12th > April > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

CDMA's ‘big China win’ recedes as trade talks stall

Stuck in an insipid Sino-American remake of "Groundhog Day", telecom investors have been once again forced to relive one particular event. It's that tantalising 'CDMA conquers China... next week' moment. By now, the plot is wearing thin. To make matters that much worse, few of us can emulate Bill Murray's character and wake up next morning sharing a pillow with a sultry Southern ex-model. What we're left with is the same loop of hope and hype ending in yet another anti-climax. The last time we were taken for a ride was Clinton's visit to China during the summer of 1998. Remember? Huge CDMA network deals... resolution of trade conflicts... a new dawn for Asian telecom markets. That's what was promised before the 1998 trip - and the results were strikingly similar to the Chinese premier's visit to USA in 1999. A whole lot of promises with nothing concrete to point at. The big irony of last week's events lay in the fact that Zhu Rongji was the one Chinese top official ready to make concessions in introducing CDMA. He was the guy who staked his credibility on the trip and tried to force the nationwide CDMA introduction through despite the fierce opposition of MII bureaucrats and some of his worst political rivals. Getting WTO membership would have vindicated Zhu's position - he probably would have been able to force MII to go along if he had the WTO membership to show how useful the CDMA gambit had been in the negotiations. And this was the guy Clinton decided to slap down publicly in last week's trip. Time will tell how much damage the failed trip did to Zhu. During the Friday afternoon both Clinton and Zhu were still all smiles - but only a few hours later the tone had changed. ``If you want too much too soon, in the end you may wind up with nothing,'' Zhu Rongji said. He then added that China was prepared to open up its telecommunications sector and if Americans passed up the opportunity to become involved, China would turn to Europe. These comments reflected Zhu's suddenly weakened position in the Beijing politics. He had risked a lot in making sizable concessions. Now his opponents can easily portray him as a sell-out who couldn't even deliver on his promises. Not exactly the ending that international news organizations had scripted for last week. The trip had been preceded by a massive spin attack. "China embraces CDMA", "China bows down to US pressure", etc., etc. All eerily reminiscent of the news coverage preceding Clinton's 1998 trip to Beijing. As previously, I suspect that a collective amnesia will now take place. Before the trip it was repeated over and over that this was the last chance for China to get the WTO membership: it would be now or next century. The moment it became obvious that the deal was not going to be made, a furious spinning started. Now we're told that actually next autumn is the big moment. That's the real last chance. That's when the massive CDMA expansion will really start. Great. It just might. But I wouldn't bet two dollars on that actually happening. A fable One of the most beloved Estonian bedtime stories concerns a young girl whose Liddy Dole-like mother promises that she can marry her beau after she has worn down a pair of shoes doing domestic chores. A slight downside: the slippers are made of wood. Next thing you know, the old gargoyle has switched shoe material to glass and eventually to iron - all the while offering syrupy smiles and words of encouragement. The relevance of this proto-Freudian Baltic fable? China's Ministry of Information Industry is one mean mother to mess with. When the USA pushed China hard to adopt CDMA, MII gave a go-ahead to the construction of CDMA networks in 1997 - but only around four cities and for non-commercial uses. When MII was pressed for more, they announced that CDMA is undergoing "feasibility studies". Those have gone on for two years now. During the present WTO negotiations China was asked to close more CDMA network deals - and they ordered two Mickey Mouse expansions worth maybe $20 million each. New shoes keep showing up, each postponing the nationwide implementation of CDMA. Meanwhile, GSM is adding 1 million new Chinese subscribers each month. There are two nationwide mobile operators in China - the enormous China Telecom and the upstart China Unicom. The big news of recent weeks has been the escalation of China Unicom's GSM expansion plans. This operator has all along said that it will unroll both GSM and CDMA networks. But time is running out as China Telecom's lead in total subscribers keeps expanding. Unicom's decision to step up the GSM expansion to stay in the game was underlined by the biggest GSM network order in company history earlier this month. Another landmark was the decision to start ordering GSM networks from a new manufacturer, giving Unicom the opportunity to play its contractors against each other in bidding competitions. And how were these developments covered by international news organisations? Well - they weren't. Everybody was so busy analysing the enormous impact of the CDMA network deals to be announced during Zhu's visit to Washington. Meanwhile, China Telecom may be splintered to four competing GSM operators to foster new competition. That would result in five GSM operators in China, all offering nationwide roaming and handsets that function with all the other operators. This is the formula for explosive growth that all leading mobile phone markets in the world have - two to five competing operators using one standard and the possibility for consumers to switch carriers at will and take their old phones with them. If the WTO deal materialises, western operators finally get a chance to buy big chunks of Chinese operators. The first in line are AT&T and British Telecom. These two companies already have extensive co-operation with China Telecom - AT&T has 100 employees in China even now. BT just bought a 20 per cent stake in Hong Kong's third biggest mobile operator. Which happens to have China Telecom as a major stakeholder. And here lies another irony: the US demands for a bigger role for Western mobile operators in the Chinese market were designed to help CDMA to gain a big foothold. But the actual result will be a stampede of TDMA and GSM operators into China. Europe's cash-rich, successful GSM operators will not sit back and watch British Telecom monopolise the Chinese market. Some pan-European giant like Vodafone or Mannesmann will probably jump at China Unicom the moment the Chinese telecom market becomes deregulated. BT and AT&T are planning to increase their stake in China Telecom or target one of the four baby telecoms if China Telecom gets broken up. These decisions are driven by economics: many GSM operators are wildy profitable at the time most US CDMA operators are still posting losses every quarter and have yet to finish their network build-up even in America. The enormous run-ups in the share prices of Vodafone, Mannesmann, Telecom Italia Mobile etc. give them considerable leverage in funding ambitious Asian expansion. In recent weeks Wall Street has taken a decidedly Candide-like approach to CDMA's prospects in China. Every turn of events has been explained as taking place in the best of all possible worlds. The reality will most likely reassert itself in coming months - as it did after Clinton's visit to China in 1998. ®
Tero Kuittinen, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

MS warns of thinner times in European PC market

Michel Lacombe, President of Microsoft EMEA, is sounding a cautionary note about PC sales in Europe later this year because of the Y2K issue and the slowness of SMEs to renew equipment (Microsoft's preferred solution because of additional Windows' sales of course). Lacombe sees European PC growth being in the 10-15 per cent range, and is keeping to this downward-revised forecast from January. Lacombe broke ranks by suggesting that Microsoft's last reported quarter (a 38 per cent increase in revenue) might have resulted from additional Y2K spending, which could now dry up. This does not auger well for Microsoft's revenue this calendar year beating last year: perhaps the buffers are in sight? British market researcher Context lowered its forecast to 17 to 20 per cent at the end of January from 20 to 22 per cent. However, in data supplied for the European Information Technology Observatory, IDC predicts that the EU market will grow only by 9.8 per cent from 1998 to 1999. IDC believes that the Western European hardware sector will decline from 5.9 per cent to 5.5 per cent of the IT market vale growth, with software increasing from 12.1 to 12.8 per cent, and services also up around 0.6 per cent. ®
Graham Lea, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel admits manufacturing Achilles' Heel

When we had our trip of Intel's Albuquerque fab earlier this year, we were somewhat alarmed when our guide said the local authorities had complained about its use of water. Albuquerque, being one mile high and in a desert, does not have a limitless supply of H2O and fab plants drink millions of gallons of the stuff. With this in mind, we took care on our trip round the fab to look out for backup plans, in case water or electricity should fail. Markus Pfeffinger, from Tom's Hardware Page, was also scouting round for the same things. "I'm looking at this factory from a military point of view," he said. Now we discover, from the Form 10-K (Annual Report) Intel filed to the US Securities and Equities Commission (SEC), that it is indeed as vulnerable as we feared. These paragraphs, in particular, attracted our interest: "The Company does not generally maintain facilities that would allow it to generate its own electrical or water supply in lieu of that supplied by utilities. To the extent possible, the Company is working with the infrastructure suppliers for its manufacturing sites, major subcontractor sites and relevant transportation hubs to seek to better ensure continuity of infrastructure services. "Contingency planning regarding major infrastructure failure generally emphasizes planned increases in inventory levels of specific products and the shift of production to unaffected sites. By the end of 1999, Intel expects to have in place a buffer supply of finished goods inventory and is evaluating where to locate inventory geographically in light of infrastructure concerns. "In addition, multiple plants engage in similar tasks in the Intel system, and production can be expanded at some sites to partially make up for capacity unavailable elsewhere. Although overall capacity would be reduced, it is not expected that the entire production system would halt due to the unavailability of one or two facilities." So why does Intel locate its big fabs in places where there's a shortage of water? ® See also Fab 11 contradicts ancient Chinese wisdom Intel makes The Register sweat Intel makes The Register sweat II Intel makes The Register sweat III Intel makes The Register sweat IV
Mike Magee, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

$320 million deal to drive One2One expansion

UK mobile phone operator One2One is to expand its GSM network after announcing today it had signed a $320 million dollar agreement with Ericsson. Under the agreement, Ericsson will deliver radio base station and base station controller equipment, and AXE solutions to support continued growth and provide additional capacity for One2One. According to a statement issued by both companies, this order -- along with recent ones for Ericsson's packet switching GPRS system (General Packet Radio Service) -- should ensure that One2One can meet future customer demand for its services. Ericsson has supplied GSM network infrastructure to One2One since 1991, leading to the launch of the world's first commercial GSM 1800 service, in September 1993. One2One, a joint venture partnership between Cable & Wireless and MediaOne International, currently has more than 2.25 million customers, an increase of 88 per cent on last year, the company claimed. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel Coppermine to have 256K on die

A distributor said today that he had a copy of an Intel roadmap which showed that .18 micron Coppermine technology will include 256K of on-die cache. The cache will be on both Pentium IIIs and Pentium III Xeons, according to the source, who declined to be named. The technology is waiting for the chipset to arrive but is expected to proliferate during the second half of this year, he said. The Pentium III will debut at 600MHz, at the end of September, and with a 133MHz front side bus (FSB) but Intel will expect a premium from customers, with prices expected to be in the $750 range. Last week, Intel refused to comment on whether the processors will have on-die cache. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Western Digital sells media business to Komag

Western Digital will take a fourth quarter charge of $20 million to cover the sale of its disk media business. The disk maker confirmed it had sold the business for 10.8 million Komag shares, a $30.1 million three-year note and $1.6 million in cash. It added that around half the staff in its media operation would be lost. Komag, which makes magnetic platters that record information inside disk drives, has also taken on leases connected to production equipment and facilities. This includes a three-year purchase agreement, during which Western will buy a big chunk of its media from California-based Komag. As a result of the acquisition, US giant Western expects to take a $20 million charge, including $3 million in cash. A First Call survey of 12 analysts predicted Western would lose 30 cents a share in the fourth quarter. For the fourth quarter the previous year ended 27 June, Western lost $167.7 million, or $1.84 cents a share. 550 out of 1000 jobs will be slashed at Western's disk media business. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel chops prices today…

As predicted in The Register last week, Chipzilla has today remarked the price tags on most of its desktop CPUs. The flagship PIII 500MHz has only been around for six weeks but that hasn’t stopped $60 being lopped off the price – in 1,000 unit terms it drops from $696 to $637. Its baby brother PIII 450MHz plummets from $496 to $411. Meanwhile, the venerable Pentium IIs are now a snip – the 450MHz is down from $476 to $396, the 400 moves from $284 to $234 and the 350MHz reductions are slowing – a stingy $7 drop from $170 to $163 points to the fact that this particular part is not long for this world. The smart money would be on a funeral around June or July. Meanwhile the Celeron range also continues the downward trend. The entry-level 333MHz and 366MHz parts have now bottomed out at $67 and $73 respectively. The 400MHz drops $20 to $103, the 433MHz is now $143 from $169, making room at the top for the new 466MHz Celeron, due any day now at an expected price of around $170. Mobile prices have taken a dive of around 40 per cent too, but we’re still waiting for Intel to fill in the details… ®
Pete Sherriff, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Bleem beats Sony

A San Francisco District Court judge ruled on Friday in favour of PlayStation emulator developer Bleem and rejected Sony Computer Entertainment's move to block sales of the emulator, also called Bleem. Sony launched its legal action against Bleem as part of its current policy to prevent any developer shipping software that runs PlayStation software (see Sony's anti-emulation action comes to court). That policy began when Sony announced back in January that it was evaluating legal action against Connectix for its Mac-based PlayStation emulator, Virtual GameStation (VGS). The company quickly followed that announcment with a legal move to block sales of VGS until its complaint against Connectix -- that the by shipping VGS, the emulator developer violated Sony copyrights and intellectual property and promoted software piracy -- could be judged. Connectix denies all Sony charges. A preliminary hearing of Sony's main suit against Connectix was also scheduled to take place on Friday -- also at the San Francisco District Court. However, it's not yet known what the outcome of that hearing was. ® See also Connectix plans Windows launch for PlayStation emulator Dissecting Sony's Game PlayStation emulator wins first round against Sony
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Internet fraud on increase

Internet fraud is on the increase and could severely impede the development of e-commerce unless action is taken to stamp it out, according to a report in the Financial Times. If left unchecked, the already fragile consumer confidence in e-commerce could disintegrate even before this much-heralded business revolution has even had time to get going. Visa has said that despite the fact that Internet transactions account for only one per cent of its £463 billion turnover in the European Union, nearly half of all disputes are Net related. These range from financial fraud to complaints that goods were not delivered in time. The report in the Financial Times coincides with news that a group of banks, including ABN Amro, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Chase Manhattan, intends to offer e-tailers financial guarantees. The joint venture, called Identrus, would guarantee the identity on an e-business trading on the Net and would also include some kind of financial security. "Unless you have an electronic identity and the ability to trust the holder and signer of that identity, e-commerce can't take place," said Guy Tallent, president and CE of Identrus, speaking to the Financial Times. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Be readies BeOS 4.5, consumer drive

Alternative operating-system vendor Be has dropped an intermediate release of the BeOS, version 4.1, in favour of a major release, version 4.5, due to ship in June. The software's release will be accompanied by a major marketing push. According to new Be VP and Chief Marketing Officer Roy Graham, speaking at last week's two-day Be Developers Conference (BDC), BeOS 4.5, codenamed Genki (Japanese for 'all is well', apparently), the decision to drop the anticipated Release 4.1 was made to allow the company to add support for the Pentium III, USB and 3dfx's Voodoo3 3D acceleration chipset. Release 4.1 was originally about extending the BeOS' currently meagre support for third-party hardware as it makes the transition from a MacOS alternative to a Windows rival. Genki too will feature more, improved drivers, and offer improved stability and take up less memory. Be has also enhanced the OS' multimedia API, the Media Kit, said Graham. "What you're going to get is not just a richer product, in terms of features and functions, but a quality product," he boasted. Graham also discussed a "viral marketing campaign", due to go into action with the release of Genki. He gave no specific details of the programme, but it's clear from what his own comments, and those of Be CEO Jean-Louis Gassee, that it's likely to be Be's first serious attempt to attract a wider audience to the BeOS, previously targeted at developers, multimedia companies and enthusiasts. With the latter turning to Linux and the Open Source world and multimedia developers moving back to the much-revived Apple, Be is in danger of losing its core constituencies. Gassee's message at the BDC suggested developers should bear consumers, particularly video and audio enthusiasts, in mind -- they are the ones, he said, with "our money". ®
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Pfeiffer to talk on shock profit warning today

Compaq's CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer is to host a conference call this afternoon to discuss the massive shortfall in Compaq's financial results. (Stories:Compaq issues profits warning and Barrage of class actions hit Compaq and Deep schisms mar Compaq 64-bit plan) The call starts 8.00 am Eastern Standard Time, and it's a listen only affair. This is the week of Compaq's Innovate jamboree in Houston, so the news could not have come at a worse time for the company. We'll report on it later today. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Game accepts Electronics Boutique offer

Electronics Boutique (EB) today announced a recommended cash and share bid for fellow electronics retailer, Game, at 134.3 pence. This morning's offer valued the share capital of Game at around £99.2 million, on the basis of 41.7 pence in cash plus 1.09 new EB shares for each Game share. The company planned to keep Game as a separate brand, according to EB CEO John Steinbrecher. "We feel there's a value with the two brands and we'll take every effort to keep the two brands separate," said Steinbrecher. EB and Game targeted two different types of customer, he maintained. "Game stores have a lot of video screens and music playing and tend to be in darker colours and we think that attracts more of the HMV/Virgin type of customer as opposed to EB which attracts more the Dixons or Woolworths type of customer." Steinbrecher added that the move would strengthen EB's UK presence, enabling the entertainment software giant to develop a second brand and position itself for planned European expansion. EB confirmed reports that it was in "preliminary discussions" with Game in February over a possible recommended offer (see earlier story). EB shares were down 2.8 at 81.5 pence this afternoon. Game shares were up five pence at 126p. EB also posted pretax profit of £15.25 million for its year ended 31 January 1999, against £8 million the previous year. Sales rose to £159.43 million from £124.32. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel OEMs face tough ride ahead

Analysis Time was when Chipzilla's OEMs could relax in the knowledge that CPU speeds would go up and prices would come down. Then the Celeron appeared a year ago and muddied the waters. Sure, the first Covingtom Celerons were real dogs, lacking any L2 cache and being all-too-obviously a knee-jerk reaction to pressure from AMD in the sub $1,000 system marketplace, but the real Celerons based on the Mendocino core have turned out to be probably the best chip Intel has ever produced in terms of bang per buck. From an inauspicious start just 12 months ago, Celeron is now reckoned to be the second most prevalent chip in the World, with only the Pentium II having more ubiquity. With the 466MHz Celeron due RSN, what happens next for Intel's baby? Well, sticking at 66MHz frontside bus seems to be the order of the day for the rest of this year although sources close to Intel expect a 500MHz Celeron to appear in the Autumn using a clock multiplier of 7.5. Users wanting a Katmai variant of Celeron will have to wait until the next century when the first SSI-enabled parts will appear. The thinking behind this would appear to be to protect the Pentium III line from the kind of pressure Celeron put on the old Pentium II range where the entry-level chips performed embarassingly well and stole sales from the high margin mainstream CPUs. Remember that a Celeron doesn't cost a hell of a lot less to put together than a Pentium II or III, but typically costs less than half the price – a 400MHz Pentium II today costs $234, while a Celeron at the same speed is just $103. Yes, the Celeron has only a quarter the L2 cache of the Pentium II and III, but it runs at the full core speed of the processor rather than a measly 50 per cent, so it actually performs about the same. This means that only the FSB speed and Katmai instructions (and a whacking price hike) differentiate between the economy and mainstream products. The unfortunate delays to the Camino 820 chipset have led to some hasty rewriting of Intel's high-end roadmap. A 533MHz PIII was due to ship around June, using the 820 chipset and 133MHz FSB, but serious problems with Camino have forced the chip giant to rush out a stopgap 550MHz Pentium III and Pentium III Xeon to hold the fort until Camino finally appears. This will result in the strange spectacle of Intel launching a 133MHz FSB 533MHz Pentium III (probably with 512K of off-die L2) sometime in the Autumn, competing with the faster-clocked (but slower-bussed) 550MHz PIII. Expect the 550MHz part to cost about $100 more than the 533MHz, while at the same time, a new top banana 600MHz PIII (133MHz FSB and 256K on-die L2) will leap out from behind the bushes and demand $750 from die-hard speed freaks. As one Intel watcher, who asked not to be named, said: "Intel should thank its lucky stars that there's no one out there who seems capable of shipping a competing high-end CPU in any meaningful volume." You think you're confused – try being an Intel OEM. ®
Pete Sherriff, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

RealNetworks backs IBM digital music system

IBM today announced RealNetworks has licensed its Electronic Music Management System (EMMS), a day ahead of Microsoft's much-anticipated announcement of its own entry into the race to set the standard for digital music delivery technology. Financial terms of deal were not disclosed, but from a practical standpoint the agreement will see RealNetworks develop a consumer-oriented front end for the IBM's technology, presumably one derived from its RealPlayer application. EMMS currently focuses on providing download facilities, rights management and e-commerce transaction handling, and leaves individual Web sites to manage how those features are presented to the user. That suggests RealNetworks was the prime mover in the deal with IBM -- it recognises the important part EMMS is likely to play in the emerging online music market. IBM's technology, better known as its codename, Project Madision, currently exists only in the lab, but the company is set to begin public trials in the San Diego, California area later this year. Madison has long had the backing of the 'big five' record labels, Sony, EMI, Warner, Universal and BMG, all of whom remain highly suspicious of Microsoft, which they believe to have designs on their own markets. That makes EMMS even more attractive to RealNetworks, which stands to do very nicely indeed out of the deal, especially if IBM promotes it as the system's non-Web interface if choice. For its part, Microsoft is expect to announce details of its plan to build an alternative to EMMS, one that's closely integrated with Windows 2000 at server, client and consumer levels (see MS to unveil digital music delivery system next month). Microsoft's offering centres on its own MS Audio 4.0 digital music format and, like, EMMS, provides the level of copyright protection the music industry wants to see before it commits to selling music via the Net. ® See also Microsoft readies MP3-killer digital music format MS to spend $15 million buying into online music market Sony enters digital music contest with MP3-beaterHMV to explore digital music distribution Big Blue, Big Five to unveil Net music system
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

ISP launches toll-free Net access for the sleepless

The X-Stream Network, which offered toll-free 0800 Internet access last month, helping it to attract an extra 65,000 new subscribers, has decided to extend the scheme indefinitely. Unfortunately, the new tariff-free scheme appears to be aimed at insomniacs who are happy to log onto the Net during the hours of midnight and 2.00am between Monday and Thursday. Although any movement towards cutting the cost of Net access is to be welcomed, the restrictions and antisocial hours of X-Stream's latest offer appear to outweigh any real benefit for average users. This latest promotion comes hot on the heels of X-Stream's March initiative when it offered an 0800 freephone number during weekends for people to access the Net. Although branded nothing more than publicity stunt by some critics, X-Stream is cock-a-hoop at its success. In one seven-day period alone the X-Stream Network claims to have recorded almost 5.5 million page impressions. "We shifted the paradigm of Internet access one year ago [X-Stream was the first ISP to offer a subscription-free service] and now we have done it again with free weekend calling in March," said Paul Myers, the company's MD. Myers is adamant that the company will continue its pioneering run. Underlining X-Stream's vigour in the already tight ISP marketplace, he also announced the appointment of Paul Shalet as Sales & Marketing Director. Shalet joins The X-Stream Network from Boston-based IDG Marketing Services where he was Senior Vice President for Europe Middle East and Africa. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

3dfx tech support says yes to Wrappers

A Register reader has mailed us with an intriguing corollary to the moves 3dfx made last week to threaten Web sites posting Glide Wrappers, software utilities that map calls to the company's proprietary Glide 3D graphics API to third-party hardware drivers. It appears that, unbeknownst to the company's aggressive legal team, its tech support people have been suggesting that Voodoo3 users who can't get the controversial UltraHLE Nintendo 64 emulator to run should download and use... a Wrapper. UltraHLE requires the use of a 3D accelerator card based on 3dfx's Voodoo or Voodoo2 chip-sets. However, with development on the emulator suspended, thanks to threatened legal action from Nintendo, the software hasn't yet been extended to fully support the Voodoo3 drivers. So it will not run with a Voodoo3-based card alone. Fortunately, Wrappers seem to solve the problem. One, XGL2000, written by Scott Cutler, apparently works very well, say 3dfx tech support guys. It's a shame, then, that 3dfx forced Cutler's ISP to pull his files, allegedly without his consent. If any other readers have experience of 3dfx tech support's pro-Wrapper advice, we'd like to hear from you. ®
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Net millionaires crash Sunday Times wealthiest Britons list

The Sunday Times' annual rummage through the bank statements of Britain's most well-off has unearthed some wealthy characters and a new breed sterling tycoons who have made their pile from the Net. Paul Sykes, who saw his £10 million investment in the ISP Planet Online swell to £47 million after it was acquired by Energis for £75 million last year, is estimated to be worth £400 million. He tops the list of Internet millionaires by 182 places and a cool £300 million comfortably beating the twin daughters of the late Robert Maxwell by a long chalk. Christine and Isabel Maxwell, together worth £100 million and ranked joint 227 out of 1000, started the McKinley Group, which was sold to portal Excite for £12 million in 1995. Their real wealth came about earlier this year when their 850,000 shares in Excite netted them around £100 million after the portal was acquired for more than £4 billion by @Home. According to the author of the The Sunday Times' Rich List the rise of the high-tech millionaire is "dominant feature this year". "When the Rich List started in 1989, there were fewer that ten hi-tech tycoons," wrote Philip Beresford in the introduction to this year's report. "This year we have ten Internet multi-millionaires alone," he said. Elsewhere, hi-tech industries accounted for 96 multi-millionaires in the UK -- almost ten per cent of an elite league table worth an estimated £115 billion. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Eckhard Pfeiffer gives Innovate bad news

The CEO of Compaq, Eckhard Pfeiffer, is now delivering to his 5,000 or so delegates at Innovate the bad news. Compaq is not doing well, as invented here, by me, the world's greatest IT journalist, early Saturday. The Register is not being allowed to attend Innovate this year but we have a stringer. So watch out for news later today, maybe on local trade paper The Wall Street Journal. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft ‘dresses up’ Office 2000

Microsoft forced its Office 2000 developers to wear dresses to ensure that bugs have been found and fixed, according to Kurt DelBene, general manager for Outlook.
Team Register, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

ICL says Fridges are Office 2000 compliant

ICL opened the doors to the world’s first Office 2000 fridge freezer in Nice today although it quickly denied it was moving into the mainstream consumer durables market. The fridge is a dark blue Electrolux model with wooden handles with an ICL PC integrated into the door. The touch-screen PC enables the less than average fridge freezer user to scan the bar code of produce -- in ICL's case a small bottle of Evian and a number of small Stella Artois bottles of beer -- and then consume it. In the meantime, the PC, already aware of the number of bottles inside the fridge through pre-programming and not by automatic sensor, subtracts the correct number and then dials-up Tescos using Internet Explorer 5.0 to re-order beer when supplies fall low. The fridge PC also enables users to send and browse email through a touch-screen keyboard using Outlook, pay bills on line, conduct Internet banking business, watch TV and browse through loyalty card offers from the local supermarket. David Wright, ICL's business development manager said there are only three of these fridges in the world and there is no price. "It's not a product, it's just for demonstration purposes." The fridge got its first mention at the keynote address by Kurt DelBene when he brought on ICL's director of Enterprise Infrastructure, Graham Taylor, to talk about how Office 2000 solved his collaborative problems. Taylor went on to talk about the fridge being full of beer, at which point DelBene popped-in “you’re obviously very excited about this..." "I love beer," said Taylor. ®
The Register breaking news

Ziff-Davis takes questionably strange position

Read from here on... "We believe in the social and business benefits that come with new technology. We care deeply about the people who create these technologies and those who use them. "That's why at Ziff-Davis we don't just observe and report on high technology. We also accelerate its adoption by identifying the consumers on the leading edge and providing them with insightful, trustworthy information on the latest available products. "We do this with magazines, websites, TV programs, educational systems, exhaustive research for buyers as well as manufacturers, and face-to-face events. "Wherever there are people with a passion for computing and the Internet, we are there, providing unparalleled insight, expertise, and information. Because we believe in technology. " And that is the Ziff-Davis statement it has put up at this place here ® Team Register was so impressed we thought we'd write our own mission statement And if you don't believe we're sincere check out our tariffs
Pete Sherriff, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

2.4GHz dead – official

Proxim today forecast the death of the 2.4GHz band -- but only at the high-end -- announcing plans to endorse the HyperLAN standard and introduce a HiperLAN wireless LAN product line. The US-based wireless LAN manufacturer says the future lies with HyperLAN Type 1 wireless LAN standard. Proxim's new product line RangeLAN5 will be compliant with the HiperLAN standard, support 24Mbps data rates and operate in the 5GHz band. Proxim claims it will be the industry's fastest standards-based wireless LAN. It also thinks that HyperLAN will soon be obsolete. The driving force behind this move is the increasing use of multimedia and demand for higher speed technology. Proxim says the product line, due for sample shipment to OEMs in Q3 and to customers in Q1 next year, will offer high multimedia quality. It will distinguish between voice, video and data applications. The company also endorses this standard because it claims HiperLAN systems, operating at 5GHz, will not interfere with installed 2.4GHz wireless LANs. Scott Ruck, Proxim product manager for high speed networking, said: "5GHz products will be available very soon. Customers will be faced with one product that supports multimedia and one that doesn't for the same price. That's why we believe the 2.4GHz 11Mbps products won't be a very permanent product line."
Linda Harrison, 12 Apr 1999
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Voice over IP services to make $13.76 billion

The European IP telephony market is set to generate $13.76 billion by 2005 -- up from $246.8 million today -- as the cost of the technology falls and the quality of the service improves. Consulting company Frost & Sullivan, which has published The European Market for IP Telephony believes the massive jump in revenue will arise because IP telephony will help cut communications costs for business. "By integrating all communications traffic over a single connection, a company reduces multiple connectivity charges and eliminates per-minute charges on intra-company phone calls and faxes," said Mitul Mehta, IT Research Manager at Frost & Sullivan. "Voice and fax traffic are carried for free with data and LAN traffic between location. "This offers businesses an opportunity to make significant savings," said Mehta. Market growth is expected to be fuelled by demand for enhanced applications helping it to transform IP telephony into a conventional medium for telecommunications. While Germany, the UK and Scandinavia are currently the dominant markets in this field it's anticipated that this will change in the future when Germany, France and the UK will account for the combined share of just under 60 per cent of revenues. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Apr 1999
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Team Register, 12 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Dixons explores Freeserve sell-off

Dixons has made the first official moves to sell off its Freeserve ISP after appointing Credit Suisse First Boston and Cazenove & Co to examine its options. In a statement, the electronics group said it would "explore the strategic alternatives available to enable its Internet service provider Freeserve to realise its full potential and to optimise the value of Freeserve for Dixons shareholders". "The options include a potential initial public offering of a minority interest in Freeserve," it said. Freeserve has grown rapidly since its launch in September 1998 and now has more than one million subscribers making the UK's number one ISP. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Apr 1999
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Digital Nervous System not Bill Gates' idea

So who invented the "digital nervous system"? Sit down, Bill Gates -- you first mentioned it in May 1997 when you said: "I want to talk about what I call the digital nervous system." By the way, did you see the account at www.c3f.com/nty0728.html? Let's deconstruct this digital nervous system of yours. Judith Dayhoff wrote about the idea in 1990 in her book Neural Network Architectures, and she probably wasn't the first. In the literature for grown ups, it's mostly referred to as neural networks, and as just about everything is digital nowadays, we needn't pay much attention to the digital part of DNS. Just to fill you in, neural networks are an evolutionary response to the physical and chemical conditions of an organism. In trying to apply the concept to computing, you come unstuck very quickly because you can't validly compare a system where the outcome is determined by logic and the information content, with a system where the outcome is determined by evolution. To put it more simply for you, it's not even apples and oranges: it's apples and bicycles. You need to get stuck into some cybernetics and neurological texts, and not rely on Encarta, if you want to understand notions such as feedback and neural networks properly. When you realised that IBM and Oracle call on 8000 to 10,000 enterprise customers and prospects worldwide, and then found that Microsoft only called on 2500, you needed a way of opening doors for all those new, inexperienced people that you hired for additional marketing. You wanted a way to suggest that Microsoft had something to offer at an enterprise level, some insight into corporate management and systems: perhaps you even thought you could pass off DNS as a corporate vision? You wanted these new sales people to be able to offer to build a digital nervous system for a company, even though neither you nor they had the slightest idea what that would be (other than a full set of Microsoft software, of course). So this nonsense of the digital nervous system is just a sales gimmick, supported by an intellectual vacuum. Now let's fill you in on another use of DNS that pre-dates your effort. In a move that was intended to strengthen the position of European manufacturers and to redress the negative trade balance in Europe, Siemens-Nixdorf, Bull and Olivetti -- echoing an earlier move by Siemens and ICL, but this time without ICL which had become owned 80 per cent by Fujitsu -- founded software laboratories in Munich, Naples and Paris. In June 1992, Trans European Information Systems (TEIS) was founded, headquartered in Brussels, with the legal status of a European Economic Interest Group (EEIG). It was alternatively known as the European Nervous System (ENS) project -- a form of legal cartel. We can forgive those whose mother tongue is not English for using silly names like DNS, even informally. So please, let's have no more of this DNS. Let's stick to real products, not NotionlessWare. ®
Graham Lea, 12 Apr 1999
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One C2000 warehouse fits all

Computer 2000 has launched a scheme to centralise its logistics in one warehouse in Belgium, starting today with IBM disk drives. The move will control the distributor’s operations in seven countries for IBM storage products at the outset. It will later spread to the rest of Europe for all vendors. Computer 2000's centralised warehouse near Brussels covers buying, product management, inventory holding and distribution. There are no plans to centralise sales and marketing. Andy Gass, Computer 2000 deputy MD, said Cisco would also use the one warehouse for its high-end networking products within a month. Manufacturers will have one point of contact for shipping and billing, instead of delivering to around 24 individual warehouses. Customers will get immediate delivery on high volume orders. Gass said: "It makes sense from a pan-European point of view. There will be some local stock holdings, but only for small run-rate products." Gass said the company was also looking at expanding the scheme to its consumables business. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Apr 1999