25th > March > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Lou Gerstner's IBM loses it on ThinkPads, PCs

Big Blue has screwed up big time in the PC market and managed to lose $1 billion in that business in 1998. The company saw $1 billion of greenbacks slip out of its hands and into the pockets of competitors including Compaq, Dell and HP. The disastrous loss in its PC business means that it's now more likely than ever that IBM will exit the PC business. As IBM foisted its PC XT on the world in the first place, the $1 billion loss is doubly humiliating. The news coincides with the release of IBM's Annual Report. In that, Mr Gerstner partly blamed price wars and slumps in the chip market. Now, his message is one of discontinuity, rather than continuity. He said: "In just about all businesses – including information technology, but also banking and retailing and health care, and in the noncommercial world, too – we will see new leaders emerge, and we will see some old, longtime leaders sink. Competitors will spring up out of nowhere – competitors called "something.com." A quick search showed that WWW.SOMETHING.COM is still free. Someone go and register it quick. Overall, revenues grew from $78,508,000,000 to $81,667,000,000, while net profits were up from $6,093,000,000 to $6,328,000,000. Gerstner re-iterated his earlier statement that the "PC era is over". Unfortunately, the PC era seems to have been over for IBM soon after it began in 1981. What a catalogue of disasters. Bad news for IBM's personal systems division is bad news for IBM resellers , disties and IBM channel assemblers. And very good news for Dell. Dell can soak up IBM components and make much more use of IBM's profitable services division than can IBM's channel dependent PC operations. IBM PC losses come after the company stripped out more than $1 billion in costs. On the upside, capital-spending needs are small, according Milunovich.The PC division's headline $992 million loss can be reduced with a little jiggery pokery by reallocating expenses within IBM's hardware business. And The Register supposes that IBM PCs are useful route to market for the company's components operations. But the company's PC business has failed to earn the cost of capital over the last three years. And group profit for 1999 would be 50 cents to 75 cents more if IBM junked the PC business. "The loss in PCs was a key reason hardware only contributed 29 percent of [IBM] pretax profit," Milunovich said in his report. He was able to run the slide rule over IBM's PC operations because US regulators had forced the company for the first time to supply detailed profit and loss statements for each division. ® See also: PC industry optimism at 'five year high'
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD K7 ripped asunder on Japanese site

A Japanese site has published new pictures of the K7 part which take the slot apart and reveal new details. At the same time, rumours are growing that AMD will shortly announce 475MHz K6-III and slash prices of existing parts just a few days after the next Intel price cuts. The K7 pictures are here and are accompanied by pictures of a Kryotech K6-III 600MHz box. ® Related Stories Intel to slash Pentium III prices on 11 April Those K7 pix from CeBIT 99
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

A year ago: Intel, Compaq sail in choppy seas

The mighty Intel caused tech stocks in the US to bob around like corks in the English Channel when it told the world that it would make less money in its current financial quarter than it had thought. But when Compaq, just a few days later, said it would only break even in its financial period, the whole of Wall Street went crazy, with tech companies shedding points like rejected Christmas trees shed pine needles. Since the announcements were made, only a few days ago, acres of newsprint have been devoted to the subject but, so far, little light has been shed on what problems the companies have. For Intel to say that its gross margin has been reduced from 53 per cent to 50 per cent, for example, is little more than a joke to other IT companies, which haven’t seen margins approaching anything like that since the mid-1980s. Intel has been disingenuous about the reasons for its profit warning - saying it is not entirely sure what the problems are. This, of course, is utter rubbish; as one of the most over-managed companies in the known universe, it has bean counters who are entirely clear what the problems are. If, for example, Intel was to come out and say that despite the millions of dollars it had spent on marketing, including the very silly BunnyPeople™, few people were convinced they should upgrade to the Pentium II, it would be a massive loss of face for the Great Stan. Instead, Intel, rather feebly, has pointed people in the direction of the Great Stan of Software, saying that there are not enough applications around for the people to want to shift. This, of course, flies in the face of most people’s PC experience. Running Office 97 and Internet Explorer puts a strain on all but the most powerful of machines. Increased product cycle activity and ever diminishing prices would convince your average BunnyPerson™ on the Clapham Omnibus that to move to a new PC now would fly in the face of common sense. Compaq, on the other hand, is a far more interesting case. Some of us here at The Register have wondered for some time how long Pfeiffer’s company, like Topsy, could gather on growing and growing. If Compaq’s sales people, as some have suggested, have stuffed the channel with all sorts of machines, then it is a classic mistake that has cost other PC companies badly in the past. Compaq is not a happy ship. If you count the number of senior VPs that have left Pfeiffer in the last year and a bit, you’d need more than two hands. If it is true that Eckhard Pfeiffer, according to one report last week, drew $70 million in salary and options from Compaq in 1997, then perhaps he is the difference between break-even and profit. One thing is for sure. Blaming it on the Asian crisis won’t wash and shareholders won’t tolerate anything in Compaq’s case but success and more success. Can it be too long before we hear whispers that our Man of the Year must go? ®
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Germany contemplates its IT navel

Analysis Laptop and lederhosen are more closely integrated in Bavaria, the epicentre of the German IT industry, than in Hanover so it's surprising that CeBIT hasn't moved south to Munich. But there are increasing signs of resentment about this. CeBIT has become the biggest trade show in the world, with around 650,000 visitors, and has paid for a good share of the expansion of the Hanover site of Deutsche Messe. Before CeBIT Home was spun off a few years ago, and CeBIT "re-professionalised", attendance had passed 700,000 and would be close to a million had the split not been made. The show closes today, and next year it will be at the end of February because of some Y2K nonsense. This CeBIT was notable for some franker-than-usual discussion of technology issues in Germany. Roman Herzog, the German president, said at the opening that the negative image of the entrepreneur that developed in the 1970s had resulted in people opting for personal security of employment and a resistance to taking risks. In the early 1990s, the proportion of self-employed people in Germany was 7 per cent, a historic low. This stimulated German government action, with the result that there are now around 10 per cent self-employed, and several university departments teaching entrepreneurial skills. Herzog was critical of the attitude of German banks, which have a stranglehold over the German economy since the stock market is small. The banks are now better at backing entrepreneurs, Herzog suggested, but still have an aversion to supporting an entrepreneur who has already failed. In the US, initial failure is often regarded as a useful lesson that results in more realistic plans by second-time entrepreneurs. Some of them are even to be found at Microsoft, as the result of a policy decision. Peter Fisher, the Lower Saxony minister of technology, was delighted that "the major proportion of mobile phones are now produced in Germany - and not in low-wage East Asian countries". For some reason this reminded us of the immortal lines: "Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them, Volleyed and thundered", but we doubt that Herr Fisher would get the joke. Both Herzog and Fisher ranted on about falling telecoms costs, but side-stepped the obvious conclusion that despite some small efforts at producing a competitive market, Deutsche Telekom (along with partner France Telecom) were still two of the most monopolistic organisations in Europe, European Commission or no Commission - well the latter actually. It is after all not insignificant that the Commission was monstrously incapable of policing and enforcing the proper privatisation of the these telco hydras. Hans-Olaf Henkel, president of the National Association of German Industry, finally put the boot into the German situation with an outspoken analysis of the German situation that was not entirely well-received by the German audience. He didn't like the fact that Germany had a DM 128 billion trade surplus in 1998, but a chronic IT trade deficit of DM 15 billion. The deficit argument was similarly viewed in the UK some twenty years ago, but the hopelessness of successive governments to influence this was shrugged off and, as it happened, a software and services industry developed as a countermeasure. Henkel wasn't pleased that per capita ownership of PCs was lower in Germany than in other industrialised countries. Germany spends less on technology as a percentage of GDP (4.5 per cent, about the European average) than the USA (7.6 per cent) or the UK (6.4 per cent). German schools have few PCs (20 per cent are linked to the Internet, compared with 80 per cent in the USA), although judging from some of the PC software for education, the benefit is mostly in manual dexterity at the expense of reading. With officially more than 4 million out of work in Germany (some say nearer 7 million), there are at present 75,000 vacancies in the German IT sector. There has been a myth that the German federal system of government works well, but Henkel drew back the curtain. Regional education ministers had been politically deadlocked for years, with educational reform taking place at the pace of the slowest minister. So what's Henkel's answer? "One learns to become competitive by competing." [That is a gem: and it certainly has application to the UK, where competitive sport and educational elitism have been unfashionable, at least until last week. Meanwhile in the US, the school curriculum reads more like a sales training prospectus than an educational programme.] The cause of many of Germany's difficulties are the industry associations and trade unions, Henkel said, with uniform national pay scales (and very high social costs) not taking account of different living costs. Henkel had some advice for the government, some of which was based on bizarre examples such as Clinton and Gore's "information society" political slogan, and Tony Blair's declaration that the millennium bug was a matter of national importance. So, Henkel concluded with that infallible German logic, "as a result, computer industry experts believe Great Britain has less reason to worry at the turn of the century than other countries". So that's all right then. That alleged-German efficiency turns out to be achieved through electromechanical devices rather electronic ones, it appears, at least at the top. How quaint that in the office of the federal chancellor, "messages are still delivered by pneumatic tube". The Finnish president, Henkel noted, spends considerable time answering emails from Finns. It was hostility towards technology in the mid-1980s that Henkel blames for German backwardness in the acceptance of technology. It was not nuclear power or genetic engineering that excited protestors, but computers, although a child-led revolution has largely overturned this. Henkel's final plea was directed against recent unpopular fiscal measures in Germany, the monstrous public debt that arose largely as a result of social services expenditure, and the under-investment in education. That sounds familiar. ®
Graham Lea, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Gates trails antitrust deal – but is he stalling again?

MS on Trial It's quiz time again: what have Sir David Frost, a forthcoming Microsoft dictionary, British merchant bankers Schroders, the Microsoft trial, Computer Weekly, Variety and Bill Gates in common? Well, Gates agreed to be interviewed yesterday at the Variety/Schroders media conference in New York (incorrectly referred to as the Scroders/Variety conference in most media today, following an error in a Reuters story). So why was Frost doing the interviewing? Well, he's about as soft and sycophantic as they go, has had at least two previous involvements with Microsoft, and is therefore acceptable to Gates' PR minders. Yesterday not much was said about the antitrust case, and what was said is nothing but an attempt to give cheer to those who voluntarily bought Microsoft products. Gates reflected what was already in a roughly drafted document now with the DoJ and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who leads for the 19 states. Gates said: "There are ongoing discussions and I won't speculate as to the probabilities or anything, but I hope it does get settled." Any settlement would have to preserve Microsoft's "ability to innovate Windows, the ability to maintain the integrity of Windows as a fully designed product." With these provisos, Gates said that "As long as we can keep those intact, it would be great to settle the thing." This requires some parsing. So far as the "innovation" comment is concerned, we have been unable to identify any innovations from Microsoft that are still on offer. As to maintaining "the integrity of Windows", this hints that Microsoft might be willing to open up the code, providing it was still controlled by Microsoft. As to settlement, Microsoft would clearly like to drag on private settlement talks for weeks, but it will not be able to get away with this. In previous discussions with the DoJ last May, Microsoft showed just how devious it was in so-called negotiations. Gates at that time intervened and forced Microsoft negotiators to back-track on what had been offered. In June/July 1995, former antitrust chief Ann Bingaman forced Gates to take part in a conference call, because it was clear that he was pulling the strings behind the scenes. There are few leaks so far, but the NY Times this morning carries a report citing somebody who has seen the proposal. It seems Microsoft is prepared to give way a little on the first-screen issue. Apparently the document does not mention breaking up Microsoft, or an essential facilities move (putting Windows code in the public domain), or licensing Microsoft products on standard terms with a published price list, or open-monitoring of Microsoft contracts. California attorney general Bill Lockyer said that the Microsoft offer (in a document being described as a "framework") was "far from what anyone in our group would expect to be adequate." Jennifer Granholm, the Michigan attorney general, said the states want "something with teeth, something that works, unlike the previous [consent decree], but not "to disembowel the company". [What kinds of law do they have in Michigan: still hanging, drawing and quartering?] Other remarks by Gates from the Frost interview covered his concern about the valuations of high tech companies, including Microsoft. Gates also said he was unimpressed by Hollywood's use of technology internally - but this could reflect his sour grapes that Linux was used for the Titanic special effects. Gates' first encounter with Frost was in an interview in November 1995 at the launch of Gates' first book, The Road Ahead, when Frost's TV company made a programme about the book. Frost was busy again last year when he chaired the announcement that Bloomsbury, the publishers, were working on a dictionary for Microsoft. A year earlier, it had been announced that Bloomsbury was contracted to produce (another) book of quotations, but this soon became the "World's first global dictionary" as Microsoft's announcement so modestly put it (it is due in August). Frost told us at the time that he would be doing another TV programme on the dictionary launch, but he didn't know about the second book at the time. Gates liked a press report quoted by Frost (and no doubt supplied by Microsoft PR in what was clearly an interview controlled by the handlers) that the DoJ wanted Microsoft to be "nicer to its competitors": "I think that's a pretty good summary," Gates agreed. It is just a coincidence that Gates was in New York yesterday, and will be in Washington today, pushing "his" book. It is unlikely that he will have any direct talks with the DoJ or the states. At lunch in Washington today, representatives of the attorney generals will discuss Microsoft's proposal. Oh yes, the Computer Weekly connection: bonus points for anyone who worked out that the Variety/Schroders conference was organised by Cahners, owned, as is Computer Weekly, by Reed Elsevier, despite rumours that Microsoft might be taking a stake. FASHION NOTE: Gates turned up in a blue suit, a dark red textured tie, new thin-framed specs, and with a new very-short haircut. No reason for this makeover was offered: it could be a result of Mrs Gates' advice, or a decision by the great man (and his minders) to change his image. Why could that be? EDITOR'S NOTE: The haircut will likely cause massive reorganisations within the MS hierarchy, which contains numerous second, third and lower tier Gates wannabe execs. (You all know who you are). The key to this, so far, has been the haircut, which given approximately the right colouring makes it easy (albeit no less sickeningly creepy) for them to achieve a striking resemblance to His Billness. We even clapped eyes on a Korean one from LG (no, we don't know why either) on a plane a couple of years back. Will these stranded fashion-victims now all top themselves? ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Blast from the Past: AMD powered missile hits Intel HQ in Baghdad

100 days ago When Gulf War II started, we posted a story AMD powered missile hits Intel HQ in Baghdad Now that the Tomahawks have started flying again, we sincerely hope that the Cruise missiles raining down on Serbia have had the timer chip fixed. Especially since UK tabloids like the Sun tell us that they can be programmed from 1,000 miles away to hit the centre spot on a football pitch. ®
The Register breaking news

South Koreans march against Bill Gates

We picked this one up from Reuters yesterday and it dovetails nicely into our earlier story about the Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) investigating Microsoft. According to the report, over 1,000 dealers marched in Seoul to complain at the high prices of Win98 software in the country. The dealers are angry because at the same time Microsoft is waging an anti-piracy campaign in the country. ® Related Stories Korea investigates Microsoft over Win98 pricing Koreans raise the Anti-Microsoft standard ( posted originally in July, 1998
A staffer, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Surplus of SDRAM causes memory slump

Prices of 64Mb/PC100 memory modules are continuing to drop daily, a memory distributor said today. And that follows a trend over the last two or three months where the price for a module has dropped from £90 to £60, according to Alan Stanley, UK MD of French memory company Dane-Elec. He said that while there were samples of Direct Rambus shown at last week's CeBIT, it was likely to be next year before that type of memory arrived in volume. The reason for the slump in memory prices was overproduction, Stanley said. "We've seen our biggest month yet in quantities at Dane-Elec," he said. Demand for PCs still continued, he said. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Ericsson, Qualcomm settle CDMA differences

Ericsson and Qualcomm will, later today, announce they have settled their differences over the future of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology. They will agree to support a single world standard with three optional modes. And Ericsson will take over Qualcomm's CDMA infrastructure business which includes R&D facilities in the US. ® Related Story Ericsson plots Qualcomm's demise Qualcomm and Ericsson jaw-jaw Qualcomm set to cause mobile war
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

AOL tight-lipped as jobs are slashed

AOL has refused to say whether the UK will have to make any job cuts following yesterday's announcement in the US that around 1,000 jobs will be axed by the high-profile Internet company. A spokeswoman for AOL UK declined to comment on how yesterday's decision would affect the UK, insisting that all enquiries should instead be directed to AOL's head office in the US. No one was available for comment when this story went to press. Yesterday the company confirmed that between 350 and 500 jobs would be lost at Netscape -- recently acquired by AOL -- and a similar number would be cut across AOL's other operations. The cuts will take place later this year and will reduce the company's current workforce of 12,000 by around eight per cent. Despite the news -- which had been widely flagged -- bosses at AOL tried to smooth over news of the redundancies instead focusing on the more positive aspects of the merger. "We are especially excited about adding Netscape's talented people -- highly regarded in Silicon Valley and elsewhere -- to our team," said Steve Case, chairman and CEO in a statement issued to journalists. Does this mean the 500 or so Netscape employees getting the boot are talentless? ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Egg and BT ClickFree to sell Fujitsu PCs

Never slow to spot a quirky channel opportunity, Fujitsu has teamed up with BT ClickFree and Egg, the savings and investment company owned by Prudential. The ClickFree site will offer three different Fujitsu PCs, which all come pre-loaded with ClickFree software. Customers of Egg will also be able to buy Fujitsu PCs from the Egg Web site. These latest Fujitsu channel signings follow last year's decision by the Japanese PC maker to bypass the traditional high street retailer and sell its PCs in supermarkets, the most notable of which was Tesco. Bryan Taylor, Fujitsu UK managing director, denied the company had embarked on a series of PR stunts and gimmicks to raise its profile. "We’ve sold 25,000 PCs through Tesco," Taylor said. "It’s more than a gimmick, this is a serious attempt to find a creative approach to getting to the customer." "BT and the Pru are two of the most rock solid brands in the UK. Teaming up with them certainly won’t do us any harm," he continued. On the ClickFree site, customers will be able to buy a Fujitsu PIII-based PC for £759 (ex-VAT) or a notebook PC from £879 (ex-VAT). Taylor said Fujitsu was able to operate at these low price levels and still make a profit. "These retailers have a lower expectation of margin than the traditional resellers." ®
Sean Fleming, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Dismemberment of Toshiba DRAM biz continues

Asian wires today are reporting that Taiwanese company Winbond Electronics is to manufacture a number of high end memory products for Toshiba. The technologies include .15 and .175 micron technology for 64Mbit, 128Mbit and 256Mbit memory chips, according to the reports. Winbond already makes some DRAM for the Japanese company but this is a substantially more important move because of the high end nature of the products it will manufacture. The memory market, in general, is hoping for a revival in fortunes this year and next as 256Mbit parts come into production. There is an increasing trend for Japanese combines to outsource production of semiconductors in a bid to keep down costs. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq to open multi-million Taiwan plant

Terry Shannon is reporting in his admirable CPQ-DEC newsletter Shannon knows Compaq that Mr Pfeiffer's organisation is set to spend millions of dollars on a plant in Taiwan. The move will help Mr Pfeiffer keep costs down in order to compete with his favourite bete noir, the hardware Dell from Hell. Late last year, we reported such plans. (Story: Compaq, IBM dump on Taiwanese PC manufacturers) But while it may spell good news for the big Q, Taiwanese assemblers with contracts with Compaq are likely to be less pleased. Compaq's UK PR office was unavailable for comment when we tried them this morning. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq and Dell slug it out in war of words

Have the good folk of Compaq UK finally gone mad? In an uncharacteristic outburst of pugilism, Compaq has blasted Dell for its ‘cut out the middleman’ ad campaign. It even went as far as projecting its own ads on the Dell UK headquarters in Bracknell on Tuesday evening, demanding that Dell comes clean about its attitude toward the channel. Dell has turned round and denied the stunt even took place, according to reports on VNU Newswire. Brian McBride, vice president of Dell UK & Ireland is reported to have said: “We had a security alert in the middle of the night, but that was it.” A Compaq representative laughed at Dell’s response. “We’ve got the photos,” she told The Register. Compaq’s beef with the direct-selling demon is that while it advises customers to cut out the middleman (ie the channel), it actually relies heavily on third parties to provide installation and support services. So much so, Compaq claims, that Dell is actively courting the UK channel. Another claim that Dell is quick to stomp on. Some people in the UK channel may find a not-so-subtle irony in Compaq’s latest stance. Compaq has been inching closer and closer toward establishing direct links with its customers for the last two years. A move which led some Compaq resellers to accuse the PC giant of deserting the very partners that helped it grow. Perhaps the silly season has come early this year. ®
Sean Fleming, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Corel pedals through product cycle lows

Corel confirmed a bad first quarter yesterday. Revenue was $40.3 million, down from $45.5 million in the year-ago quarter. The loss of $14.6 million compares with $21.1 million a year ago. Corel has however managed to reduce its costs by 22 percent. The head count is 1,515. Corel finds itself in a product cycle low, with new versions of CorelDRAW and WordPerfect Office 2000 scheduled for the end of the current financial quarter, ending 31 May. That suggests the results for Q2 are likely to be bad as well, although there may be some relief as a result of upgrade coupons for the new product versions with the current versions. In the conference call after the results were released, it was said that Corel's sales revenue splits into 60 percent retail, 30 percent licences, and 10 percent OEM. The last quarter saw a significant decline in retail sales as a result. Corel has deferred revenue of $19.5 million compared with $12 million a year earlier. Corel has just enough cash to make it through one more bad quarter, it would appear ($14 million) without any need for borrowing. Corel has slightly improved the market share of its DRAW product, but the graphics market as a whole was down in the quarter. Corporate and OEM sales have marginally increased. Four language versions of WP will be released this quarter(English,French, German and Dutch). The Linux version of WP has been downloaded 900,000 times, according to Michael Cowpland. He added: "The only people who tend to buy Microsoft [Office] are those who don't look at our product." He also noted that Microsoft had put its "monopoly prices" up substantially, restricting personal use and concurrent use, with the result that some Microsoft Office product prices had gone up 220 percent. Corel is bundling WP significantly with Gateway, with new bundling deals in the quarter with Lexmark and CyberDyne. The anticipated US upgrade street prices of WP2000 are: standard version, $99; with speech recognition, $149; and the professional version, $199. These are around 30 percent higher than current prices. Corel shares were languishing on Nasdaq at $2.25 yesterday. It is hard to identify any more bad news and unfortunate product timing, so perhaps the future for Corel will be brighter, and cheer up the disgruntled shareholders. Corel did not put on its usual press conference at CeBIT this year, maybe because the general objective of such events is to spread good news. However, Corel did demonstrate WordPerfect 2000 at CeBIT, with Philips FreeSpeech product for speech recognition rather than Dragon. Philips is stronger in the European market, and offers 16 languages at present, which will increase to 32 and eventually include Chinese and Japanese. However, Dragon-enabled WordPerfect will continue to be available in the North American market. ®
Graham Lea, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Motorola to license M-Core processor

Motorola is preparing to offer its M-Core line of embedded Risc processors to other developers through a wide-ranging licensing programme, The Register has learned. While licensing chip cores to third-parties isn't an entirely new venture for Motorola -- companies can already form partnerships based on the use of its 680x0-based Coldfire and PowerPC processors -- the M-Core announcement is likely to be rather more important. For a start, M-Core is one of the key hardware platforms for Symbian's EPOC 32 operating system. Secondly, Motorola's manager for wireless markets on the M-Core team, Kyle Harper, hinted that the licensing programme will be a corporate Motorola announcement rather than a Semiconductor Products Sector (SPS) show. Harper refused to comment on what the announcement, which is due to be made in the "April to May timeframe", might involve, but it's clearly going to be major. M-Core was launched 15 months ago, and has already won $2 billion worth of business, according to Motorola, most of it from companies previously using other embedded processors, most notably StrongARM. The Motorola chip was designed specifically and from the ground up for highly compact, very low power consumption embedded applications, such as portable GPS systems, smartphones, cellphones, palmtops and pagers. That, said Harper, meant the chip has to deliver a high number of MIPS:MegaHertz ratio through high code densities. Harper claimed that chips based on M-Core running at a nominal speed of 33MHz (high for embedded systems, particularly where a maximum battery life of "weeks" is critical) would consume 0.28mW of power, half of what an equivalent speed StrongARM would use. He also cited statistics showing that on to perform a complex real-world application, Chinese handwriting recognition, an ARM chip would require 1MB more code than M-Core and would execute it in 50 per cent more cycles -- and that's using the ARM Thumb instruction compression technology. All this makes M-Core a particularly appropriate platform for the kind of mobile communications devices Symbian, in which Motorola is an investor and technology partner, is promoting EPOC-32 for. EPOC-32 currently runs on StrongARM, but Harper said Motorola and Symbian were currently porting the OS to M-Core. Symbian clealy had some input in the design of the chip itself, much as Apple did with the development of the PowerPC 750 (aka G3). And M-Core is to become the basis for all of Motorola's consumer electronics and communications products. M-Core is currently made available to companies seeking customised chips and in a standard configuration, with four or five more standard configurations, each aimed at specific application areas, due before the end of the year. Next month's licensing programme should extend the chip's reach even further. Harper suggested that current licensing deals differ from other intellectual property licences in that they're not about mining a single royalty stream but focus more on leveraging other areas such as chip design and production. Given the company clearly makes little money up front -- "We'll have a very low bar to entry," said Harper. "The up-front investment for a partner will be minimal." -- that suggests Motorola could be seriously considering Sun's new approach with UltraSparc and releasing M-Core under some kind of open source licence. Specifications and programming tools would be made available to anyone, generating revenue only for Motorola if the results make it to market. That the announcement will be a major Motorola corporate deal suggests the company may offer other technologies under a similar arrangement. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Music industry sues MP3 search engine developer

The music industry's anti-piracy organisation, the International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI), is suing the company behind Lycos' MP3 Search service. Ironically, the service's Oslo, Norway-based developer, Fast, shares the same initials as the UK computer industry's answer to IFPI, the Federation Against Software Theft. Fast initially developed an FTP search engine for the Internet portal. Last year, Lycos and Fast used the same technology to provide a method of accessing the half a million or more MP3 music files out there on the Internet. IFPI claims that the vast majority of those files were not posted with the permission of the relevant copyright holders and therefore the technology is encouraging illegal duplication of copyright material. The organisation claimed Fast's software "infringes copyright on a mass scale by collecting direct links to thousands of pirate music files on the Internet". IFPI's Norwegian wing is the prime mover in the legal action, though the organisation is also considering suing Fast in the US and extending the suit to take in Lycos too. What effect that will have on USA Networks' proposed takeover of the portal company remains to be seen. Legal action would be particularly embarrassing for Canadian booze company Seagram, which not only owns a 46 per cent share in USA Networks, but own Universal, one of the world's so-called 'big five' music labels. IFPI said it was taking the action against Fast in support of "all those independent, new companies and artists who are looking to pioneer a legitimate on-line music market". Ironically (again), many of these companies are keen supporters of MP3 because it allows them to distribute music without recourse to the major labels, who, incidentally, are IFPI's biggest members. Stretching IFPI's credibility further was the backing of the legal action by AudioSoft, a company founded to make money selling music distribution software -- hardly a disinterested party. At the same time, it's a moot point whether Fast is responsible for the content its search system indexes. We would have thought IFPI would achieve more success using Fast's engine to find and prosecute those individuals who are committing piracy, rather than 'shooting the messenger' as it appears to be doing today. We would certainly be curious to hear what Norwegian law has to say about the matter. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Secret pact between Compaq, MS revealed

Sources close to both Microsoft and Compaq's plans have revealed the extent of their co-operation on future versions which are OpenVMS based. Eckhard Pfeiffer, CEO of Compaq, and Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, are continuing their plans to leave Intel out in the cold, our sources said. The "alliance" between Compaq and Microsoft extends until 2005, our sources confirmed. Samsung will produce cheap Alphas. "OpenVMS" in its full manifestation is Windows NT 8, our source told us. Where does this leave Intel and the Merced engineers currently fleeing Compaq? Our source refused to be drawn on this one. Tomorrow, we will publish a strictly internal document from Compaq on how it should be seen by the outside world. This is not nearly half as funny as Intel's document How to deal with the European Press but will help all you Compaq partners how to understand the new world order. One snippet suggests that all Compaq badges have to be on the belt, "or lower".... A sign of a gulag, we will be bound... ® RegisTroid 64 bisschen Why doesn't Intel invest in Compaq?
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Is Slot B on the AMD K7 copper, or what?

Robert Stead, European marketing director of AMD in Northern Europe, was keen to distance himself from any relationship with Compaq or copper technology, in the future. That much is on the record. But what is off the record is far more interesting. In the last three weeks we have shown slides demonstrating that Alpha promises to scale up to 1.4GHz technology well before Intel can do the same with its Merced processor. Never mind its McKinley platform, alleged to be .13 micron technology. Remember, dear readers, the US FTC forced Intel to fab these Alpha microprocessors. The slides are there, the quotes are there and Compaq is on the record. Where, then, does that leave AMD? Or Intel... Intel claims it has a copper technology but has been very coy about how it will implement it. Can it cross-license it from Loot "Boot" Gerstner's loss making company IBM? And how does NatSemi feel about all of this? Patently, it is a nightmare. Is, then, AMD a minor partner in a Microsoft-Compaq "alliance" which only has a minor part in future copper technology, possibly forged by copper alliances? No one will say. But drawing all of this together, it seems apparent to us, at least, that AMD, in its minor role, is part of a joint Microsoft-Compaq "alliance" to attack Intel. What does the FTC think about this? It's a bit of a muddle, we aver... Is this confusion good for the industry? That's not to say for us either. We leave that sort of decision to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which must surely be connected to the HQ of the United Nations in New York... It, after all, has the say-so on whether roses are placed into guns. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple to back Linux with dedicated manager

Apple's strategy regarding Linux appears to be beginning to take shape: the company has started searching for someone to oversee the work being done by distributors of PowerPC versions of the open source operating system. Apple has just posted a job application, discovered by Mac Web site MacInTouch, for anyone interested in becoming the company's Technology Manager for Linux. Interestingly, the successful applicant will be "responsible for making Linux developers who support Apple's hardware more successful" by helping "Linux developers get seeded with new Apple hardware to guarantee support for our new CPUs". Varieties of Linux mentioned by Apple include LinuxPPC, mkLinux and TerraSoft's upcoming Champion. The appointment signals something of a shift for Apple. With the release of the first Power Mac G3 boxes, the company appeared to move away from its earlier position of helping OS developers ensure their software was fully compatible with Apple's hardware. That's one of the reasons cited of Be's increasing focus on the Wintel world, despite the fact that BeOS runs far more successfully on a Mac than a PC. So far, none of the main PowerPC varieties of Linux will run on the latest 'blue and white' G3s, although LinuxPPC, for one, can now be made to work on the iMac. Last week's announcement that the company would be posting components of MacOS X Server under an open source-style licence led many observers to speculate that the company would wish to focus would-be Linux users' attention on its own product. Clearly Apple now recognises Linux is a factor when business customers come to choose hardware, and it obviously wants those who are set on Linux as their OS of choice will get the best results if they run it on a Mac rather than an Intel-based box. Indeed, the appointment of an Apple Technology Manager for Linux could pave the way for the Linux-based G3 rumoured to have been in preparation for January's MacWorld Expo in San Francisco (see Apple plans Linux-Mac launch for MacWorld). With the major PC vendors ramping up their Linux support, particularly as a sales option, Apple clearly doesn't want to be left out. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

The Register trapped in Yugoslav pincer movement

Not that we're paranoid. But did Nato have to choose Belgrade as the venue for its latest turkey shoot? Serb leader Slobodan Milosovic has called on Serbians worldwide to fight back against Nato aggression. This sounds like a call to car bombs. The Register should declare its interest, at this point. This could be AMD's chance to take us out at long last...it supplies parts for the Tomahawk Cruise missile. We work out of Mayfair’s very own Little Yugoslavia -- at the end of our street is the offices of Yugoslav-owned JAT Airlines, and three floors below us, on the ground floor is the Serbian-run Chick Chack Café. Around the corner, our favourite restaraunt is staffed front of house by Serbian waitresses. The Register is used to being flamed, but only metaphorically. We can cope with Linux evangelists but Serb nationalists are an entirely different matter. ®
Drew Cullen, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Luftwaffe rises as SAP falls

Big German software company SAP said today that its pre-tax profit had fallen, even as German Luftwaffe planes were on the attack for the first time in 50 years. SAP said that returns on its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software were not as good as it hoped. As it issued the warning, German war planes were once again in the sky, bombing Serbia for the second time in 50 years. SAP said it could meet its targets, while the Luftwaffe today said it "was confident" it could meet theirs. But SAP is showing signs of weakness, while the German government is acting from a position of some strength. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

UK high street clueless about Web

The UK's top retailers have been slammed for ignoring for e-commerce - and middle-aged senior managers with little or no understanding of the issues are being blamed. Seven of the top 20 retailing groups in the UK have no Web site while only four companies mention e-commerce in their latest annual reports. According to Quidnunc, the London-based software consultancy which carried out the investigation, the research has uncovered a "strategic black hole at board level" as UK retailers prefer to stick their heads in the sand rather than face up to the potential of the Internet. Dixons, WH Smith and Arcadia faired reasonably well, but other high street giants -- including Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and House of Fraser -- all did poorly. "By neglecting the opportunities presented by the Internet, UK retailers are failing their shareholders, limiting their potential for growth, and ignoring the advice of every analyst in the business," said Laurence Holt, chairman and CEO of Quidnunc. Any criticism that Quidnunc's research may not hold up to close scrutiny was quickly dispersed today when David Keen, finance director of Next said that anyone who wanted to buy clothes on the Net was "sad." "It's pretty sad to want to spend ages looking at blouses download [on the Web]," he told today's Daily Telegraph. He said the company -- which scored a measly 4 out of 44 in the eReadiness study -- had no plans to put its catalogue on the Web or engage in ecommerce. Yesterday, Next announced that its pre-tax profits for last year fell by 9.3 per cent. No one from the UK's largest retail body -- the British Retail Consortium, which doesn't have a Web site either -- was available for comment this morning. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

The Register tests negative for Gates London meet

Bill Gates is in London tomorrow (Friday) to publicise his book Business@ the Speed of Thought and preach to business leaders who lack his unique business acumen. The man who spawned the Great Satan of Software will be at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, Lancaster Gate, W2 from noon onward - although entry to the oversubscribed book-signing event is by invitation only. The arrangements were confirmed today by staff at the Royal Lancaster Hotel. The Register was told about Billg Ates' visit earlier this week by PR bunnies at Text 100 who immediately slapped the Brotherhood of the Vulture with an oral NDA to keep mum about the visit after they let it slip in conversation. The promise of a ticket to the event -- and a copy of Ates' book -- never materialised. The Register, so it seems, did not make the grade after being told that the whole thing had been orchestrated from the US and that the invitation list had been thoroughly vetted in advance. There was nothing anyone in the UK could do about it, said an apologetic spokeswoman, although it is understood that a handful of UK print journalists will be there. No doubt the FT will be in the front row after serialising Ates' book in its pink bits prior to publication of the weighty tome. Ates' visit to London comes just weeks after another high-profile American, former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, visited the UK to publicise her book. Let's hope Ates succeeds as well as she did. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel semi serious about cars

Florida company Intelliworxx (sic) said today it had entered the autombile industry using Intel technology. The FLA company has introduced a CarPC product, but the product is likely to receive damning praise from the UK government. Earlier on today, John Prescott, deputy CEO of UK plc, said that his company, sorry country, was not interested in these kind of solutions any more. Prescott, deputising for CEO Tony Blair, out of the country in Berlin, said buses were the way of the future. However, Intelliworxx (sic) uses the Win98 operating system in a state of the art computing system. Intelliworxx launched at CeBIT last week. On the Microsoft stand, we noticed a yellow car with no wheels as the trams all broke down. Could this be the shape of things to come? On our way out of Hamburg, our taxi driver pointed out so-called SmartCars and said they would be useful for children and women shopping. The SmartCars were hung on the side of buildings and were, therefore, light. But our cabbie pointed out that most taxi cabs in Hamburg were made by Mercedes Benz, powered not by chips like Merced but by old-fashioned technology... Intelliworxx said in its press release that global positioning satellites would help push the technology. Microsoft is also a partner in the deal. ®