15th > June > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

AOL's plans for dumping Windows, IE

MS on Trial AOL's projected 'no-Windows' PC (Sun-AOL plan for no-Windows PC) finally made it to court yesterday, but by some strange alchemy Microsoft's attorneys nevertheless seem to have failed to set the world on fire in the quizzing of 'hostile witness' David Colburn. The AOL PC plan was presented to the AOL board last October, but the plan didn't go ahead. Allegedly. Something looking remarkably like a successor to the AOL PC plan is deeply embedded in the company's recent AOL TV announcement (See story), but Microsoft's defence team is probably so focussed on the AOL-Netscape deal that they've failed to notice associated developments further down the line. Last October's plan seems to have come in two flavours. There would be one PC that was Windows-based, but whose user interface would have been effectively hijacked by AOL. The other, more ambitious, plan was for a machine using another OS. Remarkably, AOL TV is going for this more ambitious version of the 'abandoned' plan. Both machines were intended to involve heavy use of Java, and considering the timing you'd expect a heavy Sun and Netscape involvement if they'd gone ahead. Colburn yesterday pointed out that AOL had ruled out plans to abandon IE in favour of Netscape, although interestingly enough AOL documentation shows that its executives felt that the Microsoft relationship would get worse, not better. That implies a need to break free in the long term and, well, there we are back at AOL TV again. The PC plan, obviously, wasn't a runner. In order to get an AOL-specific user interface onto PCs in any numbers while still using Windows as the base OS, AOL would need either to get a PC manufacturer to kick over the whole of Microsoft's OEM licensing structure, or do it itself. This, as the trial and large volumes of Register coverage of MS OEM agreements shows, is impossible without the help of the courts. Putting together a completely non-MS PC would be technically and contractually simpler, but it would be unlikely to play in the PC market. PC manufacturers wouldn't be interested, and AOL wouldn't want to get directly into the PC business. Of course, if you targeted a different, new market like interactive TV and called it a set-top box, the lack of Windows wouldn't be a major issue. Which takes us back to AOL TV again. Sheesh, MS' attorneys didn't focus on any of this yesterday - how much are the punks getting paid, anyway? ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Felten hits back at MS exec Allchin on integration

MS on Trial Computer scientist Edward Felten of Princeton was the last of the three rebuttal witnesses for the DoJ. Steve Holtzman of the Department of Justice took him through some of the contentious issues in the testimony of Microsoft vp Jim Allchin, which was described as "questionable". Allchin had said "Yes" in response to the question: "If somebody combined the original retail version of Windows 95 without any browser at all, and the retail version of IE 4, they would get the same rich experience as you describe here, right?" Allchin had also testified that the Windows Update feature wouldn't work if IE was removed from Windows 98. Felten was asked to comment on Allchin's Caldera demo, with OpenLinux and the KDE browser. Allchin had foolishly, and incorrectly, claimed that certain Windows 98 features could only be achieved by so-called integration between Windows and IE, but in the Caldera example, the OS and the browser were separate products, and Allchin's evidence was shown to be false. Allchin had admitted in his testimony that IE4 installed on top of retail Windows 95 would give all the features of the "integrated" version. Up popped Steve Holley, Microsoft's jack-in-the-box counsel, to complain about the mischaracterisation of evidence. Holtzman told Judge Jackson that "The evidence was long, drawn-out... over quite a period of time". "Overruled" said the judge, giving the opportunity for Felten to be led through some features that in fact were not installable from a free-standing version of IE4: HTML help, update Windows, and WebTV. Standalone IE5 did have HTML help and the Windows update, but not WebTV. No panic though: WebTV was an optional feature within Windows 98, showing that any option could be installed separately from Windows 98. Holtzman used MS Office as an example of software that allows functionality to be integrated, but where there is no physical welding together of the capabilities. Allchin in his evidence had tried to justify the inclusion of IE being welded into Windows 98 by claiming it was necessary that it was there to support HTML and HTTP, but Felten could see no reason why users should not have a choice of capabilities - or have them exercised on their behalf by an OEM. The Adobe PDF viewer was cited as an example of a format that was widely with Windows, but not part of it. Allchin had also argued that it was justified to "integrate" IE into Windows 98 because this exposed APIs to software developers. Felten explained how APIs are found in essentially all Microsoft products, and that this was a fallacious argument. Furthermore, many Microsoft products had IE included with them, so that earlier versions could be replaced. Judge Jackson took a particular interest in this, and one could see his Opinion being formulated: since Microsoft includes IE with products like Office, Money, Frontpage, Visualstudio and MSN, it could clearly do the same for Windows - but in such a way as to allow user choice... Another fallacious Allchin argument concerned his view that there was an advantage of a "single install". By denying the option of not having a browser, and by not having an API to allow any browser to be used, user choice was being denied, Felten responded. No DoJ evidence would be complete without the odd damning Microsoft email, and so Holtzman introduced a beauty (alas, the full text is not yet released). After an "offsite" (a way to get people to work at weekends it seems) to discuss IE and Memphis (Windows 97 aka Windows 98), Allchin nervously emailed Paul Maritz and Gates that Joachim Kempin wanted Windows 98 without a browser: "The number one big issue dealt with the Memphis plan. "Paul, Joachim K does not agree with the plan. He plans to raise it with you and Bill. I think that he wants a 'Memphis-like' product (with all the new hardware support) minus IE 4.0 in June. He says that IE 4.0 can be added next year." Felten commented that he thought Kempin believed users wanted Windows 98 without IE, but he did not realise that it was more likely that Kempin saw the possibility of selling the browser. There is a fine line between putting the best interpretation on events and deliberately providing misleading evidence to the court. It will be interesting to see if, in the fullness of time, Allchin is accused of stepping to the wrong side of this line, and charged accordingly. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS DLLs are like ice cream and carrots – expert

MS on Trial Microsoft has given DLLs multiple functionality to make it difficult to remove browser functionality without impairing Windows performance. In discussing such tricks, the DoJ rebuttal witness Edward Felten grasped at the analogy of a DLL being composed of ice cream and carrots. His reasoning was that the component content of any single DLL had as much in common as, you've got it ... A particularly good example of unrelated functions in the same DLL was the one that Microsoft code-named Trident (mshtml.dll). Felten had seen the source code, following a court order that made Microsoft release code to him, and found that although its main function is to render HTML, it contains several other unrelated things. And who better to confirm this than Microsoft developer Christian Fortini, who emailed on 26 August 1997: "We have to stop adding non-browsing features into Trident and start taking some of the existing ones out. We should shrink the core Trident code base down to a very compact (and fast) HTML rendering and manipulation engine and hopefully limit the number of people in this code base." This was a tough one for Microsoft, because it was clear that deliberately obfuscating the DLL had resulted in its being less efficient, not more efficient, as Allchin was claiming. Another priceless example of DLL conjuring described by Felten was seen when shdocvw.dll was split into two between IE4 and IE5, with the second part being called browseui.dll. Some code from shdocvx.dll was moved at the same time, causing the thumbnail of alternative wallpaper to be in shell32.dll now: such important stuff. The conclusions that can be drawn about the DLLs is that they can be split or combined at whim - and the whim was most clearly to make life hell for Netscape. One consequence of chopping and changing DLLs was that it made it more difficult to define IE, since its functionality was in DLLs that also had other totally unrelated jobs to do. The detailed exposure of Microsoft's tricks with DLL manipulation, and the subsequent cover-up, amount to a another plank for the Microsoft coffin. ® Complete Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

‘Compaq’ invents Linux-based palm computer

One of the things Compaq got hold of when it bought Digital was the latter's wacky research division. This wasn't obviously something an outfit like Compaq would automatically know what to do with (e.g., 'what are we going to do with Alta Vista then?'), but as the company has now started talking about a Linux-based palm computer, the ex-Digital boffins in Palo Alto may be able to breathe a little easier. The device in question is the Itsy, which is a little bit smaller than a Palm Pilot. It's a research project only, designed to spec out possible future products in handheld and wearable computing. It allegedly uses a 200MHz StrongARM CPU, which strikes us as serious overkill for something this size, but aside from pen input the researchers are looking and voice and at something called Rock 'n Scroll, a gesture-based input system (we said it was Digital's wacky research bit). The StrongARM angle is also interesting. Long term readers will recall that Larry Ellison claims Bill Gates forced Digital to kill-off a StrongARM-based NC, the Shark, but in the interim the labs have still been fooling around with the chip. This might well influence Compaq's long-term roadmap. But actually we reckon Factoid is far more interesting than Itsy. It's a small key-fob computer with no user interface, and it uses wireless with a 30 foot range to communicate. We quote: "The purpose of a Factoid is to accumulate information that is broadcast from other Factoid devices, and upload it to the user's home base. This information is envisioned to be facts, such as one might see on a sign, on a business card, or on the display of an instrument such as a GPS receiver. These facts are uploaded to the user's home base whenever the user walks by an Internet-connected Factoid server." Cool or what? This kind of relates to Bluetooth and kind of to business card computers of the sort that constitute just about the only 'vision' we've ever heard from IBM's Lou Gerstner. Unfortunately, if our recollection of the invention of the term factoid by Norman Mailer (we're pretty sure about this, but write if we're wrong) is correct, a factoid is something that isn't actually true, but which has gained such wide currency that it is now generally accepted as such. Lots more groovy stuff available here, at Digital's Western Research Labs. ® See also: Compaq may release Linux micro-PC to open sourcers
John Lettice, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun, 3Com bring Java to Palm

Sun and 3Com have agreed to turn the Palm organiser into a Java device, by building in the latest, most compact version of Sun's programming language, the 100K Java Micro Edition. Clearly the move helps shore up both companies' products against Windows CE, by giving Java access to a new market, and providing Palm Computing with a way of getting more people to write software for the Palm platform. That could be crucial to Palm's attempts to position its hardware as more of a corporate networking tool than an executive plaything. The move also neatly brings the two companies' open source-style initiatives together, with both Java and the PalmOS now open to developers to use in the creation of new solutions. PalmOS isn't quite as open as Java, but this latest deal could persuade Palm to loosen some of the control it still maintains over its operating system. As for Sun, getting Java onto the Palm is a useful 'proof of concept' move -- it shows the software can be made to work in small form factor devices, in particular mobile phones, which is the market Java Micro Edition is really aimed at. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel to be paid to limit fab jobs

Officials in Oregon's Washington County, home of four of Intel's key US manufacturing sites look set to approve a $200 million tax-break package for the chip vendor. However, there's one proviso for Chipzilla, though: don't create too many jobs. The plan will contain a clause forcing Intel to pay $1000 for every manufacturing job is creates over a 5000-staff limit. Intel currently has 4000 Oregonians on its manufacturing payroll. The tax-break plan comes as Intel is gearing up to convert its US plants to a 0.18 micron fab process. Essentially, the deal limits the amount of property tax Chipzilla will have to pay to the County. Still, Intel is paying an estimated $12.5 billion to modify its plants, so what's effectively a $200 million grant won't make much of an impact, but it's certainly not unwelcome. ®
Team Register, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Cloner to make MS Java available to all platforms

More information is emerging about Microsoft's deal with Java cloner Transvirtual Technologies. At JavaOne today in San Francisco Transvirtual is due to show a new version of its product, Kaffe, which can run Microsoft's Java extensions as well as Sun Java. Transvirtual would seem to have been paid by Microsoft to develop the latest variant, which complicates matters seriously. Microsoft is currently held by the judge in the Sun-Microsoft litigation to have breached Sun's Java copyright, but to have the right to clone Java. Transvirtual has already done the cloning, so Kaffe theoretically will allow Microsoft to carry on from where it was. Transvirtual has however made quite a bit of noise about making Java open source, so there are at least likely to be philosophical problems with its arrangement with Microsoft. More complicated still, Transvirtual also produces a 'custom edition' of Kaffe which is 'de-GPLed,' and is for licensing to companies who don't want to put GPL code in their products. Microsoft might fall into this category, but... Transvirtual CEO Tim Wilkinson says that the intent is to allow Microsoft code, which was designed by Microsoft as Windows-specific, to run on all platforms. Microsoft has helped Transvirtual implement its extensions, but not to the extent of giving it the source or putting the source in the public domain. We therefore have some kind of halfway house looming here. The next interesting question is, what is Microsoft going to do with Kaffe, if anything? The company's previous Java bolthole was HP, but Transvirtual will be showing Kaffe running on CE (previously HP's manor), and Itsy (don't they get everywhere?). So Microsoft is quite possibly switching. The blurry nature of the whole deal is understandable, in light of the court case. Microsoft knows what it's allowed to do at the moment (although some of the restrictions are 'non-binding'), but it can't be sure what it'll be allowed to do once the case is over. The outcome could be anything from MS being allowed to carry on as before (unlikely) to being forced to dump the entire "grow polluted Java" (see trial coverage) strategy. So retaining the option of chucking the whole lot into the public domain might be smart, while over-reacting by going open source now wouldn't be. But there are some possible snags to the Transvirtual route, according to our informants. Says one: "Kaffe just doesn't cut it as a Java implementation. It's incomplete, buggy, and slow. That doesn't mean it's unusable, but it won't displace the Sun or IBM VMs any time soon, or at all without massive investment." Transvirtual, he says, is a company being squeezed by bigger and better competitors who're giving their products away. That would suggest the MS bankrolling will have been welcome for the it as a hook. It quite possibly also suggests that the hook is attached to a reel of something. MS could buy the whole shooting match, and then plough resources (and the other stuff, but we won't talk about that today) into making it a serious competitor. Heard that somewhere before? ®
John Lettice, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

‘Free’ Internet claims exposed

A premium rate phone line that promised "unlimited 'free' UK calls to the Internet!" has been exposed as little more than a crude marketing ploy for Euphony Communications Ltd. Free-Link, based in Leeds, claimed it would spill the beans on toll-free access to the Internet if Net users called the premium-rate line and paid a £25 registration fee. But The Register has discovered that Free-Link it nothing more than multi-level marketing reseller for Reading-based Euphony. And by deliberately withholding the fact that it was an an agent for Euphony it has breached the company's guidelines and could face being "suspended or terminated". "If our people are not operating in a business-like or ethical way I will suspend or terminate them," said Jeanne Jones, Brand Manager at Euphony. "We have a very strict policy," she said. "Our consultants are not allowed to engage in blind advertising, they cannot advertise on Web sites, they cannot use unsolicited mail and they have to use our approved adverts," she said. In all these cases it appears Free-Link breached Euphony's guidelines. John Usher, one of the men behind Free-Link, said that the offer was "completely legal" before conceding that he knew nothing about computers. "I don't even have one," he said. "The whole idea was to sell Euphony—I now realise the error of some of our ways," he said. Euphony, which claims to be the "fastest growing telecommunications company in the UK" was created last year. It relies on an ever-expanding team of consultants to recruit new subscribers to its services. One condition-laden service gives Net users limited toll-free access to the Net. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Ten fingers, two thumbs keep moving with HP Internet keyboards

Apply Darwinian theory to Web use and the next evolutionary change to happen to Homo sapiens will be the sprouting of extra fingers to cope with ever-expanding keyboards. No? Well in its infinite wisdom Hewlett-Packard is to add a stack of new keys that will make it easier for users to jump onto their favourite parts of the Web without using a mouse. The new improved Internet keyboard will form part of the hardware for its new range of Pavilion PCs. The keyboard will feature seven new keys that will provide a link directly to Web content such as entertainment, finance and shopping. It will also be possible to customise the keys to create a one-button jump to just about anywhere. Snag is, you'll need more fingers to use it and even longer desk to accommodate the keyboard. HP's latest fiddling is part of a number of key alliances with AOL, AT&T WorldNet and Yahoo!. Reports suggest that the keyboard could be available next month. No one at HP was available to say when it would make its way to Europe.
Tim Richardson, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

3Com partners with NTT DoCoMo for wireless Palm roll-out

3Com's Palm Computing subsidiary has won the support of Japan's largest cellphone company, NTT DoCoMo, with a major technology and business alliance that puts the Palm platform at the heart of DoCoMo's mobile data service plans. Essentially what we have here is a Japanese version of the wireless trials Palm is currently running in the US on the back of its recently released Palm VII. Those trials are being conducted with BellSouth Cellular, but Palm always said the technology could easily be taken to other cellphone companies and territories. It's not yet clear, however, when the Japanese service will be launched, but it clearly can't be that far off. The deal is particularly good news for Palm, which doesn't appear to have won quite as much support in Japan as it has in the US and Europe. The company only just released a Japanese version of PalmOS, and the Palm V is the first Palm to offer the kind of cool styling favoured by the gadget-hungry Japanese. Many buyers have opted instead for Windows CE devices with their colour screens. DoCoMo brings a subscriber base of around 28 million subscribers to the deal, plus a rapid technology upgrade programme -- it is already working on rolling out a Wideband CDMA digital network for next year. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Maxtor issues profit warning

The hard drive price war has taken its toll on Maxtor, which says it will not meet market expectations. The company, part-owned by Hyunda, blames significant price deterioration this quarter for the profits warning. It now expects to report a loss of between $23 million and $33 million for the quarter ending on the 3rd of July. Maxtor CEO Mike Cannon said the company would take "appropriate steps" to cut back on production and limit its involvement in the worst affected areas of the market. ® See also: Only 18 disk drive makers left Maxtor growth suggests Seagate takeover
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Psion launches Series 5mx – the 5 ‘Second Edition’

Today in London Psion unveiled the product that the Series 5 pocket organiser should have been. The Series 5mx fixes defects and delivers on promises made two years ago. But alongside what is essentially a holding action, Psion previewed a larger, notebook-style machine, the netBook. The netBook won't be available until later this year, and as a product of Psion's Psion Enterprise operation is aimed at the corporate market. Psion hasn't been involved in the notebook arena since the comparative flop of the MC400/600 a few years back, but this time around the market may be more receptive. The machine is billed as "the world's first truly mobile network computer," and will be Java-enabled from the start. That of course is one of the sore points of the Series 5. Psion promised Java support for the machine at the launch, but has only been able to deliver on this with the 5mx and its faster 36MHz processor. The Series 5 also launched without full communications, Web and mobile phone support, and although these eventually did show up after a fashion, they were relatively piggy to use (said one highly-placed journalist user). The 5mx allegedly sorts this out (we'll let you know once we've played with a review unit), and alongside it Psion has announced a specially tailored Web portal plus a worldwide network of access points. The 5mx also has a new case. Veteran users will be aware that the 5's coating tends to peel off, so we can call this a bug-fix. It's due out on 1 July, price £430. The netBook breaks the mould by being Psion's first colour machine (VGA), and by adding a PC Card slot. This was previously anathema to the company, but the compact flash slot of the Series 5 (the netBook has this as well) hasn't yet won the widespread industry support that was previously anticipated. Both machines run EPOC Release 5, announced today by Symbian. Release 5, oddly enough, contains most of the software gear that didn't ship with the 5 first time around. Email, fax and SMS, multiple users, a new contacts database and seamless PC synchronisation, plus Java JDK 1.1.4 implementation, data synchronisation, file format conversion, infrared exchange, and of course colour. This fairly hefty list of features of course adds up more or less to a shippable package of operating and applications software for licensees, the idea that Symbian sells them a sufficiently large pile of stuff for them to get moving straight away. We hear Ericsson is likely to be in hot pursuit shortly with a communicator device that has quite a lot in common with the 5mx. Register launch PR award goes to Psion press office, for inviting the wrong person from The Register, failing to tell us where the launch was, and then all going out for the day of the big announcement without leaving anybody manning the Press office. An outstanding performance which alone would have secured the award. The immediate appearance of a commercial for the product on the site, but no press release and no obvious information on price, specification and availability can therefore be seen simply as added heroism. Symbian's efforts were in a different league altogether. It shipped us the press release on time, marred only by a slight infestation of (tsk) Microsoft smartquotes. Well done, Psion Press Office, and be more trying next time if you want the award, Symbian. ®
John Lettice, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Inktomi, Inktomi, they've all got it Inktomi

Inktomi Corporation has launched the world's first fully automated Directory Engine. Unlike Yahoo!, which employs hundreds of editors to plough through Web sites and structure them into neat little groups, the Inktomi Directory Engine does it all without anyone lifting a finger. Officially launched today, the Directory Engine has already been adopted by a number of companies including VerticalNet, GoTo.com, GoNow.com, GoProfit.com and Knight Ridder Real Cities. The technology uses advanced supercomputing techniques to simulate a form of "artificial intelligence". It's hoped that this approach will improve the quality of the service and also make the results more relevant to users. "Inktomi's launch of Directory Engine and the introduction of our new Concept Induction technology demonstrate our focus on building infrastructure that scales the Internet," said David Peterschmidt, president and CEO of Inktomi. "The Web grows at a faster rate than any medium in history, and the future of Web directories will necessarily be a hybrid of human and machine." ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

M4 touts DLT tape library

M4 Data launched the MagFile tape library today, a data storage product which the company hopes will push it into the UK channel. MagFile uses Quantum drives, and is a mid-range DLTtape automated tape library that Surrey-based M4 hopes will increase its coverage with resellers. Each library module holds up to 20 cartridges, divided between two ten-cartridge magazines. The 7" high box has incremental scalability, and allows up to ten MagFile 20 modules to be linked together in the same cabinet to form a MagStak library storage system. All cartridges are removable and hold up to 35 GB of data each. The product has been developed at M4’s R&D outfit in Somerset, and is designed for future applications, including Network Attached Storage and Storage Area Networks. M4 currently has three main resellers in the UK - Phoenix Computers, DSM and Solid-State Solutions. It aims to double this number through MagFile, and also attract more smaller resellers to buy indirectly through these six. Duke Ebenezer, M4 CEO, said: "Most companies can’t predict what they will need next year, but MagFile is scalable, allowing for this. Companies can use the same hardware and add to what they already have." Ebenezer said there was 25 to 30 per cent growth predicted for the DLT library market. M4, which had sales of £19 million last year, will offer training as well as online sales tips and configuration guide to resellers. DLT accounts for 30 per cent of Quantum revenue. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS bids for wireless generation with MSN Mobile

Microsoft's launch yesterday of MSN Mobile was to some extent an exercise in reinventing wheels that have started to roll elsewhere, but it was also a classic Microsoft bid to grab itself another big pile of users. Say you're in the US, and you've got a pager or a cellular phone - how would you like to be able to get weather reports, stock quotes, date reminders and lottery info sent to you for free? Course you would, so fill in the form, and you're on the Microsoft database ready and waiting for the next big push. Actually we're not sure about the date reminder and lottery being exactly compelling information, but you can get them for free, so what the hell. Microsoft quite probably expects Hotmail-style volumes of users to show up for this service, and while it may have to add a little bit more in the way of free content to pull the numbers in, no doubt it's prepared to do that. At the moment the real content is being offered via the premium account, which you have to pay $9.95 a month for. That gets you an unlimited number of stock quotes (the free version is limited to ten), volume info, volume alerts and volume triggers. For your money you also get news from "respected sites" (no, not us folks) such as CNet and The Los Angeles Times, plus sports and bizarrely, horoscopes direct from the LA Times. This is of course all doable with existing technology, and there are plenty of other outfits doing it already, whatever Microsoft says. But the key point here is that it's Microsoft doing it, and Microsoft has the ability to leverage users from its other operations. It's bought wireless information outfit OmniBrowse to handle the delivery side so, good people, if any of you happen to know what servers OmniBrowse uses and they're not MS ones, just let us know. The real kicker is how the new MSN Mobile service will look when "fully developed." Says Microsoft, "MSN Mobile will include the most popular MSN services, such as email, address books and calendar features from the MSN Hotmail&trade, Web-based email service, news, sports and weather from MSNBC, stock updates from the MSN MoneyCentral&trade, personal finance online service, and other Web-based content such as door-to-door driving directions." Spot the leverage in that little lot - it's basically bringing a lot of the content stuff Microsoft has been assembling into one package, and taking it onto the road. Right now it's the sort of service that can be accessed by any phone that can receive text messages, but as "a component of the end-to-end wireless solution from Microsoft" it will be "widely accessible by devices employing microbrowser technology, such as Pocket Microsoft Internet Explorer." That of course helps leverage Windows CE into the mobile phone market, as does the interesting stuff above about "address books and calendar features." At the moment the service seems to be US-only, which is scarcely surprising, as Microsoft would need partners to take it to other countries, but that's not to say it isn't going to get them. Interestingly enough, although the service providers in Europe are all thinking in terms of expanded content delivery, they tend to think of it as something that can win them more revenue. But if Microsoft winds up trying to carve out market share by giving content away (we think it will), this could cause them considerable angst. Netscape, anyone? ® Gratuitous swipe We can't help noticing that if you try to access one of the few dial-up MSN systems left standing, msn.co.uk, with Navigator it makes a desperate bid to ship you to msn.co.uk/migrate.asp instead, then falls over. That's all...
John Lettice, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Handbags at dawn between Excite and GTE

An unholy row has broken out today after Excite@Home accused GTE of publishing duff information over its Clearwater cable trials in a bid to "derail" the development of a broadband network in the US. Yesterday, GTE said it had clearly established that cable modem systems could be operated easily on an "open access" basis that would allow customers to select the ISP of their choice. Based on this trial, GTE Executive VP William P Barr fired the opening salvo of a war of words. "Using the excuse that it's not technically feasible to give customers a choice of ISPs, cable companies have been forcing their customers to pay for and use the ISPs that they own, such as @Home and RoadRunner," said Barr. "GTE's demonstration pilot flatly discredits the claim that open access and consumer choice are technologically complicated and costly," he said. Some sources were even speculating that the results of the trial -- conducted with AOL, CompuServe Classic, as well as its own ISP, GTE.net -- could lead to massive changes within the US cable market. Today, Excite@Home hit back saying that the Clearwater trial was "part of a political effort to derail development and deployment of the nation's broadband cable Internet system." Excite@Home accused the GTE trial of being too small to have any real value and lampooned it for addressing technical issues in a "naïve fashion". "Smothering the cable-modem industry in an early growth stage is not in America's best interest," said Milo Medin, founder and chief technology officer of Excite@Home. "GTE, AOL are now using this bit of political theater to preserve their market share, a share based on their dominance in the conventional dial-up market." ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

UK encryption proposals ‘breach’ human rights

The British Government could be in breach of Human Rights legislation if it proceeds with its encryption policy, a pressure group warned today. Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) made the claim in a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair. The letter says that too much emphasis is placed on the value of encryption in support of business interests while not enough attention is given to the interests and concerns of consumers and private citizens. Mr. Nicholas Bohm, E-Commerce Policy Adviser for Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) said: "It would be a grave embarrassment, both for the Government and for Britain's position in the world of electronic commerce, for the Government's E-Commerce Bill to be found inconsistent with the Human Rights Act." The cyber-rights group is worried the proposed legislation could remove important civil rights and individual protections. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel displays mobile 400MHz wares

First the hype, now the reality. Today, Chipzilla ships the mobile 400MHz Pentium II, the first CPU to roll off its spanking, gorgeous new 0.18-micron production line. At the same time, it’s slipping out a Celeron-flavoured 400Mhz mobile, manufactured to the 0.25 micron spec. Smaller die size means lower power consumption and less heat -- the 0.18-micron version soaks up 7.5w while, its overweight 0.25-micron sister chomps through a greedy 9.2w. This makes the new PII particularly well suited to the new breed of mini-notebooks, according to Intel . And it’s ramming this point home with an array of superslim packaging designed especially for mobile CPUs. In nine months, Intel says that three quarters of all its chips will be built to the 0.18 micron spec. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

One jumps, others pushed from Ingram Micro UK

Ingram Micro UK has made 50 redundancies across the board in its Milton Keynes office last Friday. This leaves around 450 staff in the UK. "The UK operation has been reviewed from top to bottom. The job cuts will streamline the business. There will be no mass layoff in the UK," an Ingram representative said. In March, Ingram warned it would slash 1,400 jobs, mainly in the US, and that first quarter earnings would fall short of analysts’ expectations. At the time, Ingram Micro European executive VP and COO Robert Grambo,said the European operation would keep evaluating working conditions and realign its business. Simon Aldous, one of Ingram’s newly appointed business unit directors, has also resigned. The company stressed the incidents were unrelated, saying Aldous had resigned voluntarily after eight years at the distributor. Aldous, director of the solutions business unit, was said to have "several irons in the fire". He will leave Ingram at the end of June. Grambo is returning to the US after a company re-jig. He is still executive vice president and COO- but this time for the US. He will report to Philip Ellett, Ingram executive vice president and president of Ingram US. Grambo, who joined Ingram in 1997, has been replaced by Gregory Spierkel. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Cadence snaps up Orcad

Chip design house Cadence is digging its claws into Orcad, with an agreed cash bid valuing its smaller rival at $121 million. Cadence is the market leader for electronic design automation services, at the high-end. With Orcad under its wing it gets to play a bigger game in the so-called shrink-wrapped PCB market. The two companies will combine staff and existing products, so there should be scope for savings. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Emails damage your health

Email and phone messages damage health and make staff tired and less efficient, according to a report by top psychologists. Just four phone calls or emails an hour increased heart rate levels, the study of office staff in Holland and Russia found. Although workers speeded up their other tasks to compensate for these distractions, many skipped more menial, but necessary, tasks. This could lead to important safety checks being missed in certain work places. Constant interruptions were also detrimental to health. Staff had raised heartbeats and felt less cheerful and easygoing, according to today’s Daily Mail. Dutch professor Dr Fred Zijlstra, in charge of the report, said: "These daily hassles have more effect than we realise. "On a superficial level, their moods were affected by interruptions. They were less happy and less optimistic. But these things are an indication of fatigue." Dr Zijlstra added: "There was an effect every time their phone rang, but also we saw a general change towards them having a higher heart rate." 70 volunteers were monitored in the experiments. They were given text-editing tasks and interrupted by phone calls, increasing to around four per hour. Each call asked them to do an extra task, increasing their workload. The volunteers then hurried to complete their main work, but ignored day-to-day necessities such as checking the ink in printers or paper in fax machines. Dr Zijlstra said this could have serious repercussions in certain work places where safety checks were vital. ® See also IT equipment is bad for your health Mobile phones are a pain in the neck ...and links to five more brain maim stories
Linda Harrison, 15 Jun 1999