16th > July > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Integration sends PC component market into tail-spin

A year ago Posted 17 July 1998 -- a year ago The market for traditional PC components like microprocessors, graphics accelerators, system logic and sound chips peaked in 1997 and is now in decline, according to Rearchitecting the PC, a new report from Mercury Research. The shrinking market is due largely to the shift to lower-cost PCs, which is eroding component prices. This year, component suppliers will ship $21.7 billion worth of processors, graphics controllers, chip sets and sound chips to PC suppliers – a four per cent drop on last years figures. Mike Feibus, an analyst at Mercury commented: 'With the high end of the PC market shrivelling, chip makers can no longer profit by designing high-performance parts and riding them down the price curve.' The downward trend is spurring investment in a new class of more cost-effective, highly integrated PC components. This market will grow to $1.6 billion by 2000, according to the report. However, this new revenue source will not be enough to reverse the decline in the market for traditional PC chips. A shakeout is inevitable, say Mercury’s researchers. Mark Davison, business product manager at Datrontech, the UK components distie, agreed that the market is going to get tougher. "The drive for greater functionality with little change is cost means that the profit left in a chip is very low. Distributors are relying on volume sales to make money," he said. ®
Drew Cullen, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD's Sanders drops another clanger

Analysis Although AMD's spinola department was putting the best gloss it could on the resignation of president Atiq Raza two days ago, it could not have come at a worse time for Intel's little brother. The spin is that at some time in the future, Raza may return, in some unspecified role, to help AMD out. Further, according to AMD, Raza left for purely personal reasons. But if a Donna and Marie like relationship really existed between Jerry Sanders III and Atiq Raza, would he have resigned on the day AMD delivered its worst financial results ever, compounding interest in the company's state of affairs? As we pointed out earlier this year, AMD had always been in the position of mopping up x.86 business as Intel moved its generation of processors up a notch. That changed in 1995 when AMD bought NexGen and along with it, former Intel president Vinodh Dham, Atiq Raza and Dana Krelle. All three of these individuals made a big difference to the way AMD ran its processor business, bringing good technology, good ideas and perhaps more than this, a professional approach that was appreciated outside of AMD. This is what we said shortly after AMD introduced its K6-III roadmap at Versailles nearly two years ago: "Remember Vinod Dham? Of course, Krelle was at Intel and was wooed away to Nexgen, from there poaching Vin Dham to be his boss. When Nexgen was bought by AMD, both of them breathed a sigh of relief because they feared that NEC or another large Japanese multiple would snap them up. But Krelle said, during a lunch conversation, that Vin Dham and he had brought much more to the organisation than just technology. They also brought some of their Intel infrastructure ideas, meaning the whole company is now much sharper than it was before." Sanders is reputedly tough to work for. On the few occasions we've bumped into him, he's shown a somewhat peppery side to his nature and over the last 10 years that we've tracked AMD, many an executive has come and gone. He is also close to the age at which British judges, for example, are forced to retire and other 70 years old face the re-taking of their driving tests. The news, predictably, caused AMD's share price to bump back down to $16 a share and the risk of predators snapping the company up must now be greater than ever. AMD already faces a host of class actions following its Q1 results and there are likely to be more. But, according to an insider at IBM, although it has toyed with the idea of acquiring AMD over the last two to three years (as reported here), there is internal opposition to the idea. Unfortunately for AMD and the K7, Compaq is not currently in a position to play the white knight. Perhaps, then, Dana Krelle and Vin Dham's worst fears when they were at Nexgen will come to be realised, and some large Asian outfit will say: "That will do very nicely". Sanders' apparent fixation on the processor side of AMD's business has not helped. As one senior AMD UK executive pointed out to us when the AMD K6-III was first launched: "My side of this business (telecomms and Flash) is propping up this processor adventure." The Raza clanger may well be one clanger too many for AMD. ®
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

What's the bet on Willamette?

A couple of hardware sites have said Willamette is late, based on a hesitation senior Intel VP Paul Otellini made at a conference call earlier this week. Someone asked him if Willamette products would start arriving in the year 2000, and then he corrected himself and said, no, the year 2001. And at the AMD conference call, execs were saying that the K7 Athlon would have little or no competition next year as Willamette wouldn't arrive. So we rang our usual chums at Intel who would merely say that Willamette is scheduled to arrive in the 2000-2001 timeframe... But this is what we already know about the Willamette platform. Chips could have as many as 450 pins in its socket design, use dual channel Rambus memory and employ a chipset called Tehama. Willamette, as well as Merced, have existed as design concepts for seven years so far. Merced was then called P7 and Willamette P68. Willamette will have RISC-like storing trace caches and Coppermine and its derivatives will likely be the last of the P6 line." There could be as much as 128K level one data cache on Willamette processors. The cache and the core of Willamette architecture are totally different from P6 technology. The L2 cache, which is likely to be 1Mb, is broken into hundreds of squares, suggesting a massively parallel schema. As for Coppermine itself, Intel will release a 666MHz CuMine chip in November, its problem being that it cannot, yet, exceed 550MHz. As our friends at the Microprocessor Forum suggest, this is likely to cause more problems with Intel's mobile CPU platform than the desktop platform. We've been urged to write the Willamette "is late" story and would dearly love to do so. But as we don't have a date for Willamette, even though Paul Otellini said it was "on target" at last February's Intel Developer Forum, it's pretty hard to do that. If it is late, then we think the reasons are likely to be marketing, rather than technical. Intel will want to push Coppermine for all its worth next year before taking the next step. All these roadmaps certainly make for a complicated existence. ®
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

S3 passes water on Wall Street analysts

Graphics accelerator specialist S3 felivered on its promise to beat analyst expectations when it posted its second quarter results yesterday. The company posted a profit of $1.1 million on revenues of $57.3 million. That compares with a loss of $11.6 million and sales of $53.3 million for the same period last year. Translating the result into Wall Speak, S3 recorded a profit of two cents a share, way up on the 20 cents a share loss Street analysts were predicting. Earlier this month, S3 promised it would beat those predictions. Last quarter, S3 posted a loss of $13.9 million on revenues of $44.3 million. The company attributed the turnaround to the number of OEM deals it struck with major PC vendors to bundle cards or include chip-sets based on S3's Savage 4 graphics processor. However, the company's sale of 29 multimedia and IC patents to Taiwanese chip foundry UMC for $42 million (though this is being spread over five quarters) and $500 million in UMC stock will have come as a particular bonus too. That shows just how prescient S3 has been in acquiring patents. Buying up intellectual property has served it well. It achieved favoured status with Intel simply by gaining chip patents taken out by the now defunct Exponential Technologies that Chipzilla was keen to get its claws on. The connection forged between the two companies has served S3 well. S3 also announced its cash and cash investments made during the quarter rose from $129 million to $131.4 million, excluding a $10 million loan made to Diamond Multimedia, which the company has agreed to buy for a $180 million stock-swap. The Diamond buyout brings a number of major opportunities for S3, allowing it to better compete with arch-rival ATI in the graphics cards, chipsets and new, emerging markets, including Internet access devices and set-top boxes. It will also take S3 into areas ATI has yet to enter, such as Internet audio (via Diamond's RioPort subsidiary, though this is a prime candidate for a sell-off by IPO) and home networking. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Network Satan talks to Chip Satan on ADSL deal

As first reported here yesterday, Intel has entered the ADSL broadband market. (Story: Intel to push bigtime into ADSL) But it has done so by striking a deal with the Great Satan of Networks: Cisco. The deal is that Intel and Cisco have struck a technology agreement and will develop, manufacture and market PC based ADSL modems which will be compatible with the latter's Central Office kit. Interoperability is one of the planks of the agreement, with the first products shipping later on in the year. Intel claims that ADSL modems will provide 25 times the speed of analogue modems and the kit will be cheaper. ®
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Taiwanese foundries slog it out over 12-inch fabs

Responding to news earlier this year that the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) will build a 12-inch wafer fab, its competitor United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) said it would as well. According to reports in the Taiwanese press, UMC will spend an estimated $3 million to build the plant. The fab will be located in Tainan and be largely complete by the end of next year. It will support .13 micron process technology, UMC said. UMC is second in place to TSMC in terms of foundry market share. ®
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Iridium invokes 30-day debt delay

Iridium yesterday called in its right to a 30-day grace period on the $90 million of interest charges it owes on a senior notes debt of $1.45 billion. Company interim CEO John Richardson said Iridium had invoked its right to the payment delay in order to facilitate ongoing negotiations with the company's creditors and investors about its proposed restructure. The grace period "gives us time to concentrate on reaching a suitable arrangement for the ongoing commercial operation of this company", he said. If all parties can't agree on a restructuring package, Iridium will effectively be dead. And getting an agreement may be proving difficult -- earlier this week, Motorola, guarantor of Iridium's debt and 18 per cent shareholder in the company, demanded other investors put their money where the mouths are and help Iridium out or risk losing their investments when the company crashes. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft poised to spin-off MSN?

Microsoft may announce the creation of a "tracking stock" for its Microsoft Network operations next week, according to US reports. The notion first surfaced in May, and the likelihood of such a move was reinforced by CFO Greg Maffei last month, who said the company would separate out some of the figures for its Internet businesses. Microsoft will report its year-end figures on Monday, and later in the week will hold its annual analysts meeting. Either of these could see the creation of the tracking stock. The difficulty for Microsoft, believe it or not, is that by having its Internet properties operating as part of the Microsoft corporate structure the company is missing a trick. Bill Gates lamented recently that Internet stocks were in a better position to fund acquisitions out of stock. Internet stocks can trade at 50 times revenue, while Microsoft trades at less than half that. See how tough it is being rich? By moving towards operating MSN as a separate company, Microsoft would fix that problem, and a couple of others. A separate company will be useful if the DoJ case goes badly for Microsoft, and the remedies include a break-up. MSN will also be in a better position to recruit staff, as the stock options would likely be better. Microsoft has historically been able to attract staff via good stock performance, but earlier this year company president Steve Ballmer told staff of a restructuring of compensation which recognised that options wouldn't be so valuable in the future. In normal financial terms, MSN oughtn't to be a wildly attractive stock. Microsoft's chequebook has made it a major Internet property, but it could be losing around $500 million on a turnover of $800 million to $1 billion. But in Web terms, seas of red ink tend to attract investors rather than the reverse. And Bill no doubt wants some of that. ®
John Lettice, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Iomega Q2 loss deeper than expected

Troubled storage specialist Iomega yesterday reported grim second quarter results centring on a total loss of $61.7 million on revenue of $349 million. Much of the loss came from a $41.9 million restructuring charge, made as the company cut jobs and made other cost-reduction manoeuvres under CEO Jodie Glore's ongoing battle to return the company to profitability. Last quarter, Iomega did indeed nudge itself into profitability, but Glore warned shortly after that upcoming cost-cutting tactics would lead to large-scale charges being taken throughout the remaining 1999 quarters. The company was anticipating spending just $18 million on restructuring, rather less than the hit it finally took. Iomega's loss before the restructuring charge was $19.8 million. The problem appears to be the company's inability to sell higher margin products, such as its Jaz removable hard drive system. While sales of the better-known Zip drive rose 27 per cent year-on-year to 2.5 million units, only 122,000 Jaz drives were shipped, a fall of 24 per cent. During the quarter Iomega finally began shipping its Clik! drive, notching up shipments of 4000 drives and 22,000 disks. Clik! shipments are set to increase considerably over the next six months, thanks to the number of OEM deals Iomega has struck. However, it's debatable whether they will match Zip shipments for long-term growth -- the technology isn't yet proven in the real world, and there have some major improvements in the price and capacity of solid-state storage systems since Clik! was announced over three-and-a-half years ago. Other signs call for optimism, though. Glore said inventory during the quarter was at its lowest for 12 quarters, and that cash and cash equivalents at the end of the period totalled $89.3 million. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Amiga releases technical brief with ‘exciting Linux CPU’

Jim Collas, Amiga's president, has just released his briefing about the future of the platform. Products under development include the Amiga Operating Environment and the Amiga Multimedia Convergence Computer (Amiga MCC). The former is a distributed software architecture which will provide support for pervasive networking, and a framework for portable applications to access Internet content and services. The Amiga MCC, on the other hand, will be distributed as an integrated multimedia convergence computer as well as a standard ATX motherboard. Both will include the Amiga operating environment, an underlying OS and support for DVD, 3D graphics, and broadband and home networking features. Collas said Amiga has chosen Java as its primary programming language for portable apps based on AmigaObjects -- a component system for building applications. AmigaObject technology can be embedded in machines from handhelds up to big servers, Collas claimed. He said that Amiga has evaluated a range of operating systems including QNX, BeOS, JavaOS and Linux. After comparing QNX and Linux, Amiga concluded that it would be hard for the former to attract broad industry support, because it is proprietary. Collas said: "Linux is probably the most stable OS in the market." Despite size and scaleability concerns, he said that Amiga was "subsetting" Linux to meet its needs. He pointed to a Linux version for the Palm Pilot as an example of what could be done. Amiga will adopt OpenGL and it will use the latest Linux X Window windowing system. It will support Prixim's 2.4GHz digital wireless networking and will also adopt Sun's Jini technology. Pentagram will do the industrial design for the Amiga MCC, said Collas. Collas said that Amiga has adopted "a very exciting CPU" for the MCC platform, highly tuned for a Linux/Java software base. But he won't tell us what it is. In the past, he's said it won't be an x86 CPU. So is it a Transmeta chip? ®
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Motorola preps enhanced PowerPC G3

Even as Motorola is -- we hope -- gearing up for its launch of the PowerPC 7400, aka G4, the company appears to be continuing to evolve the current G3 line. According to anonymous sources cited by Apple-oriented Web site MacOS Rumors, the G3, officially known, in its two versions, as the PowerPC 740 and 750 (the 740 is the release that's pin-compatible with the old PPC 603/604 chips), will be updated as the PowerPC 745 and 755, respectively. Codenamed Goldfinger, the upgrades will take the chips' clock speeds to 500MHz and beyond. Bus multiplier support will be raised from the current 8x to 10x and above. The source claimed the new chips would be manufacturered at a 0.22 process, but since the current top-speed G3 chips are already produced at that spec., we suspect the new ones could be shrunk to 0.20 micron, the same as the upcoming G4, using copper interconnect technology. IBM is already preparing speed-hiked PPC 750s based on its silicon on insulator (SOI) technology, so clearly Motorola feels the need give its own version of the chip a boost, and while Motorola is concentrating on the G4, making the rumoured upgrades to the G3 line is perfectly plausible. Initially shipping at 0.2 micron, IBM's SOI G3 will rapidly move down the micron scale to 0.18 and, later, 0.13, according to earlier reports. The 0.18 micron SOI-based PPC is likely to be the next iteration of the G4, however, one that will take the processor's clock speed beyond 600MHz. If the G4 debuts, as Motorola has pledged, before October, the second release could happen as soon as early to mid-2000. Towards the end of next year, Motorola has roadmapped the release of the next major G4 upgrade, codenamed 'V'ger', which integrates four PPC 7400 cores on a single chip. It is now believed that V'ger will also integrate 256KB of L2 cache on the die and support up to 8MB of L3 cache in a backside configuration. The L1 caches will be increased from the G3 and early G4's 32KB data/32KB instruction configuration to 64KB each. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Amiga Usenet exchange heightens Transmeta spexulation

An exchange between Jim Collas, president of Amiga, and another individual on Usenet has heightened speculation that the company may use the Transmeta processor in its Amiga MCC platform. This morning, Amiga released its specs for its hardware platforms (see Amiga releases technical brief with 'exciting Linux CPU'). Yesterday, posting in the comp.sys.amiga.misc newsgroup, D Cousins speculated that Amiga was set to incorporate the Transmeta processor into its platform. He pointed out that the die size, plus its ability to run emulations including classic Amiga apps, could make it a candidate. Collas replied to that post saying: "I can't verify that any of this is true but this is a brilliant speculation. You can expect similar types of hardware/software integration and optimization in the new Amiga... this influenced the Linux decision. Unfortunately, I can't talk about certain partners yet so people will continue to reach conclusions without all of the information." In the last week, other speculation on the CPU Amiga will use has centred around a MIPS CPU from LSI Logic, which the company licensed from SandCraft several months ago. Interestingly enough, NatSemi said yesterday that it was talking to Amiga former partner QNX about support for its Geode family of system-on-a-chip solutions. ® See Also Amiga seeks to pacify community over Linux QNX developer pleas for Amiga community support Amiga to use Linux rather than QNX kernel
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Dealers expelled from schools market

Resellers may find themselves pushed out of the education market this month after the government names those companies selected for its accreditation programme. Through BECTA (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), the government wants to appoint a select group of resellers accredited to supply IT kit and services specifically to this market. BECTA plans to certify less than 20 resellers for the whole of the UK for its Certified Managed Services programme. It will announce the chosen companies by the end of July. It will not stop other companies from marketing to schools and higher education colleges, BECTA said. But institutions will be given a list of recommended companies for supplying IT services. Viglen, one of the 20 companies in the final stage of the process, has applauded the government's move. Bordan Tkachuk, Viglen's CEO, said there was a real need for an accreditation scheme to protect schools. "It can only be a good thing. The local dealer community is notorious for companies going out of business. The BECTA scheme would give schools some fall back," he said. Viglen, which gets around 40 per cent of its £40 million turnover from the education market, is pressing to expand its presence in the primary and secondary school sector. At present, Viglen is the largest player in the higher education market. Its rival, Research Machines (RM) in Oxfordshire, controls the schools market. RM said it was also waiting to hear about the accreditation. A BECTA representative refused to comment on which resellers were running for the scheme. It said it had received 112 applications, and had so far cut the number to 20. Regarding the effect on non-certified resellers winning education contracts, the BECTA representative stressed: "It is an optional way for schools to buy. It is designed to take pressure off those responsible for IT purchasing in education." ®
Linda Harrison, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Dell & Gateway succumb to Voodoo

Two of the big names of the direct channel model, Dell and Gateway, have hopped into bed with 3dfx. The graphics card vendor announced late yesterday that it had scored deals with the two PC giants to supply its Voodoo3 3000 graphics accelerator. Gateway will feature the 166MHz Voodoo3 card in its Gateway Performance range of desktop PCs. available today from Gateway, while Dell is using a customised version of the Voodoo3 3000 as an option in the Dell Dimension XPS T PC range. Mandy Bedborough, 3dfx vice president for EMEA said: "Gateway clearly understands how to give a broad range of consumers what they want in a desktop PC. 3dfx is pleased to equip Gateway Performance systems with the industry's hottest-selling graphics technology." There is already a partnership in place between Dell and 3dfx, with Dell sponsoring the 3dfx Gamers Web site. Aimed at the thriving online gaming community, the site's news and forums run on Dell PowerEdge servers. ®
Sean Fleming, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Freeserve haemorrhaging subscribers, claims paper

UK free ISP Freeserve is losing over 4000 registered users every day, according to London local paper, the Evening Standard. Having pored over the ISP's IPO prospectus, the Standard reckons that for every five users who register with Freeserve, three and up deserting it for other ISPs. Such a high churn rate should worry the ISP. While it's not a dramatically higher rate of abandoned accounts than that experienced by other ISPs -- it's pretty much the same rate once quoted to this reporter by a CompuServe staffer, for example -- most users move on because for cost reasons. Trouble is, Freeserve doesn't cost anything... Except, of course, in a sense it does. The main cost involved in accessing the Net in the UK are the telecoms charges, and a good number of Internet users find that the benefits they gain from access to the Web don't actually make the price of the calls a worthwhile trade-off. Freeserve is also targetting the less technologically oriented, who are by definition probably going to get less out of the Net than their more technically literate colleagues. The Standard's line is that such a churn rate could prove a damper on Freeserve's upcoming IPO, since it suggests there's little the service can do to keep users away from the growing number of rival free Net connection services. True, but then what are their churn rates? Probably not much different from Freeserve's, we suspect. And since we may one day (fingers crossed) actually see unmetered local phone calls in the UK, the cost barrier to Freeserve should ultimately be overcome. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Graphics companies in 3D fix

Reports on hardware pages say that 3Dfx not only missed its shipping date of 24 June for its Voodoo 3 3500 but has also missed 15 July, its secondary date. That, coupled with S3's latest results, has led to speculation from reliable sources that a deal with Diamond may be off and a deal with Nvidia may be on. A hardware page, FullOn3d, reported the lack of the 3500 board yesterday, and that was confirmed by reliable sources close to the company today. The problem is overheating and that may lead to a redesign of the card, the sources added. Further, S3's results may lead to a re-evaluation of the takeover bid on Diamond, our source added. Nvidia could be top of the list in the running, he said. If any of these companies would care to ring The Register and issue their denials or affirmations, the lines are currently open. ®
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

France Telecom takes stake in NTL

France Telecom (FT) has, as anticipated, made a major move on the UK cable market with a $1 billion investment in NTL. Right now, FT will take a ten per cent stake in NTL, but that will be increased if NTL is successful in its bid to buy Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), the cable subsidiary of Cable & Wireless Plc. CWC is, of course, talking to UK cable company Telewest, and has been since April. That hasn't stopped speculation that NTL, the remaining member of the UK's cable triumvirate, might be interested too -- and, according to the Financial Times, NTL has indeed offered $12.5 billion for CWC. ®
Team Register, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Web site warns of new UK Jahou speed system

A system devised by ICL is now in operation on major motorways in the UK, with the cops netting 4,300 offenders on a single day, last weekend. The system, which is operating on both the M25 London ring-motorway and the M1, has been hailed as a breakthrough by both the Kent and the Leicestershire cops. Both will implement it soon as a result of the earlier tests. The Speedcheck SVDD uses clever software algorithms to check the speed of a moving vehicle, 24 hours a day. The system has been tested on UK freeway the M20 as well. There is, apparently, a lot of difficulty circumventing the new ICL system, which cannot be deployed in Central London because cars travel at the speed of former horse and traps. However, as usual, a Web site is there to advise motorists of this new danger to their Jahou tendencies. Go here for further details. ® RegFactOldoid Jahou, AKA Jehu, rode his vehicle at enormous speeds...
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Tiny offers free PC if you join its telco

Tiny Computers is giving a free PC to everyone signing up to its telecomms service, launched today. Worth over £300, users get a free PC with Internet access. Or rather, they get the PC keyboard and a base which can be plugged into any TV. Subscribers have to sign a 12-month contract with TinyTelecom that guarantees their phone bill will be at least £25 per month. The TinyTelecom service is being set up with Cable & Wireless and Telia, a Swedish telecomms company. Users remain a BT customer, receiving line-rental bills as before, but TinyTelecom takes over the calls. Tying subscribers into your service like this is perhaps one way ISPs will attempt to combat the customer churn-rate they all suffer from. Its call charges will match BT's standard on and off-peak rates. Customers who cannot guarantee calls will reach the £25 per month level can sign up to TinyTelecom anyway. They will get their free PC after 12 months. Subscribers to the deal get a Tower PC unit with Intel Celeron 300MHz, 32MB RAM, 3.2GB hard drive, CD ROM Drive, 56kbps modem, Word 98 and Internet access with Tiny ONLINE. The system can also be upgraded for a monthly fee of £7.49 which gets you a monitor, or £16.99 for a Pentium III system, over a four year period. Jon Harris, Tiny MD, said: "We have made a long term commitment to be in the telecomms arena and TinyTelecom will be highly competitive with existing telecomms providers." "By providing free computers, with software preloaded and ready to run, every home in Britain can join in the technological revolution being driven by the PC and the Internet." ®
Linda Harrison, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Major High St firm to out-Tiny Tiny

A major UK retailer is set to out-do Tiny by offering ISDN on free PCs. That follows the news that Tiny had negotiated a deal to offer so-called "free PCs" as part of a deal with a major telecomms supplier. Our source, who definitely did not wish to be named, said that the High Street retailer will trump Tiny's offer over the next three days or so. ISDN is offered by both Cable & Wireless and British Telecom but both have received much criticism for the high prices of their services. Said Tony Dennis, a datacomms analyst: "The C&W system looks very much like BT's Home Highway anyway. The original idea of ISDN was so you could swap your ordinary phone system for a faster one." The UK High Street does not have many PC retailers on it these days so your guess is probably better than ours. We shop direct... ®
Mike Magee, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Nanotech takes defects into account

Nanotechnology, long a feature of sci-fi novels, came a step closer to reality this week as researchers from Hewlett Packard and the University of California, Los Angeles announced that they have made logic gates the size of a molecule. The research opens the road for the electronics industry, beyond the limits of silicon. With current technology, silicon is expected to be in real trouble in about 10 to 15 years, as the size of the circuits - made by etching silicon wafers with lasers - have been limited by the wavelength of the light. However, the new process being researched in California uses a chemical process to make its tiny components. Each will have defects and be subtly different from every other but in a defect tolerant environment, this need not be a problem. Teramac, a supercomputer assembled from defective parts, has special software that hunts for defects, works out viable communication routes and trains the computer to use only those routes. UCLA researchers think that using the same architecture on a nano scale will mean the molecule sized gates would function properly, despite flaws. "It's an important idea that you can cobble together a working machine out of unreliable components," says Bruce Maggs, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. According to the researcher's report, published in this week's Science, the gates were made from an array of configurable switches. The switches themselves were made of a layer of redox-active rotaxanes sandwiched between metal electrodes. (Yes, we are confused too.) For now, the gate can only be switched once from one state to another, not repeatedly as it would need to in a transistor. But the general response from people in the field has been positive. "The field is still in its infancy," commented Mard Reed, a chemist at Yale University. "But over the last five years we've come from an incredible idea to the point where we might actually be able to do something." And the future is looking rosy according to James Heath, a UCLA chemistry professor who worked on the project. He predicts that eventually the power of 100 workstations could be replicated in a space the size of a grain of salt. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Official: it's legal to screw Unix – MS beats Bristol rap

MS on Trial Microsoft has beat the rap in the first of its serial antitrust trials to come to a verdict. A Connecticut jury has decided that the company did not violate antitrust law, but that it had broken a state law, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The plaintiff, Bristol Technology, was awarded a derisory $1 for this. Bristol had argued that Microsoft had damaged its business by preventing its access to Windows NT source code. Via an earlier contract Bristol had such access, but the price went up, and Microsoft groomed rival company Mainsoft instead. Bristol used Microsoft internal email traffic a-plenty in its case, and this made it abundantly clear that Redmond saw its relationships with these and other Unix companies as simply a means to an end. The end, as stated by several Microsoft executives, was the triumph of NT over Unix and the destabilisation of Java. Presumably the deceptions made clear in these emails are the deceptive practices the jury has found Microsoft guilty of, at a cost of $1. This is basically a token award, made because Microsoft had broken the law, but had not in the view of the jury caused any damage. This looks very like what we in the UK would describe as a perverse verdict. Bristol lawyers today said they were disappointed, and would be considering their options. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
John Lettice, 16 Jul 1999