7th > May > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Gates to cash another $260 million MS stock

Now why would Bill Gates have sold some 7 million Microsoft shares (for more then $600 million), and be planning to sell another 3.75 million for about $260 million? Well, Microsoft spokesperson Tom Pilla said "This is part of Bill's normal programme of selling, done for purposes of diversification of his portfolio". This reason has only been whispered in the past, although Gates does have substantial investments in genetic engineering companies like Darwin Molecular. But hang on, diversification is undertaken to reduce the risk that a major holding will underperform, or even go down. Surely there can be no downside for Microsoft in Gates' vision of the future? Or does he know something we have not been told? Since the Microsoft trial began, Gates has suddenly become much more active on the philanthropy front, and sold 52 million shares for $4.3 billion earlier this year and put the proceeds in the William H Gates Foundation and the Gates Learning Foundation - the latter being a vehicle for helping public libraries to provide access to the Internet. It would be churlish to criticise the choice of software, but we can be sure that it is not Linux. It would be equally unfair to note the correlation between his generous grants to the needy and the increasing heat of the Microsoft trial. ®
The Register breaking news

MS taking more slices of UK cable business

Update Microsoft is taking a 29.9 per cent share in UK cable company Telewest Communications PLC (see yesterday's MS to take $5bn stake in AT&T), by an exchange of an undisclosed number of shares for the controlling stake held by cable service operator MediaOne Group, which was itself acquired earlier in the week by AT&T for $56.4 billion. The market liked the news, and immediately marked Telewest shares up 16 per cent. Telewest owns Birmingham Cable, Yorkshire Cable, the Cable Corporation, and has a 50 per cent stake in Cable London (with NTL). Westminster Cable is up for sale following orders from Brussels that BT should to dispose of it because those in the area are deprived of a competitive service for telephony via cable. The strange thing is that Microsoft already has invested about $500 million in Telewest's rival cable outfit NTL, currently number three in the UK. This has resulted in speculation that Microsoft will also invest in Cable & Wireless Communications, the present number two. The picture is further complicated by AT&T having a $10 billion joint venture with BT (Telewest's major competitor). Microsoft has not managed to lock AT&T in to using Windows CE exclusively in set top boxes, since Sun will also be used as a source. In the UK, Oracle is the leading software provider for the sector. Nor will Microsoft get any special position with regard to content, since other vendors will also be used. This is Microsoft's biggest outside investment so far, and is no doubt a response to grumbles from shareholders that Microsoft had too much cash not working hard enough. Microsoft clearly wants to have market power in the last mile, as it is known, and must see interactive cable as more attractive than one-way satellite. This points to Microsoft's real interest as being with home users playing interactive games, and using video telephony, rather than in business users. There is likely to be further consolidation in the UK cable industry, with the most likely result being that there will be just two significant operators. But if Microsoft has major stakes in both, this could result in some regulatory problems down the road. Of course, Gates could have arranged a deal during one of his sales calls on Tony Blair that there would be no government opposition to there being just one cable player. Microsoft is fast becoming a global rival to Rupert Murdoch, but with the two companies competing from different ends of the spectrum. So far Murdoch has no UK cable stake, and evidently sees himself as a broadcaster/impresario rather than a networker. There is no love lost between the two tycoons. ®
The Register breaking news

MS spends $5 billion to boost CE cable presence

Update Partners Microsoft and AT&T sweetly described yesterday's $5 billion interactive cable deal as a series of agreements "to accelerate deployment of broadband services to millions of consumers" (see MS to take $5bn stake in AT&T). But from where we're sitting it looks a lot more like Microsoft using its money pile as a huge lever to carve out market share for Windows CE. The AT&T deal comes at the same time as a confusing series of Microsoft deals in the UK (MS Telewest deal), but the bottom line is clearly that Microsoft, having failed to win widespread adoption of CE as a platform for cable TV one way, is trying another. AT&T was of course already committed to 5 million CE set-top units, but there's a story attached to that number. That 5 million commitment came along with AT&T's purchase of TCI's cable business. TCI itself came by that commitment over a year ago after it adopted Java as its standard open platform for interactive TV. It threw Microsoft a bone by promising to buy those units, but that bone was a poisoned chalice (as it were...) -- TCI was still committed to Java as the standard, so those MS CE units were going to have to work with Java. The complexities of the megadeals in the cable market are therefore likely to be mirrored by twists and turns in Java versus CE contractual arrangements, and of course will be affected by what the courts finally say Microsoft can or cannot do with Java. If they reckon Microsoft can't do its own thing, then the company will either have to give in and make its peace with Sun, or use a lot more money to 'persuade' the cable outfits that they don't like Java after all. AT&T might be a little bit persuaded, but before the deal was announced yesterday was wriggling more than a little, insisting that it wasn't going to switch entirely to CE. In the end Microsoft got a commitment to a further minimum of 2.5 million to five million units, but as AT&T will have a potential US customer base of 25 million, there's still a lot to play for. And funnily enough, the cost per unit is going up. When TCI made fivemillion unit deal, it had just told Microsoft to get lost over a proposed MS $1 billion investment in TCI. That proposal certainly included strings, and may have included an exclusivity deal. For $5 billion, Microsoft has made some ground, but hasn't got exclusivity -- yet. ®
The Register breaking news

MS plays musical service packs with NT 4.0

How many service packs do you need anyway? And how many times do you need them? Windows site Windows 98 Central reports on a dizzying dance Microsoft is performing by posting and pulling the NT 4.0 Service Pack 5 over and over again. First of all the service pack got posted "by accident" and then pulled. Shortly afterwards it got posted officially. And then the 128-bit version got pulled. It's not entirely clear what, if anything, is wrong with this version. WinCentral reports "complications," but also says that it's OK if you downloaded it before it got pulled, because it's perfectly stable. Microsoft apparently intends to put it back on May 19th, having fixed whatever it is that isn't broken. As we recall though, security issues were one major reason for SP 5 existing in the first place, so it may be that MS discovered it didn't get this quite right after all. ®
The Register breaking news

VP Allchin says MS OSes worse than Win2k beta

The 'finished' operating systems Microsoft has been shipping for all those years are less stable than the beta of Windows 2000, says Microsoft senior VP Jim Allchin. Or at least, he's been telling people that Windows 2000 "beta 3 is more solid than any OS we've ever shipped." For example: "In our stress tests, it performs better than NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4." Obviously, friends, we're entering the Irony Twilight Zone (ITZ) here. If beta 3's more solid than what we've already got, why isn't MS shipping it now? Jim also concedes that beta 3 has a "very high" number of bugs in it still, but here in the ITZ we figure this must mean that Windows 98 and NT 4.0 have an even greater number of bugs. Are we missing something here? Worryingly for MS spinmeisters (if they're any good, that is) Allchin was blabbing at one of those softball interview sessions analysts put on to spice up their conferences. This particular one was Gartner Group's NT in the Enterprise, and Jim was shooting the breeze publicly with some Gartner execs. In other highlights, Allchin had a couple of messages for all his and MS' fans in the Linux world. "Linux is Unix... I don't consider it to be very innovative," he said. "The profit motive will end up ruining and tarnishing the altruism people use to promote this thing." There you go Linux people -- you're not very smart, and anyway greed will destroy you. And then there's integration. Does Microsoft glue things together unnecessarily? Hell, no, Microsoft hates integration. First of all it says, "keep it out, we don't want it." But customer pressure forces it to keep putting new stuff in anyway -- pesky things, customers, they can get you busted by the DoJ. And here's one for Citrix stock-holders. Apparently Allchin thinks there might be a chance of Intellimirror, Microsoft's bizarre interpretation of thin client computing, making it big. "We think Intellimirror could end up being much better than Terminal Server, but we don't know yet." Note how loaded that one is. Microsoft was beaten into paying big bucks to Citrix for the technology for Terminal Server, Microsoft doesn't like that, and here we have Allchin telling us how Microsoft proposes to get out of it. ®
The Register breaking news

Universal online music plan gains AT&T, Matsushita backing

Universal's recent deals with InterTrust and fellow 'big five' music label Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) appear to have attracted the attention of AT&T and Matsushita. According to a report in today's Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed parties "close to the negotiations", both companies are on the verge of joining Universal in its efforts to devise and implement an online music sales system. The latest pair of partners (if the parties do come to an agreement) certainly makes a lot of sense all round. Universal's programme will go ahead no matter what, but winning the backing of a consumer electronics company will strengthen its position. To reach the levels of success online music distribution is often predicted to achieve, the business is going to have to look beyond PC playback to a wide range of hi-fi units from separates to portable players -- and that means persuading the likes of Matsushita, JVC, Philips, et al to buy into your way of working. And with Sony pursuing its own online agenda in partnership with IBM, whose Electronic Music Management System will ultimately compete with Universal's, a deal with Universal would be good news for Matsushita too. As for AT&T, for all its dealings with Microsoft over Windows CE as a set-top box OS (see ), it still competes with the Great Satan on audio formats -- its a2b versus Microsoft's MS Audio 4.0. a2b, like Liquid Audio's system, has never managed to make the big time, partly through music industry distrust of the Internet but mostly because of the phenomenal rise of MP3. AT&T's format probably has a future, but without the major label support it's hard to see it making too much headway in the face of Microsoft and now RealNetworks. A deal with Universal gives a2b a major boost, especially given AT&T's desire to use the format as a way of pumping music in real time into people's homes via its cable network -- the 'pay-per-listen' model. It can't do that successfully without the content Universal can provide, and Universal can't pursue this alternative to the download market without the help of a major infrastructure provider like AT&T. ®
The Register breaking news

US crypto laws ‘unconstitutional’

It's official. Crypotography software -- or, more accurately, its source code -- can now be freely exported from the US, contrary to that country's government's regulations. At the end of a legal case begun back in 1995, University of Illinois maths professor Daniel Bernstein finally learned yesterday that the US court of appeal had agreed with his contention that software code was a language, and that its dissemination was therefore protected by the US Constitution's First Amendement. Essentially, the ruling, made after a two to one majority verdict for the court's three District Judges, declares US encryption software export rules to be unconstitutional, said Bernstein's lawyer, Cindy Cohn. That said, the appeal ruling described the restrictions placed on Bernstein in terms of limiting his "scientific expression". That could well provide a gap for the government to continue to restrict the shipment of commercial products, possibly even if those products' source code is freely available, as is PGP's, for instance. ®
The Register breaking news

The gran who fell to earth

A gutsy granny is looking to enter the Guinness Book of Records on Saturday when she jumps off the ICL Tower in downtown Manchester with only a rope to stop her from making a mess on the pavement. She will, though, be wearing a nappy (diapers, for our US readers) to protect her modesty. No doubt it will also stop her from making a mess on pavement in the event of a less than successful landing. Eighty-three-year-old Molli Turner will join 1,000 other fundraising fanatics to abseil 165 feet down the ICL Tower -- home of the IT services company. Molli and her chums are hoping to raise more than £10,000 for St Ann's Hospice, the largest adult hospice in the UK. And if she does it as planned, she'll enter the Guinness Book of Records for being the oldest woman abseiler, or something like that. All being well, The Register is hoping to publish pictures of Molli's record-breaking descent next week. Don't say we didn't warn you. ®
The Register breaking news

Will cable spending spree turn MS into Ma Bill?

Microsoft's $5 billion investment in AT&T, plus further major infrastructure investments that Microsoft CFO Greg Maffei has said the company will make, appear to be a response to the growing sentiment that Microsoft may be prevented from making acquisitions as one of the penalties form the antitrust case. Microsoft already has a $1 billion investment of 11.5 per cent in fourth-place US cable provider Comcast, as well as some smaller European cable investments. Microsoft's AT&T/MediaOne deals were masterminded by Greg Maffei, who recently tried to quit Microsoft to go to RoadRunner, a cable modem Internet service owned by Time Warner and MediaOne. The deal just done makes Maffei's departure rather unlikely now. Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and director, has not done very well out of his $10 billion cable investments, but he may continue acquisitions and move some way towards his dream of setting up an alternative Internet access network based on cable. Cable operators are as aware as the banks about the challenges of having a business relationship with Microsoft, and are not inclined to allow Microsoft to have any exclusivity. The attempt by Microsoft to link with Comcast to bid for MediaOne failed because Microsoft wanted technology exclusivity. Financial muscle With Microsoft not making any progress in its quest for market share with hand-held devices running Windows CE, it seems it has turned elsewhere and is using financial muscle to establish the OS. The threat of the Symbian Epoc operating system in the telephony market has made Microsoft's progress there near-impossible, for technological reasons: CE needs too much power to run it, and in any event, it is too big and slow. Gates does not like losing, so he gave Greg Maffei the go ahead to do something with AT&T and MediaOne, in the hope of buying some CE market share. Watch out for set-top boxes with CTRL, ALT and DEL buttons to allow rebooting from the couch. The $5 billion that Microsoft is putting into AT&T for a 3 per cent stake contains a CE provision, in addition to the existing agreement for AT&T to increase CE set-top box deployment from a 5 million commitment by a further 2.5 to 5 million. However, this would still be a small fraction of the 62 million households that AT&T cable will eventually reach (according to Dow Jones, although Microsoft is saying that the AT&T's owned and operated systems will pass only approximately 25 million homes, and Reuters chips in with just 14 million set-top boxes in the next few years). Microsoft has also obtained a commitment from A&T that it will license Microsoft's client/server TV software, and will showcase two cities by June next year. Microsoft has some $22 billion in cash at the moment, so a $5 billion investment is significant. It cannot count it as a short-term investment, because of the way it is structured. It will take three years before the warrants that Microsoft receives for its cash will become convertible into AT&T shares. Government review? Microsoft will also receive newly issued preferred securities with a 30-year maturity but a conversion aspect that can be terminated after three years. Assuming regulators do not object - it is a possibility because Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Microsoft/AT&T deal would receive "a generous amount of government review" - AT&T will be the biggest cable company in the US, pushing Time Warner into second place. AT&T had to give Comcast 2 million subscribers as a consolation prize for not doing a deal, albeit for $9 billion, but will probably get the pole position for offering telephony to Comcast subscribers. Comcast is also to receive $1.5 billion from MediaOne as a termination fee for their proposed merger. The guns to ploughs aspect of the deal for AT&T will be the possibility of replacing cable by telephone lines, and gaining back a stake in the Baby Bells' hold over residential phone service. If that happens, than the Baby Bells would probably be allowed to compete in the long-distance business, since there would be effective competition at the local level. AOL will be boxed in by these moves, because AT&T will push RoadRunner, in which it is acquiring a stake from MediaOne, as well as @Home, where it has a significant stake. AOL has not yet effectively leveraged its 17 million subscriber base, but when it does so it may try to come to a deal with the Baby Bells and alternative technology such as DSL. This diversification by Microsoft suggests that Fort Redmond sees limited profits from the desktop market, and is seeking to monopolise growing consumer markets. It is significant that Microsoft's investment focus is not towards the enterprise market at all. For users, the ganging up of the major monopolist of the 1980s with the major monopolist of the 1990s cannot be good news. Will Ma Bill really be our friend? Will a Win T&T brand replace Wintel? ® See also: Microsoft buys Telewest stake from AT&T lS spends $5 billion to boost CE cable presence MS taking more slices of UK cable business MS to take $5bn stake in AT&T Comcast yields to AT&T over MediaOne Stakes raised in MediaOne bidding war Microsoft, AOL enter MediaOne bidding war
The Register breaking news

Novell spooks bust online pirate

Novell is taking legal action in the US courts against a man who allegedly used online auction house eBay to sell $1.1 million worth of pirated software. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Kansas, alleges that Joseph C. Mandala of Wichita, Kansas tried to sell Novell's NetWare software via eBay. Novell maintains this is a clear breach of its copyright and trademark. Snoops at Novell -- who regularly trawl through online auction houses in search of hooky gear -- managed to buy several unauthorised NetWare diskettes through eBay as well as directly from Mandala. The value of the illegal Novell software being offered is believed to be more than $1.1 million. "Novell will continue to monitor online auction sites and will take aggressive action to stop the unauthorised distribution of Novell products on such auction sites," said David Bradford, senior VP and general counsel for Novell. "We will not allow our sales channel to be undermined by this type of illicit activity," he said. Earlier this year Novell secured a conviction against a Belgian Internet Service Provider for copyright infringement after subscribers to a bulletin board were found to be using the service to upload pirate copies of Novell software. ® See also: Software pirates scuppered by Y2K Biggest ever haul of bogus software uncovered Microsoft piracy buster trashes software and reputation Computer piracy is sinful, says Israeli court
The Register breaking news

IT equipment is bad for your health

Your PC could be your lungs’ worst enemy, scientists warned yesterday. According to a study by boffins at the British Allergy Foundation, office machinery can produce damaging ozone emissions. Prime culprits are gadgets like laser printers, fax machines, photocopiers and computers, according to a report in today’s Daily Mail. Contrary to popular opinion, ozone is not always beneficial. It may protect us from the sun’s harmful rays, but the ozone fumes from equipment are toxic and can cause breathing difficulties. Professor Robert Davies, president of the foundation, said: "As summer approaches, ground levels of ozone outdoors rise. This can cause problems for healthy individuals, especially when taking exercise. The problems can be considerably worse for asthma and allergy sufferers.” The Health and Safety Executive states: "Ozone is an irritant to mucus membranes of the eyes and respiratory tract.” It adds that lung problems can follow exposure to high concentrations of ozone. ® See also: Flat screen monitors will poison the planet Users smash up PCs in outbreaks of network rage
The Register breaking news

Scottish Telecom set for £1bn IPO

Scottish Power is set to sell-off part of its IT business to cash in on the stock market's ravenous appetite for telecom shares. The clever money suggests that the floatation will happen in the Autumn although it's expected that only 25 per cent of the business will be put up for sale. Scottish Telecom is estimated to worth anywhere between £1 billion and £1.5 billion. According to a report in today's Daily Telegraph, Scottish Power would be following in the footsteps of National Grid after it sold off Energis to realise the value of its telecomms subsidiary. Last year, Scottish Telecom doubled its profit to £10 million thanks in part to the performance of Demon Internet which it bought for £66 million in May 1998. Shares in Scottish Power rose 23 to 565p yesterday following the news and have continued their upward path this morning. They rose as high as 584p in early trading before falling back to 573p by lunchtime. ®
The Register breaking news

Take-over talk targets Newbridge

Newbridge Networks could become the target of a take-over bid in the wake of its falling share price and multiple profit warnings. There have been five profit warnings from Newbridge in the last eight financial quarters and its share price dropped to $28 7/8 this week, according to a report in the Financial Times. The lower share price, coupled with the company’s position in the market could make it attractive to a number of companies in the networking and telecomms sectors, sources have said. Manny Pinon, sales and marketing manager of Newbridge distributor Norwood Adam, said Newbridge was always likely to be a target, but doubted whether any potential take-over bids would ever succeed. “It’s not quite big enough to fend off all potential challenges and because of its strength in key markets, it will always attract this sort of attention. Companies like Cisco, Siemens and Lucent spring to mind as maybe being interested.” But anyone wanting to buy Newbridge would need to have deep pockets or an understanding banker, Pinon said. “Terry Matthews (Newbridge’s CEO and majority shareholder) would have to be bought out for any acquisition to go through. He’s going to be looking for a substantial payout.” Matthews is reputedly the wealthiest man in the IT industry. “He doesn’t need to sell and he still takes a very active interest in the business,” Pinon said. “I don’t think the market has really taken that into consideration. Yes the share price has fallen but a take-over of Newbridge wouldn’t necessarily be that straightforward.” Other speculation from sources close to Newbridge, suggests that the company will see out another full financial year before considering putting itself up for sale. “The European channel could probably have shifted 25 per cent more Newbridge product in the last quarter of last year,” the source said. “They’ve had a tough year, admittedly, but there’s been a lot of changes and I think there’ll be a real push this year to put things straight.” ®
The Register breaking news

Defunct dealer turns tables on advisors

A reseller, angry at the liquidation of his own company, has turned the tables and become an insolvency consultant. Tim Simmons was owner of Eureka and Macay Technologies, based in Maidenhead during the mid-nineties. At its height it had 80 staff and three offices, but the Apple dealer ran into problems and was liquidated. According to Simmons, the whole ordeal cost over £40,000 in insolvency practitioner fees, and a many sleepless nights. He claims he was badly advised to first go for a Creditors Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which dragged things out for an extra year. The only person to profit from the process was the practitioner, he said. Eureka eventually went down owing around £1 million. £40,000 had been paid during the CVA, but that went to the practitioner. Last year Simmons set up The Insolvency Guidance Bureau, his own consultation business. He wanted to use his experience to show people a way out, rather than increase their debts like most practitioners. "The sole purpose of most insolvency companies is to increase their fee as much as possible. They do this by frightening you – saying you could go to prison – then adding they could help you immediately, but for a huge fee," said Simmons. "Following my experiences, I just want to show people that they can avoid being caught out by the first practitioner they come across." The dealer turned insolvency practitioner had the following advice: "Don’t panic. Think about exactly what you want to happen. Go and see a consultant, not an insolvency practitioner. And don’t worry too much – I promise you, the situation does get better." ®
The Register breaking news

Microsoft buys Telewest stake from AT&T

Not happy with his smothering domination of the world's software industry, Bill Gates now wants to get stuck in to the cable market. The Great Stan of Software is to buy 29.9 per cent of Telewest from AT&T for around $1.8 billion. The deal is part of a wider $5 billion investment by Stan in AT&T that will result in Windows software being shoe-horned into set-top boxes that be ultimately be used to deliver high-speed Net access via TVs instead of PCs. The effect of Stan's entry into the cable market has lead to some choice assessment in the UK press. "A three-way merger to create a national cable company capable of rivalling BT and BSkyB burst into prospect," enthused the Daily Telegraph. "Microsoft…grabbed a huge slice of the UK's cable industry, positioning itself as a potential power broker…in a move likely to change the face of the British media market," said the Financial Times. The widely held view is that Stan's entry into the market will act as a catalyst in the cable industry. The inevitable conclusion is that it will lead to the creation of a single cable operator -- as long as that is given the go-ahead by the regulator. ®
The Register breaking news

Big Blue sued over mice

Big Blue sued over mice F&G Scrolling Mouse LLC has taken action against IBM for alleged infringement of a patent over mouse technology. The action was filed on the 30th of April last. IBM always refuses to comment on litigation against it. And so we therefore know little more than those bare facts. ® See also: Great Software Satan sued for abusing mice Heroically pointless products from Comdex Is the pen mightier than the mouse?
The Register breaking news

Europe gives green light to spam

European politicians have voted to legalise spam. The decision is a victory for small-minded people with no real understanding of how the Net works and is another crushing blow for Internauts in Europe. The European Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA), which has campaigned tirelessly to sway opinion, has expressed bitter disappointment at the news. Ironically, no one spoke in favour of spam during the debate yesterday, although UK Liberal MEP, Graham Watson, made an impassioned speech calling for the European Parliament to ban unsolicited emails. Despite this, it was given the backing of the European Parliament yesterday by 266 votes to 137. MEPs in Strasbourg also voted to legitimise spam through the use of national opt-out lists creating a bureaucratic nightmare for Net users. The proposal requires customers to register themselves on national lists if they do not want to receive unsolicited email. Until they do so, spammers are free to send them junk email willy-nilly. Useless opt-outs "The opt-out list for unsolicited phone calls and faxes has already run into difficulties in the UK due to the huge time delay between registration on the lists and when consumers can hope to stop receiving junk faxes/calls," said Jean-Christophe Le Toquin from EuroISPA. "Also, opt-out lists have proven useless over and over again in the US, this is hardly a step forward and will not inspire confidence in electronic commerce," he said. Perhaps more disappointing still was the decision not to ban the "harvesting" of email addresses from online services such as message boards and Web sites. Harvesting lets companies create huge email lists from online sources at almost no cost. "As long as harvesting is permitted, junk emailers will have a ready supply of cheap mailing lists," said Le Toquin. ® See also: Anti-spammers petition European Parliament Euro blighters block anti-spam fighters Anti-spam campaign gathers momentum Anti-caching lobby wins round one of Euro vote
The Register breaking news

Soccer Web boss kicks fortune into the Net

Planet Online founder Peter Wilkinson has hit paydirt for the second time by selling Planetfootball for £24 million. The buyer Sports Internet Limited is cock-a-hoop, pointing out that it is paying only £50 per Planetfootball punter, compared with the £1,000-plus per customer that Dixon's FreeServe is worth -- supposedly. This bargain is strictly relative, making financial sense only in Internet terms. Planetfootball had sales of only £99,000 and made an operating loss of £453,000 for the year to March end. According to Wilkinson, Planetfootball.com is now ready for the revenue generating stage, and it is nicely positioned as a player in the world's most popular and lucrative sport, so maybe we should reserve judgement. But right now the company looks awfully expensive. Planetfootball designs and hosts web sites for 20 football clubs, including more than half the UK Premier League teams. Collectively, the web sites generate 13 million page impressions from 500,000 visitors per month. To put this in perspective, this is smaller than -- say -- Tom's Hardware Guide manages all by itself. More importantly, Tom's Hardware Guide is master of its own destiny, while Planetfootball's customers could always peel away to other web designers. Sports Internet Ltd is an energetic Internet sports, betting and gaming group run by Chris Akers, the former Leeds Sporting CEO. The AIM-listed company is making full use of corporate finance techniques to grow quickly. This time around, it is issuing 15 million new shares at 160p per share to pay for the deal. The company is also raising £4.7 million cash through a rights issue, taking its money pile up to £5.5 million. So Wilkinson's new fortune is paper-based. Post completion, he will join Sports Internet as executive deputy chairman, a made-up job title if ever there was one. We wonder, if hs he parting with some cash as part of the deal -- he could certainly afford to. Wilkinson kept onto Planetfootball, when he sold ISP Planet Online last year to Energis for £75 million in hard cash. His stake in that company was worth £22 million - his backer, the rabid anti-European entrepreneur Paul Sykes picked up the lion's share that time. The inference we draw from the release accompanying the sale of Planetfootball is that Wilkinson owns -- or owned -- all of this company. Apparently he was also the "architect of Freeserve", launched by Dixons with Energis in September 1998. ®