28th > July > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

IBM takes aim at Adaptec with $240m Mylex acquisition

Adaptec beware -- IBM is gunning for its RAID controller business and its weapon will be its newest subsidiary, Mylex. IBM is splashing out $240 million on Mylex, a California company with well-regarded RAID technology (but really too small to thrive as an independent among today's storage giants). It will integrate Mylex technology into its own product line-up, improving its ability to offer a one–stop OEM storage shop. Post-deal completion, Mylex will operate as wholly-owned subsidiary of IBM. It will retain its own distribution channels, sensible enough for now if sales are not to disappear overnight. The company also gains access to IBM’s enormous customer base. ®
Drew Cullen, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel flags 2 Aug for new chips, prices

August 2 is D-Day for the next iteration of Intel CPUs, and a fresh round of Celeron price cuts. The new babies are the 600MHz Pentium III and the 500MHz Celeron, costing $669 and $167 each (but only if you buy 1000 of them). The price cuts are for the 466MHz Celeron which will now cost $114, down from $147, while a 433MHz version will cost $93, down from $113, according to widespread but apparently entirely unofficial market reports. Expect a raft of PC manufacturer announcements to coincide with the new chips. August may be a dead time, as far as PC sales go -– but it gives the vendors a useful breathing space, while they gear up for Back to School and the Q4 consumer sales rush in the lead-up to Christmas. Cheaper Celerons will translate into cheaper PCs -- which will get even cheaper when Quantum and Fujitsu get their acts together on the budget HDD front. So far, Seagate has this field to itself. But its rivals say they will ship their budget ranges in September. ®
Drew Cullen, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Tosh readies MP3 music player

Toshiba is set to return to the audio consumer electronics market this year with an MP3-based digital music player, according to reports in Japanese business paper Nihon Keizai. Toshiba pulled out of the hi-fi market back in 1989. But by focusing on the Internet music business, the company's return isn't as radical as it might at first sound. In essence, releasing an MP3 player, which will interface with a PC, is simply an extension of Toshiba's existing computing business. Details of the upcoming device are vague, beyond its use of MP3 files downloaded via a PC then stored on plug-in memory cards -- exactly what you'd expect. The player will also almost certainly be compliant with Phase I of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) specification. Pricing has yet to be decided, a Toshiba spokesperson told Nihon Keizai, but it will be released simultaneously in the US and Japan, probably in time for the Christmas sales period. ®
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel sues patent ‘parasite’

Intel yesterday brought its significant legal weaponry to bear on little known technology company EMI Group North America. Its beef: that EMI's failed attempt to sue Intel for patent infringement was malicious -- and the company needs a good slapping. Chipzilla's suit against EMI, which demands $4.5 million in damages, essentially claims EMI is little more than company formed to wheedle money out of technology firms -- to "coerce Silicon Valley companies to makre payments simply to avoid the risk, uncertainty, burden and expense of litigation". Intel claims EMI -- which, so far as we can ascertain, has no connection with the major international music and communications company of the same name -- doesn't "manufacture, develop or produce any product or service". The original EMI vs Intel case was fought in 1995. EMI sued Intel claiming it infringed two of its patents -- patents Intel claims the company simply bought in -- for fabbing metal oxide semiconductor transistors. The case eventually went to the US Supreme Court, where it was thrown out earlier this year Despite the victory, the case cost Intel million of dollars, and now it wants them back. And just in case it seems like an example of money-grabbing, Chipzilla was at pains to point out that it's not the only company to have been targetted by EMI. The suit also alleges EMI has been attempting to force other companies, including AMD, Hyundai, Cypress Semiconductor and Winbond Electronics, into coughing up licensing fees to avoid legal challenges from EMI. Intel has a point, but there's a certain degree of 'what's sauce for the goose' about all this. Long-time Intel watchers will recall the company's highly aggressive legal department, which in the past was provided with target numbers of companies to sue. Had EMI successfully sued Intel back in 1995, there would have been a certain poetic justice in Intel's loss. ®
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Marimba Q2 sees 87 per cent growth

Erstwhile push technology pioneer Marimba, now recast as an e-business software provider, yesterday reported its first financial results as a public company. Marimba launched its IPO last February. Marimba posted a loss of $1.5 million on revenues of $6.9 million, an increase of 87 per cent on last year's $3.7 million revenue, it claimed. For the same period last year, the company lost $1.2 million. That said, this time round it took a $451,000 hit for deferred stock compensation -- without that Marimba's loss would have fallen year-on-year. Naturally, Marimba was "pleased" with its revenue growth, according to its photogenic president and CEO, Kim Polese. She should be. Marimba has done rather well to survive the collapse of the massively hyped push technology market, largely by repurposing its Java-based information delivery system into a corporate network-oriented applications delivery system. It also survived attempts by Microsoft to make its "life difficult". ®
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

AT&T fights US open cable tide

AT&T's terrifying PR apparatus battled tirelessly in the San Francisco Bay area this month, and finally won what many believed was a startling reversal of a local decision to force it to open its network to rival companies. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors appeared to reject its own earlier resolution supporting mandated open cable access by a nine/two vote. "I'd stress that [the opposition] have had extremely limited success at the local level, and they've had no success at the national level" AT&T General Counsel Jim Ciccone gloated during a press conference yesterday. But The Register sees it differently. After voting unanimously to affirm its commitment to open access as general policy, the board set to bamboozling mighty Ma Cable. The core issue involved a barely-veiled threat by AT&T to delay or even scupper an essential upgrade to its Bay-area cable lines if forced to carry competitors on it. The city, obviously, needed a signed agreement that the lines would be improved, as they are not yet fully bi-directional. Thus did San Francisco wisely reject a motion to require open access immediately, by a vote of eight/three. So far so good. The board then voted on softer language, essentially postponing a final decision on mandated access and interlarding it with numerous conditions, which it passed seven/four. It then did the business it had convened to do, and voted to include the watery language in its ratification of the AT&T/TCI franchise agreement by the now-famous nine/two concoction. And this is where things get interesting. AT&T promptly signed an agreement with San Francisco to upgrade the cable network it inherited through its purchase of TCI on the strength of that vote. Ah, but the board's resolution is chock full of realpolitik wiggle room. It enables the city to mandate open access if the Portland decision on the same subject should be upheld on appeal. More importantly, according to terms long understood, the franchise agreement with AT&T/TCI empowers the city to mandate open access unilaterally on 1 December if it so chooses. Indeed, AT&T has been in violation of the agreement since boldly closing its deal with TCI ahead of the board's ratification. AT&T needed a hasty resolution, any resolution, and even a crummy one would do. Mighty Ma Cable was playing an uncharacteristically weak hand with which it managed to bluff only two of eleven members -- one of whom, we note with some ironic pleasure, was Tom Ammiano, the board president. Ammiano characterised the final resolution as a lot of "hocus-pocus and hooey". Perhaps the Ninjas got to him. In a complimentary surprise, the Bay Area Open Access Coalition, a "grassroots" front group backed by Pacific Bell, GTE and similar little Mom and Pop outfits, abandoned their Birkenstock-and-granola populist rhetoric in light of the Board's decision. The focus has now shifted to the finer distinctions between "open" and "free" access, as Director Katie Roper emphasised that the Coalition's member companies have always intended to compensate AT&T for access to its cable lines. "We're not asking for free access," she said modestly. A far cry from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution she'd been calling for a week ago. Perhaps she's finally catching on to the real tactics at play here. The question now becomes why the Coalition demanded open access in such laughably hyperbolic language when all they ever wanted was to buy it. AT&T is hardly averse to making a profitable sale, after all. Or is it? GTE Associate Counsel John Raposa confided to The Register that he doubts AT&T intends to accept piggyback partners on "any reasonable terms." His scenario foresees AT&T shuttling ISPs to their portal, Excite@Home, and exacting such exorbitant fees that consumers will be charged double, once for basic service, and again for access to AT&T cable. Any ISP works the market, cutting various deals for various levels of service from backbone providers, Raposa points out. If Ma Cable spreads her tentacles adequately, and God knows she has the resources to do so, the "terms" will be hers to declare. To be fair, The Register tried with little success to get a statement from AT&T affirming its desire to sell cable access to its competitors. The best we could get, after numerous clarifications, was an assurance that the company welcomes "negotiation on any reasonable business basis." Not quite the same as saying that they would welcome the agreements themselves, we observe. But Raposa remains optimistic in view of the SanFran resolution. "There is no doubt in my mind that San Francisco will [ultimately] require open access," he chuckles. And if he's on track, Portland be damned; the city has reserved the right to smack Ma Cable around at will. Others may well follow. The urge, after all, is virtually irresistible. ®
Thomas C Greene, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony Q1 profit down 55 per cent

The strong Yen and severe price cuts combined to hack 55 per cent off Sony's first quarter profits. For the three months to 30 June, saw net profits fall 55 per cent to Y18.43 billion ($158.8 million). Operating profit fell to Y42.24 billion ($364 million). Sony said its profits would have been down just 17 per cent if the Yen had not risen so highly against the dollar during the last 12 months. Balancing the Yen's effect were strong sales of digital camcorders and Sony's popular line of Vaio notebook and desktop PCs. Sales of the PlayStation began to tail off in anticipation of the upcoming PlayStation II, though not as quickly as some analysts had predicted. ®
Team Register, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Web sites liable under law of country where accessed

A supreme court judge in New York may have changed the landscape for Internet companies who base their services in out of the way countries. Justice Charles Edward Ramos has ruled that an Antiguan gambling site is covered by the laws of New York state simply because the service can be accessed from there. According to the Financial Times, Judge Ramos said: "The act of entering the bet and transmitting the information from New York via the Internet is adequate to constitute gambling activity within New York state." A similar ruling was made earlier this month by Judge Christopher Hardy at Southwark Crown Court, who ruled that a Web pornographer could be prosecuted for publishing material declared illegal under the UK's Obscene Publications Act, despite having his server based in the US. These rulings contain a number of implications for Web-based companies and the likelihood of them being sued. One of the more obvious ones is that it could lead to lawsuits being presented in whichever territory has the most favourable laws. ®
Sean Fleming, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Kewill bolsters US e-commerce presence

Kewill Systems has bought US e-commerce businesses Aristo Research and Aristo Computers for £11.6 million. The deal included £7.9 million cash and the issue of 175,683 shares by UK company Kewill, worth around £3.1 million. In addition, a maximum of £3.5 million in cash may also be payable, depending on Aristo's results over the next two years. The company will be acquired through a merger with Kewill's US subsidiary, Kewill Electronic Commerce. Aristo specialises in "multi-carrier shipping compliance", making software packages for parcel shippers to work out routes and rates. This is similar to Kewill's existing US ecommerce division, and Kewill said the move gave it over 70 per cent market share in this sector. For the year ended 30 September 1998, Aristo had sales of £3.7 million and pre-tax profit of £1.7 million. Kewill has been on the acquisition trail for the past year. In February it bought JobBOSS Software, and last October it acquired ecommerce logistics systems supplier Tracer Software for $19.6 million (See story). These followed last June's acquisition of US distributor Granitek Systems though its subsidiary Micro-MRP. ®
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

FBI wants to snoop on private networks

The US government is toying with the idea of introducing sweeping new measures to monitor private networks against the threat of international terrorism. A report in the New York Times claims that the Clinton administration wants the FBI to take control of the monitoring process to protect vital infrastructures such as banking and telecomms networks. Reportedly to be known as the Federal Intrusion Detection Network (Fidnet) if all goes to plan the spooks could be ready to snoop by 2003. Those in favour of such tactics believe citizens in the US deserve to be protected from cyber attacks. Critics of the proposals believe it is just an excuse for government to snoop on the American people, warning that such measures would be the thin edge of the wedge regards individual freedoms. Interestingly, while the Clinton administration is keen to safeguard its own network privacy, it's more than happy to terrorise others -- even if they are butchering dictators. A Newsweek report claimed that the CIA was set to wage a cyberwar on Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic during the war against Serbia, using hackers for a sabotage campaign. Double standards? Surely not. ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Insight downplays Action bid

Insight Enterprises has revised the terms of its proposed acquisition of Action Computer Supplies, following Action’s share suspension earlier this week. Action shareholders will now receive 0.12 of a new Insight share for each Action share, compared to the previous agreement of 0.16, a 25 per cent drop. But in cash terms, Action shareholders are unaffected -- at least while Insight stock prices hold up. The new deal values each Action share at 264 pence with an issued share capital of £93 million. This compares to a value of 260.7 pence, or £92 million, on May 10, the date the take-over was announced. The reduction came about: "As a result of a material adverse change in trading conditions being experienced by Action," according to a statement by the two companies. "Material and operating conditions have deteriorated materially since the merger was announced, with large customer spending further impacted by a slowdown in ordering ahead of the year 2000." Action said there had been growing pressure on prices, and warned that sales for the second half were expected to be at a similar level to the first half, and therefore "significantly less than prior expectations." The original price put together for the acquisition was based on $26.625 per Insight share on May 7 1999. (See story). Yesterday, Insight's shares closed at $35. George O'Connor, technology analyst at finance house Granville, said: "The deal means Action is worse off – they wanted more, not less, of each Insight share. Action will have a weaker position within the merged company." Action resumed trading this morning after the announcement. Its shares fell 25 pence to £2.50. ®
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Maritz, one time MS number three, to leave company

Microsoft's one-time number three executive, Paul Maritz, is the latest of the high command to decide to leave the company, according to a story in today's Wall Street Journal. Spookily, the story doesn't quote Maritz himself, and the quote from VP public relations Mich Mathews simply says he's staying with the company for "the immediate future," but it's nevertheless clear he's going. Like all long-term Microsoft execs, Maritz is dripping with sufficient dollars to undermine his motivation. But he was also moved to a position of less responsibility in Microsoft's reorganisation in March - this may have been a demotion, but could have been because Maritz himself wanted less responsibility. Maritz was the top executive to testify at the trial earlier this year, and frankly, he didn't have a good one. But if Steve Ballmer, who's running the show at Microsoft these days, wanted to get rid of every exec who'd had a bad trial there'd be precious few left to run the company. Maritz has been officially in charge of Microsoft's developer group since the reorg, but according to the WSJ has been spending more time at his farm in Zimbabwe, and has now decided to drop further out of the picture. He'll be joining a new "technical leadership team" to advise Bill Gates, says Mathews, while the developer group will be run by David Vaskevitch, currently Maritz's deputy. This technical leadership team is an intriguing one though. After the March reorg Microsoft formed a Business Leadership Team allegedly focussing on day-to-day business, i.e. Ballmer's bag. Maritz is/was on this team. Presumably the appearance of a technical team relates to the split between this part of the operation and Bill Gates' blue-skying/visionary role. Will Maritz have difficulty in contributing from Zimbabwe? He'll certainly have to be in the US for some of the time in the near future, as he's not through with trials yet (Sun). And we at The Reg are somewhat concerned about the location of his palatial spread, given that the Zimbabwean government has repeatedly threatened to seize farms without compensation as part of its redistribution programme. But we trust Paul's personal lobbyists are on top of this one. ®
John Lettice, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Mrs Gates pops down to the drugstore (dot.com)

Drugstore.com, the Internet chemist, has appointed a series of industry heavyweights to its board, but none quite as heavy as a certain Mrs. Melinda French Gates. Gates will join the company as a director, along with Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, and Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Gates was a manager at Microsoft before she married Bill and retired from the company in 1996. Amazon and Allen's 'Vulcan Ventures' fund are both big investors in the company. Amazon has the biggest stake, holding 27 per cent of the shares. Allen's fund has a five per cent stake that should be worth about $40 million after the company is floated, valuing the whole company at $720 million. Drugstore.com was launched in 1998, and went live about six months ago. It sells prescription drugs and health and beauty products online, but has yet to make any profit. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Myriad of products launched by Epson

Epson yesterday announced 22 new products, including a multi-function printer to match each iMac colour. The hotchpotch of scanners, digital cameras, projectors, inkjet and laser printers shown yesterday will hit the channel between now and November. Its two combination devices can scan and print at the same time –- making them faster than traditional multi-functional devices, Epson claims. The Stylus Scan 2000 and 2500 will be launched in August at £279 and £399 respectively. They produce text up to 1440dpi resolution, and are Mac and Windows compatible with both USB and parallel interfaces. The Stylus Scan 2000 is white, but has interchangeable lids in all five iMac colours. It is "the perfect partner for the fashion conscious Mac or PC user", gushed Epson. The company will launch six inkjet printers, from £99 to £239, by September, and four laser printers by November. Six projectors were previewed, due to be launched before October. Epson will also launch a basic digital camera at £239 in October. The PhotoPC 650 is aimed at home, SoHo, business, iMac and Mac G3 users. Another two digital cameras were also shown, aimed at the mid-range and professional photographers, priced at £539 and £629. Finally, Epson said it aimed to take a large chunk of the UK scanner market by the end of the year. The company currently owns five per cent of this sector. It wants to make this 10-20 per cent by the end of the year. The five scanners to be launched by next month range from £119 to £890. All prices include VAT. ®
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Portal for the People

Internet giants such as Yahoo!, AOL and MSN could be under threat from a new political portal due to be launched at the end of the year. The UK government said it wants to establish its own portal to give people the chance to interact directly with Whitehall. Whether it means that Net users will swap today's consumer-friendly portals for something a little more dry is still uncertain, but such a move would certainly be of interest to political junkies. The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Jack Cunningham, said the portal will open up a range of one stop shop services, such as providing information about a change of address to different parts of government. And he pledged that government Web sites will give more information and be more convenient to use under new guidelines to be issued by the Cabinet Office's Central IT Unit in November. Which should come as a warning to the Web heads at the Central Office of Communication (COI) which currently hosts much of the government's Web services. Not only is the COI site slow and unwieldy, a flashing multicolour redesign panel is so outrageous that even a chameleon on acid would think it was too lurid. If this is the standard of Web design within the government then maybe AOL et al don't have anything to worry about after all. Yesterday's announcement was one of 62 listed by Cunningham -- known as "the Enforcer" -- and is intended to reflect the modernising credentials of the Labour government. ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Dabs fingers Web for sales boost

Dabs Direct has netted its first £1 million sales from a single month's trading on its Dabs Online Web site. The Bolton-based reseller has 23,000 registered users on the e-commerce site, and claims sales are growing at over 50 per cent per month. Started on 12 February, over half of the company's consumer sales business now takes place over the Web. "We shall shortly be opening our corporate and trade sites which will stimulate further growth," said Jonathan Wall, Dabs sales and marketing director. "The exciting thing for us is that only a third of our current Web customers were existing Dabs Direct customers." The company says Dabs Online will be in the top three e-commerce sites within the next year. ®
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Twelve angry states – or digital ghettoes?

Twelve states in the US have become digital ghettos because not enough cash has been invested in advanced digital networks. A report published by the industry lobbying group iAdvance and supported by US Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) and Rick Boucher (D-Va) outs a "Disconnected Dozen" list of 12 states it maintains are at the highest risk of being left behind. According to the report, millions of Americans are missing the benefits of the emerging digital economy because regulations have slowed deployment of the high-speed Internet backbone. iAdvance claims there are simply not enough backbone hubs being built to provide access to consumers and businesses. "The vast majority of Americans in inner cities and rural areas simply do not have access to the high-speed Internet and are unable to reap the full benefits of the digital economy," said the report's co-author, Erik Olbeter, formerly with the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, DC. "While people and businesses in the 'Disconnected Dozen' states are at the most serious risk, without a significant increase in backbone deployment, this shortage is going to affect nearly every corner of the country," he said. The "Disconnected Dozen" are: Alabama, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming. Of course, the problem is not just contained in North America. Thanks to Britain's "special relationship " with the US, some people already regard the UK as being just another US state. And when it comes to digital networks, it certainly is in one. If that's the case, then maybe this digitally backward isle should join the iAdvance's list of backwater states. Then they'd all be known as the Disconnected Baker's Dozen. ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Swanntech swims to market with dual PIII monster

Berkshire-based Swanntech Systems has launched a dual PIII based CAD workstation. Priced at a chunky £7,699, the system comes with Dual PIII 550 motherboard with 1Gb RAM (capacity 2Gb), 8 x PCI slots, 2 x ISA and 1 x AGP slots, and 2 x Intel PIII 550 processors. It's also supplied with 64Mb RAM AGP graphics card with dual output channels for dual monitor operation, Int SCSI CD writer/rewriter, 2 x 18Gb 10k rev/min Ultra2 SCSI HDDs (with 4Mb cache), FDD, Internal 12-25Gb capacity tape back up, keyboard and mouse. It ships with NT4 workstation pre-loaded and has a three year warranty. More information is available here. ®
Team Register, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Seven months to download a file at Screaming.net

The service at troubled ISP Screaming.net is so bad one Warwickshire-based user was told it would take 5554 hours --- 231 days -- to download a 2.1MB file from the Net. In a jaw-dropping letter to the net magazine this Screamer -- who is at his wits' end with the ISP -- told of his anguish with the service. "Since being connected [to Screaming.net] it has been nothing but one huge disappointment. I very rarely get connected first time -- my record so far is 282 attempts. "When I do, the server is so slow that when downloading a 2.1MB file it told me it would take 5554 hours, but I have found that if I get up at 04.30 on a Sunday morning it takes nine minutes. "As you can guess this really pleases me," he wrote. At least this Screamer still retains a sense of humour... ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

We get spam offering spam services

There's not much at Vulture Central that makes us speechless, but this takes the biscuit. A company is bombarding inboxes with junk email offering to spam other people. It reads: "Dear Valued Customer: We, Interserve Communications , are pleased to announce that our business has officially commenced. We offer bulk emailing with state of the art technology available on the market. We can bring an unimaginable amount of hits to your web site and help you generate an unthinkable amount of money! Do not delay! If you want more customers that only mass mailing can bring, reply immediately! Ask for our introductory prices! Sincerely Yours, Interserve Communications InterserveComm@hotmail.com" The barefaced cheek of it... ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

3dfx uncorks latest Voodoo 3 drivers

3dfx today released updated drivers -- or, as we call them, bug-fixes -- for its Voodoo 3 line of graphics cards. According to the 3D graphics specialist, the new drivers and associated tweaking utilities will offer gamers better visuals without any performance hit. The drivers' enhancements focus on allowing users to best balance performance and visual quality according to their own preferences. Accessed through the Voodoo 3 Properties utility, users can adjust the card's alpha-blending functionality and its overall video display quality. In each case, Voodoo 3 owners can set the card to determine the best graphics processing routine, or they can select one of the pre-set options. "Because issues such as image quality are so highly subjective, we added a new level of customisation that allows users to easily choose the settings they like best," said 3dfx executive VP and CTO Scott Sellers. ® The new drives are available from 3dfx's Web site
Team Register, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD brings forward Athlon to 10 August

AMD will finally take the wraps of the Athlon K7 on Tuesday 10 August, according to reliable but eminently impeachable sources. Benchmark data, however, continues to leak out early. The company had originally been planning the big push for the end of August. As this has now been brought forward by three weeks, the implication is that AMD's yields on the K7 are better than initially planned for, and that it feels sufficiently sure of supply to counter the various pre-emptive strikes Intel has been mounting. Earlier today (see story) Intel let it be known that 2 August was D-Day for 600MHz PIII, 500MHz Celeron and another round of price cuts. At the grand unveiling AMD is also expected to detail market positioning data, and is likely to provide more information about its plans for copper versions of the CPU. The company has already begun producing copper samples from its new Dresden fab (ses Dresden fabs first copper part) and is expected to achieve 1HGz from copper by the end of the year - it may well be, however, that it's now sufficiently confident in the Dresden process to accelerate this. With Athlon, AMD intends to take Intel on in terms of power, rather than price, and it will be releasing performance data and test systems to support its pitch the week after next. But some, apparently, are already out and leaking. A message posted on the Quake site, Planetquake, here yesterday includes test data from "a wonderful new K7-600 AMD was kind enough to send us." AMD may or may not have also been kind enough to ask those concerned to sign a little piece of paper as well, but frankly, that's none of our business. In Quake 3 tests, the K7 reports 49.3fps for q3tesdemo1 and 63.9fps for demo2 in normal graphics mode, and 61.8fps and 72.7fps respectively in fast mode. The K7 is also apparently blitzing its way through work units on Seti@home. ®
John Lettice, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Datatec buys US Cisco distie

Westcon Group has paid $500 million for GE Capital’s connectivity distributor Comstor.net. Washington-based Comstor.net, which mainly distributes Cisco kit, will become a part of RBR Networks – a subsidiary of Westcon's parent group Datatec. The two will create a global sales and marketing division to support Cisco resellers, according to a company statement. This will give Westcon two global distribution arms. The Westcon division will sell mainly Nortel Networks, Lucent and 3Com to the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong and South Africa. The RBR Networks division will concentrate on the same market, with an emphasis on Cisco. Westcon has another reason to be cheerful, having just secured a £15 million deal which sees it become Computacenter's preferred supplier of 3Com kit. Each arm will keep its own sales and marketing management. The acquisition will bring the company's annual sales to more than $1 billion. Comstor.net also distributes products from about 15 other vendors. It recently changed focus to become a niche distributor, culling its manufacturer base to specialise in internetworking products and services. The consolidation will offer Westcon's resellers more best-of-breed LAN/WAN and next generation networking solutions, the company said. "We are very energised about the idea of joining such a highly-regarded, VAR-focused company," said Barry Culman, Comstar.net president. ®
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

DRAM: comeback or false dawn?

The DRAM industry has seen a modest uptick in prices since July 1 in the daily 64Mb DRAM (PC10, 8M x 8) spot market. And there's not a product shortage in sight. Market research firm ICIS-LOR attributes the firmer market to an attempt by Taiwanese manufacturers to charge more for their wares. These vendors don't want to lose so much money, according to ICIS-LOR. How sustainable this is, is anyone's guess. Since July 1 there have been modest price fluctuations (that means up as well as down!), with 64Mb spot prices hitting a high point of $6 in North America. Micron, the US DRAM vendor, reckons DRAM prices will rise again in August, pointing to reduced inventories and increased demand. However, the 30-day rolling average price of 64Mb DRAMs compiled by ICIS-LOR shows the trend is still downwards. Between June 10 and July 9, 1999 the price was $6.45 in North America, $6.50 in Europe and US$5.65 in Asia. Compared with the 30 day average for the week to July 2, prices are down 1.15 per cent in North America, unchanged in Europe and down 2.89 per cent in Asia. According to ICIS-LOR, dealers in the Asia Pacific region were negotiating deals of around $5-6 per unit. One Hong-Kong vendor expressed difficulties in concluding deals above $5.60 for 8x8 PC100. The spot price of memory modules of 64Mb DIMM (PC100)fell 4.07 per cent from last week to $34.82 in North America; 3.86 per cent to $37.95 in Europe; and 3.11 per cent down to US$36.84 in Asia. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Marconi trawls for radio heads

Marconi Communications will recruit 400 staff to double the workforce at its Nottingham R&D site. It will hire the engineering staff over the next three to four years for its centre near Beeston, and is looking for 100 graduates by the end of this year. Most of the staff will be hardware engineers, but the company will also be taking on radio frequency and software engineers. The company may also move the research operation to another site in Nottingham to accommodate the expansion. ®
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

E*Trade hits UK with cut-throat pricing

On-line share dealer E*Trade launched in the UK today amid claims that up to 150,000 Britons will be managing their portfolios on the Web by the end of next year. It marked its debut with an aggressive pricing strategy, promising no commission fee higher than £24.95, and demonstrations of a fast execution system that completes transactions in six seconds or less. Julian Costley, chief executive, sought to down play expectations, saying he expected to be one of "top four or five in Britain" and was aiming for a 60 per cent plus market share. E*Trade UK has a large potential customer base. One of its co-owners, Electronic Share Information - a first generation Internet share information service with limited dealing facilities - has 250,000 registered users. Its other major owner is the number one US online brokerage E*Trade. Punters have to invest a minimum of just £1,000 and have access to portfolio management spreadsheets, charts and news. Currently only shares traded on the London Stock Exchange are available although foreign dealing from the site is planned. E*Trade conducted all its IT development in-house, customising software that allows paperless processing supplied by UK financial systems specialist Consort. Its chief rival is UK market leader Charles Schwab, which has over 15,000 customers on-line. But the market is crowding fast, exemplified by Halifax bank's announcement on Tuesday that it too would launch a similar service. ®
Dan Sabbagh, 28 Jul 1999