31st > May > 1999 Archive

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MS web screw-up posts last year's Muglia news

Last year's speech by Bob Muglia to the TechEd conference was funnier than this year's - which may of course be why it was last year's that was posted on the Microsoft web site last week. The goof ran for several days, and wasn't corrected until the weekend (with backdating of the posting date), Of course there was no comment or apology from Microsoft. The January 1998 speech at Palm Springs showed in hindsight how many of Muglia's promises then haven't been fulfilled. There's also the strange business of Muglia's job title. His official CV on Microsoft's web site has him as SVP, Business & Productivity Group, but the hidden HTML in the correct version of his Dallas speech has demoted him to VP of server applications. This may be just sloppiness (he was previously SVP of the Applications and Tools Group), but it may be he will hear an announcement of a demotion shortly. Looking at last year's speech, Muglia was full of NT5 being released "later this year" (meaning later in 1998), but we all knew at the time that that was a joke. Then IE was described as "a very standard base technology". It's the word "standard" that bother us: the time really has come to give the word a legal status (like false claims to be a policeman or solicitor) so that only standards that have been approved by recognised standards organisations can receive the moniker, and not proprietary protocols. But the most amusing non-development has turned out to be COM on multiple platforms. There was Muglia huffing and puffing about how "COM will be available on several other platforms, non-Microsoft platforms, supported directly from Microsoft, sold and supported directly from Microsoft... a Solaris, HPUX, Digital Unix, AIX... application can have its business logic encapsulate din a COM component... and work seamlessly with other business objects running on Windows and Windows NT." Well that was last year's story. As we now know, that will not happen because Microsoft is washing its hands of interoperability (See story). Muglia even twittered on about how the plan built on the relationship that Microsoft had with the Open Group. Most hilarious of all was Muglia's announcement: "For a long time, the COM world and the CORBA world have been totally separated, and corporations have been building solutions on COM, they've been building solutions on CORBA, and there's been no way to really bridge those two gaps. It's been left in the customers' hands. So, today we're announcing, in conjunction with Iona, that Iona... is licensing COM from Microsoft and will begin integrating COM into their CORBA-based solution, so that you can, if you have a CORBA application running on Unix or on the mainframe, that those things can be pulled together and COM and CORBA is bridged. This is a huge step forward because the services, the underlying services that we showed for the transaction capabilities, those will be available to coordinate with CORBA-based applications, and COM is the basis for this, DCOM is the basis for this... this is a key announcement because it marks the beginning of the end of the gap between COM and CORBA ... (Applause)." Well, save the applause, because MS now has no intention of supporting a COM-CORBA bridge. Having seen Muglia's complete volte-face, what can we believe from his speech this year? It was supposedly centred on how Microsoft was going to help knowledge workers, by which was meant the former clerks who now mostly add data to databases with a most worrying level of inaccuracy. It was of course an extension of Gates' digital dashboard speech from the CEO meeting a week earlier, and it was pretty hard for Muglia to flesh out such a thin idea. He confessed that his example "was very recently put together for me" so he was hardly the leader presenting a new idea. Muglia brought up how Exchange, a brutal piece of Microsoft software, will evolve in the next version, codenamed "Platinum", to pave the way for Web Store and supposedly speed applications development. We shall see, and shall report on how key messages will probably disappear again before they reach the dashboard of each employee, as is inevitable with Microsoft's quality control. Nor were we encouraged by Muglia's announcement of "Grizzly", which we were told is to be included in MS Office Developer Edition for building combined Internet and SQL Server applications. A further unlikely announcement was that Microsoft was "leading an initiative to establish common definitions and terminology across separate systems to allow information to be related and exposed through a digital dashboard". Perhaps the OMG should explain to its errant member that already exists - and of course Microsoft is there to get innovative ideas, for re-innovation. All in all, the Muglia II speech showed that Microsoft thinks it has got away with breaking the terms of the consent decree and can glue together more applications in the future to make it increasingly difficult in practice to use non-Microsoft software in conjunction with Windows. Since the trial will not hear any new evidence about this, unless Judge Jackson comes up with effective remedies, the future of the software industry looks rather bleak at the moment. ®
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Micron to face 67 per cent Taiwan DRAM tariff

US chip maker Micron could be hit by anti-dumping tariffs of up to 67 per cent in Taiwan, according to reports over the weekend. The Taiwanese Finance Ministry is considering the matter, and is expected to recommend punitive tariffs by August. The boot is usually on the other foot. Micron, which is about as popular as anthrax in the Far East, has a long record of instigating and urging anti-dumping investigations in the US, and Taiwan was hit again just last week. Taiwan has however started to fight back. The island's International Trade Commission has accused Micron and the US subsidiaries of Samsung and Hyundai of dumping. On the anthrax scale, Samsung and Hyundai don't do particularly well in Taipei either. ® Related stories: Taiwanese sue Micron Huge tariffs on Taiwan DRAM Taiwan evades tariffs?
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Office 2000 is MS top-seller before it even ships

Microsoft's curious ability to sell huge stacks of software seems to have been tuned up a notch or two. Now it can apparently make something a best-seller and have it rated the most popular product before it even ships. With over a week to go before Office 2000's UK launch we were more than a little surprised to see the advertisement run for the "product" in the weekend papers. "Some children get more of a head-start than others," it says here. "Not only is [Microsoft Office 2000] the world's best-selling office suite. It's the leading choice for schools and a proven aid in boosting a child's learning ability." Not bad for a non-existent product, eh? The defence may be simply that we're talking Microspeak here, and that Microsoft's excitable ad agency is referring to Office in general. But we'd still have said two of the claims being made were dubious, and the ad does purport to be talking about Office 2000. But check out the personnel in the picture. We've got seven happy kids plus a dog (Bob? Surely not...) on a beach. They look like American children to us, but never mind that, they've all got job tags next to them. We've got a lawyer (ahem...), accountant (double ahem...), journalist (these guys get everywhere) and a teacher. And then there are the ones who presumably use SmartSuite, the dispatch rider, the bus driver and the window cleaner. The dog doesn't have a job, but it's possibly that "unsuccessful and somewhat risible user interface" would have taken up too much space. ®
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MS urged Symantec boss to write articles defending it

MS on Trial Former Symantec CEO and general-purpose industry guru Gordon Eubanks was caught in the old memory fork last week when DoJ attorney David Boies 'reminded' him that he had indeed written newspaper articles defending Microsoft at Microsoft's request. Eubanks has been fairly active in dashing off pieces supporting Microsoft, but under questioning from Boies he didn't seem able to recall if Microsoft had asked him to do so. Oops. Boies produced an email chain from February 1998 (short memory or what?) between Eubanks and Microsoft VP Brad Chase. Chase asks Eubanks to write a piece, Eubanks says he'll consider it. Then a little later he suggests to Chase that Microsoft shouldn't bundle McAfee anti-virus software. Eubanks will be telling us he doesn't remember being CEO of McAfee rival Symantec next. The timing of the exchange is of course significant. Early last year Microsoft was marshalling support in an attempt to neutralise the DoJ threat, and to head-off hearings on competition by the US Senate Judiciary Committee. Industry veteran Eubanks was and is an important ally. On Friday he also conceded that he'd agreed to appear as a Microsoft defence witness at the urging of Microsoft contacts, and after a phone call from Bill Gates himself. ® Complete Register trial coverage
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MS dilettante research head ousted in Ballmer purge

Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's CTO and head of Research, has been booted out of Microsoft on sabbatical, of indeterminate length, according to a report in Time magazine dated 7 June. The report says that President Steve Ballmer was behind the move, which resulted from his spending more than half his time out of the office pursuing his hobbies of palaeontology, gourmet cooking, and car racing. We have commented in December (Story) on the under-achievement of Microsoft's research department, but it's taken nearly six months for Ballmer to catch up on his Register reading, it seems. Cameron Myhrvold is Nathan's brother, and was a controversial witness in the trial. We shouldn't feel too sorry for Nathan however, and there's no need to take up a collection, because he cashed in $160 million of Microsoft shares last November, and probably has more stashed away. What this does mean is that Ballmer is prepared to be a bully boy inside Microsoft as well as outside. Nevertheless, it will prove increasingly difficult for Ballmer to motivate senior Microsoft executives who do not need to work. Those that do carry on are likely to become burnt out, not from innovation of course, but from covering their tracks and journeying to secret "drops" to leave messages, rather than using email or telephones, lest electronic surveillance catches them out again. ®
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ViA continues PC-133 push

Chipset manufacturer ViA will use this week's Computex trade show in Taiwan to re-inforce its support of the PC-133 memory market. At the same time, it is also set to introduce some 1394 Firewire products, according to the company. ViA and every other top tier Taiwanese manufacturer will show PC-133 solutions, the company claimed today. Intel will now be wondering how it gets out of PC-133 denial stage, given that further yield problems and delays are now expected for Direct Rambus memories. The Register will cover the Computex show during the course of the week. ®
The Register breaking news

Taiwan losing it in monitor market

A year ago From The Register, a year ago At the opening of the Computex trade fair in Taiwan today, the major players in the IT industry said that the island had fallen behind in the market share for monitors. Chen-Pen Lin, director of the influential Market Information Centre (MIC), said monitors, which formerly led production ahead of notebooks, desktops and motherboards, will fall to third place this year. He said: "In terms of displays, growth is not high. We still have 12.6 per cent growth in volume in the first quarter of 1998 but in value it's negative growth. This is the first time we've seen negative growth – world-wide there's been over expansion in monitors and that had a damping value." But Lin, along with K.H. Wu, vice chairman of Taiwan's IT trade association CETRA, claimed that the country was still growing, despite the economic woes of the region. He said: "We have the figures for the first quarter of 1998 obtained from the manufacturers. Despite the impact of lower price PCs, growth is still 17.6 per cent. We are also seeing manufacturers receiving a significant number of orders in high end production." Lin said that the Taiwanese monitor manufacturers were attempting to meet the shortfall by diversifying into LCD away from CRT technology and by moving into different areas. The value of the Taiwanese market in 1997, said Lin, amounted to $30.2 billion. "This shows a 20.9 per cent growth from 1996," he said. "If we can sustain that, it would be a very significant performance achievement." That growth figure will be repeated in 1998, he claimed. "According to our prediction, Taiwan expects stable growth because we focus on OEM production. Seventy per cent of the value comes from that market, and we're expecting the market to grow by 13 per cent worldwide," he said. This was in spite of the fact that the market had been affected by entry-level computers, he said. "As for Windows 98, we believe this will have a beneficial effect on Taiwanese industry," he said. "We'll see some USB and 1394 applications giving a benefit on peripherals. But Windows 98 may not be as influential as Windows 95." ®
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Intel increases StrongARM push

Chip giant Intel is looking for staff to populate its Fab-6 plant in Hudson, MA, which it acquired from DEC as part of a deal with the Federal Trade Commission. Last summer, 600 individuals lost their jobs at the plant after Intel moved to cut costs, using strong arm tactics and pink slips. The company is looking for StrongARM engineers to line the bays. Many of the DEC staff walked rather than continue to work for Intel, an insider reports. But now Intel wants to fill up the place, or so it would seem from this Intel Web site, which lists the kind of StrongARM people it would like. ® See also Intel finally embraces StrongARM
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IDT's Winchips not dead

The Japanese IDT Web site is displaying details of roadmap for x.86 chips which show it extending well into the 21st century. And according to Daiki at his Japanese Web site, this means 400MHz and 450MHz parts by the end of the year. IDT has kept a low profile since rumours started flying early this month that it was getting out of the x.86 market. We have had no official word from IDT about its WinChips for quite some time, so can't say if this is a flyer or not. For the first time, we used Jim Breen's Japanese translation page in an attempt to find out more details. That's an interesting process but does help a little in understanding the words that go with the pictures. Seems to be quite a lot of stuff on Daiki's page about Intel flying into a rage... ®
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How Intel regards the press – Official

A kindly reader has somehow obtained the full transcript of an internal Intel document on how to deal with the European press. We were only able to publish snatches of the document earlier this year. (See this one and this one.)