21st > March > 1999 Archive

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Secret Alpha system pix fall to earth

It often snows at CeBIT in Hannover but only two Alpha flakes fell on our head while we were out there last week. But what prize flakes they were. Two slides were passed to us, confidentially, which show the shape of Alpha system boxes you can expect to see from Compaq later this year. Because of their size (about 260K each), we decided to point to them rather than post them directly. You can find the first one here and the second one here. These slides show the AlphaServer ES40, the four way EV6 replacemen for AS4100, with that switch that caused paroxysms at Sun a couple of weeks back. The first slide, titled Next Generation Midrange - System Drawer, shows a schematic of the four way boxes, including the crossbar switch. The second, called EV6 System Pedestal, shows Compaq's upgrade strategy. References to previous stories are at the bottom of this page. And a reader took the trouble to tip us off about JP Morgan's thoughts on Compaq's thoughts on Alpha and Merced. As we have suggested here over the last year, JP Morgan too thinks Compaq is competing with Intel on microprocessors. The beancounters at JP Morgan are of the opinion that Compaq thinks Merced will be very greatly delayed as it waits for Win 64, meaning that Alpha will be the only viable platform for Win64. But if Compaq's R&D spend on the Alpha is only five per cent or so, this could cause it to catch a cold. As Paul Otellini from Intel said to us just a few weeks back: "This is a bloody business". ® Some related stories Compaq revisits Merced strategy Compaq details Wildfire attack on Sun Merced vs Alpha deal takes further Compaq twist Sun doesn't have an earthly with UltraSparc III until Q2 Y2000
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Aureal validated by Creative litigation

Sound board company Aureal has said that legal pressure from Creative over alleged patent infringement had benefited the company. Brendan O'Flaherty, VP and general manager at Aureal, said that such actions helped to give his company a higher profile in the marketplace. "In fact, we feel it [the legal action] validates Aureal as a platform. I've noticed a large number of Taiwanese companies in this hall (seven) are saying their boards are A3D compatible. We think this will help promote our boards in the industry." A similar thing had happened with Creative, he pointed out, with companies saying their products were compatible with the SoundBlaster. But Aureal was not going to take any action against cloners who said the technology was A3D compatible, because it showed its sound technology was superior. O'Flaherty said that while law suits were something of a distraction, it meant that Aureal got more press coverage as a result. He said that Creative was perceived as a giant in the audio market, while Aureal was seen as the up-and-coming contender. Aureal was demoing audio technology which O'Flaherty described as the equivalent of audio ray-tracing. The positional audio system gives 3D-like stereo effects. Flatland.COM has recently agreed to use the technology in its virtual reality systems. ®
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Interview with Scott McNealy I

Exclusive The Register interviewed Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun, at Cebit in Hannover. We asked him first about the Microsoft trial. THE REGISTER: What do you think of the Department of Justice? McNEALY: In the past hundred years they have created, I think, one of the model economies on the planet – the US economy. They've kept it competitive, they've kept it balanced, they have stayed out of the way, they have intervened when necessary in a minimalist way. For instance they did not break up IBM, but they scrutinised it. So we still have the great IBM, but we have a competitive computer industry – until Microsoft came along. I think they're going to scrutinise the heck out of Microsoft. THE REGISTER: What do you think the remedy will be? McNEALY: There are so many remedies offered. I think break-up is the wrong remedy to do up front. If it's a last resort, yes, if there are no other competitors, then break 'em up. But we're still there, Oracle's still there, Novell's still there. If you only have Ma Bell, then create Baby Bells. If you have other competitors you shouldn't be creating Baby Bells. THE REGISTER: Do you see declaring Windows to be an essential facility as part of a solution? McNEALY: You know there's lots of theory. I think the beauty of antitrust law is that it's clear enough in its goals and vague in its implementations that it will give the court the opportunity, during the remedy phase, to go evaluate all the possibilities. I could talk to you for two hours on the different possible remedies [such as] opening interfaces. My favourite is that Microsoft should not be able to buy anything. They shouldn't be allowed to buy intellectual property, they shouldn't be allowed to buy minority investments, the shouldn't be allowed to buy majority investments. They bought DOS, they bought Windows – they stole Windows, excuse me; they bought PowerPoint, they bought Word, Excel, they bought WebTV, they bought their browser technology, they bought Hotmail, they bought a billion dollars of Comcast: they bought, they bought, they bought. What have they innovated? Goose egg. Now just let's make this innovative company innovative for the next five years without buying anything. That would be the simplest remedy. I'd throw our teeny little $1.5 billion R&D budget against theirs any day, but if they're doing monopoly money acquisition, I've got a problem. So that's the simplest remedy of all, and its very easy to police: Microsoft, the only thing you can do with your cash, is invest it in R&D, or give it back to shareholders in dividends. Either way, I'm comfortable. So there's lots of remedies and I could go on and on about a whole bunch of other ones... the government did us a real favour – did all banks a real favour by not letting them buy Intuit, and Intuit is still here and we have competition, and we have banks able to go in and play in that marketplace. Microsoft was not able to blow banks out of the water by owning Intuit. I think that is a classic situation that could scale across the board. If they hadn't been able to go out and buy IE and had to develop their own browser technology, maybe they wouldn't have been able to take Netscape out. And if they weren't able to go out and buy their database technology from Sybase, or go out and buy their mail technology from Hotmail, or go out and get into the set-top box market by buying WebTV – if they had to go innovate, that is a very different game for those guys. ®
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Interview with Scott McNealy II

Exclusive The Register asked Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun, at Cebit about Sun and his own job. THE REGISTER: How do you read the industry tea leaves at the moment, from a Sun perspective? McNEALY: There are so many mitigating factors. Asia is getting stronger, people are buying up nothing in front of the Y2K problem. Everybody on the planet after the last Christmas season wants to "dot com" their business: every retailer needs to be online, so we see a big run up there. Our competitors are not executing very well, so that's a mitigating factor. HP is spinning off this, that and the other thing, trying to figure out who should be CEO. IBM is a global services business and a components business – not a computer business anymore. SGI is gaining speed and losing altitude – they aren't executing like they should be – that helps us. But there are some companies who are saying we're going to slow down in the December quarter. I tell everybody to buy now because if Asia is in deep trouble and they can't supply us with components, we won't be able to ship computers after the New Year, so buy now. But that's a little self-serving: you see, I was elected by the shareholders. THE REGISTER: Doesn't it create some executive stress with these three jobs you have: President, CEO, Chairman ... McNEALY: ... and Founder. If you get there early, you get a lot of good titles. Actually we restructured about a year ago. I have an executive committee made up of myself plus a chief operating officer, a chief financial officer who handles all the infrastructure, a chief strategy officer who handles corporate development, mergers and acquisitions, and then I have the chief technology officer, Bill Joy, who helps me oversee the technical arena. I've got a pretty strong team and then below that we've got the business unit presidents and all the rest. I'm bleary-eyed. ®
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Interview with Scott McNealy III

Exclusive It was no surprise that Sun CEO Scott McNealy did not have anything very friendly to say about ActiveX at Cebit in Hannover, but he did have a deft way of characterising the difference between an ActiveX control and a Java applet. "ActiveX is a virus by definition. Sometimes there are good viruses, sometimes there are bad viruses. ActiveX is like putting the controls to your automobile on the outside of you car: it's like putting you brake on the rear bumper, the steering wheel on the side doors, and your trunk opener on the hood. Fundamentally, anybody could walk up and drive it into the ditch, pop the trunk up and steal everything – that's what an ActiveX control is: it's an ActiveX-out-of-control control. It's a virus – that is the design feature, it is not an accident. "The Java platform was designed to be virus-free. ... Microsoft likes to lump Java ActiveX controls with Java applets – that's like the cold virus versus Kleenex. They're two different things. They're both used in the same environment, but one creates the mess and the other cleans up the mess." ®
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Interview with Scott McNealy IV

Exclusive When all around cannot move fast enough to associate their company name with Linux, even if they have not worked out how to make some money from it, it was almost refreshing to hear how at Cebit, Sun CEO Scott McNealy dealt with the head-on collision that looms between Solaris and Linux. "Linux is like Windows: it's too fat for the client, for the appliance ...it's not scalable for the server. It's the right way to do the wrong answer, so if you're going to do the wrong answer which is fat clients and thin servers, then at least do it with Linux. "Don't send any money to Microsoft for something that's fatter, slower, buggier, doesn't scale as well, and has fewer people working on it. "There was an interesting little experiment our CTO [Bill Joy] did. He took the Sony Vaio notebook ... He downloaded Linux, then he went over to Netscape and downloaded the latest version, and then he went over to Star Office, and all of a sudden he had a better, faster, smaller, lower-powered, bug-free, legally free environment ... with more people working on it than the entire state of Washington. "Now why in the world would anybody ever write another cheque to Microsoft? I don't know. But why would you do Linux either? That's the wrong answer. Go thin clients, go appliances: that's the right way to go long term. So that's why I call [Linux] the right way to do the wrong answer. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so I love Linux." ®
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Mad cow found on Cyrix stand

Pictured here is a Cyrix 'party animal' standing next to the garish brochure from Red Zac and its 999DM Linux box. There is an even more bizarre Cyrix animal -- a pig wearing a bikini (not pictured).
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Intel pays cash for youthful overclocking skills

Our friends over at The Overclockers Page have posted an Intel certificate awarded to a youth who undertook a project in overclocking. And Intel awarded $200 in a cash prize to the young man for the project, the pages report. A certificate, signed by CEO Craig Barrett and headed Intel Excellence in Computer Science, awards Jason Au for outstanding achievement in computer science. And according to Au, the US Air Force gave him $100 while Intel gave him $200 in prize money. However, given that Pat Gelsinger, a senior VP, overclocked a Pentium III Xeon at CeBIT a few days ago and Albert Yu, another senior VP, overclocked a chip to 1000MHz at the Intel Developer Forum in February, perhaps all of it makes sense. Except for the utility Intel has posted which is designed to test whether your chips are overclocked. Now if only Intel would post the code to detect the processor serial number (PSN) in Pentium IIs (which we're still testing)... ®
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Intel calls it Puppy Love…

Isn't technology wonderful when you can link Donny and Marie Osmond direct to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Senator Joe Doyle. Go to Lord Mayor's page to see what we mean. Donny is wearing a Leprechaun's hat and sporting an enormous shamrock, while the Lord Mayor is sporting a Merced chip round his neck. Oh, and while you're there, see how Intel in Ireland does not use the dropped "e", which is de rigeur everywhere else in the world. We can't remember exactly why this is, but think it's something to do with IDA investment in the company...
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Compaq breaks for border with Alpha chip

Updated Another flurry of snow flakes from our mole at Compaq who must be very deep within the company, judging from the information. Towards the end of the month, we are due to meet one Bill Herrick, a senior Compaq executive on the Alpha platform. He is the author of this SlideWare so we are now fully armed and ready for the meeting. The insider slipped us the PowerPoint presentation which is far too big to upload (for us) or download (for you). We have printed the slide outline as a PDF file, which you can download from here. For those who want the complete presentation, we have zipped it up and you can download it from here. (NB 700K). What's significant is the emphasis Compaq is putting on comparisons between its Alpha and the rest. We can't see a mention of Merced in here anywhere. The symmetric multiprocessing in EV8 codenamed Arana isn't in this set of slides but compares extremely favourably to IA-64 Merced. But EV8 and onwards might require the help of Kryotech and its cool technology, we are given to understand. We're looking forward to the 1000MHz EV68 this year. And the slides mention that Compaq is a fabless company, so expect much of this stuff from Samsung... As we are not being invited to Compaq Innovate this year for some reason or other, we won't be able to meet our mole in person... ®
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Compaq's Wildfire shows scale of ambitions

It seems repetitive to go on about the argument Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer had with senior Intel VP Hans Geyer all those years ago, as exclusively reported here. So instead here comes a "Four Vultures" production, again in PDF mode, which shows the extent of Pfeiffer's ambitions. This is small enough for us to have PDF'd and kept the colours. But it's still half a megabyte... The SlideWare is amazing if it comes to pass. The last two slides, in particular, show that Compaq's flame is burning for the Alpha chip, big time. Thanks again to the mole deep inside Texas who sent us the information and who we won't meet at Compaq Innovate... ®
The Register breaking news

Compaq's Wildfire shows scale of ambitions

It seems repetitive to go on about the argument Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer had with senior Intel VP Hans Geyer all those years ago, as exclusively reported here. But Compaq is definitely going for it big time. Our mole deep inside Texas pointed us to a secret URL with the following slides, which we've cut down to two colours to save space. A couple of these slides are more or less in the public domain but the others are most certainly not. This slide shows the common components of Compaq's attack on the low, mid and high end markets Shows the scalable nature of the Alpha platform and how the elements can be attached together. The Alpha is described as a "universal platform" How four processor systems work How 32 processors work together How 72 processors work together Price bands for low, medium and high end systems Given the above, how can IA-64 Merced hope to compete, if it arrives on time? Our mole is going to be at Compaq Innovate. Pity we won't get to meet him... ®