21st > May > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Big Blue courts SMEs with Web StarterPacks

IBM has launched a scheme designed to make it easier for small businesses to buy and use Web technology. IBM is offering a range of StarterPacks to get companies on the Web from a cost of around £80. It is mainly targeting these hardware and software bundles at businesses with less than 50 staff. The scheme, launched in the UK this week, is a mixture of several previous IBM small business campaigns. There are four StarterPacks on offer. Start Selling on the Web, Put Your Business on the Web, E-mail & Teamwork on the Web, and Grow your Business on the Web. These range from a £15 per month package to create a transaction-ready Web site, to a full e-commerce package, including an IBM Netfinity server, for £5227. The US vendor is also offering the packs on a credit basis, allowing businesses to delay payments until the year 2000. ®
Linda Harrison, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Centaur-IDT outlines chip plans

A year ago From The Register, 20 May 1998 (last year) IDT has outlined its product roadmap for its WinChip range of microprocessors, aimed at capturing the entry level x.86 compatible market. Glenn Henry, senior VP of IDT and its design subsidiary Centaur, showed versions of the chips at the PC Tech Forum in the US, which incorporate AMD's 3DNow! technology. Earlier this year, Cyrix, AMD and IDT said they would cooperate on their own answer to Intel's MMX 3D strategy. Henry said that IDT had started sampling its WinChip 2 and WinChip 2-3D for both the desktop and notebook markets. The socket seven based chips will start at speeds of 266MHz but will move to 300MHz later this year. According to IDT, the WinChip2 family will now support Super7 motherboards, AMD's proposed design which has support from a number of independent chipset vendors. The Super7 boards come with support for 100MHz buses and AGP support, as well as a pipelined floating point unit, offering faster games performance. Henry said that future IDT chips will have larger first level caches and reach speeds of up to 600MHz. Its WinChip 3 will use super pipelining technology to reach those speeds. The processors are fairly and squarely aimed at the entry level market. According to IDT, the WinChip 2 and WinChip 2-3D will be available in volume later this year. Like its partners AMD and Cyrix, IDT has signed a foundry agreement with IBM Microelectronics to produce the CPUs in volume. IDT already produces a WinChip product and has plans to grow its distribution channel which in Europe at least is still in its early stages. ®
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Rhode Island Reds caught in Compaq Wildfire

Insiders at The Great Stan of Alphabetas are once more tipping us off about the Big Q's product plans. According to our extremely reliable source, a set of wizards at CompaQ will announce that the AlphaServer GS140 coming with 21264 chips and Tru64 Unix 4.0F will support static hardware partitions. The news has implications for Linux systems too. Version 4.0F of True64 will provide up to three static partitions, we can confirm, each of which will be allocated its own dedicated hardware resources. That includes CPU module, memory module and IO system. And each will be visible by both OS and applications as a single AlphaServer GS140 system. It's called shared_nothing. CompaQ will offer an upgrade to owners of AlphaServer 8400 systems. We believe it's called slicing and dicing. CompaQ UK/US was unavailable for comment at press time. Expect a similar bit of wizardry from those Samsung boys with their version of the letter Q, sorry A, real soon now. ®
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel made big, big mistake

Our scoop about Intel sueing our friends at ViA has been enhanced by a report on our favourite US site, Techweb, now owned by UK peer Lord Hollick of Hollick. (Story: Intel sues Via -- by mistake) According to Jack Robertson, a nice hack we met at a Big Blue conference in London a few years back, the lawsuit was not the mistake it seemed. He has seen the papers Intel filed and it looks like the chip giant is gunning for the rather successful Taiwanese chip vendor. Intel wouldn't talk to us about the mistake, but our little friends at ViA tipped us off first that it was "a mistake". Actually, we're a little surprised ViA doesn't sue Intel for the mistake, because it must have caused some fluttering of hearts out there in chipsetland. But maybe they're generous souls like us. We didn't sue AMD even though we could've have... ® RegisterFact Intel is actually not very good at taking people to court, despite the fact that it has an absolutely enormous legal department. A few years ago, we upset the lumbering dinosaur by publishing Klamath details from a roadmap we'd seen. Intel promised to sue us. But first, it got our fax number wrong and then it got its European lawyer on the case. The EuroLawyer had no chance against the British lawyer defending us. She rang rings round him. Intel also failed to sue Cyrix over patents. In fact, it only ever seems to have been successful against its little brother, AMD. ®
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

How Softbank made its billions

Softbank, founded and run by Masayoshi Son -- the would-be Bill Gates of Japan -- has reported a consolidated net profit of $302 million for its fiscal year ending March, up from $78 million last year, but posted consolidated pre-tax losses of $124 million this year compared with $184 million profits a year earlier. Unconsolidated sales were flat at $1.64 billion. The bleeders of profits were the loss and restructuring cost at Ziff-Davis, interest payments, and new Internet investments. The saving grace is Softbank's investments in Yahoo (28 per cent, worth $8.76 billion), Yahoo Japan (51 per cent, worth $2.08 billion), E*Trade (28 percent, worth $3.75 billion), ZD (72 per cent, worth $1.01 billion), Geocities (22 per cent, worth $750 million) and some more, worth a total of around $16 billion - an eight-fold increase on the original investment. This buffer is necessary, as Softbank has some significant payments to make to Nomura to redeem maturing corporate bonds. In February, Softbank warned of a forthcoming loss, and sold 3 million Yahoo shares to offset the anticipated losses in ZD, which were $125 million, compared with a profit of $194 million the previous year. As a result of Internet euphoria, Softbank's share price has doubled this year. It is interesting that Son decided to invest in Yahoo on the advice of ZD CEO Eric Hippeau, and not from any personal research: he admitted to Hippeau that he did not have time for this. Son even had a hard time convincing Yahoo to take his original $100 million (since increased to $338 million), since there was fear that the company would be transformed as a result. Softbank is in the process of converting itself into an Internet conglomerate ("zaibatsu") by October, with wholly-owned subsidiaries controlled through shareholdings, after it separates its software and networking divisions. It is expected that Internet business and holdings will outperform the PC sector business. It has been hard to finger just what value Softbank adds to its acquisitions, apart from significant cross-advertising. It is perhaps best to see the organisation as a venture capitalist that has made some rather fortunate investments, a view that is not accepted by Yoshitaka Kitao, the CFO. The next move will be five IPOs: three in the US and two in Japan, which may increase its esteem amongst shareholders. Son is seen as something of a business renegade, which is less surprising than might be expected, since he is of Korean descent and does not accept the traditional ways of Japan. With the Japanese government dictating fiscal policy to the major Japanese banks, Son was cold-shouldered when he bought Comdex without consulting the Industrial Bank of Japan. The bank demanded that Son did so in future, but he refused to agree, so the IBJ stopped the company's credit line. There then came a most delicate negotiation. Son asked Nomura Securities to do a bond issue, but Nomura wanted the nod from the Ministry of Finance, who refused unless the IBJ was involved. Tricky. But then there was a stroke of luck. Son had a call from a ministry official seeking an assurance that he would not sue for abuse of power. Aha, thought Son: they're worried, so he replied that he would indeed sue. By strange coincidence, the next day Nomura was told it could go ahead with the bond issue. The miffed IBJ immediately sold all its Softbank shares, and other investors followed suit when the story hit the headlines. Son was then blackballed by Japanese business leaders for daring to fight the IBJ, but his response was that the bank "goes against business morals". But as in all countries, money talks and Son is beginning to be seen as having started a new style that could provide a model for changing Japan's old-fashioned business practices. (All conversion are at 124 yen = $1.) ®
Graham Lea, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

‘Hit team’ drives MS plan to bludgeon Linux with benchmarks

Today's Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft has deployed a 'hit team' to deal with the threat from Linux. This isn't entirely surprising - in reality, you could see the hit team forming when the Halloween memos leaked, but it is surprising that the team's command structure is so simple to identify from what Microsoft tells the WSJ. We probably haven't got evidence of the fabled kinder, gentler Microsoft here - it's probably just a case of the company having figured out that it'll be caught if it doesn't confess anyway. The WSJ fingers Windows 2000 director of marketing Jim Ewel as running the team, which is somewhere under ten strong (we'll get back to that). But it seems pretty clear that reporting is direct to Jim Allchin, Grand Dragonlord of the OS and the man who's getting Win2k to market. Allchin is quoted as saying of Linux: "I have now upped the focus on it. I've got the performance team prepared to benchmark it every which way." That seems to confirm several things. The hit team will be operating under Allchin, and the Microsoft effort against Linux is in reality somewhat larger than around ten people, because we've got the performance team on it as well, haven't we? And the "benchmark it every which way" leaves us a very clear Allchin fingerprint. The Halloween memos roughed-up some initial counter-attack strategies Microsoft could use, and a few of these showed up in the Mindcraft test, in the shape of grouses about moving targets, for example. Another Halloween suggestion, a disruptive Microsoft move towards open source, has been noisily touted by Steve Ballmer for some months now (so he's on the team too), but it's obvious Allchin will have set up the first Mindcraft tests as a part of the counter-attack. The Mindcraft-Microsoft challenge to a second, allegedly more Linux-friendly, round of tests is of course the next phase of "benchmark every which way," and as the challenge contained a good deal of marketing spin combined with classic marketing comparison checkboxes, it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that a certain Win2k director of marketing is likely to have been involved, and that the efforts actually started last summer, at the latest. And here's what appears to be an intriguing piece of marketing spin that seems to have crept into the WSJ piece. We all know the story of the original Mindcraft test, and we know about the complaints from Linus and others about their integrity. And we know about the challenge, issued just last week, where Microsoft and Mindcraft said they'd agreed to all the demands of the Linux folks, and were prepared to re-run the tests. We quote from today's WSJ: "Mindcraft reran the tests, this time with input from Mr. Torvalds and others. Linux did better the second time, but even Linux boosters admit that their operating system can't keep up with NT on bigger systems." So when did Mindcraft rerun this test then? And where does that leave the rerun it's proposing to do, if Linus et al agree? Well, presumably before Microsoft decided to issue the challenge, Mindcraft and/or Microsoft will have had another go at the tests to figure out NT's chances in a public battle. Odd that it should leak out like this, though. ® Related Stories: MS declares war on Linux MS marketing spins on Linux Can Linux avoid MS NT trap? Tests show flaws in MS Linux study MS memo outlines anti-Linux strategy Second MS leak boosts Linux
John Lettice, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Asus confirms flood of fake mobos

Asus has now confirmed the existence of fake motherboards in Europe, as reported here some while back. See our story: Fake Asus mobos circulate in Europe. An official document on how to spot the difference between a real and a fake board is here. The PDF is over 400K's worth. Asus also hit out at what it describes as "free riders" and describes its own achievements as "glorious".
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Is AOL running scared of the free access model?

Analysis The top man of AOL in the UK has published an open letter calling for wholesale changes to telecomms pricing policy criticising the emergence of subscription free services such as LineOne and FreeServe. Dave Phillips, president and MD of AOL/Compuserve UK, said: "'Free' Internet access services... are fuelled by regulatory kickbacks from high priced, per minute phone charges. "Despite all the hype, the free access business model is not the solution; it is a symptom of the problem of high phone rates, which if left uncorrected, will continue to slow adoption of the Internet and e-commerce in Europe." Phillips is not alone in thinking this. Yesterday, Jupiter Communications published research showing how the current high cost of telecomms charges is stunting Europe's development as a Global Village God in the wired world. Writing for ZDNet UK -- which was ranked as the 56th best site in the UK compared to The Register's, stonking number 13 -- Phillips boasted how no other company had done as much to bring people online as AOL and its dwarfish sidekick, CompuServe. "That's because we offer not just access to the Internet, but because we package the best features of interactive services into an easy-to-use, integrated online environment designed for ordinary consumers and families," he wrote. Fine. If Phillips is so sure that AOL's subscription-based service is the right way to go, why has AOL UK just reduced its monthly fees by more than 30 per cent? Why, if Phillips is confident AOL's approach is right and every one else is wrong, is AOL researching different ways of funding its service? AOL's subscription-base service will not flourish in Europe as it has in the US. The markets are different and it's arrogant to think otherwise. AOL believes it can change telecomms pricing policy in Europe in line with the US just to suit its own business model -- a model that that has done fantastically well in the US. While many people wish it well in its quest, it really is laughable. In effect, it's asking telecomms companies to waive some of their profits just so AOL can continue doing its own thing, the same old way it's been doing it back home. Wake up and smell the coffee, AOL. BT may be making £136 profit a second but it's not likely to cut call charges just so AOL UK can stay in business. Truth is, AOL in the UK is running scared. It's under pressure from other Net companies who are adapting to the ever-changing wired world, companies that aren't afraid to move with the times and try out new things. Phillips wrote: "AOL is working to 'turn off the clock' for online consumers. "We're speaking to governments and regulators across the EU, and we're working on a commercial solution as well. We aim to provide European consumers with the same access to cheap, flat-rate local calls as enjoyed in the US and won’t quit until the Internet becomes the most important and useful medium across Europe -- for everyone -- not just an online elite." ®
Tim Richardson, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

MS Newsedge deal to push Exchange-based news service

Corporate news aggregation specialist NewsEdge has done a deal with Microsoft to deliver its service via Exchange Server and Microsoft Outlook. The arrangement adds some weight to Microsoft's efforts to get Exchange accepted in major corporations by associating it with the delivery of what appears to be one of the industry's largest content piles. And there's a certain amount of coincidence in how news of the deal got out. NewsEdge aggregates and sifts news content from large numbers of sources globally, and then pushes it out as email and via the Web to its customers. These it claims include 78 of Business Week's largest global companies. So Bill Gates showed it to the heads of quite a few of those companies at his CEO Summit, which we must remind you was not a sales pitch, oh no. As far as we can gather, NewsEdge's special talent is sorting out news content so it's sufficiently tailored to individual customer's needs to induce them to part with hard cash. As we're not about to do that, we've absolutely no idea how good it is at this. But from its Q1 its numbers don't seem too terrific right now. It also has a relationship with Netscape Netcenter, which it expanded in January, so this may now be in peril, as it buddies-up to Microsoft. Content will however be an important part of Microsoft's plans to get Exchange, Outlook (and shrunken versions of the same) into next generation mobile services, so don't be at all surprised if Newsedge pops up in the grand Microsoft wireless vision Real Soon Now. ®
John Lettice, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

More cash needed to fight kiddie Web porn war

The FBI needs more cash to fight the growing menace posed by paedophiles on the Internet. With 35 agents already working around the clock to investigate the sick perpetrators of online kiddie porn, the FBI is doing all it can to combat the problem. But according to Republican Bob Franks, it's not enough. And the representative from New Jersey is not just worried about the explicit material available on the Internet. Instead, he is more concerned about paedophiles who use the Net to meet children and have sex with them. He told Newsbytes that he is thinking of pushing for more funding to help the FBI combat the problem after attending a briefing on the subject yesterday. Franks also called for stricter sentencing for convicted paedophiles. Earlier this week Japan's parliament voted to outlaw kiddie porn. And a children's author and former TV director for the BBC was convicted of peddling kiddie porn on the Internet. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Kryotech kreates kool kit

Our friends over at Kryotech are set to release a family of vapour phase refrigeration products for ATX cases. The Renegade family will cool your central processing unit (CPU), that is your microprocessor, to room temperature. Hopefully, your room is not too hot. The Renegade family supports Socket Seven, Slot One, and Socket 370, with prices around $350. If you want speed, check it out. ®
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Gateway CEO hints at future Amiga role

Gateway CEO Ted Waitt yesterday outlined the direct vendor's increasing focus on the Internet. And, reading between the lines a little, it looks like he's finally figured out what to do with Amiga. Gateway's problem is, as Waitt put it at the company's AGM yesterday, that "the days of everyone buying a $2500 PC are over". In other words, as PCs get cheaper, margins get eroded and Gateway doesn't make as much money as it used to. Waitt's solution is to focus on higher margin service business. That, plus software, accounts for eight per cent of the company's revenues -- Waitt said he wants to raise that figure to 20 per cent. Training and purchase financing are the two key services the company has its eye on expanding. Both are particularly suited to the small business sector, which is the Gateway's fastest-growing customer segment, said Waitt. And, following Compaq's lead last year with the acquisition of Alta Vista and Shopping.com, Waitt said Gateway will look to buy Internet companies to expand its business base. Yet cheap hardware is still part of the programme. Gateway president and COO Jeff Weitzen said the company's mainstay will continue to be home computers. And Waitt said later: "We feel the technology now allows for us to develop very low cost products and we are going to definitely play in that market... Right now we'll be at $499 or $599 or $399 -- we're still working that out." Start pushing much beyond that point and you move into the kind of low-cost system Amiga appears to be developing. In addition to maintaining OS development for existing Amiga machines, the company is, by all accounts, working on slimline home machines not dissimilar to the kind of thing Nintendo and Sony are developing, and Sega releasing -- games machines that also provide more general purpose functionality such as Net access, home networking and digital camera connectivity. Machines like these are essentially an evolution of the games console into something resembling the home computers of the early 80s, stuff like the Sinclair Spectrum, Tandy Color Computer, the Commodore Vic-20 and, ironically, the original Amigas. If Gateway is thinking in these terms, then Amiga boss Jim Collas' public lashing of his parent company (and former employer) last month, in which ha slammed Gateway for being far too PC-centric and largely ignoring its subsidiary, may well have had its desired effect. ®
Tony Smith, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

NGIO architecture takes shape

The NGIO forum said today that it is holding multiple sessions on system challenges and technology of the input/output (IO) architecture. A full day tutorial is being hosted next Monday at the Santa Clara convention centre, with Jon Haas, manager of Intel's enterprise server group, moderating the panels. Hewlett Packard, Sun Labs, Synopsys and Finisar will also make contributions. And next Wednesday, Tim Witham, an Intel engineer, will present a white paper on Internet I/O. We hope we'll have a chance to see the papers. If so, we'll report on it. ®
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD K6-2 dominates retail PC market

Unit sales of PCs through the US' retail and mail order channels increased 20.6 per cent last month, according to the latest figures from market researcher PC Data. But while sales were up, vendors found revenues fell, dropping 2.2 per cent on the same period last year, as average prices fell 19 per cent to $928. In fact, sales of sub-$1000 PCs doubled year-on-year, to command 71 per cent of the retail market. On the Wintel front, AMD K6-2-based machines dominated the sector, taking 40 per cent of the market. AMD's overall share was 40.5 per cent, suggesting the K6-III has yet to make an impact. And that figure is down a touch on it March share of 41.4 per cent. Still, as PC Data pointed out, the fact that Intel's overall share is down to 53.2 per cent from the 72 per cent it notched up in April 1998, is good news for AMD. Of Intel's processors, Celeron CPU accounted for 28.2 per cent of the market, up from 19.2 per cent in March. Pentium III machines took a 7.8 per cent market share, up from 6.7 per cent in March. Taking a look at vendors, Apple proved to have the strongest growth through the US retail channel. It more than doubled the number of machines shipped year-on-year, almost all of it down to the iMac, launched last August. That pushed the company into the top three best-selling vendor list, below market leader Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. Compaq's unit shipments grew just 13 per cent, well behind HP's just under 200 per cent increase. Machines from both companies dominated the top five best-selling PCs list, pushing the iMac out of the list. It's worth noting that the most expensive machine in the top five costs $950, the cheapest just $521. All three top-selling vendors' average prices, according to PC Data's figures, were above that maximum, particularly Apple's. Indeed the better-selling iMacs were actually older, cheaper models. That suggests Apple may well experience difficulties when the channel finally rids itself of old iMacs that Apple is no longer producing, unless it cuts prices by a couple of hundred dollars or more. Which, of course, it won't until the channel is clear of the older machines. ®
Tony Smith, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

TSMC goes 12-inch

Taiwanese manufacturer TSMC has confirmed it is to build a 12in wafer fabrication plant at the Hsinchu Science Park on the island. The fab will cost $240 million to build and will be partly financed by Vanguard. The overall cost, once the equipment is installed, is more likely to be around $2 billion. The 12-inch wafer plant will be the first in Taiwan. Siemens opened its own 12-inch fab earlier this year, while Intel said it was investigating a similar project at the last Developer Forum it held. ® See also UMC to build 12-inch wafer fab Intel outlines 12-inch futures
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

EU U-turns on caching ban decision

In the last hour the European Commission has made an amendment to its proposals to ban caching -- a move that would have brought the Net to its knees if it had been enforced. With the inclusion of a nine-word amendment in the Report on Copyright in the Information Society, the EU has said that bona fide caching is legitimate and is not a threat to copyright. The amendment reads: "...including those which facilitate effective functioning of transmission systems..." It may not seem much -- it may not even make a great deal of sense -- but this insertion is a major U-turn by the EU which has been lobbied mercilessly by the music industry to protect copyright. It means that caching is no longer a copyright issue even though the music industry has spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to convince Eurocrats otherwise. Anyone who has been unlucky enough to follow the working of European government and who still has any faith in the political system might be interested to know that bigotry and ignorance still have a place even in the enlightened passages of power in Brussels. "Why don't you stop moaning and just pay the royalty fees," said one curmudgeonly Eurocrat to a senior industry figure. Charming. ® See also Anti-caching lobby wins round one of Euro vote Music industry anti-caching letter
Tim Richardson, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

TFT screens in short supply – prices set to rise

Toshiba is warning that severe price hikes and product shortages will hit the TFT market this year. The worst affected will be the popular 13.3" screen, UK resellers were told last week. The Japanese vendor said this size would suffer a "severe price rise and shortage." Prices for the larger 14.1" screen will also go up, the 12.1" will see a "severe" price rise, and the 10.4" TFT screens an "incremental" price rise. A source told The Register that the channel would be hit in terms of supply, but not in terms of pricing. "Consumers will not accept price rises, so the vendors will have to soak them up," he said. Steve Crawley, Toshiba product marketing manager, confirmed: "There will be a shortage of product, especially the 13" screens, over the next six months. But resellers and consumers will not see a price rise - this industry wouldn’t stand for it." According to Crawley, regular price decreases will not be as frequent or as steep as in the past to cope with the problem. "It’s the worst of both worlds in the TFT screen market at the moment – diminishing supply and increasing demand," he said. "How hard resellers are hit depends on which vendor they use. We hope our resellers won’t be affected too much." The shortage has resulted partly from the growth in the notebook market, but also from the increasing applications for TFT screens. It is taking off in desktops, and can be found in car navigation systems, small TVs and cameras. In addition, the Asian economic slump caused many vendors to put their factories on hold. Toshiba said all 120 of its UK resellers and 4,000 indirect dealers had been warned of the shortages. It said it was treating the problem very seriously, and ramping up production in its factories. ® See also: Shortage of screens to push up notebook prices Flat screen monitors will poison the planet
Linda Harrison, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Register Web hack caught in the act

This was veteran hack Tim Richardson, this morning, caught in the act of reading the Sun rather than writing those snappy little stories wot he's supposed to...
Team Register, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD to ship 500,000 K7s in Q4, says Intel

Correction (Apologies for the first rev of this story which had the zeroes and percentages in interesting places. MM) Chipzilla keeps a wary eye on the competition – or "imitators" as it so charmingly refers to them – and posts predictions of the kind of shipping volumes expected. One anonymous OEM very kindly shared Old Mother Intel’s thoughts on what AMD’s K7 would achieve with The Register. Intel reckons the K7 will hit 100,000 units in the third quarter and a whopping 500,000 in Q4. Meantime, the K6III will peak at 3,100,000 units in Q3 and drop to 2,750,000 in Q4. Overall, Intel’s crystal balls reckon AMD will ship 3,400,000 parts in Q3 and 3,250,000 in Q4. Chipzilla predicts it will manage 26,200,000 units in Q3 and 28,100,000 in Q4, an estimated 85 per cent and 86 per cent of the total market respectively. ®
Pete Sherriff, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Emachines to offer own-brand ISP

Leading US budget-priced PC vendor Emachines is to launch its own Internet access service next month with the aim of making it easier to live with hair's breadth hardware margins. The plan is quite canny. Emachines will initially offer the service as an optional extra, charging buyers who pick up on the deal a fixed monthly fee. Later, however, the company will begin to reduce hardware prices, more than balancing the cut with a commitment on the buyers' part to subscribe to the Emachine ISP for an extender period. The company may also seek deals with ecommerce companies whereby Emachines users are encouraged to use the ISP service to buy products from those suppliers. In exchange, Emachines gets a percentage of the sale. The move is typical of the methods PC vendors -- even those not at the cutting edge of cut-price machines -- are exploring to regain money lost as PC prices fall. Yesterday, for example, Gateway said it is looking to increase the amount of revenue it generates from service and software sales to 20 per cent from just eight per cent. ®
Tony Smith, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Cyber snoops come unstuck

The decision to introduce a global wiretapping system that would allow governments, intelligence agencies and police to snoop willy-nilly has been put on hold -- for the time being at least. It was understood that the decision to rubber stamp Enfopol was due to take place next week but word has leaked out that it is to be delayed until the Autumn. A report on Austrian TV this morning suggested that the European Commission had buckled under pressure from the industry claiming that such a security blanket would simply be unworkable. No doubt it will come as a bitter disappointment to Euro spooks who like nothing better that sticking their Euro noses in where they're not wanted. But the news will be welcomed by paranoid conspiracy theorists and civil-rights lobbyists who are adamant that such measures are an affront to personal liberty. The Register tried to contact Yaman Akdeniz, a vocal member of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), but he didn't answer his phone. Perhaps he thinks he's being tapped already regardless of the EU's decision. Enfopol is an international initiative to deal with drugs, terrorism and cybercrimes. If made law it would mean that every country in Europe would have the right to earwig phone calls and intercept other people's emails. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Golden Week rained off by Tosh management shower

That slave-driver Toshiba has made staff in its Japanese factories work their bank holiday this year, The Register has learned. The week-long Golden Week normally gives this hard-working nation a well earned rest. But the global glitch in TFT computer screens demanded the plants stay in operation during the fiesta, said Toshiba. "We are ramping up production on TFT screens to cope with the shortage. We are taking this very seriously," said Steve Crawley, Toshiba product marketing manager. "In fact, during Golden Week our factories were virtually working all week. I think staff were under pressure to go in," he admitted. Golden Week is a cluster of Japanese national holidays falling between 29 April and 3 May. According to Schauwecker's Guide to Japan, "together with good placed weekends, the Golden Week becomes one of the longest holidays of the year. Many companies give additional days free to make the Golden Week a continuous holiday, while others do not". Obviously, Toshiba falls into the latter. ®
Linda Harrison, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Aliens: coming to a house near you soon

Home users can now help in the search for intelligent alien lifeforms by downloading a screensaver here that uses their PC’s spare capacity to analyse signals from outer space for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Since the project's launch earlier this week, over a quarter of a million users are now desperately seeking Klingons in their spare time, so far contributing a staggering 528.25 years of computing resource to the mega project. And some interesting statistics on just what computers are out there -- and how well they perform -- are thrown up by the research. Not surprisingly, x86 architecture tops the list with over 500,000 batches of data despatched for processing so far. The average Intel box takes an average of 35 hours to analyse each chunk of data, although these systems obviously include legendary under-performers such as the 8086, the original Celeron and anything made by Cyrix. Next most popular is the PowerPC which handles the Dalek data in a mere 23 hours, closely followed by SunSPARC which analyses the alien artefacts in just 16 Earth hours. Alphas (from the dead planet Digitalia) take a mere ten galactic time units (although just how may homes boast an EV5 is open to discussion). More worryingly, some well-known processors appear to have disappeared into a black hole. PA Risc systems have been sent more than 3000 batches of data, none of which have returned. RS/6000s (lots of them in use in semi-detached houses in the Neasden area, no doubt) have been sent 4000 bundles of alien transmissions, but none have come back. MIPS processors have gobbled up over 10,000 sets of data to no discernable effect, while one saddo with a 680x0-based system has also failed to calculate anything. But perhaps the most concerning result is from an 'unknown' CPU which has received one load of data to which there has been no reply. Perhaps this mystery system could be an early prototype of the legendary Merced processor from the Pentium IV system, just to the left of Andromeda. Drink long and prosper, as the inhabitants of the planet Vulture say. ® Register Factoid 2001: No aliens supply news to ZDNet UK. In fact, no one supplies news to ZDNet UK. Scary, huh?
Pete Sherriff, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

It's ashes-to-ashes as Big Blue gets remains of the day

Employees at IBM's North Harbour office sprawl in Portsmouth aren't used to getting their hands dirty. But they may have noticed that surfaces weren't quite as clean as they're used to following an explosive event earlier this week that took particle theory into a new dimension. For plucky Sue Simmons asked for her ashes to be scattered into the night sky by a rocket after she was told by doctors she was dying of bowel cancer. Her family, obeying her dying wishes, instructed a fireworks company to construct a display to send off the 48-year-old divorced Mum with a bang. Earlier this week, friends and loved ones said goodbye to Sue on a hill above her home town of Portsmouth, which just do happened to be overlooking IBM's HQ. And as the last chrysanthemum-like sprays of brilliant light faded in the night sky, so Sue's ashes drifted peacefully to earth. Speaking in The Sun, Sue's eldest daughter said: "Mum was always a larger-than-life character, always laughing. When people remember her they always remember her laugh. "No one can say our Mum didn't go out with a bang!" ®
Sandy Mann, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

X Windows creator calls for standard Linux GUI

Compaq senior consulting engineer and co-creator of X Windows Jim Gettys used his keynote at the Linux Expo show yesterday to rally the open source OS' enthusiasts round the idea of a standard graphical user interface. Gettys was voicing a concern a number of Linux advocates have raised: that without a consistent, unified user interface, the OS is going to face a much tougher challenge breaking into the mainstream. "We need agreements that everybody does the same thing," he said. "We don't want to have n different programs, n different interfaces, to make a general purpose program, do we?" As co-developer of X Windows, Gettys knows all about standard specifications, of course. In that respect, he sounds a little like Unix co-creator Ken Thompson, who lambasted the open source movement and its development of Linux for its highly un-disciplined approach. He forgot, of course, that that's precisely what makes Linux and open source attractive to so many programmers, and arguably Gettys seems to be making the same mistake. Still, he has a point -- wider acceptance of Linux will depend on allowing both developers to have a clear idea about what the user experience will be, and for users to know the moving from one machine to another isn't going to require them to learn a new GUI. "If you can't make it look like another guy's stuff, you're broken," said Gettys. Fortunately most Linux GUIs are based on Gettys' own X Windows, so there's already a little consistency there, but with so many windows and file managers, more could certainly be done to standardise on a specific GUI or set of GUI features. In fact, with Red Hat's Linux distribution adopting Gnome as its GUI of choice, the standardisation Gettys wants may happen by default. Corel's upcoming consumer-oriented Linux distribution is also said to be based on Gnome. The other option is KDE, but that appears to be losing ground to Gnome (though it still has many advocates). And Gettys, unlike Thompson, at least appeared to sympathise with the Linux community. "Specifications are a pain," he said, "but they are absolutely necessary. They allow bright people to understand how a system works without wading through all the code." He also asked users to look beyond the windows, icons and mouse approach to GUIs. "We are seeing a rapidly growing use of non-desktop devices," he said, indicating the wealth of new form factors, including smartphones, Palm machines and voice-input systems. Developers "should think out of the box, off the desktop, think unconventionally", he said. ®
Tony Smith, 21 May 1999
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Compaq may release Linux micro-PC to open sourcers

Jim Gettys, Compaq consulting engineer and Linux Expo keynoter, yesterday said a tiny, 'deck of cards'-sized computer developed by the PC vendor might be made available to the open source community. The Palm-style device, dubbed Itsy, sports a 200x300-pixel screen, contains 32MB of memory, is powered by a 200MHz processor and is based on Linux. It was developed by Compaq's Western Research Lab, based in Palo Alto, California. Itsy is based on a voice-recognition system that promises to do away with even the fiddly styles favoured by most shipping handheld machines. Gettys said the device could be used to access and download email. Gettys also said Compaq was investigating whether the Itsy device could be "made available to the Linux community". Quite what be meant by this is unclear. If the device is as powerful as he suggested, it's hard to imagine Compaq not wanting to turn it into a commercial product. That said, Compaq is currently backing Windows CE, and releasing a Linux-based handheld too, might confuse the market and, what's more, annoy Microsoft. The Western Research Lab was acquired by the company when it bought Digital. Given it appears to be having difficulty figuring out what to do with Alpha, it might experience similar problems with Itsy. In any case, given Itsy is based on a modified version of the Linux kernel, the OS at least would have to be released under the GNU Public Licence. Which, given that's how 3Com is attempting to build developer support for the Palm platform, might well give Itsy a lead too. ®
Tony Smith, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel takes cowboy approach to branding

Now we at The Register™®© are getting increasingly confused at Intel®'s impenetrable marketing BS. This, remember, is the company (Intel, not us) with such a paranoid regard for its brand that has legally-approved abbreviations for its products in internal memos –- P3P for Pentium® III, ICP for Celeron™, AMDMOFOS (you work it out) and so on. We were given to understand that production Pentium® III processors wouldn't have the words 'Pentium® III' silk screened on the SECC2 cartridges they’re currently shipped in because by the end of the year, Slot 1 will be as dead as the British Conservative party and all Chipzilla's processors (apart from Xeon) will be socketed. Intel doesn't want the Pentium® III brand to be associated with any particular packaging, let alone one which is about to board that mystery train to the chip gulag. And certainly, every P3 we've seen in the flesh is totally naked in the labelling department. So can anyone explain why Intel®'s press advertising and web sites show smiling BunnyPersons™ holding Pentium® III chips in SECC packaging bearing the legend 'Pentium®III'? Is this a sign that sockets aren't about to take over the Planet? Or is it simply a sign that Intel®'s left hand doesn't have a clue about what its right hand up to? ®
Pete Sherriff, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

PC banking success ends 6000 jobs at Barclays

The Internet and the rise in popularity of telephone banking are being blamed in part for Barclays Bank's decision to cut 6000 jobs yesterday. The bank is expected to cough up around £400 million to pay off the hoards of back office staff facing the chop. Around 6000 Barclays staff have been given the bullet. At the same time, the high street bank has announced it is to take on around 2000 people to handle its Internet and telephone banking businesses. The decision has rocked the financial sector and could be a taste of things to come. No one form Barclays was available for comment. Last month, Egg, the virtual bank form Prudential, announced it would only accept applications for new accounts over the Net. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

One-2-One up for use as collateral by C&W

Cable & Wireless will put up its 50 per cent stake in One-2-One as collateral to fuel network expansion. Britain's smallest mobile phone company will be used to secure £3.8 billion in bank loans, according to CBS MarketWatch. The half holding in One-2-One will go to a new funding company set up as a joint venture with investment bank Merrill Lynch. It will fund the acquisition through loans from five top banks. This unconventional financing technique will give Cable & Wireless cash up front. It said the money would be used for acquisitions and investment in its networks. The company has paid £200 million for a call option to buy back the stake at any time over the next 12 months. In a statement, Cable & Wirless said it was: "Ensuring enhanced short-term financial flexibility pending progress on a number of current and potential transactions." One-2-One has been up for sale since March. It currently controls 15 per cent of the UK mobile phone market. Likely buyers include Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Mannesmann and Vivendi. ®
Linda Harrison, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Office 2000 to debut 8 June

World exclusive The Great Stan of Software's latest Office offering, Office 2000, is set to launch worldwide in two week’s time, according to occasionally reliable sources in the UK. Last week, Paul Otellini, senior VP at Intel US, confessed he did not not know when the software would eventually come out. With a bit of luck, the full story will follow on ZDNet UK. In two week's time. We have had the full shrink-wrapped version in our Office 2000 for two weeks. Maybe tomorrow we'll scan in what it looks like. ® Want to find out more? Email Peter V. Sherriff. This weekend, we will post Pete's photo, for all those people who have been wondering who he, and Daisy are.
Pete Sherriff, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Samsung's Alpha outfit joins Linux International

As we went to press, news reached us that Alpha Processor Inc, Samsung's Alpha subsidiary, has joined Linux International, the Linux umbrella group for commercial operations. That is likely to give a huge boost to Alpha processors and to Linux enthusiasts. And, at the same time, will boost the 64-bit chip. Readers have reported to The Register that companies are shifting in droves to the Linux platform because NT BackOffice licences are extremely expensive. Alpha implementations of Linux are no doubt the source of some angst for Microsoft, given that they display MS' latest enemy to advantage on a high-powered platform, and that they're likely to cause further embarrassment as NT struggles to achieve 64-bitness. ®
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Amiga looks to iMac, Palm for inspiration

Amiga Inc. has revealed its design plan for two upcoming machines: what it calls "a multimedia convergence computer" and a handheld personal digital assistant designed to operate alongside it. The company refused to give details of the machines' specifications and market positioning, but it's clear from the concept drawings released so far that it has its eye on Apple's iMac and 3Com's Palm as templates. The computer itself sports build-in monitor and speakers, like the iMac, but has a more angular case, reminiscent of Compaq's old PCTV product line. The handheld's 'PC companion' role is clearly Palm-like, but its styling reminded us of an early Apple Newton prototype. Perhaps that's why Amiga has hired Rick LeFaivre, once head of Apple's Advanced Technology Group, the part of the company that developed the Newton OS and its handwriting technology. Still, LeFaivre has also done stints in senior roles at Sun and SGI, so his arrival is something of a coup for Amiga. Amiga president Jim Collas said LeFaivre's appointment "should be a clear indication to the Amiga community that we are dedicated to the development of exciting technology for the new Amiga platform". That technology will have to be exciting indeed if it is to be perceived as something more than borrowings from other companies. ®
Tony Smith, 21 May 1999
The Register breaking news

UK tourism threatened by soccer violence

We don't normally comment on non-IT matters on this site but tonight is the exception that proves the rule. We found ourselves in deepest Trafalgar Square, the heart of London and about two minutes away from 10 Downing Street, in the middle of a riot. We were not worried about our own safety. The problem is, that tomorrow, a city called Newcastle plays a city called Manchester in something called the FA Cup. As the cops tried to clear up the riot, we found ourselves having to help many elderly people and lots of young and perhaps very confused tourists. The Metropolitan Police shut the tube stations round Trafalgar Square in an attempt to contain the riot. So people that had been to Theatreland found themselves blocked out of the tube, whether old or young. As we helped a 75 year old chap to his line, after we'd insisted that the gates be opened, he was barracked by about 100 football supporters, one of which leapt over the escalator and tried to hit the old codger. Hardly a good advert for London, Whitehall, and 10 Downing Street, is it? The riot was continuing as we left. The football game is at the Wembley Stadium, tomorrow. ®
Mike Magee, 21 May 1999