2nd > June > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Taiwanese IT market set to grow by 15 per cent in 1999

Computex The Computex trade show formally opened for business yesterday, with the organisers claiming a record number of exhibitors. The show organisers are claiming that there are 815 local exhibitors and 97 foreign visitors, exhibiting in 11 separate product categories over 1,922 booths. According to figures from the Taiwanese Market Intelligence Centre, Taiwan's IT business managed to show growth of 11.5 per cent in 1998, with total production value amounting to nearly $39.7 billion. The hardware sector account for 85.2 per cent of this business, with a value of $33.78 billion, software represents 5.5 per cent, networking 4.3 and communications 5 per cent of the total manufacturing worth. According to the figures, that makes Taiwan the third biggest producer of IT kit in the world, after the US and Japan. Singapore is foruth, the UK fifth, China sixth and Germany seventh. Despite the Asian economic crisis, favourable factors for this year include Intel's introduction of the Pentium III and the Y2K effect. That means, according to officials, that the total market will grow by nearly 15 per cent in 1999, worth an estimated $45.8 billion. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

K7 mobos start to appear

Computex Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte has formally announced support for a range of motherboards which will support the up-and-coming AMD K7 chip. The boards, Gigabyte said, will go into production int he third quarter of this year, and will optimise the K7 and AMD's chipset. The Slot A board will support an external 200MHz bus, Ultra DMA-66, and a maximum of 768Mb of synchronous memory, Gigabyte said. Asus is also showing a board with support for the K7 in private.®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

NatSemi starts to fab System on a Chip

Computex Brian Halla, CEO of National Semiconductor, said at the Computex Trade Fair today that information appliances and thin Windows clients will overtake sales by the PC in both the office and the home, possibly as early as the end of next year. In a keynote speech, Halla said that the NatSemi "system on a chip" he announced here last year has already been produced in silicon, a month early. Halla said: "I believe the overwhelming majority of productss bought by MIS managers in the future will be thin clients. The benefits are that you start with a low purchase cost but there's virtually no total cost of ownership issues in the future. You get the benefit of very fast deployment. If computer theft is a problem, the only thing that goes out of the door is plastic and metal. The databases sits on the server." Halla said: "This is not the end of the PC market. The PC continues but information appliances will possibly overtake PCs sales by the end of next year." He claimed that National Semiconductor is in a good position to capitalise on the information appliance market because the majority of applications are optimised for the x.86 market. He said the chip, called Information Appliance (IA) on a chip, had already booted Windows 98. "We have the solution a month early in Israel. As well as a Media GX core, the chip, which is being shown on the Cyrix stand at te show, will come in .25 micron technology, and measure around 1.2 centimetres. It includes USB ports, RTCs, Super/IO, South Bridge technology, and an MPEG engine. The chip also includes a number of analog interfaces including TV and CRT convertors. Yesterday Acer and National Semiconductor struck a deal to use the Media GX in Acer XC set top boxes. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Acer set to strike deal with TSMC

Computex Rumours that Acer is about to strike a deal with Taiwanese foundry TSMC are being met with a stone wall of silence. Stan Shih, CEO of Acer, would only offer a terse "no comment" at a question and answer session at Computex this morning. TSMC is one of the largest foundries on Taiwan, while Shih has spent the last several months attempting to turn the semiconductor part of Acer's business round. There is speculation at the show that TSMC could either bail out or even acquire Acer's semiconductor unit. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel confirms yields low on Direct Rambus

Computex An Intel representative on its stand at the Computex trade fair has confirmed that quantities of Direct Rambus memory will not appear until year end. Intel is showing a number of RIMMs from manufacturers and module manufacturers including LG, Toshiba, Samsung, Memory Corporation and Apacer, an Acer subsidiary. "Yields are low," the representative said. "We don't expect shipments to be in any quantity until September, and they will rise towards the end of the year." Meanwhile, IBM said yesterday that it was not going to support Direct Rambus in its machines. Intel is now likely to adopt PC-133 as a short term measure, despite its repeated denials it would do so from the beginning of this year. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Cyrix Socket 370 Gobi mobos revealed

Computex National Semiconductor subsidiary Cyrix is showing Socket 370 Gobi motherboards on its stand at the Computex trade fair. And a representative said that it is continuing with its plans to introduce its Mojave technology using the same infrastructure. It was continuing to develop products and relationships for the up coming products, he said. The first Mojave 370s will start appearing in quantity towards the end of this year. Cyrix was also demonstrating the IA on a Chip architecture on its stand, as well as the Orion set top box. (See story: NatSemi starts to fab System on a Chip) We have pictures of the IA on a Chip as well as the Socket 370 mobos, supported by at least five Taiwanese companies and will post them later in the day. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS moves to grab slice of software distribution

Evidence is mounting that Microsoft is supplementing the DOS (now Windows) tax by trying to carve itself slices of product distribution, while at the same time reducing its use of wholesalers. The recent cable and satellite investments are intended to ensure that Microsoft can begin to get some revenue from content delivery. At least this should do better than keeping the cash in the bank. President Steve Ballmer confirmed last week in a Handelsblatt interview that Microsoft is talking to Deutsche Telekom about an investment, but he also added that the main objective was to find further ways of distributing its products. It seems that Microsoft and Bertelsmann (AOL's perhaps tactless 50-50 partner in Europe) have offered $5.6 billion for DT's cable network, according to Der Spiegel, somewhat above the $5 billion believed to be being considered by Deutsche Bank. The question immediately arises as to how Bertelsmann could distribute AOL through such a cable network, as well as encouraging MSN. Microsoft has never liked allowing wholesalers their margin, so in a separate but perhaps strategically linked disintermediation move, rubber stamped by Ballmer, Robert Bach, the new head of the home and retail division, has decided that the company could do without distributors for products like Encarta and games. Microsoft will sell directly to the 12 largest retailers that account for 85 per cent of sales. Ingram Micro, Tech Data, and Merisel have been tight-lipped about this so far, but Ingram Micro may play lesser role by warehousing and delivering products. There are 17 million subscribers, so $329 per subscriber looks realistic for a monopoly acquisition. ®
Graham Lea, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

PC-133 wins the day in old Taipei

Computex The PC-133 memory standard espoused by ViA and non-Intel chipset company has received massive endorsement from Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers. And IBM is also likely to give its formal backing Monday next. That is likely to mean that even more pressure will be put on Intel to adopt the memory standard, as Direct Rambus fades into the distance. And IBM will hold a meeting in Vancouver, next Monday, to discuss how it also will provide support for PC-133 rather than Direct Rambus technology. The overwhelming majority of motherboard manufacturers exhibiting at Computex announced support for PC-133. And on ViA’s stand, the company had a poster showing benchmarks comparing Apollo PC-133 to the Intel 440-BX chipset. ViA had tested Winston 99 against the BX, and had figures showing that its overall performance was 4.91 compared to the BX’s 4.58. According to the ViA claim, the CPUmark32 was 1360, comparde to 1250 for the BX; the Biz Desk Winmark 99 was 2620 against 2110; while the 3D Winmark showed 668 rather than 650 for the BX chipset. These figures are likely to be hotly contested by Intel. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Gobi 370 and IA on a chip: those pix

Computex Here are the pictures we promised earlier of the Gobi 370 Cyrix chip and the NatSemi Information Appliance on a Chip, fresh from the NatSemi stand on the show floor. (See stories: Cyrix Socket 370 revealed and NatSemi starts to fab System on a Chip)
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel garners major support for 810 mobos

Computex Chip giant Intel had practically the entire of one wall of its stand lined with third party motherboards supporting the 810 Whitney chipset. Boards were shown by practically all the major motherboard factors and a large number of smaller Taiwanese players too. In addition, Intel showed some of its own motherboard products based on Whitney. The different motherboards were differentiated in terms of the number of PCI slots, memory and other features. A number of the third parites have added additional DVD functionality to the basic spec of the chipset. A picture of said wall tomorrow… ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Abit shows dual S370 mobo

Computex Motherboard manufacturer Abit claimed to steal a march on the opposition by introducing a dual Socket 370 motherboard at the Computex Trade Fair today. The BP6 supports UDMA/66, a boost over the BX chipset’s slated speed of 33Mbps. Abit said it could manage that because of a hardware addon the company has designed. The board will support up to 768Mb of memory but needs Windows NT for SMP support. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Transmeta chip to use special fast DRAM

Sources at the Computex show in Taipei today revealed that special memory called ESDRAM will be needed for the chip Transmeta will unleash on the world later this year. As revealed here some months ago, Transmeta technology will be used in a high speed communications/telecommunications device when it is released. Our source, who did not wish to be named, said the ESDRAM was needed because the chip itself is likely to supplement a small on chip cache for the very small chip it is producing. That chip is expected to run at over 150Mz, she added. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

BTInternet free Web calls announced at last

BTInternet has finally confirmed it is to offer 0800 access to the Net. A spokesman for BT telephoned The Register last night to say the limited toll-free service was going ahead despite spending all last week denying it. BTInternet's move could spark a series of copycat services as other ISPs try to compete on level terms. LineOne is rumoured to be looking into the possibility of offering toll-free access and AOL has already said it is trialling a similar service. It seems there are no practical reasons why other ISPs couldn't follow suit. The new service is not being subsidised and BTInternet is having to pay the going-rate for the free calls people will use. "BTInternet will gain no advantage by being part of BT," said David Pincott, a spokesman for BT. "This should help generate much more interest in BTInternet." Just as The Register predicted last week, the BTInternet offer will begin this weekend. It is only available to those subscribers who pay £11.75 a month for BTInternet's unlimited usage price plan. An announcement on BTInternet's home page reads: "0800 CALL ACCESS AT WEEKENDS FOR BT INTERNET PLAN UNLIMITED CUSTOMERS!!" There are no plans at present to extend the service to include off-peak weekday calls. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Times' World exclusive reveals amazing new software

Today's London Times reports that the force appears to have deserted millionaire film maker George Lucas. Full-length pirate copies of the latest Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace, are reputedly available for download on the Web, weeks before the film's UK launch. But the real story is hidden deep within the piece –- apparently users can download the entire two-hour film "in just 20 minutes" by means of "the latest high-speed software." A rough estimate shows that a file containing a high resolution movie of this length would have even more digits in it than Bill Gates' bank balance and, if printed out, would produce a pile of paper stretching to the Death Star and back. Perhaps the Times' Adam Sherwin would care to share with the rest of us just how we can get hold of this wondrous software. ®
Pete Sherriff, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

LineOne to follow BTInternet's lead

LineOne could the next major service provider to offer toll-free access to the Internet and follow in the footsteps of BTInternet. Following the revelation last week that BTInternet was to offer limited toll-free access, The Register was inundated with calls from readers saying that LineOne was also secretly operating toll-free lines on the Web. One reader said hundreds of people already knew about the numbers and were merrily sitting online for hours at a time without being charged a bean. The only catch was that they had to use a LineOne account to take advantage of free access. Apparently, the numbers were so obvious even a pensioner with minimal Net knowledge was wired up to one of the many 0800 numbers. "Put it this way, my grandfather is 78 and has only had a PC for three months, and he found out about this [0800 number] before I did," said one reader. Coincidentally, the head of LineOne was quoted as saying last week that UK Internet pricing is in for a "radical shake-up." "Many companies, including one very close to my heart, are seriously looking at the 0800 model," Ajay Chowdhury told UK newswires. Unfortunately, Chowdhury wasn't available for comment this morning to explain exactly what he meant. On their own, Chowdhury's comments can simply be dismissed as mere posturing by the online service provider. But viewed in tandem with the news that LineOne appears to be trialling 0800 numbers and the argument becomes compelling. Remember. You read it here first. Again. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Revenge of the Zombie Bloodsucker PCs

Researchers in the US have turned to blood letting in bid to build a smarter computer. While leeches are not renowned for their intellectual prowess and are believed never to have written a single line of Linux code, by simply poking them full of tiny electrodes, they can now do simple sums, says Professor Bill Ditto of the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT). The Prof says handwriting recognition would be an ideal application for the Leechulator and is now on the lookout for a leech with a reading age of ten in order to put his theory to the test. Non-squeamish UK readers will be able to check out the Leechulator on the BBC's Tomorrow’s World programme later today. ®
Pete Sherriff, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

AOL buys into MP3 arena

AOL's quest for content took another step forward yesterday with the surprise acquisition of online music broadcaster Spinner.com and MP3 specialist Nullsoft, developer of the WinAmp MP3 player. Both deals will be made through stock-swaps, together valued at $400 million. And if Playsoft's $20 million copyright infringement suit against Nullsoft comes off, the acquisition could cost AOL more. AOL will essentially rebrand both purchases' products and services under its own name. The motivation here seems as much about spreading the 'AOL Anywhere' message as adding technology to the company's core online service. The deal also suggests AOL's view of the ongoing digital music format wars has it that the MPEG audio format, MP3, will continue to be a force in the market despite the music industry's problems with it. Spinner.com, on the other hand, uses RealNetwork's RealAudio format, so AOL's move can be seen as covering as many bases as possible yet at the same time actively avoiding support for Microsoft's play for the digital content market, Windows Media Technologies. Given the enthusiastic predictions for the way the online music market is going to explode -- initially through CD sales but soon after by direct download -- it's no wonder AOL wants a part of it, and Spinner.com gives it both. The success of the venture will, however, depend on the support of the major music companies -- whether they will sell exclusively direct or sell through third-parties too. The deal with Nullsoft, meanwhile, also brings to AOL the developer's ShoutCast Internet 'ham radio' software, which allows anyone and their dog to become an online radio station. It's a popular program, and it's not hard to imagine all those listeners suddenly being beamed AOL advertising while tuning in to their favourite Net stations. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft denies Gates to fund UK computing museum

Reports in several UK papers that Bill Gates is about to put up the money to establish Bletchley Park as a museum are "merely rumour and speculation", according to spin paramedics for the Great Satan of Software. Bletchley Park was home to the boffins who created Colossus -- widely recognised as the first real computer -- which was used to crack Nazi codes during WWII and was set for demolition by property developers until a deal was struck to turn the site into a museum showing the ground-breaking work done by Alan Turing and his team. A spokesman for the trust claimed that Gates was an ideal sponsor for the museum because "without the pioneering work done at Bletchley on the first computer, he would certainly not have become anything like as fabulously wealthy as he is today". So there we have it -- it's all the UK's fault that Bill's the richest man in the World. Of course if Colussus could be modified to allow it to run Windows 2000, Gates would have to think again. ®
Pete Sherriff, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Sega, AT&T discuss free Dreamcast Net access

Sega is negotiating with AT&T to set up a major online gaming arena to be launched alongside the US debut of the Japanese games vendor's Dreamcast console. According to reports in the Japaneses Sankei newspaper, the two companies are in talks to provide a US equivalent of the free Internet access package Sega recently partnered with British Telecom to provide in Europe. The European and US Dreamcast launches are scheduled for September. Internet access, primarily for online gaming, is likely to play a mjor part in Sega's plans to attract customers to its new system, not only existing owners of Nintendo's N64 and Sony's PlayStation, but those who might be tempted to wait for those companies' next generation products due late 2000 and late this year, respectively. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft coughs up to improve Perl Windows support

Microsoft has set it sights on Perl, the language of choice for Web server scripting, and is to pay developer ActiveState to extend the language to improve its Windows support. The protagonist in the deal appears to be Microsoft India, which wants to improve the ability of Windows versions of Perl to handle non-Roman languages by supporting Unicode. Given the Great Satan's record on promoting its own character sets in the face of standards -- as anyone viewing, say, Word-generated copy through a non-Microsoft browser will attest -- isn't too hot, we wonder how embracing Perl will actually help matters, but there you go, that's Microsoft for you. In any case, by working with ActiveState, the Microsoft modifications should still be released under an Open Source licence, though perhaps not all of them. As the ActiveState FAQ puts it: "Most of the work will be released as Open Source [our italics]." That said, the key additions to the Perl core should be released as Open Source -- it's the stuff that forms the basis for the "value" ActiveState adds to the language that will be retained. Beta versions of the next release of ActivePerl to the Open Source Community are scheduled for August. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Yahoo! buys Web-on-cellphones technology

Portal supremo Yahoo! today acquired developer Online Anywhere for its FlashMap technology, software software that allows devices other than computers to access the Internet. The two companies had already entered into an agreement to deliver Yahoo! pages using Online Anywhere's software. The deal announced today essentially puts that relationship on a more formal footing and, more importantly, allows Yahoo! to provide the service itself. The deal was made through a stock-swap valued at $80 million, but it could bring Yahoo! much, much more. Mirroring AOL's 'AOL Anywhere' strategy, Yahoo! has its own 'Yahoo! Everywhere' programme, but unlike AOL's plan, Yahoo! appears less interested in offering branded Internet-access devices than ensuring that kind of kit can access its site. It's a plan that is not only more cost-effective than AOL's but lacks that World Domination aspect to AOL's plan, which is not too far away from Microsoft's Windows CE strategy. Online Anywhere's Oasis -- the software that contains delivers its FlashMap technology -- essentially allows devices to take incoming HTML code and reformat it so the information looks right on whatever display the device includes, ensuring Yahoo! can support a wide range of hardware without having to manually code each page with a given device's display limitations in mind. It's broadly similar to the kind of Web clipping software 3Com is using for its wireless Web access enable Palm VII. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Web porn queen fights restrictions down under

Flame-haired temptress Bernadette Taylor has launched a Web site to protest against the Australian government's heavy-handed approach to Net censorship. She's also revealed that some of the people accessing her porn site are politicians and high-ranking officials. Last week Bernadette exposed the hypocrisy of the Australian government's decision to censor the Net by revealing that 4,316 individuals are using government-provided Internet access to view pornography during work hours. Bernadette, pictured with a blue satin cross to protect her modesty, likes nothing better than touching up her HTML and getting her kit off. But behind the Web porn lies a serious message. "This site is all about fighting the Australian Internet censorship bill," she said with dazzling come-to-bed eyes (Easy, tiger - Ed). She's also told The Register that she has proof that Aussie politicians regularly access her porn site, although she won't say exactly who. "I do have the full detailed server logs which show what these people are viewing," said Bernadette. "I do have corresponding credit card details which identify exactly who joined from that proxy, however I'm not legally allowed to disclose that except under court order. "And yes some of the people I can cross reference with credit card details are politicians or their direct staff... and a number of interesting other positions too." Oooh er missus. What sort of positions would they be? ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 1999