29th > July > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Gates tops share sale list, but foundations are shallow

Bill Gates is known for his obsessive competitiveness, but he has some way to go to win all the records so far as his wealth is concerned. Gates sold more stock in the first half of 1999 than any other executive - $2.523 billion - but the significance is not great since he still holds around 980 million shares worth about $88 billion. There is no particular evidence that when the Microsoft share price is threatened that he sells. Most of the Gates loot is being laundered through his foundations, and it is in these stakes that he is lagging. He has set up two foundations: the William H Gates Foundation, run by his father, and having assets of $10 billion, and the Gates Learning Foundation with $1.3 billion. The Chronicle of Philanthropy shows the Lilly Endowment has assets of $15 billion, and the Ford Foundation has $10.7 billion. Three of the top four richest Americans obtained their wealth from Microsoft: Paul Allen is worth $30 billion, and Steve Ballmer $19.5 billion, according to Forbes in June. Gates' bridge partner Warren Buffet is number two, with $36 billion in Berkshire Hathaway. Eight other Microsoft executives sold another $500 million or so shares in the first half of the year, including $78 million worth by Paul Maritz, who still has more than $200 million of Microsoft shares tucked away for a rainy day, and options on at least 1.3 million shares (currently worth about $120 million) that he has not exercised. He is committed to stay at Microsoft until the end of the year, but vp David Vaskevitch has taken over the daily running of Maritz' developer group, with vp Tod Nielsen being more involved in the technical aspects. Other major US share sellers in the first half of the year were Philip Anschutz, the founder of Qwest, who disposed of $1.573 billion to BellSouth, and Michael Del,l who has sold $681 million. Gates also filed yesterday notice of an intention to sell a further 3 million shares. Microsoft insiders had been lax in filing formal notices with the SEC by the tenth of the month following the transaction, but the trial and the current SEC investigation of Microsoft has changed that. ®
The Register breaking news

BT reveals ADSL roll-out plan

London, Cardiff and Edinburgh are among 10 cities earmarked by BT to be equipped with ADSL technology by March 2000. BT made the announcement early this morning in a statement outlining its plans to make "Britain a world leader in the information revolution". The announcement adds substance to earlier leaked reports about BT's commitment to ADSL. It comes in the same week that the telecomms watchdog Oftel launched its consultation document examining the proposed use of a high speed multimedia network by BT. BT also said it intends to open up the service to competition by offering the ADSL connections wholesale to a wide range of service providers and other operators. According to the telco, this should enable other operators to offer combined packages of digital content and digital connections to their customers. But wholesale prices for service operators will range from around £40 to £150 per month. Add on their cut and the cost of piping ADSL technology into the home could be simply out of reach for many people. Sir Peter Bonfield, BT's chief executive, said: "This roll-out plan is a major step towards making Britain a world leader in the information revolution. By committing to a large scale roll-out, BT will play a vital part in stimulating a competitive mass-market for consumers as well as businesses of all sizes. "It will drive new information industries and services to the benefit of all." The other seven cities on BT's hit list are: Belfast, Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow. Four hundred exchanges, covering almost six million households and businesses, will be upgraded by March 2000. ®
The Register breaking news

Rambus to win memory war

PC133 may be winning the memory battle, but it certainly won't win the war against Rambus, according to Cahners In-Stat Group. The market research firm predicts Rambus will "capture the leading market share over the next several years". It forecasts 60 per cent market share, but then sits on a couple of fences with some scenarios under which competing architectures could "capture sockets currently forecasted for RDRAM". This could see RDRAM end up with anything between 33 and 73 per cent of the memory market. Steve Cullen, principal DRAM analyst for Cahners, says: "Contrary to what other firms are saying, we believe it is not a question of whether Rambus will be successful, but rather when. RDRAM has a significant advantage in bandwidth per pin that helps to satisfy processors' insatiable appetite for data. Rambus will be a major factor in differentiating first-tier DRAM suppliers from the rest of the pack. DRAM suppliers that do not adopt Rambus will see shrinking market share for PC DRAM and suffer overall dropping unit volumes." Intel is bankrolling Rambus to the tune of $1 billion and its marketing and distribution muscle will ensure a big take-up for the technology, according to Cahners. See also Rambus real loser in PC133 wars What do Micron, Samsung and Rambus have in common? PC-133 wins the day in old Taipei What the hell is Camino and Rambus all about?
The Register breaking news

Oracle plans $150 Intel-Linux machine

Our department of strange coincidences can't help noticing that on the day Liberate Technologies went public, Larry Ellison was telling analysts about another Oracle low-cost hardware project. This beast is Linux-based, but is clearly an attempt by Oracle to have another crack at Ellison's old network computer concept. Liberate itself was called Network Computer Inc until earlier this year, and is the Oracle-founded hardware company originally charged with design of NCs. The unfortunate association of the N-word with failure will have had considerable influence in the name change, and curiously, yesterday Ellison seems to have been talking about the latest idea as a "thin client" platform. Thin clients are successes, and NCs so far have been failures. But really, that's more of a marketing thing, because if the two labels weren't the same to start with, they're pretty much equivalent now. NCI... sorry, Liberate has actually been looking rather promising recently, and yesterday's IPO was broadly welcomed, with an initial $16 price rising to around $20. One might muse that, as Liberate was the Oracle thin-client/NC hardware operation, it's a bit odd that Oracle is instantly talking about thin-client hardware designs again. But there you go. The latest design is Intel-based, uses Linux as the OS, has 64 megs of RAM and boots from a CD instead of a hard drive. They'll cost $250 with monitor, $150 without. Oracle will be setting up an operation to sell them (hey, didn't it do that already?), into the education market initially. By not including a hard disk Oracle is sticking with the initial NC concept of making the machines network dependent, but using a CD as the boot device means they don't actually have to boot off the network. This time around though the concept may play better, given that cheaper, dumber client devices are starting to gain more widespread acceptance. ®
The Register breaking news

Apple slips Samsung $100m in LCD priority bid

Apple is to pay Samsung $100 million to ensure it gets first pick of the Korean giant's LCD production run. The payment was described by Apple as an "investment" in Samsung, but what we're really talking here is a bung to make sure Samsung keeps Apple supplied with as many displays as it needs. For its part, Samsung said the money would be used to speed up its LCD fab expansion programme. It isn't clear whether that will involve dedicating production lines to Apple. Apple is, of course, hoping for big sales of its iBook consumer-oriented notebook. Success for the iBook could also give the company's professional notebook line, the PowerBook G3, a boost too. To maintain iBook sales momentum, Apple needs to ensure a smooth supply of components to its iBook manufacturer, Taiwanese OEM Alpha Top. And that means cosying up to companies like Samsung. Apple is also keen to promote its LCD Studio Display monitor to design-conscious users. The problem here is the current price and short supply of large-scale flat-panel displays. Again, encouraging Samsung to ramp up production may help make LCDs more competitive with traditional CRT screens and this drive demand for Apple products. Paying off component suppliers to ensure consistent supply of parts isn't an uncommon move in the IT business. Earlier this year, Intel sent Samsung a cheque for $100 million to persuade the Korean company to ramp up Rambus Direct DRAM production -- Chipzilla also made similar payments to Toshiba and Micron. ®
The Register breaking news

Compaq axes 8000 jobs

A decidedly bruised Compaq yesterday revealed it lost $184 million in its second quarter, and told everyone to expect further major losses. Driving those losses will be the cost of cutting 8000 staff -- 11 per cent of the workforce -- from the company payroll, part of a restructuring programme being put in place by newly-joined CEO Michael Capellas. The restructuring charge is likely to fall between $700 and $900 million, Compaq said. That's on a par with the massive losses Apple suffered three-odd years ago as then CEO Gil Amelio struggled to turn the company into a solid business. Gil, of course, was ultimately booted out through the return of Apple's prodigal son, Steve Jobs. So might we expect Rod Canion to make a sudden reappearance in the very near future? Capellas' motivation in the current round of job cuts is, he said, to eliminate $2 billion in costs. It's not clear precisely where the cuts will be made, but certain unnamed manufacturing facilities will be closed. The Q2 loss of $184 million compares with the $3.6 billion the company lost in the same period last year, all of it down to the acquisition of Digital. Compaq reported revenues of $9.4 billion for the quarter, the same as it recorded in the previous three-month period, though then it made a profit of $281 million. Contributing to the downturn was a massive $1.9 billion increase in operating expenses -- Eckhard Pfeiffer's golden handshake, perhaps? -- quarter on quarter. Gross margins fell from 24.7 per cent to 20.5 per cent quarter on quarter. Europe was singled out for special attention by Capellas, who described the territory's growth as "disappointing" -- sales here rose just six per cent compared to 32 per cent in the US. Restructuring programmes in France and Germany were to blame, he said, as was increased competition in the UK. Sources suggest at least 1000 of the upcoming job cuts will be made in these territories. ®
The Register breaking news

DRAM prices will rise further claims Micron exec

Micron Technology VP Kipp Bedard yesterday warned PC vendors to expect DRAM prices to rise as demand accelerates and inventory levels fall. Speaking at a BancBoston Robertson Stephens semiconductor conference, Bedard said 64Mb chips had risen in price through July from $4.50 to $4.75, and that they would increase to $5.25 through August. Bedard also told attendees to expect the DRAM industry to "talk more about shortages here and there". However, his comments go against the findings of market research firm ICIS-LOR, which recently reported that its 30-day rolling average price of 64Mb DRAMs shows the pricing trend is still downwards. Compared with the 30-day average for the week to 2 July, prices are down 1.15 per cent in North America, unchanged in Europe and down 2.89 per cent in Asia. ICIS-LOR also reported there are no shortages in sight. ®
The Register breaking news

Booze, birds and bandwidth

Lads' mag FHM -- which prints a never-ending diet of women in bikinis, often soaked to the skin, and photographed in ever-more provocative poses -- is to offer a subscription-free Net service by the end of the summer. Publisher EMAP Metro has teamed up with Internet Technology Group (ITG), the UK's largest independent ISP, to provide the service, it said today. Other EMAP Metro lifestyle titles including Empire and Q magazines are also expected to offer similar services if this initiative proves successful. Graham Taylor, VP and chief analyst with the Gartner Group said: "ITG and EMAP have got the right idea here. EMAP Metro's strong brands, such as FHM, deliver compelling content; ITG's high performance network and infrastructure provide superior service. "This is a solid basis for building enduring subscriber relationships which will, in turn, drive advertising and ecommerce opportunities," he said. EMAP claims the partnership will bring "a serious new contender into the subscription-free ISP market." That may be so. But a recent report claims there are already a 100 or so subscription-free services in operation and a further 100 predicted to be unleashed on Net users in the UK by the end of the year. It will take a bit more than a few snapshots of bikini-clad babes and an article on nipple piercing to get their 3.4 million readers hooked up. Then again... ®
The Register breaking news

Kingston takes direct route to resellers

Kingston Technology has started selling memory direct to system builders over the Web. Through a three-month trial, Kingston is selling its own and other vendor memory under the name "ValueRAM" in the US, by-passing the distribution channel. Started in June, the scheme competes in the broker market selling to white-box builders. US resellers buying ValueRAM memory do not get the Kingston marketing funds or support –- there is no returns policy or price protection. Alison Heath, Kingston UK sales director, said: "We are testing the concept in the US -– it is designed to sell generic memory to white box assembly." Heath said there were no plans to bring the idea to Europe this year, even if the scheme proved successful. No figures will be available to gauge response until after the pilot finishes at the end of August. "It is aimed at a specific market that some of our distributors in the UK are addressing," admitted Heath. "But the model is different here -- we have very loyal distribution partners in the UK." Kingston's main distributors in the UK are Datrontech and Microtronica. Kingston started selling its own memory products online in January through a link to the Action Computer Supplies Web site. Since then it has signed Computacenter and Compel, is due to announce similar deals with SMC, Dabs Direct and Simply Computers. ®
The Register breaking news

US cable co. Charter charts IPO course

The US' number four cable TV operator, Charter, yesterday said it intends to launch an IPO. Details as yet remain scarce -- more will be revealed in an upcoming filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission -- but the company did say it intends to raise $3.45 billion through the stock issue. It also said the IPO would be managed by several underwriters, including Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette and others. The money Charter makes on the IPO will primarily fund acquisitions, the company said, but since the cable TV provider also has ambitious technology roll-out plans, it's likely some of the proceeds will be used for that project too. What makes Charter interesting is the fact that it's owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. He will also be putting a further $2 billion into Charter, through its Charter Communications Holding Co., which has been formed to take ownership of Charter's cable infrastructure. ®
The Register breaking news

Health warning placed on Olicom

In May, we said Olicom was prey, waiting to be eaten by a larger company. Its dismemberment could come even sooner than we thought. The Danish networking equipment vendor says it is talking to various parties with a view to building "co-operative relationships". At the same time, it is negotiating to sell different technologies, to aforementioned various parties. The outcome will drive the company into operating loss and materially affect Olicom's balance sheet (for the worse, we can infer). So it has postponed reporting Q2 US dollar results until the end of August and it has asked the Copenhagen Stock Exchange to put it on the Surveillance List. In effect this is a health warning for dealings in its shares, and it suggests that Olicom does not anticipate its share rising, once the smoke clears over who it is actually negotiating with. Olicom names no names, but Cabletron is surely in the frame: it signed a deal to resell Olicom's Token Ring technology less than two months ago. And on grounds of geography, it would not be entirely surprising if Olicom were talking to Swedish telecoms giant Ericcson, too. ®
The Register breaking news

Taxman classifies computer installation as construction

Computers and houses. Can you tell the difference? The Inland Revenue can't. Under the new "Construction Industry Scheme" (CIS), the installation of a computer is defined as a construction operation. Soon it will be illegal for any large organisation to pay an invoice from a computer supplier or manufacturer who installs a computer or other 'instrumentation system' without a CIS certificate. Failure to comply with the new regulations could result in a £3000 fine. The Revenue accepts that a laptop computer is exempt from the CIS, but insists that anything involving drilling a hole in a wall is construction and, according to our source, will not accept that there is a threshold value below which jobs should be excluded. The taxman has admitted to at least one computer equipment supplier that it has made a mistake. Although at press time, no one at the Inland Revenue was available for comment. The scheme itself is not without controversy. It is the latest 'oops'-inducing incident involving the government and computer systems. The new certificates were due to come into force on August 1, but computer system delays has forced the Inland Revenue to issue temporary extensions to existing certificates. Sound familiar? ®
The Register breaking news

Totalise tantalises with share give-away offer

A copycat ISP launched on Ofex yesterday wants to lure new users to its subscription-free Net service with the promise of a (carpet) bagful of shares in return. Totalise said it will initially offer up to 250 free shares to users who sign up for the service although it anticipates that users could end up with an average of 3500 shares each if they play their cards right. The plan is to give Net users a 67 per cent stake in the company. The company has already raised £840,000 to help it fund the new service. Users must agree to their details being made available to other companies otherwise no shares will be forthcoming. Fifty shares are handed over on registration with another 200 up for grabs if you clock up an average of 100 minutes per month online with Totalise in your first three months. "We will be the first independent ISP to give free tradable shares to its users," said Totalise chief executive Peter Gregory. "We have committed to a share structure which is totally clear and will shortly give users control of the company through their majority holding of the ordinary shares," he said. Totalise's model is similar to Themutual.net which announced last month it would hand out shares to users of its subscription-free service. The difference appears to be that shares in Totalise can be traded immediately, whereas stakeholders in Themutual.net would have to wait until the service is sold before they can redeem their investment. Cheshire-based ISP Telinco is to provide the technology infrastructure for Totalise. It also supports Themutual.net and CurrantBun.com, among others. ®
The Register breaking news

Telecomms deals spin up billions of dollars

Merger mania hit the telecomms sector in the first half of 1999, according to Broadview's Technology M&A Report. Global acquisition and consolidation deals jumped 40 per cent from 295 in the first half of 1998 to 414 in 1999. North America saw 261 deals in this sector, up from 208 for the same period in 1998. Over a two-year period from 1997 to 1999, the value of telecomms deals in the US ballooned over 1000 per cent from $10.7 billion to $128.5 billion in 1999. Globally, the value jumped over 66 per cent to $271.5 billion. Paul Deninger, Broadview chairman and CEO, said efforts to build customer bases, expand geographically and improve services continued to fuel acquisition. "This trend can be expected to continue into the second half of this year," he said. "Buy or Die" is the rule in the networking field, according to Broadview. This sector saw the steepest growth in deal value, rising 71 per cent to $10.6 billion, with the number of deals up 420 per cent from just five to 24. Hardware deals were spurred on by next-generation communications networks development, yet their numbers stayed flat. The value of global hardware deals rose 125 per cent to $100 billion, with the number up only three per cent at 331. Broadview's results pinpointed Cisco, Lucent and Nortel Networks as candidates actively snatching up-and-coming technology companies. It also said these companies were investing in more developed companies to study their R&D, and then buying them out completely within two years. It used Cisco's $407 million acquisition bid for Transmedia Communications as an example. It said the competition between Cisco, Lucent and Nortel to become the top supplier of infrastructure to telecomms and cable companies had driven acquisition growth in the area. ®
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Open source supremo backs MS as Apple sides with AOL

Apple today poked a finger in Microsoft's eye by siding with AOL in the great Instant Messenger debate that has even had the great and the good of the open source community siding with the Beast of Redmond. Apple's deal with AOL, to support AOL's instant messaging (IM) service on the Mac, presumably by building it into the OS as a bundled app, is probably more about persuading AOL to better support the MacOS. True, the company offers its AOL software for the Mac, but usually many months after the Windows release. Still, it does help AOL's strategy of winning support by playing on anti-Microsoft sentiment. Part of the plan involved releasing the protocol for the IM service under an open source-style licence. Trouble was, it allowed Microsoft to get in there and develop its own IM client. Since then AOL has tinkered with the protocol with the effect that it has continually broken Microsoft's client, and others. It's that apparent support for open standards combined with a willingness to change those standards to prevent someone using them that stuck in the craw of open source guru Eric S Raymond. "When all is said and done, Microsoft is right on this one," he wrote. "Their intentions may be predatory, but if the history of open source and the Internet is any guide, we should back them to win this fight. "Microsoft... deserves to win this battle." Raymond makes a fair point. If you want anyone to have free access to your software, that must, by definition, include Microsoft. Otherwise it simply isn't genuine open source. Apple could certainly have timed its AOL announcement better -- as is very keen right now to attract the support of the open source world through Darwin, its open source cut-down version of MacOS X Server. So perhaps this is indeed a covert attempt to stick one over on Microsoft. So much for the $150 million investment, Bill is probably thinking right now. ® See also Mail wars: the Microsoft versus AOL square-off
The Register breaking news

Gameplay.com IPO nets £31m

UK online games company Gameplay.com yesterday became Britain's second big Internet IPO, selling 57.9 per cent of its stock to institutional investors and raising £31 million in the process. The company claimed the offer was ten times oversubscribed -- good, but nowhere near Freeserve's recent float, which was 30 times oversubscribed. Still, the float, which saw shares offered at 135 pence each, just under a week before they begin trading on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM), valued the Gameplay.com at £53.6 million. Again, that's way lower than Freeserve's market cap of £2.2 billion, bit still nothing to be sniffed at. And online gaming will be popular long after everyone has got used to free Internet access. Gameplay.com was formed earlier this year when online games retailer Interactive Commercial Enterprises merged with British Telecom's Wireplay dedicated online gaming network. Wireplay flourished at first by offering gamers a cheap, dedicated network to host multi-player games. But the arrival of ever-faster modems and better Internet support in the games themselves eliminated the need for Wireplay. ®
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World trade body declares MS profits illegal

Microsoft has benefited by what could be several billion dollars from export subsidies on profits that have now been declared illegal by the World Trade Organisation, at the request of the European Union. The US government has allowed Foreign Sales Corporations (FSCs) to benefit from what the EU says amounts to export subsidies not allowed by WTO obligations, which are binding on the US. Sir Leon Brittan, acting European Trade Commissioner, said: "This export subsidy has created a major distortion of international trade by granting a very substantial unfair advantage to US products." The main beneficiaries have been Microsoft and Boeing. The US government describes the FSCs as "a tax incentive for US exports", and allows reduced tax on profits from foreign subsidiaries. Microsoft's financial reports have been notably silent about this dispute and the potential effect on profits, which may prove upsetting to shareholders. More than half of Microsoft's income is from outside the US. Microsoft's hard man in international tax matters is Mike Boyle, who apart from being chairman of the International Tax Committee of TEI, which arranges courses on what is now seen to be an illegal tax evasion scheme, also came to notice in January because of his involvement in the case of Charles Pancerzewski. It was Boyle who had the "resign or be fired" lunch with Pancerzewski after he blew the whistle (under the 1997 Whistleblowers Protection Act) on Microsoft's accounting practices, as a result of which Microsoft showed steadily increasing profits that exceeded Wall Street expectations, because of, er, allegedly illegal practices. Pancerzewski is believed to have received a $4 million settlement after suing Microsoft. Coincidentally, the SEC at last decided to investigate Microsoft's business practices. It's hard to assess the extent to which Microsoft has benefited from this FSC subsidy, but the US has been given until October next year to change its law. It may also appeal when the final adjudication is available in September. The EU complaint is not a tit-for-tat for the US success in enforcing sanctions on $191 million of EU goods as a result of the dispute over banana import rules, because the Microsoft FSC case has been the subject of arbitration since the original complaint in November 1997. Besides, the US is the main complainer to the FTO anyway. Banana pickers in countries where the bananas are owned by American companies get $2 per day for their labour, while in other countries (like the Windward Islands) that mostly produce small bananas, the pickers get $8 per day. In its eagerness to extract its pound of flesh (more about the hormones in it in a moment), the US started a punitive tax on Scottish jumpers before the WTO had formally ruled on the matter, thereby causing itself further problems. It is particularly appropriate that the preliminary decision on FSCs comes in the same week that the Italian tomatoes, Danish ham, German soup and French pate will have 100 per cent punitive duties imposed in the US as a consequence of these countries not importing hormone-treated beef. Parenthetically, we should note that it is now scientifically recognised, if not politically, that the British BSE scare was completely unfounded, the politicians were just naturally bonkers, and that we should all go back to Aberdeen Angus T-bone steaks. The cost to the EU of the US punitive moves on what were essentially development aid and public health issues will be a very small fraction of what the FSC tax rule change will cost the US. But that's not the end of the matter. Microsoft had evidently seen the writing on the wall about the WTO threat to its FSC profits, because for no then-apparent reason, Bill Gates himself gave a speech to the Washington Council on International Trade in February that referred to the need for "fair taxation systems". In his talk, Gates said: "We need to make sure that there are not taxes that discriminate against this type of trade." Of course, from a Microsoft perspective, the EU complaint to the ITO was "discrimination" against Microsoft. At the end of November, there will be a WTO ministerial conference in Seattle. It should come as no surprise that Gates and Philip Condit of Boeing are the co-chairmen, that Gates' father's law firm is the legal advisor, and that Microsoft is providing the media and public relations. That Microsoft gave money for a teacher seminar on trade to raise awareness, and that the WTO now uses Microsoft software is just a minor development. Anybody thinking this all amounts to world domination is, well, right. ®
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Intel preps 27 Sept Coppermine debut

Intel will follow up its 2 August 600MHz Pentium III and 500MHz Celeron launch with the announcement of its eight-way Xeon server chip on 23 August, mobile Celerons on 15 September and the 133MHz 820 chipset on 27 September. The Xeon announcement will see Chipzilla unveil the ship date and pricing for a 550MHz version of the CPU. This will feature the PIII's Streaming SIMD Extension, and support a 100MHz frontside bus, up to 2MB of cache and eight-way multiprocessing. Three weeks later, on 15 September, Intel will debut 433MHz and 466MHz Mobile Celerons. Interestingly, that's around the time Apple will launch its iBook consumer-oriented notebook, a machine that, at $1599, will compete directly with Wintel notebooks based on the new Celerons. Two more weeks down the line, and we should get to see the 820 chipset, which will introduce Rambus Direct DRAM technology and a 133MHz frontside bus. Given the problems Intel appears to be having with the 810 chipset -- getting the production quality right and persuading mobo vendors to use it -- it may be some time before the 820 becomes available in volume. Chipzilla will also roll out 533MHz and 600MHz PIIIs on the 27th. If Intel is introducing a 600MHz PIII on Monday, that suggests we're talking about Geyserville here, Intel's upcoming 0.18 micron Mobile Pentium III, aka Coppermine. That's due to ship at the end of the year, so a late Q3 announcement would be good timing. For the full skinny on Geyserville, pop over to our handy What the Hell is... item. ®
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BBC buys bbc.com – but for how much?

News that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has acquired the bbc.com domain should be heralded as a moment of breast-swelling pride for the TV licence fee payers of the UK.
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The English language according to Microsoft

According to Microsoft, one is no longer amused by the Queen's English. Bill Gates has made it his quest to get us all saying fanny instead of bottom before the Millennium. British English is obviously outdated and needs a few Americanisms thrown in, so Microsoft has come up with a dictionary of world English. The Encarta World English Dictionary will hit our shores in hard-back next week, and be available on CD-Rom from August. It took 320 experts to come up with this new English Esperanto. And as predicted, Gates has managed to slip in a bit of techy-jargon – such as the word "notwork", a PC network that doesn't work, and "digerati" – the Internet cultural elite. Other gems included are a Gym rat – an exercise fanatic, arm candy – a female escort, and daddy track – a man who works fewer hours to be with his family. In addition, there is the phonetically-challenged "puh-leeze" – which, according to today's Financial Times, is "used facetiously to express astonishment." And we just thought it was spelt wrongly. Non-Americanisms listed are "scungies" – swimming trunks in Australia, and "bazodee" – a word used in the Caribbean when thinking is blurred by psychological chaos. Which is indeed what the English language seems to be in the midst of. ®
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Nortel Q2 figures beat analysts' predictions

Nortel Networks saw shares rise yesterday on the back of better than expected results for its second quarter. The Ontario-based networking vendor posted net profit of $368 million, and compared to $212 million for the same period last year. Sales grew 30 per cent to $5.41 billion, from $4.16 billion last year. Figures also showed the company had turned around its wireless product sales -- which had suffered from falling turnover in the first quarter, compared to the previous year. Earnings per share were 55 cents - First Call had forecast earnings of around 50 cents per share. Analysts said Nortel was on track to hit its full year financial targets and that it had allayed investors' fears concerning Y2K purchase delays. The manufacturer's prospects look healthy for the second half of the year. Shares surged 6.3 per cent, or C$8, to C$134.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday following the announcement. ®
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Buddy lists to boom on mobile devices

While AOL and Microsoft slog it out in their instant messaging (IM) war, one research company is predicting that IM is set to become the killer app for wireless communications in the next five years. California-based Mobile Insights (MI) reckons the worldwide market for IM (aka buddy lists) will grow to 175 million users by 2002. It's already employed by 50 million PC-based users but it's the growth in mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) that is expected to see the most significant changes. "Integrated wireless communications will be the catalyst that leads to the pervasive use of mobile information appliances," said David Hayden, senior industry analyst for Mobile Insights. "Instant messaging on these wireless handheld PCs and mobile phones will become as commonplace as voice mail in only a few years." It is claimed that five years from now the interface to most cell phones and wireless PDAs will include a buddy list. ®
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Ingram profits slip in face of record sales

Ingram Micro saw profits fall eight per cent, against record sales for the second quarter. Net sales were at a record $6.8 billion, up 37 per cent. And net income was $51.7 million, or 35 cents per share, for the quarter ended 3 July. This compares to $55.6 million, or 37 cents per share, the previous year. Jerre Stead, Ingram chairman and CEO, said he was pleased with the results. Profits had improved 20 per cent on the first quarter, on a similar level of sales. "Much of this improvement was accomplished by streamlining our organisation and reducing our operating expense level to 3.79 per cent of sales," he said. Ingram has made Siemens Corp’s president and CEO a director. Gerhard Schulmeyer brings the Ingram board members to eight. ®
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Rival infests Sharkhunt waters

A week after Sharkhunt.com -- careful how you say it -- said it planned to pay Net users in the UK for receiving advertising while they go about their Web business, The Register has learnt that another British company is set to offer a similar service. Details are still sketchy but one source said that it will be launched in the autumn and compete directly with Sharkhunt. It is also understood that the new company is prepared to pay users more cash than Sharkhunt, although Net users will want to see how the figures pan out before committing themselves to either scheme. And before anyone has the smug idea that they can run both systems in parallel and earn a stash of cash -- think again. A spokeswoman for Sharkhunt said it was highly unlikely that this could be done, although she was surprised to hear that a new Net company was set to enter the targeted ad market so soon after Sharkhunt's announcement. She also declined to say how many people had signed up to the service, which will also be launched in the autumn. Once operational though, Sharkhunt users can earn up to £20 a month by viewing online ads. ®
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DVD to dominate disk market

Worldwide sales of removable and optical drives will top £10 billion this year, according to DISK/TREND’s latest research. The outlook for the different product groups is mixed, with DVD-ROM drives and writable DVD/CD-ROM formats becoming the major stars. Sales of DVD drives were slow at first because of format uncertainties and high prices, DISK/TREND says. But the market is growing rapidly and shipments are expected to overtake CD ROM drives within two years. This year shipments have reached 92.8 million units. The re-writable drives business is currently enjoying a growth spurt, led by the CD-RW segment. Falling prices and wider availability have boosted its performance in the market, but as with CD-ROM drives, it is set to be overthrown by the emerging DVD format. By 2002, DVD will be the dominant player in this market too. And the humble 1.44Mb floppy? Sales are expected to peak by 2001, followed by a slow decline. High capacity floppies will do better. In 1998, 12.7 million drives were shipped in 1998. By 2002, this is forecast to grow to 34.3 million units. The big losers at the moment are the rigid magnetic disk manufacturers. The limiting size of the market for these products have hit sales hard, and forced many manufacturers out of business. However, the arrival of CompactFlash card formats could reinvigorate this sector. DISK/TREND says opportunities in the mobile market should see shipments increase in the next few years. ®
The Register breaking news

Themutual.net kicks off share giveaway

The latest in the flock of free ISP's, Themutual.net, went live today. This company's gimmick is that it is actually a co-operative, and is giving free shares away to early sign-ups. The first 10,000 customers are in line to receive 10,000 shares each. The company says that these will be worth around £520 in total. The next 100,000 to put their names down will get 1,000 shares each, worth a total of £52, according to Themutual. This incentive is a big play on the current popularity of Internet companies, and the perceived value of shares. Themutual.net could say the shares are worth whatever it likes, but until the company is actually floated, it doesn't really mean anything. Clive Sinclair-Poulton, chairman of the Themutual.net, said: "Registrations have been coming in at nearly 2,500 per day and if uptake continues at this rate, a 10,000 unit-holding will be worth considerably more than £520." ®