20th > May > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Unnamed 550MHz chip is a K7

Last weekend we reported that an "unnamed processor" benchmarked against Pentium IIIs on the AnandTech web site was likely to be a K7. The link to the benchmark is in our original story. Now Anand himself has stepped into the fray and has claimed that the benchmarks do, indeed, relate to an engineering sample of the K7. He said that the benchmarks he posted would probably improve by around five per cent when he has the final version of the chip in his hands. In other news, it appears that AMD will introduce the K6-III/500 in the middle of June. ®
The Register breaking news

MSN scraps charges in free access u-turn

It appears that the penny has finally dropped at MSN after it announced today that it is to abolish subscription charges for its service in the UK. Finally acknowledging that the market has changed, a spokesman for MSN said the online service and Net access provider was "moving with the times". The decision comes five months after MSN's group marketing manager, Gillian Kent, told The Register that MSN UK "would retain its subscription service come what may." As part of the new service, MSN has joined forces with BT to create MSN FreeWeb. The service is due to go live on 8 June. "With 2.6 million unique visitors using our Internet services every month, customers were telling us that the final piece of the jigsaw was our Internet access business," said Judy Gibbons, director of MSN in the UK. "We have been assessing this and watching the dynamics of the market. And following customer research, we know that the major causes of confusion and complaint for free services are unreliability, hidden costs and losing your email address. "We have addressed each of these concerns and believe our new service is strong in all these areas," she said. It's encouraging to know that MSN's decision has been prompted by their "customer research" and not because membership is falling faster than a fast-falling thing. Nor is MSN UK running scared that it could go the same way as Canada, France and Germany where the great Satan of Net providers has already faced the chop. ®
The Register breaking news

IBM Micro to go Slot One in 1999

A year ago From The Register, 20 May 1998 IBM Microelectronics will produce a Slot One microprocessor in 1999, prompting speculation as to whether it is using an Intel licence, a licence from National Semiconductor-Cyrix, or has entered an unholy alliance with AMD. See the whole foil (70K) here. The company will introduce Slot One models in 1999 dubbed the PR333, the PR350 and the PR400. IBM Microelectronics gave no indication last Monday as to where the technology came from. Graham Jackson, technology marketing manager at Cyrix Europe, said that his company had the capability to make a Slot One processor but so far had not decided whether to do so or not. "Our agreement with IBM is a wafer agreement but we're competitors in the marketplace," he said. The agreement for IBM to fab its parts expires at the end of the year and that means National Semiconductor will fab its own Cyrix parts. An Intel representative said: "We have confirmed we have licensed a third party and that will make chipsets. In terms of the design of Slot One, we're not licensing the design to third parties. Although information about Slot One is publicly available, how it slots into Intel technology is proprietary." Joe D'Elia, senior analyst at Dataquest UK, said: "This doesn't surprise me. IBM now has to build for IDT, Cyrix and AMD. I can't see Cyrix will carry on using IBM Microelectronics to make its chips for much longer." No-one from IBM Microelectronics would comment but a representative from AMD said his company was "definitely not" producing a Slot One solution. ®
The Register breaking news

AOL chief bizarrely predicts MS trial memory lapse

MS on Trial AOL chairman Steve Case looks like rivaling Bill Gates in the stonewalling stakes when his deposition is taken by Microsoft lawyers tomorrow. Microsoft's defence reckons that AOL's takeover of Netscape is vital evidence (a lead lifebelt, we'd say), while Case yesterday maintained that he'd have nothing to contribute. Images of depositions gone by, with Bill Gates determinedly failing to understand the questions and suffering massive memory lapses, fly through the brain. Microsoft's concentration on the AOL-Netscape deal springs from a conviction that it shows Microsoft has real competition, and that things move so fast in the IT business that apparently strong positions can be reversed overnight. There will also be more than an element of 'everybody does it anyway' - cunning manoeuvring and sweethearts deal certainly did play a part in what was in effect a Sun-AOL-Netscape triple alliance. That's not the point, of course, as contrary to the beliefs of Microsoft's lawyers, two wrongs don't make an antitrust defence, but nevertheless they should be allowed their day in court. And here's a tip for them, if they're still wondering what line of enquiry to pursue with Case. Steve yesterday told reporters that his deposition wouldn't have anything of relevance in it because the trial is about operating systems, and as far as the Netscape deal was concerned: "Nothing there has anything to do with operating systems." Oh, Stevie! Taking this Gates-like faux-ignorance a step further he added: "We acquired Netscape because we thought it has a great brand. We thought it had a great portal with Netcenter. It had an important e-commerce business and a great team of people." Well now, we can see where he's coming from, but just maybe he got a few stations further down the track than he's letting on. AOL did indeed want Netcenter, and AOL does indeed value Netscape's e-commerce business. Especially considering the volume of Sun bucks for AOL that got tied into it as a key part of the deal. But when they signed the deal, didn't the AOL execs start going on about AOL Anywhere? We'll refresh Steve's memory - the delivery of this slogan is more than a little dependent on new platforms and, er, alternative operating systems. And then there's the small matter of NCI, aka Liberate. AOL is currently a shareholder in NCI, thanks to the stake it acquired when it acquired Netscape. Last week AOL announced a set-top box/satellite deal (Report) which involved NCI. And of course, alternative operating systems. Come on Steve, don't you remember? ®
The Register breaking news

Buy my digital nervous systems, Gates tells CEOs

Earlier this week Bill Gates' spin-doctors said the boss wouldn't be making a sales pitch at his CEO Summit. Yesterday Bill stood up and - made a sales pitch. In his opening speech, entitled "Knowledge workers without limits" he told a stack of the Fortune 1000 CEOs about some "practical steps" that they could take, and these naturally included the "to make a real investment in their digital nervous systems". And, despite Microsoft's trial email hell, he ramains irony-free. They should implement "email and electronic forms, as well as creating a single place to store and access corporate memory". No text of this speech was made available by his PR minders, but the carefully honed press release presented the pitch that Microsoft wanted to make to the world at large. There are several issues of interest to Microsoft watchers. Microsoft evidently realises that its best chance to maintain its hegemony is to argue for clerks ("knowledge workers") to be allowed to have PCs so they can play games and access the Internet for private purposes ("empowerment"), lest thin clients without Windows replace PCs. Microsoft wants CEOs to treat clerks in the same way as managers, with fat clients and plenty of Microsoft software for everybody. After all, Microsoft wouldn't like clerks to have thin clients, while fat-cat managers had PCs. So far as the CEOs were concerned, Gates demonstrated his naive view of what he thought CEOs actually did, and how a personalised portal ("digital dashboard") could help them. In practice of course, much CEO time is really spent in PR work for the company, being a fireman, and strategic development - and not operational matters like looking at "customer contact information". We were told by Microsoft PR that "attendees experienced a world where computers see, listen, and learn". Really. Those present were able to learn that Microsoft's "shared mission has been to create technology that removes barriers between information and people". The events in the Washington court room where Microsoft is accused of erecting barriers to competition were not mentioned at all. We were also informed by Microsoft PR that "Gates showcased [yet again] a new technology, called ClearType, which will make it possible for people to read information online as easily as they do on paper". Hang on a moment. Let's look at the facts about this "new technology". Expert opinion, for example from Auri Rahimzadeh of Envisioneering Inc, has it that this is nothing but a rehash of Steve Wozniak's 1970s patent for colour and resolution enhancement in the Apple II. For once, Microsoft did not have to steal the technology because it is so ancient that the patent has expired. There was also the work on resolution done for those expensive and slick, black Next machines, before Steve Jobs had to drop the hardware side. And Steve Gibson says on his web site that "Microsoft's ClearType application of subpixel rendering does not represent the dramatic breakthrough that they claim. It cannot be the valid subject for intellectual property acquisition." That's significant: no new patent, no new breakthrough. We wonder how many of those CEOs present expected to learn something from Microsoft, and how many were there primarily to have some private side meetings about the issues du jour. ®
The Register breaking news

Oracle NC outfit changes name, plans IPO

Isn't the Web wonderful? Go to NCI's Web site today, and you are automagically redirected from nc.com to liberate.com, because NCI has a new name, more backers, and an IPO on the boil. The IPO, provided it can hold onto existing customer commitments and maybe announce a couple more big deals like the AOL one, could be a runner. The old nc.com (Network Computer, oh dear) tag didn't turn out to set the world on fire, but NCI - sorry, Liberate - now has a decent, solid product line that stands a good chance of success in convergent TV/phone/data markets, and although the outfits committed to using its products are currently being besieged by Microsoft's cheque book, success does seem a reasonable possibility. Will the long-suffering original investors stick with it or cash-up? Aside from Netscape (now AOL-owned) and Oracle, Acer, Sega, Nintendo, Sony and NEC backed NCI, but if they were intending to build tens of millions of boxes, they haven't had a lot for their money so far. The new wave this year includes a number of cable and communications related outfits who're more of a fit for the markets Liberate is now challenging in. And then there's Sun, Marubeni and Hambrecht & Quist. So at least some people think the IPO is a goer. ®
The Register breaking news

Web-via-satellite deal exclusive for Microtronica

Microtronica has netted a deal to be the first distributor in Europe for BroadLogic. It will distribute BroadLogic's Satellite Express range of products in the UK. These are cards that enable Internet access to PCs via satellite. The cards, fitted to the motherboard, offer higher speed and more cost effective Web access, according to BroadLogic. Applications also include data delivery, fast video downloads and real time data streaming – used for getting information like stock quotes. Amaury Simon, Broadlogic European director of sales, said: "We feel that Microtronica is well positioned to help us to develop a very promising market in the UK, as the use of satellite technology for PC applications gains more acceptance." Jeff Smith, Microtronica industrial product manager, said there was a lot of potential for satellite links to PCs. "The main area of benefit is faster retrieval of information from the Internet," he said. "We see a number of opportunities where information updates can be simultaneously multicast to different parts of an organisation or sales network using this technology, for example for software updates or point-of-sale information." BroadLogic is headquartered in California. Its European base is in Paris. ®
The Register breaking news

SME resellers given credit boost by Samsung

Samsung will launch a credit scheme to finance SME targeted computer purchases from resellers. Called Samsung Refresh, the scheme is designed to make it easier to sell networking kit and services to small and medium sized businesses. It will let authorised resellers supply customers on credit. The programme will be underwritten by Samsung Networks, and will be available by late June. Customers will make monthly repayments that can also cover network installation, training and maintenance. Samsung said the scheme would give the channel a long-term revenue stream, as an upgrade plan would also be incorporated. Resellers will receive payment from Samsung as soon as a network is installed. Samsung itself will vet end-users and perform the credit checks. Nigel Russell, Samsung Networks MD, said: "Everybody thinks they have the answer to the SME market. But companies need to recognise it has different characteristics to other markets." "An IT network evolves over time. Individual components are likely to be added or changed as applications develop or technology advances. Not only does that make forward planning difficult, but budgets must constantly grow to keep pace. Samsung is working to eliminate that uncertainty for SME businesses." ®
The Register breaking news

Compaq filing shows firm on sticky wicket

Analysis The share price of Compaq closed at $26 on Wall Street last night, reflecting the concern of the markets about its overall position. The nature of the problems it faces in the future were outlined in some detail in the 10-Q form it filed with the US Securities and Equities Commission (SEC) earlier this week. One of the problems Compaq now faces is making its acquisition of Digital (and to a lesser extent Tandem), work properly. According to the filing, while Compaq believes Digital will improve its operating results, nevertheless it has had to recognise that combining product lines -- and sales teams -- is not easy. The filing says: "Compaq confronts challenges in synchronizing diverse product roadmaps and business processes and integrating logistics, marketing, product development, services and manufacturing operations to achieve efficiencies. Timing of these decisions is a critical element in Compaq's success. Taking the necessary steps may lead to gaps in short-term performance; delaying action will reduce Compaq's ability to compete effectively because resources and people will be too dispersed to achieve acceptable rates of return. Compaq's high-end business in particular has been affected by integration issues involving customer perception, overlapping product lines and the need to implement appropriate sales force training and incentive plans." All of this is significant. As we have reported here earlier, there are two separate sales teams with two separate product lines at the mid to high end attempting to sell two separate chip platforms to the same customer. This begs the question of how far Compaq will push its Alpha microprocessor technology, and how much it will invest in that platform in the future. And while many independent analysts believe that the Alpha microprocessor is a fine and advanced chip, the question still remains how far Compaq, on its own, can pursue this technology, faced with competition from Sun, HP and even its former close partner, Intel. The filing also warns that a search for a new CEO could cause uncertainty and difficulty in retaining staff. Here, in the UK, we have seen many of our long standing and good contacts at Compaq leave, to join other firms including former bitter rivals such as Dell and Hewlett Packard. On the PC end, Compaq has alienated many of its channel partners by taking a "me-too" approach, essentially attempting to clone Dell's successful direct model at the expense of distributors and in some cases corporate resellers. Nevertheless, Compaq is now a giant of a company, and although we may see its share price drop lower than yesterday's $26, this, to us shows that its stock is undervalued. None of the problems outlined in SEC filing are terminal, and the ability of Compaq to recover should not be underestimated. ®
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Hitachi unveils DRAM, Flash killer

Hitachi has developed a new type of memory chip that promises to offer the characteristics of both regular DRAM and Flash memory. Scientists as Hitachi's Cambridge Research Lab call the new memory Phase-State Low Electron Drive Memory (PLEDM). That mouthful essentially means the new chips use the state of electrons held in stacks of transistors to store data. Hitachi claims PLEDM allows bits to be written in ten nanoseconds, faster than DRAM. The company also believes the new device is far more scalable than current memory technology -- unlike DRAM, as the device's transistors get smaller, performance does not degrade. Of course, while Hitachi's team, aided by researchers from Cambridge University, have constructed a single PLEDM cell using a 0.2 micron process, they now have to extend that into a full memory chip. The company believes PLEDM technology will be ready to go into production after DRAM technology has reached the 1Gb level. The company also claims the structure of the PLDEM cell could be easily modified to allow non-volatile chips to be produced. Theoretically, that would allow Flash-type devices to be made as cheaply as ordinary RAM. ®
The Register breaking news

Rock to quit Intel board…

Five weeks ago From The Register, 11 April 1999, just to show that we can trash news.com and Techweb, which only reported this information last night... Arthur Rock (72), a board director for Intel since 1968, will stand down from the Corporation on May 19th, when there’s an annual general meeting of the chip giant. He will become an advisor to the board instead. Those standing for re-election will include Craig Barrett (59), appointed CEO last year; John Browne (51), a director since 1997 and group chief executive of BP Amoco, a director of KlineBeecham and a trustee of the British Museum and the Prince of Wales Trust; Winston Chen (57), a director since 1993; Andy Grove (62), a director since 1974 and chairman of the board; James Guzy (63), a director since 1969 and also a director of Cirrus Logic; Gordon Moore (70), a director since 1968; David Pottruck (50), a director since 1998 and co-CEO of Charles Schwab Corporation; Jane Shaw (60), a director since 1993 and CEO of AeroGen Inc; Les Vadasz (62), a director since 1988; David Yoffie (44), a director since 1989; and Charles Young (67), a director since 1974. Rock, who was a NY investment banker, helped Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore to find the funds to set up Intel after the breakup of Fairchild in the 60s. Rather disappointingly, that makes the combined ages of the Intel board 645 years, according to our count. Now if only one of them was 21 years older... ®
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Amazon.com files $2 billion cash boost

Amazon.com is seeking to raise $2 billion through the sale of debt and securities, according to a statement filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The self-styled world's largest bookshop didn't specify what it will use the money for -- "general corporate purposes", was all it said -- but when you're continually spending money to fund growth and new services, while failing to generate enough revenue to cover it, $2 billion is bound to come in handy. Amazon's plan is to register securities at some point in the not-too-distant future, and sell them over time as needed. It's essentially a way of borrowing money cheaply on the promise of eventually making enough money to pay it back. The company continues to lose money and recently warned that it would not only continue to post quarterly losses but that they were likely to increase. That said, Amazon's revenue is growing, and the ongoing strength of its stock suggests investors are willing to cut it some slack for some time to come. ®
The Register breaking news

Burger King chips in with Net access

Great Satan of Grilled Meat Products, Burger King, is to branch out into the cybercafe business -- in one branch. The company yesterday said a new outlet, opening in Hartford, Connecticut, would provide 20 PCs for punters to surf the Web while sampling their Whoppers. Certain meals will come with certain amounts of online time, said the company. For instance, a Combo Meal will bundle 15 minutes of surfing -- over three times as long as it takes to eat the thing, but more than enough time to cover the keyboard in ketchup, grease and dead fries. As a wholesome, family-oriented company, BK said its machines will filter out adult material, and users will not be allowed to send or receive email. So clearly the company's 'anyway you want it' slogan won't apply to this side of its business. Like its burgers, BK's machines will contain no spam. And, if the quality of staff at London BK outlets is anything to go by, tech support won't be on the menu either. A BK spokesman said the company has no plans to provide Net access through its other branches, but it would evaluate the success of the Hartford trial. ®
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Hyundai-LG Semi – the deal is on

The protracted discussions between Hyundai and LG Semi have reached a conclusion, forming a new world giant in memory manufacture. The deal was concluded in Korea today, with Hyundai paying $2.1 billion for 59 per cent of LG Semicon. And the president of Hyundai, at the signing ceremony in Seoul, said that there will now be an immediate restructuring of the existing business. That could mean a resolution to the long standing question of what the new chip goliath will do with moth balled fabs in Wales and Scotland. LG Semicon had initially fought the merger, which came about as a result of pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the South Korean government. But a third party consultancy, Arthur D. Little, finally brokered an agreement, with LG effectively being forced to bite the bitter bullet earlier this year. ®
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US Senate moves to ban bomb info on Web

The US Senate is the middle of political minefield that could blow the First Amendment wide apart if it succeeds in banning the publication of bomb making information on the Net. Two senators from either side of the political divide joined forces yesterday to add an amendment to the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act. The amendment was voted in with a majority of 85 to 13. If made law the bill would force Net companies to provide users with software to filter out bomb-making material and bring the sale of explosives and guns in line with existing laws. According a report by CNET, the bill would outlaw the publication of material if there was an "intent" to use the information to commit a federal crime. While the new law would apply to any form of publication, most people agree that it is the threat posed by the Net that politicians fear most. Much has been made of the killings at Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado following witness reports that the perpetrators used the Web to research and plan the slaughter. Public opinion appears to favour some form of regulation, a move that has been backed by politicians including those at the very summit of government. Vice President Al Gore recently called upon industry leaders to support his "One Click Away" programme that would provide a safer environment for children online. But advocates of free speech have condemned the moves for tighter regulation and in particular have warned that yesterday's amendment may well be illegal. "There are serious constitutional questions about regulating information about making bombs," said Lance Rose, author of NetLaw. "If this law is passed and it survives any constitutional challenges, there will be a fundamental proposition that you can regulate bomb information at least sometimes," he told CNET. Victims of bombings yesterday called upon leading Internet companies to purge the Net of all references to bomb making on the Net. ®
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Deep Blue MD on trial

The former managing director of the now defunct Deep Blue Technologies, James Willard, is to appear in court next month. The case -- Regina v James Willard & Others –- is scheduled to be heard at Bristol crown court, starting Monday 7 June. It is believed the trial could last for up to three months. ®
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Database set up to take kids to school

A national software database will be set up to tackle traffic jams on the school run, the government said yesterday. Schools minister Charles Clarke announced the £200,000 scheme to trim the number of kids ferried to school by private car every day. This will effect over one million children in Britain, and 20 per cent of rush-hour traffic. Parents' postcodes will be used to compile a car-pool database, Clarke said at yesterday's New Deal for Transport Conference. The government will also develop safer routes to school and set up the School Travel Advisory Group (STAG) to promote initiatives such as cycle and pedestrian paths. Children could even be escorted to school holding hands in crocodile formation. London-based companies Sustrans and Young Transnet are developing the software. He told the conference that there were safer, healthier and cheaper ways of getting to school than by car. "Many parents rely on the school run because they are worried that too often the right alternatives are not there," said Clarke. "Parents, schools, the education service and transport operators need to work together to develop safer routes to school." ®
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Linuxcare opens Linux compatibility lab

Linux tech support provider Linuxcare has become the second vendor to offer a vendor-neutral certification programme for hardware and software designed to work with the open source OS.
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Bomb victims lobby ISPs

The victims of bombings made a passionate plea to Net companies yesterday to rid the Web of any information that would help anyone make a bomb. The appearance of David Kaczynski, the brother of convicted Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Marsha knight, whose daughter died in the Oklahoma City explosion, and Unabomber bomb-blast victim Gary Wright coincided with yesterday's debate on the publication of bomb making material in the Senate. The bomb victims called upon AOL, Microsoft, Disney and Yahoo! to make every effort to purge the Web of anything that could help someone build a bomb. Under the voluntary code, they also want search engines to remove links to explosives sites, according to a Reuters report. But while the Net companies were sympathetic to the victims’ wishes and regularly take steps to remove any bomb-making content, some industry figures concede it would be a near impossible task to rid the Net of all this material. A spokeswoman for Disney's Go Network told said it already used automated filters to remove unsuitable material. "It's not 100 per cent foolproof at this point," she told Reuters. "There's an awful lot of sites out there. "The Net is still a relatively new medium. There's still a little bit of the wild, wild Web aspect of it," she said. ®
The Register breaking news

Russian Merced Killer to achieve 600MHz

Elbrus, the Russian microprocessor company which secured funding from the Moscow government and others, is likely to produce its 64-bit running at 600MHz early next year. The processors will be produced at a small fabrication plant which will use .35 micron process technology on Applied Materials kit, as reported here earlier. The company is run by Professor Boris Babaian, and the team includes designers which claim the first breakthrough on VLIW (very long instruction words) years before HP took up the idea. ® See also Russian chip makers get to .35 micron Moscow government to support Merced killer Russian chip scientist Babaian outlines Elbrus future Ex-soviets seek $$$ for Merced killer -- Transmeta involved? Andrei Fatkullin is a journalist on Russian title Computerra Weekly
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Linux helping WordPerfect gain against MS Office?

It is now clear that WordPerfect is making progress against Microsoft Word in North America, although there's been a little spat over US over government sales. Corel claims 22 million seats at the end of 1998, quoting PC Data, with 40 per cent of the federal government and 53 per cent of state and local government using WP. Not so, says Microsoft, although it hasn't produced any independent data to support its claim. Channel sales data support Corel's claims, with a recent report showing the Canadian company achieving a 60 percent gain in the federal market in the last six months, helped no doubt by the doubling of its Washington sales force. WP does well in this market because its prices and licensing terms are considerably better than Microsoft's. But away from WP's niches (which includes lawyers - and even Microsoft's outside lawyers for the trial), the product has been seeing gains of 50 per cent in the general business market. There are additional positive factors working in Corel's favour. One, which has probably not yet registered very significantly although it could account for some of the business market upswing, is the free WP for Linux, only slightly cut down from the full version, and which has just passed the million downloads mark, despite it being 23.6MB. Some 70,000 downloads a week are being seen. With the WordPerfect Office 2000 suite now being distributed, it will be most interesting to compare it objectively with Microsoft's Office 2000, since for the first time the production cycles are in synchronisation, allowing a meaningful comparison. Working against Microsoft is the inexorable fall in PC prices. OEMs are just not bundling MS Office, in order to remain price competitive, while Corel CEO Michael Cowpland has had some success in persuading OEMs making low-cost PCs to bundle WP. Corel's amnesty campaign, whereby WP versions 5 to 7 can be legally licensed for $30, no questions asked, is paying off - especially as there was an executive order in October that required all US government software to be licensed. It had been known for some time that one of the most blatant pirates was the US government. Although the campaign ends at the end of May, it looks as though a single extension would make sense. Perhaps the greatest problem for Corel is that people tend to stick with the first word processor that they use, for as long as possible, and are reluctant to change because of the learning curve. That's where Corel really stands to gain from its WP for Linux give-away: by making WP the first word processor that many users encounter (and it's included in some Linux distributions, for example Caldera's), this barrier will be breached for a new generation. Lotus SmartSuite is still there, but it has declined significantly. When we spoke to Michael Cowpland in Amsterdam last month (Cowpland interview), he was optimistic about the future for the WordPerfect suite. It's the last chance for WordPerfect, but the best news for users could be that the odds are that there will remain competitive products in the most important market after operating systems. ®
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AOL planning satellite-DSL broadband combo?

AOL yesterday fleshed-out its next generation network plans by promising high speed DSL access across the United States. The company, which was briefing analysts, didn't specify either when this would happen or when broadband access outside of the US would be offered, but the scheme seems a plausible fit for the company's satellite-based AOL TV system. DSL is rolling out slowly in the US, and rather more slowly elsewhere. To some extent it's a rival to cable modem, but as a telecoms technology it has obvious attractions to AOL - service will be more a matter of user choice, whereas with cable modem you'll usually wind up with whatever service the cable company offers you. If you have a cable company. And while cable modem speeds are theoretically high, they're only as good as the provider is prepared to pay for. In a recent test run by Keynote Systems, a DSL connection beat cable during peak time use, i.e. in what you might call a real life scenario. Combined with satellite, however, DSL could be a winner for AOL. Initially AOL's 'satellite' service won't actually use satellite for data at all. Users will get combination satellite TV receiver and an Internet access system that uses plain old dial-up both for send and receive. But it seems that the systems AOL is using are already data-capable. Hughes, according to one tester who's been in touch with us, is working on ways to allow data grade signals to be picked up via DirecTV dish receivers. The Hughes satellites operate for both DirecTV and DirecPC, but the 'DirecTV' system can in fact broadcast data. According to our tester other satellite systems use the same technology as DirecTV, and it would therefore be a simple matter for them to 'switch on' data coverage, the obvious problem for them of course being the return pipe. Satellite at the moment is a highly efficient 'star' network topology that can send data down at high speeds, and that isn't vulnerable to the peak-time bottlenecking cable will experience, but you need a way to get data back from the user to the network. Which is where AOL, and maybe DSL, come in. AOL already has the dial-up network, and by introducing DSL or other high speed technologies (our tester suggests wireless, and why not?) in conjunction with satellite it would have an instant, high-reliability data out system running with a fairly high speed return pipe. And the network could have a global footprint almost immediately. AOL has dial-up practically everywhere, and Hughes' DirecPC is widely, if somewhat thinly, available. It's sold in Europe via a joint venture with Olivetti, for example, and it's also available in Japan. ®
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Japanese-English Web translator comes on stream

After The Register said that it urgently needed Babelfish to translate hot chip stories breaking on Japanese Web sites, we were pointed to a site which has a fair crack at the problem. Jim Breen's WWWJDIC server, allows Japanese text to be typed or pasted into a box. The software then goes away for a little think and comes back with a translation. So many thanks to our reader for pointing out this useful utility which will give us the answers we need from Happy Cat and the other Japanese sites we frequent. ®
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European Web market stunted by metered calls

The number of European households in Cyberspace will triple over the next four years to 47 million, but time spent online will stay low. This is because local phone costs are charged by the minute in Europe, according to a study by Jupiter Communications. In the US, users pay a monthly fee for access and no call charges. Although free Internet access has already boosted the number of Europeans logging on, companies will need to motivate consumers to spend time online, said Jupiter. "Telephone usage is metered and that alone will continue to hold back the growth of online advertising, content and commerce ventures in Europe by inhibiting Internet usage," said Phil Dwyer, MD of Jupiter Communications European operations. The European market is not just one or two years behind the US, as is commonly believed, warned Dwyer. "Structural differences exist between the two markets." By 2003, there will be 47 online households in Europe, or 31 per cent penetration. This compares to 14 million at the end of 1998, or nine per cent penetration. Jupiter advised European Internet businesses to take on "free-to-air" business models with advertising, business and content partners. This would bolster Internet usage and gain the companies market share. ®
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BT makes £136 profit per second

Internet users helped British Telecom make £136 ($220) profit a second after it reported that its profit had jumped 36 per cent from £3.15 billion to a whopping £4.3 billion. But despite having money coming out of its ears, BT said that it won't cut the cost of Net access in the UK. A spokesman for BT said: "Our pricing structure is very competitive especially if you combine that with our other discount schemes. "We're also using the money to invest in new technology that will ultimately benefit all our customers," he said, while he was no doubt thinking what to do with the £533 bonus every BT employee is getting as a result of the company's latest performance. According to BT's own figures, the number of local calls made during the last year has doubled and that increase is down to Net use. And according to a report in Daily Mail, broker SG Securities reckons that figure could double again to 40 per cent as more and more people hook up to the Net. A spokesman for the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) --which is lobbying for fairer telecomms charges -- would not be drawn on the subject of BT's profit. Instead he said that he hoped the growth in telecomms usage would allow BT to introduce different pricing structures including unmetered tariffs. ®
The Register breaking news

The Register storms into Web Top 20

It's official -- The Register is one of the most popular Web sites in the UK. According to extensive research by 100hot.com, The Register comes in at number 13 in the hit parade, way above the likes of MSN UK (17), The Times (24), Amazon.co.uk (33) and the London Evening Standard’s Web site ThisIsLondon (46). And before you say it, 13 not unlucky for us -- but obviously it is for the likes of ZDNet UK which could only manage a pitiful 56. The rest -- including Silicon.com, VNU Newswire and all the other pretenders -- don't even register. Register, geddit? In a shameless piece of crowing, that was all the more remarkable since he was blowing his own trumpet at the same time, a representative of Vulture HQ said: "Unaccustomed as we are to gloating…" ®
The Register breaking news

PR bunnies take it out on their own

My mother said I never should play with the vultures in the wood.... A little bird has told The Register how a very pleasant PR bunny (who spent the day with us to see what it's really like working in the real world) has been branded a traitor by the other rabbits in her warren. That can't be right, can it? Anybody would think they'd lost their marbles or something to react like that. ®