25th > June > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

It's time IBM bought AMD

Register Thought for the Day AMD cannot produce enough K7s or K6-IIIs to turn its position round, even given the most optimistic take on it. But IBM, that fab company, could. So why doesn't Big Blue just buy AMD and put it out of its misery? And is the Alereon a socketed low-cost K7? They've got one, we hear... IBM and AMD have talked to each other about this forever... after all... ®
Mike Magee, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Share trading is the US way of life

RegisterSite of the Day You guys out there in Register Readerland ever go to INSIDERTRADER.COM? This is a super site, because it gives you the low down on how officers and execs feel about their own company in trading terms. If you go there and bung in the INTC ticker, it will give you a free 13 month insider history. This is what we have for Dr Albert Y.C. Yu, for example, a senior VP at Intel. He's the one who told The Reg some months back that his mum said to him on the blower: "Hey Albert, how come you guys aren't doing copper?" Time to get our scientific calculator out of our desk and add up the number of shares traded by Dr Yu since May last year... Dr Yu's broker was very busy. A total of 825,412 shares were involved. Don't get us wrong. In some cases the numbers double up -- for example on the 25th of February this year, he exercised his option to buy 100,000 Intel shares at $3.67, and sold them the same day when the price was hovering around the $140 mark. By coincidence, this was two days after Yu had demoed a 1GHz Intel chip at the IDF. (Story: Yu demoes 1GHz chip, talks roadmap talk). Ah, this is the very meat of capitalism. His total holdings on the 25th of February amounted to over half a million shares... Go check out INSIDERTRADER.COM. You know it makes sense. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Jackson's Chin not Jackson's Chin, Chin says

Microsoft Trial How extraordinary. In our story yesterday, we suggested that Judge Jackson might be benefiting from the clerkship of Andrew Chin, since that is what Chin's personal web site says. However, Chin has contacted us to say that "I am not the law clerk Judge Jackson has officially assigned to the [Microsoft] case", although he is one of the judge's clerks. We note the use of the word "officially" in his email, and can only hope that unofficially he may be involved. This clerkship started in 1999, so in any event he would have been at least three months behind in his reading of the transcripts, let alone the earlier documentation of the case. The law clerk officially on the case is David McIntosh. Chin also asked us to point out that he is not yet employed by Wilson Sonsini, although he has accepted an offer of employment there after his clerkship has finished. We were misled by Chin's website that states, with a 1999 date, that he is an Associate of Wilson Sonsini, but there you are. Chin said that he was aware of Reback's role in the consent decree case, but that "any implication that my views of the case have been or will be influenced by Mr Reback is a serious distortion of the facts". Of course. But you don't go to work with Wilson Sonsini if you really love Microsoft. ®
Graham Lea, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft OS/2, the picture proof

A few days ago, there was a little bit of debate on our message forum, with one reader amazed that Microsoft was involved in developing OS/2. So we looked into our collection of computing artefacts, and this morning snapped the mug we were given when we attended a Developer's Conference back in those heady days of 1987. Here it is. To save bandwidth, we didn't snap the back of the mug, but this has a number of floppy disks with the following legends: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Rbase System, Microsoft Multiplan and Microsoft Project. Remember those? ®
Mike Magee, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Rambus announcement to cost DRAM manufacturers

A year ago June 24th 1998 -- a year ago Intel has pressed ahead with its plans for Rambus DRAMs but the move means memory manufacturers will be forced to pay royalties to the firm. Rambus said that it has started to test working DRAM products and that LG Semicon as well as Toshiba are also testing the technology. Speeds of Rambus DRAMs can be as high as 1.6Gb a second, with clock speeds of around 800MHz. But the move means that such companies have to license the technology from Rambus, boosting its revenues but also incurring additional expense for the DRAM manufacturers. The technology will start to appear in mainstream PCs as early as next year, with both Dell and Compaq confirming that they will produce machines which Rambus technology. Roy Taylor, joint MD of Vanguard Microelectronics, said: "This was inevitable. Although DRAM companies were proposing similar technologies of their own, Synclink and DDR were only ever ploys for the manufacturers to reduce the commission they had to pay to Rambus. Like it or loathe it, Intel owns the PC industry and it is committed to Rambus." The MD of a UK DRAM distributor, who declined to be named, said: "DRAM manufacturers are pissed off that they have to pay Rambus royalties, but there's no way they can ignore Intel, so they'll just have to pay." Shares of Rambus rose by nearly 25 per cent to $57.50 on Wall Street, based on the Rambus news. Intel has an equity stake in the company. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel a gogo with 810 Cayman mobo

Chip manufacturer Intel makes motherboards too, but hides their light under a bushel. Now it has introduced its CA-810 mobo, a board that is aimed at the Value PC segment, the company says. The name is real groovy, isn't it? Intel should stick to its codenames for products -- in this mobo's case -- Cayman. The MicroATX mobo uses the 810 chipset and integrates Creative SoundBlaster stuff, has Intel 3D graphics and Direct AGP. It also supports Suspend to RAM, and there's an optional 82559 Lan controller. It supports Celerons at speeds ranging from 300 to 466MHz, Intel said, and up to 512Mb of Synchronous DRAM in two 168 pin sockets. It uses a VIA chipset, only kidding, and costs around $100 or so. ® Intel is not an investor in The Register and Szechuan Publishing is not an investor in Intel
Mike Magee, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

European working practices are barrier to investment

Working practice in France is coming under fire from all directions. Speaking in London, Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, says that the shortened working week in France puts the country at an economic disadvantage. Ellison commented that Germany had lowered corporate tax in a bid to create jobs. With the same aim in mind, the French government shortened the working week. He noted that since Oracle can hire staff anywhere globally it was not hard to guess where he would put his people. Meanwhile, in Paris, a company boss was fined £10,000 for allowing employees to work overtime. Job inspectors in Paris snooped on the plant where hundreds of workers were working over the 39 hour maximum working week. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

UK directors lack Web awareness

Half of UK IT directors are ill equipped to exploit the Internet and regard themselves as underskilled when it comes to the net economy, according to research commissioned by the Sun/Netscape alliance. The outlook is even bleaker when company directors in general were quizzed on their relationship with the Web - a worrying two thirds of them owned up to being in the dark. These figures look worse still when set against a backdrop of overall acceptance that IT is a fundamental part of doing business. Ninety per cent of respondents said the Internet made IT an integral part of their business. It seems that directors must address the skills shortage by going back to school themselves. Despite two thirds of directors stating that failure to exploit the Internet would hurt their business, many think that the wrong department in their company is developing their Internet strategy. Meanwhile, the Net has done a lot to broaden the reach of IT. Far from still being the preserve of techies and geeks, eight out of 10 marketing directors believe that the Internet will expand their role within an establishment, the survey found. Ray Perry, marketing director at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, said that the Internet was heralding a revolution in marketing. "It’s never been easier to capture information about our customers and target them." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Silent PC to sneak up on channel

The maker of the silent PC is looking to break into the UK via the channel this year. Silent Systems, a US-based vendor, claims to have brought the noise level of computers down to 24.6 decibels. The average PC makes around 42 decibels, it says. Resellers can net around 20 per cent margin on the parts needed to convert a PC to this quieter version. The problem lies in convincing users of its benefits, according to Rien van der Jagt, Silent Systems European sales director. "Everyone wants to have the lowest priced PC, but businesses need to realise that continuous noise distracts workers. With 24 decibels, you can't even tell the system is turned on," he said. The company claims the silent PCs also benefits home users - the average noise in a living room, without the TV or radio, is 40 decibels. "The biggest battle lies in persuading the customer of the benefits," said van der Jagt. There are three main products which make noise in a PC, the hard drive, the cooler for the CPU and the power supply. The company's products to deal with this are the silent drive, with an estimated street price of $20, the cooling fan at $15 and the power supply at $35. Silent Systems sells direct to large OEMs and also through distribution. It was recently bought by connector manufacturer Molex, which is based in Scotland. ®
Linda Harrison, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Cybercafe domain war all a storm in a coffee cup

An uneasy truce has broken out in the coffee shop cybersquatting war. On Monday, easyJet entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou opened his 500-PC, Nescafe-serving easyEverything cybercafe in London -- the first in a chain of "Internet stores." While Haji-Ioannou possessed the all-important easyeverything.com domain, he didn't own easyeverything.co.uk. That was registered by the UK Net company Easynet in December last year, apparently for a customer. Coincidentally, the Cyberia chain of cybercafes was once part of the Easynet Group and still supplies the technology. easyEverything maintains that since it owns the trademark it holds the rights to the domain although no one was prepared to go as far as to say if this a deliberate case of cybersquatting or not. Earlier this week, though, Haji-Iaonnou made his feelings very clear when he said that he wanted easyeverything.co.uk. "We want to keep this civilised," he told The Times. "But if they don't give us that address we may have to start legal proceedings." Today, easyEverything's marketing director Tony Anderson wasn't quite so forthright. "We're still confident we'll resolve this amicably," he said. Graham Davies, MD for the Easynet Group said that he had seen an email on the subject but had received no other communication on the matter. A bemused Davies said: "If they want it, they only have to ask. I don't know why they didn't come to us beforehand." Quite -- a veritable storm in coffee cup. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS gives advice on preparing for W2K

Windows 2000 will be released this year and system builders should pre-install Windows NT Workstation 4.0 prepare customers for the launch, Microsoft said today. Matti Suokko, Microsoft OEM product manager for Windows, said Windows 2000 Professional, the business software replacement for Windows NT, was on track for release later in 1999. “We’re very confident that it will ship this year,” he said. “We are working with a set of customers at the moment to make sure we get feedback before putting it on the market.” Suokko also encouraged assemblers to give the Windows 2000 Beta 3 a test run to iron out any creases. “We’re now focusing on improving reliability, performance and compatibility, and sorting out the final bugs,” he said. This operating system is Microsoft’s largest software development to date, according to Suokko. He said integrators could benefit from adding peripherals when selling a PC and increase profitability from reduced support costs. He admitted it could be almost six months before Windows 2000 was ready to ship, and in the meantime urged PC builders to recommend Windows NT 4.0 to users. “If a business customer buys a PC today, they should buy it with NT Workstation 4.0. This is best equipped for the upgrade to Windows 2000.” Windows 2000 would have the power of Windows NT, with the best of Windows 98 for businesses, and the lowest TCO, he added. Suokko also said Microsoft aimed to phase out Windows 98 architecture completely over time. “The future is based on Windows NT architecture for both business and consumers,” he said. ®
Linda Harrison, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Evesham signs up for safe online shopping scheme

Midlands-based Evesham Micro has become one of the first PC suppliers to join the Which? Web Trader scheme. The scheme was launched earlier this week and lays down a comprehensive set of conditions for Web trading, including pricing, payment, security, advertising, contracts, refunds, guarantees and complaints handling. The Web Trader Scheme also gives Which? subscribers access to free legal advice if there is a dispute with an e-trader. By displaying the Which? Web Trader logo, Evesham Micro has pledged to abide by the Which? code of practice and to adhere to a strict set of conditions designed to protect consumers shopping on the Web. Richard Austin, MD of Evesham Micro said: "We have been in the PC business for 16 years and during that time, we have seen a lot of changes. "Consumer confidence is important, particularly for the PC industry and Evesham met the requirements of the scheme before it was even proposed. "The added value of the Web Traders logo can only enhance consumer confidence and should encourage more people into Net shopping," he said. Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers Association, publishers of consumer magazine Which?, added that the Which? Web Trader scheme had been launched to give online shoppers the same level of confidence as they enjoyed on the high street. "When consumers see the Which? Web Trader logo, they know they can shop with confidence," she said. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

CompUSA swings axe on overheads

The PC price wars have claimed another victim in the form of America’s biggest computer retailer. CompUSA is introducing swingeing cuts to its overheads, in response to tumbling PC prices and margins. The lights go out on 14 of its 200 stores, and up to 1,500 staff (from a workforce of 21,000) get the chop. This will cost it $40-50 million in restructuring charges. The cuts are dressed up as "fundamentally redefining CompUSA’s business concept". In other words, it will reduce PC selling space, and fill the shelves with more home entertainment and other consumer electronics gadgets --digital cameras, video games and DVD movies, and the like. ®
Drew Cullen, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Murky record of MS ‘character’ witness

MS on Trial Microsoft made a bad choice in the trial when Bill Gates phoned Gordon Eubanks, former Symantec CEO, and asked him to be a rebuttal witness. It is axiomatic in these matters that a corporate character witness should have a whiter-than-white record, but Eubanks failed miserably to meet any such criterion. His testimony has helped the DoJ case more than it has helped Microsoft. Throughout his career, Eubanks has acted as Microsoft's lapdog, as one reporter shouted at him (these brash American reporters - Ed), there to be stroked when Microsoft had the whim to do so, but otherwise ignored. His memory was so poor that he could not even remember what he was asked in the morning session by Microsoft's counsel, Steve jack-in-the-box Holley. His was not a Gatesian memory of convenience: Eubanks could no longer chew the leather, and may well have been eased out of Symantec on to the ice as a result. Eubanks apparently used to drive nuclear submarines in the 1970s, but when asked by Judge Jackson, he could not remember the name of his commanding officer. He said: "These are hard questions. I'm drawing a blank and I am not even taking medication. It was captain - I can't - I'm blanking out." Perhaps Eubanks was none too keen on discussing his navy career, since he once told an associate that he resigned from the navy because "he couldn't stand the bullshit, the way the navy treated people". The judge's reason for asking was that he possibly knew the skipper, and might have privately obtained another view about Eubanks' character. Eubanks did a master's under Gary Kildall, founder of Digital Research and inventor of the bios and CP/M, and worked with him for two years. He then went to Symantec, and the company produced Q&A. Subsequently, the company grew by acquisition, rather like Microsoft, and bought Peter Norton's utilities in 1990 - and therein lies a tale that jack-in-the-box managed to get supressed in court. But let's open the box for a moment. Down memory lane In 1992, Eugene Wang had been lured from being marketing vp at Borland to the same job at Symantec. Borland boss Philippe Kahn was furious, with the result that the FBI and Santa Cruz County Police undertook raids and found that Wang had evidently been sending Symantec electronic copies of product marketing plans, various confidential Borland documents - and a copy of Borland's highly confidential deposition to the FTC in the first Microsoft trial. There can be little doubt that this quickly found its way to Microsoft via Eubanks. There was much speculation at the time that it was Microsoft that had approached Symantec to help it get the deposition, and that the other documents were just a cover. During the five months of investigation, what do you think was used to look at seized hard disks and floppy discs where in some cases the files having been deleted? Right, Norton Utilities, since only the file header is flagged when the file is "deleted", to indicate that the area could be overwritten. The data remains readable until overwritten. The result was that in March 1993, a grand jury indicted Eubanks and others for conspiring to steal trade secrets from deadly rival Borland. Eubanks faced eleven charges of conspiracy and receiving stolen property, with a possible six year prison sentence and fines in the offing. Eubanks maintained that the documents were not of a scientific or technical nature (it was key corporate data of course). He might have been more convincing in his protests of innocence if he had not refused to answer questions during a deposition by citing the Fifth Amendment, lest he incriminate himself. Because of a legal technicality - the District Attorney had asked Borland to provide $13,000 to help pay prosecution expenses for technical investigation of the data - the California Supreme Court ruled that the DA should be disqualified from handling the case. The result was that the charges were dropped, and in February 1997 it was jointly announced that Borland and Symantec had settled the case. Only part of this grubby tale emerged in Judge Jackson's court, when jack-in-the-box Holley jumped up an approached the bench in an attempt to stop an article from the New York Times being introduced in evidence: "I think that this is nothing but an effort to embarrass this witness," he said. Boies responded: "I think that Mr Holley does not accurately or fully state the circumstances." Judge Jackson admitted the item, and not just a redacted version requested by Holley that excluded the bones of the story about Borland. Boies played a clever game by using the exhibit to show that Eubanks had contradicted himself on another matter, so giving the judge access to an account that undermined the credibility of the witness. Holley succeeded in keeping the story out of the readily-accessible public record as the exhibit on the DoJ website gives only a reference to the 1993 NYT article. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
Graham Lea, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Scots Parliament opening to be Webcast by MSN

MSN is going to host the Webcast of the opening of the Scottish Parliament live on 1 July on the new assembly's Web site. Microsoft is understandably proud of this achievement. With all the rumblings in Scotland about the cost of the Parliament, it is indeed a monumental feat to extract yet more money from the Scots to finance such a venture. "We are honoured to be involved with this historic event," says Raymond O'Hare, Microsoft Scotland's business manager. "The site will showcase the fantastic potential of new technology - so appropriate from a country that invented the telephone, television, and radar." This is the first time the Queen will be live online. But what a disappointing debut: no glorious robes, glittering crowns or ceremonial carriages to spark our interest. Instead, our Liz will be part of a low key event, which in the wrong light might be mistaken for the opening of a supermarket. The nuts and bolts of the production are six ISDN lines (12 ISDN channels) and six Compaq encoders running Windows NT 4, which will be encoding for Microsoft Windows Media. The broadcast will include a feed from the BBC, individual interviews with attending celebrities and a feed from inside the Parliament. Web watchers will be able to click between views and chat online. The re-opening of the Parliament after 300 years is undoubtedly an important event in Scotland's history. It's just a shame its being opened by an English Queen, and broadcast by a US IT company. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Email costs BG £101,000

Watch what you say in your company emails - it could get you sued, as gas industry heavyweight BG found to its cost. Andrew Duffield has successfully sued his ex-employer, BG, for defamation of character in an email circulated to all employees. He was awarded £101,000 compensation in the High Court this week. Duffield was the head of engineering at BG from the time it was formed when British Gas split into two companies in 1997. He set up Exoteric Gas Solutions to compete with the BG subsidiary Transco, but soon found the relationship with Transco difficult. EGS depended on Transco for market information, but after 12 weeks in business EGS was cut off from this information supply. It transpired that a 'highly defamatory' email had been sent to each of Transco's 10,000 staff instructing them to quit dealings with Duffield and EGS. Duffield accepted the £101,000 settlement in court yesterday, but his solicitor said that no apology had yet been offered. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

NetBenefit goes a-gunning for the URL cowboys

Domain name registrar NetBenefit has said it is prepared to "pursue negative campaigns" against its competitors unless they get their houses in order and start delivering transparent pricing information to consumers. The thinly veiled threat was delivered as NetBenefit warned businesses to be aware of the hidden costs of registering and owning a domain name. All too often services that claim to offer "free" domain name registration end up costing more since the true cost is concealed by "smoke and mirror" trickery. NetBenefit denies that its decision to take such a stand on cowboy operators has been done simply to protect its own revenue stream. It maintains it is acting out of a genuine desire to ensure that domain name owners receive a good service -- and to protect the industry as a whole. Indeed, recent high-profile cases such as Marie Curie and WebTechs highlight the importance of domain name management. When a multinational company can be wiped off the face of cyberspace thanks to an administrative oversight, the £100 or so it costs to register a domain name pales into insignificance. "It has never been our way to pursue negative campaigns against our competitors and we are hoping that the "softly-softly" approach will encourage other industry players to clean up their acts," said Jonathan Robinson CEO of NetBenefit. "Too often, the consumer sees the Internet industry as a wild frontier. "We believe that it is in the interests of the industry as a whole to move well beyond that phase," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Y2K bug sinks Third World trade

Call it foresight or fundamentalism -- Iran has stored its Y2K problem for another 580 years by using the Islamic calendar in all its computer systems. Third world countries that think they are in the twentieth century are not so fortunate. They face a disastrous shortfall in customs duties next year, because their computer systems are not Y2K compliant. And they only have themselves to blame. Third World complacency could result in a collapse of customs operations at the end of the year, the United Nations warns. Forty of the seventy-five developing countries that use United Nations- built software for processing trade, have a high risk of "succumbing" to the Millennium Bug. Even if their customs software is compliant, their hardware may be unable to cope with the date change Unctad, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, reckons the price for installing Y2K-compliant hardware and operating systems in the 60 countries that need it is -- $11 million. Which seems a piffling amount to head off a crisis in Third World trade. ® Surcharge imposed on Y2K hoarders
Drew Cullen, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS in 11th hour trial ‘exposure’ of AOL BeOS PC plan

MS on Trial AOL's plan to produce an 'AOL PC' that would allow it to break free of Microsoft is alive and well, according to a last-minute grenade hurled by Microsoft's attorneys as trial testimony finished yesterday. Hostile witness David Colburn had earlier said the AOL PC plan had been largely abandoned, but Microsoft attorney Michael Lacovara was able to produce a news report saying AOL was in talks with MicroWorkz Computer, whose $199 iToaster was introduced at PC Expo. Is The Register alone in noting that the source of this story was, er, MSNBC? We trust that any subpoenaed emails from Microsoft's marketing department will not reveal further spinning above and beyond the call. A cheap, set-top box style PC that could maybe be subsidised a la cable TV would suit AOL mightily, although Microsoft's second-hand exposure of the MicroWorkz talks looks less clever when you remember that AOL is already involved in two such projects, one of them involving Intel (EArlier story). MSNBC's anonymous source seems to have been particularly helpful to Microsoft, as he/she/it says the deal would allow AOL to sell its service to all of the people for whom computers are too expensive. Microsoft, of course, is desperate to show that it does have or at least will have competition, so although the reality of tens of millions of $200 boxes running Netscape would be bad news for Oberkommando Redmond, the prospect has immediate tactical value. Actually, the iToaster is something of a left-field machine. It runs BeOS, version 4.5 of which was launched at PC Expo on Wednesday, so it might have even greater value to Microsoft's spin doctors. MS has been showing lots of concern about Linux, but hasn't said much about BeOS, so maybe this is one of those ones that come out of nowhere, just like Microsoft says competition happens in the IT business. MicroWorkz CEO Rick Latman confirmed talks with AOL, but didn't say what they were about. But in a release today MicroWorkz confirmed it was talking to a number of companies, but denied rumours that it was going to be acquired. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
John Lettice, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Former Philips division debuts digital tape back-up drive

One of the youngest vendors at this year's forum is OnStream, a storage company using Advanced Digital Recording (ADR) technology. The US-based company was showing off its tape back-up storage systems that use ADR technology developed by Philips Electronics. OnStream is itself a spin-off of Philips. Its factory and R&D labs are in Holland, and it has been using this week's event to attract system builders with promises of 15 to 20 per cent margin on some of its drives. Nigel Dear, OnStream sales manager for northern Europe, said the SCSI drives offered high capacity - 30 to 50 Gb - at cheap prices due to this technology. The DI30, with 30Gb, sells at $199. "There is good margin to be made for system builders on these fast, high capacity products. Prices can be kept at a minimum as the number of components inside has been drastically reduced," said Dear. Brendan Sherry, OnStream VP for Europe, described tape back-up as a "traditionally sleepy marketplace," but also encouraged assemblers to take an interest in the products using ADR. He said the company had raised $125 million from investors, such as GE Capital. ®
Linda Harrison, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Hit me with your hard disk chips

Worldwide HDD chip sales went south 12 points last year. And things ain’t going to get any better for the vendors. Their revenues were £4 billion in 1998, against $4.5 billion in 1997. By 2002, the market will only be worth $3 billion, IDC predicts. System-on-chip sales will grow, but most other component sales will fall. The sector is squeezed by increasing integration and falling component prices. In 1997, IDC notea, The average HDD contained 10 or 11 integrated circuits(ICs), worth $35.19. By 2002, this will drop to 3 or four Ics, worth $12.29. The 3.5 inch form factor will increase its dominance in the HDD market, with revenue share jumping from 61 per cent in 1998 to 69 per cent in 2002. ®
Drew Cullen, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS Encarta ‘facts’ vary, depending on edition

The Wall Street Journal's researchers have clearly been busy. Careful comparisons of the various international editions of Microsoft Encarta, today's edition reports, show that in numerous cases the 'facts' are different in different editions. That in itself is quite Microsoftish. More so is the quote from Dominique Lempereur, responsible for Microsoft's international education-related business, who says that "you basically have to rewrite all of the content" for international editions. Even more so is the one from MS European marketing director Richard Lindh, who jokes that the French and British English editions give a very different impression of who won the battle of Waterloo. The WSJ gives a couple of examples, noting that in Italy Antonio Meucci, rather than the usual suspect, invented the telephone. The US edition has Edison and Brit Joseph Swan inventing the light bulb simultaneously, whereas the UK edition has Swan first. Microsoft also does a special Indian edition that "reflects the local geographical understanding" of Kashmir (i.e. it's all in India, rather than disputed territory between India and Pakistan, and has avoided offending the Turks by removing the word Kurdistan from one of its maps. The WSJ pulls its punches somewhat on this one, simply presenting the rival approach followed by Encyclopaedia Britannica and then moving on. The Britannica follows a pretty rigorous academic policy, checking out contradictions, establishing a standard viewpoint and presenting the alternatives. This, the truth as best it can be called, is surely what you're going to go to an encyclopaedia for, and an encyclopaedia that follows this policy is going to be what it's meant to be - a voice of authority. Microsoft, on the contrary, would appear to be telling people what it figures they want to hear in order to build sales, and to avoid offending anyone. Dubious is too mild a word for this approach. ®
John Lettice, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

BX overclock torches Camino

So how fast is Camino? We don't know, but we know a man that does. Step forward Thomas Pabst. In his latest uber-review, Dr. Tom compares and contrasts a BX board overclocked to 133 MHz FSB with an equivalent specced Camino. And guess what? BX smokes Camino "significantly". Check out the full review at Tom's Hardware
Drew Cullen, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Integrator Forum wins SB thumbs-up

Delegates at this year's Integrator Forum were to be found playing with their balls in the Monte Carlo sunshine. Yes, it's true - system builders and vendors alike were down by the sea indulging in the popular French pastime of Petanque, which is similar to boule, only played with two balls. The Petanque crew formed only a fraction of the 175 PC assemblers and 54 vendors at the event held at Le Meridien Beach Plaza hotel. This is only the Forum's second year, but those assembled represented over $4 billion of purchasing power in Europe, according to the Forum's MD and founder Dimitri Granovsky. The Forum was started as a way for smaller integrators to meet top vendors, and discuss where the industry was heading. It seems to work in this respect for the PC builders, who swan around the hotel meeting the manufacturers of their choice and chatting about problems in their industry between themselves. But a few vendors were not so happy. Some, like Microsoft, were concerned about not getting value for money. Matti Suokko, Microsoft OEM product manager for Windows, said: "This kind of event is needed, but I would like to see more return on investment to vendors who sponsored the event." Several vendor sessions, specially organised for the two sides of the channel to meet face to face, were not full, including those of Microsoft. But integrators were happy with the event. Many said the most important opportunity was to talk with companies normally seen as rivals and openly discuss difficulties. So, nothing to do with being able to spend a few days in Monte Carlo, slip off the wedding ring and act like you’re 21 again? Sukh Rayat of UK distributor FlashPoint said: "People feel they can talk about their business with people who understand, and discuss problems openly." Jagdish Parekh, representing South African PC builder and distributor Siltek Distribution, said it was useful to have such an open environment to discuss how the channel was evolving. "This is the only forum that gives European system builders the chance to interface with leading suppliers, as well as trying to get to grips with the changing dynamics in the industry." However, some improvements were suggested, such as more open discussions on issues from each of the 25 countries represented. ®
Linda Harrison, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Much-maligned BT suffers over ADSL

I'm going to start a campaign to have an annual holiday in honour of BT. I've already drafted an email to the Queen and the PM and anyone else I can think of who might hold some sway in the matter. A day in June would be good -- because that would coincide with the time BT actually admitted it was going to roll out ADSL in the UK. According to today's FT, BT's financial director Robert Brace, told a conference as much yesterday, but it only confirms what has already been said over the last couple of weeks. Indeed, people have been so moved by BT's monumental decision I can confirm that in at least one small village in rural Hampshire they're already getting out the bunting from last week's church fete to hold a street party in honour of the telco. Still, we should all be grateful. BT only started trialing the service five years ago. They've worked a small miracle to get it ready in time before it becomes obsolete. Apparently, BT is happy with the quality of the service but delayed introducing it because the of "internal tensions". "It has not decided which division within the company will be responsible for the service and it is concerned about cannibalising its existing leased line and ISDN (integrated services digital network) offerings," wrote the FT. How thoughtful of BT. The company has suffered unimaginable inner turmoil on our behalf just to make sure it has the right internal structure in place to handle ADSL. How anyone can accuse it of sitting on its hands and doing sweet FA while the UK is denied access to such an important technology is beyond me. Getting your internal tensions sorted is a tricky business. And if I hear one more word said about BT only doing this because it now feels under pressure from the cable companies -- well, I'm going to get very cross. It's just not true, do you hear! Internal tensions -- that's what it was about. Ha! And what about all those people who had a go at BT for dawdling -- I bet they're not best pleased with themselves now. I bet they wish they'd never said all those horrid things about poor old Beetsy Teetsy. You see, BT was hurting on the inside but wanted to protect us from its anguish. It put a brave face on things and continued to act as if nothing was wrong. Such bravery. Such dedication. Such selfless devotion and courage. That is why we should set aside one day a year to celebrate BT -- just so that we can all remember just how really, really, really lucky we are... ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD says competition is a good thing

Rivalry in the chip market is good for you, AMD told system builders at the Integrator Forum. The chip maker said competition improved product, price and performance. It later talked of its intention to move into other areas of the market such as servers and notebooks, and to target small businesses. Robert Stead, AMD European marketing manager, computation products group, said: "Competition is sometimes painful but always good. Improved price performance is more attractive to customers and improves the market." He said AMD wanted to target small businesses, moving away from its traditional market of home users. Stead maintained that moving into the SMB market would work - companies just needed to be given a choice of chips. "The products you know about aren't necessarily what you want," he said, adding that compatibility issues would not be an issue, even in products like servers. Hmm, can’t think which company’s products he might have had in mind. ®
Linda Harrison, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Newsbytes to stop writing routine stories – at last

A treasurable press release arrives from Newsbytes, which we are informed is an IT news service of some kind. It leads in: "Newsbytes.com, the international news service focused on information technology, has shifted its breaking news coverage away from routine corporate announcements to exclusive coverage of the technologies, events, and laws that broadly affect the IT community and the future of communications, the company announced today." A fine piece of writing, don't you think? Kind of suggests that in the gazillion years Newsbytes has been running (well OK, we had heard of it), it's been about "routine corporate announcements," but that now it's going to be different, honest. There's more: "Newsbytes' changed editorial mission also means that routine PC and network announcements will no longer be a part of its coverage. Meaningful, trend setting developments in hardware, software and applications will, however, be covered." That 'r' word again, and then they spoil it: "Public relations professionals should e-mail all news releases aimed at providing Newsbytes reporters with story leads to this mail address: story_leads@newsbytes.com." Just make sure it's meaningful, not routine, OK? ®
Helena Handcart, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS proposes three browser ‘ballot’ system for PCs

MS on Trial Settlement talks between Microsoft and the Department of Justice would seem to be on again (sort of), and a couple of Microsoft offers have surfaced. They certainly indicate that Microsoft has been getting keener on cutting a deal, but they're clearly not enough to get the DoJ to back off. The offers seem to fall into three categories at the moment, one weird, one dubious and one fuzzy. Being a serious journal of record, we'll naturally deal with the weird one, the browser solution, first. Microsoft is suggesting a ballot screen that will allow users to select their browser of choice as the software installs, so during the installation process you'd get to choose IE, Navigator or Opera. This is weird for a number of reasons. First of all, if Microsoft really is suggesting this, it casts an interesting light on all those claims its witnesses (hiya Jimbo) have been making about how the browser is integrated into the OS and how you can't remove it without breaking features. Second, it leaves quite a bit of scope for the continuation of Microsoft's control over the installation and initial boot sequence of a PC. Microsoft could write bizarre contracts that forced its OEMs to ship all three browsers whether they wanted to or not, control the way the ballot was presented to the user, and then protest that its hands were tied because of the latest DoJ consent decree. The dubious one is to do with contracts. It's prepared to dump exclusive deals with ISPs, and to give PC manufacturers greater freedom in terms of bundling software from rival companies and doing their own deals with ISPs. That possibly implies that it's not suggesting dumping exclusive deals with PC companies, but written-down exclusives really aren't that important for Microsoft. Co-op marketing deals, soft dollars and discounts offered to PC companies and ISPs on the achievement of target shipments are rather more important. So you could see how Microsoft could work on the wording of a deal with a view to skating neatly round the edges after it's signed. Finally our fuzzy one is disclosure of Windows APIs. Microsoft already does disclose APIs - eventually, with timing depending on who you are - so the company will probably try to get away with vague promises to be good, and then to carry on more or less as normal with its groups of friends and enemies. But even if it really was good on APIs, that's not even the half of it. Control of the software platform means that Microsoft can grant and withhold information, depending on who you are, and can break rival software and consolidate its control over sectors via repeated upgrades and 'musical DLLs.' It's not entirely obvious that there is a solution to this one, considering we're dealing with a whole approach to develop and how it integrates with marketing and corporate strategy here. Maybe the DoJ should just insist that Microsoft just says sorry for Windows and shoots it (this is an exclusive Register MS Remedies suggestion). Overall, the offers don't go far enough, and are too vague to win over a DoJ which must by now be absolutely convinced it has Microsoft nailed. But tentative lines of communication remain open, and even if Microsoft's corporate mind doesn't get sufficiently concentrated over the summer, Judge Jackson's initial ruling, which will be a "finding of facts," not a full judgement, could induce it to up the bids. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
John Lettice, 25 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

BT/LocalTel blunder gives away free phone calls

Net users are getting free Web access and free phone calls around the clock thanks to administrative blunders by BT and LocalTel. Around 76,000 people have been promised that their accounts will be switched from BT to LocalTel by today so that they can take advantage of toll-free access to the Net during off-peak hours. But one reader - who is one of the few to have been processed before today's deadline - has contacted The Register to say he's being charged nothing at the moment because neither BT nor LocalTel accept he is their customer. The reader, who, for obvious reasons has asked to remain anonymous said: "Apparently, we should've received a bill after eight days of being switched. "We didn't get any such bill. "Neither BT nor LocalTel acknowledged the account, so for now... hooray for British bureaucratic cock-ups." But it's not all good news. Another Register reader said his service was switched to LocalTel even though he never sent back the application forms. "Remember, these forms needed my signature in order to proceed with the switch from BT -- not to mention my banking details," he said. "I was going to switch, but not until after I moved home in August, but this experience has changed my mind. "There's been no notification, no warning, nothing -- so please do make readers of The Register aware of the fact that if they join Screaming.net, their service could be switched from BT whether they want to change or not." Done. A spokesman for LocalTel expressed his concern and added that this was not an isolated incident. Some people have been told they've been transferred when they have not -- and some have even had their phone lines cut off, he said. "Sadly, the reason [for these mishaps] lies with BT," said Doug Walker of LocalTel. "What was a fairly straightforward process fell over because of their inability to make it (the transfer process) work. BT was asked to comment but failed to return the call before press time. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 1999