8th > April > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Microsoft mulls open source models

Microsoft is thinking about open source. It's not necessarily thinking about opening up its source code yet, it's just thinking - and that appears to be the sum total of company president Steve Ballmer's views on the subject, as expressed at WinHEC yesterday. He was at pains to stress that "Most CIOs don't want their people to touch the source code", but he did admit that some liked "a level of flexibility, or comfort, that people have when they have the source code, just in case". But as to whether Microsoft will release any source code, Microsoft has spoken with a forked tongue before. The Active Group of the Open Group was supposed to have been a vehicle for source code to be made available, but the talk proved to be a canard designed to delude the naive into thinking that Microsoft might do the unthinkable. When Microsoft sits on the fence, it says it will ask its customers. Windows VP Brian Valentine told WinHEC that Microsoft had been doing market research on whether customers want open source code. But we know from the Microsoft trial that Microsoft's idea of market research consists of telling a market researcher what result it wants -- and so we know the answer to this one without having to wait. When Valentine says "We are seriously considering it. To some extent, I do not have a problem with having the code out there," we can read between the lines that this is another example of Microsoft trying to look like a regular guy. If Microsoft releases any code, it will be an incomplete, a partial release to gain headlines, and not to designed help developers. Carl Stork, now described as general manager, Windows hardware strategy and evangelism [a fonctionnaire in the Department of Fiction in the Ministry of Truth, we would suggest] noted in response to a question that Microsoft already publishes volumes on software development kits. He was of course trying to hint that the stuff that Microsoft does release is code rather then incomplete APIs. It's also interesting to note that "Windows hardware strategy" is part of Stork's job description. Presumably that means keeping Intel in line, and maybe devising a secret price list for device manufacturers who want their drivers in Windows. Ballmer is clearly trying to slow things down on the source code release front. He said: "We are trying to understand this whole notion of open source". This is nonsense of course. The Halloween documents show that Microsoft has a chillingly clear understanding of Linux, its ilk, and especially the culture - and that it doesn't like it. So when Ballmer said the company is "thinking with great interest" about releasing its source code, what he really means is the opposite. But that's propaganda for you. Halloween, incidentally, tends to follow the "pervert and survive" Microsoft strategic approach. If you give people bits of the code to play with, you can then suck them further into the swamp via Microsoft-specific code and features. So any "open source" strategy will likely be a case of casting the net wider then reeling them all in again, rather than the genuine article. ®
Graham Lea, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Ballmer confirms two new versions of Windows 9x due

Last year Bill Gates told the Microsoft hardware engineering conference that Windows 98 would be the last DOS-based version of Windows, and that it would be merged into Windows NT. Well, that's not what Microsoft president Steve Ballmer said yesterday when he opened the HEC in Los Angeles. Ballmer announced there will be a new version of the DOS Windows next year, quite apart from the bug fix that is scheduled for later this year, to be called the Windows 98 second edition -- and unlike most bug fixes, this will not be free. Ballmer tried to present the programme for Windows as being simplification and enrichment, but behind the hype is the simple truth that NT5 is far behind its much delayed schedule and still unstable. There is some vagueness about what next year's DOS Windows will be called. Microsoft has been describing it as "a new consumer version" of Windows. It seems that the renaming of NT and 9x to Windows 2000 is becoming very confusing, even for Microsoft. It was originally Gates' idea to stop using version numbers, such as Windows 4.0, and use Windows 95. Ballmer indicated at the time that he was uneasy about this. The new consumer Windows is a necessity for Microsoft because of falling PC prices, as well as the NT5 delay. Resellers have become increasingly concerned that NT is not appropriate for consumers, and too expensive. The so-called merging of 9x and NT code essentially means dumping most of the 9x code and charging a bit less for NT, just as Microsoft did with its Server and Workstation versions of NT, where the code is identical and it is possible to convert Workstation to Server. The size of NT is so great that it would have only been possible to ship it to consumers with new PCs at considerably higher prices. Support requirements are also likely to be horrific for OEMs and resellers, who have to bear the burden for this. Nor is this forthcoming consumer version necessarily the last of DOS Windows. Ballmer would only say that a later version of its consumer operating system would be merged with NT-based Windows 2000, but earlier reports suggests this isn't now programmed until 2002. Which in Microsoft years could easily mean never - projects that far out don't even have flip charts yet, never mind development teams. Ballmer also demonstrated a 64-bit version of Windows 2000 for Merced and the Alpha, saying that the 64-bit version will be released soon after the release of the 32-bit version late this year. For once, Microsoft may find itself under some pressure from Novell, which has demonstrated a Merced-ready version of NetWare. If Microsoft releases a very buggy 64-bit version, it may well find that this misfires badly. In other announcements, Microsoft unveiled a prototype monitorless Windows-based server appliance for small businesses (scheduled for the second half of this year, Microsoft says). Another announcement was what Microsoft calls its EasyPC initiative that it developed with Intel to help setup and expansion. (Historical note: Many years ago, when His Billness was sufficiently unimportant to do support gigs, we saw him at Comdex Atlanta applauding a new Zenith product, the EZ PC. This attempt at hardware simplification sank without trace, but did Bill remember the name? - Ed) Microsoft also announced a plug-and-play forum, a play group apparently designed to promote device-to-device compatibility. Whether this is a way of Microsoft controlling what hardware drivers it will distribute with Windows remains to be seen. But following earlier disasters and Microsoft's decision to do drivers itself, it would not be surprising to find device manufacturers being presented with a bill if they wanted their kit to have a driver in Windows - perhaps with lower fees if the device just didn't happen to work with other platforms. Ballmer said he had not seen any evidence of a slowdown in PC sales this year, but he was "a little concerned about year 2000", which we interpret as concern over sales next year rather than Microsoft's Y2K problems. These will gain a guaranteed lion's share of the horror stories to come when Microsoft gets blamed for everything. Speaking about Linux, Ballmer sat on the fence: "When we figure out what it means for us, we'll let you know" What he means of course is that Microsoft will only do something if it has no option, and it needs to know the outcome of the trial first. Look for the latest stories about the WinHEC in The Register during the day, 8 April 1999 as more details become available. ®
Graham Lea, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

MS, Intel demo mutant thin server appliance

Microsoft's first showing of NT Embedded yesterday took the form of the first demonstration of an alleged 'thin server appliance' co-developed with Intel. But the implementation seems strangely changed from the thin server appliances Intel has been bashing on about since last summer, and it seems inevitable that the device's appearance does not signal a renewal of the formerly close relationship between the gruesome twosome. Intel's thin server concept is for a cheap, closed down box that's easy to install, and performs simple, specific tasks on the network. (Intel network scheme means war with MS) Something you plug into a small business network and then magically find your print, email and so forth problems are sorted fits the bill perfectly. Intel also doesn't want any nonsense about huge multi-purpose operating systems, it wants single or limited task ones. So traditional embedded operating systems fit the bill here, rather than bigger, multi-purpose ones like NT Embedded. Intel also insists that per user licensing is out of the window - if a thin server network is having to pay a couple of hundred dollars to Microsoft for each person connected, then it's not low cost at all, is it? We remarked on how obviously Microsoft NT didn't fit the bill as the operating system at the time of Intel's announcement, and we remain right. Yesterday's demo did make a small breakthrough on licensing. It would appear that Microsoft is willing to let the box host an unlimited number of users, but while this might appear to be a massive breakthrough on licensing, check out the catches. The thin server is intended to handle file and print sharing, not application hosting. It will deal with Internet connectivity, but the no application hosting aspect means no Web server hosting, so -- phew -- we're not going to have that problem of people trying to host Web servers on NT Workstation rearing its ugly head again. In its "thin server appliance" incarnation, NT Embedded is therefore crippled. How badly crippled remains to be seen, but as you begin to compare features with projected features for the next generation Windows 2000 NT variant, you'll no doubt note it is very badly crippled indeed. Microsoft is obviously trying to preserve revenue streams. It doesn't want to lose high margin business on NT server sales, and it doesn't want to lose all those lovely client licences. But it does have to do something about simplified, stripped-down boxes and network operating systems. And here it's shooting itself in the foot with this particular project. It's quoting a price for an OEM-built thin server appliance of $1,000-$2,000, which is of course basically a standard PC price. No surprises there, as there's going to be a standard PC in there with the screen and keyboard chopped out. The price leaves space for MS to charge something in the region of the usual amount for its software, so again no nasty precedents created here. But Intel's view of a thin server appliance lies more around the $399-$499 mark. You can do file and print perfectly adequately at this level, so what is it about the MS variant that's worth an extra $1,500? Users will vote with their wallets. ®
John Lettice, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel breaks own NDA on server roadmap

We, and a host of other independents, have specialised in getting hold of Intel roadmaps before we're supposed to in the past. But now it looks as though Intel wants to join in the fun too. On the channel bit of its site, the Mighty Chipzilla is proudly showing off where it will be in the server market during 1999. The Profusion chipset, which we wrote about in all its glory yesterday, is there, as are its plans for the 440HX Carmel chipset. Join in the fun and take a look. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

NEC tests cheap GPS PC Card

Our friends over at Computerra, who perpetrated the April Fool joke about Linus Torvalds joining Elbrus, have entered into collaboration with The Register and will send us local stories of wider interest to the industry. Here's the first. NEC has begun OEM testing a GPS-receiver using Russian company Spirit's technology. The software and hardware components of the receiver were developed by Spirit at its Moscow research centre. The system, which uses GPS, will become available first as a PC Card. The receiver consists of a radiofrequency block with an antenna 157,542MHz, eight-channel correlator (able to read eight signals simultaneously) and a processor intended for a measurement and data processing, and also monitoring and management of the receiver. Patented Spirit technology allows thousand of logic gates on the channel, while the normal receivers use only tens of thousands. In the GPS-receiver the fast bit synchronization allows reception of satellite signals from one up to 40 milliseconds. According to a survey by GPS World, in the last few years, volume of GPS systems is doubling every two years. By next year, the market will be worth around $20 billion. But systems for notebook PCs are only now beginning to arrive. According to Spirit, its system beats Trimble's FlightMate Pro on both price and performance. When it is released in around a year's time, the card will cost less than $100. ® The full story, in Russian, can be found here.
The Register breaking news

MSN UK user figures plummet

MSN has confirmed that its membership in the UK has fallen to 125,000 but denies that the alleged 20 per cent drop is as steep as earlier reports made out. Whether it is or not is neither here nor there. The important thing for Net watchers -- and MSN -- is that their membership has dipped and the worry is that it could be the start of a downward spiral for the once popular online service provider. MSN refused to comment further on the story or suggestions that it may have to offer a rival subscription-free service to stay in business even though much of MSN's decline is being blamed on the runaway success of subscription-free services such as Freeserve. A spokeswoman for AOL UK remained bullish about the impact of Freeserve. She said that instead of falling, its membership had increased since the introduction of Freeserve last autumn and that its service was attracting 50,000 new members a month. Similarly, CompuServe UK claimed its membership base has remained unchanged at 400,000 despite the introduction of subscription-free ISPs. Which makes MSN's decline even more worrying especially since it is supported, in part, by figures published by Net analysts Inteco which found that people who bought new PCs were twice as likely to chose a subscription-free ISP compared to one which charged for its service. According to Inteco, Freeserve (with a 36 per cent share) has displaced AOL, (19 per cent) as the most popular route to the Net among recent PC buyers. AOL previously held the top spot for all five previous waves of research. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Nvidia claims graphics breakthrough

Graphics company Nvidia claimed it will be the first company to integrate transform and lighting processing on one chip. That, it said, means that standard APIs will allow a huge boost to PCs this year. Transform and lighting are bottlenecks in the graphics pipeline but because the steps are usually repetitive, it means dedicated graphics chips can handle them well. Said Nvidia in a statement: "By moving T&L calculations from the CPU to the graphics processor, there are more cycles available for modeling physics, artificial intelligence, character behavior and game play; areas that are severely lacking in modern applications. The benefit is two-fold, a world that both looks and behaves realistically. " ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Tandem-Digital tango reveals Compaq as puppetmaster

A year ago From The Register No. 72, 7 April 1998 A deal between Tandem and Digital over 64-bit Unix could give clues to the eventual shape of Compaq’s strategy after the US government grants its approval. Tandem is to adopt Digital Unix as its OS for its telecommunications and other market segments. Both Digital and Tandem will now cooperate on a joint cluster technology, with the aim of producing an industry standard solution for the Merced and Alpha architectures. The deal will mean that Tandem will be able to use over 5,000 64-bit DEC Unix applications. Both companies will cross license their existing technologies, although this is merely an academic exercise if Compaq’s takeover of Digital becomes final. Dan Kusnetzky, a director at IDC, was wheeled in to say that the deal will reassure corporate customers that Digital Unix will be a competitor on the Merced platform. According to executives at the company, the move will mean 100 per cent binary code compatibility which will mean that Alpha apps will run on Merced using a single re-compile. Digital claimed that the move meant it was still entirely committed to the Alpha platform, as well as Merced, indicating that behind the scenes, Compaq is pulling strings to make sure that Alpha, as a processor, will continue into the future. The ultimate goal of Compaq is to help corporate customers believe that Unix and Windows NT will work together. But this could prove far trickier than the partners might have us believe, and will depend on whether the design of Merced is kludgy or klean. ®
The Register breaking news

HP to debut Merced-ready box Monday

Hewlett Packard confirmed today that it will introduce an eight-way system on Monday next which will have the full support logic and chipset for the Merced processor. But until silicon arrives, in mid-2000, the system will use PA Risc chips, said Hugh Jenkins, server manager at HP, UK. He said: "We're now close to releasing a machine which will be the first properly ready Merced machine. "It will begin with a PA Risc chip but will have support logic built in which will give Merced support when the microprocessor arrives. From our understanding, that is still on target for the middle of next year." He said HP had an inherent advantage because of its close cooperation with Intel since 1994 on the IA-64 platform. "That knowledge was always going to allow us to build chipsets earlier," he said. The eight way system will have a standard configuration apart from the microprocessor complex, said Jenkins. That will come on a module which will allow swapping the PA Risc processors with Merced. "It will support standard things like the PCI bus," he said. "The premise is that it is truly a IA-64 ready." ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Deep schisms mar Compaq 64-bit plans

Sources close to Compaq revealed today the depth of bitter antagonism between its two server divisions, with bush fires breaking out over the Alpha-Merced roadmaps. The source, who declined to be named for obvious reasons, said: "There is a fundamental issue with Compaq, and that is they have two different server divisions trying to drive forward different strategies." She said that the high end server division, headed up by Jesse Lipcon, and which came from the Digital camp, was "gung ho" about the Alpha platform. But the server division which existed at Compaq before it took over Digital, felt similarly about the x.86 architecture. The source said that these two divisions were slogging it out internally and that Compaq would be forced, sooner rather than later, to resolve the damaging in-fighting. No one had yet made those hard decisions, she said. "This is a fundamental schism in the Compaq business." While Alpha production was being ramped up by Samsung, it was a very different business selling machines using them rather than fabbing them, she added. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

MS keeps mum on NT

Microsoft has, unusually, begun to restrict the release of information regarding its Windows strategy. Normally Microsoft press information is piled so high that it creates an obstacle course, but strangely, 18 hours after the keynote speeches began at the WinHEC in Los Angeles, there are no promised transcripts of the speeches, and nor was there a Webcast as is normal for such events. For some strange reason, The Register's invitation to attend must have been delayed in the mail. The conclusion must therefore be that Microsoft is seriously embarrassed at its Windows plans, and wants no clear roadmap to emerge. On the NT front, there are supposed to be consumer, workstation, server and enterprise versions. There are also reports of a forthcoming embedded version, based on NT4.0, which needs between 8MB and 12MB of RAM. Some bed for this embedded version: it looks as though Microsoft will be producing embedded NT for semi-mobile mobile phones, or luggable networked toasters that require the man of the house to lift it off the shelf. Just to make life interesting, this embedded NT uses extensions that are not part of regular NT, because the design of NT is deficient. Isn't it strange that Dave Cutler, the original architect of NT, is not featured at the WinHEC to receive the plaudits of the assembled multitude? Reports suggest that the embedded version will be released to manufacturing at the end of the year, a new tactic to mean it will appear three months later than that, at the earliest. It's supposed to be being tested at 500 sites, but we are inclined to view such claims with suspicion without supporting evidence, in view of the deviousness of claims that we have all seen during the Microsoft trial. Delays to software are normal and expected. Microsoft's problem, and a very serious one now, is that it has raised consumer and business expectations prematurely, and caused planning havoc for PC makers. It is quite extraordinary that Dell and HP are reportedly planning to preinstall the Windows 2000 beta 3 (aka NT5) later this year, as though this were the real thing. It reminds us of the days when Microsoft used to issue, to the media faithful, reviewers' guides for beta software. The latest reports about NT5 Server is that the clustering does not work, so perhaps those who need it should continue with tried and tested Unix, even if it isn't sexy nowadays. After all, if Cobol code can last for 30 years and be resilient enough to cause the Y2K problem, why shouldn't Unix be good for another 30 years too? We can only conclude that the WinHEC has come at a bad time for Microsoft, and that the strategy is not to divulge a strategy. ®
Graham Lea, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Post-flu Asia to spend, spend, spend on IT

The Asia-Pacific region will go on an IT spending spree nudging the $100 billion mark this year, according to a Gartner Group report. Today's study reveals overall expenditure will climb 21.4 per cent to $98 billion in 1999, against last year's three per cent. Service providers look set to cream off the largest section, with analysts estimating 24.3 per cent of growth going to this sector. Rolf Jester, Gartner Group's Asia-Pacifics analyst, told a news conference that the service sector would be looking at around $22.6 billion, compared to $18.2 billion in 1998. He also forecast Chinese and Korean companies would cease to be cautious about looking outside their own business for IT advice and overtake Australia as the largest user of service industries. Jester noted more changes in the region: "In some Asian countries, notably China, hardware will continue to be the largest growth sector, as the IT industry is still less sophisticated than the US and Europe." "In 1999 we are likely to see a 22 per cent growth in hardware revenues, but within four years this will have levelled out to some six per cent in compound annual growth terms. Once China catches up in hardware infrastructure terms, it will be a massive growth area," he said. ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Official: cellphones won't maim your brain

Mobile phones wont fry or scramble brain cells, though they may slowly casserole them, according to a government study released today. The project, funded by the Department of Health, found no evidence that cellphones killed memory or worsened mental attention. Though they admitted there was "mild heating" of brain cells, according to today's Daily Telegraph. Researchers from the University of Bristol found emissions had strange effects on living tissue that could not be explained by radiation biology. The report, published in the International Journal of Radiation Biology, discovered warming in the brain that project leader Dr Alan Preece said needed further investigation. "I'm pretty sure there is no effect on short-term memory," said Preece. He added that reaction times to memory tests were even four per cent speedier in mobile users. Tests were carried out on 36 volunteers who were strapped to dummy headsets, unaware of whether the phones were switched on or off or transmitting analog or digital signals. The findings followed the European Parliaments recommendation last month that mobile phones be labelled with a health warning similar to cigarette packets (see previous story). There are around 15 million cellphone users in Britain. ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

LineOne wins £12 million boost

LineOne has received a £12 million shot in the arm to help rejuvenate its fortunes after spending the last couple of months on the doldrums. News of the cash injection coincided with the announcement that one of the triumvirate that headed the UK operation, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, had been bought out by fellow investors United News & Media and BT. The investment is going to be used to develop new content and provide a platform for other UK companies to offer Internet services. Since launching subscription-free Internet access two weeks ago, LineOne claims to have boosted its membership above 150,000 and is attracting 10,000 new users every week. "This renewed investment by BT and United News & Media is a significant commitment to get behind the success of the LineOne service," said John Swingewood, BT's director of Internet and multimedia services. "Since going free, LineOne is attracting a high rate of new users who are attracted by the UK-focused, premium content," he added. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Rage 128 drives up ATI Q2 figures

Graphics specialist ATI today posted its figures for the three months to 28 Feburary. The company said sales during the quarter were up 63 per cent on the same period a year ago, rising from $182 million to $297.2 million. Profits for the quarter, the second of the current fiscal year, were $39 million, up 45 per cent on Q2 1998. However, taking into account purchased in-process R&D and other charges, including the ongoing cost of ATI's purchase of sytem-on-a-chip developer Chromatic Research, the company's net income actually came to $21.7 million. But that's still way ahead of the profitability of ATI's rivals, such as nVidia. In it's most recent results, for Q4, ended 31 January, nVidia posted profits of $7.7 million on revenues of $65.5 million, though that represented in increase in sales of 178 per cent year on year. ATI's former arch-enemy, S3, lost $70.3 million on revenues of $41.5 million for its fourth quarter. ® See also nVidia revenues, profits way up S3's Q4, fiscal 98 losses widen ATI quick to Rage at WinHEC
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Lernout and Hauspie results show massive rise

Belgian speech recognition company Lernout and Hauspie (L&H) reported 126 per cent revenues growth for its fourth quarter. The company turned in $76.7 million in revenues, compared to $33.8 million in the same period last year. Net profits for the period amounted to $12.9 million. Net profits for the whole of its 1998 financial year amounted to $37.8 million on revenues of $211.6 million. Revenues in 1997 were $99.4 million. Earlier this week, L&H announced that Intel had taken a $30 million equity stake in the company. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

LG introduces MP3 player

Korean manufacturer LG Electronics has introduced an MP3 music player called the MP Free According to Asian reports, its MP Free will play music in both MP3 format as well as cassette tapes. The unit comes with 32Mb of memory, and will hold eight songs. But it is expandable by adding additional memory cards, LG said. The unit has 15 hours battery life and the product will be available in May in Korea, and around the world during the second half of this year. The unit uses a copyright protection scheme called Digitalcap Audio. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

MS adopts Sun ‘open source’ model for UPnP

Microsoft took its plan to dominate the emerging home networking market a step further yesterday with the launch of the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Forum trade association and the posting of the technology's core source code under an open source-style licence. The company also announced 26 IT and consumer electronics companies, most notably Sony, had signed up to support the technology since the original 28 backers who comitted themselves to UPnP when it was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in January. Central to Microsoft's latest moves is the opening of the UPnP source code. Announcing the company's plans at WinHEC 99, group product manager Phil Holden said: "We're trying to make the source readily available for no cost... to gain adoption from industry." What it's really about is mirroring the approach taken by Sun with its UPnP rival, Jini. After the UPnP launch, Sun announced it would offer Jini under its Java Commiunity Licence, opening its source code to anyone who wants to use it. Charges only apply if and when products based on that source code make money. The UPnP Forum and its six charter members (Microsoft, Gateway, Intel, Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Axis Communications) will lead development of the technology and promote its adoption. Again, it's about doing for UPnP what Sun does for Jini. As for the technology's supporters, many of them also back Jini and a number of other device connection systems, such as Home Audio/Video Interconnection (HAVi). That suggests all these technologies will for some time co-exist. Few manufacturers, particularly those in the consumer electronics space, will want to risk losing sales by not supporting the interconnection technology that links a customers' other appliances. While the IT industry quite likes systems that compete, the rather more mature consumer electronics business prefers interoperability. Still, the names Microsoft has garnered so far, including Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Casio, Canon, Matsushita ans Sega, shows that UPnP is viewed a little more seriously than its original appearance as a Jini spoiler suggested. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Computer thieves as sophisticated as resellers

Computer thieves are stealing to order, selecting their prey by travelling around Britain, according to a new study commissioned by the Home Office. The study, Pulling the Plug on Computer Theft, found that fences selling stolen PCs are so sophisticated they research the market for hot equipment and meet dealers to assess demand prior to the crime. What's more, these techie tea-leaves take up about a third of the phone numbers in the computer sections of free ads newspapers like Loot, says Home office research. One in three were found to be numbers of already convicted dealers. The report said computer theft accounted for 18 per cent of non-domestic burglaries in Britain, costing businesses on average over £2600 per crime, and is as big a problem as credit card fraud. Professional teams are willing to travel to any part of the country, using anti-surveillance techniques to throw police off the scent, and committ repeat thefts. Out of a sample taken of 1048 items of recovered stolen property, there were 477 computers, 372 other items of hardware, 153 printers, 31 word processors, 14 pieces of software and one computer game. Six companies in Salford, Manchester, were investigated for the study, which also pinpointed the robbers' favourite brands of computer. Compaq came out top, accounting for around ten per cent of stolen kit. IBM came a close second with around nine per cent, followed by Hewlett-Packard with seven per cent. Orders for stolen Dells couldn't have been too hot in the North West -– the direct seller lagged behind at under five per cent. ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple dubs upcoming consumer portable ‘iBook’

Apple appears to have selected the name iBook for its forthcoming consumer and education-oriented notebook Mac, better known by its codename, P1. The name 'iBook' has been assigned to the company as a trademark and follows naturally from the name 'iMac'. An earlier, much-fancied name was 'WebMate', given the machine's anticipated role as a portable Internet access system -- iBook retains that idea, but also ties the machine into the professional PowerBook line. The latest suggested specification for P1/iBook includes a 300MHz PowerPC 750 (aka G3) CPU, translucent two-colour iMac-style case, 11in LCD screen, ATI Rage Pro graphics and 32MB RAM. However, given the latest version (Revision D) of the iMac, due to ship latet this month, sports a 333MHz processor, it's likely the portable's clock speed will be increased likewise. The Rev. D iMacs will ship with 32MB RAM and 6GB hard drives, and be offered in the current version's blue, red, green, orange and purple colour schemes. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

3dfx wraps up wrapper Web sites

3dfx has launched a series of legal strikes to prevent Web sites posting 'wrappers' -- software utilities that map calls to 3dfx's Glide 3D graphics API onto the APIs of other vendors' accelerator cards. The company claims that wrappers developed using its own Glide software development kit (SDK) cannot be distributed without its permission since that violates its intellectual property rights. And since the wrappers allow games that normally require Glide and 3dfx's Voodoo technology for acceleration to be played with, say, cards based on nVidia's Riva TNT, 3dfx refuses to give its permission. And recently 3dfx's lawyers, San Francisco-based Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May, began emailing owners of sites offering wrapper downloads to remove the utilities and other Glide-related files -- or else. One site, Glide Underground, received the following: "We represent 3Dfx Interactive in its intellectual property matters. We are contacting you because [your] site... links to several files stored on your server... 3Dfx's analysis has determined that the... files were developed using the Software Developer's Kit for Glide(R) 2.x. "Each of these files allow software written with 3Dfx's proprietary graphics language, Glide, to be run on third-party graphics hardware. 3Dfx Interactive reserves the rights in its intellectual property, and considers the use of the SDK to prepare emulators for third party graphics hardware an infringement of those rights. "Accordingly, 3Dfx Interactive notifies you that the above identified files infringe its intellectual property rights and requests your help in removing these files from your site." Glide Underground was, in some respects, lucky -- one wrapper writer, Scott Cutler, found 3dfx had forced his Web host, Webjump, to pull his site without his consent in order to remove his XGL200 wrapper. Cutler is believed to be considering his legal options, but it's clear that few if any other rapper writers will be able to mount a legal challenge to 3dfx. "Being a high school student, I don't have the financial resources to fight any claims by 3dfx," said one. 3dfx's concern over the availability of wrappers is understandable. After all, a game that can only be accelerated using Glide and a Voodoo-based card could provide a major boost for 3dfx's business. That said, the company has acted rather heavy-handedly this time since the non-commercial nature of the utilties' development has ensured few if any are finished products. None yet appear to match the performance and quality of Glide itself. Interestingly, one wrapper, Clide, was developed without recourse to the SDK, according to its developer, known only as Clideman. "I read the legal disclaimer that was required to download the Glide SDK. I saw that eventually if I released Clide, I would be in a bad position, so I instead looked to other Glide programming resources on the web. I found a huge number of useful samples and Web pages to use instead. This is one reason why the graphic quality of my wrapper was inferior to that of others," he claimed in an email posted on Glide Underground. "Even though I took these precautions, 3dfx may not accept this, so Clide may also be removed. As of yet 3dfx has not contacted me," he added. It will be interesting to see whether 3dfx takes an equally dim view of such 'clean room' development. Update 3dfx tech support says yes to Wrappers ®
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Channon swoops on ilion – in concert with Landis boss

Troubled distributor ilion group today saw a chunk of shares bought by former CEO Wayne Channon and Paul Kuiken from rival Landis Group. Channon, former ilion chairman and CEO, and Kuiken, president and CEO of Landis, bought 1,666,416 ordinary shares at 5p each. This strange turn of events gave them a total of 6.63 per cent of the issued share capital. The announcement was made to the stock exchange this afternoon after the close of trading. It stated that the interest in the networking distributor was acquired "by virtue of three deeds dated 5 April 1999, Finance IT B.V. ("FIT"), Paul Kuiken and Wayne M. Channon". The move followed the acquisition by FIT of 1,300,000 ordinary shares, representing 5.17 per cent of the company, announced in January. Channon appears to be fighting for his old company, having recovered from the "throwing himself on his sword" episode at his resignation over the distributor's woes last December. One analyst, who preferred to remain nameless, told The Register: "The first thing you would think of is that Channon and Kuiken are trying to stake-build as a pre-cursor for buying ilion." Ilion's share price today closed down 1 at 83.5 pence. No one at the company was available for comment. ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Growth of Maxtor suggests Seagate takeover

Documents seen by The Register show that the HDD market, worldwide, is experiencing a huge shake-up. But Fujitsu is making inroads in Europe. The figures, commissioned by HDD companies but not yet released, show that the European PC market will only grow by 10 per cent this year. But more worryingly, Seagate's market share in Europe has dropped to 25 per cent, while Maxtor has gained market share at its expense. Maxtor's worldwide share was five per cent in 1997 but has grown to 13 per cent. US company Quantum has dropped market share and has moved from number two to number three. Western Digital has moved from number three to number five. In the global OEM market, the figures show that Seagate has dropped from 35 per cent to 14 per cent. Fujitsu has about five per cent of the market worldwide, but is much stronger in Europe and has become number three. In the SCSI hardware market, Seagate had 60 per cent of the market worldwide but IBM has overtaken it. Maxtor uses IBM drives. The figures show that in Q1 of 1999, no one HDD manufacturer is dominant, with market shares sharply fluctuating between the top 10 drive manufacturers. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

IDT will produce S370 processor

IDT/Centaur will create a Socket 370 version of its WinChip platform. But it will likely be WinChip 5, a source close to the company said today. He said: "Our roadmap shows the WinChip 2, 3 and 4, and that's all we've said publicly. "We will produce a Socket 370 product but it won't be out this year. We don't have a licence for Socket 370 but by then we think we'll have one." The Super Seven socket will not die this year, as far as IDT is concerned, said the source. "We will move on to other sockets from the Super Seven, however," he said. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

VideoLogic lands STMicroelectronics deal

VideoLogic has landed big fish STMicroElectronics, through a licensing deal which could translate into big bucks. STMicroelectronics will incorporate VDO'S PowerVR technology into fast, new 2D/3D PC graphics and video accelerators. The VDO deal will also enable the French semiconductor giant to deliver a so-called "leadership 3D roadmap" for digital set-top boxes. STMicroelectronics is -- we are told -- a market leader in the digital consumer IC market. STMicroelectronics will provide a welcome boost to VideoLogic -- a smallish, British company with great technology, but overly dependent on one big customer, NEC. Sega uses NEC-made PowerVR chips in its Dreamcast console. To date, STMicroelectronics has sold five million graphics chips worldwide. So VDO will be quids in if its French customer sells anything like that number using Power VR. ® ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD's K7 will be late or maybe risky

Updated Chip manufacturer AMD said late yesterday that its K7 processor will not now ship in June, as it had anticipated. At the same time, the company said there was a substantial decline in its first quarter and all processor shipments have been badly affected. Severe price competition caused revenues to slip, said AMD, while it also had problems shipping K6-2 processors because of yield problems. The company said its Q1 revenues are likely to be $630 million, compared to revenues of $789 million in the last financial quarter. Price competition forced the average selling price of its CPUs to $78. It only managed to ship 4.3 million microprocessors in the quarter. Last week, AMD filed a form 10K with the Securities and Equities Commission giving more details about the impact of Intel's pricing on its business (see SEC filing shows depth of AMD CPU concerns). The statement about the K7 comes tucked away at the end of the press release. It says: "...the AMD K7 processor introduction will slip from its current schedule for introduction in limited quantities in June". This is very bad news for AMD. Its financial results come out next week, while it also faces a barrage of class actions from aggrieved shareholders. However, Robert Stead, European marketing director of AMD, entered a caveat on this story later on today. He said: "The K7 is absolutely on schedule. Part of our response to investors is to warn them about the risks. There is a risk, but it [the K7] is not delayed. The K7 will be launched in the first half of 1999." We asked Stead why, then, the cautionary statement said the K7 might slip. He said: "This is for the benefit of people that invest in AMD. We have to indemnify any risks." Fair enough. But will the K7 be late, we asked again. He insisted it would not. So this is a story and not a story at the same time. Do all US companies have to say yes it will and yes it won't at the same time, we wonder? And, if so, why? ®
Mike Magee, 08 Apr 1999