for around £699. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Cyrix Jalapeno to go standalone

Cyrix said today its plans for its Jalapeno platform remain unchanged but it did confirm that it will produce a standalone version. However, it is likely to be next year before the wonder-chip appears. A representative said: "There's no change in our strategy. Cyrix will sample Jalapeno in Q4 of this year." But reliable reports insisted that the first iteration of the standalone version would arrive in the year 2000. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq results show steep gain

Compaq's fourth quarter earnings have increased by 14 per cent after it reported a net income of $758 million -- up from $667 million on the same period in 1997. Revenue for the year leapt 48 per cent to $10.86 billion from $7.32 billion in 1997 although some of this gain is a reflection of Compaq's acquisition of Digital in June of last year. "The fourth quarter revenue and earnings results represent new records for Compaq and a key milestone in our successful integration of Digital Equipment Corporation," said Eckhard 'Warehouses' Pfeiffer, Compaq's president and CEO "Sales out of the distribution channels grew 43 per cent over the fourth quarter of 1997, a growth rate estimated at over three times the market." Pfeiffer was equally bullish about the prospects for the company in the coming year adding that he saw strong demand for Compaq products and services and the opportunity for continued market share gains and revenue growth. Yesterday, Compaq confirmed its intention to spin off AltaVista and create a separate company for its search engine, as exclusively revealed here. ® See also Compaq results due out today, maybe
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Linux to become a ‘core OS’ for HP, SGI

Silicon Graphics and Hewlett-Packard have both decided to offer Linux as one of their core operating systems, according to the Wall Street Journal. HP is the most enthusiastic of the two companies in its support for the free operating system. The company will be shipping Red Hat Linux on some of its Intel-based servers -- Red Hat will be handling Linux technical support on HP's behalf. At the same time, HP will be developing a version of Linux for Intel's forthcoming Merced 64-bit processor, though given the deal with Red Hat, it's possible the latter will actually handle the port. Either way, since Merced is a joint development between HP and Intel, the Merced version of Linux is likely to appear very soon after the release of the chip itself, possibly even ahead of the equivalent Windows release. Silicon Graphics, meanwhile, will be offering versions of its recently announced Intel-based machines that offer Linux as their main OS. The company is supporting the product itself, according to the WSJ, but it's not clear whether it is simply offering one of the established Linux distributions, such as Red Hat, or has created its own release. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Developer claims 3D TV breakthrough

An Australian 3D graphics company claims to have developed a method of displaying stereoscopic 3D programming on a conventional television without the need a dramatic increase in broadcast bandwidth -- or, apparently, special glasses. Dynamic Digital Depth's process uses proprietary software to allow broadcasters to transmit 2D programmes plus extra information on the depth of elements within the picture. A set-top box takes that data and uses depth-queuing algorithms to generate a second image which gives the picture the appearance of 3D. According to the company, the process allows users to select whether they want to watch individual programmes in 2D or 3D, and for broadcasters to transmit 2D programmes alongside 3D ones. DDD claimed it is already talking to numerous TV and set-top box manufacturers about licensing its new 3D technology. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Internet Shopper changes its name

Bristol-based Internet Shopper -- the UK company behind the NT-based mail and list server software NTMail and NTList -- has changed its name to Gordano. The multi-million pound company -- which sells its software solely via the Internet -- boasts more than 8,000 customers and sells its products all over the world. The company decided to change it s name after it found that Internet Shopper no longer reflected its trading operation. Now Brian Dorricott, MD of Gordano, is looking to sell his old company and domain names (www.net-shopper.co.uk). "It's up for grabs and I'm open to offers," he said today, shortly before he was rendered speechless after finding a long black hair in his chicken and mayonnaise baguette at lunchtime, The Register can reveal. But Tim Jenner of the London-based Web agency Hyperlink said while it was an attractive proposition it was unlikely to make him rich overnight. "Unfortunately, there isn't much of a market for this kind of thing. He's not going to be able to retire and live in the Seychelles on it if that's what you mean," Jenner said. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Datatec continues its UK buy-up bender

South African distributor Datatec is to splash out as much as £41 million on networking reseller Satelcom, continuing its UK shopping spree. Datatec will make an initial payment of £14 million, with the balance depending on Satelcom’s pre-tax profit performance for 1998-2000. Satelcom founders Brian Jacobs and Ian George each stand to pocket up to £16 million from their 40 per cent stakes. Around two-thirds of the 115 staff at the firm - based in Ascot, Berkshire - own shares worth around £8 million. The acquisition will provide big customers through Satelcom’s managed network services offering. Its clients currently include Marks & Spencer and Bank of Scotland. It also adds to Datatec’s existing cache of UK companies, including Logical, Blueprint and Network SI. Satelcom specialises in high end network management which keeps tabs on networks from Satelcom’s head office. It will be renamed Logical Network Services. Jon Davies, Datatec corporate marketing director, said: "The four businesses in the UK will together complete the end-to-end support programme. We can install, manage and now run networks for corporate customers." Davies added that Datatec wanted to copy the UK model throughout Europe, especially in France, Germany, the Benelux countries, Scandinavia and Switzerland. The acquisitions precede a possible floatation on the London Stock Exchange or on Nasdaq. Over 75 per cent of Datatec’s business now comes from outside South Africa. The company therefore needs to attract international investment, and thinks a listing in the UK or US will be more attractive to investors. Datatec floated in Johannesburg in 1994, and has a market value of £750 million. Europe is responsible for around 40 per cent of the revenue. ®
Linda Harrison, 27 Jan 1999
The Register breaking news

Irish domain company hit by political hackers

Supporters of the Indonesian government's occupation of East Timor are being blamed for a simultaneous and well-orchestrated attack on Connect - Ireland earlier this week. The politically motivated attacks by 18 hackers on Tuesday brought the Dublin-based company -- one of only two top domain guardians in Ireland -- to its knees causing it take the "nuclear option" and shut down its service. It has now updated its systems but this has caused its entire service to be shut down causing disruption for its 3,000 customers. The company said today that it expects all the Web sites it hosts to be back online either later today or tomorrow morning. It appears the aim of the attack was to disrupt the East Timorese Internet domain which was established twelve months ago by the East Timorese Project and hosted by Connect - Ireland. But when the country received ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) registration and East Timor's right to its own top level Internet domain (.tp) Connect - Ireland also fell foul of the Indonesian authorities. Over the last year the company has had to fend off a number of attacks and has even received threats to stop hosting the East Timorese domain. Tuesday's ordered and sophisticated attack proved too much for Connect - Ireland and the company was left with little choice but to shut down its operation. "The perpetrators of this attack, fondly referred to as E-Nazi's, have not yet been identified, but the Indonesian government is known to be extremely antagonistic towards this display of virtual sovereignty," said Martin Maguire, project director at the company. "We've traced links back to Japan, Canada and the US but for all we know they could all have been sat in the same room together. "After more digging we're finding links to the Netherlands where I understand there is a large Indonesian population. Maybe the attacks originated from there. " The company has sent a letter of protest to the Indonesian Embassy in London and will be contacting the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland next week to see what action it might take. No one at the Indonesian Embassy in London was available for comment. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 1999
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MS claims plans for browser integration predate Gates' birth

Incoming. Microsoft today released another vast deposition, from senior VP Jim Allchin, and this time it comes with video clips too. The basic thesis is that Allchin is a computer guy who don't know no lawyer book-learning, but he knows what's what. We'll deal with his text in full RSN, but for today we'll confine ourselves to his views on that old integration issue. As the release says, "In the most comprehensive review to date of Microsoft's internal development of Internet technologies, Dr. [he's Dr. throughout. Figure the significance of the de-Jimming of Allchin yourself] Allchin provides detailed factual testimony concerning the lengthy history of networking, including Internet, development at Microsoft. "Microsoft's decision to integrate strong Internet support, including Web browsing functionality, into its operating system software actually pre-dates any awareness within Microsoft of Netscape as a competitor. Indeed, when Netscape was little more than a gleam in the eyes of its founders, Microsoft had already decided that future versions of its operating system software should include Web browsing capabilities and that those capabilities should be unified with other information viewing resources." Somewhat dangerously, the release (get real, people, any report you read within the next few hours won't be based on the full document) cites internal Microsoft documentation as proving that these plans were in place (we'll get back to this), and comes up with a handy timeline explaining how it all happened. Allchin's stuff is in normal, The Register's comments in italics: 1990 - Bill Gates outlines Microsoft's vision of "Information at Your Fingertips"-the ability to access information anywhere. But how? Is "Dr." Jim trying to tell us Bill invented the Internet in 1990? Well, no actually. As Allchin's biog in the very same Microsoft release says: "For example, in 1991 the Microsoft campus was going to be networked with OSI ISO TP4 (an alternative to TCP/IP). Dr. Allchin convinced the MIS group to instead use TCP/IP - the basis for the Internet." So Bill was pointed in the wrong direction in 1990. Dec. 7, 1993 - Microsoft President Steve Ballmer suggested in an e-mail that Microsoft "could really help popularize [C]hicago," which was the code name for Windows 95, if we could position the operating system as the "greatest front-end to the Internet." A suggestion in an email, as Allchin trenchantly tells us. Had Ballmer's suggestion been acted on, Allchin would no doubt have some rather firmer documentation. 1993 - Microsoft ships TCP/IP, FTP and Telnet client support Revolutionary stuff, eh? Well no, a bit late really, and not exactly that much different from what a lot of other outfits were doing. Jan. 17, 1994 - David Cole, then general manager of Windows 95, stated that Windows 95 should appeal to customers because "it's the best system for connecting to other devices; like the Internet, Compuserve, Online America…" Note the source and the "should." Ballmer had an idea a whole month ago, but we still don't have any executive-level approval, just suggestions. April 6, 1994 - At a day-long technical "offsite," the operating systems group determined that "World Wide Web" support should be added to Windows 95. Documentation Jim, we need documentation. We know there were junior staff at MS evangelising this in 1994, but we've seen no proof that their pitches were accepted - the reverse, actually. April 1994 - Microsoft's 3-year plan for operating systems includes a slide called "Integrated Net Browsing in Explorer." This is our favourite. One slide seems to be the best we can do, and its title suggests we're talking about integrating browsing in Explorer, rather than the OS. The obvious implication here is that we're planning to integrate other things as well, right? April 1994 - Netscape incorporated. As he hasn't proved anything yet, this hinders Jim, rather than helping. Aug. 1994 - Windows NT 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 both include TCP/IP, the de facto standard for Internet communications Yo! We shipped a network protocol! Oct. 1994 - Netscape releases beta test version of its first Web browser. Development work on Internet Explorer is underway at Microsoft. Dec. 1994 - Netscape released its first commercial Web browser Netscape goes to a product, whilst Microsoft is beginning development of something that won't see the light of day. Microsoft actually bought in browser technology as the basis of the IE that shipped the following year. May 26, 1995 - Bill Gates' "Internet Tidal Wave" memo stated that "over time the shell and the browser will converge and support hierarchical/list/query viewing as well as document with links viewing." At this point (and for all we know, today) Bill thinks MS protocols should be rolled out across the Web. The Tidal Wave paper (it's bigger than a memo, Jim) shows how unaware Bill actually was of realities. (How Gates discovered the Web) Aug. 24, 1995 - Windows 95 launched with Internet Explorer We have a copy of the first Windows 95 CD. It does not include, or indeed mention, Internet Explorer. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 27 Jan 1999