15th > February > 1999 Archive

MS exec evasive on ISPs and downloads

MS on TrialMS on Trial Cameron Myhrvold, VP of the Internet customer unit, strategic relationships, is something of a street fighter in his role at Microsoft. He was far from alone in not being able to get Microsoft Word working properly, so that the paragraph numbers in an HTML printout of his direct testimony were correct: seven times his numbering starts again from one, and a paragraph number is duplicated. So far, only Will Poole has managed to get the numbering right, so perhaps he was using WordPerfect. The video that preceded Myhrvold's cross-examination was also presented by Yusuf Mehdi, who had reported sick at the time that Allchin ran into a few difficulties with his video. The purpose was to show the difference between setting up an Internet connection using Microsoft's Referral Server on Windows 98, and how connection is achieved with Windows 3.1. Mehdi then went on to showing how this worked for Netscape, mercifully without a direct attempt to compare Microsoft and Netscape. It is true that the videos give some background for Judge Jackson in the argument that follows, but Microsoft fails miserably as a pedagogue, and has made a strategic error in not getting a respectable third-party organisation involved in making the videos. The foolishness in Myhrvold's video was in trying to show (unnecessarily) how Internet connection was quicker and easier with Windows 98 compared with Windows 3.1(five minutes versus fourteen minutes), but it was not a good plan to use different speed modems in the machines used for comparison. Myhrvold said on oath that the demonstrations were prepared at his instruction and under his general supervision. He was asked by David Boies if the same speed modems were used, and said: "I believe so". He admitted that the modems were of different makes, but in response to Boies' question as to whether he had suggested using comparable modems, replied: "Yes, of course. And I don't know whether they did or not. That is certainly something I can easily check on. I have a piece of email that would give me that information." It was very strange that he should immediately know he had an email with the information, but had not previously checked it. Boies, or one of his assistants, had checked however, and found that Compaq 7800s came with a 56K internal modem. Myhrvold said: "I believe in each case they were 28.8 modems." For Microsoft, the damage was again done and the media had a headline. Myhrvold's answers to many of Boies questions either showed an astonishing degree of ignorance for a Microsoft vice president, or were evasive and untrue. He denied "that in terms of distributing browser, the two most important of the several channels that we've identified are the OEM channel and the ISP channel". He had been reconverted to the significance of downloaded browsers, and waxed on that he was "fascinated to discover in preparing for this case that I'm actually wrong" in stating in his April 1998 deposition that browsers were too big for large-scale downloading. Boies produced a draft email co-authored by Myhrvold on 18 December 1996 to Brad Chase and others (which he said was never sent) discussing the importance of ISPs as a Microsoft channel: "ISPs drive market share. 35 percent of end-user Internet access customers get their browser from an ISP". In one of several extraordinary volte-faces, Myhrvold said he "wouldn't agree with that statement". It did seem that he was agreeing with the desires of Microsoft lawyers, however. In a deposition on 24 April 1998, Myhrvold said Microsoft would be more successful if Netscape did not have as much distribution as Microsoft, or as many distribution opportunities. Myhrvold was asked to look at it, and immediately said it was not a copy of the deposition since it did not take into account some errata "I was asked to make to it after the deposition". Boies had laid a trap and Myhrvold did not see the net. The hapless Steve Holley, for it was he who had been assigned to be Myhrvold's legal minder, said he didn't have a copy of the revised deposition at the moment, but Witness Myhrvold volunteered "I do, in my bag". Boies asked Myhrvold if he thought that the stenographer took down accurately what he had said at his deposition. Myhrvold hesitated, and momentarily must have imagined he was Perry Mason with the power to have something struck from the record: "I struck-well, you could see for yourself, but I did make modifications to this answer because I did not agree with it when I was shown the draft of my deposition." Boies missed the key point that Myhrvold had made: he was "asked" to make the change - and by who else than a Microsoft lawyer? Boies advised Myhrvold he could say that the transcript was erroneous, or that he had said it but now disagreed with it. Myhrvold had written "Delete entry" on the errata sheet accompanying the transcript. Boies moved on to the subject of Myhrvold's bonus, and asked him if part of his bonus was based on what happened to Microsoft's browser share. Witness Myhrvold, on oath, said "No". Boise pointed out that Dan Rosen, who was known to Myhrvold, had been asked during his deposition: "Do you have an understanding as to why it was essential in February of 1996 that Microsoft increase its browser share?" to which Rosen had replied: "Given the author, I would assume it was essential to Cameron [Myhrvold] because part of his bonus was based on it." Witness Myhrvold had a ready response: "Mr Rosen is wrong." Fascinating details of Microsoft's dealings with major ISPs emerged. AT&T negotiated with Microsoft through Tom Evslin, a former Microsoft executive who was surprisingly naive in that he accepted what Brad Silverberg was asking. Silverberg bragged: "Tom Evslin has told me, (a) he wants to talk about IE separately from MSN, and (b) he very badly wants in the windows box. I have told him that the only way we can even consider AT&T being in the Windows box is if AT&T gives IE exclusive or very, very preferential treatment (a la what we have with AOL) parity is completely unacceptable for them to be in the box." AT&T agreed to an 85 percent commitment to IE. It seems to be a habit for Microsoft executives, and Gates in particular, to boast in emails what tough guys they are in negotiation, with the result that the DoJ has a relatively easy time finding out what they were doing or thinking at a particular time. Boies caught Myhrvold again over the importance of the ISP and OEM channels for browser distribution, contrasting an earlier deposition with what he had said at other times. It seemed as though Myhrvold bent in whatever direction Microsoft's lawyers suggested. He was also caught out with a view that differed even from the previous day, but claimed that "he was trying to be very accurate". Myhrvold admitted he had "removed" an exhibit from his direct testimony, but he was "sure it was produced to the government". Boies ominously said "we'll try to find it" during a break, and did so. The DoJ is doing quite well on being able to find documents, but Microsoft flounders, it would seem. The removed document was an analysis of the Netscape percentage for ISPs, very central to Myhrvold's responsibilities. Myhrvold repeated his obstructive approach to Boies' questions, probably not realising the effect this would have on Judge Jackson. When Boies brought up an email in which Bengt Akerlind wrote "Customers/ISPs don't want to talk about it [Netscape's market share] because they all know we are out to get them" Myhrvold claimed that "I'm not sure exactly what 'them' refers to. Bengt - English is not his first language. Certainly we're not out to get ISPs." He was forced by Boies to acknowledge that Netscape was being discussed. It is also amusing that Myhrvold should comment on the English of Akerlind when his own was so poor: the court stenographers had pointed out more grammatical errors (by means of "sic") in Myhrvold's testimony than in that of any other witness-and there were dozens of errors that went unmarked. It was too great a stretch of credulity that when Boies asked if Myhrvold had heard that the trial concerned Microsoft depriving Netscape of revenue, or cutting off its air supply, he could only manage "I may have". An email from Steven Wu in September 1996 said "I think we are definitely hitting them [Netscape] where it hurts in revenue and units". Myhrvold did not remember receiving this, claiming he received "a hell of a lot of email". It was curious that Myhrvold seemed to be concerned about his future job at Microsoft. He said he disagreed with a comment he made on the first day of his testimony that "at some point all browsers will come in the operating system, and this will obviate the need for netops to ship them to their customers". But Boies showed that Myhrvold had said in another email that "I'm afraid Bill's [Gates] view is that as soon as we put IE into Windows 95, it's no longer an issue, and I think we have to show ISP distribution is a real and ongoing issue." Myhrvold confessed: "So, there I'm concerned that perhaps Bill has not thought through this issue and will not care about my business after we ship Windows 95." It will be interesting to see in future years the extent to which self-interest by Microsoft employees becomes a policy determinant. Like other Microsoft witnesses, Myhrvold claimed to know very little about the key data relevant to his job until some obscure fact might help the Microsoft case, at which point it miraculously recovered. His efforts in court, particularly his evasiveness, probably harmed Microsoft's case rather than helped it. For its part, the DoJ managed to strengthen its case from his responses. In view of Myhrvold's performance in his job, let alone as a witness, the question arises as to whether he is under the protection of Nathan Myhrvold, his brother and Microsoft's chief technical officer, who is close to Gates. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 15 Feb 1999

How MS-AOL deal resulted in 90 per cent share for IE

MS on TrialMS on Trial It seems pretty clear that Microsoft witness Cameron Myhrvold was instructed by his boss Brad Chase to defer questions about the Microsoft-AOL relationship to him -- but Chase did not set the rules for the court. Myhrvold began a retreat into an I'm-just-a-salesman role, and therefore ignorant and don't know about AOL. So far as he was concerned, Microsoft had "won" the choice of browser for AOL, but then he well and truly put his foot in it: David Boies, for the DoJ: Mr Myhrvold, you know perfectly well that AOL and everyone else using the online services folder has to commit that 85 percent of the browsers they ship to customers would be IE? Myhrvold: That's absolutely wrong. Boies: I'm interested in the very short e-mail from you dated May 2, 1996, at the very top of the page in which you write: "that you can talk to somebody about adding them to the Internet/ISP folder and also potentially the online services folder, but the requirements for this are high and they will have to commit that 85 per cent of the browsers they ship to their customers will be IE." Myhrvold evidently forgot that he was not debating on a street corner, and that a record was being kept of every word in his cross-examination. He claimed that Boies had asked him about the referral server, and not the online services folder. Boies pointed out: "The record will show because, again, we've got a stenographer taking it all down, just like your deposition." To rub it in, Boies repeated the question and received the same answer. When asked about a memo that showed how in Q3 1997, AOL "force fed the [IE] browser to subscriber base", Myhrvold's response was that it was not a memo, but "a piece of email" and tried to deflect questions to Brad Chase who was following him on the stand. Win32 IE usage was shown increasing from 1,169,471 users in Q2 1997 to 4,500,000 in the next quarter. It is also amusing that Unix servers are described as "proprietary", and Netscape enterprise servers as "competing". Apache is called "Share Ware" [sic], but IIS is not regarded as proprietary. An email from Mauricio Gonzalez de la Fuente on 7 January 1998 referred to AOL: "They force feed the upgrade to users at log off. You are correct, the typical AOL user is an Internet novice. These users, as soon as they attempt to log off the AOL server, will determine if they have the latest versions of the client, browser and any patches. If the user does not have the latest version, the system will automatically force-feed the upgrade. Joe Peterson in Chris Jones' group understands this process and has been exploring facilitating upgrades through phone wires." Isn't that spooky? The emails showed that the IE share of AOL in January 1998 had passed 90 percent, according to David Gang, svp at AOL, and was greeted by "Wow!" and "Phenomenal!!!" by those in the email chain. The 90 percent applied to active users, although inactive users would be force-fed in the same way when they next signed on. There was some concern that there was no independent verification of the numbers. Could it be that AOL was leading Microsoft up the garden path, and may continue to do so, especially in view of the Netscape deal? The force-feeding story suggests that AOL might have relatively little difficulty converting users to Netscape in 2001, when the new contract between AOL and Microsoft expires. AOL distinguished three kinds of force feeding, depending on the importance. At sign-on, updates would be for things like security patches; during use, there were conditional patches, with updates of what the user needed for access; and sign-off updates, which to Gonzalez de la Fuente was "the preferred method since it doesn't get in the way of the user's online experience". Microsoft had managed to get its mid-year review for the half-year ending 31 December 1997, and written around 23 January 1998, filed under seal, but Boies gave some information. Myhrvold noted that the "AOL upgrade program -now 92 percent IE." But Myhrvold claimed he was "not actually sure" what the 92 percent figure meant. Myhrvold appeared to be very concerned that he should not elaborate on this, and deferred to Brad Chase, Microsoft's next witness, but was tempted into some unfortunate comments: Boies: What you're saying is that the purpose behind these shipment restrictions and percentages we've been talking about was because you were worried that presenting Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator side-by-side would result in your losing out to Netscape because Netscape had higher market share, higher mind share, and higher presence in the market? Myhrvold: Yes. They had very high usage share. We were nowhere. We were the johnny-come-lately to the Internet, and we were concerned that that would not really help our distribution and share. Boies: Well, it was more than that it would not help your distribution and share. You were concerned that if you presented the consumer with a choice of the two browsers side-by-side, they would, for the reasons that you've identified, pick Netscape rather than yours, right? Myhrvold: Yes. That's right. Boies: And these percentage specifications or restrictions in the ISP contracts were designed to be sure that the ISPs shipped your browser without Netscape's, correct? Myhrvold: Yes. Judge Jackson became tired of Myhrvold's weasel words during the hapless Holley's redirect examination, so when AOL's contract was being discussed, the judge intervened he said that he AOL contract "requests" AOL made IE its preferred browser. Myhrvold had to admit that the licence was, in the judge's words, "conditioned on its being preferred". ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 15 Feb 1999

Trial documents reveal nature of MS-Pipex deal

MS on TrialMS on Trial The trial transcript and some exhibits have thrown additional light on just what the UUNet Pipex and Microsoft sweethearts were up to in their dealings. At issue was not just a sweetener for Pipex to switch from Netscape to IE. It turns out that CEO Sidgmore had asked for $3.3 million, but agreed to accept $500,000 and money-off coupons for Windows NT training credits, as Pipex wished to start a new line of NT business, with some consultancy work by Microsoft. Pipex was also using the argument that it had a big Netscape distribution business and it would need some inducement to switch to IE. Pipex was put on the referral server. Meanwhile, Microsoft was also concerned that Demon had a significant web page hosting business in Europe but was highly resistant to using NT, so encouraging Pipex to go the NT route served to undermine Demon with an NT-based web hosting service. The deal therefore very much suited Microsoft, and possibly Pipex could have held out for a bigger bounty. Pipex's $500,000 invoice was for "IE training fund and startup expenses" and a 4 November 1996 internal email noted that Myhrvold had received the invoice and wanted to know "could this be associated with the Pipex IE deal?" On 12 December, Geoff Hughes, described by Myhrvold as a "remote employee" because he worked for Microsoft "in London", emailed Susan Norberg, Myhrvold's bean counter, to say that "there are no invoices" with Pipex and quoting the relevant part of the contract. The $500,000 was to be paid in two equal tranches, the first when Pipex had fulfilled some obligations (in Exhibits C and D, and not at present disclosed). The second tranche was due nine months after the payment of the first tranche, providing Pipex had stuck to its Exhibits C&D agreements. Unfortunately, the middle part of the email chain had been redacted (censored), but the context suggests it may refer to some plea by Pipex to pay the invoice. Hughes commented that "given their lack of response in shipping IE I am not in a hurry to give them anything right now!!! [the exhibit quality is poor, but there seems to be a "sad" face after the exclamation marks]. Myhrvold then emailed Norberg: "I actually think that tying the payment to their shipping IE is a great idea, though I would not do this formally." Before Boies produced this email, Myhrvold had denied the linkage. Myhrvold told Holley in redirect examination that: "I followed up with a phone call to Geoff Hughes to make it very clear that it would not be appropriate to tie the payment of the funds in the contract to Internet-to them shipping Internet explorer. My message to Geoff was if they had met the terms of the agreement for entering the NT-hosting business, then we should pay them the money that we agreed to. Boies seized on this in his recross examination and asked if there was any record of this telephone conversation, but of course there wasn't. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 15 Feb 1999

IDT, Rise face uphill struggle in 1999

The continuing scrap between Intel and AMD to dominate the lower end market is set to make times tough for late entrants like Rise and IDT. And NatSemi-Cyrix too will be squeezed. Joe D'Elia, senior microprocessor analyst at Dataquest Europe, said today that that both IDT and Rise are "bottom feeders" in the marketplace. "Rise hasn't had a presence in Europe until recently," D'Elia said. "Both are working in the white box market and with corner shops and not competing with Intel and AMD." In IDT's case, he said, that was a deliberate decision. "Later on in the year, they might be able to start moving onwards," D'Elia said. "They'll face an accelerating ramp up later in the year from AMD and Intel." He said that Cyrix too was at a disadvantage. "Cyrix was at least within striking distance of Intel and AMD two years ago," he said. "Now they've lost sight. Their PR233 is being sold purely on price and in the same space as IDT. It won't be until the second half of this year that their products based on the new core start to compete." D'Elia said that IDT's decision to use IBM as a foundry was merely an insurance policy. "IDT is a fully fabbed microprocessor vendor with its factories to fill and it is looking at microprocessors to do that for them." ®
Mike Magee, 15 Feb 1999

IBM jumps from fire into frying pan

It is National Chip Week in the United Kingdom. This is nothing to do with semiconductors and everything to do with what people in the US call French Fries. We call them chips in Blighty. A senior executive at IBM EMEA called Paul Fryer (it's true) is masterminding a campaign in which we'll see AS/400 advertised on the side of taxi cabs and also -- unbelievably -- a reference site in a fish and chip shop. What next? ®
Mike Magee, 15 Feb 1999

Pentium III free (expensive) at last (nearly)

Intel has its famous "preview" day for the Pentium III this Wednesday and on that date it will persuade every type of vendor to support its new platform. Just a matter of days after it formally announced the Pentium III on the 24th of February, Intel will slash prices on its PII/350, PII/400 and PII/450, making them an exceptionally good buy if you don't want the 70 Streaming SIMD instructions. Intel supporters will include software and hardware vendors including HP, Compaq and IBM and a whole bevy of games companies eager to jump onto the Streaming SIMD bandwagon. But what do you do if you've bought yourself a bright and shiny Pentium II and want to upgrade? Thankfully, for the short term at least and if you can afford it, BX motherboards will support the Pentium III, an Intel representative said. He said: "The BX chipset will support the Pentium III. You need a BIOS upgrade to recognise the new registers." He said that Intel's own Seattle II BX board had a BIOS upgrade at the end of January and that (Pentium II board) will support the Pentium III. But the question remains whether any but dedicated gamesters will want to take advantage of the 70 or so instruction sets that Pentium IIIs offer. Two weeks ago, a senior executive at IBM EMEA admitted that for any application but those using intensive floating point operations. Even then, the performance boost was only about seven per cent, he said. The 450MHz Pentium III will cost around $450/1000 and the 500MHz Pentium III will cost around $695/1000. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Feb 1999

Mitsubishi claims 500MHz SRAM breakthrough

The Mitsubishi Electric Corporation said today it has developed synchronous SRAM which will work at 500MHz/ Further, the technology is 100 times more resistant to cosmic ray soft errors than previous chips. According to Mitsibushi, soft errors caused by cosmic rays have plagued the semiconductor business and caused problems for execs using notebooks when they're flying. The neutrons are 100 times more concentrated at 30,000 feet, said Mitsubishi. The 500MHz synchronous SRAM will be used with 800MHz processors throughout 1999 and into 2000 as second level cache, said Mitsubishi, so telling us something that Intel hasn't explained, yet. Personally, it isn't neutrons that plague us when we're flying -- it's usually lack of cigarettes, air rage and a battery life on our ThinkPads of precisely 20 minutes... ®
Mike Magee, 15 Feb 1999

Qualcomm may kill apps to save Eudora

Qualcomm appears to have finally reached a decision on how to bring its Eudora software division back to profitability. According to many company insiders, cited on the MacOS Rumours Web site, who claim the announcement was made via in internal email, Qualcomm will not be selling its Eudora Software division. Instead it will drop a number of applications to focus on the Eudora email application. Suggestions that the company was considering selling off or shutting the division emerged late last month (see Qualcomm to drop Eudora?). Franklin Antonio, Qualcomm's CTO, was quick to deny the rumours. "Eudora division is not closing nor being sold," he told The Register. However, he was far less emphatic about other aspects of the company's plans for Eudora, such as the sale or termination of specific product lines. That suggests the latest details leaking out of Qualcomm are essentially correct. Insiders have alleged that Eudora Planner, the modified version of Now Up-to-date and Now Contact Eudora has been developing following the acquisition of Now Software in November 1997 and which recently began public beta testing, plus Now Synchronise for the Palm platform and one or more Eudora server products have been effectively cancelled. These applications and the staff assigned to them will ideally be handed on to another company. If no buyer can be found -- Qualcomm is said to have set a four to six-week deadline for a deal -- the employees in question will be made redundant. A sell-off wouldn't be without precedent. Last August, Eudora rid itself of the Mac-based Now Utilities to Power On Software. Whatever happens with these products, Eudora looks set to continue developing the Eudora Light and Eudora Pro email applications. The Eudora WebMail free email service should survive too. Both product areas have faced considerable competition from the email components of the leading Web browsers and email services from Internet portals, respectively. Focusing its development efforts on beating that competition may be the Eudora division's only possible survival strategy. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Feb 1999

Digital cameras start selling at last

SurveySurvey A US market research firm said today that worldwide shipments for digital cameras will be worth over $4 billion by the year 2002. That will be good news for vendors which have struggled to sell the units over the last few years. According to InfoTrends Research Group, the market for low end digital cameras is growing at different rates in different geographies. Japan, despite its recent travails, is the global leader and will account for over 40 per cent of the market this year. North America is close behind. But Europeans are still reluctant to buy, with higher street prices and more demand for better quality cameras. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Feb 1999

Microsoft UK claims 50 per cent anti-piracy hits

Distributors re-selling old OEM stock discarded from Microsoft's vendors face a clamp-down, it has emerged. David Gregory, who heads up the UK anti-piracy group at Microsoft, said today that cases of distributors selling OS software, despite the fact it had been pre-installed on PCs, faced tough prosecution. That emerged after an unnamed distributor based in the Midlands was found selling Compaq-branded NT Workstation V4 for a mere £45. NT Workstation V4 normally costs £263.64 plus 17.5 per cent VAT (value added tax). Said Gregory: "Even if they [distributors] are talking about OEM software, they should realise there isn't any Microsoft OEM software any more. That hasn't happened for two years." He said: "We have to protect our legitimate channel." Gregory warned both OEMs and the channel to beware. He said that Microsoft UK had succeeded in following up 700 such cases last year. Of those, Gregory said his unit had successfully pursued half. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Feb 1999

HP weak link in Merced chain

Sources close to Hewlett Packard said today that it was pursuing its own course on re-iteration of the PA-RISC chips, despite the company's close connection with Intel, on Merced. The problem is complex and has puzzled many senior members of the comp.arch forum on Usenet. Some say Merced is dead but Intel is still insistent it can produce a fast IA-64 part. The question is whether that is with, or without HP. Large PC company Compaq has no such difficulties. It will produce Alpha processors -- on a little endian model -- which will integrate with Microsoft NT and Unix without any problem. However, HP is not entirely sure whether or not such a game is worth the candle any more. It has a mass of corporate companies committed to its PA-RISC architecture. Two years ago HP told The Register a PA 9000 was on the cards. At the time, a senior executive told us that its PA 9000 was Merced. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Feb 1999

Dixons court case postponed until year 2000

Dixons’ court case against the founder of PC World - for allegedly misrepresenting financial performance around the time of its sale six years ago - has been postponed until the year 2000. Some might argue that Dixons got a bargain when it paid £8.5 million for the PC World retail chain back in February 1993. But Jan Murray-Obodynski - for he it was that set up PC World - was issued with a writ by Dixons in November 1993, claiming breach of contract. The case was originally due to be heard on 1 March, but has now been put off to next January, according to Dixons’ solicitors, Titmuss Sainer & Webb. In the writ, Dixons also claimed damages and interest. Part of the purchase price was dependent on accounts from August 1992 to February 1993. According to Murray, Dixons bought PC World after seeing accounts up until the year ending August 1992. These were understood to show £400,000 pre-tax profit on sales of £49.3 million. At the time of the sale, the accounts for the half-year were not ready, so Dixons itself prepared the accounts. Murray told Computergram that the auditors would not approve the accounts after they had been prepared by Dixons. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday before he received the writ, Murray said in his defence: "Dixons was buying a concept. With the benefit of hindsight we would not have sold the company for £8.5 million. I would be happy to buy it back now for that sum." ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Feb 1999

Dell goes non-stop with Tandem

How does Dell actually manage to make its supply chain so good? The answer is it uses a Himalaya non-stop solution -- now of course owned by Compaq. It would be funny if it weren't laughable... ®
Mikey Pfeiffer, 15 Feb 1999

UK company gambles on US success

A British company is planning to launch a tax-free online gambling service that will tap into the heavily regulated betting industry in the US. Sportingbet.com -- the trading name of NetBet -- is planing to launch the service in the US in March. The site is currently undergoing beta testing. A similar service for the UK has been up and running since October. Since then, the company has registered more than 800 punters who, between them, are spending £40,000 a week on trying to beat the odds. But according to MD Mark Blandford, this is just chicken feed compared to the turnover the site could be generating in a couple of years. "The online market is huge and more and more people are using the Net for everyday transactions such as betting. "Based on similar betting services in the Caribbean, we anticipate that we'll be turning over £40 million in two years -- and £80 million in three years time," he said. Sportingbet.com is the first British online tax-free betting service. Operating out of Alderney in the Channel Islands, the company has received one of three electronic licences which allows it to conduct its betting business tax-free. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Feb 1999

SAP on Linux trail

Sources close to German company SAP's plans told The Register today it is actively exploring Linux as the basis for its app software in the future. That will chime some bells with Intel, which has, in the past few months, recruited many SAP programmers and committed itself to Linux. But the news is likely to cause despondency at Microsoft's HQ. SAP was -- and perhaps is -- the jewel, possibly even the Kohinoor in the Microsoft crown. Today, no-one from either SAP or Microsoft was available to answer our many questions. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Feb 1999

Nintendo to go 2GHz Wintel – rubbish!

Rumours reach us from the antipodes that beleaguered Japanese company Nintendo is set to release a 2GHz Wintel emulator for its Gameboy platform. That would be surprising. It would also be very surprising if they released a cut-down version of Microsoft Office. But not particularly surprising. We know for a fact that Sony has such high-flying ideas and you can even get a Microsoft Mouse for the Praystation. We'd be very surprised if MS was that desperate. ®
Michael Magee, 15 Feb 1999

More legal woes for Info'Products

Info’Products is facing yet more legal action from former staff via a county court summons for unpaid commission. The proceedings have been issued against Info’Products by Ryan Diblee, who is suing Info’Products for unpaid wages, according to Chelmsford County Court. Diblee, a former account co-ordinator at the reseller, lost his job in the recent spate of redundancies following the company’s agreed buyout by Compel. Around 150 Info’Products staff were laid off, and statutory redundancy payments were believed to have been made.See earlier story. No court date has yet been set. Diblee is believed to be claiming around £970. The legal action coincides with around 60 other ex-employees who are suing Info’Products and Compel in a joint claim for unfair dismissal. Diblee’s case is separate and was not issued in connection with their legal action. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Feb 1999

Pink Elephant under attack from poachers

Pink Elephant is accusing "unscrupulous recruiters" of trying to head-hunt its desktop support staff. The Reading-based company alleges that its helpdesk staff -- who are trained by Pink Elephant before being contracted out to work on company helpdesks around the country -- have been targeted because of a chronic skills shortage in the industry. Alan McCarthy, a director of Pink Elephant, said: "On one occasion the caller pretended to be one of Pink Elephant's field staff, and on another pretended to be from the [Human Resources] department." As soon as a name is obtained McCarthy alleges that his staff are contacted before being given "ridiculous offers" of work elsewhere. On another occasion a caller pretended to be an IIP (Investors In People) assessor phoning about Pink Elephant's IIP programme. "This is very unscrupulous, but it's happening because of the so-called 'skills crisis' in IT," said McCarthy. He said that the industry is paying for a lack of investment, a view endorsed by Angela Baron, a policy advisor at the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD). She agrees that there is a skills shortage but adds that the risk of losing staff can be reduced if employees are happy at work, feel valued, are paid in accordance to the market rate and believe they have a career path. Commenting on the allegations concerning "unscrupulous recruiters" she said that most reputable head hunters have signed some code of conduct although this was no guarantee that such activities did not happen. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Feb 1999

Microsoft preps Cool to tool on Java

Microsoft is building a Java-like development framework for the C++ language as it attempts to distance itself from Java following its legal defeat by Sun for breaching its Java contract. However, while the new technology, codenamed Cool, has been widely described as an alternative to Java, it doesn't seem to be the fully fledged 'Java rival' language suggested by various reports in the US media following last week's PC Week Cool story. Certainly Microsoft was quick to deny that's the nature of the new technology. "Nobody is writing any code in any new language in this company today and in the foreseeable future," Michael Risse, product manager for application development tools was reported as promising. And while most of the third-party developer sources cited by PC Week were keen to hype up Cool as some kind of anti-Java secret weapon, none went as far as explicitly describing it as a new language. In fact, Cool appears to be a framework that will give C++, already an object-oriented language, the same simplified approach to that method of programming that Java offers. "It makes C++ programming simpler," said Greg Leake, Microsoft's lead product manager for Visual Studio, quoted in InfoWorld. "We like the Java language because it's simple - and simpler than C++. Can we not take the things that are wonderful about C++ and marry them with an easier model?" Cool essentially operates through the next version of Microsoft's Component Object Model, COM+, due to ship with Windows 2000. COM, you'll recall, provides the foundation for ActiveX, Microsoft's first attempt at providing an alternative to Java applets. That suggests if it ever ships, Cool won't be a cross-platform product. But Microsoft currently supports ActiveX in non-Windows versions of Internet Explorer, and it will probably do so with the next, COM+ based version of the technology. Still, that's nowhere near the level of cross-platform support provided by Java. Nor will Cool have any of the massive momentum Java has built up over the last four years. ®
Team Register, 15 Feb 1999

Safetynet MBO puts CEO in charge

Safetynet, the computer disaster recovery company, has been bought in an £85 million management buy-out led by venture capitalist 3i. The deal put the £20 million company in the control of chief executive Paul Barry-Walsh, who upped his stake from 38 to 50 per cent. Safetynet, now owned by newly formed business Safetynet Group, this year expects to make pre-tax profits of £4.6 million on sales of £20.4 million. Safteynet Group is owned 20 per cent by 3i and 25 per cent by Reuters. Barry-Walsh will hold 50 per cent of the voting rights. Safetynet was founded in 1985 as a specialist supplier for the IBM mid-range market, and now offers risk management consultancy and disaster recovery. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Feb 1999