23rd > March > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

LSI promises 233 million transistor system-on-a-chip

A year ago From The Register No. 70 LSI Logic has unveiled a new high-integration technology that will allow 233 million transistors on a chip, plus the ability to include mixed signal, logic, embedded memory and radio frequency components. The company will be producing prototypes using its new G12 technology by the fourth quarter, with production starting in Q2 1999. G12 is intended to provide the processor technology for devices that combine several functions in one system, so could be used for combination TV, video, audio and set-top box units. It uses 0.18 micron technology, and according to company CEO Wilfred Corrigan "The G12 technology sets completely new levels of integration and performance empowering our customers to create system-on-a-chip products never before possible on one silicon chip." LSI's first high volume system-on-a-chip design was for the Sony Playstation in 1993, and the company has since been active in the production of systems for GSM phones, DVD and digital cameras. G12 is intended to provide the capability to integrate several of these on the same piece of silicon, using building blocks which include different types of embedded memory technologies, RF tuning and mixed-signal capabilities, LSI design libraries, and complete design automation software support. ®
Staffer, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD thrashes Intel, again

Market research company PC Data said yesterday that AMD had taken over 50 per cent share of the US desktop retail market in February. That is two months in a row that AMD has trashed Intel's retail share. The figures show AMD at 51.4 per cent, Intel at 38 per cent and Cyrix at 10.4 per cent. Perhaps it's time that AMD started really stepping up production by using other fabs. ® Can AMD ramp up production enough to really compete with Intel? Post your thoughts on our forum.
Mike Magee, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq Merced designers flee coop

Designers who worked for Compaq on its Merced programme are circulating their CVs as it becomes apparent there is nothing for them to do. Sources from inside Compaq told The Register: "It's not more or less bad stuff happening to Merced; it's nothing happening for Merced. It's like one big dress-up for a party that never happened." The source added: "You know that it's over when the Intel guys working on the Merced BIOS started peddling their wares as the EFI stuff at IDF, because they're tired of waiting around for the real Merced proto-boards." He said: "Intel has been promising Microsoft system protos, not chip samples, in June '99. March is over in a week. There is neither. Microsoft is in the last 100-yard dash of the W2K 4-miler. Beta 3 RC1 is now done. No time for new toys." At the same time, Intel is advertising for engineers to join the Merced team. Motherboard Design Engineer. Yesterday it circulated an advert for motherboard designers to join the company at its Portland, Oregon establishment. People are wanted "as soon as possible", the advert said. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Rumours of MS settlement hype from shareholders

The rumours of settlement talks between the DoJ and Microsoft are just that: Microsoft does not have the slightest intention of settling at the moment, but it is pretending to be willing to settle so that it can get the best possible result in the District Court from Judge Jackson. Lawyers from both sides had been advised by the judge to use their time wisely during the recess – implying to conduct settlement talks. The current rumours were started by those with most to lose – institutions holding large amounts of Microsoft stock – according to sources. And where better to start the rumour than in the Wall Street Journal? Microsoft was caught on one foot by this investor pressure, so that its anonymised statement (by Mark Murray no doubt) was intended to make it seem more authoritative and as though Microsoft was trying. Murray himself has lost credibility as a result of his absurd daily black-is-white statements after Microsoft had been roughed up in court. This is the third time there have been rumours about settlement. The first, in May 1998 shortly before the DoJ Complaint was issued, were never intended to be anything other than gamesmanship by Microsoft. The second rumour was started on 8 March by the Seattle Times, but on behalf of Microsoft employees rather than investors this time. There are great fears in Seattle of a serious decline in the local economy if Microsoft is hammered. A few days ago the Seattle Times effectively admitted this by turning its story into an editorial suggesting that Microsoft should settle the case. The only hard news this week was when Joel Klein, the DOJ antitrust chief, said that "We have not received any settlement proposal from Microsoft". The DoJ is duty bound to be "open to a settlement", so it was non-news when the wire services tried to make something of this. Any settlement proposal has to come from Microsoft. Faced with this rather convincing denial, the WSJ decided to keep the rumour warm with a suggestion carried by Dow Jones, its wire service, from a "Microsoft insider" that the two sides were "talking about talking". This allowed Microsoft to chip in that it was making a "good-faith effort" to resolve the case. Microsoft could not resist inserting its claim that "any settlement must preserve Microsoft's ability to innovate and add new features to our products." Of course Microsoft is not an innovator, and "adding new features" was thoroughly exposed during the trial as a way of garotting Netscape. Microsoft's present strategy is to keep the case going as long as possible, so that at the bitter end the result has no influence on Microsoft's then-situation. It expects to lose in the District Court, but as the case will very likely end up in the Supreme Court, any final decision will not be made until 2002 or later. By that time, NT will have more than 50 million buggy lines of code that will have further suppressed the independent software industry. When the Microsoft did agree a consent decree in July 1994, it did so because Ann Bingaman, the then DoJ antitrust chief, saw it as a career-enhancing move, and tried to perpetuate the fiction that it was best settlement that the DoJ could obtain. The industry was rightly extremely critical, and indeed subsequent events have turned the fears into reality. This time, Klein will not allow a feeble consent decree, as Microsoft well knows. Klein himself wants to be attorney general, and it may only be a short time now before present incumbent Janet Reno steps down because of an illness to which she has bravely admitted. The 29 March date that has been mentioned in some rumours for breaking apart Microsoft is just an attempt to put pressure on Microsoft, and was probably started by the gnomes of Wall Street. As Scott McNealy explained in his exclusive interview with The Register, break-up is only appropriate for monopolies like AT&T (as was), and not where there are still some remnants of a real software industry. Meanwhile the gnomes in Redmond, are evidently in some disarray. There are probably serious differences of opinion about the delayed management structure that was expected to be announced a week ago. Morale is low, and it is probable that there will be a mass exodus of Microsoft VPs whose shares have vested. Brad Silverberg had enough, and it is now likely that CTO Nathan Myhrvold will quit too: he has achieved almost nothing in R&D during his tenure, although his budget is not in the billions as Microsoft would like people to think, since most of Microsoft's R&D is surely spent on bug fixing. Microsoft's external lawyers will not really be wanting a settlement, since their massive fees depend on the case going on for ever. The big power play will be between VP for law and corporate affairs Bill Neukom, Microsoft's head lawyer, and general counsel (a recent promotion) Brad Smith, who joined Microsoft some years ago after a stint looking after Microsoft's interests very enthusiastically when he worked for the Business Software Alliance in Europe. Smith has always wanted the top job at Microsoft, and he could be the leader of a putsch to overthrow Neukom. The big question is now whether Gates will resign. He has relatively little to do with the running of Microsoft. He doesn't really understand the technical issues any longer, and cannot contribute any insight. His sole role is as a figurehead, making sales calls at head-of-government level because of the vanity of politicians to be photographed with him. As Tevye remarked in Fiddler on the Roof, "When you're rich, they think you know." If Gates goes, then there is a real chance of a settlement – but it should be remembered that Microsoft's aggressiveness is now in the second layer of Microsoft management and moving down to the third layer. Any settlement would be easier to achieve after his departure, but on humbling terms for Microsoft. It seems that a decision has been taken that Gates will not be a rebuttal witness, or the Microsoft propaganda machine would have been building a suitable image. These are very tense times for Microsoft, so some major moves are very likely – but not a quick settlement unless Gates goes and takes the blame. Any Gates exit decision could well turn on pressure from Mrs Gates. ®
Graham Lea, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel to slash Pentium III prices on 11 April

Distributors close to Intel's plans have passed us details of price cuts the company will make on April 11 next. There will be "sizeable" cuts in mobile Pentium IIs and Celerons, but the exact prices have not yet been finalised, the source said. The PII/333 will disappear as an Intel part on that date, while other Pentium IIs will drop by around $70 or so each. The Pentium III/450 will drop to just below $400/1000, while the Pentium III/500 will cost $635/1000. When it is released in June, the Pentium III/550 is likely to cost $750, the distributor said. As reported here last week, Intel introduced its 433MHz Celeron yesterday. But more significantly, Slot One Celerons will disappear by mid-year, according to our source. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel-FTC settlement ignores price fork

Analysis Before Intel reached its infamous settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last week, there were rumours that further investigations into how it priced its processors were under way. We are still waiting for the final ratification by the board of the FTC of the agreement, but perhaps they might care to reflect that there are other ways and means Intel uses to keep its market position. PC Data's figures for market share in the desktop US retail market in February are encouraging for AMD, but it is facing relentless pressure from Intel on the pricing front. On April 11th next, Intel will step up its highly aggressive attack on AMD by slashing and burning its prices on Celerons and PIIs yet again. Given this, it seems that the real focus of Intel's attack is not just the K6-III, but the up-and-coming K7. If it can chip away at prices until the K7 launches in June, it will mean that AMD's new processor will face intense price competition right at birth. Perhaps it may be unduly cynical of us to suggest that Pat Gelsinger's "demo" of an overclocked .25 micron Pentium III Xeon at CeBIT last week was intended as a spoiler for the demo of the K7 AMD was showing at its stand. It certainly queered AMD's pitch... If the FTC vs Intel case never happens, it will be a real pity, as important issues remain still unsettled. If you take a look at the finalised list of witnesses on the FTC site, it makes for compelling reading. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Yahoo bid rumour boosts Broadcast.com share price

The world's leading portal, Yahoo!, is poised to make a bid for Broadcast.com, the online sport, news and music provider. Speculation over the bid has pushed Broadcast.com's market value up to around $3.9 billion, as its share price jumped by an impressive 37 per cent yesterday on Nasdaq. By turn, Yahoo! saw its share price fall. Talk of the takeover bid first surfaced in Business Week. It would make sense for Yahoo! to consider such a move as it, like all the portals, is keen to bolt new features to its service. The idea being that users will stay on Yahoo! for longer rather than use it as a first point of call on their way to other services. Broadcast.com is big in the business-to-business information market, which will be another attraction for Yahoo! which has been traditionally viewed as a home users' service. ®
Sean Fleming, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Sub-$600 PCs see massive growth

Budget PC maker eMachines' cut-price computer policy is clearly working -- according to market researcher PC Data, the company grabbed a 9.9 per cent share of the US computer retail sector in February. That figure makes it the fourth best-selling vendor behind Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. Their shares of the US PC retail market were 30.9 per cent, 28.9 per cent and 10.7 per cent, respectively. Packard Bell/NEC came fifth in the list with a 7.5 per cent market share, PC Data's research showed. According to the researcher, the average price of a PC in February in the US was $947, up a fraction from January's figure of $944. eMachines' offerings all come in under $600, a sector that is rapidly stealing business from the $600-$1000 range. Some 62 per cent of PCs sold last month through US retail outlets were in the sub-$1000 category -- and 32 per cent of those were priced at less than $600, or 19.9 per cent of the market as a whole. The $1000-$1500 bracket accounted for 33.3 per cent of the market -- the over-$1500 category accounted for just five per cent, representing a 70 per cent decline on February 1998's figures. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

VA Research buys IBM's favoured Linux consultancy

VA Research, the Linux hardware vendor Intel invested in last month, has bought Linux marketing consultancy Electric Lichen. Details of the deal were not revealed, but it's clearly a sensible move on VA's part. VA's business is based on selling computers specifically designed to run Linux, which it tweaks to support the hardware. That optimisation will be essential now that more and more mainstream PC vendors, most recently Dell, are installing Linux on their machines as an optional extra. However, VA will still need to market that message hard, and that's were Electric Lichen's expertise comes in. The consultancy has already steered the marketing campaigns of various Linux distributors and those of big names like IBM and Informix. Intel's investment in VA was made to help the Linux company's development of a version of the OS for the Great Stan's upcoming 64-bit Merced processor. The undisclosed sum paved the way for VA to double its staff to 60 and almost certainly to make the Electric Lichen purchase. VA VP of marketing Brian Biles told US newswires the company has the lofty goal of offering comparable manufacturing and sales systems to Dell's and matching Sun's skills at customer service. Both will take some effort to accomplish, but the Electric Lichen is an important step toward the achievement of that goal. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Consumer bulk buying to rattle channel’s cage

The dealer channel is under fire from a US company planning to use consumers’ combined demand to win big discounts from manufacturers. Called Accompany, the idea behind the initiative is simple and can be effective. Customers will be invited to register at a Web site and use the power of bulk purchasing to go direct to the manufacturers of a wide range of consumer goods, bypassing the channel and - in theory - paying less than if they bought on the high street. Computer hardware and software will be the first things to be hit by this outbreak of consumer power. Accompany will advertise the products’ starting prices and as more people subscribe to the service these prices will fall as economies of scale come into play. Based in the US, Accompany has designs on coming to Europe. It is set to set to launch in April - the company’s chief executive, Jim Rose, said this was due to the site being flooded with requests to join from consumers. "The situation, as we see it, is like a party. When we realised how many people were coming, and that they had invited all their friends, we decided we had better get more chips and beer," he said. After its assault on IT, Accompany will be turning to other electrical goods, such as washing machines, fridges and so on. ®
Team Register, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

MS to unveil digital music delivery system next month

Microsoft has confirmed it is to build a complete digital content encryption, management and tracking system into Windows 2000, and that it plans to unveiled the technology at next month's Audisee 99 show to be held in Los Angeles. The system will be primarily aimed at the Internet-delivered music market and the emerging for Net-based video on demand services. It will be based on the company's MS Audio 4.0 digital music format, which is said to offer twice the compression of MP3 and better playback quality, and technology from digital rights management tools developer Reciprocal, in which it last month made a massive $15 million investment. The complete system will provide an all-in-one solution handling every aspect of a content delivery system, managing not only the distribution of digital media, but ensuring that rights are not infringed and controlling the e-commerce activity behind the transactions. Microsoft's plans, reported yesterday by Wired, confirms reports made by The Register earlier this year (see Microsoft readies MP3-killer digital music format and MS to spend $15 million buying into online music market). In the Wired story, Scott Smith, president of digital delivery specialist Digital On-Demand, warned that Microsoft may use its all-in-one solution to push other technologies out of the picture. However, the Secure Digital Music Initiative's attempt to unify the various digital music formats and delivery mechanisms now seems unlikely to favour one offering over another, provided they meet its specification for copyright protection. More pertinently, according to Register readers who claim to have evaluated beta versions of the software, Microsoft's MS Audio 4.0 isn't quite as good as the company is suggesting. Still, the Microsoft names carries weight and it's hard to imagine (pace the DoJ) the Great Satan of Software not pursuing the very lucrative digital content market aggressively. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony to offer music downloads by satellite

Sony will allow Japanese music fans to download tracks via Rupert Murdoch's Sky digital satellite TV service next month. The consumer electronics giant will offer a set-top box that connects a hi-fi system to Sky's Asian PerfecTV service to receive and record CD-quality music. Sony is a partner in PerfecTV, alongside Murdoch's News Corp, and the music on offer will come from the company's Sony Music Entertainment subsidiary. Each track will be encoded to prevent unauthorised duplication, said a Sony spokesman, presumably through the copy protection system built into Sony's MiniDisc system, the new service's 'preferred' storage format. The shift to delivery by satellite contrasts with early reports in the Japanese business press (see previous story) that the service would operate across the Internet. Sony is certainly working on a Net-based music delivery system, codenamed MagicGate (see Sony enters digital music contest with MP3-beater), and while the two may eventually come together into a single system, the company's latest move seems to be more about increasing both PerfecTV's subscriber base and consumer support for the largely unwanted MiniDisc format. Sony clearly wants MiniDisc to emerge as the standard format for storing downloaded music, much as Iomega is pushing its Zip removable storage system to online music companies and consumer electronics firms. Given the majority of music downloaders may ultimately be hi-fi buffs rather than PC users, who might clearly prefer to use their hard drives to hold their music collections, that's not a bad plan. ® See also MS to unveil digital music delivery system next month UK company launches portable MP3 player
Tony Smith, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Dell hit by Far Eastern competition

Dell yesterday saw shares drop 5.9 per cent over worries that the US direct selling giant may be shipping less kit than expected this quarter. Early trading had seen stocks dip by as much as seven per cent, making it one of the most active US shares. Kevin McCarthy, an analyst from Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Securities said he expected Dell’s first quarter turnover to be $5.35 billion, revised from his earlier prediction of $5.5 billion, Bloomberg reports. Dell has seen increased competition from vendors trying to cash in on the direct PC market, according to IDC research. Compaq and Hewlett Packard have also turned in weaker than expected sales this year. Andy Brown, IDC research analyst for the EMEA PC market, told The Register: "I think this first quarter will be slower than forecast for most manufacturers. This is partly due to growing competition from the influx of Asian vendors, especially in the notebook market. The production of low cost, reasonably good quality products will start eating into the market share of the established players." Companies to watch out for from this region include Tatung, Hitachi, Sharp, Sony and Panasonic, Brown said. ®
Linda Harrison, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

iMac famine paves way for newer, cheaper version

Sources in the US suggest Apple is already running down stocks of the multi-colour iMac line in preparation for the release of the next version, codenamed C2, less than three months after the current machine's introduction. According to Web site MacOS Rumors, US retail giant CompUSA is already listing all five flavours of the latest iMac, the so-called 'Revision C' version, in its inventory system as no longer shipping Apple product. In addition to paving the way for the Rev. C2 iMac Apple may be limiting the availability of the current machines to help clear the large stocks that remain of older Rev. A and Rev. B iMacs. It's a move that makes some sense, in that it encourages users to opt for the cheaper models to clear inventories, and it ensures that the company and its channel partners won't again have to face the same problem of what to do with all those 'obsolete' versions of the rapidly evolving iMac they can no longer shift because everyone wants the latest model. The Rev. C2 iMac is also expected to introduce a significant price cut on the iMac line, despite increased processor power (possibly taking the machine to 333MHz to better compete with seemingly faster Celeron-based PCs) thanks to its use of a new motherboard that uses less expensive consumer PC components. The current iMacs are essentially PowerBook portables in a desktop casing -- for example, the computer's monitor is even connected to the motherboard via a standard VGA video-out port, and the machine uses a slimline portable-oriented CD-ROM drive. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Kyocera hit by Xerox writ at CeBIT

A row over the cost of laser printer consumables has resulted in Xerox taking an injunction out against Kyocera and forcing it to cover up part of its stand display. Xerox took out an injunction against Kyocera after the latter used comparative advertising suggesting its machines used less toner and were cheaper than its rivals' offerings. HP, Lexmark and Xerox were all compared with Kyocera and the Japanese printer manufacturer used the results of a PC Professionell comparative review to underline its claims. The Xerox injunction forced Kyocera to put a patch over its poster on the stand. It is understood Lexmark is also taking legal action against Kyocera. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun's Serengeti brain dead yeti?

Reports from insiders at Sun have told The Register of a possible problem with the Serengeti platform. Serengeti is Sun's follow-up to its Starfire high end platform but the source is suggesting that it will be incompatible with its predecessor. The platform uses a memory architecture dubbed COMA (cache only memory architecture), according to the source. However, a reader told us today: "I'm curious, what do you mean by 'incompatible'? If, say, applications need or should be re-written to run on it, then that's really bad. However, you say it's imcompatible with Starfire, not Sun's stuff in general, so I guess you mean a hardware imcompatibility - i.e. you can't take processor boards from a Starfire (a bare board costs several $10,000) and plug em into Serengeti. This is not surprising if it uses a significantly different architecture. Also the Serengeti will be coming out 3 years after the Starfire, so that kind of imcompatibility is not too surprising. Bit of a bummer after you've shelled out a mega-buck on a computer though. " "Still, by the time the Serengeti comes out (12-18 months, apparently) the much delayed UltraSparc-III will be available (Sun's resellor docs say machines with US3's won't be out for about a year), and you'd probably want to upgrade your UIIs to it anyway. (btw, in a Starfire, and maybe the other Sun SMP boxes, all the processors must be the same. The memory cards/blocks are also special to Starfire...) Sun will probably position the Serengeti as a system a level above the Starfire, not as a replacement for it. "Maybe you mean storage as well (which is important since Starfires often have a mega-bucks worth of external storage as well) - I would be very surprised if the NG machine can't take current storage products. I know Sun is working on a new IO system (a high end version of the NGIO stuff they're developing with Intel) called Fat Pipes, I think, which may or may not be runnable on older machines..." Sun could not be contacted at press time to clarify the situation, but we'll be happy to hear from them. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Lycos takes on Korea

Lycos has formed a joint venture with the Korean technology company, Mirae Corporation, to form Lycos Korea. The new online community will provide localised versions of Lycos.com, Tripod and MailCity. Lycos will provide its search, navigation and community technologies to Lycos Korea. Mirae will manage the day-to-day operations such as local content aggregation, sales, marketing and administration, from its headquarters in Korea. Lycos and Mirae will each own 50 per cent of the new portal venture. The Korean Internet market is one of the fastest growing in the Asia/Pacific region, second only to Japan. According to the Korea Times, the country currently boasts around three million Internet users. Numbers are expected to reach ten million by 2002. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Attack of the Killer Laptops

The Health and Safety Executive will spend over £100,000 on a one-year study to examine the health risks of using portables. A team of five researchers at ergonomics consultancy System Concepts is conducting the investigation, which started two weeks ago. The joint effort plans to establish the effects on health of using notebooks or hand-held PCs and study differences between users, tasks and how machines are used. Tom Stewart, System Concepts MD, claims this is the first statistical study into the area. It hopes to establish that notebooks contain more potential health risks than desktops. These include neck strain due to the screen being connected to the keyboard, backache from carrying heavy PCs and stress from extended working hours, according to System Concepts. The company will concentrate on screen technology, where there is relatively little guidance compared with desktop PC counterparts. The company has also highlighted the fact that carrying a costly PC in public places could put people at risk from attack or theft. According to Stewart, researchers will survey organisations and give individuals questionnaires on the types, extent and experience of portable computer use as well as possible health effects related to use. They will analyse organisational records, including accident and injury statistics and training records, and compare health problems with those of desktop users. Stewart said his company had been using portables for years, but that they had found that using them could result in physical strain in the neck and back. "The concerns associated with the use of portable computers seem to be growing, although this may be due to the more widespread usage. This statistical study will provide evidence of how consistent the problems are," said Stewart. He added that there was a definite lack of guidance for employers. He said the study would focus on employer responsibilities regarding potential musculoskeletal risks associated with the prolonged use of portables.®
Linda Harrison, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Mobile phones fry your brains

The European Parliament has recommended that mobile phones be labelled with health warnings similar to cigarette packets. Following recent scare stories of brain damage and memory loss, MEPs in Strasbourg have voted to back Italian MEP Gianni Tamino’s recommendation. The law now rests on final approval from the Council of Ministers on June 8. If approved, it will come into effect by January 1, 2001, according to yesterday’s Express newspaper. According to The European Parliament, it will also: "oblige member states to lay down minimum safety distances for the siting of transmitters and other electrical transmission equipment including mobile phone base stations in relation to public building, housing and work places." These recommendations are part of the wider attempt to control electromagnetic radiation from electrical equipment. Mobiles were singled out as potential health hazards due to the amount of time the phones are held in close proximity to the head. Repeated exposure has been linked to cancer and immune system deficiencies in the body. This month saw the first UK test case of a former senior BT engineer suing BT over permanent brain damage allegedly caused by daily use of a mobile.®
Linda Harrison, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Madame Tussaud's makes a dummy out of Bill Gates

Bill Gates is so busy promoting his new book he hasn't got time to be photographed and measured for his very own waxwork by sculptors at Madame Tussaud's. Due to be included in Madame Tee's New York exhibition when it opens next year, the artist chosen to recreate Gates has to work from two-dimensional photographs instead. "We're always prepared to wait for a sitting," said a spokeswoman at Madame Tee's in London where the wax mannequin is beginning to take shape. "He's a very busy man, but his office has been very helpful and co-operative," she said. As always, Madame Tee's hopes to get some cast-offs from Gates to clothe the dummy. But it's still unclear whether he'll pick one of his sober suits or opt for his more geeky garb. Either way, Gates will be in good company. Artists are already busy modelling uber-business icons Donald Trump and Ted Turner in time for the opening of the new Madame Tee's in New York next year. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony confirms Linux to be PSX2 development platform

Sony has confirmed that it has selected Linux running on Intel-based hardware as the development platform for PlayStation 2 games. Speaking at last week's Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Jose, Sony Computer Entertainment's Phil Harrison mentioned in his keynote that all future PlayStation 2 releases would be developed under Linux. Harrison said Sony had selected Linux rather than Windows because developers need "a stable platform". Sony decision to opt for Linux emerged earlier this month on a Japanese games-oriented Web site, and was reported in English by The Register (see PlayStation 2 development to be driven by Linux). Harrison's comments at the GDC mark the first official confirmation of the company's shift to the open source OS. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

MSN offers free house with $125,000 PC

Microsoft has come up with a cunning plan to put a new spin on the "free PC" saga. From today, customers choosing a mortgage with US-only MSN HomeAdvisor will receive a computer into the bargain. Through the "Get a Loan. Get a Free PC" Spring Giveaway, the software giant is offering 1000 Concentric Systems AOpen PCs worth $900. These PCs come with Cyrix MII 300MHz, 32 MB RAM, 3.2 GB hard disk, Windows 98 and 14" monitor for punters taking out a loan of $125,000 or more. Poorer customers, who take out a loan under $125,000, will be fobbed off with a $132 Casio. There are 300 of the Casio PV-200 PC Synchronizations to give away, equipped with 128 x 128 dot-matrix screen, 2MB memory. And not forgetting the stylus and serial cable. "This is the first time an online estate service has given away something of this value to home buyers," said Ian Morris, MSN HomeAdvisor group product manager. What, the Casio? ®
Linda Harrison, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Lou Gerstner not short of a bob or two…

US wires are reporting that IBM supremo Lou "Boots" Gerstner got nearly $14 million salary in 1998, a monumental 70 per cent rise on 1997. This was in a year when Gerstner, formerly a tobacco baron at Nabisco, did a u-turn on the company's channel policy and said ne'er a word about his famous magic boots. The boots, long-standing readers will remember, would allow you to shake hands with someone and before you knew it, exchange all sorts of details. However, last year, we disclosed that the technology was immature, and you would actually have to get quite a bit closer to Lou to transmit anything worthwhile. Nevertheless, Lou has so much money in IBM share options that possibly he isn't too worried about the boots any more. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

PC industry optimism at ‘five year high’

What has Deloitte & Touche been drinking? The publicity happy accountancy firm claims that short-term optimism for the PC industry is at a five-year high, At the same time, D&T tells us that "customers hold the power". This is enough to make any self-respecting PC builder feel very miserable indeed. Basing its analysis on 1998's fourth quarter, D&T pronounces the biggest winners are companies that can come up with "unique sales and margin strategies". This management consultancy insight will be most useful to Europe's 40,000 or so system builders. Demands of business and consumer PC buyers will drive the industry forward, according to the PC Critical Industry Trend Evaluator (PC-CITE) report. Far from the doom and gloom of many predictions for the industry, the feelgood survey says PC buyers are grasping new products in record numbers. "Our PC-CITE report indicates that the market is optimistic about the future of the industry," said Charles Goldenberg, partner in Deloitte Consulting's High Technology Group in San Francisco, California. "Despite recent announcements that selected PC makers' shipments are decreasing, business and consumer PC buyers alike are bullish about new technologies," he added. The report also indicates that expectations for long-term returns on future investment are increasing. But Goldenberg had bad news for manufacturers. He said vendors must be more aggressive in finding ways to cut costs in preparation for the next threshold of price declines -- the sub-$500 PC. These methods included less expensive materials, lower manufacturing costs and economies of scale. The Register anticipates record PC builder failures this year. For what it's worth. ®
Linda Harrison, 23 Mar 1999