11th > March > 1999 Archive

How Novell (finally) got it right with NDS

AnalysisFor a company with deep Mormon roots, codenaming a future product '6-Pack' is an indication of just how far CEO Eric Schmidt has managed to change the culture at Novell. While Microsoft, the ultimate competitor, has been in vapour for a true directory service for NT, Novell all but squandered the window of opportunity that Microsoft presented by its inability to produce anything approaching NDS, or Novell Directory Service as it is now known (it was NetWare DS). The smart move Novell made was to break NDS away from NetWare, and establish it while Microsoft was crying 'Wait for us, we're the leader' and, in the absence of a product, showing slideware entitled 'Active Directory'. NDS 8, aka Scalable Directory Services (SCADS), has overcome the scalability design limitation of the previous version, although Novell still managed to sell 50 million licences of the previous version. Only Netscape's Directory Server offered any competition. NDS 8 will natively support LDAP 3. Novell is positioning it as a way for ISPs to manage user access and billing with a single directory, and will also be offering ISPs NIMS (Novell Internet Messaging System). NDS for NT 2.0 required a NetWare server for repair and IP services, but version 3.0 will not require NetWare. In the partnering arena, Novell has recently done a deal with Compaq for 6-Pack, and plans to demonstrate it later this month at Novell's Brainshare developers' conference in Salt Lake City on a Compaq eight-way server and possibly a billion directory entires, although the design was for half a million entries. The plan is to release it in beta in April. Novell is also working with Compaq on caching applications. Modesto is a 64-bit Novell server operating system product in development, and which awaits Intel's Merced release in mid-2000. Novell expects to be the first vendor to demonstrate an application on a 64-bit server OS. Novell has always had the problem of explaining to users the importance and convenience of a directory service, but increasingly Microsoft-only shops have seemed content not to have centralised control of the network in one directory. Some ineffective Novell marketing did not help. It now seems that Novell has put its finger on one marketing problem: many of its platinum VARs really wanted to use their Novell status to sell only Microsoft software. Novell made a fairly bold decision to sort out the men from the boys by charging an annual fee, first proposed at $10,000 per office, but quickly reduced to $3000 in the face of stiff opposition. The fee will cover training, software and support. Relations with Microsoft have been cool but stable, with Schmidt keeping Novell out of contentious situations as much as possible. Novell's recovery is at Microsoft's expense, according to a Barron's cover story. Of course Microsoft will be commissioning surveys from any organisation willing to work to rule, so to speak, to show that Active Directory numbers far exceed NDS numbers -- but any comparison is meaningless because the products are so very different in capability. Schmidt said in a recent interview that Novell had changed from being NetWare-centric to having a spectrum of networking products. He sees caching as the new business driver. He admitted to being somewhat shell-shocked at the depth of Novell's problems, but the turning point had been the release of NetWare 5. Last month, Novell produced a fiscal Q1 profit of $29 million on sales of $286 million, consolidating the recovery. The market liked what it saw, and Novell shares have now doubled in the past year. ®
Graham Lea, 11 Mar 1999

Gateway takes latest Western Digital drives

Western Digital has announced a deal with direct vendor Gateway to ship its higher performance hard drives. Gateway yesterday started moving the WD Expert 7200 RPM hard drive with giant magnetoresisitve (GMR) heads and the Ultra ATA-66 interface in the Gateway Performance product line. This deal moves Western Digital into a more profitable area of the market. The market for these hard drives is expected to accelerate throughout the rest of 1999, according to market researcher IDC. GMR is a way of reading much a much higher density signal, so more information can be stored on each disk. The ATA-66 also speeds up the rate data can be transferred from disk to PC. Bob Peyton, analyst at IDC, said these Western Digital products were the latest technology available for desktops. He added it seemed Western Digital was adopting a change of strategy to compete in such a tough margin arena. "Western Digital is the most exposed company to price erosion in this area. It is trying to move up to greater performance products to get higher margins," he said. Peyton added that the lower end desktop drive industry was "not behaving rationally at the moment" and that margins were very tight in Western Digital's traditional market. He said this situation looked set to continue well into next year. The Irvine, California-based company said the total transition to GMR heads from standard anisotropic magnetoresisitve (AMR) heads was expected by the end of the year. ®
Linda Harrison, 11 Mar 1999

3Com, MS form home networking product alliance

3Com and Microsoft today announced they are to jointly develop a series of co-branded home networking products. The companies said the will offer four networking kits. The first two will be based on Ethernet and phone cabling, respectively. Both will go on sale to OEMs in the summer and to consumers in the autumn. The phone cabling kit will offer 10Mbps data throughput -- the Ethernet kit will use the 10/100Mbps standard. Later -- though neither Microsoft nor 3Com said when precisely -- the companies will add a radio-frequency kit to the line-up and a fourth pack that will allow users to network their PCs via their houses' power cables. The hardware side of the project seems to be pretty much a 3Com affair. Microsoft will be contributing software, specifically Windows 98 modem-sharing technology. It is also likely to use the kits to promote its Universal Plug and Play (UPnP -- which sounds to us more like the result to consuming too much beer than anything else) scheme for connecting multiple devices to a Wintel-based PC network. That could enable Microsoft to get UPnP out into the market ahead of devices based on Sun's rival networking technology, the Java-based Jini, and more home-oriented systems such as HAVi, developed by eight key players in the consumer electronics industry (see Microsoft touts PnP system for PCs and appliances). On the subject of networking standards bodies, Microsoft and 3Com said their phone cabling kit would be compatible with the Home Phone Networking Alliance (HomePNA) spec. HomePNA is backed by 3Com plus the likes of Lucent, AT&T, Tut Systems, HP, IBM, Intel, Compaq, AMD and, it was announced separately today, Matushita. The specification itself is based on Tut's 1Mbps networking technology. The body's stated goal is to get that up to 10Mbps -- the fact that's what the MS/3Com kit is expected to offer suggests HomePNA is getting close to that goal. It can network up to 25 devices. ® See also Intel, MS, Nortel, HP to unify Net technologies
Tony Smith, 11 Mar 1999

Anti-spam campaign gathers momentum

Almost 15,000 people have signed a pan-European petition against the legalisation of unsolicited junk e-mail -- or spam -- by the European Union. The campaign -- lead by top German computer magazine c't and supported by The Register (see earlier story) -- has today received further support from the European Internet Service Providers’ Association (EuroISPA). The influential group is also calling on the European Parliament to strengthen anti junk mail provisions in the Draft Directive on Legal Aspects of Electronic Commerce. "Junk mail costs consumers money through their phone bill and time to delete the unwanted mail," said Jean-Christophe Le Toquin from EuroISPA. "It also costs ISPs money in bandwidth and capacity. Commercial e-mailers should not object to being restricted to mailing only those people who have given their consent to receive such mail," he said. The European Commission has proposed the problem can be resolved by "tagging" junk mail so that users can identify junk mail as soon as it arrives. But there are widespread fears that this would give junk mailers carte blanche to send at least one junk mail to everyone before consumers had a chance to set up a filter. EuroISPA is calling for all unsolicited commercial e-mail to be banned. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Mar 1999

Intel, MS, Nortel, HP to unify Net technologies

Intel, Microsoft, Nortel and Hewlett-Packard are set to embark on a major networking technology alliance, due to be officially announced early next week. The alliance will create a joint development effort centred on unifying the companies' chip, browser, networking and PC technologies, according to a report in the US edition of PC Week. The goal is to allow the Internet to handle high-bandwidth applications, delivered by servers to client PCs. So, Intel and Nortel will modify the latter's 1Mbps DSL modem technology to work more closely with the former's Pentium III processor, paving the way for it to be built into PC hardware. Interestingly, when Intel previewed the PIII back in February, officials said DSL would be essential for delivering via the Net the kind of 3D graphics, and streamed audio and video that the chip was designed to accelerate. That sounds suspiciously like an admission that without DSL, your PIII isn't going dramatically improve your Web experience, which is what the Great Satan's PIII advertising is currently claiming. HP will be contributing application server technology to the alliance, claimed the report. Microsoft will be support Nortel's intelligent networking protocols in both Windows and Internet Explorer to improve the OS' remote networking functionality. ® See also 3Com, MS form home networking product alliance
Tony Smith, 11 Mar 1999

Y2k bug to blight the countryside

The Millennium bug yesterday singled out its next victim -– our agricultural community. Yes, farmers may have to stay sober this New Year's Eve to cope with the threat of Y2k. The bug could see already hard pressed farmers milking cows and feeding chickens by hand. This unusual sector of the technology industry doesn't often make the IT press, but the Daily Telegraph today highlighted the dangers involved. The latest blow to farmers came when the government claimed they were not taking the flesh-eating millennium bug seriously and were consequently endangering the country’s food supplies. As if farmers didn't have enough to worry about, what with the price of fertiliser these days, but their animals may go unmilked and unfed and fruit and vegetables go off if computer run machines are not protected. Milking machines, feeding systems and cold stores are often now run on automatic machinery. Battery hen houses and pig rearing units could find ventilation and feeding systems disrupted. In addition there may not be enough manpower to do the work by hand, what with all those 1 January pounding heads, defunct cash machines and public transport up the chute. Lord Donoughue, the farming industry minister, said: "This is an issue which the whole industry needs to take seriously. Some people are already working to beat the problem but it is vital that everyone takes action now." The Daily Telegraph tracked down a Hampshire broiler farm owner, William McKenzie. "We are taking no chances. Both my brother and I will be stone cold sober on the night of the Millennium just in case something goes wrong," he said. Naturally, Team Register will be also be staying sober so that we can fill our site with stories about the Y2k bug bringing IT systems to their knees. ®
Linda Harrison, 11 Mar 1999

Sun to build XML support into Java

Sun is to add support for the Extensible Markup Language (XML) to Java in a bid to allow the language to take the lead in the development of next-generation e-commerce applications. Sun's work centres on the development of an XML API for Java which will standardise the way the language can be used to interpret and process XML code. XML itself is being touted primarily as the successor to the HTML. While HTML is designed to format and display text and simple bit-map images, XML's scope is much wider, allowing Web designers to define their own formatting languages that best fit the kind of data they want to display on the Web. For that reason, XML is increasingly being viewed as the lingua franca for e-commerce, and has already won the backing of a number of key e-commerce software players. Microsoft, Bluestone and Software AG have already announced XML-based e-commerce servers, and Oracle, IBM and Sun are believed to be getting ready to announce products of their own. Sun's move is clearly aimed at ensuring Java becomes the natural choice of developers building advanced e-commerce Web sites. Again, the company is playing its non-proprietary card: "[The API] will benefit enterprises because they need not be concerned about incompatibilities with each vendor using a proprietary XML parser," said Sun's senior product manager for XML, Nancy Lee. Like other Java products of late, the XML API will be released under Sun's open source-style Java Community software licence. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Mar 1999

Microsoft lawyer memo ‘leaked’

Dave Heiner, a Microsoft lawyer, prepared a memo entitled "In case any of you care to hear 'our' side". This was distributed internally at Microsoft on 3 March, with an invitation to "forward it within your organization if you wish". It has been used by Microsoft PR for selectively briefings. The nod has no doubt been given for it to be leaked more widely, and a copy has fallen into our IN box. Heiner is best known in the trial for his interjections during the Gates' video deposition, when he was heard to cry "objection" repeatedly. The best-known previous leak of this kind was of a memo prepared by Gates in 1991 for senior Microsoft staff, which was faxed by Microsoft's PR firm Waggener Edstrom to anybody requesting it. Since we now know what Gates' memos are really like, there is now no doubt that Gates had a wider audience in mind when he wrote the memo, in view of his pompous phrasing. In the conclusion, Heiner claims that each side may present up to three more witnesses, but that is not exactly what Judge Jackson ordered: he was prepared to allow three for Microsoft because of the extensive Gates' deposition, but only two for the DoJ. Ominously, Heiner notes that the case "is likely to continue to progress through the courts (the use of the plural is particularly interesting) for quite some time". The clues that the memo was intended for wider consumption are clear enough: no senior Microsoft staff member receiving the memo would need to be told where Microsoft’s selection of trial documents are to be found on Microsoft’s website. Nor would it be normal practice to spell out what an ISP was. The memo should therefore be seen for what it is – an attempt to let readers think that they are privy to Microsoft’s internal legal thinking. In fact, it is an extremely biased propaganda piece. Heiner says in the memo (three times) that Microsoft won in the Court of Appeals by unanimous decisions: "In both cases, however, we won in court, and did so by unanimous decisions of the Court of Appeals. (Appeals are heard by panels of three judges.)." The truth is somewhat different. Judge Judith Wild dissented in the key part of the main issue -- the interpretation of the consent decree. In addition, in the appeal to have Professor Lessig’s appointment as a special master stayed, Judge Lawrence Silberman was one of the three judges. Yet he had to recuse himself very shortly afterwards because a trust fund over which he had control held Microsoft stock. He did not explain whether this had been the case when he made earlier pro-Microsoft pronouncements, such as against Judge Sporkin in 1995. With these provisos, we present the text to Register readers without further comment. Next page
Graham Lea, 11 Mar 1999

Cont. Microsoft lawyer memo ‘leaked’

Previous page In Case Any of you care to hear "our" side... Subject: DOJ Case: What's Happening Last week we finished the first phase of the DOJ trial. We thought it would be useful at this juncture to provide you with a report concerning the claims asserted against Microsoft and how the evidentiary record is shaping up. You may forward this mail within your organization if you wish. INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS It is not easy for any company to be the subject of a full scale monopolization case brought by the U.S. government. This case has been no exception. Here the DOJ, nineteen states and Microsoft’s leading competitors (Netscape, AOL, Sun, IBM and Apple) have allied to attack Microsoft’s efforts to develop and market Internet-related software (and other software). As you know, the allegations of wrongdoing—some of them quite sensational—have received a great deal of attention in the press. Microsoft did everything it could to avoid this lawsuit. Most importantly, in the weeks before the case was filed we worked cooperatively with the government to try to find a resolution short of litigation that would be acceptable to both sides. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any solution that satisfied the government while preserving Microsoft’s freedom to design and develop innovative new software products. So we have this lawsuit, and all the allegations that go with it. Fortunately, lawsuits are decided on the basis of law and facts, not allegations and mere hearsay. The law is fairly well understood, having been established by more than 100 years’ worth of cases decided under the nation’s antitrust laws. Similarly, although press reports inevitably focus upon points of controversy, the central facts relevant to the applicable legal principles are largely undisputed. We believe that these facts—now established in the evidentiary record—clearly show that none of the Microsoft conduct challenged by the government is anticompetitive. Quite to the contrary, nearly all of the Microsoft conduct at issue in the trial is affirmatively pro-competitive—conduct that antitrust law is designed to promote. Competitors are supposed to compete, and that is what Microsoft has done. We are proud of the great job our platform developers have done building strong support for Internet standards into Windows. We are proud of the great job the Java team has done building the fastest, most compatible implementation of a Java virtual machine and the industry’s leading Java dev tools. We are proud of our efforts to rapidly disseminate improved versions of Windows to the marketplace, both through new releases of Windows and through broad distribution of Internet Explorer upgrades to existing Windows installations. All of this conduct directly benefits ISVs, OEMs and customers. And all of it has been challenged by the government. We believe that the government’s case against Microsoft is profoundly anti-consumer. Developing innovative new technology and broadly distributing that technology to consumers is exactly what every computer company is supposed to do (regardless of its market share). The government has created a lot of noise around various random incidents ‘or pieces of email. Although these incidents have generated headlines, much of this evidence has been largely or even entirely irrelevant to any of the issues in the case. Much of it simply reflects the intensity of competition with the software industry, routine interactions among computer companies, or internal discussions of ideas that were never implemented. Strong language, however, is not illegal. Next page
Graham Lea, 11 Mar 1999

Cont. Microsoft lawyer memo leaked

Previous page Notably, the government has been unable to rebut certain key facts, known by all to be true, that undermine all of its claims. We have methodically and somewhat painstakingly developed an extensive evidentiary record, running to thousands of pages, that establishes these key facts, and does so in considerable detail with extensive reference to contemporaneous documents. The government has not even attempted to refute the vast majority of the testimonial and supporting documentary evidence presented by Microsoft. For example, every single one of the government's claims is premised on the assertion that Microsoft blocked Netscape’s ability to distribute Netscape Navigator to customers, in part by our Internet-related improvements to Windows and in part by contracts with third parties. We have shown in many different ways that the claim is false. Netscape has successfully distributed Navigator in vast quantities. This year alone Netscape will distribute about 159 million copies of Navigator -- which is two or three copies for every man, woman and child using the Internet. The source of that testimony, and much more of similar import, is Jim Barksdale, the CEO of Netscape. Faced with testimony like this, the government has not attempted to quantify in any way the alleged "foreclosure" of Netscape’s distribution, leaving a complete failure of proof on this key point. The government has also alleged, as it must, that the Microsoft conduct it challenges does not make "business sense" apart from its alleged negative effect on Netscape. This too is plainly false. For example, the government’s lead economist, Professor Fisher, testified that Microsoft’s "browser development" does not "make sense from a business standpoint." But who can doubt the benefits for Microsoft and its customers of developing innovative Internet client software? And who can doubt the benefits of integrating such client software tightly into Windows? In fact, we have thoroughly documented the many benefits for ISVs, OEMs and end-users of Microsoft’s Internet-related improvements to Windows. The government has not attempted to refute the testimony of Jim Allchin, Mike Devlin (CEO of Rational, an ISV that leverages the Internet Explorer technologies in Windows), Glenn Weadock (the government’s own expert witness), and others, all of whom have testified to the customer benefits inherent in Microsoft’s integrated design. (Remember all the drama around Jim Allchin’s testimony? That drama related to a narrow sideshow issue—certain defects in a software program designed by the government—not to the central thrust of Jim’s testimony, which concerned the benefits of Microsoft’s integrated design. The government cannot, and has not, challenged those benefits.) The case against Microsoft will be decided by applying the relevant legal principles to the evidentiary record. As explained more fully below, we believe that none of the government’s claims can be sustained on the basis of the record as it now stands. You are no doubt thinking that most of the press coverage paints a far different picture of how the trial is going for Microsoft. I will not dwell upon press coverage in this mail, other than ask that you consider the following: First, most news accounts don't undertake the somewhat difficult task of assessing the significance of the evidence presented each day against the legal standards on which the case will be decided. Trials can be pretty dull (think of an afternoon spent listening to testimony on the intricacies of native code interfaces in Java class libraries). Given the tedious nature of court proceedings, most news accounts of the trial focus upon moments of seeming "drama," even though such vignettes may be irrelevant to the likely outcome of the trial. Second, most news accounts have given far more attention to the accusations than to the Microsoft rebuttals (which often come much later, when our witnesses take the stand). "Apple Exec Claims Sabotage" is a lot more interesting headline than news three months later that a Microsoft witness, as expected, denies the charge (and proves it false). Third, and most importantly, remember that press coverage was quite negative in connection with both of our prior antitrust cases. In both cases, however, we won in court, and did so by unanimous decisions of the Court of Appeals. (Appeals are heard by panels of three judges.) In late 1994/early 1995, we saw negative press coverage in connection with Judge Sporkin’s review and ultimate rejection of a proposed "consent decree" between Microsoft and the Department of Justice. The Court of Appeals, however, unanimously determined that Judge Sporkin erred, and agreed with Microsoft that he should be disqualified from presiding over the case for failing to maintain the appearance of impartiality. (We had been criticized in the press for arguing that the judge appeared to be biased.) A little over a year ago we saw negative press coverage in connection with Judge Jackson’s issuance of a preliminary injunction concerning OEM licensing of Windows 95. In June 1998, however, the Court of Appeals unanimously determined that Judge Jackson erred in issuing the injunction. The Court based its decision on an evidentiary hearing held in the trial court in January 1998 that would not have taken place if Microsoft had followed the pundits' advice to accede to DOJ demands concerning the injunction. The resulting Court of Appeals decision should help us greatly in the current case. Set forth below is a summary statement of the key legal standards and facts concerning the primary claims against Microsoft. For more information on the case, visit the Microsoft PressPass site, which has copies of the written testimony of all the Microsoft witnesses and other trial materials. The PressPass Trial Update is here. Next Page
Graham Lea, 11 Mar 1999

UK Web users won’t reap benefit of OFTEL decision on call charges

There has been a mixed reaction to OFTEL's announcement that there should be no immediate change to the way the cost of telephone calls to the Internet are divvied out between telcos and ISPs. Many industry insiders have welcomed the news that OFTEL is proposing to abolish a minimum call charge as a way of increasing competition among providers. But it is those ISPs which still offer subscription-based services which are more likely to benefit from any future competition since they will be better placed to forge deals with telcos and set dial-up charges below the current local call rate. And they can only do that because they are gaining revenue partly by a small subscription charge bolstered by earnings from reduced interconnect charges. Spokeswoman Rachel O'Neil, said AOL UK had no plans to pass on the saving it already gets to its members insisting instead that this money is ploughed back into the company to improve its network infrastructure. But Nick Wells, marketing manager of ISP ClaraNet said OFTEL's announcement was a "healthy move". The company is already a step ahead of the competition after recently introducing ClaraCall a subscription-based service that cuts the cost of calls by up to 40 per cent. "We might even be in the position to cut the cost again," said Wells. Unfortunately, such a move will be harder for subscription-free ISPs to introduce as they rely on their cut of each telephone call for revenue. It's a view upheld by David Clarke, head of Virgin Net -- which recently announced the launch of its subscription free service -- who said he has no plans to take advantage of this new freedom. The money Virgin Net receives from the interconnect charge is used to fund the service, he says, and makes up for the loss of revenue from dropping subscription charges. A spokesman for BT -- which originally asked OFTEL to investigate the pricing arrangements -- said the company would not comment on the proposal until it had time to digest the report. ® The Register’s opinion Yesterday's announcement by OFTEL to do next to nothing with call charge rates for Net users makes even the dampest of squibs seem explosive by comparison. At least by maintaining the status quo OFTEL can't be accused of rocking the boat. Yet some industry commentators have said the cost of Net access will tumble over the coming years once new pricing structures are introduced to promote tariff competition. Others have said that "free" Net access will become "freer" as service providers pass on their cut of the interconnect charge to the consumer. Sure enough, OFTEL's proposals may well lead to greater competition among providers. For ISPs, it will probably mean that they will have to offer different packages to suit different needs. Subscription-free services will favour light users; subscription-based services offering cheaper phone calls for heavier users. For consumers, tough, it will mean that choosing an ISP will get harder. Confusion, it seems, will reign supreme and it will be down to the poor old consumer to navigate the maze of different pricing plans and find one that suits them. Which is why anyone who believes that OFTEL's proposals will provide a sizeable fillip to electronic commerce in the UK is simply mistaken. How can government, regulators, telcos, ISPs and fledgling e-commerce companies expect any form of significant progress in the wired world when every time e-punters log on to the Internet they've always got one eye on the clock? ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Mar 1999

Laugh along with the MS Spellchecker

No 317 of an occasional series.... Why is it that the spellchecker in MS Word 97 always suggests "offal" as a replacement for OFTEL? And when it comes across Dixons it always prompts "dioxins" as a toxic surrogate. Is this a display of artificial intelligence stored somewhere in the humble WP package…or does it just have a sense of humour? ®
Rim Tichardson, 11 Mar 1999

FreeServe MD catches some powder, man

They'll be calling it FreeSWerve next... Mark Danby, the head honcho of free ISP Dixons FreeServe, is one cool cookie. While the rest of the industry was fearing the worst from OFTEL's report on dial up charges to the Internet, Danby was attending snowboarding championships deep in Austrian avalanche country. The only thing cooler than that - Mark Danby's underpants when he falls off his board. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Mar 1999

AMD takes Fujitsu foundry route

AMD has decided to second source some of its wafer production. It will use its long time partner Fujitsu to help it produce Flash, thus freeing up more capacity. Robert Stead, European marketing director of AMD, acknowledged this morning that producing enough chips to meet demand was the company's main problem. The fab in Dresden will only produce K7s, he said. But now it is to use Fujitsu, its long-time Flash partner in Europe. But why doesn't it use IBM, we wonder. Meanwhile distributors are reporting that while they have "adequate supplies" of AMD K6-III/400MHz parts, it won't be until June that 450MHz parts arrive...®
Mike Magee, 11 Mar 1999

Each Merced pin to cost nearly eight bucks

After we had our Merced photographs blown up out of all proportion, we carefully counted the pins on each side of the array and came to the following conclusions. If a Merced cartridge contains two arrays which amount to 418 balls and the chip costs $3,000, that will mean each pin costs $7.71. If it's only $2,000, each pin will be cheaper. And if it's only $1,000, each pin will be cheaper still. But it's very expensive, isn't it? When we get home we'll scan the super enlargements in, for your predeliction... ®
Mike Magee, 11 Mar 1999

MP3, SDMI toast, claims Broadcast.com exec

MP3 and its potential nemesis, the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), are not the future, Mark Cuban, president and chairman of Broadcast.com told attendees of the MultimediaCom conference, in San Jose, California, yesterday. Instead, Web-based delivery of music and video will be defined by streaming media technologies, predicted the head of a streaming media technology company. Cuban cited MP3's nature as a standard as its weak point. Its specification is fixed, preventing it from being extended and evolving as other technologies and file formats begin to match or even exceed the level of compression and sound quality it offers. He also predicted the SDMI, an attempt by the music industry and technology companies to produce an alternative to MP3 that protects music copyrights, would fail. Other failures would be the leading film rights and CD distribution companies, who, said Cuban, would be dead or have changed beyond recognition before the first decade of the next century was out. Cuban's line is actually an old argument. Back in the early 90s, various pundits predicted that soon we would all be receiving music and video directly via high bandwidth connections, much as we receive TV programmes. Fancy spending a few hours with Maria Callas as Madame Butterfly? Then just dial up the opera on your hi-fi and sit back and listen to it as its zapped over in real time. It's essentially pay-per-view for music. The equivalent for movies was the much hyped video on-demand. Why maintain a collection of tapes/CDs/DVDs when you can call up in an instant any song, album or film at the push of a button? Cuban's slightly more up-to-date version of this old idea foresees a world dominated by the likes of Real Networks -- who, incidentally, he reckons will be bought by a telco within the next 12 months -- and, as intermediaries between technology and consumer, Broadcast.com. You can see his point. The current online music market is driven by PC users who are, generally speaking, happy with downloading files, even those files end up on other systems/media, be they Rios, hi-fi separates or CDs. More mainstream listeners and viewers may not be quite so happy with that PC-oriented approach. An, in a sense, there's the precedent of the video rental store for this new world of music and video only when you want them. That said, just as there's a market for rented tapes, there's also a market for sell-through videos, and its hard to see an industry embarking on flogging DVDs as replacements for all those over-played, chewed up copies of Terminator 2 not getting its money's worth before moving into a direct delivery approach. Given that the companies controlling music and movie production also control their distribution, it's hard to see a company like RealNetworks streaming full-screen, full-motion movies to peoples' TV via the Net if Sony, Universal, Disney et al. refuse to allow them access to their catalogues lest it screw up their DVD sales. Equally, if you know you're going to watch a movie more than seven times, you won't want to pay £2 per view when you can buy a DVD for £15 and get unlimited viewing. Streaming media technologies will therefore have to embrace a wide range of payment modes and overcome consumers' notions that they want something solid for their £15 before it really takes off. Cuban's vision may be realised, but it's going to take rather longer than he predicted this week. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Mar 1999

Psion Dacom restructures business model

Gareth Hughes, MD of Psion Dacom, said today that while 1998 was an "exceptional" year for his company, the incursion of embedded solutions was eroding its business. And now the company will deliver solutions aimed at the corporate market, and move into the MiniPCI and Fast Ethernet arena. Said Hughes: "1998 was a terrific year. We increased the number of units sold to just over 800,000, which represented growth of over 150 per cent. Every year the average selling price declines by about 20 per cent so we have to sell more units just to stay still." He said: "The rapid roll-out of embedded modems will detrimentally affect our growth." Psion Dacom will not spin itself off as a separate business, said Hughes. Instead, it will concentrate on supplying its Gold Card solutions to corporations, which because of their internal policies, prefer cards to embedded solutions. Plus, most embedded modem solutions depend on implementations of the Windows operating system and large corporations do not want to be tied to just one OS. Today, Psion Dacom announced a CardBus-based Global card offering 56K modem access and 10/100 Fast Ethernet access. The Fast Ethernet continues to grow, said Hughes, citing IDC figures. Sources said Toshiba was likely to be the first of Psion Dacom's large OEM customers likely to re-brand the Gold Card. Other customers it has include IBM and Dell. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Mar 1999

Intel: S3 had us by the goolies

Sources close to Intel told The Register today that if S3 had squeezed harder last year, it could have forced Intel to back down on future technologies. S3 has bounced back this year on the technology and sales front with its Savage 4 3D acceleration chipset. But last year was a different story. Our sources close said: "S3 was in a parlous state because its strategy on the graphics front was not good. The cash flow situation was not good either but it had very good patents it bought in an auction, including some from Exponential." Intel needed those and so in return for some investment, cross licensed the patents, the source continued. But competitor AMD was unaware of S3's former plight. If it had known, said an AMD executive who did not wish to be named today, it would have ensured S3 could continue, unabashed. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Mar 1999

Ingram Micro slashes workforce

Ingram Micro today said it would shed 1,400 jobs and expected first quarter earnings would fall short of analysts’ estimates. Ingram Micro said it expected net sales for the 1999 first quarter to fall between $6.5 and $6.7 billion, up 26 to 30 per cent over the same period last year. The distributor said it would close its California-based consolidation centre, realign its sales force and create a merchandising organisation that integrated purchasing, vendor sales and product marketing functions. This would result in the job cuts. Some investors had been recently offloading computer stock amid fears that a glut of PC inventory could cover up growth in this quarter. Ingram Micro blamed the figures on Year 2000 fears and cautious buying trends in Europe, Latin America and Asia caused by continuing economic issues. Robert Grambo, Ingram Micro European executive VP and COO told The Register: "Ingram Micro Europe has no plans for a mass layoff as announced by Ingram Micro in the US." He added that the European operation would continue to evaluate working conditions and realign its business. The company would do this by "focusing on improving inefficient processes, increase the utilisation of e-commerce and reduce discretionary spending such as travel and entertainment," said Grambo. ®
Linda Harrison, 11 Mar 1999

Unique ID codes on mobile PIIs no accident

UpdatedIntel has continued to come under fire over unique ID codes on the PII chip fiasco it engineered. Yesterday, the chip giant claimed the problem was a bug -– a phenomenon Intel prefers to call an erratum. Now it is claiming the bug was driving the van that delivered the chips. Readers of The Register have since cried foul, accusing Intel of hastily covering its tracks "Special PSN codes and MSR.FEATURE_FLAGS indicating PSN don't get added by accident," said one reader. The criticism continued: "If this was an accident then I'm supposed to believe that Intel is blaming this whole mess on a bunch of their own incompetent verification engineers." Intel is now claiming the 'erratum' lies not so much in the technology but in the shipping of that technology. A representative of Intel UK said: "This facility was built-in as a prototype technology - it was for our own testing purposes. It should have been turned off before it was shipped, but it wasn't - that was the erratum." Responding to the details covered in yesterday's story, the Chipzilla representative said to day that a fix for the bug (sorry, 'erratum') was in the pipeline. "We have identified a BIOS workaround to address the erratum. Users can contact their computer manufacturers for the BIOS workaround specific to their computer which corrects this erratum." ®
Sean Fleming, 11 Mar 1999

Memo – web browser distribution

Previous page Web browser distribution As noted above, all of the government's claims are premised on the theory that Microsoft "foreclosed" Netscape from distributing its Web browsing software to consumers. Since competition on the merits can have the effect of depriving competitors of certain distribution outlets, courts require proof of a great deal of "foreclosure" before they will consider such a claim. In this case, Judge Jackson has already ruled that the government "must establish foreclosure of greater than 40 per cent prevail on their exclusive dealing claims". But the following facts -— all undisputed by the government -— show that Netscape has enjoyed great distribution for Navigator. In fact, as shown below, the evidence at trial shows that every distribution channel remains open to Netscape. * Jim Barksdale admitted on cross-examination that Navigator is "ubiquitous". * Jim Barksdale admitted that under Netscape's "Unlimited Distribution" program the company would distribute approximately 159 million copies of Navigator -— more than the "total number of people connected to the Web". * Jim Barksdale admitted that are currently "somewhere between 40 million and 70 million" users of Netscape Navigator. * Jim Barksdale admitted that more than 26 million copies of Navigator were downloaded off the Internet from January through August 1998. (The government alleges that downloading software is too hard, and thus is not a realistic channel of significant software distribution.) * Microsoft's expert economist, Professor Richard Schmalensee, calculated that the number of Netscape users has more than doubled in less than three years, despite intense competition from Microsoft. Next page
Graham Lea, 11 Mar 1999

Microsoft Memo – - unlawful tying

Previous page UNLAWFUL TYING The government claims that one of the primary means by which Microsoft has "foreclosed" Netscape’s ability to distribute its browser is through "tying" Internet Explorer to Windows. Yet the government has flip-flopped 180 degrees on this issue. Less than one year ago, the DOJ insisted that Windows and Internet Explorer were two entirely separate products (not a single, integrated product), connected only by an alleged contractual requirement that OEMs who want Windows must also take Internet Explorer. That claim has since been shown to be false—by Microsoft, by counsel for Netscape, by the Court of Appeals and even by the DOJ's own expert witnesses, all of whom understand that Internet Explorer software is an important aspect of Windows. So the government has now reversed course, arguing that Internet Explorer is indeed tightly integrated into Windows, but shouldn’t be because some customers might prefer a browser-less version of Windows. In other words, the government is simply arguing that a design other than the design chosen by Microsoft might be optimum. Several of the government witnesses have emphasized that Microsoft "could have" designed Windows differently. That conclusion, however, is legally irrelevant. The courts have long been clear that the government has little or no role to play in product design, for fear that any contrary approach would create undue legal risk and thus chill legitimate product innovation. In particular, in the June 1998 decision the Court of Appeals ruled that challenges to an integrated product fail as a matter of law (meaning without the need for further factual inquiry) if "there is a plausible claim that (the integration) brings some advantage". Judge Jackson has already determined that the framework set forth in the Court of Appeals decision applies in the current case. In this case, as noted above, we have exhaustively documented and demonstrated the clear ISV, OEM and customer benefits from Microsoft’s inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows. The benefits are described in detail in the testimony of Paul Maritz and Jim Allchin. The benefits of Microsoft’s integrated design are so plain that the government knew it could not challenge them. Instead, it merely established that installing Internet Explorer 4.0 on Windows 95 provides many (though not all) of the Internet-related benefits of Windows 98. (The government established this point with great fanfare in court, asking variations on the same question 19 times.) Jim explained, of course, that the ability of IE 4 to provide many of the Internet-related benefits of Windows 98 merely reflects the fact that IE 4 was designed as an operating system upgrade, which overwrites key system files upon installation. Ignoring that statement of fact, the government argued to the press that Jim’s testimony showed that customers do not benefit from integration because they get almost the same benefits if IE 4 is delivered separately. This government argument was well-received by the press. The government argument is unlikely to fare well in court, however, because the identical argument, on identical facts, has already been flatly rejected by the Court of Appeals. The Court explained that consumers benefit from Microsoft's integrated design: "if Microsoft presented [OEMs] with an operating system and a stand-alone browser application, rather than the interpenetrating design of Windows 95 and IE 4, the OEMs could not combine them in the way in which Microsoft has integrated IE 4 into Windows 95." The fact that software can be upgraded after it is initially installed is a benefit for customers, not a reason to condemn a beneficial integrated design as "unlawful tying". Microsoft’s inclusion of Internet-related client services in Windows obviously does not prevent Netscape and others from building standalone Web browser applications for Windows, and they have done so with great success. In fact, Microsoft’s integrated design plainly facilitates development of such software (and thereby promotes competition) since browser developers can leverage all or some of the Internet Explorer components in Windows if they wish to do so. We showed in court, for example, that many leading PCs come with the Encompass browser pre-installed (even though the government alleges that OEMs are reluctant to install more than one browser). Through the testimony of Joachim Kempin, we have shown that OEMs are free to, and do, install competing browser software on new PCs running Windows, including Netscape Navigator. Indeed, all OEMs are free to configure Navigator as the default browser on the system. All OEMs are free to heavily optimize the appearance of new PCs to promote Netscape Navigator. In addition, we have introduced proof on all of the following points relating to the government’s tying claim: * Several of the government’s witnesses testified that Internet Explorer is integrated into Windows 98. In March 1998, Netscape’s counsel told the DOJ in writing that Internet Explorer was so tightly integrated into Windows 98 that it could not be removed without impairing the operating system. * The benefits of Microsoft’s integrated design, and much of the utility of the Windows platform generally, would be lost if OEMs were free to install as much or as little of Windows as they please, such as with or without IE (as the DOJ proposes). * All modern operating systems include Web browsing software. Microsoft is the leader in bringing customers the benefits of an integrated approach to accessing and displaying information across Internet and non-Internet related data stores. * Microsoft’s decision to build great Internet support, including full Web browsing capability, into Windows pre-dates the company’s awareness that Netscape even existed. Our integration efforts accelerated as competition with Netscape intensified. * The so-called "IE removal program" developed by Professor Felten does NOT remove IE from Windows and does not even fully hide access to the IE software in Windows. Felten’s testimony to the contrary is plainly false. Our video demonstration showed how to browse the Web in Windows 98 after Felten’s IE removal program is run. The DOJ never challenged this aspect of the videotape. * The government has failed even to identify what software constitutes the allegedly "tied" product. (The answer cannot be simply "Internet Explorer software" because the government proposes that nearly every line of that software remain in Windows.) * Nothing about Microsoft’s integrated design keeps Navigator from running well on Windows 95 and Windows 98. In fact, Navigator itself takes advantage of some of the Internet-related system services in Windows. * Jim Barksdale testified that Netscape distributes Navigator through such leading OEMs as Compaq, Fujitsu, Gateway, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Sony. Next page
Graham Lea, 11 Mar 1999

Some Microsoft Memoes are longer than others

Previous page EXCLUSIONARY CONTRACTS In addition to "tying", the government alleges that Microsoft entered into a series of contracts with online service providers (OLSs) like AOL, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Internet Content Providers (ICPs) to foreclose Netscape's browser distribution. But the evidence introduced at trial shows that none of these types of contracts impaired Netscape’s ability to distribute software to its customers. These three categories of contracts are briefly discussed, in turn, below. OLS AGREEMENTS Microsoft licensed Internet Explorer 3.0 and higher to OLSs to enable them to build custom access software for their services on Internet Explorer's state-of-the-art componentized technology. (To this day Netscape Navigator still is not componentized.) Microsoft also included access software for the OLSs in Windows and the OLSs agreed to use the Internet Explorer software and promote such software in various ways. Of these agreements, only the agreement with AOL appears to be commercially significant. Through the testimony of Brad Chase, Professor Schmalensee (our economist) and others, Microsoft introduced the following evidence concerning AOL: * Although the government alleges that Microsoft's agreement with AOL provides for "virtual exclusivity" for Internet Explorer, 22 per cent of AOL customers use Navigator as their primary Web browsing software. * Under AOL's agreement with Microsoft, every single one of AOL’s customers could elect to use Navigator, and nothing in the AOL/Microsoft agreement prevents them from doing so. * AOL is free to promote Navigator in limited ways within its service. AOL even includes links within the service from which Navigator can be downloaded. * Notwithstanding any contractual provision, AOL was likely for business and engineering reasons to attempt to standardize on client software from Microsoft or Netscape, not both. Microsoft and Netscape competed aggressively for this business, and Microsoft won because Microsoft was willing to offer more value to AOL than Netscape did. (Evidence from Netscape shows that it was focusing on business software at the time, tempering its interest in any deal with consumer-oriented AOL.) That is competition at work. * In view of the recently announced merger of AOL and Netscape, it seems likely that AOL will migrate its big customer base over to a new Netscape-based client. If that were to happen today, Microsoft would lose about half its usage share for Internet Explorer, and Netscape's share would grow by about half. In that event, Netscape would be the clear leader by a very substantial margin in Web browser usage share, instantly rendering moot all of the claims that Microsoft is likely to succeed in dominating Web browser usage through the conduct alleged in the complaint. ISP AGREEMENTS Microsoft entered into agreements with certain ISPs relating to their inclusion in an Internet sign up "referral server" run by Microsoft, and accessed from Windows 95. The government alleged that "(t)hese contracts have the purpose and effect of excluding the Netscape Navigator browser from distribution through the vast majority of U.S. [Internet Access Providers]." Through Cam Myhrvold, we introduced the following evidence: * The challenged agreements pertained to only about ten of the 4500 ISPs in existence today. Plenty of ISP distribution remained available to Netscape regardless of the terms of the challenged agreements with ten ISPs. * Contrary to government allegations, the challenged agreements did not require the ten ISPs to distribute IE exclusively. In fact, as Cam testified, "every one of the ISPs in the Windows 95 Referral Server also distributed Netscape’s web browsing software, sometimes in large quantities, and almost all still do". For example, Concentric and Earthlink, two of the ISPs in the Windows 95 Referral Server, collectively distributed millions of copies of Netscape Navigator. * The usage share for Navigator among customers of ISPs in the Windows 95 Referral Server is about the same as among all users of the Internet. In other words, the challenged agreements had little effect. * Microsoft's agreements concerning the Windows 98 Referral Server contain none of the challenged provisions. ICP AGREEMENTS Microsoft entered into agreements with certain ICPs relating to their development of content formatted for the Internet Explorer 4 Channel Bar. The government alleged that these agreements "exclude competing browsers" and thereby "threaten to tip the browser battle decisively in Internet Explorer’s favor..." Through Will Poole, we introduced the following evidence: * Microsoft entered into the challenged agreements with only about 24 ICPs (relating to 31 Web sites). But there are far more than one million sites on the Web, thousands of which are commercially significant and available to Netscape for any deals it might like to do. * The agreements could not have had any effect on Web browser distribution because only six of the 24 ICPs distributed any Web browsing software at all. * The agreements placed no limits on the ICPs ability to format their content to enable it work great with Netscape, including Netscape's implementation of the Channel Bar concept, called NetCaster. * All of the agreements were short-term, and all have expired as of 31 December 31 1998. Furthermore, in April 1998, just seven months after IE 4 (and its Channel Bar) shipped, Microsoft waived the contract terms challenged by the government. * Although the government alleged that access to the Channel Bar was a "must have" for ICPs hungry for viewers, in reality the Channel Bar did not find favor with customers, and will not appear in Internet Explorer 5.0 and higher... to avoid "dicking around with the low level stuff". Again, this discussion makes no sense unless the premise of the discussion was that Netscape would be building a Windows 95 browser—and that Netscape might want to use some Microsoft Internet-related Windows technologies in so doing. In fact, Netscape did use some of the cool new Internet technology we showed them that day, such as Internet Shortcuts. * The allegation that the meeting constituted "bullying" or a "threat" by Microsoft is belied many facts in evidence. For example, the meeting was preceded by a series of other cordial and professional meetings between the companies in which they discussed a range of possible business relationships, including a Netscape proposal that Microsoft ship Netscape client and server code in Windows. Similarly, although Netscape has accused Microsoft of demanding an equity position in Netscape at the meeting, we have written proof that it was Jim Clark, the Chairman of the Board of Netscape, who initially suggested to Microsoft that we should invest in Netscape. * After the meeting, Microsoft proceeded to give Netscape special dev support in building their Windows 95 browser, including direct access to Microsoft's Windows 95 developers (who were very busy preparing for the commercial release of Windows 95 in August 1995). JAVA The government alleges that Microsoft engaged in unlawful conduct by allegedly attempting to defeat the Sun promise of "Write Once, Run Anywhere". Bob Muglia testified that Microsoft simply provided developers a choice: they could write "pure Java" apps (as Sun terms it) that would run cross-platform to the extent permitted by Java today, or they could write apps in Java that would also benefit from unique Windows innovations. We believe that providing such innovative platform technology to developers is the essence of pro-competitive conduct. Certainly nothing in the antitrust laws compels any company to follow a competitor’s lead in implementing a new technology. Like any other company, Microsoft is free as a matter of antitrust law to follow as much or as little as Sun’s lead as it sees fit. INTEL NSP SOFTWARE In April 1995 Intel announced that it had developed software called "NSP" that was designed to allow Intel x86 microprocessors to perform tasks usually performed by separate DSP chips. The government alleged at trial that Microsoft "bullied" Intel into withdrawing NSP from the market. Through the testimony of Paul Maritz and contemporaneous documents, however, we have shown that Microsoft and Intel merely engaged in routine and desirable technical discussions concerning the utility of NSP in the PC architecture. There was one big problem with NSP: it was designed to run on Win 3.1. But in April 1995 Microsoft (and Intel) were looking forward to the release of Windows 95, which carried the prospect of boosting sales of new PCs (and thus Intel chips). NSP was a full generation behind Microsoft's operating system development efforts. Through a series of meetings and technical papers (now in evidence), Microsoft advised Intel that customers or OEMs who installed NSP on machines running Windows 95 would experience a range of incompatibilities. Microsoft also provided technical feedback to Intel regarding many other deficiencies in NSP, and offered to work with the company to make NSP suitable for commercial release. (This too is in evidence.) Intel initially expressed interest in working with Microsoft to repair NSP, but later, without further communication with Microsoft, decided to discontinue its NSP efforts. Intel and Microsoft continued to work together, and much of Intel's NSP work has now been incorporated into Windows in modified form. APPLE Apple made three allegations against Microsoft. They were addressed by Paul Maritz and Eric Engstrom. Sabotage. Apple alleged that Microsoft "sabotaged" Apple QuickTime when running on Windows. This claim got a lot of ink. But, like RealNetworks' similar claim before a Congressional committee, it isn't true. * The Apple witness who claimed that Microsoft took "several steps to sabotage QuickTime" admitted on cross examination that he had no basis to testify that Microsoft deliberately created any incompatibilities to injure any Apple product. He also refused to be cross-examined on the technical interactions between QuickTime and Windows, saying that he was not familiar with the software in question. Therefore, even apart from any rebuttal from Microsoft, there is a failure of proof on the sabotage claim. * The Apple developer who is familiar with the software in question testified by deposition that he had never suggested that Microsoft has intentionally created any incompatibilities with QuickTime. * Eric Engstrom testified, on the basis of exhaustive testing by Microsoft, that the "incompatibilities" identified by Apple related almost entirely to programming errors in QuickTime. In particular, Apple failed to adhere to Netscape’s specifications for how to install a Netscape plug-in (which Internet Explorer supports). Microsoft easily created a patch for the Apple installation program, and the patch works. * Eric testified that MindCraft, an independent lab, confirmed Microsoft's conclusions. We all know that subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle incompatibilities often arise between various components of PC systems, even components developed by a single company. Here the government has opportunistically seized upon one such instance, using it to gin up a claim of malicious conduct by Microsoft. But the state of the evidentiary record on the "sabotage" claim is (a) a mere accusation, without supporting facts and (b) a detailed rebuttal by Microsoft, identifying the Apple programming errors and fixing them. * QuickTime "market division". Apple vaguely alleged that Microsoft offered to "divide" a "market" related to multimedia software. Eric testified that he merely engaged in preliminary and exploratory discussions with Apple to determine whether there was any basis for the companies to work together on multimedia technologies for the benefit of both companies and customers. Far from seeking to push Apple off Windows, the proposals Eric floated would have affirmatively promoted the QuickTime brand and various QuickTime technologies on Windows. In any event, nothing came of the discussions. Microsoft Office 98 Macintosh Edition. Apple alleged that in mid-1997 Microsoft threatened to "cancel" Office for the Mac unless Apple gave preferred distribution to Internet Explorer on the Mac. Paul Maritz testified to the full scope of the negotiations between Apple and Microsoft, which primarily concerned Apple’s threat to hit Microsoft with a major patent lawsuit targeting Windows and Office, including Mac Office. Apple demanded a $1.2 billion payment from Microsoft in connection with those patents. In the context of these negotiations, Microsoft advised Apple that it probably would not make business sense for Microsoft to continue to invest in developing Mac Office absent some appropriate patent cross-license agreement between the parties. (At the time Microsoft was considering discontinuing Mac Office development even apart from any patent threat against the product from Apple.) Internet Explorer was a relatively minor part of the broad set of agreements, including a patent cross-license, that Apple and Microsoft executed in August 1997. Next page
Graham Lea, 11 Mar 1999

Memo – - the finale

Conclusion This case is likely to continue to progress through the courts for quite some time. The trial is scheduled to resume no earlier than mid-April, at which time each side will have an opportunity to present up to three more witnesses. Later there will be briefing to the court on the application of the law to the facts, and closing arguments. After that the trial court will issue a decision, and one or both sides may elect to appeal. We will continue to present facts and legal argument to the courts concerning the claims asserted against Microsoft. We are confident that upon a proper application of well-established legal principles to the facts of the case, Microsoft will prevail. Dave Heiner, Senior Corporate Attorney Microsoft Law and Corporate Affairs
Graham Lea, 11 Mar 1999

Vendors claim The Register loses sense of humour

A whole raft of PC vendors and OEMs has complained that online magazine The Register has lost its sense of humour. The complaints started early January when we ran too many straight stories. According to a senior executive at HP: "We used to read you when you were funny but something has gone terribly wrong." He said: "You are too serious now. What is your agenda?" His remarks were echoed by a senior Intel UK source, who said: "What has happened to your sense of humour? This is why we read you." Compaq and IBM also lashed Thee Register for getting too corporate. The Compaq chap said: "What's happened to you guys?" The IBM geezer was even more cutting. He said: "I thought The Register was independent. Now I'm doubting it." ®
A staffer, 11 Mar 1999

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