11th > May > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

AMD to take on Intel in SMP market

A year ago From The Register 8 May 1998 Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is set to take on Intel in the server market as sources close to the company confirmed today it has plans to produce symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) versions of its up-and-coming K7 technology next year. Intel has had its own way in the server market over the last 18 months as AMD struggled to launch and then produce its K6 processor. But the Alpha bus architecture AMD will use in its Slot A K7 processor next year, will allow manufacturers to produce machines and motherboards capable of SMP configurations. The source also said that while it was possible for AMD to configure the K6 to work in multiprocessor configurations, that is unlikely to happen. Instead, AMD will wait for its K7 and use the rest of 1998 to ramp up its K6 chip and launch its K6 3D (now called the K6-2) at the end of May. The other problem AMD has had is that Intel has more or less set the agenda for producing SMP chipsets. While Intel will license its technology to AMD, the price would be too high for the chip cloner to make any money from it. In other news from AMD, the company formally announced its public offering of shares to raise $450 million on the US stock markets. And as it prepares to launch its K6-2, AMD said today that it will co-sponser a Microsoft Windows DirectX seminar which starts tomorrow in the US. ®
The Register breaking news

AOL cuts prices but won’t go free

AOL is being squeezed so hard by the growing competition in the UK ISP marketplace that it is starting to black out and become confused and disorientated. Today it announced that as of 1 June, the cost of unlimited access to AOL will be cut to just £9.99 -- down from £16.95 a month. Announcing the new pricing plan, Andreas Schmidt, president and CEO, AOL Europe, said subscription-based Net access was the "only sustainable model to achieve long-term growth in the UK and throughout Europe." Yet only last week it emerged that AOL UK was trailing different pricing structures including one that could include toll-free access. This appears to be in stark contrast to Schmidt's declaration and appears to show that far from having a grasp of current market thinking, AOL's strategy is muddled and confused. Its decision to cut the cost of accessing the Net in the UK still falls far short of other Internet access providers who have abandoned subscription fees. If, as it maintains time and time again, people are prepared to pay through the nose for its service because of its "unique offerings", today's decision to cut it's subscription only adds to the confusion. It can only be taken as yet another sign of the immense pressure AOL is facing, something that has been said time and time again by Net watchers. Even with this price cut, AOL users still have to fork out £120 a year when other online service providers, such as LineOne and Virgin Net, are now offering their services for free. Yet according to AOL, the new plan will help drive up membership and use of the service. It will also "accelerate the development of a multiple-revenue stream business model that further positions the company for sustainable leadership in the UK market," an official statement said. AOL UK president and MD, David Phillips, said: "With our new £9.99 unlimited use plan, AOL UK is once again demonstrating its commitment to providing consumers the best value for a superior online experience. "The UK market is poised for enormous growth, and we believe this new unlimited use plan will attract new members and encourage existing members to take advantage of unlimited access," he said. The Register disagrees. However great the content, the subscription-free model is here to stay. Net users will vote with their feet unless AOL UK realises that the pricing model that has worked so well for them in the US is doomed to fail in the UK and Europe. ®
The Register breaking news

Free ISPs force AOL to slash rates

AOL confirmed it is feeling the pinch from free Internet access services in the UK by reducing its monthly access fee to £10 for unlimited use from next month, although the company officially denies this is the reason. Access previously cost £17/month. AOL Europe is a 50-50 partnership with Bertelsmann, the German media group, which claims it is number three in the world. AOL is also offering free telecom access to a test group of non-subscribers for a fixed price of £15/month, as part of an experiment. According to David Phillips, AOL's UK MD, free local calls would wreck the business plans of the free services. In the UK, BT gets between a third and two-thirds of Internet access call costs, with the remainder going to the network operator. In the case of the free services, they get a proportion of this revenue from the network operator. While it is true that it would be more difficult for free services to charge a fixed fee for unlimited telecoms costs, there is nothing to stop them having it as an option. AOL has been lobbying Oftel for a quicker review of fixed-price access. Andreas Schmidt, AOL's CEO for Europe said that in his view, "Free is not a sustainable business model" which is no doubt true for AOL, since 85 per cent of its revenue comes from subscription fees. But this is not necessarily true for the free-access services. AOL Europe has complained to the European Commission competition directorate about Deutsche Telekom's alleged abuse of its monopoly power to suppress competition, and there are obvious worries that if the Telecom Italia deal goes through, monopolisation could be extended to the Italian market as well. AOL is believed to have some 600,000 subscribers in the UK (and 2.8 million in Europe), but constantly faces the problem of churn. As part of its moves to add value, AOL has done a deal with eBay to get access to European auction sites. This should also provide an additional burden for Microsoft, since it will have to monitor the site to ensure that unwanted copies of Windows are not being offered for sale. But suppose Windows were give away free with a packet of Smarties: what then? Phillips has also hinted that AOL will offer Internet access shops, but AOL may find itself colliding with an interesting move that could introduce many people to the Internet. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the latter-day Sir Freddie Laker and owner of Easyjet, has announced he will be starting UK cybercafes on a grand scale, with access at £1/hour, compared with the £5 to £7 that is common in existing cafes. He says this is possible because of economies of scale, and that his first cybercafe will have 420 machines, compared with up to 20 or so in other establishments. Could it be that SH-I has done a deal with AOL? If so, you read it first in The Register. If not, well it's an interesting thought. ®
The Register breaking news

Europe reserves right to resume MS contract enquiry

The European Union has finally approved the ISP contracts Microsoft implemented at the beginning of last year. But the European Commission has reserved the right to reopen its investigation if any future change "in the factual or legal situation affected any essential aspect... that warranted a further enquiry." To some extent that's a warning to Microsoft to watch its contractual language, but it's also a nod towards the US. While Microsoft and the DoJ have been locked in mortal combat, Europe has sat on the sidelines as part of a 'carve-up' arrangement with the US authorities. The deal between the two is intended to avoid duplication and/or clashes of investigations. In the case of Microsoft, the US DoJ is lead member, while the Commission's policy is wait and see. If the DoJ wins, Europe will certainly at least check through Microsoft's contracts again, referring to whatever remedies are imposed as it does so. If Microsoft wins, Europe will quite possibly take its ball away and mount a huge investigation of its own. Under the agreements now approved by the Commission Microsoft effectively runs co-marketing deals with ISPs, where the ISP is in a list of recommended access suppliers and in exchange pays a bounty for new subscribers, and promotes Internet Explorer. This kind of arrangement in any event seems to be on the wane; Microsoft witnesses in the DoJ trial protested the company didn't make any money out of it, and Microsoft has ceded some control of the recommended ISP list, at least to the major PC companies. The contracts have also been somewhat de-fanged, as ISPs now won't have to pay penalties if they fail to make their Internet Explorer distribution quotas. This itself concerns Microsoft less than previously, at least for as long as IE remains firmly bolted to Windows. ®
The Register breaking news

PointCast bows out for a mere $7 million

So farewell then, PointCast. The one-time brilliant pioneer of push technology, as supported by Microsoft in Windows 95, has agreed to merge with San Diego outfit LaunchPad. The deal values PointCast at around $7 million, which in cyberspace valuation terms isn't even chump change. PointCast has been looking for backing or an exit strategy since last year, as it had become abundantly clear that its notion of pushing personalised information to users across the Internet wasn't playing at current bandwidth levels. Bandwidth is however on the up, and it may turn out that LaunchPad has got itself a pretty good deal. LaunchPad produces eWallet, which makes Web shopping easier by storing financial information for users, and PointCast software will allow LaunchPad to broadcast information on sales, let users know about the status of bids in auctions and so on. LaunchPad itself is backed by investment outfit idealab. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel's fund has no specific focus on Merced

Intel duly rolled out its IA64 investment fund late last night, and pulled in a brace of PC vendors to back up its plans. Its European wing held a conference call a few minutes ago. PC partners include HP, Dell, NEC, SGI and Compaq, while corporate partners in the fund include Smith Klein Beecham, Reuters, Sumitomo and the Bank of America. Intel is contributing $100 million to the fund, but European marketing executive Nigel Grierson said the amount of money the individual PC vendors are contributing is a private matter. The fund does not require participants to develop for Merced, said Grierson. "The fund is interested in participating companies for 64-bit applications -- there is no specific focus on Merced or McKinley". He refused to comment on whether HP will move directly to McKinley -- although that company has confirmed that is exactly what it will do. What Compaq will do, given its Alpha focus, is totally unclear. So that's that, then. ®
The Register breaking news

Don’t delete Microsoft files, even if they ask you to

Those lucky enough to be acting as unpaid bug finders for Microsoft’s latest (or is that just late?) piece of bloatware, Office 2000, would be well advised to avoid trying to reduce the size of its massive footprint by deleting files to recover space. Even the most innocuous little text files seem to have some strange and arcane purpose in Bill’s Great Scheme Of Things. One plucky tester who asked to remain nameless informs us that there is a tiny text file containing nothing but the words ‘placeholder’. “It’s called DELME.TXT, he wailed to a Register staffer, “So I did. “Then I got on the train to do some work on the way to the office and discovered that when I tried to start Word 2000 it kept starting the installer and asking for the Office CD, which, of course, was at home.” Nice one Software Stan. The Register’s resident software guru, Dr. Dos, comments: “Come on, Microsoft, why not use less misleading names for this kind of file, such as DELME IF YOU THINK YOU’RE HARD ENOUGH” ®
The Register breaking news

Nextel deal – has Microsoft bought into a ghetto?

The more you look into yesterday's Microsoft-Nextel deal, the more difficult it is to see what Microsoft has bought with its $600 million - or even what Microsoft thought it was buying, because although the deal might have been intended as a play for the wireless data market, it could instead take Microsoft into a blind alley. The bare bones of the alliance are simple enough. US wireless phone outfit Nextel has over 3 million users across the USA, Microsoft's investment will be used for network expansion (Nextel is somewhat debt-heavy, and could use the cash), and Microsoft will set up a wireless Web portal for Nextel users. So far so simple - Nextel gets to offer wireless Web access, Microsoft gets some more users for MSN, and Nextel co-operates in the specification of Microsoft Web technology for low resource devices, and the design of the low-resource browser (which we seem to recall Microsoft might wind up buying from Spyglass, anyway). The announcement comes just a month after Nextel announced a quarterly loss of $485 million for its first quarter, which it puts down mainly to capital expenditure of $424 million. Nextel expects 1999 sales to be $3 billion, up from $1.8 billion last year. At the end of last year, Nextel secured another billon dollars of financing, has about $10 billion of debt, and is rumoured to be looking for another $1.2 billion of financing through a bond offering. Motorola is a primary investor in Nextel, and as we shall see, this is significant. But it all starts to come apart if you try to picture it as a major play for the broader market, rather than just a smallish contra deal between the two companies. Nextel does not have the mass to be termed a pivotal player in the market (Europe is littered with larger outfits), and it's also one of those overly-specialist wireless outfits you tend to worry about - yes folks, it's a Motorola shop. Nextel's data services are dependent on Motorola handsets, and Motorola iDEN technology. The word ghetto springs to mind, even before you check the coverage maps. iDEN covers continental USA and looks plausible in South and Central America, but it's nowhere in Europe, stamping ground of the Vikings who've been beating hell out of Motorola in the digital handset market. Motorola had hopes for China, but recent misguided missiles mean that European and US companies will be facing some considerable consumer resistance in the People's Republic. Effectively Microsoft has bought itself a small stake in a relatively minor wireless player whose operation is based on niche technology. Motorola itself has found it needs to cut deals with its rivals over standards (hello, Symbian), and it's perfectly possible that Nextel will have to use some of that Microsoft money to broaden its base out of a niche that Motorola will be de-emphasising. Microsoft meanwhile is going to have to adopt a broader policy before that. The company says that its Nextel deal is unrelated to its Qualcomm joint venture, WirelessKnowledge (correct), but the deal also coincided with a more general announcement that Microsoft would develop a wireless Web portal via MSN. According to Microsoft, the wireless MSN portal, which will open for business later in the year, "is based on industry standards." This kind of Microsoftspeak is quite often not exactly true. The portal is also described as "a component of the end-to-end wireless solution from Microsoft," which means that this one is related to Wireless Knowledge, which intends to deliver services with Microsoft BackOffice apps squatting at the back of them. If you want some more confusion, Microsoft says Nextel "will be the first provider to work with Microsoft to deliver the benefits of these capabilities [sheesh, who writes this crud?] to its customer base." Which means it is something to do with WirelessKnowledge after all. But to succeed in wireless data, Microsoft is clearly going to have to cut deals with other wireless providers, and at $600 million for 3 million users, this could get to be expensive. It's also going to have to cut standards deals with other companies too. It's not entirely obvious that Microsoft has figured this out yet, and although it joined the WAP Forum quite recently, sooner or later it's probably going to have to talk to the Vikings. It can't go round them, and it surely can't go over them either. But they're going to go on about open industry standards. Tricky. ®
The Register breaking news

Taiwan takes aim at digital camera market

The Taiwanese Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) said that the island's manufacturers will increase their market share of the digital camera market to 10 per cent by year end. According to ITRI, the island currently has six per cent share but increased Net usage and better image processing will mean worldwide production will rise to 7.5 million units in 2000, worth an estimated $2.720 billion. Companies including Pretec, Mustek, and Sampo are making high quality, premium priced SXGA cameras which they will debut at the Computex trade fair in Taipei in June. The Register will be attending the show again this year. ®
The Register breaking news

Ingram goes Dutch with new UK MD

The new UK MD of Ingram Micro is Meinie Oldersma, the company’s European purchasing director. Oldersma was appointed yesterday with immediate effect to replace the ousted Sandy Scott. News of Scott's departure began to leak yesterday afternoon. He has been with Ingram since 1993, when the company bought Netherlands-based Trend Group. Oldersma joined Ingram as purchasing director, moving on to become purchasing director for Europe. An official statement from Ingram is expected later today, though a company representative was unable to comment on the circumstances surrounding Scott’s exit. ®
The Register breaking news

Linux big hit in Red China

A Japanese company has claimed that 10 per cent of Chinese computers will use the Linux operating system by year end. Cliff Miller, CEO of Pacific HiTech, claimed that a recently released version of Turbo Linux, is being "snapped up" by end users and government departments. Said Miller: "I don't think its unreasonable to think within a year we could have 10 percent of the market". ®
The Register breaking news

Personal Statement from Evan Rudowski, GM, Excite UK

Dear Tim, Thank you for bringing the customer service issue regarding Excite's personalisation to our attention. The protection of user data is our utmost priority and therefore, we take issues related to personal information very seriously. We have thoroughly investigated the complaint, and are contacting each and every user that has notified us of the problem with an explanation and a solution. Although we understand that you were unable to provide the specific user's information so that we could directly confirm the problem, it is likely that it resulted from a recent operational error. This error resulted in our assigning a duplicate user ID to a handful of users. As a result of this, those users could view the personalised page of the pre-existing ID-holder. The problem can easily be corrected by having the user log off and then log in again. This will reset the user so that he or she is subsequently associated with his or her own personalised page. We identified this error quickly and only a handful of users were actually affected. We have taken steps to contact those few users who were affected. We regret it when a problem occurs, because we care about our users and want them to enjoy and trust Excite. Again, many thanks for bringing this situation to our attention. Excite successfully serves millions of personalised pages every day and we strive to provide the best possible service to each and every user. With your help we will continue to do so. Most sincerely, Evan Rudowski GM, Excite UK
Author, 11 1999
The Register breaking news

Users' details made public by Excite

Excite UK's Web site has more holes in it than a battered old colander and it is compromising the privacy of those people who have subscribed to its personalised portal services. Instead of seeing their own personal details when they log into their "My Excite Start Page" at Excite.co.uk, users have had access to the name, date-of-birth, postcode and email address of any number of people. This serious lapse is in breach of the principles of the Data Protection Act and reveals a major security flaw in Excite's portal. Launching its new service four weeks ago it exclaimed: "Excite UK has raised the bar and announced a complete overhaul of the front page of its service, with a focus on enhancing its lead in personalisation and targeting for the benefit of both consumers and advertisers." Yet only two weeks after the service was launched it received complaints from users alerting them of the security breach. Two people have confirmed that their attempts to warn Excite about the problem were ignored. "I sent a feedback form to Excite.co.uk sometime last week and one the week before, so they should have details of my complaint," said one user who asked not to be identified. "At least they could have replied. Over the last two weeks or so, each time I log onto Excite my personal page shows different people's names… DOB, postcode and email address of these people. "Presumably, someone somewhere can also view mine," she said. Another Excite user said he'd seen personal information about eight different people. In a prepared statement Evan Rudowski, Excite UK's general manager, said: "We identified this error quickly and only a handful of users were actually affected. We have taken steps to contact those few users who were affected. We regret it when a problem occurs, because we care about our users and want them to enjoy and trust Excite." The Register is slightly concerned that Excite only moved to sort out this problem when we contacted them yesterday. If, as Rudowski makes out, Excite was aware of the problem, why didn't it notify people before The Register intervened? And why didn't Excite at least send a reply to those people who alerted them to the problem. The Register -- and those people whose personal privacy has been breached -- would like to know. ® Click here to email Tim Richardson. To read Evan Rudowski's statement in full, click here.
The Register breaking news

AOL, Sony opt for Linux

Linux looks set to make major moves outside its traditional server role and into the set-top box and consumer electronics arenas. According to a report on CNet, AOL has lined up the open source OS to power an upcoming Internet access appliance. Meanwhile, Sony is talking to Linux distributor Caldera about embedding the OS into TVs, hi-fi and videos. The AOL project derives from the company's 'AOL anywhere' strategy -- to provide access to its online service through as many channels as possible, rather than rely on PCs. As competition tightens, not least through the increasing number of free Internet access services, AOL needs to look at alternative Internet audiences, and households that don't own a PC must surely rank highly on its list. Linux is attractive because not only is the kernel fairly compact and free, but there's now plenty of Linux programming expertise out there. It's also not owned by Microsoft, which, in the light of the two companies' opposite stances at the DoJ antitrust trial, may be appealing to AOL right now. That said, Linux isn't the only option open to AOL. In addition to Be's moves to push its BeOS as an information appliance operating system (see Be IPO based on set-top box role for BeOS), there is of course Sun's JavaOS. And since Sun is fairly close to AOL at the moment, thanks to their deal over Netscape, AOL could be persuaded to take that route. However, CNet's sources reckon Compaq is in the running to produce AOL's box, and since it's already believed to be working on a Linux-based set-top, AOL is as likely to accept Compaq's choice of hardware and OS. At the same time, Linux distributor Caldera confirmed it has begun talks with Sony on the possibility of embedding the Linux kernel and user interface software into a variety of consumer electronics devices. Sony has been interested in the Internet as a content delivery system, either on a 'pay per view' basis or as a download mechanism, an interest that combines its consumer electronics business with its music and video publishing arms. The company clearly doesn't want the PC to remain the only way of connecting consumer electronics devices not only to the Net but to each other. Linux offers a powerful basis for that kind of Internet standards-based connectivity. At the same time, Sony is believed to have selected Linux as the basis for its upcoming PlayStation II console -- it's already the company's software development platform of choice -- which itself is likely to be offered as an Internet access and consumer electronics connectivity system as a games machines. PlayStation II is due to ship before the year is out, probably with a full-scale launch early September. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel too close to Clinton for comfort

Worried about whether Intel is Big Brother or not? Concerned about the Processor Serial Number? Relax. Your secrets are safe in the hands of Intel's government affairs division, conveniently situated a mere block away from the White House. A kindly old gentleman who works for Intel's Information Security division (the thought police), faxed us this map which proves it. ®
The Register breaking news

No takers for The Register PSN Challenge

Yesterday, the Register challenged all-comers to identify the person who currently uses the Pentium III system with the serial number 00000672000226FA025D71BF. Surprise, surprise, there have been no takers. A few folks have posted comments on the Register Bulletin Board pertaining to HDTV transmissions in the Dallas area (no, we didn’t see the connection either) but as yet, our mystery user remains just that. We’ve maintained all along that the furore over PSN was generated by wacko conspiracy theorists and X Files geeks and still see no evidence to the contrary. We’ve also tested Zero Knowledge's cookie some more. We turned off PSN in the BIOS of our Intel Sun River SR440BX motherboard, and even Chipzilla's own PSN utility couldn't turn it back on. While it is no doubt extremely clever to be able in certain restricted circumstances to be able to read the PSN, without being able to link that number to an individual, the information is totally useless. Don't forget that you’re already telling people who you are by being in the phone book, by using a cellphone (which can also pinpoint your location very precisely) or by replying to the Reader's Digest Prize Draw. Forget PSN, the bad guys already know where you live. ® Want to bother The Sherriff? Email him here
The Register breaking news

Quantum buys Meridian Data

Storage company Quantum has bought Meridian Data in a share acquisition. The deal is worth around $85 million, based on yesterday's share price. Michael Brown, Quantum's CEO, said the acquisition helped address an important area of the market. Meridian produces workgroup level NAS (network attached storage) appliances, in particular the Snap!Server line of products. ®
The Register breaking news

Apple unveils new pro PowerBooks, MacOS X Client

Apple's Steve Jobs made a series of announcements -- some major, others less so -- during his keynote yesterday at the start of the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, held in San Jose, California. The increasingly not-so-interim CEO unveiled two new professional PowerBook notebooks, which went some way to pacify those Mac users who had been expecting the launch of Apple's eagerly-awaited iMac-style consumer portable, the iBook. Given the high-profile launch of the iMac and its subsequent popularity, Jobs was never likely to use a techies get-together to unveil the iBook. Instead, he simply said the notebook would make its debut "later this year". The new PowerBooks will ship on 20 May in 333MHz and 400MHz versions. Both machines use the latest copper-based PowerPC 750 (aka G3) processors, which is one of the reasons Apple has been able to get the portables' average battery life up to a five hours -- "industry leading", according to Jobs. The machines are 20 per cent thinner than their predecessors and, at 5.9lbs, 2lbs lighter. They also sport new USB ports, but anyone expecting FireWire connectors will have to shell out a little extra for Apple's FireWire PC Card add-in. That said, the new machines remain Apple's only computers to still support SCSi. On the software side, Jobs' lieutenant, VP of software and DoJ trial witness Avie Tevanian, brought Apple's OS strategy up to date with the immediate release of MacOS 8.6 and preview of the next version, codenamed Sonata, and MacOS X Client. The appearance of MacOS 8.6 was expected, and the Sonata demo added little to what's not already known about the upcoming upgrade. This time, Jobs and co focused on version 2 of Apple's Sherlock search engine, particularly its ability to collate and then compare search data culled from a number of Web sites. Sonata will finally see the arrival of the ill-fated Copland OS project's customisable user interface themes, plus an update of the long-ignored System 7 Pro Keychain technology, which allows users to log on to multiple systems and servers using a single password. Sonata will also leverage MacOS X Server's multi-user technology to allow standalone machines to also support multiple system settings for multiple users. Tevanian's coverage of MacOS X Client proved to be essentially a consolidation and clarification of the numerous hints and snippets Apple has mentioned about the product since it embarked on its revised strategy for the next-generation OS, at last year's WWDC. What we now have is a client-oriented OS based on the same Mach microkernel and BSD Unix core as MacOS X Server. Tevanian said the Client version -- he confirmed its ship date has slipped from late 99 to early 2000 -- will contain the anticipated Blue Box MacOS 8.x compatibility module (already shipping with Server) under the new codename Classic, the NeXTStep/OpenStep-derived Yellow Box API (now bicarrely redubbed Cocoa) to allow apps to use the full range of the OS' 'modern' features -- memory protection, pre-emptive multitaking, etc. -- and Carbon, the so-called 'green box' (half blue, half yellow) that sits between the two and is essentially a sop to developers, allowing them to bring some Yellow Box features to existing applications without the need for a major rewrite. MacOS X will also contain Quartz, Apple's PostScript-based replacement for its QuickDraw 2D graphics engine. The NeXT OS was always based on Display PostScript, and Apple long ago said MacOS X would use it too, so yesterday's announcement was no great surprise. Incidentally, Jobs as near as damnit admitted that OpenGL has replaced QuickDraw 3D as the MacOS' 3D graphics API when he announced its immediate availability. When he announced Apple's decision to license OpenGL, he didn't touch on QuickDraw 3D's future, but if QuickDraw is out as far as MacOS X is concerned, so presumably is QuickDraw 3D. Tevanian said Quartz will be based on Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF), which is itself just PostScript with some of the high-end pre-press stuff taken out. However, it does add support for inline video, sound and hypertext links, which should bring a degree of Internet integration into the MacOS. Whether that will also include a Web browser, a la Microsoft, remains to be seen. MacOS 8.x uses HTML as its core document format for online help files and the like, so the move to Quartz may also see HTML dropped in favour of PDF. Quartz and Carbon will presumably make their way into the next major release of MacOS X Server, too, due in the same timeframe as the Client release. That will leave very little to distinguish between the two beyond their different roles, and the bundled software those different applications require. ®
The Register breaking news

Why AOL doesn't need Linux – that much

Opinion Before we get too excited about AOL's rumoured plans for Linux-based Web access devices (see Related Story), we should ask ourselves a few questions. Why would AOL want them, how would their existence further AOL's plans, and who's going to build them? The answers to these questions may involve Linux to some extent, but although you'll find plenty of people who'll say AOL putting out Linux boxes is a great idea, you have to bear in mind that the destruction of Microsoft's monopoly is not AOL's primary objective, no matter how much you might wish it was. Look at what AOL really wants instead. The company wants to stay the biggest, and is smart enough to be aware of several related trends. First of all we've got the (much postponed) rise of the appliance for Web access. AOL recognised this when it cheekily said "AOL Anywhere" a lot at the time of the Netscape deal. This doesn't mean PCs will cease exist or that PCs will suddenly stop being the primary mechanism for Internet access, but it does mean that the Web will be accessed by increasingly diverse devices which will ultimately outnumber the PCs. AOL knows this, and has relatively vague plans to be there when these devices start to sell (or get given away) in numbers. AOL's view of itself as turning into some kind of TV company (of the interactive persuasion, naturally) relates to this. Content and programming is one aspect of this, and set-top boxes another. That takes us a little closer to Linux, certainly. Then there's voice and video communications - AOL also, obviously, has to be there too, so it has to have a screenphone capability. But Linux of itself doesn't help AOL with much of this. In the PC space, even the low-cost PC space, AOL doesn't have to do anything serious at all. Whichever OS wins any platform war that hasn't even started yet, PCs and PC browsers will still be used to access AOL, so no problem there for AOL. If we think of the PC platform moving more into the home, at even lower cost, then there is a possible Linux angle, but that's a question for PC manufacturers, not for AOL. Some PC company might adopt Linux in order to cut hardware costs and cut the Microsoft share of the cost completely. That PC manufacturer also might reckon AOL endorsement of the boxes would be helpful, but AOL wouldn't put any serious money into a deal. (AOL doesn't, usually - it's that kind of company). In a similar vein, you might consider the possibility of such a PC being shrunk a little further to produce an Internet access box that was a little PC-like, and a little like a set-top box. These kinds of devices demand that AOL has a PC partner, but that's feasible - there are plenty of volume-hungry PC companies out there, and they're all worried about missing out on the Next Big Thing. Still, it doesn't automatically mean Linux - it might mean PC companies using Linux to gouge better deals out of Microsoft. And, as we said, AOL just wants the consumers, it doesn't care about the platform. You could however call that a transitional market that may exist on the road to real appliances - wireless devices, screenphones, AOL Anywhere kind of kit. Microsoft operating systems aren't appropriate for these but, wouldn't you know it, neither is Linux. You want a really cheap piece of hardware with a minimal operating system, minimalist browser and the ability to run programs remotely, and guess what - Linux might be slimmer than Windows, but it's still too fat for this area. Sure, you could slim it down to the extent where it could compete with CE, but guess what else - CE's too fat as well, and is only making headway with the aid of billions of Microsoft bucks (e.g. $5 billion to AT&T). So why bother competing with something that's not successful? Basically, although there are quite a few companies building slimmer, cheaper Linux clients, the OS wasn't designed for ultraslim devices, and given that there are plenty of operating systems that were, there's no real point in redesigning it for them - that's the kind of dumb thing Microsoft does. If the AOL Anywhere strategy goes anywhere, then it will do so via deals with big manufacturers of phones and pocket appliances, and those manufacturers will rightly reckon the likes of Palm and Symbian's EPOC are more appropriate. AOL might wind up doing something with Sun here, given that Sun was the major backer/bankroller of the Netscape deal, but that would depend on Sun actually wanting high volume, low margin device business - it might not. Or there's even Caldera's other OS, DR-DOS, which already is slim enough for set-top boxes and ultra low-cost PCs, some of which have even shipped. ®
The Register breaking news

Viglen scores through Misys deal

System builder Viglen Technology has won a £3 million contract to supply Misys Financial Systems with PCs. The London-based manufacturer will ship 10,000 specially configured computers to Misys customers over the next three years, according to an announcement this morning. Commenting on the company’s success, Viglen CEO Bordan Tkachuk said: "Other suppliers tend to ship commodity units, but our ability to configure our computers to customers’ requirements … is enabling us to beat the multinationals in the more specialist corporate sectors." Last September, Viglen announced plans to transform itself from being purely a PC builder into a value added reseller. This followed its warning that profits would remain linear in the foreseeable future, announcing pre-tax profits of £4.4m on sales of £94.6m. ®
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HP will do Merced

A senior executive at Hewlett Packard today denied that the company will move directly to McKinley, bypassing Merced. Hugh Jenkins, enterprise product marketing manager at Hewlett Packard UK, said: "We will do Merced. We would not have invested money in the Intel IA 64 fund otherwise." That news is likely to make Intel feel better. Although Compaq also put money into the new IA64 fund, sources close to the company suggested that its views on the future of the IA64 platform were not so clearcut. An insider said: "We still have not resolved the distinctions between the Compaq server division and the Alpha server division. What is more important to me is whether or not Compaq will continue investing in Alpha technology." Yesterday, Joe D'Elia, senior semiconductor analyst at Dataquest Europe, said HP has been entirely consistent about its IA64 strategy. The contradictions beg questions about whether the old (PA RISC) guard at HP are battling with the new (IA64) guard. D'Elia suggested that only happened at the bottom of the PA range of chips. So there is a schism, and it's still on, a little reminiscent of the early arguments in the Christian church between Greek Orthodox, Roman, and Coptic. ®
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Oracle to sell exclusively via Web

The only way to buy Oracle software in one year’s time will be via the Net, according to the database giant’s CEO Larry Ellison. Software will be sold solely through the company’s on-line sales tool Oracle Store, he told the iDevelop 99 conference yesterday. He went on to predict that the company’s current pilot project, Business Online, would one day be bigger than Oracle itself. Ellison said: "In one year, the only way you will be able to purchase our software is through the Oracle Store…We want to be a total e-business company." The move to the Internet will cut costs by $500 million for Oracle. But this would be through chopping paperwork, not sales people, according to today’s TechWeb online news service. "We will be able to have more people on the street," said Ellison. Mark Byatt, marketing director at Oracle’s largest UK reseller Morse, said the announcement was not a threat. Byatt was unaware of Ellison’s speech, but commented: "If all Oracle channel partners have to buy software from the Internet, it won’t change things significantly.” "With regard to our customers, they will still buy from us because they want the value add." Yesterday’s conference was also told that Business Online was so popular that it was "having to fight off big customers." Designed to host Oracle and ISV applications and aimed at small companies, Ellison said demand was growing from larger businesses. Oracle has said in the past it may spin Business Online off as a separate company. ®
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Mike Magee worked for Intel…

It's official. Mike Magee worked for Intel before he set up his own company. Magee left Intel two years ago to create his own startup in Oregon, specialising, strangely enough, in AMD upgrades. Now Magee is continuing his task with the introduction of a PCI upgrade called Accelera, and previously called Eclipse. Eclipse is eclipsed because there is another company in the US trading under a similar name. Two weeks ago, it emerged that Mike Magee was doing PR for AMD, after many senior journalists in the UK received a press release under Magee's name. It has to be pointed out that Mike Magee is CEO of Evergreen technologies, based in Oregon, while Mike Magee is an editor of The Register. As far as The Sherriff is aware, the two are unrelated... ®
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Moto to spin off semi unit

Sources close to US news wires said today that a consortium of senior managers at Motorola is attempting a management buyout (MBO) of its semiconductor component division. The MBO is worth $1.6 billion and if the group finds enough capital, it will be a sea change for the US firm. But now the group of execs is competing against another company, the Texas Pacific Group, for a similar amount of cash. Motorola said several months ago it was considering "spinning off" its semiconductor division. Motorola has no comment to make on the matter. ®
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AOL trumps MS with Cyrix-based satellite Web/TV system

Now what did we tell you? (Why AOL doesn't need Linux - that much) AOL is bidding big in the interactive TV department, but is doing so with Cyrix hardware and NCI reference design and software. NCI will be providing "the complete software platform" for the new AOL TV service. The new system will provide a route for AOL to expand out of the PC area and into the home. AOL TV will be a merger of interactive TV and Internet, with programming provided by DIRECTV. Hughes Network Systems will be providing dual purpose AOL TV and DIRECTV satellite receivers, while Philips (we told you there had to be a hardware sucker in there somewhere) will be building the machines themselves, using Cyrix (or should that now be NatSemi?) MediaGX processors. The system will use the dual pipe approach, satellite out and modem back to AOL, although they'll also be able to handle DSL back where it's available. NCI's software is essentially traditional low-resource set-top box type stuff with interactive and browsing capabilities. NCI will also supply the Connect Server to manage things at the AOL end. So suddenly AOL reaches for the stars, leapfrogging Microsoft. But don't you think those Dutch people are fickle? Wasn't it just the other week Philips was supposed to be involved in helping Microsoft populate mainland China with CE boxes? And now it's working with an outfit that cares so much about it that it can't even spell its name right in the press release. Just the one L, AOL. ®