9th > June > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

US trade body hypes up chip growth

US trade association the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) is pumping up the hype for the future of the market. In a press release issued late yesterday, the SIA said that global chip sales have risen to the double digit level, fuelled by the Internet. According to the SIA, growth next year is expected to exceed 15 per cent, amounting to some $162.5 billion. Those figures will continue through 2001 and 2002, with growth in the latter year of 12 per cent, amount to some $215.7 billion. The SIA quoted LSI Logic's CEO Wilfred Corrigan as saying the industry has now emerged from an "unprecedented three year slowdown". Factors included overcapacity, tight inventory management by OEMs and Asian financial woes. The trade association might have added that the overcapacity was caused by some of its members attempting to capitalise on the cost of DRAM back in 1995, and then finding themselves caught short when the subsequent glut happened. The resulting domino effect exacerbated the Asian economic crisis, has thrown untold numbers of people out of work, and the DRAM market is still in the doldrums... The SIA says the DRAM market demonstrates the overall volatility of semiconductors. It said that microprocessor revenues are set to grow by 16 per cent this year, compared to five per cent last year. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

S3 gets $42 million from UMC

S3 is being paid $42 million by Taiwanese foundry United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) for 29 patent licences. The money is being paid by UMC for multimedia and integrated circuit technology licences that S3 owns. Neither UMC nor S3 would say which particular products will be manufactured by the foundry in association with the licences. S3 has a strong patent portfolio coveted by a number of other companies, including, if not especially, Intel. (Story: Intel: S3 had us by the goolies) ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Further Camino delay will mean Intel compromises

As reported here yesterday, the Camino (i820) chipset is now unlikely to arrive until the end of September at the earliest. (Story: Rambus Meltdown a sorry tale of fudge, mudge and kludge) And that is likely to mean more compromises to ensure that Direct Rambus RIMMs, processor and board all work together. Our inside information now is that Intel's PC partners -- in particular IBM, Compaq and Dell -- are very unhappy about the delays to the technology after a meeting in California last week. If the technical problems continue, we understand that Intel may drop back to AGP 2x, and major PC OEMs do not wish to ship 300MHz Rambus RIMMs, outperformed as they are by even 100MHz SDRAMs. The 133MHz FSB is also threatened. Our source said: "Politically, IBM have to deny that they're unhappy [with Rambus]. Intel, whether it likes it or not, will probably have to endure PC-133." As we reported from Computex, Intel is attempting to put pressure on Via to delay its PC-133 offerings until the chip behemoth gets a chance to put its marchitecture together. The world+dog is unlikely to see Rambus RIMMs at speeds of over 300MHz when Camino does have its bugs sorted out, he added. One of the problems with Direct Rambus is "cache trashing", described by Mosel Vitelic at a press conference in Taiwan last week. ® See also Computex 99 coverage Many stories relating to PC-133 and Direct Rambus, including admissions that the Ram bus is slowed by speed and other considerations Pentium 550MHz is an emergency Plan A didn't work, so Plan B's kicked in...
Mike Magee, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS finally conquers Borland

Microsoft has finally conquered Borland, even if it took the departure of BillG's bete noire Philippe Kahn, and then the sudden and mysterious board-requested resignation of CEO Del Yocam on 31 March, as the result of "philosophical differences regarding the company's growth strategy". It has just been announced that Microsoft has bought a $25 million stake in Inprise (about 10 per cent), and paid $100 million for access to Inprise technology. The deal is called "a set of strategic technology and licensing agreements". There was a long-standing patent and licensing dispute between the companies, and it looks as though Microsoft decided this was not a good time to be in court with Inprise, so what has become known as the "Stac solution" was used. Quite simply, Microsoft forked out enough cash to ensure a "friendly" outcome. This isn't the first time there has been legal wrangling between the companies. Yocam sued Microsoft after it started helping itself to key Borland staff, offering golden hellos, allegedly in an attempt to ruin the company. Microsoft settled out of court. This was sweet revenge for Yocam, since when he was at Apple he initiated the action against Microsoft for stealing the Mac GUI for Windows, although Apple did not ultimately win the case. For its part, Inprise had to agree to support Windows 2000, COM+, and Windows DNA. Inprise will also ship MFC with Borland C++ Builder, and license the Windows SDK. Inprise had a number of consecutive profitable quarters, following Yocam's turnaround plan, but Q1 produced an unexpectedly large loss, rather than an expected small profit, mostly because of restructuring charges. After a change of name to Inprise in April 1998, Yocam split the company into two separately-located operations in January this year - Inprise, based in San Mateo and focussing on enterprise software, and borland.com, a Web tools and services operation in Scotts Valley. The splitting was to be a solution to infighting between those working on the traditional products and the new Java-Corba direction. There must be more than meets the eye in this, and the company's efforts in COM-CORBA bridging could well be one, especially as CORBA is gaining so much ground with the military and in government. The company is one of very few with Java, COM and CORBA experience. Some cynics suggest that this is a move by Microsoft to keep Sun away from Inprise, but this does not seem very likely. Dale Fuller, late of WhoWhere?, Apple, and NEC, was appointed CEO and interim president. Fuller is credited with the ability to create shareholder value. Hambrecht & Quist were retained to advise the board on strategic alternatives, which could have meant separating Inprise from Borland.com, but might well have been this quickly arranged wedding. ®
Graham Lea, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS offered IBM Win95 source for ‘neutral’ PC

MS on Trial In March of 1997 IBM and Microsoft were negotiating a renewed alliance which would boost IBM's use of Microsoft software, and give IBM access to the source code of Windows 95, according to documentation produced at the Microsoft trial yesterday. Microsoft had been trying to bludgeon IBM into co-operation with a mix of carrots and sticks for several years, and yesterday's documents show first, that Microsoft still wanted to take out Lotus SmartSuite, and second, that Bill Gates was still calling the shots. The notes taken at the time by IBM exec Garry Norris make it clear that Microsoft's demands were coming from the top, and show the extraordinary lengths the company was prepared to go to in order to get its way. Teams from the two companies met in IBM's Raleigh facility to discuss what appears to have been a wide-ranging alliance. Lead member for IBM was Ozzie Osbourne of the PC Company, while Bengt Akerlind fronted for Microsoft. Norris' notes of the meeting say "BPC. IBM first chair in exchange for system loaded with Office." The BPC was the Broadcast PC, intended to be a joint development project between IBM and Microsoft. By "first chair" Norris explains his notes as meaning that IBM would get an early-to-market advantage from the co-development. Presumably the arrangement would have been that Microsoft would have the right to offer the technologies developed to other OEMs, but would give IBM a 60 day clear run before it did so. In exchange, IBM would dump SmartSuite and load Office on its machines. Next the notes read: "IE 4.0. In exchange, neutral system and soft dollars. KPC in exchange for neutral system." Asked about this in court yesterday Norris said: "Microsoft defined the neutral system that contained Microsoft [operating?] software, application software, and no IBM or competing software." This means IBM would preload IE 4.0 without Netscape ("Bengt was very specific. He said, 'No Netscape."), and in exchange would get Microsoft cash via joint promotions, advertising or reduced licence fees. And KPC? The Kirkland Programming Center in Redmond was an operation run by IBM, and this would become a self-certification laboratory, or Windows Hardware Qualification Laboratory (WHQL). IBM would have the NT source code on-site (it already had this) and "we would get new access to the Windows 95 and BackOffice source code." That's a pretty massive carrot, but what about the stick? That's the self-certification bit. Said Norris: "Oftentimes when we would send systems to Microsoft to get them certified and placed on the compatibility list, we would send them and somehow they got lost." Oops. "It would take 60 to 90 days to get systems certified on their compatibility list. Competitors were taking one to two weeks. We'd send systems in May and they'd come back in August finally on the list." Akerlind elaborated on what constituted a "neutral" system, according to Norris' notes: "Bengt. SmartSuite, World Book [a competitor to MS Encarta], Notes. Remove objectionable apps and make the systems neutral." But the carrot itself receded. At a later meeting Microsoft's Ted Hannum came up with the interesting concept of "horizontal restraint," and the notes read: "Horizontal restraint. Lowering the value of the system to end user" and "CDT. No ship with NTW and SmartSuite. Then KPC. No SS or CDT shipping with NTW. QPQ access to source, NT and BackOffice and 95. T1 line. Better support." This means Hannum was demanding that IBM commercial desktop brand PCs running NT Workstation shouldn't ship with SmartSuite. Quid Pro Quo (QPQ) would be the source, a T1 line at KPC and better support. We can only speculate about what "horizontal restraint" meant - Norris doesn't seem to have done much of a job explaining it yesterday, but to be fair, he confesses he didn't understand it at the time. Reducing functionality by ripping out Lotus apps? Whatever, the Broadcast PC was abandoned, the reborn Microsoft-IBM alliance didn't happen either, and here we all are in court. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

ILDF manage to stave off Meta patent judgement

A group of shareholders and creditors have managed to postpone an attempt by Randolph Osherow to obtain the patents for the Meta 3240. This is the case where it emerged that Intel had created a Cayman Island shell company called Maelen in a bid to grab the patents for itself. (Intel, TechSearch, IMS case takes further twist) Now, the judge looking after the case will hear an objection to Osherow's proposed settlement. According to Val Scott, one of the directors of ILDF, any agreement will not be approved until the hearing date, on the 6th of July next. If the group's attempt to have the settlement overturned fails, ILDF will file a motion for reconsideration and if that does not succeed, will appeal to the fifth district court. ILDF will find itself facing Osherow's IPIQ, TechSearch and Austek. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

HP merges five sales forces worldwide

Hewlett Packard has today re-organised its value sales business worldwide. Units which formerly sold consultancy, finance, support, software and enterprise business have been merged into a unit called the Enterprise Computing Sales Organisation (ECSO). The software unit includes OpenView, while the enterprise business includes its Unix and NT server businesses and its newly fledged storage business. Phil Lawler, who formerly had a European job, will become general manager of the new unit in the UK. Andy Isherwood, director of channels and alliances, said Lawler will be responsible for the five sales forces. He said that the move meant that a sales representative could talk to partners and leverage the different business areas at the same time. "We've historically run these as separate businesses," said Isherwood. "This gives us a broader view which is not voluntary but compulsory." The volume side of HP's business will remain the same, he said. "Mixing volume and value is a difficult task." Similar announcements will be made in different geographies throughout the course of the day. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel named in fresh antitrust suit

Updated, again More details have emerged about Multivideo's antitrust suit, first revealed here three days ago. The legal action was filed on the 28th of May, and alleges that Intel attempted to stop implementors of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) from accepting Multivideo's interconnect product as a standard. Multivideo also alleges that Intel bullied distributors not to use its product. Multivideo Labs, based in Princeton, NJ, is involved in the video display and USB businesses. It filed the action on the 28th of May. An Intel representative said: "After a preliminary review of the case, we believe it is without merit and we will defend it vigorously." This, of course, is from the Intel Book of Quotes when asked about legal cases. Meanwhile, Intel has registered a fresh domain name: FABITAT.COM. Shades of Conran's Habitat? ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Big Blue sued over mice – twice

F&G Scrolling Mouse LLC has sued IBM for alleged patent infringement. It's the second time F&G has sued Big Blue over Mice in the last month. Big Blue sued over mice That's it. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

AOL claims 24/7 toll-free access offer “a hoax”

AOL UK has move quickly to quash rumours that it is on the verge of introducing round-the-clock toll-free access to the Internet. A newsgroup posting on the Editor's Message Board last night sparked a fresh wave of rumours that AOL was set to introduce toll-free access. The message has been branded a hoax by AOL. The alleged conversation happened in one of AOL's chat rooms between one of its guides and an AOL user. Not only did it allege that AOL was to introduce toll-free access, it suggested that a television report claimed it would be for 24-hours a day. This has been strongly denied by AOL spokeswoman Maggie Gallant. "AOL UK is currently testing an 0800 product but we are in early stages of trials. There is no announcement due in the near future," she said. Referring to the posting she said that the presence of an official AOL guide in the snippet does, on the surface, lend credibility. But the name "Guide UK" is incomplete and could be one of 200 people, she said. "We have no evidence that that this is a genuine posting. "We are looking into it," she said, "but I suspect it is a hoax." The short posting read: Here ya go guys, some of the latest news, well its mainly cause the guide said its gonna released soon... hold tite! Also on the tv it said thats its gonna be 24/7!! 1 even better!! Ianp22: i was just watching the tv and it said aol is realsing 0800 dialup soon, is this true? GuideUK: yes maybe Ianp22: and it said the best thing yet, that when they do release it, its gonna be 24/7 dialup and no limit like 2 hour kick offs GuideUK: I am not aware of any details Ianp22: but there is rumors that its gonna be realesed soon? GuideUK: yes Last month AOL UK confirmed it was testing a new pricing package which would give users toll-free telephone calls to access the Net. Since then speculation has mounted about when -- and if -- this may be introduced. AOL also confirmed last month of it intention to cut the cost of its unlimited price plan to £9.99. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Dell launches Euro free ISP

Dell has become the latest company to offer subscription-free net access joining Granada and themutual.net this week alone. Launched in the UK it is the start of a pan-European Internet service that will be rolled out in Germany on 21 June and France within the next month. Other European countries should be able to take advantage of Dell's offer later in the year. Not only will the software be pre-installed in Dell PCs, non-Dell users will be able to sign up to the service by accessing the DellNet Web site. DellNet is collaboration between BT and portal Excite. In February bovine PC company, Gateway, launched its own subscription-free Net access service in the UK. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MSN FreeWeb goes dotty

It's official -- the guy and gals at MSN are dotty. The Register received this email today that suggests that MSN simply hasn't got the point - or if it has, then it's in the wrong place... "Apologies, but we managed to add an extra dot to one of the web addresses in yesterday's announcement of MSN FreeWeb. The correct address for getting the software is: www.msnfreeweb.co.uk and not: www.msn.freeweb.co.uk Sorry for the inconvenience of another email, but we wanted to make sure that the correct address is published for your readers." Have you got that? The Register would have loved to report that the successful launch of MSN's new free service went without a hitch yesterday -- but we can't. By the way, any readers not using Internet Explorer might as well forget clicking on the link to MSN FreeWeb above. Tsk.®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

NatSemi credit card PC heralds ‘end of PC era’

NatSemi has forged an alliance with a specialist 'single component PC' company which could result in PC-compatible devices the size of a credit card. The deal with ZF MicroSystems announced today will combine NatSemi's system-on-a-chip technology with ZF's embedded expertise. NatSemi has been pushing the system-on-a-chip route for low cost PCs since its purchase of Cyrix, and its first PC appliance products are due to ship any time now. But Cyrix has been underperforming in terms of conventional chip sales, and it's going to take time for NatSemi's coveted appliance/device market to develop. The deal with ZF, however, shows that the company is gearing up for it, and even anticipating markets that go beyond cheap, single-chip PC-like devices. ZF, which was formed four years ago, produces products based on its OEMmodule Single Component computer platform. These include motherboard hardware and software functionality in a single, credit card-sized component. According to Mike Atkin, vice president of NatSemi's custom products division, the deal with ZF will "deliver next generation systems that will help define the post-PC era." The first products of the alliance are scheduled to be produced by NatSemi by the fourth quarter. ®
John Lettice, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Motorola scores $1bn PPC deal with, er, Sun and Motorola

Motorola and Sun have teamed-up to pitch IP-based telephony services to the wireless market. The ten year strategic alliance puts together Motorola hardware and Sun software, and incidentally throws a substantial lifebelt to Motorola Computer Group (MCG). As part of the deal Motorola will buy "up to $1 billion in board- and system-level hardware from MCG." Yes folks, it's a funny old world, but money's money, even if it's funny money. The two companies say they will deliver "an unprecedented level of wireless availability - the equivalent in a wireline world of near-inifinite dial tone" - i.e., we're going to be majoring on scalability and uptime. There are three basic parties to the deal. MCG supplies the hardware, Motorola's Network Solutions Sector (NSS) the wireless expertise and Sun the software. MCG's contribution will include the CPX8216 PowerPC high-availability computing platform, and this at least will have the virtue of keeping the Big M interested in PowerPC for a little while longer. At the base station level there will be custom hardware from NSS plus CPU and NIC from NCG, and Sun's ChorusOS real-time operating system. Call processing controllers will use the CPX8216 plus ChorusOS, while Sun's Netra hardware gets a look in at back office processing and central office operations - this bit will of course be running Solaris. So the deal, as we understand it, means that Motorola gets the volume end of the business, and gets Sun doing the operating software for it, while Sun gets to play with the big stuff. The whole shebang is to be sold on to network operators as a seamless package, presumably. ®
John Lettice, 09 Jun 1999

The curse of MSN strikes another MS VP

Another Microsoft executive has been "disappeared" - this time it's John Ludwig, VP of the consumer and commerce group, who's signed-up for an extended leave of absence. Ludwig was involved in the development of IE, and has left a number of fingerprints in the trial transcripts.
John Lettice, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MP demands cheaper net access from UK government

Net users in the UK have a new political champion willing to take their fight for better and cheaper access right to the very top of Government. Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat MP for Northavon near Bristol, spoke for all of the UK's ten million Netizens today as he quizzed the Government about the cost of Net access in the UK. During his allotted 15 minutes he touched upon all the main issues affecting Net users including the cost of metered dial-up access and the slow introduction of broadband technologies such as DSL. The present pricing arrangements for telcos was not drawn up with the Internet in mind, he told the Commons with just a handful of MPs in attendance. "The chief concern for Net users is the metering of local calls," he said. "The analogy is that we are being charged for window shopping on the Internet." "Yet, the experience is that when metered charges are abolished usage increases," he said. He said the British temperament is well suited to this technology and he warned Government spokesman Michael Wills MP that unless the cost of calls came down the UK would lose out. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

UK government refuses to act on Net access costs

The Government has confirmed it sees there is no reason for it to intervene in the marketplace and force telcos to cut the cost of Net access. Responding to an adjournment motion today in the House of Commons Michael Wills MP said it wasn't up to the government to adjudicate in such matters. He said it was up to the market to decide. And recent developments including the launch of screaming.net and BTInternet's weekend-only toll-free access were clear signs that market forces were at work. "Competition is the best way forward," said Wills "and companies are free to offer what they want." "You have to ask yourself, is the cost of net access affecting the take-up? "The short answer is no," he said. Today's motion on the regulation of telecommunications and the growth of the Internet showed that the Labour Government has taken a stand-offish conservative approach to the issue. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

UK users will get unmetered Net access within three months

The UK will get toll-free access to the Internet within the next three months, The Register can confirm. Conservative MP Ian Bruce said this afternoon that telcos are working on a service that would give users access to a single toll-free number of their choice. Although users would have to pay a premium for this service -- a flat-rate fee -- it would mean they could use the number for as long as they liked without incurring additional line charges. Such a move would mean that millions of Net users in the UK could surf the Web without having to watch the meter. "Within three months [such a product] will be made available, " said Bruce, MP for South Dorset. The introduction of unmetered access to the Net is regarded by many as the biggest hurdle to the UK's future success in the wired world. Bruce has close ties with the Telecommunications Managers Association (TMA), an industry body made up of senior executives. His announcement follows a dinner with the TMA last night before today's debate in parliament. He wouldn't say exactly which company would offer the service first but he did confirm it was on its way. The revelation that the UK telecoms industry has finally buckled under consumer pressure came during an intervention in the House of Commons today. As Liberal Democrat Steve Webb was taking the government to task about the cost of Net access, Bruce intervened. He said there was no need for tighter regulation because the market was working. To prove his point he said that within weeks, a telco would introduce "fixed-rate unlimited access" to the Net. A spokesman for the Campaign for Unmetered telecommunications which campaigns for fairer telecoms charges welcomed the move. A spokesman for BT denied that it was the giant telco Bruce was talking about. BT was not about to introduce such a service, he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

3Dfx set to take over S3

S3, the company with mighty patents, is set to be taken over by 3Dfx, reliable sources told us today. When we asked where the money could come from, the source told us the bid will be funded by a consortium dead interested in all of the S3 patents. If the reports are true, it would be a hostile bid. S3 is being wooed by Intel and yesterday received a $42 million bonus from UMC for certain licence agreements. Our sources say that there is more money where that came from. And to watch that space. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jun 1999