19th > March > 1999 Archive

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UK cellular outfit to deploy fast data system next year

UK cellular operator One2One is to deploy an Ericsson data network capable of speeds of up to 115 kbp/s, it was announced yesterday at CeBIT. The system is the European GPRS (General Packet Radio Services), which is designed to run alongside GSM networks. GPRS has been in the works for some years now, but until relatively recently it was starting to look as if 3G broadband networks would start to deploy before GPRS became widely available. Ericsson however has struck three deals for GPRS in this quarter. The One2One system will go live next year. Although GPRS doesn't offer the high speeds promised for 3G systems, it has a number of virtues. It takes speeds higher than can currently be achieved by GSM data, and it provides data services without straining the capacity of GSM voice networks. You can achieve higher speeds on GSM by various means, including using multiple channels, but the networks obviously don't want to use valuable voice capacity for this, and they most certainly don't want to price GSM data lower than GSM voice. GPRS therefore gives them the ability to run a cheaper data pricing structure without torching their voice revenues. It also provides a possible lifeline for networks who're not entirely sure they'll win 3G licences. Existing networks will in general bid for them, but there will be new entrants too, and depending on the auction policies followed by the relevant governments, some of today's players could be priced out of the market. But if they can continue to offer robust GSM voice services plus data in the early years of 3G deployment they can stay in business. As 3G deployment will be slow, GSM plus GPRS systems will actually be more useful to customers than 3G for quite some considerable time. ®
The Register breaking news

MS threatened by Euro privacy probe

Now what did we tell you? The personal data sent to Redmond by the Windows 98 registration wizard is of course being exported, if it's being sent from outside the US. And if it's being sent from Europe, Microsoft may well be in breach of European privacy legislation. The Swedish Computer Inspectorate certainly thinks this is a possibility, and is reportedly considering an investigation of the matter. The legislation, which came into force last year, requires companies holding data on EU citizens to conform to European privacy protection standards, and makes it illegal to export data to companies that don't make the grade. And while menacing noises are starting to emanate from Sweden, Jason Catlett of privacy lobby outfit Junkbusters has filed a formal complaint about Microsoft with TrustE, which operates a kind of auditing system for companies' Internet privacy policies. Afterwards, TrustE gives the company an approval certificate. But TrustE is a Microsoft corporate partner, and gets $100,000 a year from Redmond. Tricky - the company intends to say what it's going to do about this particular hot potato today. ®
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How to say goodbye to those Win98 ID number blues

Microsoft yesterday posted two fixes to deal with the privacy problems in Office 97, while lamely continuing to claim that it's only a potential privacy problem really, and anyway it didn't do anything. Two programs are available at the Office Update site, and they both deal with the identifier number that is embedded in Office documents. This is derived from the unique serial number for your computer that Microsoft Windows 98 generates without telling you, and is then stuck in every document you produce, again without your being told. One of the programs stops Office doing this, while the other takes the number out of documents you've already got. Stopping the identifier being generated in the first place, however, will have to wait for Windows 98 Second Edition and Win2k. As of this morning, incidentally, Yusuf Mehdi's privacy statement on the MS site was still saying the problem would be fixed in a future service release of 98, although yesterday the man himself was saying we'd be getting a whole 'new' operating system. (Official: Win98 new version to ship in Q3) Microsoft says it is deleting the ID numbers it has obtained via the registration wizard, and it seems it's also possible to rip it out of your machine locally now. Those nice people at Windows magazine have helpfully posted instructions on how you do this here. ®
The Register breaking news

Software pirates scuppered by Y2K

Well done Business Week’s Dennis Berman for his interesting take on the Y2K fiasco. Millions of users of bootlegged software will be unable to get their bug fixes from software publishers, he says. And this could cause grief for software-legit companies doing business with them. Worse still, "huge swathes of the world economy could be affected… (especially) in emerging countries, (where) piracy is practically the norm". Y2K patches will be too expensive to implement for small companies using pirated software in emerging countries, Berman reckons. Attachmate is mulling over whether to run a low-cost Y2K amnesty offer, but most publishers will play hardball with bootleggers, he reports. So will the pirates go legal? Wisely, Berman saves his quote from Business Software Alliance enforcement veep Bob Kruger till the last par: "'If you can get new releases in pirated form you can get Y2K-compliant software in pirated form.' Unfortunately, no one may be able to thest that thesis until Jan.1" Although the article ends with a flourish, The Register can't help feeling that Mr. Kruger's opinion slightly deflates the rest of the piece. ®
The Register breaking news

CeBIT 99: The new mobile phones – what's hot and what's not

CeBIT Day One is probably as exciting as it gets - the companies keep frontloading the announcements to get an edge in the weekend's newspaper coverage. Microsoft's move to slow down the Symbian bandwagon was the announcement that they're not really interested in winning the mobile phone operating system war anyway. They'd rather offer more comprehensive end-to-end solutions. Considering there will be a billion mobile phone subscribers in the world around 2003-2005 (depending on whose projections you believe) that's not very plausible... but it's a nimble sidestep, nevertheless. Microsoft won't have to concede defeat here if it shifts the battleground and says it's not interested in this skirmish to begin with. I'll give it three points out of five on the James Carville Spin Scale. Symbian set the stage shrewdly by pre-empting the CeBIT hype attack with two announcements made before the convention started - deals with both NTT-DoCoMO and Sun. However, we already knew that Sun is a close Symbian ally in its quest to humiliate Microsoft, and NTT also announced mobile telecom cooperation with Microsoft, effectively hedging its bets. The Symbian-Philips link is getting more exposure - but the big Asian consumer giants like Sony and NEC are still keeping their options open. The expected Ericsson and Motorola pledges of support to Symbian were made. However, the phones apparently won't make the Christmas season in volume. I'll give it three points on the JCSS - a solid, but not headline-hogging performance. The Handset Manufacturer Scoreboard And the surprise winner is Motorola! It had nothing new to show, but boy, did it push the pedal to the metal in making a convincing, focused presentation of its overall digital handset strategy. The new V-3688 is still generating warm, fuzzy feelings in geeks, thanks to the 83 gram weight and voice quality that actually improves on the Startac phones, despite the much smaller size. The "Internet in every Motorola handset" was a winning formula. Never mind that the date for that goal is the year 2000 when the major competition will also incorporate the Internet in all new models. Motorola also smoothly finessed the disappointing fact that its first GSM WAP phone will apparently hit the market as late as year's end - half a year later than the first entries. Motorola managed to turn the attention from this problem into the introduction of WAP in the Motorola iDEN standard: this will probably mean that iDEN will be the first US digital phone format to offer this feature. Motorola conveyed the message that this sets iDEN apart and strengthens Nextel's market position. It was another PR win. I'll give Mot full five points. Nokia struggled somewhat with oversized expectations. The 7110, as impressive as it is, debuted already at Cannes, so it didn't make much of a splash despite being the early frontrunner in the WAP sweepstakes (the Alcatel model is only a slightly modified version of an earlier model). The new, cheap GSM-900/1800 dual band phone was genuinely impressive in its price category. It has some interesting novel features like animated icons, easy ways to download and send pictures and animations to other phones, the option to compose your own ringtones, exchangeable colour covers for the entire moulding, etc. And it is expected to be on sale already this quarter, helping it to exploit the current relatively lackluster selection of affordable 900/1800 phones. But in the hype sweepstakes cheaper models rarely fare well - models that are futuristic and expensive may not contribute much to sales, but grab attention more easily. And introducing models selling sometime in 2000 in volume always makes a bigger impact than introducing phones for next month; the technical specs of phones from both of these groups will inevitably be compared. That's why the 5110 series received little note in 1998 despite becoming a 10 million unit blockbuster. The new car and TETRA phones look good and will probably have a lot higher margins than the mainstream phones, but they don't have the sizzle that CeBIT demands. I'll give Nokia three points - the spring models are solid, but the press isn't wowed. Ericsson is the problem child right now. It had to acknowledge that its first WAP phone won't be selling in volume until the year 2000. It's an enormous disappointment, probably heralding a big missed opportunity for Christmas sales season. The phone itself looks like the sleek, sexy cybersensation it should be... enormous touch screen, voice commands and the works. But at this point it's impossible to evaluate what the competition will be like in 2000. Ericsson really needed this in the shops by August. The worldphone incorporating GSM, TDMA, AMPS, etc. is also pushed to 2000. It might be a great year for Ericsson. But 1999 is starting to look gloomy indeed. And that "all-new A1018" - how did Joseph Conrad put it at the end of Heart of Darkness? "The horror...the horror..." or something along those lines. It's an apt description of this abomination Ericsson is visiting upon Europe. Hefty 163 gram weight, puny stand-by time, that old cramped three-line display. No dancing animations on this puppy. A1018 is not a product for 1999, no matter how cheaply they manage to sell it. The contrast with Nokia's new GSM-900/1800 entry is stark. Ericsson is starting to look like a downmarket brand if it doesn't change its ways. Two points - and a rough spring ahead. ®
The Register breaking news

CeBIT attendance numbers up – honest

The CeBIT management, answering a question from The Register this morning, claimed that attendance on the first day of the show was up four per cent. The fact that the exhibition halls were less crowded was put down to there being four more halls to disperse attendees. In addition, the management said that the first day usually has fewer attendees than the second, fourth and fifth days, so the whole picture is not yet known. German economic conditions may take their toll. Certainly access to press liquid refreshment area was much easier this year. The number of German exhibitors decreased marginally this year for the first time from the pre-historic decline in 1981, but foreign exhibitor numbers (39 per cent of the total) were marginally up to give a total of 7,341 occupying some 400,000 square metres. The greatest growth was seen in the software sector (now 2,644) and the telecoms sector (now 1,053, with a 20 per cent growth, making CebBIT bigger than the Geneva telecoms show). By country, after the Germans come the Taiwanese, the Americans, and the Brits, with The Netherlands pipping the French. Since CebBIT is the largest trade fair of any kind in the world, attendance figures are an interesting measure of how patterns in the industry are changing. It may be that the Internet is resulting in a reduction of trade fair attendance - something that was evident at the US Comdex shows. ®
The Register breaking news

CeBIT 99: Rise CEO confirms S370 chip on way

David Lin, CEO of Rise Technology, confirmed today that his company will produce a Socket 370 chip during the course of this year. At the same time, he revealed that two "multi billion" semiconductor companies were investors in the startup, and that Rise will announce next month who will fabricate its chips. Lin said: "Our investor profile is very interesting and includes bankers, semiconductor companies and VC money. For the sub $1,000 desktop and notebook market our edge is very good with our power consumption and price performance." He said: "You will see Socket 370 versions of our processor this year." He said that the move was related more to marketing its products than giving Rise a technical edge. We predicted Rise would have a Socket 370 chip last December (see reference below). Speculation was mounting at CeBIT that SGS, now known as STMicroelectronics, is likely to be the Rise fab partner. If so, that will give the company a huge boost. Rise was showing its next generation processor, the mp6II on its stand. That will be released in Q2. According to the company, the first iteration of the processor will be at least 300MHz and come with 256K level two cache and an external cache for level three cache. According to Joe Salvador, senior product marketing manager at Rise US, the company will halve the mp6II's power consumption during the course of the year. He said: "For system integrators, low power has a plus with system integrators that were burnt in the past. We'll be very competitive on price with both AMD and Cyrix. The mp6II will allow you to ship off level two cache on sytems." ® Related Stories Those Rise pix from CeBIT 99 Rise to announce Socket 370 breakthrough Rise signs VML as Northern Euro rep
The Register breaking news

Dane-Elec introduces stacking 3D modules

Memory module manufacturer and distributor Dane-Elec said today that it had succeeded in a technique for creatin three dimensional memory modules. The company said that the technique was adapted from component miniaturisation and high density technologies, allowing it to stack memory chips inside a cubic package using BGA surface mount technology. The advantages of the technique is that it gives higher access speeds because of reduced connection length and also gives benefits in electrical, mechanical and thermal performance. Dane-Elec said it will be able to build 1Gb on a single motherboard connector. ®
The Register breaking news

Cisco chief pans Ascend takeover

Lucent’s $20 billion takeover of Ascend will go wrong, Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts. "The mathematical odds are that it will fail," he said, citing lack of common vision, dissimilar cultures, "chemistry", as well as lack of geographic proximity between the two companies. "According to my estimates, it doesn’t work," he said in an interview with The Times. Telecoms equipment vendors are paying far too much to gain entry into the data equipment market, according to Chambers. Most recent deals have been belated, overpriced and are likely to fail, The Times reports. "Shareholders will look back and say, not only did the acquisition not work, but the price paid for it in hindsight was extremely high. The acquisition prices were probably 50 to 100 per cent higher than what we would have paid", Chambers said. ® 'Ethical' Cisco CEO will avoid anti-trust concerns Cisco CEO berates British education system CeBIT 99. Cisco praises Singapore, bitches about Europe
The Register breaking news

Bookstore takes a pop at Amazon’s share price

Investors who think they know a thing or two about playing the stock market are being given the chance to speculate about Amazon.com's future performance without being exposed to an ounce of risk. Specialist online financial book retailer Global Investor Bookshop, wants people to predict what the share price of Amazon.com will be on 30 April 1999 as part of its 1999 Hot-Air Challenge. First prize is a balloon flight with a champagne breakfast, plus $1,000 worth of investment tools. One hundred runners-up will receive a copy of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay, and a bright red panic button for their computer keyboard. "Extraordinary Popular Delusions is the definitive work on money manias written in 1841," said Philip Jenks, director of Global Investor Bookshop. "It narrates popular obsessions from Tulipomania to the South Sea Bubble, and provides invaluable lessons for investors bewildered by the current detachment of Internet stock prices from conventional investment valuations." The panic button comes with a peel-off sticky back and is completely functionless but, said Jenks, it's there for investors if they get caught out when the inevitable correction in net stock prices happens. With his tongue firmly wedged in his cheek Jenks said: "Of course this is just a gentle dig at a competitor but the prizes are very real, and we hope that our clients have fun playing the game." Last year Amazon's losses topped an impressive $124 million while its share price has climbed from $13 a year ago to a peak of $199 in January 1999 before falling back to below $90. ®
The Register breaking news

Cisco CEO berates British education system

Cisco CEO John Chambers appears to spend as much time politicking with world leaders as he does running the world’s biggest data equipment maker, judging from today’s interview in The Times. For he is a half-billionaire with a megaphone: "THE INTERNET WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING", he tells governments. So far so banal. But his message is "brutally blunt". Governments are failing young people. Countries must change their education systems. Or get left behind. In Britain this week to discuss Internet education with senior Cabinet minister Jack "enforcer" Cunningham, Chambers will tell the politician that the British education system is "not yet giving young people the skills need to compete in the Internet economy, and that fewer people are now online than in Germany". Persumably, Chambers is talking percentages, rather than absolute numbers. There are 20 million more people living in Germany, the world’s third biggest economy, than in Britain, the world’s seventh. According to Chambers, Britain is not "training people for where the jobs are", citing the 50,000 well-paid IT job vacancies that exist here. Chambers is what we call in Britain one of the Great and the Good. He sits on US government trade advisory boards, his company sets up networking academies in schools and universities, he hangs out with important people. And tells them off. The Times article reveals just how much of a mover and shaker Chambers is. He says he has met every government leader in Asia, except for President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea. Every government leader? It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall at Chamber’s meeting with the despotic military regime of UN-sanctioned Myammar, the desperately poor country formerly known as Burma. In some places, the Internet seems an altogether frivolous matter.® 'Ethical' Cisco CEO will avoid anti-trust concerns Cisco chief pans Ascend takeover CeBIT 99. Cisco praises Singapore, bitches about Europe
The Register breaking news

‘Ethical’ Cisco will avoid anti-trust concerns

Cisco will gain market share and avoid the attentions of anti-trust regulators, because it conducts an ethical competition policy, CEO John Chambers said. Speaking in today's Times Chambers said: "I like my peers and I enjoy competing, and I think my company will be stronger because of competing ethically and above board. It means I'll have more market share in five years time than if we were more aggressive." Cisco is probably one of the world's three most influential IT vendors, joining Microsoft and Intel in an axis that some people are now calling Wintelco. The $10 billion t/o Router King is the dominant force in high-end routers, and is gaining ground in the medium and low-end sectors. But so far, it has largely managed to avoid the attentions of US anti-trust regulators. The one exception was last October, when the FTC launched an investigation into a meeting held by Cisco,Lucent and Nortel. (See: Fed's Probe Yalta Conference.) At the time, Cisco denied allegations that it trie to persuade Lucent and Nortel to carve out the network market between the three companies. ® Cisco CEO berates British education system Cisco chief pans Ascend takeover CeBIT 99. Cisco praises Singapore, bitches about Europe
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Cyrix outlines acquisition plans, strategy

Steve Tobak, worldwide marketing manager of the Cyrix subsidiary of National Semiconductor, said today that the company was set to make acquisitions in the software business. That forms part of its dual strategy to focus on both CPU sales and sales of information appliances, he explained. At the same time, he said that Cyrix had dropped its Jedi and Jalapeno codenames for future processors and replaced them with Gobi for Jedi and Mojave for Jalapeno. "You can't trademark a desert," he said. Intel knows you can't trademark rivers or planets." Tobak said: "We've reorganised into two separate businesses. The information appliance leverages off the PC side but that will be entirely business solutions. The Media GX is the basis for them. Cyrix was showing its MII-366/100 MHz chip on its CeBIT stand, which Tobak said was now shipping in volume. The MII-400/100 will ship later in the quarter and the MII-433, also demoed on the stand, will ship in Q3, he said. He said that the Cyrix software group in Colorado was working on developing multimedia solutions including MPEG in software. "We'll probably see some acquisitions on the software side complementary to our competence," he revealed. He would not directly answer whether Cyrix had a Socket 370 solution in the offing, or whether it will be part of the MII-433/100 platform. But he did say: "No one is socket seven for ever." ®
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Memorex pencils 2001 for CD-ROM funeral

Memorex launched a six-speed DVD drive, expanded its CD-RW drives and showed its last ever CD-ROM at this week's Ce-BIT. The storage media manufacturer predicted that the CD-Rom would be dead within two years, and CD-RW drives would bridge the gap until writeable DVD hits the market. Its latest offering, the DVD632 allows users to run current CD-Rom applications at 32x CD-Rom and 6x DVD speeds. The CD-RW drives combine increased speeds of up to 4x4x20 on laptops or as a back-up drive for work groups. Also on show were the 48X CD-Roms, the last CD-Rom model that will be made by Middlesex-based Memorex. Dino Mari, Memorex marketing manager, said: "The CD-Rom will fade out in the next two years to be replaced by the real state of the art drives - DVD." Mari added that these products were a move away from the company's traditional business. Memorex has been making recording media for audio and video for around 25 years. ®
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Free Web access for schools

It appears that Internet companies are falling over themselves to offer schools free Net access. London-based Internet company BiblioTech today officially unveiled Schoolmaster- - a free and safe Web-based community specifically geared towards schools, students and parents. More than 100 schools and 50,000 pupils throughout the UK have already signed up to the scheme. "We have developed a virtual community that exactly mirrors the government and most educationalists' desire to bring the Internet to all UK schools," said Manou Marzban, BiblioTech's director of marketing. As well as subscription-free Internet access, the service enables pupils, teachers and parents to interact and exchange information through e-mail, discussion groups and chat forums. And in a similar move to VossNet the more people use the service the more points they can earn which, in turn, can be redeemed for computer equipment for the school. ®
The Register breaking news

CeBIT graced by world’s most famous man

The halls of CeBIT were abuzz today, not because of the technology on offer, but with the rumour that Michael Jackson had in fact visited the German fair. The white gloved wonder apparently flew in by helicopter from Hannover airport, visited a friend on an exhibition stand, then left. Jackson - or a Jackson imposter - was seen entering CeBIT surrounded by a crowd. He was not believed to have brought his pet chimp, according to witnesses. One observer, who asked to remain nameless, said: "Apparently Jackson - or a looky-likey - was at CeBIT today. All I saw was a group following a figure with a white mask and red jacket. It certainly looked like him." Another said he had seen the story reported on the German TV channels. The CeBIT authorities were unable to confirm the identity of the masked guest. Ulrich Koch, a representative of the organisation, said a helicopter had indeed arrived at CeBIT from Hannover earlier today. He had also been told that a person resembling the megastar had got out and visited one of the exhibition halls. He denied the visit was a publicity stunt organised by CeBIT press office, saying the event did not need the likes of Jackson to boost ratings. "This is CeBIT - the biggest computer show in Europe. We don't need Michael Jackson," said Koch. That’s right, computers are much more interesting than people, especially really famous people. ®
The Register breaking news

Web to take over from classroom as training venue

The Internet will sound the death-knell of classroom-based IT training courses. By the year 2002 it will all be over and all such courses will be Web-based, according to the research giant IDC. In its report Online vs. On-site: To What Extent Can Live Instruction Be Replaced?, IDC says the Web-based training market is growing at an annual rate of more than 50 per cent. The traditional classroom approach will peak next year, the report says, and then tail off. Sheila McGovern, IDC senior research analyst said: "There are many benefits to Web-based training over traditional methods. Perhaps the greatest advantage is that Web-based training provides the rapid distribution of timely information." The report also says that using the Web allows for a uniformity of training standards that is hard to achieve in the classroom. Many existing training providers are expected to benefit from the growth in Web-based training, although those who lag behind in the early stages of the market’s development run the risk of being left behind. But it’s not all bad news for those who prefer their teachers to be of flesh and blood. "While the Web-based training market is still in the early stages of development, its future looks very strong, but it is unlikely to replace human instruction," McGovern said. ®