13th > July > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

France Telecom ADSL service starts in November

France Telecom is to start offering ADSL connections in November, but the company is unlikely to be expecting a rush of customers. The service will cost FF265 (around $40) a month, and will initially only be available in some areas in and around Paris. The move does however mean that France will have a reasonable ADSL network built over the next three years, and that there will be competition. France Telecom must, according to a government ruling, allow other Internet access operations to use its connections. This of course doesn't mean that prices will start to come down immediately, as FT will no doubt attempt to keep prices to other ISPs high. ®
John Lettice, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Free Win98 SE update – epilogue

Last week we left the Microsoft UK Windows 98 SE free update saga with the suggestion that although it wasn't possible to get it entirely for free now, once upon a time it seems to have been. We've now heard from quite a few people who got a free copy, so either Microsoft's logistics systems have been seriously broken, or the company's been telling fibs. The key date in the saga is last Tuesday, 6th July, which is when Microsoft UK changed its Web site, adding a postage and packaging charge of UKP16.82. Microsoft had earlier announced that all registered Windows 98 users in the UK could get the SE update for free, and the Web site hadn't previously said anything about a price. Numerous Register readers had taken advantage of the offer before 6th July, and Microsoft took orders for both retail and OEM upgrades without mentioning price to them. These readers - mostly - have now received their update CD, for free. Several received the CD on 6th July itself, but we have sightings earlier as well, for both retail and OEM versions again. That means that Microsoft was blithely accepting orders from all and sundry before it issued OEMs with a clarifying letter, and before it (we surmise) told the Microsoft Connection not to take orders from OEM users. Tsk. Copies were delivered by courier, accompanied by an invoice showing a total of UKP0.00. Short of anybody deciding to pursue Microsoft on the basis that it did say it would give the software away entirely for free, and then demonstrated what it meant by this before (again, we surmise) changing its mind, that concludes the tale. But a few of our readers sent us heart-warming tales of MS' Greatest Hits, and we thought we'd share them with you. Our thanks to all of you who helped out by keeping us up to date on this story: It's not just MS that can be economical with l'actualite, reader 1 tells us: "In response to your article on getting the Win98 SE for free, I feel I should tell you about my experience. When I'd heard about the "free" offer I visited the MS website and filled out the appropriate form. It was then I noticed the offer was only valid for a retail version. As I have an OEM version I assumed I would have to contact the manufacturer. Then I noticed something interesting... in order to prove you had a retail version of Win 98 all you had to send was either a copy of the receipt or a proof of purchase from the side of the Win 98 box. As I have a few boxed MS products I checked out the proof of purchase on the side and lo and behold they are all the same. So I thought what the hell, cut the proof of purchase off the side of Works 99 and sent it in along with the form from the web site. And you'll be pleased to know it arrived safe and sound yesterday with absolutely no cost to me." Reader 2 has further evidence of how good Microsoft is at reading the bits of paper it gets faxed: "Just to let you know that I received my nice update disk this morning via UPS. Without having to pay any postage and as an upgrade for a copy of Win 98 that was purchased at the Microsoft store in Redmond for the employee price of $10 !!!! I thought that I would send it off and see what happened using the authenticity certificate on the side of the box, (as obviously a receipt from MS themselves may not have worked), and it worked !!!" So you can get free upgrades on discount US versions too. And then there's the Microsoft Connection's intimate knowledge of Microsoft's own licensing agreements: "We received a free copy of the SE upgrade! However, things aren't quite that simple... "We run six machines under 98, some OEM and some copies of 98 that we have purchased. As we did not want to fall foul of the licencing requirements, we phoned Microsoft UK for clarification on whether we would need one copy or six copies of the upgrade disk. We were told that only one disk would be required to update our six machines... [Wrong, of course if it was a service pack, one copy would be sufficient. As it's a product, you need one for each machine.] "We faxed off a photocopy of the certificate on the front of one of the Windows 98 manuals along with the form downloaded from the web and received a free disk in the post a couple of days later, postage paid! However, upon reading the licence agreement enclosed it was clear that whoever we spoke to at Microsoft was wrong and we would need separate copies for each machine... "We downloaded another copy of the form from the web (Which incidentally first thing on the morning of the 6th didn't mention postage) along with photocopies of certificates/product packaging to cover another five copies. We are still waiting to receive our extra disks..." According to our reading of the Microsoft statements of last week, this reader should be eligible for free copies, as he applied prior to the price being posted. Finally, one reader offers an interesting suggestion. As the cost is to cover delivery, what if you turned up at the nearest MS office clutching your proof of purchase and demanding to be handed it. A sort of "Linux refund day in reverse," our genius suggests this could be run as. Maybe some large corporate MS site might care to investigate doing a deal for, say, 20,000 Win98 clients and sending a van round to pick them up? Photos, if you do it, please. ®
John Lettice, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

UK corporate Web sites crap at responding

Survey A survey by marketing consultancy Rainier claimed today that nearly half of the top UK corporations are failing to capitalise on the Web. According to the study, big UK names including the British Aviation Authority (BAA), NatWest and Tesco are failing to use their Websites as a direct way of communicating with their customers. Rainier claims that 26 of the FTSE Top 100 failed to respond to requests for basic investor information after 100 days. Another 16 companies, according to Rainier, either did not have a Web site, could not be contacted by e-mail or had hard to find e-mail details. Those include Bass, ICI, Orange and Vodafone. "Of the 58 per cent of FTSE 100 companies that responded to an investor query from their Web site, 23 took less than three hours, 21 took between three hours and one day, 10 took between a day and three days and a further four took more than three days," said the report. The report compiled a timetable of responses from the sites surveyed. The best were Bilton (one minute), Allied Zurich and Smiths Industries (three minutes) and Zeneca (eight minutes). Some of the worst were Severn Trent (six days, 21 hours), Ladboke (nine days), Standard Chartered (20 days) and Boots (31 days). ®
Mike Magee, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Pentium III/600 on sale in Japan

Once again, the Japanese stores in the electronic district of Tokyo seem to have got the drop on the CPU companies. This store is listing the Pentium III/600, which officially doesn't start selling until the end of the month, at ¥99,800 yen. Our friends at Tom's Hardware Page said they will stroll down to the shop to see if there are actually chips in stock or not. (See also our story, early this month: Intel turns Pentium III/600 price screw on AMD K7). And meanwhile, reports are reaching us from Israel, which we shall try to confirm later today, that Intel has made unexpected price reductions on its Pentium II family. When the Pentium III/600 is officially launched, the word on the street is that there will be another set of price cuts across the desktop range. The 600MHz Pentium III is a .25 micron beastie, with what is described by one Intel Insider as a "SuperKatmai" core... Intel's financial results are out this evening. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Eight way AMD K7 chipset on cards

AMD has licensed Poseidon to produce SMP chipsets for the Athlon K7. And, at the same time, Poseidon has changed its name to HotRail and secured funding from a spate of VCs. HotRail has described a simultaneous switched matrix (SSM) system that will support multiple K7s with up to eight processors. AMD has always said it will sell K7s, sorry Athlons, into the server market but this is the first clear evidence of how that will work. Our sources indicate that systems are not likely to appear, however, until next year. In the meantime, both Compaq and API, the Samsung sub, will seriously market SMP systems using Slot B and the Alpha processor. Our reports indicate that Alpha will be the first processor to run at 1GHz without aid of cooling technology. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Vodafone tipped to buy Mannesmann

Merger mania could be about to hit the European mobile telephony industry, with speculation mounting that Vodafone AirTouch is to make a bid for the German mobile provider Mannesmann. According to a number of recent reports, analysts have tipped the deal as an almost inevitable outcome of continuing consolidation within the European mobile market. Mannesmann looks vulnerable as none of its shareholders controls a large enough slice of the company to ward off hostile bids. Since merging with AirTouch at the end of June, Vodafone is now well placed to make a move on Mannesmann. The two are already partners in a number of European mobile carriers, including Mannesmann Mobilfunk, the number one in the German market. The AirTouch deal has given Vodafone a market capitalisation of $127 billion, which should mean swallowing Mannesmann (market cap - £59 billion) would be straightforward. With a market capitalisation of $127 billion, Vodafone certainly could afford to buy Mannesmann, which is much smaller at $59 billion. Newswire service Reuters spoke to a number of industry analysts and speculated that in the event of Mannesmann becoming the target of a hostile bid, Vodafone could step in to fend off the challenge by presenting a more agreeable bid of its own. ®
Sean Fleming, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

IBM reveals high-speed chip packaging

IBM yesterday unveiled a new processor packaging system designed to make CPU-to-system data throughput more efficient. Aimed initially at high performance networking systems, IBM's High Performance Chip Carrier (HPCC) encases the processor in a fluoropolymer dielectric material. The result, claimed the company, is a faster electrical current between the chip and the rest of the system. Essentially, HPCC appears to reduce electrical noise between chip and bus, much as IBM's Silicon on Insulator technology reduces it within the processor itself. IBM said it designed the technology for chip speeds "in the gigahertz range", which should hit the market next year, initially in high-performance servers, in particular Web servers, which IBM claimed would see clear improvements in performance. Certainly server processors are the target of IBM's PowerPC development, much of which centres on its upcoming 'Gigaprocessor' chip. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Citrix buys ViewSoft

Citrix yesterday announced it will buy ViewSoft, transforming the Web application development software specialist into a wholly owned subsidiary. The deal is expected to be completed during Q3, Citrix said, and will see the company taking a $2 million charge for in-process R&D for the quarter ended 30 September. The merger itself is valued at $32 million. Citrix said it will use ViewSoft's technology to extend its own Application Linking and Embedding (ALE) software, which allows thin client systems to access and run Windows apps through a Web browser interface. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Back Orifice plugged

Data Fellows has cracked the Back Orifice 2000 problem, it said yesterday. The anti-virus software manufacturer announced the world was safe from being penetrated by the latest version of the infection. Data Fellows has added detection of the Back Orifice 2000 utility into its F-Secure Anti-Virus package. Written by a group calling themselves the Cult of the Dead Cow, BO2K can be used to remotely control a Windows workstation. Outsiders can creep up on unsuspecting users through the backdoor trojan virus, changing information on a Windows 95,98 or NT machine. The Data Fellows software can be downloaded here. ®
Linda Harrison, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Gameplay gets serious about IPO

Online gaming company, Gameplay.com will be floating via a share placing in AIM (Alternative Investment Market) in the next few weeks. It is expected to be valued at around £50 million, from which it will raise £21 million. The share price will be announced later this month. Before it sets off on this new venture, it is on a bit of a shopping spree. Gameplay is buying Wireplay, an online games business set up by BT for £5.5 million. It is also in the process of acquiring Interactive Commercial Enterprises for around £8.1 million, depending on sales targets. Mark Strachan, the company chairman said: "Bringing the company to the market now will enable us to invest not only in the existing businesses, but also in a whole range of other opportunities afforded by the rapid growth of both the Internet and the computer games sector." Gameplay.com said that gaming was no longer a solo activity. Chief executive Mark Bernstein said that the market was becoming a community where users swapped tips and tactics. "Gameplay.com aims to become the one stop shop in Europe for this expanding community," he said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Intergraph Q2 revenues to show $25 million shortfall

PC workstation vendor Intergraph is due to report its latest financial results, for the quarter ended 30 June, later this month, but the company yesterday warned that it expects to see a $25 million shortfall in revenues. And who does Intergraph blame? Step forward, Chipzilla. "Our current computer hardware offering is not sufficiently differentiated to overcome the impact of Intel's actions against Intergraph," said CEO Jim Meadlock. Curiously, it said pretty much the same thing this time last year, too. This time round, the company has been resizing its hardware development and sales operations to deal with the "level of hardware orders and revenues being generated", said Meadlock. That process will cost the company a $3 million charge, to be taken in the quarter. However, that will be more than balanced by the $11 million the company made by selling off its InterCAP graphics subsidiary back in April. Intergraph's formal statement of results is due on 26 July. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Teacher found guilty of kiddie Web porn crimes

A teacher and former Tory parliamentary candidate was jailed for child Net porn offences yesterday. Michael Powell, 51, was sentenced to three years by Cardiff Crown Court for downloading 16,600 pictures of children from the Web, according to today’s Daily Telegraph. Powell, who was conservative Mayor of Bridgend, South Wales, in 1984, was arrested after police raided his home. He admitted to detectives that he had collected the computer images for two-years. Nicola Harris, defending at yesterday’s court case, said Powell had lost his wife, job and reputation. "He never came into direct contact with children and took administration posts in school so that he would not be near the pupils," she said. Powell, of Sarn, Bridgend, pleaded guilty to making indecent pseudo pictures of a child, possessing the images, possession with intent to supply and distribution. He asked for 50 similar offences to be taken into consideration. Recorder David Aubrey, QC, expressed his fears over the lack of censorship and control regarding the Internet. "It is apparent there is an alarming and disturbing sub-culture in our society," he said. "These people are sitting in front of their computers, exchanging depraved and sickening images with people of like minds all round the world, the judge said." ®
Linda Harrison, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Net ad giants NetGravity, DoubleClick to merge

Updated Internet advertising specialist DoubleClick will buy its arch-rival, NetGravity, for $530 million in stock, the company said today. DoubleClick will swap 0.28 of its shares for each NetGravity share, effectively valuing NetGravity's stock at $26.32. The announcement followed the pre-release of DoubleClick's Q2 results, which saw the company post revenue of $44 million, a 154 per cent increase on the same period last year. The company didn't, however, say how much money it actually made -- we'll have to wait for the official results posting for that. For NetGravity, its pre-release revenue was $5.6 million, a 143 per cent increase over the $2.3 million in revenues reported in the same quarter last year. Final figures will be posted on 21 July. ®
Team Register, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Apacer to support PC-133

Memory company Apacer, a subsidiary of Acer, will announce today it is to support the PC-133 memory standard. At Computex last June, Apacer Direct Rambus modules were featured on the Intel stand, but a representative from the company told us that there were technical difficulties with the memory modules. Apacer will team up with Philips Seminconductors to produce the memory. In a statement, the company said: "Apacer is continually evolving their memory technology to keep in touch with the latest industry trends and future memory roadmaps." Austin Chen, president of Apacer, said:"Customers today demand high-speed memory modules. We are developing all of these alternative technologies to insure are customers have total solutions available to them." ®
Mike Magee, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Freeserve debuts Web credit card

Dixon's ISP, Freeserve has teamed up with HFC Bank, a subsidiary of Household International, to launch an Internet credit card. HFC is the money behind the Goldfish and GM credit cards. All transactions can be made online, from the initial application to paying bills and checking account details. Interest rates have not been made public yet, but Dixons says that they will be competitive. The deal between Freeserve and HFC is for a minimum of five years and specifies financial targets that must be met. Freeserve will get £5 million plus interest payable over the term of the contract, bounties for new accounts as well as commissions and profit share from each transaction. Freeserve chief executive, John Pluthero, said: "People now buy an ever-increasing range of goods and services over the Internet and are keen to have a credit card account where all purchases, payments and queries can be dealt with online. This agreement will develop another valuable revenue stream for Freeserve." As of 26 June, Freeserve said it had 1.32 million active registered users. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Toshiba to use Taiwanese firm to make notebooks

Asian reports said that Toshiba will use a Taiwanese OEM, for the first time, to manufacture some of its range of notebook machines. According to the organisers of the Computex trade fair, Compal will start shipping units in September, and supply at least 20,000 machines to Toshiba by the end of the year. Toshiba is likely to outsource nearly half a million notebooks from Taiwan in the year 2000, the report said. That is around 10 per cent of its volumes. The Japanese company will join Compaq and IBM in using Taiwanese manufacturers to make its notebook products. The move shows the extent that branding has on the market. While IBM, Compaq and Toshiba are considered market leaders, many who buy their products are unaware of the extent to which they use third party manufacturing. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Wall Street predicts Intel boost

Two major brokers are forecasting good financial results from Intel for its Q2 financial figures. The results will be released after Wall Street closes this evening, at 21.30 UK time. Both Goldman Sachs and Gruntal are recommending Intel shares as a strong buy, with the latter forecasting a share price of $85 in the offing. Two weeks ago, Intel's share price stood at $50 but has risen steadily since that time, to close slightly down at just over $65½ yesterday. Both revenues and profits are expected to rise in Q2. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

SCC buys Lantec division from Elcom

Specialist Computer Centre (SCC) has bought part of Elcom International's UK reseller business. The sale of the subsidiary, formerly known as Lantec, is understood to have boosted the anticipated reseller sales of SCC's parent, Specialist Computer Holdings, to £700 million. According to a report in Microscope magazine, SCH chairman Peter Rigby said about 300 staff would be moved to the Birmingham-based group. Peter Rigby, SCC chairman and chief executive, said: "Whilst SCC is the UK's second largest reseller, our perceived strength has been in the Midlands and the North, Elcom's blue chip customer base and technical and services capabilities are predominantly southern based. Its culture, people, skills and logistics are a perfect match to build and extend our added value services offerings in the home counties." SCH's distribution arm, ETC, will also merge with Elcom's UK distributor Elite. Industry analyst Richard Holway told The Register the deal made sense. "From everything that I've heard, the acquisition seems to fit them like a glove." "SCH lost its way a little bit by moving into retail. It should have stuck to the main reseller business of selling into the corporate market, like Computacenter. "But today's move should take them back to where they belong, back at the top of the league," he said. The handover will take place on 31 July. No figures were released for the sale. The £700 million revenues would place SCH second only to Computacenter. ®
Linda Harrison, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Are your SQL apps street-legal? MS sues over key patent

Microsoft has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against a company holding a patent which is used in SQL Server 7 and MS Office 2000. The company - Timeline, Inc., of Bellevue, Washington, struck a licensing deal with Microsoft over the patent just last month. There would seem to be quite a lot going on under the covers here. Announcing the deal with Microsoft last month, Timeline president and CEO Charles Osenbaugh said: "We believe that the licence negotiated with Microsoft clarifies Timeline's rights to its technology and patented inventions which apply to the automated generation of data marts." Timeline was issued the patent, which "describes a process of accessing, transforming and summarising data for financial reporting," in September of last year. Timeline views it as "a 'pioneer patent' in certain aspects of automating the generation of data marts," and has been taking steps to fight what it sees as its corner. The company said last month it expects heavy litigation fees in connection with patent protection over the next few years, and currently has actions outstanding against Sagent and Clarus Corporation. The company adds that "there are a number of 'parties of interest' whom Timeline will research and take such actions as it deems appropriate." By granting a licence to Microsoft last month, Timeline clearly intended to win Microsoft's acknowledgement of its title to the technology. Considering that both of the Microsoft products covered were shipping by the time the deal was announced, it's probably fair to presume that some white-knuckle negotiation preceded the agreement. In Osenbaugh's view an important part of the deal was that "Microsoft has renounced any claim of ownership interest in Timeline's patent and pending patents," and he added: "Our inventions, which are the subject matter of the patent, occurred prior to Timeline developing software on behalf of Microsoft." This gives us an idea of how the patented technology happened to get into SQL and Office 2000, and of the nature of the claims and counter-claims the MS and Timeline lawyers would have been making up until the June deal. Presumably developers were already using the patented technology prior to the agreement, in which case their legal position must have been somewhat murky. Microsoft now claims that the licence it gained from Timeline in June included the ability "to sublicense it to customers, independent software vendors and solution providers who use Microsoft technology in the creation of data warehousing and/or business intelligence solutions that extract data from business systems, transform the data and prepare it for reporting and analysis." In a statement yesterday the company said: "Microsoft believes Timeline... has breached its June 1999 contract with Microsoft by refusing to acknowledge that the agreement entitles Microsoft's customers to create their own products with Microsoft's licensed technology." Considering what Timeline has said about the patent, and about its plans to realise its value, it would seem unlikely that the company intended to give Microsoft sub-licensing rights (although what the licence says could well be a different matter). If Microsoft is able to sub-license, then Timeline won't be able to derive any revenue from any applications developed for SQL and Office 2000, and that would only look like a smart business move if Microsoft's licence fee had been extremely substantial. On the other hand, Microsoft does have a need to offer SQL and Office developers technology that doesn't come with third party licence claims rattling along behind, so it also seems unlikely that MS would have struck a deal without taking this into account. There's clearly a lot more to this than meets the eye - care to drop us a line, anyone? ®
John Lettice, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony to launch e-money scheme

Sony is hoping to become a key e-commerce player when it launches a digital currency scheme next year. According to reports in Japanese business paper Nikkei, Sony's e-money programme will operate through its Internet service, So-Net. Buyers would make payments using a smartcard, swiping the card through a reader connected to their PC to make the transaction. Users would pay Sony to top up their cards with e-money. In that respect, the service resembles the recently launched Magex digital currency, though Magex uses wallet software stored on a PC's hard disk rather than a separate smartcard. The scheme will be tested in public during summer 2000, said Nikkei, with the full roll-out following later in the year. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD fabs first copper parts, 1GHz Athlon by year end?

AMD's new Dresden Fab 30 is not only complete, as we mentioned yesterday, but has run off its first CPUs with copper interconnects. German publication c't reports (in German) plant managing director Hans Deppe as saying that working copper K6 chips have already been produced. Deppe declined to say what the yield was, but was happy with the first production runs. Dresden staff are confident that the process will be capable of producing 1GHz speed Athlons by year end. This is a slight escalation of previous AMD clock speed sightings. We've, variously, had 750MHz for Q3 or Q4, and 1GHz for early next year. Depending on how Dresden's yields pan out, however, that could be moving to very early next year. ®
John Lettice, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Irish eyes are smiling for Sage

UK accountancy software supremo Sage is going west and moving into the Irish market. The Irish set up will be run out of the UK while it is putting together the local office. The man in charge of making sure Sage gets off the ground in its new home is Fionan O'Driscoll, the newly appointed general manager. Previously he was a director of business management for Modus Media International, a supply chain management company. Mark Searles, director and head of Sage's software division said: "We are keen to work more closely with Sage customers and resellers in Ireland and provide them with an autonomous division which will address their specific needs. I am confident that Sage Ireland will provide them with such a dedicated service." The company is also keen to attract people to its new Web site, launched earlier this year. It offers Sage customers free Internet access, free unlimited email addresses, and tools to help customers build their own site. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Linux Store preps Net access appliance

The Linux Store is set to move into the Internet Appliance market with a $199 personal Net access box based on the open source OS. The company is not yet releasing specs. for the device, but it did say it will bundle a full suite of Internet tools, plus a word processor and a spreadsheet. The box will be released in the second week of August, and will be sold through The Linux Store itself, ISPs and US retailers, though it declined to say who, if anyone, it has signed up to take the product. The company's plan is to prove that Linux can make it as a mainstream client OS alternative to Windows. The flaw in that plan, however, is that for an Internet appliance, aimed at consumers with little or no IT knowledge but a desire to get onto the Net quickly and easily, the OS is, to a degree, irrelevant. For users who do want to did a little deeper into the system, The Linux Store points to the huge stack of Linux apps available on the Net, it will be interesting to see how many consumers can figure out how to install and/or compile them. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Compel to face tribunal next year

An employment tribunal has ruled that Compel's legal battle with former Info'Products staff will not start until next February – over a year after the dispute began. More than half of the 150 people made redundant when Compel bought Info'Products are jointly suing Compel for unfair dismissal. At a preliminary hearing on 30 June at Stratford Employment Tribunal, it was decided the joint claim could not take place until February 2000. A four-day block would be needed for such a big case, and February was the earliest date available, according to the solicitor acting for the claimants, Alan Lewis, of Mullis and Peake, Romford. The case involves the issue of "protective award". The ex-Info'Products group say they were entitled to 90 days pay, instead of the 30 days offered, when they were laid off. UK employment law states that if more than 100 employees at one "establishment" are made redundant then those staff are entitled not only to a longer consultancy period, but also to a minimum 90 days salary. But there is no concrete definition of the term "establishment". Compel is arguing that the staff are not entitled to this larger pay-off because Info'Products comprised of several "establishments". Lewis said the claimants had a very reasonable case, but were entering a hazy area of the law. "They're fighting it tooth and nail all the way. But it's not black and white," he said. Compel agreed to buy Info'Products last December. The redundancies came less than one month later, and only days before the official handover. There are also expected to be a handful of individual cases against Compel due to start this September. These will not be handled by Mullis and Peake. Compel refused to comment. ®
Linda Harrison, 13 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft & ICL reveal cable plans

ICL is getting further into bed with Microsoft with a five year development deal expected to bring in £1 billion in new business. ICL said that in addition to seven new sites already planned, it was opening new offices in Botswana, Finland, India, South Africa and France that would mean up to 250 new jobs. The companies will be working together to devise new smartcard and Internet technologies. The two earlier today revealed details of a deal involving cable company NTL, to develop interactive TV technology. Microsoft currently owns a five per cent stake in NTL and close to 30 per cent of Telewest, NTL's main competitor. The deal with NTL is designed to make the cable company the first British operator to offer interactive television to a wide mass market audience. The idea is that people will be able to access the Internet on the TV, using familiar zapper-like control pads. Once it is up and running, customers will be able to watch music shows and simultaneously access information about various artists and link to online music stores. Register factoid: ICL is already in deep with MS in the area of cash registers which are deep down, really NT workstations. Ghastly nightmare - you may say so, but we couldn't possibly comment. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jul 1999