8th > March > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

AMD uses IBM Micro as back stop foundry

A year ago From The Register No.68, 2 March 1998 Two weeks ago, The Register learned from a source at a chip design company in California that AMD had decided to outsource some of its manufacturing to other companies with fabs. It came as not very much of a surprise, then, when at the end of the week AMD issued a terse statement saying it had struck a deal with IBM to foundry its K6 processors in Q3 this year. But, as Joe D'Elia, a senior microprocessor analyst at Dataquest UK, told The Register last Friday, the news could be either good or bad for AMD. As far as he was aware, AMD had no huge deals coming up in the second half of this year which could justify second sourcing. Further, he said, if that was not the case, it meant that AMD was still having difficulty ramping up production and that suggested it was in trouble with its process technology. There had been rumours that IBM was actually contemplating buying AMD - reported here earlier - but it seems far more likely that negotiations with Big Blue to second source started just a day or two after National Semiconductor snapped up Cyrix. National has advanced fab technology of its own and it was clear that sooner or later it would ditch IBM Microelectronics and, so to speak, do it by itself. This year is a crucial one for AMD, particularly because it has products brewing which it claims will beat Intel to the technology mark. If its .25 micron process is not producing the quantity or quality of K6s that AMD needs, then it will be in trouble indeed. It cannot be any kind of coincidence that Vinod Dham left AMD at the same time that the company found itself in difficulties with volume - causing distributors and OEMs alike to complain loudly about lack of supply. But The Register still believes that the IBM-AMD connection is not the end of the story. There is still a strong possibility that someone will buy AMD. It could be that the company, which would be viable and profitable without the K6 family, will choose to dispose of its CPU business, leaving it free to make money for its shareholders. Sources say that the K6-3D, which AMD told us last year (passim) was slated for a Spring entry into the market, has only just begun sampling, and even then in very limited quantities. The rationale behind the IBM deal could also be that the only way AMD will be able to ship these processors is with outside help. And there's another side to this story too. The source who told us AMD was outsourcing, did not mention IBM by name. Indeed, he was not talking about fab capacity at all, but about design capability. He said that AMD was in talks with two Santa Clara companies to outsource this work. This is the second half of the equation which suggests strongly to us, at least, that AMD wants shot of the K6. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Windows ID numbers – how they work

Further details of the identification system used in Windows 98 registration have emerged. In the past few days it has been revealed (see earlier story) that data gathered during the registration process gives Microsoft the means to track both individual users and the documents they produce across the Internet. Each copy of Windows has its own registration number, and during online registration the user is asked to fill in personal details, including name, address and class of user. The registration also produces a hardware audit of the local machine, but the user can decline to send this to Microsoft if they want. In addition, however, machines with an Ethernet adaptor present will send a unique hardware identification number, whether or not the user declines to send hardware audit information. Microsoft yesterday described this as a bug in the software, but the company's privacy policy, parts of which were published here in yesterday's story, makes it clear that it's no bug -- it's quite intentional, and Microsoft has been upfront about it (albeit in a document hardly anyone's going to bother reading). The number is used to generate unique identification numbers for Microsoft Office documents created on the machine. These numbers are embedded in the documents themselves, which means they can be 'fingerprinted' -- ever send somebody a file anonymously? Maybe you didn't after all. If the machine doesn't have an Ethernet adapter, a dummy number is used. This is -- allegedly -- common to all non-networked Windows 98 machines, so it shouldn't be possible to use it to trace documents. But if the mechanisms for processing unique identification numbers exist, then clearly Microsoft is going to make the numbers unique -- unless the appalling publicity puts it off the idea. A unique number system, quite possibly incorporating the Pentium III identifier, is an obvious next step for Windows 2000, particularly as Microsoft wants to introduce universal registration, or possibly even the infamous 'software rental' model by that point. But the exposure of the current tracking system seems to have torpedoed that plan for the moment. Microsoft yesterday said the Windows 98 identification system certainly won't be used in Windows 2000. But we'll all have to watch the process that is in there very closely, just in case. ®
John Lettice, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel-FTC battle starts tomorrow

The Register will begin its coverage of the FTC's case against Intel tomorrow. As with the Microsoft case, we will devote considerable resources to covering the trial in detail. But we can't help feeling it will be much more of a non-event than Uncle Sam versus Stan Software. To refresh your memory about the case, read the FTC case against Intel. Also see our prediction the trial would never occur. (Story: Intel to surrender to higher US authorities) ® Microsoft Trial Coverage
Mike Magee, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Accounting for Sage's move on Tetra

Analysis Accounting software is a market that is often forgotten in the PC business. But it shouldn't be. It's very important to many dealers. So the proposed acquisition of Tetra by Sage is a significant event. But will this acquisition finally give Sage what it has always coveted - the prized jewel of the mid-range market. It remains to be seen. Perhaps a more interesting question -- and one we can probably answer without the aid of a crystal ball -- is why Sage has not made a move on Tetra before now? The straight answer of course is that Lynx Group had moved in -- prompting Sage to react, but there is more to it than that. Perhaps Sage did not know Tetra might be available. Perhaps it never thought of buying Tetra. But its bid is very enthusiastic at 305p per share -- 63 per cent higher than the share price on the day Tetra announced it was in bid talks with Lynx. But if you are looking for other reasons, the answers can be kind or cruel. Kindly, one can say that Sage has had reasonable success with its Line 100 (formerly Sovereign) mid-range product. And latterly that it had tried, but in the end not managed, to make the best of a bad lot out of the Multisoft CS development. The less generous view is that it never made anything really out of the old Sky product that became Sovereign, and latterly Line 100, and that it made a pig's ear out of what once promised to become a nice silk purse at Multisoft with the CS Financials product. With Sovereign, so the story goes, Sage had always struggled to make the product work under Windows and maintain its legacy at the same time. The question for the sceptics now is 'What will happen with Tetra?' Sage surely cannot fail with such a long-term and fairly consistent success story. It certainly should not, but committed Tetra users will be right to seek assurances. Most importantly they should ask Sage what it intends to do about bringing its European product lines together. Sage is maintaining three different products from three different companies. One in France, another in Germany and a share of one in Spain. It also has interests in the US, including the very successful State of the Art. But first, let's look at why Sage is buying Tetra and why it is buying it now. The bottom line here is that it wants the mid-range market, and it wants it really badly. It has the money and Tetra -- like most businesses - has its price. So it must have felt like the obvious thing to do. But why not buy it before? It would have made sense five years ago, let alone today. There was, of course, the Multisoft distraction. Sage snapped up Multisoft at a bargain price when it was in dire straits, hoping the new acquisition could be left to its own devices. However, that was not the way it worked out and by the time Sage lost its patience it was really too late. Finally Sage is having to pay a decent price to get into this coveted market. But still, why not earlier - it has always had enough money to make a move? This is where we come to the real reason, in my opinion, for the timing of the Tetra deal - Pegasus. Pegasus is the old adversary that Sage has never quite managed to kill off. In the past, Pegasus has been in deep trouble but Sage has never struck the killer blow. Two takeover bids have been launched, resisted and repelled. Pegasus is not for sale -- at least not to Sage! And while Pegasus has failed to make any really serious impact on Sage in the low-end of the market, over the last few years its Opera product has not helped Sage's mid-range prospects. Now, Pegasus is on the verge of releasing its MPower mid-range client-server system. How good this is at selling remains to be seen but for Sage to react in such a dramatic way, it must be reasonably impressive. If Sage can sort out the Tetra deal and revamp the branding, we can expect to see a massive publicity campaign and a dealer recruitment campaign to match it. But Sage will have to act swiftly if it is to achieve any sort of brand continuity with its existing ranges and secure any meaningful reseller support. It may do nothing -- just treading-water making life hard for Pegasus' MPower could be enough. Meanwhile, it can use CS/3 - Tetra's client-server product -- to eat MPower's lunch. But Sage still has to make all of this stick. That may not be as easy as it would seem to be at first; Tetra is successful, profitable and has some excellent products. There had even been talk of Tetra repositioning itself as an ERP vendor -- another twist in the tale for Sage. This is what one Tetra dealer said: 'It came as a bit of a shock to be honest. Now it's a waiting game to see what is going to come out of it. Sage don't have any experience in the ERP market.' But that might not matter, Tetra is not really an ERP product in its own right yet. It is still an accounting package with third-party add-ons bolted on to make it into an ERP system. Tetra is a good mid-range product but you have to do too much integration at the moment and that's a slight weakness. Sage with its additional resources may be able to make that more seamless. If Sage does not manage to reassure the Tetra faithful then they may start to gravitate upwards to the established ERP solutions or towards the other mid-range accounting solutions like Sun and Exchequer. Or, woe betide, towards MPower. ® Simon Meredith is a freelance journalist
Simon Meredith, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Team Register mourns another shock departure from DTI

He was a good lad, our Graham…. The Register was saddened to hear that its favourite PR at the DTI has packed his souvenir dispatch box and is heading for a new and exciting job in Brussels. Obviously, Florence, Dougal, Brian the Snail, Dylan and all the gang here at your super soaraway Register wish young Mr Zebedee all the best in Euroland. We will miss him dearly. Someone who knows what they're talking about is so hard to find at the DTI, don't you know? Thankfully, we can still rely on our other favourites, Xena Warrior PRincess at Text 100 and our new found chum, Tiggy Tonks at Profile PR. And you think we make this stuff up - we don't need to. Is it time for bed yet? Boing! ®
Team Register, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Creative finally comes clean on MP3 player

Creative Technology officially announced its upcoming portable MP3 player this weekend. Readers will recall that Creative first discussed the player, being developed under the codename Project Nomad and set to compete head to head with Diamond Multimedia's Rio PMP300, earlier this year. Then the company denied. Then it admitted it was working on such a device (see Creative Labs spins multiple music player plans). The official announcement, made at the New York Music and Internet Expo, confirmed that Nomad will play MP3 files, as predicted here. When news of the device first emerged, Creative's European brand manager, Eion Leyden, hinted that MP3 might not be the player's prime format. He claimed MP3 "would not rule the roost," he said, clearly a nod towards the music industry's attempt to define its own digital music standard through the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). However, Creative is clearly fed up of waiting. Hock Loew, VP of Creative's Multimedia Division, said: "The market doesn't wait for legal standards to be met... You have to be able to roll with the technology." The SDMI recently said it will have its format specced up and ready to use in time for vendors to ramp up sales for Christmas 99. However, the draft specification will be released in the summer. Once the SDMI has finalised it proposals, it will open the digital music player market to the consumer electronic giants who have been holding back from the market because of both its highly controversial nature and the wide range of available music formats -- none of them yet a clear winner. Getting in ahead of these companies has to be a vital part of Creative's plan. The first Nomad is due to ship in June for under $200. It will be backed up through Creative's Inspire Web site, which will provide content and links to other MP3 providers. This approach mirrors Diamond's strategy with Rio, and is seen to be essential to gaining support for the device beyond MP3's core audience of computer buffs. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Hayes sells family silver to get out of trouble

Hayes - the name synonymous with the PC modem industry - has found a way out of its financial troubles by carving up the remaining pieces of its product portfolio and selling them off.
Tony Dennis, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq details Wildfire attack on Sun

An all-out battle between Sun and Compaq at the high end is set for later this year, with Sequent also likely to attract some of the flak from Alpha's Puma technology. Richard George, Alpha server product manager at Compaq UK, confirmed Wildfire was set to arrive towards the end of this year. (See stories: High end Alpha spreads like Wildfire and Alpha chip to clock 1.4GHz in copper) He said: "We'll produce Wildfire towards the end of the year in a 16-box configuration using EV67. It will scale to in excess of 120 CPUs using our Puma architecture. "In performance and price terms, it will knock the [Sun] Ultra 10000 out of the picture. This box is inexpensive." He said: "The order book is already filling up very nicely." George said that Wildfire will include several types of partioning. "Sun promotes its cluster-in-a-box technology but you put all your eggs in one basket," he said. "The system will let you cluster boxes, theoretically up to 1,000." He said Compaq was aiming to knock Sun off its high-end spot with Wildfire. "We're going after the Internet market and the data warehousing market," he said. "The latency between two quads over the switch is two nanoseconds, and as you add additional quad boxes, the rate never gets slower than 10 nanoseconds," he added. Meanwhile, sources close to Sequent suggested that its figures for connecting quad systems seemed to be in the order of 10 nanoseconds between two quads and 100 nanoseconds as additional quads are bolted on. George said Compaq could now run three operating systems -- Unix, NT and VMS -- on the same box simultaneously, which will also attack Sun's market share. "We've demonstrated this and now we've got to productise it," he said. That technology is about 18 months to two years away. At press time, Sun had made no contact. All of this suggests that Intel's Merced and McKinley projects may be a long away from competing with any of these products. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Lexon accused of misleading customers

UK PC assembler Lexon has hit back at accusations of damaging the market and selling PCs at less than cost price. Rivals and industry bodies alike have questioned the Croydon-based dealer's ability to sell such cheap kit. They also criticised Lexon's long delivery times. According to industry sources, Lexon has been winning reviews in magazines for selling high-spec, low cost machines. They claimed the company took orders but left customers waiting up to six weeks before their PC arrived. Lexon was this week accused of selling PCs at up to £375 below cost price in Microscope magazine. Lexon has won awards or been recommended in magazines including PCW, PC Plus, PC Direct, PC Buyer and Computer Buyer. For example, the Lexon Entra 333, Celeron 333 MHz, 64 MB SDRAM, was reviewed in PCW in February at £499 ex VAT. Rival system builder Evesham Micros said its would make about £25 margin selling this PC at £499, allowing for internal support and building costs. Price cuts in components would fall between orders and deliveries, sources claimed, making it possible for Lexon to advertise at low prices without sacrificing margin altogether. For example, Intel will cut Pentium II prices by around 10 per cent on 11 April. Luke Ireland, a director at Evesham Micros, said Lexon was damaging both the industry and customers alike. "I feel certain magazines are being misled by some smaller players. This is damaging the market in the long-term, and it's not good for the customers either," Ireland said. Lexon is certainly proving very popular. The Register sleuths found it nigh on impossible to get through to their sales department - with lines constantly busy. The report in Microscope quoted Lexon MD, Mohammed Mawji, saying: "It's utter nonsense to suggest we are selling at below cost." He claimed that delays in shipping orders were due to being "inundated with orders" and difficulty sourcing Intel Celeron 333 processors. John Banks, Lexon marketing manager, gave more detail, saying the six week lead time was only for one model - the Lexon Viper EL, with Celeron 333A chip. He said after Intel discontinued this chip for slot one, it was hard to source it. He added Lexon had now scrapped this model and lead times were between 10 and 14 working days for other machines. Banks said: "I don't think we're doing anything different to our competitors in the industry." He added: "I know our industry is fast moving, but I don't think prices drop in three weeks." ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Novell to vastly scale its NDS

Novell will later on today announce Scalable Directory Service, a system which will cope with millions of users on network. That is likely to give it an advantage over Microsoft. Its Active Directory project currently manages less than 10 million end users. More details will emerge later today, at 1700H GMT. ®
A staffer, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

x.86 has big future after Pentium III

A small consortium of chip architects has outlined its thoughts on the future of x.86 architecture post the Pentium III. The architects, who have a site here, say there's life in the old dog yet. According to the site: "The x86 architecture has longer time life than one can imagine just few years ago. Performance of the x86 microprocessor can be still dramatically improved through using new architecture approaches. We will study post Intel's Pentium-III development of x86 architecture." On the site, the engineers describe a number of approaches which they say are possible with the x.86 architecture. They also post their thoughts about EPIC. And they're looking for work. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

UK unveils proposed crypto law

The British Government has released its latest draft proposals for the regulation of strong encryption technologies, in preparation for the upcoming Electronic Commerce Bill. As anticipated (see earlier story), companies seeking to become licensed providers of encryption technology will no longer have to agree to key escrow. The proposals, presented as a consulation paper, seek to build trust in e-commerce transactions by establishing a voluntary licensing scheme for providers of cryptography services and ensuring that digital transactions are as legally binding as those made by other methods of communication. In respect to the latter, the government said it will consider removing obstacles in exisiting legislation that may result in electronic communications not being on a legal par with other media. The licensing scheme separates the provision and certification of digital signatures from the provision of data encryption services and technology. Companies offering either or both of these services would not be required to become licensed, but the government hopes that most will, under consumer pressure. Unlicensed providers' products will still be recognised under the law -- using one will simply require users to prove the products are up to scratch in the case of legal action; confidence in 'official' services can be taken as read. The government was quick to point out that licensed cryptography providers will not be forced to install a key recovery policy. Actually, there's some subtle word-play here. The government says it is consulting with the public on the basis that key escrow will not be mandatory. That doesn't mean key escrow is dead and that it will never be implemented in legislation. Indeed, the consultation document admits that the government will be monitoring its 'no escrow' policy, and it's clear that if it finds that police operations are being hampered by the legislation as it stands (or will stand, once the Bill is enacted), then it will change the rules. For the moment, the government believes the law enforcement and security forces are granted sufficient access to encrypted data under existing legislation. Again, however, it admits that might change. The Department of Trade and Industry is seeking comments from the public and industry on all of its proposals. The deadline for comments is 1 April 1999. The full consultation document, in PDF form, can be viewed here. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Hard core multiple Cyrix chips found in cyberspace

Updated Once again, Japanese Web sites seem to have pix of chips that few, if any of us, have seen in the West. This is the unofficial announcement of Cyrix 366/100 parts with new packaging. NatSemi obviously does things differently in the East, because its own Web site in Japanese has the details. (URL below). Between this morning and now, more pix giving intriguing details have appeared on the Web. Impress emailed us with the details which are here, here, here and here. We're getting sick of all of this. Go here to see what we mean. Meanwhile, Jonathan Hou, at Fullon3D has, once more, dug somewhat into this subject. As well as some explanatory details on the front page of the site, he has pointed to more pictures of the packaging. Go here, here, and here. And, finally, a Japanese reader has pointed us to NatSemi's own site there, where there are two pictures of the new packaging. Go here. Cyrix has still not managed to tell us why the Japanese market has all of this information and we don't. We're still pushing for them, but we're definitely not posting any more pix of Cyrix products. Thanks, guys. We're grateful to JC for originally noticing this one... ®
Mike Magee, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Cyber gambler takes credit card company to court

A woman who blew $70,000 at 50 cyber-casinos is now trying to sue her credit card company for allowing the transactions to be processed. Unlucky Cynthia Haines, who lives in California where gambling is illegal, was sued by her bank for unpaid bills after her disastrous run of bad luck. But she is now gambling with her future by issuing a countersuit against her credit card company in an attempt to get the courts to rule that it was at fault for allowing the multiple bets to be sanctioned in the first place. Her case hinges on the fact that the credit card company is "aiding and abetting a crime…for customers who live where the activity is outlawed," according to the report by CNET. Since credit card companies know that they are being used for illegal online gambling - and are making money from the transactions - they only have themselves to blame when someone is taken to the cleaners, pleads Haines. Rumours that Haines is running a sweepstake on the verdict have yet to be confirmed. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

FBI warns of cost of hacking

Hacking is on the increase and it appears there is little companies and organisations can do about it. More than half of all companies that took part in the fourth annual Computer Crime and Security Survey reported unauthorised access by people from inside their organisations. And 60 per cent of companies said that Internet-based attacks were becoming increasingly problematic. The figures, published by the San Francisco-based Computer Security Institute (CSI) and the FBI, also warn of a dramatic increase in reports to law enforcement organisations. The financial implications of hacking are also causing concern after the Feds revealed that the cost of unauthorised access topped $125 million according to a straw poll of 163 companies in the survey. "It is clear that computer crime and other information security breaches pose a growing threat to US economic competitiveness and the rule of law in cyberspace," the report said. "It is also clear that the tangible cost is tangible and alarming," it concluded. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Keane cuts jobs in Birmingham

Keane, the services and consultancy company, last week cut 21 jobs whilst remaining adamant of a growth strategy. The redundancies at the Birmingham-based company included 19 IT and two administrative staff. Announced last Thursday, Keane blamed the lay-offs on the fast moving nature of the industry. This leaves the company, which also has offices in London and Leeds, with around 340 staff. Keane said the long-term requirements of customers necessitated more project experience and skills. Georgina Fisk, Keane marketing manager, said the company was concentrating on application outsourcing and development, for example data warehousing. She denied the cuts were due to a disappointing 1998 at the company. "We are still planning on growing, and expansion is continuing. The entire organisation is continuously recruiting and we have an aggressive strategy for recruitment," stressed Fisk. She said the redundancies were across the company but was unable to give more detail on the actual areas affected. Keane is the UK subsidiary of US IT services giant Keane Inc. It swallowed Keane, then Icom Solutions, for £30.6 million in stock last August. See earlier story. Icom - formerly IMI Computing - became part of the Keane empire, with president John Keane Jr outlining a strategy to hit sales of $1 billion by 1999 through acquisition. The UK company's financial year ends on 31 March. It expects growth of around 80 per cent for sales and profit before tax on the previous year. 1997 showed turnover at £18.9 million and profit before tax at £1.9 million. ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Misys sells TIS Software in MBO

TIS Software has been bought from Misys by a consortium consisting of five of its directors, backed by a venture capital firm. The management buy-out was led by TIS managing director Peter Lusty. Although terms were not discussed in an official release put out today, according to industry analyst Richard Holway, the deal is valued at around £5 million. TIS will retain 50 per cent of the company's equity, Holway said, with venture capitalists Sand Aire Private Equity paying £2.65 for its half. Strategix Solutions and Global Business Systems are both part of the TIS group. The former specialises in accounting software and systems for resellers and others in the high volume distribution market. Global has an international customer base for its accountancy packages. Lusty was in bullish form, saying: "This is great news for everyone connected with TIS Software, Strategix Solutions and Global Business Systems. ®
Sean Fleming, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel case called off – as predicted here

The case between US .gov and Intel has fallen over, as first predicted here. As revealed here earlier, Intel would never go through with the public humiliation of a court trial. On the 22nd of February, The Register had information to this effect. (Story: Intel to surrender to higher US authorities) This leaves one question, and the question is about Intergraph. An Intel spokesman would only say: "We think this is a win-win agreement. Terms of settlement have been reached. This agreement is subject to the agreement of the FTC. Intel is pleased with the terms of the agreement." Intel has dealt with a subdivision of the FTC, so it is possible that a reprieve for Chipzilla is premature. The spokesman would not say whether Intel will buy Intergraph or not. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq, Dell take VIA on board

The delay of Camino and Whitney chipsets is pushing major vendors, including Dell and Compaq, into using the alternative VIA chipset. But Intel is responding to the small Taiwanese firm's challenge by saying it will support both PC-133 and AGP in a new BX-2 chipset, a reliable source tells us. However, Intel is denying this story. A spin paramedic in the UK said: "We're still 100 per cent committed to Rambus technology." Ahem. We said this would happen. (Story: Intel forced to support PC 133 SDRAM) Our normally reliable source said: "Camino and Whitney are late because of Rambus delays. In anticipation of that, people are getting ready for PC-133 and Small Rambus. "At the same time, graphics guys are going mad to get four speed AGP. "Into this vacuum comes AGP. The industry, including Compaq and Dell, is saying the VIA chipsets are looking good. "RAM vendors want to sell Rambus because they've invested millions of dollars in the technology. "Intel's solution is the new BX-2 chipset. That means it will support PC-133". ®
Mike Magee, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel-FTC deal leaves Intergraph to square – $$$ needed?

If Intel's settlement with the Federal Trading Commission stands, the chip giant still has one outstanding piece of business to deal with - Intergraph, and it could turn out to be a pricey business. Earlier today it was announced that Intel had struck a courtroom steps deal with the FTC, and provided that the terms (which are currently confidential) are approved, the company will have escaped from antitrust action by the US government. Intergraph's own antitrust action is still pending, so the next move will be for Intel to square the company. But how? The solution will lie somewhere between what the FTC wanted from Intel, and what Intergraph wants. The FTC's preferred remedy calls for "relief sufficient to foreclose the possibility that Intel might again attempt to maintain its monopoly power by using exclusionary practices to compel others to grant intellectual property licences." The FTC case, which has been described in the media ad nauseam as "narrow," was that Intel used its monopoly powers to leverage patents and favourable agreements out of its customers and partners, DEC, Compaq and Intergraph being the companies cited in the FTC complaint. Numerous other companies have however been cited as being in similar positions (e.g. Acer), so any Intel deal will have to cover companies generally, as well as just these three. The FTC says that relief "must enjoin Intel from discriminating against other companies in order to force those companies to license or sell property to Intel on Intel's terms. The order should cover the sale of products and the provision of information, prototypes and technical assistance concerning products in which Intel has a dominant position." Effectively the FTC is saying that Intel has to implement a non-discriminatory licensing policy, selling chips to all and sundry and giving everybody advance product information on level terms. No more trading IP for commercial advantage. This, incidentally, is something that Intel has freely admitted to doing, Intel's case being that it has the right to do so. As the terms of the deal remain confidential, we can't be sure how much it has given the FTC, but undoubtedly it will have had to agree to backing away from the current policy, which boils down to 'you scratch my back, I won't flay yours.' Intergraph is clearly going to be covered by the deal, and helped by it. But there are other matters outstanding which mean that the Intergraph suit doesn't automatically collapse with the FTC one. Intergraph says that it "suffered significant damage to its sales momentum and market reputation," and that can only be fixed by dollars. It also maintains that the patents which are a part of its dispute with Intel are valid, and that the Pentium, Pentium Pro and Pentium II infringe these patents, so that amounts to dollars too. And it says that "the potential size of these royalties [on the Pentia] is large, in that royalties are typically based on a percentage of the revenue of the products in which the patented technology is used." That's going to amount to tons of dollars. Having decided to head-off the FTC action before it could degenerate into a Microsoft-style circus, Intel's thoughts must now be turning to clearing the decks entirely by neutralising Intergraph. So do not be at all surprised if chipzilla elects to do this via the time-honoured mechanisms. Money will quite likely change hands, and Intel could find itself owning a rather useful designer of Intel-based workstations. Mind you, the price could still be pretty high, given that both IBM and HP have been rumoured as possible bidders for Alabama's finest. ®
John Lettice, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

We are no geeks, say IT users

IT professionals are all action heroes who regularly flirt with danger just for the hell of it. They are happiest when surfing the leading edge of an avalanche or riding mountainous waves on the southern oceans. Far from being the timid anorak-wearing geeks that you bump into on the train in the morning, these square-jawed Rambo-types are "adventurous, sporty" people who relish the thrill of adventure and think nothing of a quick bungee jump before breakfast to loosen up the joints. Well, that's according to a survey published today by services behemoth EDS, which found that more than half of all those questioned had "dared to go mountaineering, sailing, water skiing and canoeing" while over a third have had the "courage" to go flying and gliding. (Computer games don't count - Ed.) Asked which personality they associated with the most, people mentioned explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes or ex-cricketer Imran Khan. More than 90 per cent of people refused to have anything to do with Bill Gates. "In the past IT people have always been tarred with the 'anorak' image", said Alan Stevens, CEO of EDS. "This report proves that IT employees prefer to spend their free time surfing the waves than surfing the Internet," he said. The report conflicts with an earlier study that revealed that four out of five students rejected careers in IT because they thought it was boring. But the report hasn't been welcomed by everyone. The Register managed to catch up with one IT manager after watching him absail down Canary Wharf in his lunch hour. "I'd have more faith in this kind of nonsense if they could at least get the date right on the press release," said the James Bond lookalike, commenting on the fact that the EDS press release was dated 8 March 1998. "Doesn't EDS know it's 1999 -- not 1998," he said. "Or is this their way of getting round the Millennium bug?" ®
Anne O'Rack, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

MP3.com to launch IPO

Net-based digital music distributor MP3.com is to leap onto the inflated internet stock bandwagon later this year with its IPO, company CEO Michael Robertson said this weekend. Speaking at the New York Music and Internet Expo, Robertson said the initial share offering would take before the end of the year, and was suitably bullish about the company's prospects. "MP3.com is the next MTV, except it will grow much bigger," he said, modestly. Still, given the popularity of downloading music over the Internet -- Excite and Go2Net recently reported that 'MP3' was now a more frequently entered search string than 'sex' -- MP3.com, as one of the better known music providers -- could be destined for big things. The site has certainly garnered enough interest to win $11 million of financing from US venture capitalists Sequoia and Idealab. However, while the company claims to offer tracks from over 6000 artists and independent record labels -- for many of whom it sells CDs -- how many of those are likely to hit the mainstream, at least while they're represented by MP3.com -- remains to be seen. Few observers doubt the online music business is going to be worth big bucks, but companies like MP3.com are going to have to get expanding their infrastructure and roster of big-name artists sorted out, and begin making money before the major labels move in, if they're to have their share of the rewards. MP3.com also needs to move beyond its current 'the music business is out to get us' attitude. That's not to say the company doesn't have a point, but it's unlikely to have been singled out for treatment, and rival vendors don't seem to be whining about it quite so much. The company's initial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission will give an indication of the company's financial status to date, giving an interesting picture not only of MP3.com but of the status of the MP3 business as a whole. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Novell goes for gold with $2,995 fee for Platinum Vars

US Resellers wanting Novell Platinum status will have to pay for it, following the success of a pilot scheme in Europe. US Vars will be charged almost $3,000 for the privilege of a Platinum gong, according to this week's Computer Reseller News (CRN) Web site. They will join their cohorts in Europe, where Novell has been charging £2,000 since last March for entry to the equivalent top tier Business Expert category. Novell was expected to announce plans today that it would charge $2,995 per office location. Vars who are quick off the mark could save the fee by having their engineers certified on NetWare 5.0 by the 1 July deadline. The UK currently has 40-50 Novell Business Experts, according to Steve Brown, Novell UK country manager. This means the US scheme could prove fruitful with around 10 times the number of available punters in the channel. Originally, Novell wanted to charge $10,000 per Platinum Var, but strong opposition caused this balloon to burst, according to CRN. The $2,995 fee includes quarterly technical and sales training, technical support and access to the Novell Software Connect Library. While US resellers were of the opinion that Novell wanted to "weed out the non players", retaining only the keenest of partners, the vendor was keen to set the record straight. Speaking in CRN Chuck Meister, Novell vice president of field and channel sales, said: "It is not a proactive program to get rid of anybody. We looked at our channel, and we're providing more support for resellers that have more Novell focus. We're putting the wood behind the arrow, so that it means something and not spreading out the support too thin." ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

MS to spend $15 million buying into online music market

Microsoft is to announce a $15 million stake in digital content delivery specialist Reciprocal. The stake amounts to 15 per cent of the privately held Reciprocal, which is expected to launch an IPO sometime during the next couple of years, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal. On Microsoft's mind is the need to clearly improve its e-commerce offerings. "The purpose of this investment is to help build the infrastructure for the emerging market of digital goods commerce," said Microsoft's senior director for business development and strategy, Will Poole, quoted in the WSJ report. Reciprocal's particular field of expertise is the management of rights for various media. That's a core component of any e-commerce system designed to deliver music and video across the Internet. While Microsoft has technology to track the transfer of content from merchant to customer and to handle the numerous credit card transactions surrounding the download. The Reciprocal deal adds the software necessary to ensure artists and publishers get their cut of the deal. Reciprocal's president and CEO, Paul Bandrowski, said the deal was "great news for the entertainment industry". He may have a point (from a copyright protection perspective), but whether the entertainment industry, particularly the music business, will see it that way is another matter. If there's one thing that worries the major labels more than MP3, it's the thought of Microsoft grabbing a large share of their business. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Mar 1999