16th > April > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Transistors threaten to invade lebensraum

A year ago From The Register No. 73, April 1998 The SIA said Friday that by 2008, for each person on the planet, there will be an an estimated billion transistors. Hopefully, they won't be all piled into your one bedroomed flat or occupy living space in your shanty town. Even if they're produced on a wickedly good sub micron process by that time, a billion of anything is still a lot. The Semiconductor Industry Association has also asked for trade barriers to be dissolved and China, Russia and Latin America to be brought into line with the rest of the world. China and Russia are not members of the World Semiconductor Council (WSC). George Scalise, president of the SIA, was speaking at the second meeting of the World Semiconductor Council, held in California on Friday. Scalise said the US chip industry was now the number one wealth creator in the US, from a position of 17th place 10 years ago. He said that position was comparable in other countries which manufactured semiconductors. The high technology industries of computers and telecomms accounted for over a quarter of growth in the US economy in the last five years. While dollar growth in chips last year was small, the continued validity of Moore’s Law meant that the industry in general showed a sharp increase in building the number of transistors, amounting to an increase in bits of around 90 per cent. That represented two billion transistors being churned out every second. He said: "Last year, our industries produced almost 10 million transistors for every man, woman, and child, on earth. Per capita consumption of transistors has been increasing about 55 percent a year – a rate which causes an order of magnitude increase every 5 years. At this rate, by 2008 we will be producing one billion transistors for every man, women, and child on earth. " The SIA, he said, was announcing limited international participation in its technology roadmap plans. He called for barriers to trade to be removed. "Specifically, the members of the WSC must redouble their efforts to get China, Russia and Latin America to join the Information Technology Agreement," he said. He also called for the removal of tax and encryption barriers to the growth of e-commerce, echoing comments by IBM’s chairman Lou Gerstner three weeks ago. ® * The bill to book ratio fell last month, the SIA said. We thought that the US semiconductor industry had dumped this idea.
Mike Magee, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

ARM shows huge revenue boost

ARM Holdings has just released its financial results for Q1, ending 31st of March last. And it’s good news. Revenues rose 51 per cent compared to the same period last year to stand at £13.1 million. Pre-tax profits, however, shot up by 91 per cent to stand at £3.2 million. With British understatement, Robin Saxby, chairman of ARM, said: "1999 has started well." Much of the growth is down to companies like 3Com, Ericcson and Nokia using the technology. Intel’s contribution has also helped. Saxby said there will be a conference in May when ARM will present architectural extensions for DSP applications. ®
Mike Magee, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel bang to rights on questionable business ethics

Sometimes, we think that local New York paper The Wall Street Journal is too worthy by half. But, on occasions they write really good stuff. Credit where credit's due. The newspaper has just published a fab story showing that Intel set up a shell Cayman Island company in order to get hold of some patents it wanted. In the course of so doing, it really cheesed off a Texan judge trying to wind up the affairs of a company called International Meta. According to the WSJ, Intel created the shell company, called Maelen, to move a motion that patents it wanted should not be sold to a firm of lawyers called TechSearch. TechSearch got wind of the fact that Maelen was a front organisation for Intel. Judge Frank Monroe said Intel's tactics were "wholly inappropriate". Oh Chipzilla, when will you ever learn to tread lightly? ®
The Register breaking news

MS plans to lock users into Win2k as beta slips again

The ship date for beta 3 of Windows 2000 has slipped again, but things are looking up - it's only another week, and Microsoft seems to be confident enough about its viability to be kicking in its cunning plan to hook corporate customers in advance of shipping the actual product. The new beta ship date is April 26 to OEMs and April 28 to beta testers, but provided it really happens, Microsoft will be able to bring a particularly inglorious episode of slipware (holy smoke - Microsoft Word can spell slipware) to an end. Beta 3 slipped from late last summer to thanksgiving, then to Q199, then to "April timeframe," and most recently got fixed at 21 April. Full shipment is still targeted for the end of the year, but Microsoft is also said to be planning some kind of early corporate distribution in October. We'll tell you what we think that's about. The current plan is for a Corporate Partnership Program (CPP) to be announced on Monday. This scheme will allow corporate customers to buy beta 3 and then upgrade to the full product when it ships. We'd guess that the October drop could be somewhere between this code and the finished item, depending on how well development goes over the next few months. The CPP has been planned since last summer, and was originally intended to be announced as a sort of disruption campaign at the same time as NetWare 5 shipped. Beta 3 plus an advanced support and evangelisation campaign would go to selected corporate customers, and they'd get a series of updates, fixes and further information over a period of approximately six months until Windows 2000 shipped. Which of course put Microsoft's (then) intended ship date for full product at March. The problem with the CPP was that the beta product had to be sufficiently battle-ready to be able to do some work initially within the customer's operation without trashing anything. So if Microsoft marketing thought it could ship such a product almost immediately, seven months ago, it gives you an idea of just how bad communications between MS marketing and MS development are. Here's another little nugget about the CPP. It was originally the intention that the customers would pay for it, not necessarily that much, but enough to cover production of CDs, support and associated seminars and promotion. It was therefore known internally as the CRP (Cost Recovery Program). No really, this is true. It's not clear that the CPP as announced now is going to take quite the same form. The previous version was intended to stop Novell and build in some extra time for Y2K compliance programmes. If it had shipped last September/October, corporate customers would have been able to do some Y2K planning based around Win2K, but it's now probably too late for Microsoft to recoup the ground lost here. The CPP is also now overlapping with what appears to be a wider scale preview programme, which is being operated in conjunction with the PC companies. They'll be selling some machines running beta 3, and shipping them with upgrade coupons. Again according to the original CPP planning, it was important not to have the Win2k beta turn into one of those 'spam the world with betas' stunts that it pulled with Windows 95. The CPP code was supposed to be stable enough for fairly experienced customers to deal with, but if thousands of inexperienced users wound up trashing their systems with it that would have been severely counter-productive. So we should be looking out for the kind of volumes of beta 3 the PC companies are likely to ship, and the sort of customers they're prepared to ship them to. If the range is broad, then either Microsoft really does think it's finally on top of Win2k, or its corporate nerve snapped and it's decided to go for it anyway. We should also look out for a more wide-scale interim build, available to all and sundry, maybe even free - in October? Could be. ®
John Lettice, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

AltaVista to sell search result positioning

AltaVista is to become the first major Web search outfit to allow companies to pay to have their site displayed prominently in search results. Smaller outfits do this sort of thing already, and cynics might be suspicious of certain larger outfits, but AltaVista is the first to grasp the nettle firmly. And, depending on reactions out there, to shove it straight up its corporate nose. The AltaVista scheme could start as early as Monday, and is being promoted by Web ad operation DoubleClick, which is soliciting business with the message: "When users perform keyword searches on AltaVista, what is the first listing they see? Now it can be your company's listing." The conditions under which it really is your company's name aren't entirely clear, but the programme is starting out with around 500 initial keywords, and AltaVista is going to have the thorny problem of keeping search results looking honest and relevant while at the same time satisfying the companies who're paying money to... well, to what? Search results are of course fixed to some extent anyway, outfits that use the same keyword multiple times in order to increase 'relevance' being just one example. But that's something search outfits should surely be trying to edit out of their results, in order to improve the service they're offering. Taking money for positioning could in that sense be seen as a move in the opposite direction. AltaVista says the new 'service' will actually be making results more relevant, but it's going to have to figure out how just adding money can make this the case. At the moment it seems AltaVista envisages adding in merchant sites that are relevant, so think of a concept, then think of things associated with that concept that people would like to sell you, and presumably those are the sites you get. Try "a host of golden daffodils" and you'll no doubt get five garden centres before Wordsworth. ®
John Lettice, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Raw Coppermine, K7 benchmarks found in school

Updated We promised yesterday that we'd post the URLs we discovered on the World Wide Web that seem to give benchmarks for Intel's Coppermine and AMD's K7 chips. The data is at Stanford University but quite frankly we find it quite bewildering. However, a kindly reader has pointed us to this Ars Technica article which is helpful. The benchmarks are SPEC benchmarks, he said. The data is here for the K7, and here for Coppermine. So there we have it. How come the studes got hold of Coppermine and K7s? The answer, according to another, rather rude reader, is that these are simulations. By the way, we've still got that $2,000 waiting for anyone who can come up with an AMD K7. We understand that students are generally hard up. So come on, if a Stanford student has a K7, give us one and we'll give you that $2,000. ®
Mike Magee, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

UK Web sites offered a little Colombian go-faster extension

UK companies in search of a new Web address are being given the opportunity to own a Colombian domain extension at half the price of a conventional .uk registration. Buckinghamshire-based Net Registrar UK.CO is offering the .uk.co extension -- instead of the more conventional .co.uk -- after signing a licensing agreement with the Colombian authority which owns the .co country extension. But the new scheme has been branded a muddle by one industry insider who questions the practicalities of such an initiative. "This is just going to confuse the issue," sad Ian Tester of Fletcher Research. "It's hard enough as it is to find some sites and this is just going to add to the mess," he said. With more than 230,000 .co.uk domain extensions already in circulation Net Registrar UK.CO believes its new system will help relieve some of the demand for Net names. And at just £45 plus VAT, the cost of registering a .uk.co domain is almost half the price of .uk. Despite the criticisms, Bob Fox of Net Registrar UK.CO believes the new domain extension will prove popular. According to his figures, every day some 6,000 users fail to find the Web site they are looking for because of confusion over whether a site ends with .co.uk or .uk.co. "Incorrect data entry for UK domain names on the Web is a far more widespread problem than most people realise," said Fox. ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel readies more Rambus stop-gaps

Intel is to introduce what it's calling a "memory hub" to allow PC vendors using its upcoming Camino chipset to use PC100 SDRAM in place of next-generation Rambus Direct DRAM while RDRAM parts remain thin on the ground. According to News.com, the memory hub technology will allow a Pentium III to operate a system bus clock speed of 133MHz but access the memory at slower speeds to retain compatibility with the current memory spec. However, Intel is also known to be working on a 'S-RIMM' technology, which allows PC100 SDRAM chips to be placed on a RAMBUS Inline Memory Module, as reported by The Register earlier this year. The snag with S-RIMM technology is that it requires memory vendors to create RIMMs to the appropriate spec. and buy the Intel ASIC that makes it all work. The memory hub approach appears to allow PC vendors to use existing memory, freeing up memory companies to focus on Direct DRAM production. Meanwhile, other chipset vendors, most notably VIA, Acer Labs and SIS, are continuing to pursue the PC133 SDRAM spec. as a stop-gap memory technology until Direct DRAM ships in sufficient volumes at a price-point that allows its use in mainstream consumer PCs. IBM Microelectronics has already committed itself to producing PC133 SDRAM, if its customers require it (see IBM to offer Rambus alternative). Of course, all this presupposes Intel can get its Camino chipset out the door, and it's increasingly looking like it's going to have a job doing so. No wonder Chipzilla has a third option, based on a 550MHz Pentium III running on a 100MHz system bus and the BX chipset, as reported here. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

DRAM manufacturers get it wrong again

Opinion What exactly is wrong with the memory market today? Why is there a disproportionate difference between the highest and lowest prices for products in the market? We are talking about OEM product, not third party. Original memory modules direct from the DRAM manufacturer. For the last month or so, we have seen market prices in memory varying at such levels as to suspect something abnormal is happening. In a global market we do expect to see price differences. Different countries have different price structures, but usually the prices are in line with each other. DRAM manufacturers traditionally sell directly to PC manufacturers, third party module manufacturers and then through distribution. The majority do not sell to any old Tom, Dick or Harry that wants to place a huge memory order. These business ethics have worked for many years; they are structured and everybody knows where they stand in the pecking order. They have all suffered over the last few years, some manufacturers have even pulled out of DRAM manufacture, citing unprofitability and global overproduction. The sensible ones have worked hard to protect their market. They understand that if they overproduce or saturate the market with cheap product, their competitors will have to do the same. Prices will fall and we will all be in the same situation as last year. No orders, no profit and no bloody use selling memory. We believe that the DRAM manufacturers are to blame. After all they produce the product, they have control over where the product is sold and they determine the market price for the product. Remember the lowest prices ever for memory last year and remember that this was fuelled by overproduction. We all thought that since they got their fingers burned and lost money on the memory that they produced, that this would prompt them to get their houses in order. Between them they slowly massaged the prices up to a profitable level. However, somewhere along the line, some of them got greedy again. Yes, prices at the OEM and distribution end are stable, but why is OEM equipment currently available on the grey market, in vast quantities, at 10-12 per cent below market price? This shows that some DRAM manufacturers are producing lots of product. More than they have taken billings for. Some bright spark probably thinks that they can dump this excess in the open market. The only way to dump product is to dump it at a favourable price. Alternatively they are selling to people who are committing VAT fraud. How else can 10-12 per cent price difference be accounted for? Surely these guys must know what their customers do, surely they have some inkling about their customers target market. They must be able to control the resale of their products. We then get the situation when PC manufacturers and memory distributors start moaning about this cheap product, and that all Dram manufacturers flatly deny is available in the market. The only alternative is for distribution to buy the cheap product, and sell it to the PC manufacturers. The only thing that will happen is that the DRAM OEMs will drive their own market price down. So, if any of you are listening, if you can't sell it, don't make it in the first place. Or if you have to, make sure it actually goes to a trusted customer whom you can rely on to honour the worth of your products. We are not accusing all Dram manufacturers of these practices, but those that we are, know who they are. Stop it, stop selling your products out of the back door, stop pretending that everything is OK, and stop screwing the market up for everyone else. Remember last year. If you don't stop now, you will suffer the consequences. ® Alan Stanley is UK managing director of memory company Dane-Elec
Alan Stanley, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Vodafone takes on One-2-One in cut price mobile war

The war over dirt cheap mobile phone calls has just got messier, with Vodafone slashing charges to match rival One-2-One. The UK's largest mobile phone operator yesterday announced plans to offer 250 minutes of free calls to subscribers to its £24.99-a-month service, instead of 180 minutes. Vodafone laughed off accusations that the offers were in response to One-2-One's cuts earlier this week. But it will be matching One-2-One's off-peak charges until October. New subscribers are being offered the company's local call saver option free until that date -– where off-peak calls cost 2p a minute. Peak rates have been cut by an average of 12 per cent, amid company claims that users will save £151 a year, according to today's The Guardian newspaper. Fellow rivals Cellnet and Orange are yet to respond, but earlier this week Orange said it would be very likely to match One-2-One's budget tariffs. ®
Linda Harrison, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

3Com restructure claims 150 jobs

3Com has reorganised its client networks access products divisions in an attempt to revitalise the company's sales of network interface cards (NICs) and modems following their poor contribution to its latest quarterly results. The Networks Satan will create a Personal Connectivity Business Unit (PCBU), said CEO Eric Benhamou, and axe 150 jobs in the process. Some 150 other staff will be relocated elsewhere within the company. Essentially, the PCBU will try to sell DSL and cable modems to the company's installed base of analog modem customers. At the same time, it will push hard to interest users in home networking technologies, such a phone cable, wireless and radio frequency systems, for both domestic and business roles. 3Com's focus on the home networking market will centre on a series of products developed through its alliance with Microsoft. Microsoft's contribution is modem, printer and file sharing technology. It's also using the partnership to promote Universal Plug and Play, its would-be device connectivity standard. That will allow it to reduce both its dependance on and the operational overheads of its NIC and, particularly, analog modem lines. Indeed, it's from the modem side of the business that the majorioty of the 300 job cuts are coming. Both areas were highlighted by 3Com COO Bruce Chaflin as major contributors to the downturn in the company's Q4 1999 results, announced last month. These products accounted for half of the company's sales, but the money it made from those sales increased just one percentage point on Q3 98. Sales of its higher-end systems products increased 28 per cent. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

FTC commissioner thinks Intel settlement hard to police

FTC commissioners involved in the accusation that Intel holds a monopoly in the chip market have given some of their reasons for settling with the chip giant. In a statement on the FTC Web site, Robert Pitofsky, Sheila Anthony and Mozelle Thompson review the decision while commissioner Orson Swindle, who dissented against issuing the complaint last year, claimed the case was hard to prove and will be difficult to enforce. Swindle claims in his statement that while "Intel has long bestrode the market" for microprocessors, there is doubt whether the market "is as unassailable" as the complaint suggested. He claimed that "it is widely recognised" that Intel faces vigorous competition in the sub-$1,000 segment. Swindle also said that even if Intel has monopolistic power in the MPU market, he had misgivings about the theory of violation underlying the patent. He thought that it would have been hard for the FTC to prove its case. He claimed that the terms of the settlement are hard to enforce. "Regarding the proposed order itself, some observers have characterized it as having achieved whatever objective prompted the Commission's suit against Intel. I am not so sure, in part because of my uncertainty (discussed earlier) over what message the complaint was meant to communicate and in part because of the very terms of the order. In fact, given my reservations about the merits of the complaint, I would be more concerned about the order -- comprising a difficult-to-enforce mandate to "sin no more," with a major proviso and some significant exceptions -- if it seemed likely to impose real and significant restrictions on Intel." ®
Mike Magee, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun profits, revenues up 25 per cent

Great Satan of Instant Coffee, Sun Microsystems yesterday beat Wall Street predictions by a single cent when it posted its Q3 1999 results. Analysts surveyed by First Call reckoned Sun would make a profit of 35 cents a share -- the company actually made 36 cents a share. And lo, there was much rejoicing. For the quarter ended 28 March, the company collected revenues of $2.94 billion, up 24 per cent on the same period last year and ahead of last quarter's $2.8 billion. For the latest quarter, Sun saw profits of $291.4 million, up 26 per cent on Q3 98's figure. However, the profit falls to $261.2 million once you take into account charges resulting from Sun's acquisition of RAID storage specialist Maxstrat. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Web currency not as half-baked as it seems

Beenz -- the fledgling Internet currency -- appears to be holding its own despite early scepticism that this was just another gimmick trying to cash in on the popularity of the Net. With three-quarters of a million Beenz already in circulation the financial mandarins behind Beenz believe that they have tapped into something that is set to explode in popularity. Several Web sites have already been set up by Beenz enthusiasts along with a newsgroup devoted to the Beenz since the currency was launched four weeks ago. Top Beenz banker, Phil Letts, said that 37 Web sites had signed up to the new currency which can be traded and exchanged for goods the same as any other legal tender. GameSpot, Irish News and Sporting Life are among a growing list of sites already offering Beenz, and Letts reports that people have already used the currency to buy items such as videos. "We've been approached by another 200 or so Web sites from the US and Europe, and we're attracting bigger and bigger names all the time," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Cellnet chooses Bury for home of new call centre

The cultural homeland of hotpot and tripe is to be blessed with 2000 jobs by mobile phone giant Cellnet. T’little-known Lancashire mill town of Bury, wi' a population of 182,000, has been chosen as the setting for a Cellnet call centre. Big wigs at the company seem to have adopted the philosophy that the local twang will be a real business asset. "We have done research into regional accents and we found customers like and trust the Lancastrian accent. They feel it is down-to-earth and emphatic," a Cellnet representative told today's Daily Mail. Never ones to miss such an opportunity, The Register has carried out its own research into the Bury dialect. The following phrases heard from the Cellnet helpdesk should be watched out for: Thaz a nose lahk a blind cobbler's thumb (Your nose is a funny shape) Thaz a face lahk a constipated bloodhound (Smile, please) Dust want a leather 'n' timber kiss? (How do you fancy a kick from my clog) Put wood i'th 'ole (Close the door) Perhaps Cellnet should consider sending out a phrasebook to its customers. ®
Linda Harrison, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony, IBM partner on digital music delivery system

IBM and Sony have agreed to integrate their respective digital music delivery technologies. The deal will see the two companies build Sony's MagicGate copyright protection system into Big Blue's Electronic Music Management System (EMMS). Can the announcement's timing, mere days after Microsoft's massive Windows Media Technologies (WMT) rollout, be a coincidence? Sony's contribution to the partnership, as reported The Register, is designed to limit the mechanical copying of digital information. MagicGate protects digital content stored on Flash cards, MiniDiscs and the like, while OpenMG adds the same functionality to computers. Both solutions use the same basic encryption and management software backed by hard-wired authentication system. MagicGate is a key component of Sony's Memory Stick technology, which it hopes will become the standard format for solid state digital music players such as its own upcoming Netman (see Sony president announces Netman digital music player). EMMS, meanwhile, is the full music delivery, rights management and e-commerce transaction handling system devised by IBM and already backed by the world's five largest recording companies, Warner, Universal, EMI, BMG and, of course, Sony. EMMS will form the basis for IBM's Madison Project, which begins public trials this summer. Earlier this week streaming media supremo RealNetworks publicly committed itself to supporting EMMS. RealNetworks' announcement came a day before Microsoft's. WMT combines streaming media and a discrete content download mechanisms, with e-commerce, copyright protection and rights management tools, all of which will compete directly with EMMS, MagicGate and RealNetworks' G2 system. But while WMT garnered much support from the Internet business community, it has so far failed to attract any big names in the music industry. EMMS has that support in spades, but lacks the backing of major music-selling Web sites. Sony's support for EMMS adds a powerful voice from a third community, the consumer electronics business. Sony has a pretty good record of getting its technologies accepted by other consumer electronics companies -- its failures, like MiniDisc, have generally provided formats and products that are unwanted. Memory Stick has a very good chance of being widely adopted because it's the only real solution at the moment. PC Card memory is seen as too computer-oriented; other technologies are only associated with digital photography. So, as consumer electronics companies turn to the music download market, either for portable systems or hi-fi separates, Memory Stick is likely to figure highly as a storage medium. And that will make EMMS very attractive as the system for supplying content to those players. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Silly email signatures come under fire

Companies are being urged to crack down on the use of puerile and meaningless signatures at the end of emails. Not only does the practice use up valuable bandwidth it can also damage the reputation of companies as their employees attempt to create some kind of alter ego in the personality-free world of email. This signature from one London-based PR company is typical of the problem. "We don’t have a mission statement, just some favourite words: creativity, credibility, curry, dedication, detail, empathy, experience, flexibility, fun, goodwill, humility, inspiration, integrity, motivation, obsession, optimism, pace, pants, personality, positive, professionalism, progress, sausages, synergy, technical know-how, value and work-rate." Good grief. Surreal expressions are equally as popular -- but just as sad -- as this example shows. "The tire (sic) is only flat on the bottom." (There's a prize for anyone who knows what this means, cos we ain't got a clue - Ed). The advice from experts is to include just your name, company and contact details at the end of emails and leave the humour to the experts. So, what do you think? Are funny, surreal or weird signatures a problem? Or are they something to be welcomed to help brighten-up an otherwise dull day? If you have a favourite signature you'd like to share with our readers why not post them on The Register Forum so we can all have a laugh. ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

IT recruitment agency will make founders millionaires

Two UK tycoons will share £100 million when they float their IT recruitment company in the next few weeks, according to a story in The Times today. Andy Baker and Les Clark started Glotel ten years ago after leaving Hestair, the recruitment arm of conglomerate BET. The London-based company has 245 staff in the UK, US and Australia. Baker and Clark, each with 50 per cent of Glotel, will give up to five per cent of the business to staff on flotation. The company is expected to come to market through a placing by broker HSBC Securities. HSBC this week forecast $101 million sales and £4.4 million profit for Glotel for the year ended 31 March. It has been valued at between £100 million and £150 million. But analyst Richard Holway warned that growth in this area was slowing: "IT agencies magnify trends. IT staff agencies always do very well when demand outstrips supply -- they usually do very badly when demand moderates. "Demand is moderating and growth rates will fall post Y2K. More IT staff will still be required, but the premiums paid to contractors will reduce and a higher proportion will return to permanent employment." Holway stressed that he was not predicting the death of the market next year. IT staff with skills in short supply would continue to net good fees as contractors, and agencies operating at this level would continue to grow, he said. But this level would be lower that the 40 per cent or more organic growth rates seen recently. ®
Linda Harrison, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Amazon sues Amazon 3

Update The legal action launched by independent Minneapolis-based based Amazon Bookstore against the rather larger Amazon.com continues to provoke debate among Netizens and Register readers. In particular, we were pleased to receive a note from Diana Lynn, one of the store's founders, putting the Amazon Bookstore side of the story, as distinct from the lawyers' spiel. "I have always believed that Amazon Bookstore of Minneapolis should have taken issue with Amazon.com a long time ago for being/acting completely unaware and unthinking about the business reputation and good will of a bookstore over 28 years old," Lynn writes. "I have thought the behavior of the Internet company reprehensible in their complete inability to see whose toes they might be stepping on when creating a business name-identity that would follow the Microsoft strategy of business growth and saturation bombing. "I have wondered what would have ever happened if Amazon Bookstore would have gotten on the Internet no matter what domain name [it used] and still have kept the same business identity. Well, there goes a thirty year old national identity." As for the store's contents, she says, "yes, Amazon Bookstore carries books for and about lesbians but there are also textbooks used by university classes, books on motherhood and raising children, and religion and cooking and and and... Amazon Bookstore is a full service small bookstore, you don't exist as a business that has done nothing except grow into bigger and better spaces for 30 years by catering to only a five per cent general population base which then translates into even smaller consumer base." Clearly, the case raises some difficult issues of who owns a name, and recalls the time the Beatles successfully sued Apple for trademark infringement, claiming that Apple's computers use as a music-making tool conflicted with the band's well-established Apple record label. It's hard to accept Amazon.com is trading on the Amazon Bookstore's name, as the Beatles claimed Apple was doing in respect to their label, but perhaps it should have confirmed that there wasn't another Amazon out there trading in the same area. Though the Amazon Bookstore should have trademarked its name early on, as a search of the US trademark database suggests it failed to do. That would have strengthened its current case. Meanwhile, we await Amazon.com's response to the legal action with interest. ® Add your own comments to this story on The Register message board
Tony Smith, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

MS starts Win2k push by offering server version for $125

A Windows 2000 special offer posted on the Microsoft site seems to confirm that Microsoft is going for widespread circulation of the Win2k beta 3, which is now due on April 28, as reported here earlier. The offer, posted here, in the Direct Access training section, gives you a clutch of software, NT Server 4.0, beta 3 when it's available and the full version of Win2k Server when it ships, for $125. The offer is only available in the US and Canada right now, and Microsoft is claiming a two-week order backlog, but that would kind of fit with the new beta 3 ship date, wouldn't it? The company claims what it's calling the Direct Access Hands-On Training (HOT) kit is worth a total of $2500, so at $125 it's a pretty cheap way to get your hands on NT Server -- you could always just hold onto the gold version of Win2k Server till the service pack comes out, too. The HOT kit consists of NT Server 4.0 plus Service Pack 4, NT Server 4.0 Option Pack, Microsoft Services for NetWare, Win2k Server beta 3 (when available), and Win2k Server itself (when available). And you seem to get a ton of training material too. At this kind of price, it seems pretty clear we have the beginning of a Microsoft 'hearts and minds' programme here. It's a no-brainer for people already committed to a Microsoft network strategy, and it's likely to be tempting for people who're wavering. The only thing restricting it at the moment seems to be lack of publicity and geography -- we checked through the buying procedure before making an excuse and leaving, and there don't seem to be any controls on who you are if you want to buy. That suggests that Microsoft is going for wide-scale, possibly saturation, distribution of beta 3 Server in order to pull people into Win2k Server. After all, if you're going to get Win2k Server, shipping version, for free, how could you possibly say no? As yet we haven't seen sign of a similar programme for the Win2k client version, but at this rate one should be along any time now. We also note that the OEMs are gearing up to ship beta 3 on those "selected systems" just as soon as it's available. Dell, for example, is ready and waiting. ®
John Lettice, 16 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Iomega makes money again (ish)

Iomega struggled hard to post a profit for its first quarter results, reported yesterday, but it managed it -- just. CEO Jodie Glore also warned that staff cuts at the company were on the cards to take place during the next three months. The storage specialist made $569,000 on revenues of just $386 million. For the same period last year, it lost $18.6 million on revenues of $408 million. Gross margins were down from 25.1 per cent to 24.3 per cent, the company said. Iomega's Zip drive and media continued to sell well, increasing 44 per cent and 39 per cent to 2.6 million and 16 million units, respectively. However, shipments of its non-commodity Jaz drive and media fell 46 per cent and 32 per cent, top 118,000 and 422,000 units respectively. The simple fact is, hardly anyone is buying the products that make the most money for the company. The situation Iomega finds itself in not unlike that faced by its former arch-rival SyQuest. SyQuest rested on the laurels of a couple of good-selling products and failed to keep up the demands of the removable storage market. That hit its sales hard, and despite attempts to streamline the company for survival, it effectively died late last year. Iomega could go the same way -- ironic, since the company's success was founded on offering the innovative products SyQuest had neglected to come up with. Iomega, at least, spotted the problem and the recently-appointed Glore is working to solve it. His solution has seen the launch of the long-awaited upgrade to the 100MB Zip, taking the format to 250MB. Sales began in Q1, but not quickly enough to counter the fall in Jaz sales. Still, the technology has had some design wins, most notably Dell, which is now building 250MB Zip drives into certain systems. Iomega's much delayed Clik! format, aimed at digital cameras and other consumer electronics products, has won plenty of supporters too. But it's questioable whether the technology, arguably a couple of years out of date, can make much impact in the face of products like Sony's Memory Stick (see related story). Glore's revival plan includes further cost-cutting measures -- he stripped $15 million off of the company's operating expenses last quarter -- the consolidation of facilities and redundancies, though it was not revealed how many jobs will be lost. Second quarter figures, however, are likely to match the latest results, he warned. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Apr 1999
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PairGain bogus news man arrested

The Feds have arrested a man they believe masterminded a plot to drive up the stock price of California-based PairGain Technology. Twenty five-year-old Gary Dale Hoke was arrested at his home in Raleigh, North Carolina charged with creating a bogus Bloomberg news item alleging that PairGain had agreed to be acquired by Israeli company, ECI Telecom. He has been released on bail although no date has been set as to when he is due to face charges. The false news item -- which was posted on a Yahoo! bulletin board -- created a run on the stock price before it was rumbled by financial police in the US. If found guilty Hoke -- who is an employee of PairGain -- could be gaoled for up to ten years and face a fine of $1 million. Earlier this week, Bloomberg filed a lawsuit against unnamed persons and for unspecified damages over the hoax. ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Apr 1999
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US coders half as productive as everyone else

Software developers should seriously consider relocating out of the US and employing European and Asian programmers, if the results of a Meta Group survey are anything to go by. According to the survey, which measured the productivity of 16,000 IT professionals, US programmers were half as productive as code-writers in the rest of the world. Irish, Indian and Mexican programmers came out at the top of the productivity tree. The survey, according to a CNN news report, calculated code-jockeys' productivity on the basis of the number of lines of code generated per year. US programmers averaged 7700 lines of code -- non-US programmers produced over twice that figure, notching up 16,700 lines. Meta Group's Howard Rubin, who conducted the survey, slammed US IT professionals for being "fat and happy" and encouraging unproductive behaviour. He also claimed US programmers were paid more, educated less and trained less than coders elsewhere. However, he admitted that more US coders had been pulled off interesting projects to fix Y2K bugs. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Apr 1999
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Ex-Info’Products employee wins his day in court

Compel has been ordered to pay £1,000 to a former employee of Info'Products for unpaid wages. Ryan Diblee, a former account co-ordinator at reseller Info'Products, won his case on 13 April at Chelmsford County Court. He was awarded £955 for commission deducted from his salary between April and December 1998. Diblee, who represented himself in the case, told The Register: "I’m really pleased. I expected to win because Info’Products was morally wrong with what it did." Diblee issued a county court summons against Info'Products in February after he lost his job when he and 150 of his colleagues were made redundant after Compel took over Info’Products. George Fodor, the former Info’Products legal manager who is co-ordinating a joint claim against Info’Products and Compel by around 60 other ex-staff for unfair dismissal, was delighted with the verdict. He said: "It will set a precedent for the other claims related to the payout of legally-entitled commissions. We are hopeful of getting a court date soon, and are very confident of our victory." Diblee’s claim was separate and not issued in connection with the joint legal action. He is now an account manager at Matlock-based reseller Servo. ®
Linda Harrison, 16 Apr 1999