17th > June > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Samsung sets up Alpha S&M arm

A year ago Posted 17 June 1998 Compaq's decision to push Digital's Alpha chip line (see previous week's issue) has given heart to Samsung, which via licences from Digital is an Alpha developer and second source. The Korean company now says it's setting up a Boston-based subsidiary to market and distribute Alpha, chipsets and motherboards, and to boost sales further the company has struck a world-wide bundling deal with Corel. Alpha (the processor, rather than the developmental level, we trust) versions of CorelDraw 8 and WordPerfect 8 will be bundled with Samsung products, and according to Corel Samsung also intends to bundle its software with PCs, monitors and printers. Samsung's extension of its Alpha licence to include development in February represented a victory for the company in its long-running quest for a viable CPU, and Compaq's new-found enthusiasm for the chip helps too. Samsung has tried developing its own, and building unsuccessful workstations based on Intel and HP technology, but this time it may have got it right. It's certainly in Compaq's interest, as Intel has taken over Digital's Alpha manufacturing, to keep the Korean company in play. ®
John Lettice, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Taiwanese spy agency claims computer company acquired by reds

The Taiwanese press is reporting that Mainland China is attempting to get its hands on electronic technology by investing huge sums in local companies. But the allegation, made by the National Security Bureau, has put the wind up Taiwanese computer companies with plants on the mainland. The NSB claimed earlier this week that Beijing sunk $312 million into one of Taiwan's biggest computer companies and now has a controlling stake in the unnamed firm. Further, the NSB claims that Red China wants to undermine share prices in the buildup to elections next year, and destabilise Taiwan's financial interests. However, because the NSB has failed to name the company concerned, many Taiwanese firms with factories across the straits feel their reputations are besmirched. ®
Mike Magee, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Ghost of Pfeiffer stalks Compaq

Just after Ben Rosen executed Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer, he announced there was to be no major reorganisation at the company. He obviously lacked prescience in the affairs of the Big Q, because Compaq will make huge changes to its structure today. Whether Rosen will announce a new CEO to replace Pfeiffer, however, is not clear. US wires, obviously briefed by Compaq execs, are reporting a large re-organisation at the company. Infoworld suggests that the group will be divided into three profit (loss) centres -- commercial, consumer and services. (Why not Compaq, Digital and Tandem?). Meanwhile, senior VP of human resources, Hans Gutsch, has resigned from the company, according to Cnet. He was a Pfeiffer appointee. While Andreas Barth, GM of Compaq Europe, is also a Pfeiffer confidant, he is still in place, despite purges initiated by chairman of the board Ben Rosen. The changes will be announced just before Wall Street opens later today. ® RegisTroid Fact "A faithful Eckhard who warneth everyone". Eckhard, in German legends, appears on the evening of MAUNDY THURSDAY to warn all persons to go home, that they may not be injured by the headless bodies and two-legged horses which traverse the streets on that night -- Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
Mike Magee, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS compiled ‘friends and enemies’ list of companies

MS on Trial A Microsoft "enemies list" popped up during the cross-examination of witness Gordon Eubanks in the trial yesterday. Microsoft's lawyers shrugged the list off as concerning a niche product, and having been compiled by a new and inexperienced employee, but it was still another minor victory for the DoJ. The document concerned a clutch of small software companies, including Wind River, in the thin client/embedded sector. It lists them as friends, enemies or neutral, and recommended an initial blacklist of firms who were hostile, and whose technologies "Microsoft does not like to see flourishing." Wind River is an enemy because it's successful in a field Microsoft is trying to get into. Obviously the document was produced by a new and inexperienced employee - Microsoft has put some pretty dumb things down in email, but spreadsheeting a neat friends/enemies matrix isn't really the company's style, Not that that means Microsoft managers don't know who their friends and enemies are, and what to do about them. The memo suggests waiving licensing restrictions on NT source code for 13 companies, but Microsoft yesterday retorted that it hadn't been implemented, and that some of the companies on the enemies list later had the restrictions waived. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
John Lettice, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

‘Cooked’ MS memo – could Gates be in contempt of court?

MS on Trial A highly dubious piece of spinning exposed yesterday could have several Microsoft executives, including Gates himself, and sundry hangers-on taking the rap for contempt of court. A memo from Bill Gates that was written specifically to be leaked via Associated Press had been presented to the court as important and confidential evidence by Microsoft's lawyers. Aside from the legal implications, the crassness and stupidity of the entire gambit is staggering. The original email fell into the clutches of AP last December, and as we said at the time, was an obvious put-up job. In the memo, Gates held forth loudly on the subject of how much the AOL-Netscape deal would hurt the DoJ's case against Microsoft. Last week Microsoft's lawyers tried to introduce the email as evidence, claiming they'd found it in AOL files marked "highly confidential." Anything's possible, of course, but as it had been plastered all over the newspapers six months ago its confidentiality was somewhat dubious. Note however how much this fits in with Microsoft's bizarre view of what is evidence and what is not. Microsoft's defence exhibits, many of which are available on the Microsoft trial site, are stuffed with not very interesting and not terribly relevant magazine and newspaper cuttings. It's a sort of Ronald Reagan 'shoe-box' view of fact. (Note for younger readers - Ronnie's world knowledge was based on a lifetime collection of clippings, many, we fear, from the Readers Digest, which he kept in shoe-boxes) So far so just plain silly. But the DoJ yesterday filed a motion claiming that Microsoft had misled the court over the email, and for added impact included the email exchange between Gates and the Microsoft PR which had led to the construction of the email in the first place. The email was viewed as, effectively, a "press release," and the PR bunny reports to Gates that "if we give it to everyone, it looks cooked so no one will cover it." This incidentally is not true. If you give it to everyone including us, we'll cover it. You just might not like the coverage. But obviously it was "cooked," and Bill Gates cooked it. We must not, of course, take this too far. At the time it was clearly put together as part of the PR campaign to undermine the DoJ's case, and as both sides spin merrily on the courtroom steps, that's fair enough. If it were the case that it had been cooked up specifically in order to be planted as evidence, then it would of course be an entirely different matter. Even excluding Gates' involvement in that, the attempt to file it as evidence is a pretty big cow to swallow. If it really was "found" and then submitted, the defence people involved in submitting it must have been woefully ignorant of the reporting of the very case in which they're involved, and even more specifically, of reporting surrounding the primary plank of their case in the current rebuttal phase of the trial. How on earth could they be that dumb? And if they're not that dumb, just not very good at being sneaky, the judge could get very angry. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
John Lettice, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Naked PowerPC G4 seen on Web

Mac-oriented Web site AppleInsider has uncovered a pic of Motorola's upcoming PowerPC G4 processor. We've known for some time that the new chip will be officially dubbed the PowerPC 7400, but it's good to get confirmation of the fact from the pic of chip itself. The chip also appears to be a 350MHz, which is rather less than Motorola originally predicted the chip would operate at. As an early version, though the final version should clock in in the 450-500MHz range. Equally interesting is the apparent doubling of the CPU's die size over the PowerPC 750 (aka G3). The die is inherently larger than the G3's but the new processor's AltiVec vector processing engine will be taking up a lot of the extra. The G4 is also manufactured at a smaller, 0.18 micron process than the PPC750, so the increase in die size is actually larger than it would appear. ® To view the G4, visit AppleInsider
Tony Smith, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple crippled G3 Macs to bar PPC G4 upgrades

Apple has deliberately nobbled the firmware built into its latest generation of Power Macs to prevent them being upgraded to Motorola's upcoming PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) processor. That's the shocking claim being made by Mac-oriented Web site AppleInsider, citing unnamed sources. According to the source, "Apple has intentionally disable the ability to use a G4 processor card in the current Blue and White G3s via its new firmware update. We know this was done intentionally because the previous version of firmware does not have a problem with the presence of a G4 processor." The firmware now checks the host computer's processor, and if it finds a PowerPC 7400, it allegedly halts the start-up process. In short, if you add a G4 upgrade card to your blue'n'white Power Mac, it will always fail to boot. The change was made possible because the new G3s, like the iMac, store the firmware in a Flash chip. Older machines, like the original beige Power Mac G3, will be unaffected -- their firmware is stored on ROM. So how likely are the rumours to be true? Circumstantial evidence suggests they might well be. With a die size many times larger than the current PowerPC 750 chips (see Naked PowerPC G4 seen on Web) yields on the new chip are likely to be low, pushing up prices and, more importantly, limiting supply. Preventing existing G3s from working with the G4 would severely limit the demand for upgrades, in turn cutting down the number of chips upgrade manufacturers require, and thus increasing the number of chips Apple can buy. And once Motorola is punching out 7400s at a more reasonable rate, Apple can issue a new firmware update, removing the G4 block from the code. It all sounds very feasible. The only snag is that there are still a great many non-blue'n'white Power Macs out there whose owners would like to upgrade to the 7400, and who will be willingly supplied by the upgrade vendors. So how many extra 7400 chips Apple really would gain by limiting upgrades this way is open to question. It will be interesting to see what comment Apple makes, if any, on the rumour, and whether the AppleInsider sources' claims are verified by others. ®
Tony Smith, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Pentium III erratumnotbug updated

Intel has released the latest update to the Pentium III specification and has published a list of 46 errata. Erratum is Intel's marchitecture-speak for a bug. But the majority of the 46 bugs shown are unlikely to be fixed, according to the document. That is likely to be because there are either workarounds for the bugs or they are non-significant. The first bug, sorry erratum, on the list is a floating point problem. The document also has a lot of other useful information about packaging and the like, and may be downloaded from here. It's a PDF document. ®
Mike Magee, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu takes control of Siemens PC business

We wrote this story on 6 May. And now it's come true. After a failed PC dalliance with Acer, Siemens has tempted Fujitsu into bed. Its dowry is a middling-huge, heavily-loss making PC assembly business. Fujitsu will merge its European PC operations into the Siemens PC operations, including its German budget PC subsidiary Aquarius. And it will take over Siemens assembly plant. There should be scope for job cuts here, especially as German unions are not quite the force the once were. This catapults Fujitsu into the world's top tier of PC manufacturers, with an annual output capacity of four million units. We regard the deal as a staging post for Siemen's exit from the PC business. Forget any protestations that the company will retain R&D capabilities: In effect, Siemens will become a reseller or agent for Fujitsu PCs. Siemens has been looking for a partner for its PC business since the collapse of a deal with Acer last year. The sticking point that time around was Siemen's refusal to agree to the volume order committments sought by Acer. ®
Linda Harrison, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Doom-mongers forecast Y2K gloom

Companies are stockpiling products out of fear of shortages due to the Millennium Bug, according to a report by the Cranfield School of Management. Firms are building up stocks of raw materials and finished goods in preparation for the Y2K menace, the report revealed. Of the 500 organisations questioned, 70 per cent said they were worried about disruption and 60 per cent said they were already stockpiling. But this may cause a boom and bust scenario to hit the economy due to this distortion in company purchases. "Since organisations are simply increasing levels of raw materials and finished goods to offset perceived uncertainty in the supply of goods and materials, there may be a boom in the second half of 1999 followed by a bust in early 2000," according to the report. ®
Linda Harrison, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Mergers a la modis

modis Incorporated, the US services company, has bought a batch of UK companies to create its European arm, it announced yesterday. modis International is a mixture of eleven IT services and recruitment companies, with estimated sales of £210 million for 1999. Based in Tottenham Court Road, London, it has three operating units, modis Consulting, for IT recruitment, modis Enterprise Solutions, including ERP and SAN packages, and modis Technical Solutions, including data warehousing. modis Inc. has been acquiring companies for the venture over the last 18 months, according to newly appointed modis International MD Ross Eades. "modis International aims to be the UK’s number one IT services provider. After this first stage in the UK, it will target the rest of Europe," said Eades, former MD of Hunterskill Howard, the largest company brought into the group. The UK company will be a subsidiary of modis Inc, and aims to take on rivals Spring and Delphi Group. Growth will be through acquisition as well as organic growth. "We will make more acquisitions in the UK, and are looking at IT companies that provide specific solutions, not just staffing companies," said Eades. Hunterskill Howard and Cope Management will be the fist companies to take on the modis branding, effective from 21 June. The other companies that will make up the 800 staff company are Avalon Systems Development, CSD Europe, FTR Recruitment Consultants, Intelligent Solutions, IT Link, RCsM, Software Knowledge Limited, Software Knowledge Systems and UIS Limited. There will also be around 2,400 consultants employed. modis Inc. is part of US services giant Modis Professional Services.®
Linda Harrison, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Vodafone calls for phone health study

Vodafone has called for an independent body to research the health effects of mobile phones. The phone operator, which has 5.7 million customers in the UK, told the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee yesterday that the public would not accept the industry’s world that its products were safe. Tim Harrabin, Vodafone strategy director, told MPs: "It is very difficult for us to be seen to be totally unbiased and balanced, and therefore if there is an independent organisation seen to be putting out a balanced view, then that could improve consumer confidence." Vodafone wants an independent body to be established. This would co-ordinate research into the controversial matter and report findings to the Government and public, according to today's Times newspaper. Motorola chairman David Brown, who heads the Federation of the Electronics Industry, slammed reports of health effects. He said warnings on handsets were unnecessary. "Mobile phones are safe and that's it." The move follows several studies claiming mobile phones can cause headaches, memory loss and cancer. ®
Linda Harrison, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Open up Windows source code, says Sun boss

MS on Trial Sun boss Scott McNealy sallied-forth against Microsoft again yesterday, recommending that Microsoft's source code should be opened up, and that it should be compelled to use open and non-exclusive contracts. As trial junkies will be aware, these two - if policed adequately - would have a devastating effect on Microsoft's operations, so Scottie-Babe wasn't being entirely generous when he added that he didn't think Microsoft should be broken up. McNealy was taking part in a three day congressional high-tech summit. His Billness spoke to it yesterday, but was so dull we didn't bother with the report. Gates, curiously, said there wasn't anything wrong with US regulation of business, so apparently he still thinks he'll beat the DoJ rap. McNealy, on the contrary, urged Congress and the DoJ to take a long, hard look at Microsoft's recent activities in the cable and communications areas. Funnily enough he focussed on the Microsoft-AT&T deal. Action against AT&T, of course, spawned the Baby Bells that provided the tag for the Baby Bills that would appear if Microsoft was broken up. And here's another exquisite irony. Said McNealy: "Wouldn't it be great to own the English language and charge upgrade fees to add new letters?" Well Scott, funny you should say that, but according to today's WSJ Microsoft is going into the dictionary market. It'll be building one from the ground up (if you don't know how much work goes into dictionaries, you won't realise how funny this is), and it'll be aiming it at people who use email. It will also be integrating it into its other software. It'll be out on August 4th (building from the ground up my ass), and we're already compiling a list of relevant words we're eager to look up. So lots more good stuff on Microsoft's bid to subvert English by growing polluted geekspeak at that point, if not before. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
John Lettice, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

BT warned off Scoot's patch

BT was told to stop a free offer linked to its Talking Pages by Oftel yesterday. The industry watchdog labelled the new call completion service on BT's directory search service "anti-competitive", according to a government statement. David Edmonds, Oftel director of telecommunications, ordered the offer to be withdrawn immediately. The service connects callers directly to the business they want to contact rather than just giving out the telephone number. The ruling followed a complaint by Scoot.com, the Web and telephone information service, which launched a similar service on 10 May. Its call completion service is also free to callers, but paid for by advertisers who pay a fee for every call put through to them. Charges vary depending on the advertiser's business, so a solicitor pays more than a clothes shop because the caller's business to the solicitor would be bigger. Two weeks after the Scoot launch, BT Talking Pages began offering the rival service free to advertisers for 12 months. Scoot said the offer was predatory and damaging to its business. "BT's free offer appears to be anti-competitive and could potentially be very damaging to Scott's business," Edmonds said. "I have ordered them to stop this service now until they can replace it with an offer that I am satisfied properly covers its costs." ®
Linda Harrison, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Samsung's Alpha to exceed 1GHz in year's time

Alpha Processor Inc (API) has finally realised that The Register exists and will meet us next week. However, we now know for sure that there will be volume shipments of Alpha at over 1GHz by this time next year. This is interesting, given that Compaq's plans for the Alpha and Intel IA-64 platforms are in a state of flux, as reported here. If Samsung can deliver the 1.2GHz SMP platform, by this time next year, it means that Intel's Merced could be abandoned by Intel developers. ®
Mike Magee, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Fresh profit warning from Compaq

Compaq has failed to produce a CEO and this morning chairman Ben Rosen delivered a further profits warning to Wall Street. Rosen said revenues and profits will be flat compared to Q1, a move that is bound to send shivers down shareholders' backs. He blamed competitive pressures in the marketplace for the future shortfall. But, as revealed here earlier today, Compaq will split its business into three groups -- PCs, consumer and enterprise solutions. Each will have its own profit and loss accounts. ®
Mike Magee, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

IBM, Compaq plan Euro slimline notebook roll-outs

Both IBM's ThinkPad 240, and Compaq's new lightweight Armada will be entering the US mini notebook market soon, with European launches later in the year, but Compaq looks set to win the race over here by rather more than a nose. IBM has not set a date for the European launch. A spokeswoman for IBM said that the laptop would be launched here if there was "customer demand" later in the year. Compaq says that it is holding back to make sure it will be able to meet demand for the new Armada, but that it should be here some time in Q3. Neither company was able to comment on European prices. In the US, the ThinkPad 240 is expected to retail for less that $2000, the same price bracket as the Armada. The ThinkPad 240 weighs in at just 2.9 pounds. It has a 95 per cent full-size keyboard and a full complement of on-board ports. IBM is offering a choice of operating systems: Win 95, 98 or NT 4.0, to its target market of enterprise users. Compaq's new Armada also masses less than three pounds and features a choice of either Intel's 333MHz Pentium II or Celeron processor, 64MB of SDRAM and hard drive with up to 6.4GB capacity. The new products will join other featherweight laptops from Sony, Toshiba and Dell already available. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu Siemens aims for top two PC slot

Fujitsu and Siemens today cemented the merger of their European operations, with the new company aiming to be Europe’s number two PC vendor. The two agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) so, providing both companies are in the positions stated in discussions, the merger will go ahead. The new company, called Fujitsu Siemens, will start on 1 October, according to Brian Taylor, Fujitsu UK MD. There will be no redundancies, he said, describing any organisational changes as "relatively minor". "Today’s move positions us better in Europe and especially in the UK. I have just told my own staff at Fujitsu, and they were very positive," said Taylor. Taylor said the move will greatly increase Fujitsu’s standing in Europe. Before today, the Japanese company held the number eight slot for PCs in Europe, and Siemens number six. "We’ve now put ourselves in the same field as the top vendors in Europe, we’ll jump to number two, ahead of Dell," he said. "When you’re at the top of the tree, customers and your channel take you more seriously and are more interested." In Intel servers, Fujitsu was sixth in Europe, and Siemens fourth. Taylor said the new company would be a strong rival to Hewlett-Packard in this field. Globally, Fujitsu and Siemens have moved from twelfth and ninth place respectively to the fifth biggest PC vendor. Taylor said the company would offer a greater range of product, combining Fujitsu’s consumer and professional LAN-based PCs with Siemens’ servers and enterprise solution products. "By bringing the two together, we will conquer two markets, without forcing either company out of business." In Europe, there would be no overlap, and the two had already begun discussing joint R&D, he said. "From the inside, I can see no indication of Siemens exiting the PC business." The European business will combine 8,000 Siemens and 1,600 Fujitsu staff. The company president and country MDs are still under discussion, as is the Fujitsu Siemens headquarters, although the Netherlands is believed to be as strong candidate.
Linda Harrison, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Cisco buys another company, shock horror

Cisco is buying Transmedia Communications with $407 million of its stratospheric stock. It's a Cisco getting into the telecomms market thing. Transmedia technology splits phone calls and data traffic on telecoms networks, This means quicker routing for both types of traffic. Transmedia is based in San Jose, California -- the same town as Cisco Centraal. No doubt it will disappear pretty quickly into Cisco's maws. ®
Drew Cullen, 17 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Barth retires, as Compaq pushes direct sales

Compaq today confirmed a huge overhaul, warning plans to split into three parts would mean a third quarter charge against earnings. Direct sales will account for 25 per cent of the PC giant’s PC shipments by the fourth quarter, it said. In Europe, Andreas Barth, has retired as senior V.P. president and general manager for EMEA, replaced by Werner Koepf. The company will be divided into three groups – Enterprise Solutions and Services, PCs and Consumers, as revealed here earlier today -- twice. Our first story here talked about Barth, big time. Ben Rosen, Compaq chairman and acting CEO, said the company realignment would include redundancies across the group, though gave no figures. Speaking in a conference call, Rosen said the end-to-end realignment aimed to reduce time between product development and speed to market. He spoke of Western Europe as a particularly worrying area regarding sales growth. Keopf said his aim was to roll out Compaq’s global strategy in Europe, and rectify the financial situation. There will be a central global sales and marketing group, but each country will have three business group managers reporting to the country manager. Keopf said the company would announce who would be running the business units by 15 July. Keopf said the overall growth rate was slowing in Europe, especially in the UK. "We will bring profitable growth back to this region," he pledged. The rejig followed this morning’s profit warning, where Compaq said it expected a loss of $.15 per share for the second quarter.®
Linda Harrison, 17 Jun 1999