22nd > July > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Via validates PC133 DIMMs

Chipset firm Via said it has now validated seven dual inline memory modules (DIMMs) from different manufacturers for its Apollo Pro 133 chipset. The parts come from Fujitsu, Hitachi, Infineon-Siemens, Micron, Mitsubishi, Samsung and Toshiba. Eric Chang, senior product marketing man at Via, said: "We were early to recognize the potential of PC133 and have worked very aggressively to establish the standard." Via said it is also working with mobo manufacturers and OEMs to enable the standard. It has seven mobo manufacturers supporting its chipset so far. ®
The Register breaking news

Chip companies building DRAM at a loss, says analyst

A year ago Posted 22 July 1998 -- a year ago The DRAM market has now reached the stage where major manufacturers are making products at below cost, and hoping for a miracle, a senior analyst at Dataquest said today. Richard Gordon, who works for Dataquest UK, said that prices of memory products have continued to slump during the first half of this year and that there is little prospect of a turnaround, except in specialised areas, even in 1999. Gordon said: "There is a general perception that manufacturers are making chips below cost and there are a lot of people with their fingers crossed. At the end of this year there will be some tightening on the PC 100 front." He said that from the spare capacity point of view, 1999 looked little better. "All through this year, we've seen the price decline continuing," he said. "If you look at contract pricing for 64 megabit parts it's between $8 and $9." Such parts cost around $8.50 to manufacture, Gordon said. Nor do steps different manufacturers are taking to fix the problem having much effect, he said. South Korean company Samsung said earlier this year that it would shut down production for one week in four, but Gordon said that it was unclear what this meant in practice. "You can't just shut a fab on or off," he said. Dataquest, he said, was watching developments in South Korea carefully. He thought it was still likely that there would be an agreement between Samsung, LG Semicon and Hyundai in which one of the three chaebols would take over the others' DRAM manufacturing. "The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is overshadowing the whole situation in Korea by dangling money in front of the government. I suspect something will happen to those three companies sooner or later," he said. ®
The Register breaking news

AMD must cut expenses – Atiq Raza

A local newspaper in Austin, Texas, has secured an interview with Atiq Raza who left AMD the same day as it delivered terrible financial results. The Austin American Statesman, in an interview with the former president of the company, quotes Raza as saying he left his $800,000 a year job with AMD because "something was missing" in job satisfaction. He told the newspaper that AMD has to cut its operating expenses and also lower its sales expectations in order to break even. The newspaper speculates that a row broke out between CEO Jerry Sanders III and Raza after the latter wanted to sell the expensive fab it has just completed in Dresden. AMD had to take huge loans out to build the factory, and is in debt to banks and the German government. Raza also told the newspaper that while AMD's K7 Athlon is a very good product, it does face marketing difficulties. ® See also AMD's Sanders drops another clanger
The Register breaking news

AT&T stiffed for suppressing freedom of speech

AT&T has taken the bait laid by a San Francisco grassroots organisation which supports open cable access. The Open Access Alliance, in connection with the Bay Area Open Access Coalition, purchased cable airtime for a TV ad favouring open cable access, which AT&T, through its subsidiary TCI Cable, promptly declined to run. The telecoms behemoth characterised the ad as "inappropriate." Duh. The war of words opened Wednesday morning as the Open Access Coalition accused Ma Bell of censorship, thereby publicising their views more effectively than the ads in question would likely have done. The victim-rhetoric was shallow and overstated. "We live in a free and open democracy, where our right to express our opinions is cherished," the Coalition's director, Katie Roper, complained. "Allowing one company to become the Orwellian Big Brother to manipulate the cable airwaves and the Internet is plain wrong and runs counter to the values of San Francisco....We call on AT&T/TCI to respect the First Amendment and play fair," Roper added. The Coalition is calling on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to "demand that AT&T/TCI open its cable network to all legitimate points of view" related to the open access turf war. The Board recently mandated open cable access, and one wonders how far they're prepared to go in promoting it. Ordering a corporation to run ads critical of itself might be a bit over the top, even in San Francisco. Heavens, it might even be a bit "Orwellian". ®
The Register breaking news

Yahoo! helps you find America's Most Wanted

When Cousin Henry emigrated to America in the midst of that unfortunate misunderstanding over his signature on a cheque, you expected never to see him again. Cheer up: thanks to portal service Yahoo!, old Henry is soon to be a mere mouse-click away. Yesterday Yahoo! announced plans to host US Search, a comprehensive database of US public records. In the first quarter of 1999, US Search welcomed approximately 4.6 million busybodies, snitches and bail bondsmen to its Web site. Now it will be linked from Yahoo! People Search via banner ads, fixed buttons and text links. With that kind of exposure, America may soon split into two classes, those searching, and those being sought. US Search offers numerous packages including adoption reunions, background on suitors, existing claims against any collateral you may be considering accepting, court judgments, employee screening, and more, all priced from about $10.00 to 50.00 US. The services are virtually instantaneous, and volume discounts are available for the pathologically nosy. Shares of US Search climbed 1-13/16 this morning on news of the agreement. ®
The Register breaking news

Compaq strikes $7 billion Taiwan supply deal

The Taiwanese press is reporting that Compaq has signed a deal with 16 local companies to supply it with components and other PC parts. Earlier this month, Compaq tightened the screw on its Taiwanese suppliers by asking them to drop their prices by 15 per cent. The Compaq suppliers include Acer Semi, First International Computer (FIC), ASE, UMC, SiS, TSMC, Mitac and Winbond, the reports said. As part of the deal, estimated to be worth over $7 billion over a period of one year, Compaq will help its suppliers with marketing and manufacturing. ®
The Register breaking news

Egg scrambles to top of e-banking pile

Prudential's direct banking service, Egg, is to go online in a very wholehearted way. It is the first Internet only savings account in the UK, and can only be opened online. Although it has postal and telephone support, account holders will be charged for taking advantage of these facilities. The interest rate is guaranteed to be at least half a per cent over the base rate this year, and at least base rate next year. It also guarantees that it will be higher interest than the existing egg account. Interest is currently paid at 5.75 per cent. Egg’s web site is www.egg.com, and you can sign up for an account there. ®
The Register breaking news

Acer to steam ahead with 2nd LCD fab

The display division of Acer announced yesterday it is to spend NT$25 billion building its second TFT LCD factory in Taiwan. Earlier this month, Acer opened its first factory, which is set to produce up to 300,000 substrates by early next year. According to the report, Acer will use so-called Fourth Generation technology for the second plant. But Bob Raikes, director of analysis at Meko, said there was general agreement in the industry to stick with 3.5 generation technology. He said: "A Nikkei report said that the industry has got to stop waving their willies about the size of their plants". Currently, said Raikes, the only major company to talk about Fourth Generation manufacturing was NEC, while it was generally agreed that Samsung was currently the leader in 3.5 Generation technology. That allowed Samsung to produce four 17-inch panels from one substrate. ®
The Register breaking news

Dinosaur dealers face extinction

Networking distributor ATL Networks has taken the extraordinary step of issuing a statement in which it predicts the end of the line for PC resellers. The end is well and truly nigh and it's all down to the advent of the free PC, the statement said. ATL managing director, Mark Randall, said: "With the announcement that Tiny Computers is going to be giving away free PCs with Internet accounts, the days of making money from straight product sales are well and truly over. Resellers must turn to services and they must make the change now." In the press statement, Randall goes on to say that the PC is no longer a viable product in the sales channel and its only purpose now is as a way of linking in consumers to a range of online services. Opinion on the likely success of free PC schemes has so far divided many in the system builder community with some rushing out such deals and others remaining bitterly opposed to them. The Register would like to hear the opinions of the UK channel on this issue. What do you think about the free PC -- will it be a flash in the pan or does it sound the death knell for the PC reseller? Email your comments to news editor Sean Fleming and channels reporter Linda Harrison. ®
The Register breaking news

Apple fortunate Intel didn't manage to patent letter i

A few years ago, Intel tried to patent the letter "i", causing much ribaldry and scurr*lous stor*es *n the *ndustry. Perhaps fortunately for Apple, it failed, otherwise we would have faced the funny prospect of seeing Intel sue Jobsworth's company over the use of the letter i in both the iMac and iBook.... ®
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QNX poised to strike back at Amiga's Linux vision

Sources claimed that QNX, which was snubbed by Amiga president Jim Collas last week, is set to produce an alternative operating system for the platform. Collas surprised and astonished the so-called "Amigans" ten days ago when he announced the specifications for the Amiga platform, based around the Linux operating system. Since then, a concerted group of developers have been working to propose an alternative OS for Amiga, based on the QNX OS. Many Amiga devotees had expected Collas to continue developing QNX for the platform. In other developments today, Amiga said that Corel will write the Linux software for the platform, while QNX itself said it would port its operating system to the PowerUP PPC boards from Phase 5. ®
The Register breaking news

Compaq to make MegaLoss

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Compaq will make a huge loss when it delivers its results next Wednesday. According to the newspaper, Compaq is likely to report a loss of as much as $230 million for its Q2, which contrasts very badly with its previous Q1 when it made a $281 million profit. And revenues are expected to be flat for the quarter, according to the report. The WSJ claims that part of the reason for the anticipated loss is because it has lost high-end customers for its Tandem and Alpha boxes. Its PC division does not make high margins on its products, although Compaq's $7 billion deal with 16 Taiwanese manufacturers (see separate story), is expected to make it more competitive with arch-rival Dell. At present, the Big Q is ruled by the Ben-Frank-Ted triumvirate, a bit like ancient Rome. ®
The Register breaking news

Europe drags AOL results down

AOL yesterday posted 170 per cent profit growth for the fourth quarter, but said Europe was the thorn in its side. America Online reported profit of $156 million, or 13 cents per share, for the quarter ended 30 June, beating Wall Street expectations. This excluded charges for acquisitions made during the period. Figures were up on last year's $58 million profits, or five cents per share. Sales rose 46 per cent to $1.4 billion. New subscriptions accounted for much of this growth. Revenue from users of the AOL and CompuServe services grew 39 per cent to $943 million. The AOL service added 755,000 new users in the fourth quarter, bringing its total membership to 17.6 million. This was lower than Wall Street expectations. AOL said stiff competition from new subscription-free Web services had resulted in lagging growth in Europe. To compete, AOL will launch its own free service, Netscape Online, due to start next month. ®
The Register breaking news

Nokia makes fortune in Q2

Finnish telecoms firm Nokia turned in stonking results for its second financial quarter. Sales amounted to €4,493,000,000, a rise of 45 per cent, with profits increasing by 56 per cent to €881,000,000. That gave Nokia an operating margin of nearly 20 per cent. For the first six months of the year, sales were €8,363,000,000. All geographies performed strongly, the company said, with Europe forming 56 per cent of net sales, the Americas 21 per cent, and Asia Pacific 23 per cent. CEO Jorma Ollila said that Nokia will meet or even exceed its projected sales target in 1999 of 25-35 per cent growth. ®
The Register breaking news

MP3 a problem for big business

Survey A market research company has claimed that end users downloading MP3 music files is causing corporate business systems to become clogged. The report, from Computer Economics, says that large corporations will need to clamp down on MP3 downloading, otherwise they will have to spend serious amounts of money upgrading their systems. According to the survey, big business spends six per cent of their IT budgets on network infrastructure, a figure which has grown from one per cent in the early years of this decade. "MP3 and any other method to deliver sound and music over the Internet is a cool idea," said market analyst Michael Ebschloe. "But the more cool an idea is, the more it can have a negative impact on a corporate network." ®
The Register breaking news

Acer-Centaur-IDT: denials flow thick & fast

Taiwan's Acer Laboratories Inc is not involved in talks to buy US CPU manufacturer IDT, said ALI president Chin Wu today. Reliable industry sources have suggested that the Acer Group subsidiary may be involved in a purchase of Centaur Technology -- the CPU design division of Integrated Device Technology (IDT) -- or even a takeover of IDT itself. Last month, one of ALI's main competitors, VIA Technologies, announced plans to buy another US CPU-maker, Cyrix. In line with an increasing trend toward integration in the chipset and CPU markets, loss-making CPU design houses like IDT and Cyrix are becoming increasingly attractive to Taiwanese chipset makers. IDT has already announced plans to sell its CPU division. Several companies, including Intel and VIA, are looking at ways to combine the chipset and CPU in a single chip. The aim is to produce a so-called 'system on a chip' which will help make computers cheaper and smaller. ALI has regular contact with IDT and other companies that own potentially useful intellectual property, said Wu, but he emphasised that ALI had "not yet" talked to IDT about buying the company. He also denied that ALi had attempted to buy Cyrix prior to VIA's purchase of that company. Wu would not comment on the possible plans of other Acer group members. Speculation has also linked Acer Group components supplier, Aopen Inc., to a possible three-way deal involving Aopen, ALI and IDT. Aopen representatives did not return calls Thursday. Taipei-based downstream electronics analyst, Arthur Hsieh, of Taiwan Securities said he believed a match up between IDT and ALi would be a good fit, and beneficial for the whole Acer group, but had no concrete information on a pending deal. ALi is en route to an over-the-counter stock market listing. The company's debut on Taiwan's OTC market is scheduled for September, said Wu. ALi employs about 400 staff worldwide, and reported revenues of US$115 million in 1998. IDT reported US$540.2 million in revenues and a US$41.2 million loss in 1998. ®
The Register breaking news

Pub phone price hikes get BT busted

BT was fined yesterday for overcharging callers using phones in London pubs. The telecomms giant was caught red-handed after spot checks by trading standards officers in Brent and Harrow, North London. BT was fined £1600 after admitting to four specimen counts of overcharging in Scottish & Newcastle establishments. It also got stung for £994 costs by North London Magistrates. Seven out of the 12 bar phones examined by trading standards officers were charging more than the rate advertised, one by over 200 per cent. The offending phone promised local calls at 10p per minute, but the caller actually only got 19 seconds on the blower for their 10p. This was a 215 per cent, or over 20p a minute, overcharge. Pubs and hotels can choose what to charge for calls, but the rate must equal that on a price list displayed by the phone. BT blamed mistakes in programming the phones. Yesterday, a fault within the BT exchanges in the East Midlands town of Nottingham rendered the entire city phoneless for part of the day. The fault was caused by a power surge, BT said, although The Register has been contacted by readers claiming the power surge was caused by a workman dropping a length of scaffolding into one of the phone exchange boxes. ®
The Register breaking news

Would-be investors say Freeserve registration too complex

Freeserve, the headline-hogging ISP, has been under attack from disgruntled share applicants who are claiming they did not receive their application forms, despite registering online. Online registration was relatively simple. Users had to complete a form, which if they were Freeserve customers was already partially completed. Users had to click the 'submit' button to finish registering. The information was then stored on a database, and application forms were sent out automatically. A spokeswoman for Freeserve said that every person who submitted a form received a prospectus, and that those who did not must have made a mistake filling in the form. "Maybe they pressed the 'exit' or 'shutdown' buttons rather than 'submit'," she said. An irritated would-be-shareholder was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying: "You may have to be an IT freak* to really adapt to the Internet, but I followed the instructions carefully and when I complained I got the impression that I was not the only one." Freeserve says that it only got 'a handful' of complaints --"just two or three," said the spokeswoman. *And this nation of IT freaks still manages to have an IT skills shortage? ®
The Register breaking news

Xerox celebrates good results by suing HP…

Xerox managed to turn in a profit for its second quarter and has celebrated by once more suing its most unfavourite company, Hewlett Packard. The company turned in revs of $4.86 billion and profits of $395 million on that turnover. For some reason, Xerox top executives seemed to think that "weakness in Brazil" was a continuing problem. To celebrate, Xerox filed suit against both Anderson Inc's DBA Pioneer Company as well as its favourite target, Hewlett Packard. The suit was filed on the 19th of July last, and relates to contracts. The last time this happened was at the beginning of July. (See story Battle resumes between HP and Xerox) In other news, it emerged that HP's trademark Apollo has already appeared on low end printers sold in the US. There is no word from HP as whether it will do a similar thing in its other territories... ®
The Register breaking news

QNX, Phase 5 to bring Neutrino OS to upgraded Amigas

QNX Software Systems today cocked a snoot at Amiga by announcing a tie-in with German hardware developer Phase 5 to port the QNX OS to Phase 5's PowerUP PowerPC-based Amiga upgrade cards, as predicted here Phase 5 also announced its upcoming multi-CPU PowerPC-based AmiRage K2 system, which will run QNX. QNX CTO Dan Dodge described the deal as a sign of the company's "growing commitment to the Amiga community", though it's a clear move to exploit the growing anger among Amiga traditionalists against Amiga's decision to drop QNX from its next-generation Amiga Operating Environment (AOE) and replace it with Linux. As Wolf Dietrich, general manager of phase 5 digital products, put it: "QNX provides all the software functionality -- and more -- to fulfill the expectations of the many users who still believe in the original Amiga vision: a vision of technical superiority, innovation, and just plain fun." The PowerUP version of QNX will ship in the autumn, and include Phase 5's 680x0 emulation software. The OS will be bundled with upcoming PowerPC 750-based cards and be offered free of charge to owners of existing 603/604-based boards. Phase 5's deal with QNX provides it with a licence to develop further versions of the QNX OS. One will operate on the AmiRage K2, which will ship later this year with up to four PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) CPUs, the company said. Essentially, the AmiRage is Phase 5's attempt at building a next generation Amiga of its own -- again, an attempt to cash in on discontent with Amiga and its president, Jim Collas. It is expected to ship early 2000, the company said. The AmiRage will ship with 64MB RAM; 32MB video RAM; 6GB hard drive; USB, MIDI and IEEE 1394 ports; three 32-bit and three 64-bit PCI slots; 10/100 Ethernet and IrDa ports; video in and out; and a dedicated multimedia DSP system. ®
The Register breaking news

It's Time for another free PC offer

Time Computers has joined the free PC brigade, offering a £500 computer for a two-year ISP commitment. Users must sign up for the NetlinePlus ISP for 24 months, at £9.52 per month. They receive the 300 M-II Time FreePC, without monitor, for a £39.95 delivery fee. The PC has 300 M-II IBM chip, 32Mb RAM, 2.1Gb hard drive, 32x CD-ROM and Windows 98. The machine is worth £499. Netline is a sister company to Time, and the ISP was created earlier this year. An interesting added twist to the Time deal is that it has enlisted the help of MP Paddy Ashdown to promote the deal. Ashdown is an avid Time computer user according to a Time representative, but most people know him as the former SBS hero who went on to lead the Liberal Democrats. "The Internet is already changing the world," observed the politician. "If you are not part of it you should be, especially if you have children. "This outstanding offer gives you a unique opportunity to be in the 'knowledge revolution' rather than standing at the side and watching." Exact figures were not available for those already signed up for the deal, but Time said the response had been "very interesting" and it had received "lots of enquiries." The offer was launched last Friday, the same day as a similar deal started at Time rival Tiny Computers. Tiny has offered a free PC for a one-year commitment to its telecomms venture, TinyTelecom. Time has over 140 showrooms in the UK. It is owned by Lancashire–based Granville Technology. ®
The Register breaking news

BT puts rugby fans online

Rugby fans can look forward to a scrum-tastic time on the Net tomorrow thanks to BT. The telco giant is taking time off from cutting off Nottingham's phone exchange and getting into hot water for charging too much from pay phones in north London pubs, to concentrate on its sponsorship of the forthcoming Rugby World Cup. Fans of the game who can't wait for the first match to kick off on 1 October can take part in a live questions and answers session, talking online with three leading players from the international Rugby Union scene. Robert Howley - Wales and British Lions, Gavin Hastings - Former Scottish Captain and Pat Howard - Australia and Leicester, will all be going online tomorrow at 12:30BST to mark the launch of the official Rugby World Cup Web site. The tournament itself runs from 1 October until 6 November, with the final being played out at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Among the favourites to win are Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Among the list of countries most likely to soundly beaten at every turn is the US. Not famed for its participation in truly international team sports (this World Cup, like the soccer World Cup, has teams from all over the world taking part - unlike the NFL so-called World Series, for example, which does not), the US rugby union squad will nonetheless be turning out to fly the flag for their country and we wish them well. ®
The Register breaking news

C2000 drives a hard bargain for Fujitsu

Fujitsu has signed Computer 2000 to distribute its hard disk drives in the UK. The Basingstoke distributor has become an authorised OEM distribution partner for Fujitsu's range of disk drive products. Computer 2000 is trying to step up its components business to compete in the system builder market, and became a Microsoft OEM distributor earlier this month. It will be competing with Fujitsu's existing hard drive distributors in the UK - Ideal Hardware, Actebis and specialist company AGP. Sven Mahon-Daly, general manager of Computer 2000's components division, said: "We are already quite strong in the storage market. It is one of the largest sections of the components market, and expanding our range is one way of gaining market share." In May, Computer 2000 became a distributor for Fujitsu PCs, notebooks and servers. Computer 2000 also distributes hard disk drives for Quantum and Maxtor. ®
The Register breaking news

Keyboard generates electricity for notebooks

Compaq has developed a keyboard that generates electricity as you type, and thus keep your laptop battery charged. This is one of those nifty ideas that seems so obvious once stated that you wonder why you didn't think of it first. Compaq has patented the idea in the US, but it was one of the company's software engineers, Adrian Crisan, who came up with the design. Each key on the keyboard has tiny permanent magnet on it, which when passed through wire coils surrounding the shaft, induces a tiny current. The current charges a capacitor, which in turn charges the computer's battery. Initially, the system will make a laptop heavier and more expensive, but Compaq predicts that as with other components, this may not be the case for long. Crisan said: "Consumers are willing to pay for longer battery life. [This keyboard] could mean a 1kg notebook instead of a 1.5kg machine, or one that would last 10 hours on one charge as long as you keep typing." The modified design should not affect the way the keyboard feels to users either, as most keyboard already have springs under keys in case they stick. Crisan says that the generator should not add any noticeable resistance to the typist. Compaq UK appeared to be taken completely by surprise by this development. No one in the UK or the US could be found for comment, but a PR bunny said: "We really don't know how word of this got out." Was it supposed to be a secret? ®
The Register breaking news

Pirates found in drilling company

A Yorkshire drilling equipment manufacturer was fined £17,500 for using unlicensed software. Miko Oilfield Supplies was targeted in an investigation into illegal software by the Business Software Alliance (BSA). The global software trade body had identified the manufacturing industry as a likely haven of pirated software. It began its campaign with letters sent out to over 26,500 businesses with information about the penalties for using illegal software. A spokesman for the BSA commented: "Last year, software piracy cost the UK software industry over £290 million - damaging the economy and risking smaller software developers' businesses." While this point about smaller software developers is not to be taken lightly, it is worth noting that the majority of such pirate software busts concern illegal copying of software from Microsoft - a company which is many things, but not a small developer. He said that employers must be vigilant in ensuring that each employee has licensed software, emphasising the risk of fines and a damaged reputation to companies using pirate software. Miko was found to be using unlicensed copies of Autodesk and Microsoft software on its network. These copies were removed and replaced with legal ones. Figures announced last month by the BSA show that nearly one third of all software in use in the UK is illegal, with up to half being illegal among small businesses. The BSA offers rewards for tips that lead to software pirates. So snitch on your mates and make the world a better place: visit the organisation's Web sites here or here. ®