13th > April > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Palm to hit 60 per cent share by 2003 – report

3Com Palm Systems will increase its market share and continue to dominate the handheld market, according to a new market study from Computer Economics of Carlsbad, California. Palm is forecast to go from the present 54 per cent market share to 60 percent in 2003, while Windows CE devices will increase from 8 per cent to 18 per cent. The loser will be "others". Not surprisingly, low-end models are expected to outsell high-end models. In 1999, the study suggests 6.5 million units will ship, with 3.9 million of these being at the low end. By 2003, it is suggested that 14 million units will ship, with 9.1 million being at the low end. No methodology for the study is given. It also seems rather brave to assume that there will be no new entrants of any consequence, and to make a five year forecast of this market. It's easy enough to make some gross assumptions and put these in a spread sheet, but how valid can the assumptions be? ®
The Register breaking news

IBM rolls out fastest JVM, plans Linux version

IBM claims that its new JVM for Windows is an average of 30 per cent faster than any other JVM, from tests with the SPECjvm98 and VolanoMark benchmarks. In some cases, IBM's JVM (which is based on Java 1.1.7B, although a Java 2 version will be available later in the year) is 52 per cent faster than other Windows versions, IBM said. It is also free, and available for download from Monday at www.ibm.com/java for Windows 9x and NT. IBM already has a JVM for OS/2, AIX, OS/400, OS/390 - and the IBM4690 cash register, apparently. The speed has been achieved by better memory management, and IBM says that scalability and throughput has been improved. There is a just-in-time compiler. A mixed-mode interpreter is used for the parts of the Java program that are executed repeatedly. It was developed from JVM code licensed from Sun and improved by IBM. Unlike Microsoft's own non-standard, impure version that was deliberately modified to remove cross-platform capabilities (as came out in great detail during the evidence from James Gosling during the Microsoft trial), IBM's version is pure Java, or "fully compliant" as IBM puts it. This will be bad news for Microsoft, because one of its boasts had been the speed of its JVM. IBM has made a very significant commitment to Java because it can benefit considerably from the cross-platform capabilities. It is believed that IBM has more Java programmers than any other company. IBM's interest in all this is of course to push its electronic commerce business. At the end of April, Sun is scheduled to deliver its Hotspot enhancement for its JVM, although Sun will charge for this. Jason Woodard of IBM's Java marketing group noted that many IBM customers had found that NT was not sufficiently scalable, but it was convenient to develop in a Windows environment before porting to something else. IBM is also developing a Linux port for WebSphere (which uses Blackdown), but is still deciding whether to develop its own JVM for Linux. ®
The Register breaking news

Games vendors to ‘blame’ for murdered students

In December, 1997 three Kentucky students were shot dead by a fellow pupil at their high school. The parents of the murdered children blame media violence for warping the mind of 14 year-old killer Michael Carneal. They say they will slap a $130 million law suit on a clutch of video games companies and Internet porn sites which produced material seen by Carneal. In the dock are Nintendo, Sony, Sega, the makers and distributors of 1995 film The BasketBall diaries, and the owners of two porn sites. At the time of the shootings, Carneal was "an avid computer user who logged onto Internet porn sites to view sexually violent material", AP reveals. What are the chances of legal success for the vengeful? An entirely superficial acquaintance with US law tells us that anything could happen, given a fair wind and a sympathetic jury. But it is difficult to see how the parent can win this case. If the American pro-gun lobby can successfully defend its "guns don't kill people - people kill people" stance, what chance is there of pinning blame for murder by a sick individual on a bunch of computer games manufacturers. (From a British perspective, it seems astonishing that the maker of the gun used in the shootings by Carneal has not been enjoined in any legal action. America's gun culture is what we call pornography.) Sure computers do kill people. Last week a 10-year old Singaporean boy was electrocuted playing a shoot-em-up game in a computer arcade. The games gun he was holding was "live". A clear case for liability can be established here. There will be someone to sue. Unlike the Kentucky case. ®
The Register breaking news

Taiwanese sue Micron – for dumping!

Well this is a turn-up for the books. The Taiwanese Semiconductor Association (TSIA) has taken up cudgels against Micron, accusing the belligerent US DRAM maker of dumping DRAM chips in Taiwan. Micron is selling DRAM modules cheaper in Taiwan than in the US, according to the TSIA. This is a classic definition of dumping. Also named in the suit are fellow American companies Texas Instruments and IBM. But let's be clear about this, the TSIA's real target is Micron. In its pursuit of Asian DRAM dumpers , the US Department of Commerce sometimes comes across as the legal wing of Micron. For years, the company has been a thorn in the flesh of Far-eastern DRAM makers, especially of the South Korean and Taiwanese variety, with its accusations of dumping. Now the tables are turned. It will be interesting to see what arguments Micron will trot out in its defence - phrases like "without merit"; "manufacturing scales of economy"; "technology lead"; and "competitive currency"; spring to mind. Micron will have to take the suit seriously: following the acquisition of TI's DRAM business, Micron accounts for more than half of the Taiwanese memory market. Micron's Taiwanese $150 million memory revenues account for 10 per cent of the company's DRAM turnover. Taiwan's ITC will rule on the Micron complaint within 45 days. ®
The Register breaking news

MS thin server details thin on the ground

Details of the thin server that Microsoft president Steve Ballmer announced last week at the WinHEC are, well, thin. It is clearly a genuflexion to Linux servers, and does not even seem to have reached the Slideware phase yet: it's just NameWare so far, to wit EasyPC. Nevertheless, Ballmer was confident it would be delivered in the second half of this year, although Microsoft apologists are already suggesting that volume shipments will be next year. Microsoft will be pricing itself out of the market (guesses are in the $1500 to $2000 range, which is 30 per cent too high), since leaks suggest it will have NT server. It is expected that it will have a Celeron, a second hard drive for backup, a 56kbps modem, and some "self-healing" properties (presumably a reboot button). As the venture is a joint one with Intel, we know where the motherboards will be made, but quite how it will be sold is not known yet. It was noteworthy that during the trial, the DoJ did not produce any significant evidence that Microsoft's influence on hardware design constrains and distorts the industry. There are ways to achieve what is needed in the shape of agreed standards without the proprietary PC99 spec. Microsoft is adamant that there will be no certification, and more darkly is hinting at no Windows licensing, for any OEM that includes an ISA bus, however deviously this is done. The PC98 spec kept an ISA slot for "legacy" peripherals. One devious approach that has been hinted up by Micah Stroud of Creative Labs (where about a quarter of its cards are still ISA) is to have audio on the motherboard initially, and then refresh or swap the board to get ISA on a card. Microsoft has said the deadline for enforcement is 1 July. Consumers still want ISA cards, it seems, although the volume saving to OEMs with PCI is only around $1.50. ®
The Register breaking news

Gates interview undermines MS witness testimony

We have found a serious conflict between what Gates said in a soft interview for a controlled circulation magazine produced by a Chicago-based management consultancy, and the evidence of Professor Richard Schmalensee, Microsoft's expert economist witness during the Microsoft trial. The evidence about Microsoft's sales records speaks for itself, when the two items are seen together. Interview by Paul Carroll, Context Magazine [Diamond Technology Partners, Chicago], Premiere Issue (November 1997): CONTEXT: In your travels, have you run across particular people or companies that are thinking about technology in an interesting way? GATES: I don't think many companies are doing it very well. ... But who's really great at using information technology? We're pretty damn good. There are some things we do, like our sales tracking system, where we can look at our sales in some incredible ways. Who else would we expect to be good? Intel? Not really. Various computer companies? Not really. They're just sort of catching up. Everybody buys SAP. How can you be differentiated when you're all buying and using SAP? So, people have decided that they're not going to be much ahead of anybody else. USA versus Microsoft, Transcript, 20 January 1999, pm, p46-47: DAVID BOIES [for the DOJ]: Did you, in preparing yourself to testify, make any attempt to determine how much of Microsoft's reported profits came from operating systems? RICHARD SCHMALENSEE: Yes, I did ask Microsoft to the extent to which the business could be broken down between operating systems and applications. And I was told the data that's separated in that fashion simply didn't exist. BOIES: And did you accept that explanation at face value, sir? SCHMALENSEE: I was surprised, but I will be honest with you, the state of Microsoft's internal accounting systems do not always rise to the level of sophistication one might expect from a firm as successful as it is. That explanation is consistent with other information I had received about the nature of their internal systems and records. . . . I was interested in the question of what's a reasonable assumption for the sort of ancillary revenues, say, from applications programs that Microsoft might expect as a consequence of Windows sales. I said, can you separate the company into the two pieces, so I might be able to address that question? The answer was there were a lot of common costs that aren't allocated between those two businesses, and the records just don't let you do it. That seemed to me consistent with the other things I knew about the company. BOIES: And just to be clear, you were told that Microsoft doesn't have any records that show how profitable their operating system is, doesn't have any records that show what ancillary revenues or profits it receives, and you accepted that on face value; correct? SCHMALENSEE: Mr. Boies, they record operating system sales by hand on sheets of paper. Under those circumstances, I accepted the absence of a detailed cost allocation system absolutely. Gates must have been referring to the other set of books that Microsoft had overlooked. Microsoft uses SAP, so it would be interesting to know which set of books is kept in that system. Microsoft was extremely reluctant to allow any access to its accounting system database, so the DoJ had to get an enforcement order from Judge Jackson at the beginning of the trial to get any information at all. We feel sure that there was no intention to mislead the court. Don't you agree? ®
The Register breaking news

Mobile computing market to double in Europe by 2005

The mobile PC market in Europe will be worth over $12 billion by 2005, according to a survey by Frost & Sullivan. With sales almost doubling to $12.53 billion over the next six years, compared to $6.98 billion in 1998, the future is certainly looking bright for portables. More portable, cheaper, higher performance notebooks are paving the way for this remote working revolution, according to the consultancy firm. Those in the market for mobile devices are looking for value first, with high-end kit sales suffering from delays in the release of NT 5, Frost & Sullivan said. Falling component prices and slack markets outside the continent are generating new customer demand. Jan ten Sythoff, Frost & Sullivan analyst, said competition in the sector was stiffening due to poor margins in other areas. "Many portable PC manufacturers are also involved in the desktop PC market, but falling margins in this market have caused some to increase their focus on the higher margin portable business. "Many of the Asian vendors have seen local markets stagnate and decline, and have looked to the European market to increase their sales." ®
The Register breaking news

eBay fixes price of shares

On-line auction house, eBay, wants investors to fork out $170.00 per share to help it raise more than $1 billion. The company first announced its intention to offer 6,500,000 shares of common stock last month although what it plans to do with the cash is still a bit of a mystery. Of the 6,500,000 million shares available, 4,250,000 are being offered by the company and a further 2,250,000 are being sold by existing stockholders. Goldman, Sachs & Co and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter are acting as the lead underwriters for the offering. Other underwriters for include BancBoston Robertson Stephens, BT Alex Brown and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. eBay expects that the shares will be delivered to the underwriters on April 16, 1999. ®
The Register breaking news

Who do you want to sue today? KDE?

Register readers Doug and Anna Weathers have drawn our attention to a potentially larger target for Microsoft's "Where do you want to go today?" legal eagles. Fire up Linux with the KDE shell, move the pointer over the K icon in the lower left hand corner, and the message "Where do you want to go tomorrow?" pops up. As KDE is becoming the Linux GUI of choice, and is surely going to wind up on Linux desktop systems that compete with Microsoft's Windows milch cow, Microsoft should logically now be thinking of busting quite a few companies, not just a few hundred Linux Web sites Earlier story. But the legal underpinning of Microsoft's campaign remains murky. MS does have a trademark in the US for "Where do you want to go today?" and it has pushed that one so heavily that it's quite possibly acceptable as a worldwide mark. From a trademarking point of view, that might mean that "Where do you want to go tomorrow?" could be deemed sufficiently close for it to constitute an infringement, and so Cybernet Systems, which has applied for the latter trademark in the US, may well fail. But other Register readers have suggested to us that the "tomorrow" slogan, being satirical, is a protected form of speech in the US, and also covered by this in all countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention. We're not entirely convinced - British courts are notably humourless, for example and we can't see the French wearing it either, but Microsoft still seems to be getting itself into something of a swamp. For what it's worth, the company may now be starting to back off. It's currently describing what linux.de took as a threat as a simple email request, and therefore seems unlikely to want to push the matter as far as the courts. But it can probably still make some ground by quietly leaning on the Linux operations of larger companies. If, for example, Dell were to ship Linux machines with KDE, we wouldn't be at all surprised if that pesky slogan somehow failed to ship with them. ®
The Register breaking news

Lovelorn computer users miss out on romance

The Millennium bug is playing havoc with the love lives of the UK’s eligible young bachelors and bachelorettes. IT professionals are struggling to find passion among the processors, due to the long hours spent fiddling with the knobs on their beloved PCs, according to a survey by the Club Sirius dating agency. And for those who have dedicated their lives to fighting the year 2000 ebola, travelling all over the country to check out suspect systems leaves little time for flirting. The report claims that as many as 60 per cent of dweebs in Y2K compliance work had no time for romance, with singletons moaning about the difficulties of meeting like-minded people. UK matchmakers Club Sirius compiled the research after reporting a surge in IT professionals using their service. Kate Corbett, Club Sirius sales director, warned that computer programmers were overworked and underloved. "A lot of our new members have been expressing a concern that they will still be single at the turn of the century, but we had no idea how much pressure Millennium compliance was having on the IT community." she said. Makes your heart bleed, no? "The shortage of skilled programmers means that the people who are available are continually moving around the country on different projects. This makes meeting a partner very difficult, especially when there is no local network of friends to make introductions to new people," she added. So, it’s nothing to do with the fact that they’re all Geeks in need of personality transplants, then. reg;
The Register breaking news

CBS sets sights on Internet

US film to music giant, CBS took another step toward becoming a major player in online media yesterday after it announced it was buying a stake in two established Net companies. The giant media company signed letters of intent with Storerunner -- an online shopping mall -- and the top movie site Hollywood.com as part of a $200 million investment programme. "We're only at the beginning of our Internet strategy," said CBS CEO Mel Karmazin in a statement. "Our goal is to be as strong a player in new media as we are in the established media of television, radio and outdoor." CBS already owns a 20 per cent stake in SportsLine USA and a 38 per cent stake in MarketWatch.com, which operates the CBS.MarketWatch.com Web site. ®
The Register breaking news

Welsh speakers blast BT’s language policy

BT has come under fire from the Welsh speaking community who are accusing the telecomms giant of anti-Welsh behaviour. The problem stems from pagers. Welsh speakers who want to send messages to each other, in Welsh, using their pagers are being told by BT that they cannot. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon, representatives of Welsh cultural bodies attacked BT for this exclusionist attitude. The problem stems from an inability to translate from Welsh into English. A BT representative was quick to defend BT’s Welsh language policy but said that if the company cannot guarantee that a message is not offensive or threatening then it will not carry it. "Our approach to the Welsh language ranks alongside any other company. We have bi-lingual phone boxes and Welsh speaking phone operators," he said. "The problem here is that if our pager operators cannot understand a message they will refuse to accept it. Our pager bureaus are in England and the number of Welsh speakers living in England is very small (you don’t say - Ed). It would be the same story if you wanted to send a message in Spanish." He went on to say that BT had looked into opening a pager bureau in Wales but that the cost of addressing a market as small as Welsh speakers who want to page in Welsh was likely to be prohibitive. Although BT provides many services in the Welsh language, it has been criticised by the Welsh Language Association for making them available only on request and not as a matter of course. The Welsh Language Act makes it incumbent upon local authorities and other government bodies to provide English and Welsh services in equal amounts. Private companies, such as BT, are not covered by this legislation. ®
The Register breaking news

Tesco will not spin-off its ISP

Giant grocer Tesco has no plans to spin-off its Internet business -- well, not yet anyway -- despite yesterday's announcement that Dixons was planning to sell-off Freeserve. It also made it clear that the subscription-free TescoNet ISP service launched at the end of January will be an integral part of the supermarket's future ecommerce strategy. Announcing Tesco's results for last year, financial director, Andrew Higginson, said that the company had no immediate plans to float TescoNet. He did add that the company would watch the market "with interest". "We don't see it as a separate business at this stage," he said. "We see it very much as a route in to our home delivery operation, primarily as something to use within our own business rather than as a stand-alone operation." With its stall clearly laid out and its strategy as clear the Scottish mineral water it sells in aisle 12, Tesco also announced it will start to roll-out its home shopping trial TescoDirect across the country in the next few months. By the end of the year it expects to have more than 100 stores up and down the country delivering groceries to customers who originally placed their orders via the Internet. Tesco also used the occasion to publish the first official figures for the service. Although no financial breakdown was available it confirmed it now had 200,000 registered users of its service and that this number was growing by around 10,000 a week. ®
The Register breaking news

Direct path will solve Compaq woes

Compaq’s announcement that its Q1 earnings would fall short of expectations due to a slowdown in demand for business PCs should not come as a surprise. This merely confirms we have known for months -- that PC sales will increasingly go direct and that companies with the lowest cost model will do best. Right now that means Dell is in the driving seat. Compaq is trying to respond...it has to! But there are more worrying signs for Compaq partners and customers. The company has been too slow to react to Dell and, in a market that’s reluctant to grow, the impact on its business has been worse than expected. There was also a hint of panic in the timing of the announcement – made retrospectively, a week after the quarter ended rather than in mid-quarter when the tide looked like turning. Perhaps Compaq did not realise the scale of the problem or thought it could turn things around. Also of concern is the lack of extra margin in the server business. Dell is taking a chunk out of this market too. The top end is very competitive and confused. From this position,shareholders should consider what they really got out of the Digital acquisition. The answer may be a long time coming. Global reach, services business and extra corporate credibility provide the rationale for buying Digital. But none of those will deliver short-term advances in EPS. So the forthcoming announcement of Compaq's new "enterprise strategy" may not comfort many shareholders. More cost cutting plans will be welcomed but they may be the thin-end of the wedge. Further and much more substantial cutbacks are needed to boost the shares in the difficult Spring quarter. But with prices lower than ever, Compaq will be forced to accelerate its move towards direct and on-line sales. That will mean more consternation in the channels but if this means Compaq is a sounder supplier and is able to compete more effectively with Dell, it won’t be bad news for anyone. There is no need for anyone to be unduly worried about Compaq – it is a big company, it will survive. But it must be realistic if it is to remain a strong competitor and not suffer long-term damage during this difficult period in its development. The company, its partners and customers need to brace themselves for a succession of blows to morale. In the end though, it will be the shareholders who need to hold their nerve steadiest of all. They have the ability to inflict real damage to confidence and weaken Compaq’s long term ability to compete. Compaq aims to be something more than just a PC supplier to its customers; Compaq wants to sit beside IBM and HP as global computer systems and services suppliers. To achieve that aim, it will need impeccable corporate credibility. Compaq then must manage the stock market’s expectations very carefully and act swiftly and decisively to curb the rise of Dell and cut its cost model. It is far better to under–promise and over deliver than continue to insist that everything is wonderful in the garden when very clearly it is not. ® Simon Meredith is a freelance computer journalist
The Register breaking news

Wintel Easy PC – the substance-free initiative?

Analysis Here's a puzzle. Microsoft didn't exactly announce much of significance or show much that was convincing at last week's WinHEC, but if you try to look for further information on what was potentially one of the biggies, Easy PC, you'll come up strangely empty. Now, why could this be? Microsoft itself doesn't go much beyond the press release, which is headed "Industry support grows for Intel and Microsoft Easy PC initiative." This is described as a "multiyear vision... targeted at improving the overall experience for PC users." A clutch of major PC manufacturers has toed the line, and according to Microsoft will be developing new PC prototypes by the end of the year. Ah, but what's going to be in them? Our own dear Graham Lea suspects a dastardly plot to eliminate ISA slots, but actually, on the dastardism scale this probably doesn't register very high, and anyway it's an old idea that makes sense. Intel and Microsoft have been trying to roadmap ISA out of the picture for several years now, and one day they're going to succeed. Intel has been particularly active here, and is pushing a "Legacy Removal Roadmap" that starts with the elimination of ISA devices and ISA slots in the second half of 99, and then moves on through the progressive removal of all sorts of other stuff -- gameports/MIDI, PS/2, serial, parallel, IDE, floppy, VGA and user-accessible slots. In Intel's view, getting rid of the old stuff is the first step towards making PCs easier to use, and of course old Satan is absolutely right here. If we substitute smarter plug and play technologies for the old confusing stuff life will be a lot easier for all concerned. So Intel is keen on USB and stuff like Instantly Available/On Now. Its enthusiasm for IEEE 1394 may be a little muted at the moment, but as far as we can gather this is something to do with a campaign to price-gouge on licence fees. Note however that these are very Intel concerns, and that Intel is currently happily describing the Easy PC Initiative as "previously known as the PC Ease of Use Initiative," as announced at the Intel Developer Forum last autumn. A reality-check of the original announcement confirms that there was no mention of Microsoft participation, and at Intel's showing of a "Concept PC" demonstrating ease of use at Comdex in November, there was again no obvious Microsoft participation. Intel's Easy PC announcement last week describes the Initiative as a "joint Intel/Microsoft" one, but the evidence pointing to it being one Microsoft has muscled in on fairly recently seems pretty conclusive. According to Microsoft, Easy PC development will be focussed on four main areas: Easy set-up; Easy expansion; Ease of use and New form factors. The detail of these is worth examining. Easy expansion obviously just continues the Intel campaign on legacy removal and migration to USB and (maybe) 1394, while new form factor just means new Intel motherboard designs, FlexATX in this case. Ease of use is more of a joint effort. The addition of OnNow is of course an Intel component, as is the "reduction of legacy hardware." Microsoft contributions here will be "faster operation with improved, task-based user interface" and "self-repairing features" -- here be dragons? Self-repairing software is one of Microsoft's hot buttons, but probably isn't that do-able (maybe we should write software that isn't self-breaking first), while the improved user interface sounds like something that will be attached to one of those new operating systems Microsoft has so much trouble finishing. But look on the bright side -- this is a "multiyear initiative," so we don't have to ship all the components right away. Easy set-up is also one that lies largely on Microsoft's turf, but it'll probably turn out to be more to do with horse-trading between Microsoft and the PC manufacturers over who gets to do what in the initial set-up procedure than it is to do with breakthrough technology. Microsoft does however suggest that machines could be "preconfigured for connectivity," and we could interpret that as meaning that PC manufacturers are going to be allowed to do a little bit more of their own thing. But shall we get back to the roadmap? If there are going to be prototypes by the end of the year, and machines based on it will be in the shops next year (will have to be, if ISA is going to be dead by then). Microsoft has a "new" OS, Windows 98 Second Edition, due shortly, and is planning a consumer-oriented follow-up for 2000. It can't do much in time for Second Edition (this "will improve the initial out-of-box experience for user," says Microsoft), and considering the timescale, it will be difficult to do much radical in time for the 2000 version. Some more hardware-oriented Intel initiatives could be supported by Q2-Q3 (and maybe supported earlier by refreshes of the OEM version), but trickier stuff like an "improved task-based user interface" sounds a lot like the sort of technology that would knock shipment back into 2001 or beyond. So actually what we've got with Easy PC turns out to be largely hardware-related stuff that was in the PC99 design guide, and that has been pushed further by Intel independently since then. Microsoft input is a lot vaguer, and probably a lot further away too. But we have a theory. Note first of all that Intel refers to "new features for Windows 2000" but doesn't mention future versions of 98. This isn't particularly surprising, as absolute confirmation that there would be new versions of 98 wasn't forthcoming until WinHEC last week. Note also that the sole Easy PC 'innovation' Microsoft is talking about for Second Edition is something it was going to do anyway - 'improve' the out-of-box experience. And then note that Microsoft has decided to cut its losses on the Windows 2000 consumer version (at least for the moment) and substitute a series of simple, easy-to-ship upgrades to Windows 98 instead. What could it put in them? Well, if it took on board some of the work Intel had been doing and called it a new initiative, rather than just PC99 mark two, wouldn't that do? The $64,000 question, of course, is how long Microsoft can confine itself to shipping the easy stuff before it gets tempted back into three year OS development cycle. ®
The Register breaking news

And Silicon Graphics is now… SGI

Was that the best it could do? Silicon Graphics International has changed its name to -- SGI. And we thought the company was going to rebrand itself: "Smaller than Sun". Poor Silicon Graphics is big in servers and supercomputers -- or so it insists, with these product lines accounting for half of company turnover. Only, no one knows it. Changing names means people won't think of the company as simply a high-end graphics workstation vendor. But wait -- the Silicon Graphics name won't disappear completely. SGI will retain the brand for its... high-end graphics workstation business. This has something to do with what the experts call "brand flexibility". Changing company names indicates either a special kind of desperation or a marketing department with too much money and too much time on its hands. Silicon Graphics/SGI did not come up with this startling name change all by itself. For this kind of marketing masterpiece, you have to call in the specialists. So take a bow, branding specialists Landor Associates. You deserve every penny SGI are paying you. Now over to Landor boss Clay Timon for his valuable contribution to the English language. "In markets evolving as rapidly as those of graphics workstations and servers, a brand has to be flexible enough to expand into new categories and communicate new messages, while remaining memorable and distinctive enough to stand out from its high tech competition," he said. ®
The Register breaking news

Mishaps mar Microsoft Office 2000 meet

A catalogue of mini disasters haunted Microsoft's Office 2000 Deployment conference in Nice this week with missed flights, lost luggage, crashing demos and alcohol bans. UK journalists gathering to fly to Nice on Sunday were sent to the wrong Heathrow terminal eventually causing two journalists to miss the flight. Air France also lost the luggage for a member of the Text 100 PR staff while rookie marketing women Ann-Marie Duffy's attendance was delayed due to food poisoning at home. The conference itself kicked off with two keynote speeches during which a simple demonstration of Office 2000's new cut and paste feature into Explorer 5.0 crashed. According to a number of delegates, demonstrations were crashing left right and centre during the break out sessions. "A lot of demos have been crashing," said one disgruntled conference delegate. "There have also been problems with speakers not answering my technical questions properly. I will deploy Office 2000 because I know the software, but if I had come to this conference and was still a little undecided, I'd probably be a bit nervous." The final straw at the conference was the lack of in-conference alcohol. Microsoft put a ban on booze in the conference building forcing ICL to keep the beer in its Office 2000 fridge freezer (see ICL says Fridges are Office 2000 compliant). And with non-existent midday wine, this all made lunchtime a less than French experience. The journalists, however, did get their own back a little, teaching Outlook general manager Kurt Del Bene an array of English swear words but holding back on the meaning. We should look forward to his next keynote speech with interest... ®
The Register breaking news

Apple to move on Merced

Analysis Claims that Apple is to make, or at the very least is considering, a strategic shift away from the PowerPC platform and over to Intel would be easy to dismiss if they had appeared on a Usenet newsgroup. But when they come from a senior figure within Intel's Architecture Group, the team that guides the evolution of the company's IA-32 and IA-64 processors, you have to sit up and take notice. And that's just what The Register heard this week, from just such a source, one who has, in the past, been pretty damn reliable. The claim goes something like this: Apple is working closely with Intel on 64-bit versions of MacOS X Server and MacOS X Client for Intel's forthcoming Merced processor the first to use its IA-64 architecture. The IA-64 version of Server will ship in 2001, Client will ship in the 2002-2003 timeframe. The background to this plan, claims the source, is trouble within the Apple-IBM-Motorola (AIM) PowerPC consortium centring on each partner's view of where the processor technology should go and the features it needs to deliver. Clearly an Intel insider can't be taken at face value where a rival processor platform is concerned. Intel spokespeople may claim that the only real competition on the company's radar screen is Advanced Micro Devices, but PowerPC remains a threat, especially in the areas Intel isn't too hot, in particular embedded systems -- processors that go into cars, fridges, mobile phones, not PCs. The embedded processor market isn't directly relevant to the Mac world, but it does matter inasmuch as it's the place where Motorola's semiconductor division makes most of its money. Motorola long realised PowerPC is probably never going to make it big in the PC arena, so it's been concentrating on better equipping the chip for embedded roles. That's why Motorola developed AltiVec, the upcoming G4's instruction set extensions for handling data streams. AltiVec isn't about competing with the Pentium III's comparable Streaming SIMD Extensions, it's about competing with Digital Signal Processors. Click here for the next page
The Register breaking news

Apple to move on Merced

Click here for the previous page IBM, meanwhile, continues to see the chip in multi-processor servers, the role that its Power chip-set, which formed the basis for the PowerPC, was developed for. That's why it wasn't too keen on AltiVec, a technology far less relevant to the kind of systems IBM is interested in. IBM reckoned the silicon spent on the AltiVec engine could be better used for other, more server-oriented functionality. The disagreement between IBM and Motorola over AltiVec was the first sign that the AIM alliance might someday come undone. Intel has a stake in seeing that happen, and might well chose to encourage Apple to believe it's better off with Intel. There's nothing underhand here -- Intel is simply pursuing another customer. And don't forget Motorola is suing Intel for allegedly poaching a number of PowerPC engineers, so Intel has even more reason for making PowerPC development appear in crisis. However, rumours of AIM's death are probably exaggerated. Late last year, Mike Attardo, general manager of IBM's Microelectronics Division, said the two companies will soon come to a solution to their disagreement. As he put it: "The three companies are motivated to co-operate, and we will co-operate." The relationship has been going through some turbulence of late -- what relationships don't? -- but there's no real sign of a major falling out between any or all of the partners. And even if IBM did call it quits, Motorola and Apple have more than enough motivation to stick with their version of the platform. So why should Apple be working with Intel at all? Why, if The Register's source is over-egging the pudding on the PowerPC side not be doing the same with MacOS X? A quick look at what both companies are currently up to shows that there's some important stuff here. Apple first. The idea of a largely-platform independent OS has been doing the rounds at Apple for ages. As soon as it began work on the Pink OS (the one that later became Taligent) and began messing around with microkernels, platform independence has been an issue. Perhaps not always part of the core strategy, but present nonetheless. Platform-independence appeals to Apple because it allows you to get your OS out to the widest possible audience, even those who don't want to ditch their existing, non-Mac hardware. Apple extolled a multi-platform future for the MacOS shortly after it bought NeXT, claiming that the Yellow Box API that formed the heart of what was then called Rhapsody would run natively on Intel and, separately, under Windows. Intel compatibility has largely been ignored since then, but with MacOS X Server based on a variant of the Mach microkernel and cross-platform BSD Unix, it can easily be moved from processor to processor should Apple feel the need to do so. And it probably does feel that need. Apple wants MacOS X Server to be something more than an OS for Mac workgroups, and that means competing with Windows 2000 Server (aka NT). Windows 2000 will offer far more to corporate network administrators than MacOS X Server does, but that makes it increasingly unappealing in the small-to-medium enterprise arena. It's very late, has huge question marks floating over its ability to deal with the Millennium Bug and adds so many new features, it's going to take a lot of time for IT departments to fully evaluate it, let alone implement the thing. Click here for the next page
The Register breaking news

Apple to move on Merced

Click here for the previous page And, just to really make things difficult for Microsoft, here comes Intel with a completely new high-end 64-bit CPU, Merced. Microsoft has committed itself to a Merced version of Windows 2000, but it's being cautious about its release. Even Intel is concerned, and has been off funding Linux distributors to port the Open Source OS to its new platform. In fact, Intel has been supporting a lot of operating systems of late. It has invested in a number of Linux distributors offering versions of the OS for its 32-bit IA-32 architecture -- ie. its x86 processor family. It has also pumped money into Be. The company's line here is that it wants to support all operating systems that run on its hardware -- the truth is, it no longer wants to be seen to be a close partner of Microsoft. Backing Apple has been tricky in the past because of its support for a competing processor platform, but with the cross-platform opportunities MacOS X Server and Client bring, it can now get in there and make it easier for Apple to release Intel versions of those operating systems. It's an uneasy alliance -- Apple doesn't want a users to run the MacOS on PCs for which it receives no revenue but Intel does -- but that doesn't make it advantageous to both companies. Intel gets to back a key competitor to Windows 2000 to help it take the 'Intel' our of 'Wintel' and gets even better OS support for its fledgling 64-bit platform. Apple gets access to a market -- the 64-bit computing arena -- it might otherwise have a job getting in to and a handy get-out clause in case the PowerPC platform falls apart. Should this worry Mac users? No. Apple isn't about to switch to Intel wholesale. For a start it's committed to PowerPC for at least the next generation and probably the one beyond it, which is as far as Motorola's technology roadmap goes right now. Secondly, it doesn't want to migrate users to Intel at the same time as it's trying to get them from MacOS 8.x to MacOS X. It clearly expects that process to take some time, from user and developer perspectives, hence the decision to continue to develop MacOS 8.x while promoting MacOS X. Users may adopt the new OS quickly, but until reasonable numbers do, Apple can't begin to manage a transition from PowerPC to Intel, at least in the Client space. None of these arguments prevent Apple from one day moving to Intel, if it sees a real advantage in doing so. Let's be honest, no one uses a Mac because of its processor -- they use it because they prefer the OS. But it's a major change, and Apple isn't going to that unless it's a damn sight more secure as a company than it is even now. Working with Intel, even if it means Apple ships high-end Merced-based servers next year, isn't about abandoning PowerPC, it's about extending the MacOS' scope. ®
The Register breaking news

Cisco shells out $2bn for CTI house

Cisco is dishing out $2 billion of its highly rated stock for a small CTI software developer. Takeover target GEOTel has at least some real revenues to report. For 1998, the Massachussets company produced sales of $44.9 million in 1998 (1997: $18.6 million) and net income of $9 million, 45 per cent up on 1997. Interest income accounts for an unspecified chunk of the profits. GeoTel makes software that enables ISVs to deliver integrated voice and data to call centres. The technology is platform independent -- it works with any combination of voice and datacoms equipment. ®
The Register breaking news

Chipzilla wants to entice you into online shopping

Chip maker Intel and portal Excite have jumped into bed together to provide Net users with an altogether more satisfying online shopping experience. The multi-level agreement to develop a new ecommerce service, designed to simplify buying and selling on the Internet, will combine Intel's ecommerce technologies -- predominantly from Intel's newly acquired iCat division -- with Excite's friendly front end, according to a statement issued jointly yesterday. "This relationship forms the cornerstone of the next phase of our commerce strategy," said George Bell, CEO, Excite. "The service that Intel and Excite are developing together will let consumers search across the Web and immediately purchase exactly what they want through Excite," he said. The hope is that the joint venture will provide users with a site that produces information on goods and services that is far more comprehensive than is currently available today. It is also planned that the information will be tailored specifically to the interests and preferences of individual consumers. Imaginatively dubbed the Excite Shopping Service, it is due to be launched later this year. ®
The Register breaking news

New man at the top to push Freeserve IPO

Dixons has made John Pluthero chief executive of Freeserve less than 24 hours after announcing that the company was exploring the option of selling off its subscription-free Internet business. His appointment -- coupled with yesterday' announcement -- suggests that Dixons is serious about making the most of its Internet investment, although sources close to Freeserve were not in a position to say any more than had already been officially released. The 35-year-old chartered accountant joined Dixons Stores Group in 1993 with a background in finance, consultancy and strategy. Last year -- as Dixons' corporate development director -- he moulded Dixons' Internet strategy and was the brain behind the launch of Freeserve. As the CEO of Freeserve he will oversee general manager Mark Danby who has done so much to promote the service over the last six months. Although Danby is a keen sportsman and regularly flies off to the slopes to engage in his passion for snowboarding, it is unknown whether his new boss shares the same appetite for extreme sports. ®
The Register breaking news

Thin client resellers to get Boundless help

Boundless Technologies will kick off a new European reseller programme for thin client products in the UK next month. The "Variety Access" certificate targets silver and gold Citrix resellers. Boundless aims to enlist around half the UK Vars – 150 - and a third of those in Europe – 500 - by the end of 1999. The scheme will be introduced here and in Germany in May, hitting the rest of Europe later this year. To qualify, resellers will need the CSN (Citrix Solution Network) certification or two Microsoft trained MSCE specialists. Martin van ‘t Root, Boundless European MD, said the vendor wanted to relieve its distributors from training resellers. The plan has already been piloted in the US, where 250 Vars signed up in the first three months. According to Root, the programme will start with just one level, changing according to the needs of each country. Boundless will target Scandinavia and the Netherlands in June, followed by France, Italy and Spain. "Distributors and Vars have asked for this programme - they want to see that we support them. The scheme is free for resellers, and will help them train in thin client, market knowledge or network knowledge," said Root. Boundless, a wholly owned subsidiary of Boundless Corporation, makes text and Windows-based terminals and other thin-client solutions. It has two distributors for the UK, Metrologie and Banner Bridge, with 29 distributors throughout Europe. Its UK office is near Birmingham. ®
The Register breaking news

RealNetworks buys Xing MP3 technology

RealNetworks has bought MP3 software developer Xing Technology for up to $75 million worth or RealNetworks stock. The deal gives Real access to Xing's MP3 AudioCatalyst encoding and decoding software and StreamWorks streaming MP3 application, all of which it will use to extend its RealPlayer application to support the MPEG-based format. "With the acquisition of Xing, RealNetworks can now better serve the huge market of new artists choosing to use MP3 to legally distribute their work," said Real's CEO, Rob Glaser. The important part of the sentence is the phrase 'legally distribute'. RealNetworks clearly wants to stay on the right side of the Recording Industry Association of America and its Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), yet it's equally certain that the company reckons that MP3 is going to continue to play an important role in the online music world, whatever specification the SDMI comes up with. Otherwise why not simply wait for the SDMI to issue its final report, which it's due to do later this year, and incorporate that? It's somewhat ironic that Real has chosen to buy an MP3 software company since it always hoped that its own RealAudio format would become the de facto standard for music streamed or downloaded via the Internet. It's a sign, perhaps, of how out of touch RealNetworks has been that it's only now that it has come to consider MP3 a force in what is arguably one of its core markets, and that it feels it lacks the internal resources to add MP3 delivery to RealPlayer. $75 million is, after all, rather a lot to pay for encoding and decoding software based on an open compression standard. Still, since Real is funding the deal with a new share issue, it won't in fact cost it anything. And, to be fair, Xing does come with much expertise in MPEG video transmission and streaming, both core technologies for Real. ® See also RealNetworks backs IBM digital music system a2b unveils latest digital music player, format
The Register breaking news

a2b unveils latest digital music player, format

AT&T digital audio subsidiary a2b today announced the latest version of its eponymous downloadable music format, which it claims takes 25 per cent less time to download than MP3 files and the previous release of a2b. But the real point of the system is not its technical capabilities, but its role in a2b's desire to get itself designated as format of choice by the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). "The a2b music Player 2.0 represents a milestone on the road to making the secure digital delivery of music a day-to-day reality for all music fans," gushed company COO Larry Miller. And other people wheeled out to endorse the new release also stressed that they had "always been impressed by a2b music's regard for the protection of artists' copyrights". Hint, hint. a2b has been rather quiet throughout the last six months -- a period that has seen the music industry's backlash against MP3, the establishment of the SDMI and numerous attempts by digital music specialists, most notably a2b rival Liquid Audio, to promote their own offerings as exactly the kind of thing the SDMI should be supporting. The new release of a2b music Player 2.0 provides not only a higher, 15:1 level of compression, but supports RealNetworks' RealAudio G2 format for streamed audio and provides new licensing options, allowing music publishers to limit the time a downloaded track can be played before the listener has to cough up some money. A2b music is based on AT&T's proprietary version of the MPEG-AAC standard, which offers higher compression ratios and higher playback quality than MP3. Still, that's exactly what Microsoft is claiming for its new MS Audio 4.0 format, due to be unveiled later today, and that has probably played its part in today's launch too. ® See also RealNetworks buys Xing MP3 technology RealNetworks backs IBM digital music system
The Register breaking news

BT enlists help of ugly little bald chap for TV ads

UK telecomms behemoth, BT, is online for a close encounter after employing a being from another planet to help market its services and products. No, we’re not talking about Chris Evans. ET -- the extra terrestrial star of the movie that shared his name -- is to feature in a £60 million ad campaign for the telecomms giant urging people to "stay in touch." The bog-eyed rubber-faced creature with a neck that looks like an elephant's trunk (Hmm, thought you said this wasn’t about Chris Evans - Ed) will urge people to use email and the Internet -- as well as the phone -- to "stay in touch." In a twist that can only be explained by some paranormal interference, ET won't be uttering the immortal line from the film -- "phone home." It seems BT's advertising supremos think that such an obvious link would be, erm too obvious, so they decided instead to ditch this famous phrase in favour of something a little less catchy. "BT today is so much more than a telephone company and we have so much more to offer to all the citizens of the new communicating society," said Bill Cockburn, group MD BT UK. "When ET was first on Earth he was only able to 'phone home'." "As we enter the 21st Century, we provide many other options to stay in touch, be it through, data transfer or multimedia," he said. In that case, perhaps someone should say: "ET, fax off." BT would not comment on rumours that two alien survivors of the Roswell incident had been offered the job first but lost out after holding out for a higher fee. ®
The Register breaking news

One-stop maintenance shop from Boundless

Boundless Technologies has introduced software that provides maintenance and upgrades from one point for its Viewpoint, TC and Capio products. Its Viewpoint Administrator 2.0. management software has been expanded to manage the Boundless Viewpoint, TC and Capio product ranges of Windows-based Terminals. With a list price starting at $129, it is designed to cut costs by network technical supporters being able to manage thin-client devices on a network from a central location. Administrators can manage, configure and upgrade Boundless Windows-based Terminals from a local or remote point without end-user intervention. Supported servers include NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition, with Citrix MetaFrame and Citrix WinFrame. Server requirements are 100 MHz Pentium or higher CPU, 64 MB RAM minimum, 10 MB hard drive plus 10 MB per registered user/release, VGA monitor. The media format is CD-Rom and uses TCP/IP interface. Kenneth East, Boundless COO, said: "Viewpoint Administrator 2.0 is a completely new feature-rich management tool that provides control over how each thin-client device is configured and used, including the ability to install and upgrade the client operating system." ®
The Register breaking news

UK mobile giant develops number that follows you around

Cellnet is working on a system where one number will automatically transfer between home and mobile phones. The company is working on technology that switches calls made to a home number over to the owner’s mobile as soon as the person exits the house. On their return, calls automatically revert back to the household phone. Cellnet’s "One-phone" targets people running businesses from home. The device should be available in the next few months, and is estimated at around £500, according to today’s Daily Mail. Calls made at home will cost the standard rate, switching to the higher cellular charges outside the house. The system will have two handsets, a cordless digital phone inside and normal mobile outside. The technology will be stored in the home phone’s base. Dirk Bout, senior Dataquest analyst, said the concept of sharing one number was certainly nothing new, but added: "With the automatic switching, this would appear to be the first phone system of its kind." When the person moves out of the range of the cordless base’s digital radio waves, the conventional Cellnet network takes over. This means the home phone will not ring, forcing anyone remaining in the house to buy either a separate land-line or their own One-phone. As Cellnet pointed out: "There really is no excuse to miss an important call again." Yes, but what about those calls you want to avoid? ®
The Register breaking news

Cisco buys GeoTel for $2 billion

Networking giant Cisco is to buy GeoTel, a routing software specialist, for $2 billion in shares. GEOTel has some real revenues...unlike many of takeover targets in this sector For 1998, the Massachussets company produced sales of $44.9 million in 1998 (1997: $18.6 million) and net income of $9 million, 45 per cent up on 1997. Interest income accounts for an unspecified chunk of the profits. GeoTel makes software that enables ISVs to deliver integrated voice and data to call centres. The technology is platform independent -- it works with any combination of voice and datacoms equipment. At the end of last week, Cisco bought its first two companies in 1999, Fibex and Sentient, as reported here. The deal is subject to US regulatory overview. Perhaps it is time the FTC looks a little closer at Cisco, which has been buying companies like crazy for years. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel preparing socket for Pentium III

As reported here earlier this year, Intel will shift its Pentium III platform to a socketed design during the course of the summer. (Story: Intel says new socket on way iMac lookalikes) That is in line with Intel's .18 micron Coppermine plans, revealed here yesterday. Although the company is keeping tight lipped about the exact specification, it is likely that early systems (and motherboards) will be shown at the Computex trade show in Taiwan in June. (We will be attending). A source close to Intel's plans confirmed the socket was currently in design, as part of the company's plans for the "sexy looking" machines it showed at the Intel Developer Forum. You will notice that if you a look at a Pentium III slot chip, it does not have the name on the cartridge. Intel does not want the world to identify Slot One with the PIII. Later this evening, Intel will release its financial results. We will carry that story when it breaks. ® See also Intel Developer Forum coverage
The Register breaking news

Intel makes $2 billion profit in Q1

Intel turned in $7.1 billion with profits of $2 billion for its first financial quarter. That compares with revenues in Q1 1998 of $6 billion, an 18 per cent rise. But revenues in Q1 1999 fell by seven per cent compared to the last quarter of its 1998 financial year. However, net profit of $2 billion in the quarter rose by 57 per cent, year on year, although there was a small drop in net profits of three per cent compared to Q4 1998. Craig Barrett, Intel's CEO and president, said: "As we expected, revenue declined from the prior quarter reflecting a seasonally slower selling period." Intel said revenues for Q2 of 1999 will flat, because of seasonal factors, while its gross margin will also be flat. However, gross margin in Q1 is a staggering 59 per cent. Expenses will be higher in Q2 because of more spending on R&D and merchandising. Intel will spend $3 billion on R&D in 1999. ®
The Register breaking news

British monarchy besieged by Net child porn stunt

The British Royal family may be about to become the target of a sick paedophile publicity stunt aimed at raising awareness concerning child pornography on the Internet. According to a news item on the BBC's Ceefax TV information service tonight, a Belgian anti-porn pressure group -- the Morkhaven Group -- has sent disturbing material to the Royal Family in a bid to galvanise support for a unified European policy against Net porn. The Morkhaven Group has also targeted political leaders right across Europe although there is no confirmation yet as to whether anyone has received the material. A spokesman for Buckingham Palace confirmed that he was aware that a threat had been made to send child pornography to the Royals after being tipped off by a British tabloid earlier this evening. Despite this threat he told The Register that as of 9.30 pm BST (British Summer Time) tonight, no such material had been received. The Royal spokesman added that he was unaware whether the material would be sent through the mail or posted directly onto the Royal Family's official Web site (www.royal.gov.uk/) but on balance, he said it was most likely that the photographs would be sent via the post. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said tonight he was unaware of the threat but would investigate further. ®
The Register breaking news

AMD reveals more K7 details

Updated Chip company AMD has posted a presentation it made at last week's Winhec conference which shows more details of the future of the K7. The full presentation, made by Fred Weber, from AMD's computation division, is available as a Powerpoint file here. We now note that JC has posted a Microsoft Word version on his site, which certainly removes a lot of the Powerpoint slide pain... In the slides, Weber says that the K7 is 500MHz now, and will be 1GHz next year, and will support 1394 and agp4x. Front side bus speeds will eventually go to 400MHz, giving throughputs of 3.2Gb/s. Rambus will allow throughput on memory of 1.6Gb/s. One of the slides shows a diagram of a dual K7 configuration, with throughput speeds. Server level multiprocessor support will allow separate data, address and snoop paths, with point to point access to the data bus in MP configurations, scaling to eight terabytes of data space. ® See also Compaq-AMD plans take Linux shape