14th > March > 1999 Archive

UK Northern Development Company seeks Korean help

Reports in the Korean press said that a group of officials from the UK's Northern Development Company will seek to promote trade this week. English-language newspaper the Korea Herald said the officials from the hard pressed region are in Seoul to stimulate and consolidate industrial regeneration and employment. There is no word whether they will discuss the moth-balled Siemens fab with local Korean manufacturers, however. ®
A staffer, 14 Mar 1999

MS Office for Linux – dream or nightmare?

The MS Office Linux port story our good friends at ZD floated last week might seem like pretty desperate stuff, but if you think about it, it's possible - at least in some parallel universe. And the obstacles are probably more political than technical. If you focus on the way Microsoft develops for Windows you see little but obstacles to a Linux port of Office. Office for Windows is deeply entangled in the operating system, so shifting it to another operating system would be tricky and expensive. Microsoft's internal development resources are meanwhile at full stretch (even more so than usual, given the amount the company currently has on its plate), and that makes the port even less plausible. Even if Microsoft decided to do it, then the outcome might well be a small, under-resourced project team that kicked it around for a year or so until the plugs were pulled. The case for the Linux port is being supported by Microsoft having already had a stab at a Java implementation of Office, but actually, that could more properly be interpreted as evidence against. Java Office turned out to be a small, under-resourced project that Microsoft wasn't really interested in, so it got canned - go figure. But you could look at it another way - why is it necessary to start from Windows, when Microsoft already has developers producing Mac applications? Avie Tevanian's performance at the antitrust trial hasn't exactly helped relationships between Apple and Microsoft, but MS remains committed to keeping Office for the Mac up to snuff, so the Mac Office team is going to stay in business for at least the foreseeable future. Financially it might make sense to add Linux development to this part of the operation, and technically it would be a lot simpler than trying to start from ground zero. You might also see some Apple-MS synergy from such a project. Apple has been playing discreet footsie with Linux for a while now, but given his inclinations, Steve Jobs is probably just as keen to figure out how to tame Linux as Bill Gates is. Microsoft's need to find a way to deal with Linux also - maybe - provides some support for the notion of a port. Redmond could be shooting itself in the foot by moving the industry standard applications suite to Linux (any project would certainly face heavy opposition from inside Microsoft), but what other options are open to the company, if Linux continues to grow? Last year's leaked Halloween memos (Earlier Story) gave some indication of how Microsoft thinking might develop vis-a-vis the Linux question. Winning hearts, minds and momentum among open source developers was one aspect of the - admittedly somewhat sketchy - strategy, while insinuating Microsoft's own standards into Linux was another. These objectives seemed utterly unattainable at the time, considering the Linux world's likely reaction to half an olive branch from Redmond, but Microsoft's thinking will have developed in the interim, and the company might be starting to consider that Office is the most viable platform to deal with. Like it or not, MS Office is the productivity standard for business, so the people trying to get Linux accepted in business will - quite possibly against their better judgement - be more inclined to accept Office than most other Redmond-inspired standards. If Microsoft did do it then the move might result in Linux threatening MS at the client level as well as the server, but if MS reckons that Linux is going to make headway at client level anyway, it might be prepared to use Office to try to control it. Get Office in there, tie it closer to MS standards and NT servers, and maintain world domination by alternative means? The Linux community would of course instantly identify this as a not-very-cunning plan to "pollute" Linux, but Microsoft might also be banking on Linux being changed by success, whether the Linux community likes it or not. Major PC manufacturers, for instance, would view the ability to ship Office with their Linux machines entirely positively (they've been happily shipping MS software for long enough), and their volumes would have a serious impact on the market. And presuming Office for Linux contained stuff like Outlook, Internet Explorer, Office Update, and all of the other MS-specific goodies (hello, DirectX, hello UPnP), Microsoft wouldn't necessarily lose because of Linux growth. Pervert and survive? It could happen... ®
John Lettice, 14 Mar 1999

Intel the Chipzilla just naive about PSN

OpinionOur latest revelation about the ID number being embedded in all types of PII .25 micron cores apart from Tillamook, this time came from a deep throat, well inside the Intel Corporation. (Story: Unique serial number exists in all .25 micron Intel chips) It appears that the number is there because the Corporation was concerned about people re-marking chips. It became a feature because someone thought: "Hey let's help out the cosmos and announce it along with the Pentium III-Katmai. We won't bother switching it off this time round, and won't the world think we're wonderful." That puts the existence of this serial number into the category of PR cock-up rather than conspiracy. Here we have an example of management by internal meeting, committee and memorandum. Little people inside Intel might have warned it that switching the PSN on was a huge PR gaffe. But the neurons at the end of the tail found it hard to get the neurons between its ears interested. Serial numbers, per se, are not dangerous things. We've got dozens in our wallet and dozens more dotted around the house. Intel is such a huge corporation and is so concerned with staring at its own navel that it doesn't realise that others, the Intel Outsiders, might see it quite differently. If you're a small furry creature on a road and a lumbering juggernaut is bearing down on you, the question of intent to destroy your tiny, vulnerable existence doesn't come into it. The juggernaut can't help itself. That's why big multinationals, of whatever nature they are, need close scrutiny. Intel's market cap, for example, dwarfs many countries' GDPs. Intel's activities need observing because it is so huge. Chipzilla simply fails to see the effect of its actions on the rest of the universe as it lumbers about. ®
Mike Magee, 14 Mar 1999