31st > March > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Register ordered to cease and desist pre-empting US joke

A humourless letter from one of a few members in a conspiracy of humour sites hoping to spring an April's Fool Joke tomorrow in the USA has ordered The Register not to tell the joke first. As we didn't know it was a joke, we have therefore taken the threat seriously and will now desist from telling jokes before the time is ripe. Pre-empting jokes, said a humourless April Fool hoaxer, would spoil the joke, but as the joke can't happen until tomorrow we don't see how we can spoil the fun. Except to say, of course, this must be part of the joke although one of the would-be hoaxers said if we spoilt his joke tomorrow morning he would take it very seriously. He said our self interest in spoiling the joke was spoiling the joke so we shouldn't spoil it... And he seemed serious. We are consulting our lawyers about the threat... It is almost April Fool's Day now in the Aleutian Islands, if they celebrate Poisson d'Avril there. But for the US it is rapidly becoming April Fool's Eve. Ahem... ®
Mike Magee, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft Web contracts tougher than Gates claims

A year ago Posted 30th March 1998 Bill Gates may have misled the Senate Judiciary Committee in his testimony earlier this month, according to this morning's New York Times. The Times quotes from a Microsoft Web partner contract passed to it by an anonymous industry executive, saying that the partner should promote Internet Explorer exclusively on its home page "and any other pages where similar promotions are placed." This could clearly be interpreted as locking out NetScape by stopping NetScape being engaged in "similar promotions," but a further section seems even more conclusive: [the partner] agrees that neither it nor its affiliates will directly or indirectly license or otherwise authorise distribution, transmission, marketing or promotion in the territory of company content or logos by companies which produce other browsers." Talking to the Judiciary Committee, on the other hand, Gates claimed that any contractual restrictions were limited to the partner company's home page, and that NetScape could be promoted anywhere else on the site. It took the committee quite some while to nail him down even to this extent, but if the Times document is genuine it seems he wasn't nailed down quite hard enough. The problem here is probably that old Microsoft one, meaning. The company's stance is that any restrictions it places on its partners in its contracts are minor, reasonable ones designed with reasonable goals in mind. If for example a magazine ran an article about NetScape with an advertisement for Explorer opposite, one of the companies (we're not sure which) would be pretty angry. But even if Microsoft's intentions are perfectly reasonable and genuine, what Microsoft's contracts actually say, and the way its partners may interpret them, is a different matter. If you get this kind of stuff coming onto your desk whenever you renew a contract, then slowly but surely (or even fairly quickly) you're going to get the impression that not getting too enthusiastic about Microsoft's competitors is a smart idea, if you want to carry on doing business with Microsoft. ®
John Lettice, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Celerons to go 100MHz FSB

Informed sources close to Intel's plan said today that the company will introduce Celeron processors with a 100MHz front side bus (FSB) in the first quarter of next year. Intel always had the technology to do that with Celerons, as reported here early this year, but has now made the decision to go ahead. And at the same time, Intel will build the Streaming SIMD Extensions (aka Katmai New Instructions) into Celeron processors. At the moment Intel has not made a decision when Celeron's will use the 133MHz FSB, the source said. At the same time, Intel has decided to quietly rid itself of the 815 chipset and replace it with the 810E chipset, the sources said. ®
Mike Magee, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

First MS-DoJ settlement talks fail to leak

MS on Trial The settlement talks between Microsoft and the DoJ/states proved to be a great disappointment to the assembled TV crews outside the DoJ offices last night. Outcome: nothing. The meeting lasted for two hours, with Microsoft being represented by Bill Neukom (head lawyer for Microsoft), Richard Urowsky for Sullivan & Cromwell (the principal outside lawyers for the trial, although Urowsky has not done much publicly during the trial so far), and Charles 'Rick' Rule, a legal consultant to Microsoft, whose association with Microsoft is often not stressed when his opinion is canvassed. In the other corner were Joel Klein (DoJ head of antitrust), David Boies (special trial counsel), together with Iowa attorney general Tom Miller and Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal. The meeting had been arranged largely in response to a hint from Judge Jackson that both sides should use the recess wisely. There is a scheduled status hearing today at 9.30am in Washington, when it is expected that a date for resumption of the trial will be announced. A number of other administrative matters will probably also be dealt with at the same time. The court has done its best to stick to The Register's timetable, but Judge Jackson's intervening criminal case looks as though it is going to last longer than anticipated, so resumption in May is now more likely. Although more serious negotiations between the sides is likely to occur (especially as the lawyers are paid by the hour), it is unlikely that much will leak out from talks in view of the trial being in progress. Certainly, nobody said anything yesterday after the talks. Last time there were talks between the two sides -- in May, before the DoJ launched the action -- there was a bad start because the Microsoft team ended up in the offices of its principal external lawyers, Sullivan & Cromwell, instead of at the DoJ main conference room. This time, the Microsoft team turned up caps-in-hand at the DoJ. The ghost of the 12-year IBM antitrust case still stalks the DoJ corridors: there were some 700 days in court, at very great expense, before the case was abandoned, largely because the issues were no longer relevant. Consequently, the DoJ does not relish the prospect of another hideously long and expensive antitrust case against a company that is probably the most obdurate legal foe in America. Nevertheless, the DoJ is unlikely to compromise this time. Microsoft will above all try to drag the case on for as long as possible, also hoping that non-relevance of the issues will bring the case to an end without an adverse decision. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel using Alphas for IA64 development

This, we promise, is not an April's Fool joke because it's only just April Fool's day in the Aleutian Islands. However, our source for this story is not our normal Intel architect but another, so take it as you will. According to the source, Intel's 64-bit emulator is performing so badly that Microsoft is requesting, nay demanding, that any code it receives is compiled on an Alpha. And Intel is now using Alphas for its IA-64 development work. Intel was not prepared to comment on the report. ®
Mike Magee, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD-ZD battle ramps up a notch

A reader of The Register has now sent us a copy of the email AMD is sending its customers rubbishing Ziff-Davis benchmarks (see ZD rejigs benchmarks after AMD complaint). The text is below, in full. "Ziff Davis has issued a statement revealing that the 3D Processing Tests used in the 3D Winbench 99 benchmark are misleading and inaccurate. They specifically point out that the tests significantly underrate the performance of AMD K6-2 and AMD K6-III processors. "Intel has used this test suite to point out potential advantages in the Pentium III and SSE technology. In addition, some of our OEM customers, industry partners, and press have used this portion of the benchmark in their testing of AMD processors. "Note that this relates to the 3D Processing Tests which include 'transformation' and the 'lighting and transformation' tests as well as the use of the Null driver. "It does not refer to the overall 3D Winmark results designed to test graphics adapters. Please review the attached detailed bulletin and communicate this to our customers and partners as appropriate. (We used this bulletin in our story yesterday, Ed) "The message: The 3D Processing Tests in the 3D Winbench 99 benchmark have been discredited by Ziff Davis, the developer of the benchmark. Any results used to negatively portray AMD K6-2 or AMD K6-III processor performance should be disregarded as inaccurate." ®
Mike Magee, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

MS demands more Sun, AOL Netscape documents

MS on Trial Microsoft has asked Judge Jackson to compel AOL, Netscape and Sun to produce all emails related to AOL's November takeover of Netscape. Microsoft is somewhat ticked-off that the alliance produced more than 120 boxes of documents to the DoJ, but less than three boxes to Microsoft in response to its subpoenas. In an emergency motion that Judge Jackson will probably rule on this morning, Microsoft asks that the court helps Microsoft obtain any missing emails "discussing the transactions". Microsoft maintains that it is industry practice to use email a great deal, but has evidently overlooked the possibility that the alliance might have been particularly careful not to have left an interesting email trail for Microsoft to pick over. It is clear that Microsoft's interest extends beyond its stated purpose of seeking documents for its own defence. The other purposes probably include Microsoft wishing to know as much about the business plans as possible, and also trying to obtain information to try to upset the complex fiscal structure of the deal. Microsoft is now asking the court to agree that its document request may extend beyond those documents produced by the alliance to the DoJ, but it is unlikely that if this is granted (and it probably will be), there will be much meat for Microsoft. The trial has shown that Microsoft's folly was in leaving a trail of email that has done a great deal to negate Microsoft's public positions on many issues, and to expose where Microsoft had resorted to dirty tricks. Lisa Poulson for Sun said that the company "did a thorough production ... complied with the subpoena, and ... satisfied the requirements in good faith." ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Acer anticipates big growth figures for ‘99

Taiwanese manufacturer Acer is in bullish mood, predicting 40 per cent sales growth in the first quarter of 1999. It expects to see increased demand for its own-brand PC-based products as well as in its OEM business, with overall growth for the year thought to be in the region of 20 per cent. Last year, Acer saw a 40 per cent jump in sales, but profit dropped by around one third. Stan Shih, Acer CEO, cut his own salary by a third last year in a symbolic gesture. It has also suspended its plans to float, citing unstable market conditions. Back in January, Acer’s financial director, Philip Peng said the float could go ahead in May – but not before. According to today’s Financial Times, Acer is banking heavily on sales of notebooks for this year’s growth – it is the number one notebook vendor in Italy, but in the UK it only owns around two per cent of the market. The company expects notebook shipments to grow from last year’s figure of 800,000 to perhaps as much as 1.5 million units. The long-running thorn in Acer’s side has been its semiconductor business. Plans to sell it off have come to nothing, but rising chip prices could see the chip division return to profitability. ®
Sean Fleming, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Alpha Processor Inc ramps up anti-Intel battle

The signs are that Alpha Processor Inc, a consortium backed by Samsung, is beginning to take on Intel at its own game. The company has posted a marketing document on its site here which outlines its future strategy. According to Jeff Borkowski, VP of business development at API, the consortium will exploit the market outside of Compaq and focus its energies on Linux, NT server, digital content creation and MCAD. He said: "Samsung is making significant investments in copper, SOI and flip chip technology which will enable us to continue to deliver the fastest Alpha processors in the market. We have an Alpha architectural license (sic) that enables us to design low cost, yet high performance Alpha processors for specific markets." API will roll out a series of promotions. It has hired spin paramedics Miller Shandwick, and a series of other marketing companies to promote its systems. At the same time, it has rolled out its global service organisation and has hired Linux pundit Rich Payne as well as ex-Compaq exec Jim Snyder. Later on today, API will kick off its benchmarking programme on its Web site. It is positioning systems against Intel Xeon machines and claims they are comprehensively outgunned. ®
Mike Magee, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

VIA to debut 133MHz front side bus

Our friends over at JC have linked to a Taiwanese site which has details of VIA's Apollo Pro Plus 133 chipset. At the same time, JC has also supplied a translation of some of the material. According to the site, the chipset will support 133MHz front side bus (FSB) and PC-133, something which Intel has not, so far, implemented. Motherboard manufacturers already have samples, while VIA is collaborating with Samsung, NEC and Micron on the memory technology. ® Related Stories Compaq, Dell take VIA on board VIA unveils chipset roadmap, claims Camino late VIA puts chipset weight behind PC 133
Mike Magee, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Morse hit by dodgy spelling

Every once in a while art imitates life in the most bizarre fashion. A report in today’s Financial Times - revered by many as the bastion of rock-solid business journalism – into the recent float by UK reseller Morse, provides a useful illustration. Commenting on the failure of Morse stock to set the market alight, the FT article said Morse has a perception problem. “The main drag could be described as a ‘smaller companies effect’,” it said. It went on to compare Morse with Compel and note that UK channel behemoth, Computacenter, suffers from no such syndrome. This was obviously a concept close to the heart of the FT, as it went on to refer to Morse as Morsel – we kid you not. “Some institutions started to compare Morsel to SmallCap computer group Compel,” it said. It’s never a good day when you find out people think of you as little more than a tasty bite-sized snack. ®
Fine Slagmen, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

UK tabloid papers launch Web access for the masses

CurrantBun.com may sound like a Web site for bakers, but it is the latest attempt by the UK’s leading tabloid to offer free Internet access. Cockney rhyming slang for The Sun, CurrantBun was launched yesterday along with The Mirror’s announcement that it will launch its own portal site on 30 April. The Mirror’s site will be called ic24.co.uk – as in "I see 24 hours a day" – but as yet this URL appears to be dead. Britain’s two biggest Red Tops could bring the Internet into mainstream culture while trying to cash in on the on-line boom. The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International (which also owns The Times and the New York Post), aims to bridge the gap between geeks and glamour girls. Yesterday it was offering special deals on new PCs and software, help with "netiquette" and "geek speak" and even listed stars’ email addresses. Editor of The Sun David Yelland labelled the venture "the people’s portal", saying: "CurrantBun will complement the paper in many ways and will offer opportunities and content that are not in the paper and vice versa." The Mirror has teamed up with Cable & Wireless, Microsoft and Compaq to become Britain’s leading Internet portal with a four-year deal and £50 million investment. ®
Linda Harrison, 31 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Y2K bug to take bite out of Japan tomorrow

The millennium bug could hit Japan tomorrow because most Japanese companies start their financial year on 1 April. While the rest of us have nine-months’ breathing space, many older PCs in Japan may read 1 April 2000 as the year 1900. Tomorrow’s deadline may see the collapse of many computer systems, Professor Shumpei Kumon of the International University of Japan, has warned in today’s Financial Times. A Gartner Group report last month said Japan had underestimated the year 2000 problem. The study ranked Japan alongside Armenia, Guatemala and North Korea. This insult prompted the Japanese government to show data proving the nation’s readiness. An updated report from Gartner has since moved them into line with other industrialised economies. However, analysts remained sceptical about the validity of the Japanese government’s figures. Data was filtered by industry agencies and few companies in Japan have disclosed efforts or spending on the problem, according to today’s article. ®
Linda Harrison, 31 Mar 1999