5th > August > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Via to buy IDT's Centaur

In one of the most remarkable moves in the computer industry for at least two days, Taiwanese chipset manufacturer Via said it was going to buy x.86 subsidiary Centaur from IDT. As part of the deal worth goodness knows how much, IDT and Via will issue licences to each other. That is bound to make chip giant Chipzilla (Intel) cross. IDT, a company listed on an American stock exchange, said only a few days back it wanted to get rid of Centaur and exit the x.86 clone market. That now gives Via two x.86 technologies. Just a few days back, Via said it had bought Cyrix from National Semiconductor for $167 million. IDT, an American company, was best known for SRAM before it got into x.86 technologies with a dedicated team at Centaur. Via gets all the Winchip microprocessor technology, the talented team based in Austin, Texas, and the intellectual property from Centaur. So which company is Via going to buy next? AMD? Rise? Intel? NatSemi? ®
Mike Magee, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Xeon delay stories wrong, says Intel

A year ago From The Register No. 89 -- a year ago. Plus ca change or what? Reports that higher end Xeon processors are delayed are spurious, Intel said today. But at the same time, details of pricing changes to arrive on the 24 August have emerged, as well as future plans for its high end chip platforms. Reports on US wires had said Intel had delayed four way server versions of its Xeon processors because of a problem with its high end NX chipset. But an Intel representative said that Xeon multiway processors had already started to ship and that no delays were anticipated for four way systems. Only a month after Intel cut prices on a range of its processors, it is preparing for further introductions and price slashing. Sources at an OEM close to Intel's plans, gave the following details about pricing on the 24 August. The PII Xeon 400MHz with one Mb of level two cache will drop in price from $2,840 to $2,680, the same part with 512K of cache dropping to $1,060 from $1,120. At the desktop level, the PII-450, which is a new introduction, will remain at $670. The PII-400 will drop from $590 to $480, the PII-350 from $420 to $300, the PII-333 from $320 to $230, the PII-300 from $210 to $190, while the PII-266 will stay at $160, effectively ending its existence as a desktop chip. Intel last week confirmed it was bringing forward two Celeron processors with a Mendocino core and the OEM said that the prices now looked like this. The 333MHz Celeron with Mendocino core and 128K of cache on board, one of Intel's new introductions at the low end, will start at $200. The 300A, which also has 128K of on chip cache, will cost $150. The 300MHz Celeron will now drop in price from $160 to $110, the 266MHz Celeron to $90 from $110. The Celeron 266MHz will npow disappear towards the end of October. The Intel representative said he was unable to comment on future price cuts, but these figures show that the chip giant is now engaged in a dual process where top end Xeon chips are being sold at a far higher premium than their performance would seem to justify. Meanwhile, sources said that Intel was still on target for its 370-pin Socket, as earlier revealed here. The introduction of this socketed solution could well spell the end of the road for Intel's Celeron plans. ®
Mike Magee, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel to send PIII/450 to gulag

The 450MHz flavour of the Pentium III is set to be phased out within the next week or two, sources close to Intel confirmed today. That probably sets a record for the quickest movement of any Intel processor from birth to banishment. It also indicates -- quite clearly -- that despite advice from senior chip analysts, Intel is going to play the price game in a bid to upset the AMD Athlon applecart. And we can now confirm, as predicted here last weekend, that Intel has indeed slashed and burned the price of its Celeron family once more. The company notified its dealer, sorry reseller, base earlier this week of the decline in pricing. The percentage decline per 1000 since the 6th of June is 22 per cent for the 466MHz Celeron, 18 per cent for the 433MHz Celeron, 18 per cent for the 400MHz part with SEPP packaging and 22 per cent for the 400MHz part with plastic packaging. The 500MHz Celeron is $167/1000, the 466MHz $147/1000, the 433MHz $113/1000, the 400MHz $93/1000, the 366MHz $69/1000, and the 333MHz $67/1000. Meanwhile, Intel yesterday firmly denied any suggestion that it had production problems with the Celeron family. A representative told The Register: "I think I would have heard about that". However, reports from European distributors indicated there is a shortage of 400MHz parts. Further, although Intel could not confirm this at press time, last week a truck containing 20,000 Celerons was stolen in Holland. Intel offers a limited type of price protection to its authorised distributors, but always warns its customers, both channel and OEMs, that prices can change at the drop of a hat. ®
Mike Magee, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Wall St brutalises Net shares

The dot in ".com" got a bit ragged yesterday as the Dow Jones Internet Index sank by more than 40 percent since reaching its high water mark back in mid-April. Retailers like Amazon and eBay were among those hardest hit. Amazon took an especially merciless battering, and only a week after CEO Jeff Bezos announced bold plans to spend his way out of painful Q2 1999 losses. We reckon there could be a connection between the two, but the company begs to differ. A week ago the Internet's largest retailer announced its intention to invest heavily in expansion projects despite an $0.86 per-share loss totaling $138 million in Q2. These "investments" should bear fruit, the company insists. Analysts caution that spending ahead of earnings works only if sales should increase, but CEO Bezos remained upbeat: "We hope to offer hundreds of additional market opportunities in the next few years," he chirped. Clearly Wall Street would prefer to see Amazon -- and, by extension, hundreds of other virtual companies -- exploiting "market opportunities" already in hand. Retribution was inevitable: Bear Stearns downgraded Amazon stock to "attractive" last week on news of the spending plan, shareholders bailed out in numbers, and by yesterday Amazon shares had fallen from an April high of US $221.25 to $88.44, for a 60-percent collapse. Ouch. Like many Internet entities made of ones and zeroes and preposterously overvalued shares, Amazon has grown steadily but never enjoyed a profitable quarter in its history. The company has spent lavishly ahead of earnings since birth, posted its losses without apology, and gone on to spend even more, all without much complaint from Wall Street. Expanding ahead of revenues, buying marketshare by sacrificing profits, is hardly a new twist in e-commerce, and to date the Street has been reasonably tolerant of it. But there is something unpleasantly South Korean about the practice of expanding grossly while earning nothing; and eighteen months ago we learned how painful the reckoning can be when it comes. Perhaps, by letting the e-tail giants squirm, shareholders are signaling the limits of their gullibility. And good on them if that's the case. No one needs the e-commercial equivalent of Korea, Inc. propagating wildly and uncontrollably through the Net. Most six-year-olds can grasp the notion that a profitable business likes to earn more than it spends. But the suits aren't panicking. Word on the Street says the Net market is merely correcting itself, and not a moment too soon at that. One analyst characterised it as "inevitable...healthy" at the close of yesterday's trading. Healthy or not, it's a lot of fast money lost and dreams of easy, instant fortune cruelly dashed. Yet there are hopeful signs that Net stocks could well rebound. Amazon in particular has seen its sales, and its revenues, grow steadily quarter on quarter. The company holds a reputation for exemplary customer service, a huge and attractive inventory, and brand recognition so pervasive as to make 'Amazon.com' a household punctuated word. This is a company that does everything right. Everything, that is, except turn a profit. And they may get that bit straight, now that shareholders have made their presence known. This could be a very good week for investors to buy Internet stocks. Well, those who haven't sold any recently, at least. ® See also: Daily Net finance news from The Register
Thomas C Greene, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD uses Intel Inside top Fab Sandpit

We tipped up at Fab 30 in Dresden blissfully, and unaware of a document called a non-disclosure agreement and so were ready and willing to walk around and admire AMD's fancy collection of electron microscopes, unfettered by bits of paper we'd never seen or even discussed. In one of the offices, we talked to a crystallographer whose main task in life seemed to be to use a beam electron microscope to examine copper wafers for bugs. We asked him if he was bored by this task and he claimed he wasn't. Indeed, he said, the microscopes he was allowed to use in the Fab were much quicker than the ones in the university... When we arrived at the facility, a pleasant receptionist had asked us what we had in our bag. In particular, she wanted to know whether we had a camera. Being honest, we said: "Yes" at which point she said, very nicely: "Hand it over then." We felt like we couldn't refuse...but at least it gave us the opportunity to try and paint the picture with words rather than just snap the naked truth... And here's the picture. AMD's fab in Dresden only has 830 people working in it -- and although there are many cubicles and desks there, most of them have boxed PCs waiting to be unpacked. Many of the PCs already unpacked are HP Kayaks, with the Intel Inside logo proudly displayed inside the AMD Fab.... And so it goes. The vast acres of car park are also unpopulated by Trabants or Nissans, although we Euro-journalists had many a giggle when the German suits showed us a Trabant complete with the AMD logo outside. Down by the swift-flowing, notwithstanding very smelly, Elbe, where we had dinner with our colleagues and new friends, we were able to briefly scan the horizon to see how well the Saxony government was doing re-building Dresden. The long in the tooth will remember that during the Second World War, the so-called most beautiful city in Europe was comprehensively trashed by the Allies. The Allies extended their wishes for a better world by also trashing Meissen -- down the road -- and Leipzig, which has one of the oldest European un iversities in the world. The communists, who failed to relinquish their war booty called East Germany for many years after the French, the Americans and the Brits had said: "Go on -- be a democracy", vowed to rebuild Dresden, brick by brick. Amazingly, that job is not yet done. One young American GI, called Kurt Vonnegut, found himself in Dresden after being taken prisoner and was employed, as slave labour, in a place called Slaughterhouse Five. Because he was working deep in a dungeon, he escaped the massive firestorm unleashed by the Allies on Dresden, Meissen et al, only to emerge the next morning to find the entire place, including the five star Kempinski Hotel, had melted. The intensity of the firestorm was such that anything with sand in it melted. Vonnegut trekked across the rubble and glaze for miles before meeting a single human soul. The crystallographer at Fab 30 must feel the same way, we thought, having to gaze at trenches and drains all day long. But Werner was upbeat and even optimistic. Because just a week or two earlier, his fast electron microscope had discovered a real organic bug on a wafer. He had a picture of it on his wall and very interesting it was too. You don't expect to find anything alive on a wafer subjected to the kind of processes used in fabs. Most of the time, all you find on the glazed and polished surface of wafers are bits of stray silicon and the odd human particulate. But this thing was like the Blob, with tentacles and everything. Perhaps, as science fiction writer Vonnegut once speculated, all you have to do is to substitute silicon (Si, 14) for carbon (C, 6) to give birth to a new race of beings that don't even need phlogiston. And so it goes... ® See also AMD+Dresden Sandpit II Intel makes The Register sweat IV
Mike Magee, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Net IPOs slump on first day trading

Four Internet stock IPOs -- new issues as they are known in the UK -- have failed to rise above their opening price. It was bound to happen sometime. The "failures" were 1-800-Flowers.com, BigStar Entertainment, Quotesmith.com and Splitrock Services. All fell around at least 20 per cent on the first day. So why the fall? The quality of the companies coming to market has gone down; prices are too high; it is the holiday season; and demand has been satisfied to a reasonable extent. Last week, twenty four companies came to the market and it was the busiest week for nearly two years. The average first day premium has been 56 per cent, with an average of 43 per cent increase for this year's IPOs. Typically, the price drops after the first day. In addition, e-commerce has slumped in the US recently. Online consumers dropped three percent between March and May, according to Greenfield Online. Book sales dropped 5 per cent, software 19 per cent, hardware 13 per cent, and airline tickets 10 per cent. It could be that after initial experiments, many people are reverting to their previous human-interaction methods of doing business.® See also: Daily Net finance news
Graham Lea, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Why the fuss about the Red Hat IPO?

Some newbie would-be Red Hat IPO investors have been upset that they could not meet the criteria required by E*Trade to open trading accounts. Red Hat is about to come to the market. Because demand usually greatly exceeds supply, E*Trade has elaborated a policy of only allocating shares to experienced investors who do not have a trading history of selling immediately to make a quick profit. In addition, only US residents can apply. Not sure about the US bit -- but ETrade's share allocation policy looks reasonable enough. Red Hat is conducting an IPO to raise capital and -- presumably -- enable existing shareholders to liquidate some of their paper assets in the company. There seems little reason why Red Hat should assist punters in stagging the share price. Or why it should want an army-come fan club of small investors, all seeking to buy in to a Linux stalwart. Just because it's a Linux stalwart ®
Graham Lea, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Baratz swaps place in the Sun for investment bank

Alan Baratz, who two months ago was appointed president of Sun's software division, is leaving to go to Warburg Pincus & Co, the private investment bankers, in mid-August where he will be managing director of an affiliate. Ed Zander, Sun's president and COO said that Jon Kannegaard will assume Baritz' role on an acting basis, and that Sun will immediately seek a replacement for Baritz. Previously, Baratz was president of the Java Platform division. He played a leading role in the development of Solaris, and oversaw the development of Java, Jini and various developer tools. Recently, Baratz was occupied in the standardisation of Java. There was speculation from a Giga analyst that there had been an internal dispute at Sun, but this seems unlikely. Baritz's move is seen as a career change, rather than a job change. Warburg is a relative rarity in New York: a long-term player content to wait at least five years before getting twitchy about its investments. It has some $12 billion under management, and includes in its portfolio holdings in BEA Systems and Veritas. ®
Graham Lea, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Regulators check Corel CEO share deals

Michael Cowpland, CEO of Corel, has been investigated by the Ontario Securities Commission for alleged insider trading, according to a report in the Canadian National Post. At issue is Cowpland's trading record in Corel shares in August 1997, when Cowpland sold 2.4 million shares a month before a reported loss of $32 million on the quarter, and a consequent 40 per cent decline in the share price. Apparently the investigation has been completed, but no decision has yet been taken by the OSC as to whether any action should be taken. A press release from Corel says the newspaper story is "unconfirmed and unsubstantiated" and "a complete surprise" since Cowpland had not been informed of any hearing. The OSC would not comment until a decision had been taken. Cowpland said it was business as usual at Corel. Meanwhile, Corel announced that it was partnering with DirectWeb to bundle WordPerfect Office 2000 and CorelDRAW. DirectWeb offers remotely-managed hardware, software and an Internet subscription service for a fixed monthly price.
Graham Lea, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

How Intel should treat Americans – unofficial

John Newton, a reader who's worked "for many years" in the US advertising and defence industries was inspired by our Intel pocket press guide, to write a new chapter for how to treat American. He think's its "fairly accurate". USA Background: Americans are more impressed with style than substance. Give them a good show, and they'll buy a lousy product. They are impressed by what is big, and they will buy it, even if it isn't the greatest. How to Sell Them a Lousy Product (or even a good one): Give the yanks a bit of a show. The more friendly, funny, and upbeat the better! If possible, add a little bit of sex appeal. Or, if possible, add a LOT of sex appeal! If the yanks think that they will be dealing with a sexy young woman in the future, they will be much more likely to buy what she is saying than some grumpy old man. Dress: Dress as informally as you can for the occasion. Americans companies have realized that dressing informally is regarded as a benefit by employees, and one that they can give out for free. Unless you are a top executive, you are not expected to dress up. Don't think you can wear any kind of informal clothes, however. Americans spend more on informal clothes than formal ones. If you are wearing jeans and a t-shirt, they had better be sharp jeans and a well-fitting t-shirt. Demeanor: Use personal skills rather than technical information, if possible. Americans would rather be entertained by something that isn't very good than bored by something that is. Don't be fooled if this strategy succeeds, however. Most likely there is a very capable technical person dealing with you who was not fooled one bit. He bought the miniskirt. Also, do not be surprised if an American is completely clueless if it comes to computers, even if the person is working in a computer-related job. Many Americans have had computers tossed on their desks even though they have no computer skills. ®
John Newton, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel Coppermine delay caused by fear of AMD

Reliable sources close to Intel said today that the so-called delay in its first desktop processor using Coppermine was a knee-jerk reaction to AMD's K7 Athlon. However, an Intel representative has denied that claim. According to the source, Intel released its .25 micron Pentium III/600 to soften the market for AMD's up-and-coming launch on August 10 next. The first Coppermine processor was also scheduled to run at a clock speed of 600MHz, but now Intel will, instead, introduce the first Coppermine at 700MHz, swiftly following that introduction with further, faster processors. The move further confirms the suspicion that Intel and AMD will go head-to-head in a price war at the high end, as well as the low end. That will weaken Intel's margins but will also put more pressure on AMD in the gladiatorial battle. The Intel representative said: "It's definitely not a reaction to Athlon. We acknowledged in June we weren't able to reach frequency targets and couldn't hit them on .18 micron. We pushed out Coppermine by two months and got unexpectedly good yields on .25 micron." ®
Pete Sherriff, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Lara Croft to turn games players away from piracy

The European Leisure Software Publishers Association (Elspa) has recruited Tomb Raider star Lara Croft, she of the unfeasibly large pixellated paps, to fight software piracy. With a cry of "Don't play games with criminals -- it will all end in tears!", Lara will (apparently) strike fear into the hearts of 14-year-old boys everywhere and turn them away from the dark path of duplicating each others' CDs or buying dodgy copies from car boot sales. At least that's Elspa's goal. It claims 80 per cent of the games pirates it has investigated had links with other forms of criminality, including drugs, prostitution, porn and even terrorism. Indeed, it was well known that the late Carlos 'The Jackal' would punch out illegal copies of Manic Miner to fund his international terror campaign. Still, piracy is a serious business -- Elspa calculates that the UK games industry loses £3 billion annually through piracy, while the taxman lost £525 million last year, poor thing. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

IT Relief issues fundraising call to arms – and legs

IT Relief, a close cousin of Comic Relief, is doing what it does best, and encouraging IT couch potatoes to chip in for a good cause. Fancy a bit of fund raising? Then read on… On 11 and 12 September IT Relief is running an event called KIDS Bike ride - a 240 mile cycling trip from Yorkminster to Westminster with a stop over at Newark. To take part, you need a £120 deposit and sponsorship of an extra £280. This will cover B&B at the stopover, and food and drink during the ride. If cycling is not your bag, you could always jump out of a plane. For only £350 in sponsorship, you too can defy death. Call Angela Taylor on 0181 969 2817 and don't forget to mention IT Relief. Other options to fill your 'do-good' quota for the century include the next London Marathon, or the New York Marathon on Guy Fawkes 2000. You need to raise £2,000 (it being Y2K and all) for this one, and if you want to do it, move fast as places are limited. Or, if the thought of all those burning calories is enough to send you screaming for a Mars bar, just call the hotline and make a donation. (UK) 0704 4000 989, or email at helpkids@itrelief.org. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Scottish Internet hub planned

Contracts for the UK's third Internet exchange, called Scotix, were completed yesterday. Founders, including the Royal Bank of Scotland and BT, said that they hoped the new hub would someday be a rival to global hubs such as the MaeWest and Abovenet exchanges in California. The new exchange should make Internet traffic flow faster for users in Scotland. Currently, data from online Scotland has to be routed through Linx in London. The new exchange should initially handle traffic of five to 10 megabits a second. It is also expected to provide a hub for new transatlantic connections. "It is the single biggest ecommerce story in Scotland in the last 12 months," said chairman Frank Binney. "If we did not have the exchange, we'd eventually become an ecommerce backwater, and it follows from that that we'd be an economic backwater." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Industry analysts diet for charity

Some analysts are just starving for press coverage at the moment, The Register has learned. Top staff at London investment bank Granville are losing weight in an effort to alert us all to the lean times ahead in the Millennium. Talk about taking your job seriously. Analysts George O'Connor and Roger Phillips, along with Richard Lucas from specialist sales, are trying to shed eight stone between them before the first week in December. "The IT market is going through a change, and companies need to slim down," said O'Connor, after swearing he only ate a plate of boiled fish and vegetables for lunch. "In order for them to get underweight, we intend to practice what we preach," he continued. The three are also being sponsored by city institutions and businesses, with all funds going to charity. Who said the City doesn't have a heart? When asked how much weight he personally intended to shift, Connor craftily commented: "All three of us certainly have a lot of face to lose." Fellow faster Phillips was keen to point out that Connor was not the "the slimmest and the prettiest" as was claimed in certain national newspapers yesterday. "Who's the heaviest? If you wanted to swerve around George to avoid him on the road, you would run out of petrol," said Phillips. Now that's not very charitable, is it? Don't worry George, we still love you. ®
Linda Harrison, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Rush for free books knocks over BOL server

What happens when you promise free books to a literate online population? Well, for a start you might have a few problems with your server. BOL did when it gave away books yesterday. A spokesman for BOL said that they had had between 30,000 and 50,000 people trying to access the site simultaneously, and that at best every other person was able to access the site first try. "We knew it would knock out our site if we held the offer on our main server, so we set up another one to handle it," he said. "But it looks like even that wasn't enough –- we've had a rough ride for the last hour or so. Lets just say, the server was on its knees, but getting up slowly." After the first hour, half of the 20,000 books had been claimed. At full time, they had all gone. In total 40,000 registered for a book. The first 20,000 will get the book of their choice and the rest are going to get a consolation prize. A Jackie Collins novel perhaps? ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Diamond, RIAA end MP3 spat

Erstwhile arch-enemies over the MP3 digital music market Diamond Multimedia and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have agreed to make up and be friendly. Both organisations yesterday confirmed that they had agreed to suspend their legal battle, though neither would specify what each has had to do to ensure their "mutually satisfactory resolution of outstanding legal issues". War broke out between the two last year when the RIAA sued Diamond alleging that the latter's Rio PMP300 player contravened the US 1992 Audio Home Recording Act by failing to build into copy protection and because Diamond had made no attempt to pay royalties to artists. However, the RIAA effectively lost the case when the judge ruled Diamond was not responsible for acts of piracy made by third-party Rio users and refused to block sales of the Rio as the RIAA had requested. More recently, the Court of Appeal ruled that Rio is not a digital audio recording device and therefore not subject to the Home Recording Act after all. "Because the Rio cannot make copies from transmissions or from digital music media such as CDs and tapes, but instead can only make copies from a computer hard drive, it is not a digital audio recording device," said the court. That killed the RIAA case, but since Diamond had by then already embraced the music industry's Secure Digital Music Initiative and had said it was now time to support copy protection, the RIAA's battle had become largely symbolic. Diamond's defamation suit against the RIAA, instigated soon after the launch of the original anti-Rio suit, was also dropped, the company said yesterday. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Online liquor sales under fire in US

The US government is set to limit the sale of booze over the Internet following a three-to-one majority vote in the House of Representatives. If ratified by the White House it would give US states with tough liquor legislation the power to take legal action against out-of-state Web sites if found to be in breach of those laws. Advocates of the proposed legislation said it would protect minors and uphold state laws in those areas where the sale of alcohol is outlawed. Critics warn it will simply hit small liquor e-tailers where it hurts. Last week a supreme court judge in New York ruled that an Antiguan gambling site was covered by the laws of New York state simply because the service could be accessed from there. It seems laws governing Web sites are dependent on where the site is accessed -- not where it is based. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Samsung unveils SDRAM-beating SGRAM

Samsung yesterday claimed its latest 32Mb SGRAM part is up to 55 per cent faster than "best of class" 32Mb SDRAM. The new chip, operating at 222MHz, was also described by the company as an "evolutionary alternative" to Rambus Direct DRAM, at least in graphics applications. Samsung claimed the part can deliver 1.8GBps throughput on a 64-bit bus and 3.5GBps on a 128-bit bus. The new part, the KM4132G112, is available for sampling -- volume production will begin next month. The price is $8 per unit in 1000-unit batches. ®
Team Register, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Onsas.com spams UK journalists

Who the hell is onsas.com? Describing itself as a "leading UK online press distribution and public relations company", onsas.com has embarked upon a sustained spam campaign targeting British journalists. Multiple copies of the same press release -- in bandwidth-wasting Word format -- sent as attachments -- emailed to several journalists on The Register without asking first whether we want them. This is discourteous. Yesterday, one press release sent by Onsas contained a macro virus. This is incompetent. And if you complain -- guess what -- your message is sent to other hacks on the onsas email list. Here's some advice for onsas -- check out The Source to see how journalist services can and should be done. (PR firms take note.) ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun plans Corona PC Killer

Sun has developed an "ultra-secret PC-killer", just when everyone was thinking that JavaStation NCs had been killed by inexpensive PCs. Codenamed Corona, the new device will ship probably next month for $499. When volume sales kick in, the price is expected to fall to under $400, according to Forbes The Corona has an Ethernet card but no local storage, embedded Java and the X-Window system. It also has a smart-card slot so users can insert their smart card to restore their work securely. In effect, Corona is a second attempt to pitch the JavaStation. This time around, it's touted as a network business client with zero administrative cost. IBM has had some success with its Network Station, so the market is now ready for a Sun PC Killer (mk II). Forbes suggests that Sun hopes to sell a million of them next year, which could be good news for LSI Logic if it clinches a contract to make the microJava chips. It seems that Sun was going to release it in July, but held back in order to line up some big names. The government of Singapore is tipped as an early customer. Sun has not said anything about the Corona so far, but the University of California at San Diego will receive 50 of them, with an E250 server, for use in CSE's NSF-funded Active Web project. ®
Graham Lea, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Sega signs AT&T for Dreamcast Net access

Sega has signed up AT&T to provide access to American buyers of its Dramcast games console, as predicted. Of course, how many people will actually sign up for the service remains to be seen. The Dreamcast is due to begin shipping in the US on 9 September. Sega claims that over 200,000 consoles have already been ordered. That's higher than the 150,000 pre-orders it took in Japan, but given the relative sizes of the two markets, it's not that much higher, suggesting demand won't be as high as Sega would like. And with Sony's PlayStation II set to debut at the end of the year, it will be interesting to see how the prospect of a superior system coming on-stream a little way down the line affects Dreamcast sales. Equally, even though the Dreamcast contains a 56Kbps modem, games that take full advantage of it to allow online multiplayer bouts aren't set to ship until next year, by which time Sony's PlayStation II plans should be a lot clearer. The AT&T service will cost $9.95 for ten hours' access a month, $19.95 for 150 hours a month connection time, or $21.95 for unlimited access. In the UK and Europe, Dreamcast users will get unlimited Net access free of charge through a deal Sega struck with British Telecom earlier this year. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft, stealth bombing and the hacker challenge

Usually, Microsoft is PR-adept when it comes to dealing with its customers and the media. But when it comes to understanding hackerdom, it hasn't a clue. Last Tuesday, Microsoft challenged hackers to attempt to break the Windows 2000 + IIS security system, and was foolish enough to hope that it would generate positive publicity and provide some free feedback. It set up what it called some "ground rules", as though it was some jolly game in which the participants would play for the sake of the game, but of course, both sides cheated. Naturally the server went down soon after it was made available, and all manner of other problems arose. Windows 2000 is only in beta and, judging by the problems that were seen, it will be in beta for a wee while yet until it has at least a modicum of resilience. Microsoft's spinmeisters are exercising their black arts on another hacker/cracker security image. This is the tale of the Back Orifice 2000 Trojan horse produced by the Cult of the Dead Cow. Microsoft would have us believe that stealth software is intrinsically evil and performs "malicious actions". But as cDc pointed out, the same stealth principles are included in Microsoft's Systems Management Server which, we recall, caused all manner of problems when NatWest was trying to use it for roll-outs, assisted by highly-paid Microsoft consultants who could not get it to perform properly. It's worth remembering that the guys wearing the white hats are the hackers. What a pity that their considerable talents are not put to more positive use -- although warning the world of serious software deficiencies is at least a public service. It's also worth noting Microsoft's record on stealth software. In 1995, Microsoft produced a registration wizard for Windows 95 that, if used online, allowed Microsoft to check covertly what rival (and MS) software was loaded on the PC. The information was used of course for Microsoft's marketing purposes, and -- who knows -- for policing illegal copies of Microsoft software. The adverse publicity from this dark episode made Microsoft squirm with embarrassment. ® See also LinuxPPC mounts hack challenge as MS fails to tempt crackers
Graham Lea, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Telewest to tackle BT, NTL with broadband launch

Cable operator Telewest has thrown its hat into the broadband arena following hard on the heels of BT and NTL. The well-flagged announcement confirms that Telewest will launch its broadband Internet service -- 100 times faster than conventional dial-up access -- early next year. Before then it will launch a co-branded Web portal with Microsoft which has agreed to buy a 29.9 per cent stake in the cable operator. "The alliance between Telewest and Microsoft clearly exploits a massive synergy, combining Telewest's broadband networks and its extensive customer base, with Microsoft's leading role in Internet technologies and its strong content experience with the MSN portal," said Tony Illsley CEO of Telewest. But a spokesman for the cable company said that while the MSN content was important, it would not drown out Telewest's own branding. It was not simply a case of Telewest providing the infrastructure and MSN providing the content, he said. Four million homes in the UK have access to Telewest cable services. It currently boasts 1.4 million subscribers. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

LinuxPPC mounts hack challenge as MS fails to tempt crackers

Mac-oriented Linux distributor LinuxPPC has responded to Microsoft's challenge to the cracker community to break into Windows 2000, with a contest of its own: break into a standard LinuxPPC 1999 install and win the Power Mac it's installed on. To date, 5669 people have tried to break into the server, which even has Telnet activated "to make things interesting", according to LinuxPPC's Jeff Carr. So far, no one has managed to bypass Linux's security systems. That's in marked contrast to Microsoft's challenge, which pits a Windows 2000 Beta 3 Web server against all comers. According to US newswires, the server fell over almost immediately -- without third-party intervention. Microsoft has been posting server status logs, and these revealed a reboot because of a full system log. It also showed some services were no longer available after the restart. According to the wires, Microsoft blamed the outages on technical difficulties caused by storms in the Seattle area. Round one of the cracker challenged clearly goes to the weather, then. Not that many real cracker seem keen on the challenge -- not only is there no prize for a successful hack, but many people disregarded Microsoft's challenge as a cynical attempt to get some testing done for free. ® LinuxPPC's challenge server is here
Tony Smith, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Govt e-commerce stand under attack – again

There's further pressure on the government today to rethink its stand on e-commerce following the publication of an open letter by the campaigning group Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK). In an open letter to the heads of IBM and BT, Cyber-Rights claims that employees of BT and Big Bleugh helped advise the government on key policy areas. While it applauds the work done to drop key escrow, Cyber-Rights warns that other measures could infringe civil liberties. "The proposals that have emerged from this work, in which your representatives were involved, are beneficial to the extent that they have removed the immediate threat of key escrow," wrote Dr Brian Gladman, technology policy adviser at Cyber-rights. "But worrying provisions remain for government access to decryption keys and these will have serious privacy and civil rights consequences if they persist in their current form," he said. A spokesman for IBM confirmed it had advised the government and had given technical advice on certain aspects of the bill. But he said that people should recognise the contribution IBM and others made to the increased level of debate over this issue. Yesterday, the Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA) -- the UK trade organisation for ISPs -- criticised the ecommerce bill and said too much emphasis was placed on policing the Net and not enough was being spent on e-commerce itself. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Alpha Coppa not a stonking whoppa

All this year, we have reported that IBM will make copper Alphas for Compaq. Even at Eckhard Pfeiffer's valedictory London showing at the Landmark Hotel, the story still had four legs. But the denials of the European director of Compaq's Alpha corporation earlier this week that it had copper samples from IBM may be just that. Denials. Sources close to the Big Q said today that it had received samples from IBM, which are in the Compaq Houston campus as we speak. That flies in the face of Richard George, Alpha marketing director of Europe, who said earlier this week no such thing existed. The engineers who reported this to The Register said they were still evaluating such samples. IBM had no comment at press time. And as we went to press on this story, more details of the EV67 bus came to light, including benchmarks. The 21264A on the EV67 bus clocks at 666MHz, has a SPECint95 of 37.5 and a SPECfp95 of 65.5. That compares to the 21264 EV6 at 500, 26.9, and 52.2 respectively. Out of order execution, wethinks... ®
Mike Magee, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

IBM to debut ‘Gigaprocessor’ CPU at Hot Chips

IBM will next week unveil its latest Power CPU, the chip line that formed the basis for the PowerPC family. The Power4 processor will beat Motorola to the goal of unveiling a multi-core PowerPC chip. According to EE Times, Power4 will contain two cores and an L2 cache on a single die constructed using a 0.18 micron process and copper interconnect technology. The chip is scheduled to be unveiled at a paper given at the Hot Chips conference next week. Members of the chip's development team said the chip will support a bus speed of greater than 500MHz, and while they would not confirm the chip's clock speed, they did say their goal was a bus speed half the frequency of the clock speed, clearly implying CPU speeds of 1GHz or more. That suggests that the Power4 is the so-called 'Gigaprocessor' outlined by the project's head, Charles Moore, at the Microprocessor Forum last October. When quizzed about the difference between a server-oriented CPU and a more general microprocessor, Moore pointed to the former's high level of reliability, extended multi-processing capability, very high I/O bandwidth and focus on minimising memory latency -- the imbalance in speed between processor, system bus and RAM. According to the latest reports, the Power4 is designed to support 32-way MP systems, using 16 of the dual-core chips. The processor is due to ship in 2001, which may well put it behind Motorola's multi-core version of the PowerPC G4, codenamed v'ger, which is due late 2000. That said, it looks likely IBM will unveil its chip before Motorola, which has yet to officially release the initial, single-core iteration of the G4. That launch is due to take place "sometime in the third quarter", according to Motorola PowerPC marketing manager Will Swearingen. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

MS considers free Net access for US

Widespread free Internet access could be coming to the US sooner than everyone expected, thanks to Microsoft's latest aggressive plans to attack AOL. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, MS bosses are at the very least looking at low-cost Net access. "We intend to be aggressive with access," said Brad Chase, VP of Microsoft's new consumer and commerce group. The effect of UK free ISP Freeserve on AOL UK can't have passed Microsoft's leaders by, so it's not hard to imagine the company taking a similar approach. After all, bundling free Net access isn't so different from bundling free Net access software. The only snag would be Department of Justice concern. That would suggest that if the company does opt for the no-charge route, it would be tied solely into MSN. According to the WSJ, MS is even considering partnering of acquiring indpendent ISPs to provide the back-up for such a service. Mindspring and EarthLink were two major ISPs mentioned by sources close to Microsoft, the paper revealed. That should worry Apple, for one -- EarthLink is one of the few major US ISPs that are Mac friendly. It has also be closely linked with the Mac maker's own plan to break into the ISP business. Some ISPs in the US are already offering subscription-free access, so Microsoft's latest posturing could be designed to hurry things along in the spat over instant messaging (IM). Last week, Microsoft and others wrote to AOL calling for the adoption of an industry standard on IM as soon as possible. The deadline for AOL's reply is tomorrow. ®
The Register breaking news

NT faces RISCy future

Both Intel and Microsoft will have to take a back seat to RISC this year, according to research from IDC. The company also predicts a compound growth rate of over six per cent in the server market. Microsoft's NT will continue to be the low end product of choice, but will fail to make the leap to the lucrative mid-range market due to unreliability. Instead, RISC-based machines will continue to dominate. IDC says that Linux is also likely to gain ground over the next few years. Despite not being fully standardised, and only accounting for a minority of server sales, the open source product is being recognised as a useful and viable business tool with particular relevance in the appliance server market. Intel's new IA64 will have a rocky start, again thanks to RISC. Initially, RISC chips will ship in greater numbers despite the theoretically superior design –- Explicitly Parallel Instruction Set Computing (EPIC) -- of the new chip from Intel. The upcoming end of century is having an effect on the market too. IDC says that the over all market in 1999 is expected to slow significantly as businesses postponed new purchases until after the date change. Martin Hingly, research director at IDC commented: "If they’ve already tested and certified their systems as compatible, many won’t buy again until after the new year." The way to beat this slump, he says, is for vendors to start work on next millennium solutions. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Tosh develops combo CD/DVD drive

Toshiba has developed a product that combines a CD rewritable drive with DVD storage. Toshiba's new SD-R1002 drive, classified as a 4x-4x-24x model, reads and writes CD-RW and CD-R media at 4x speeds, reads DVD-ROMs at 4x speeds, and reads CD-ROM discs at a 24x clip. DVD-ROM seek times still somewhat longer than CD-ROM: 140ms compared to 105ms. DVD has become hugely popular during the last year, as has the CD-RW format, according to Kathy Longfellow, a senior product marketing manager at Toshiba. "However, our customers have been forced to choose between technologies," she says. Toshiba will use the retail market as a testing ground for the new product before it ships to OEMs in Q4. The company hopes it will prove popular enough to prompt several design wins. Mary Bourdon, an analyst at Dataquest, expects Toshiba to licence the technology, in particular the combination read head, which can process the different light wavelengths generated by the CD and DVD formats. The kit will certainly ship for less than $400, according to Toshiba. But analysts feel that a sub-$300 or even sub $200 price tag would be better. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Memory Corp turns last year's loss into Q2 profit

Second quarter figures from Memory Corp tell a happier tale than this time last year. For Q2 99, MemCorp turned a loss of $926,000 (Q2 98) into an operating profit of $474,000. Profit after tax was $52,000. Year-on-year turnover was up from $10.8 million last Q2 to an impressive $40.1 million for the three months ending 2 July this year. That represents an increase of 370 per cent on last year and 11 per cent up on the previous quarter. The company pointed to the release of its FSC2 Flash Controller as one of the quarter's high spots and forecast big sales for its MP3-GO ahead of Christmas. The company's chief executive, David Savage, said: "I am pleased to report that Memory has continued to make progress in the execution of its stated goals during the first eight months on EASDAQ." ®
Sean Fleming, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

How Sun can Magic away Apple's consumer success

Analysis While everyone was talking this week about FreeMac.com's upcoming million-Mac giveaway, an announcement that will have far more impact on Apple seems to have passed them by. Sun Microsystems said it is working on a super-chip for Internet access devices. Dubbed the Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing (MAJC -- or 'Magic' -- for short), Sun's processor design promises a major leap forward in processing power at a price point way below today's desktop CPUs. Of course, with FreeMac.com's offer due to kick off in less than a month's time -- Magic won't even enter volume production until next year -- and tying in nicely with the pundits' 'flavour of the month' topic, the free PC, it's not hard to see why it grabbed all the headlines. IT industry watchers have been keenly tracking the emergence of the free PC model ever since FreePC.com (no relation, apparently) began offering gratis computers in exchange for a multi-year commitment to its ISP partner and an agreement to be bombarded with online advertising. FreeMac.com's offer isn't even the first time a free-computer company has chosen to hand out Macs: New York ISP OneStop Communications did that back in February. Still, the free PC concept continues to generate plenty of interest among consumers, and that in turn is forcing the major PC vendors, including Apple for all Steve Jobs' dismissive MacWorld Expo comments, to take notice. Some manufacturers, such as Compaq, have even been sufficiently concerned by the trend -- though it's debatable whether half a dozen small PC vendors really constitute a trend -- to experiment with it themselves. The point is, the need not be worried by it, and they certainly shouldn't give the business credibility by getting in on the act themselves. In essence, the point is that free PCs can only makes sense as a business model if they're very, very cheap. The cheaper they are, the lower the margins the vendor makes on each box, and so the more ISP subs they have to sell to make the deal work. And the fact is, because these machines are PCs, there's only so far that manufacturers can go to bring down the cost of each unit. And if the cost of Internet access also shrinks, that makes it even harder to fund the purchase of the PCs you, as an ISP, intend to give away. So the free PCs is essentially no more a threat to Apple than any other sub-$500 box, which, once you've factored in the cost of a monitor and other essential add-ons, isn't that much cheaper than an iMac anyway. But what if all those cut-price Internet access boxes -- of whatever form, and whether they're free or not -- aren't PCs? Suddenly, the game changes, and this is why the Sun Magic announcement is important not the current crop of cheap and/or free computers aren't. Almost all computing devices currently designed for Internet access are, like the iMac, general purpose personal computers dusted down and marketed at Net-hungry consumers. This shouldn't surprise anyone, since PCs have to date been the best way of getting on line -- the Internet is, after all, just another network to hook your client computer up to. However, that's changing. Firstly, the perception that the Internet is just another computing application is breaking down. Instead, the Net is being transformed into a medium for new forms of commerce and new forms of communication -- it's gone way beyond the super LAN that it was developed to be. So it's no wonder that so many consumers are buying the iMac not as a personal productivity tool -- ie. a computer -- but simply as an Internet access device. At the same time, new kinds of device are being given network connectivity in general and Internet compatibility in particular, from the next generation of digital mobile phones to handheld gadgets like the Palm. The upshot of all this is that what matters is getting on the Net, rather than how you get online. If a $200 box connected to your TV provides the same access to email, QuickTime TV and Web-based homeshopping as a $1000 PC, why bother with the latter? Of course, plenty of users do need a general purpose PC as well as an Internet terminal, so there will always be room for the iMac in the market. However, consumer sales will fall back to where they were before the advent of the Internet, and for an increasingly consumer-oriented company like Apple, that could spell real trouble. Sun's Magic enters the picture by providing a very powerful yet cheap (company insiders reckon the chip will ship for around $50) platform for this new generation of Internet access devices -- aka iMac killers. Magic was designed as an Internet-oriented multimedia processor, handling streamed video and audio, 3D graphics, and communications data efficiently and quickly. In that respect, it follows the trend set by Intel with its MMX multimedia extensions and more recently by Motorola's AltiVec technology, set to debut real soon now in the PowerPC G4. The difference is that Magic has been developed afresh with features like these well integrated into the core, whereas older chips, including the G4, have had them bolted onto previous architectures. Magic has also been designed for multi-processing and will support, like the next-but-one generation of the PowerPC, multiple CPUs cores on a single chip. Magic will ultimately compete with Internet appliance reference designs from a wide range of hardware companies, but it has the advantage that it's based on technology designed for the job rather than older PC-oriented processors, and it can leverage all that Java programming experience out there -- though it's important to remember that Magic isn't a Java-only gig; it will also run compiled C and C++ code. It has to be said that Sun has yet to release full details of the MAJC system and what it can, in reality, do -- that's going to happen next week at the HotChips semiconductor industry conference. But if Magic delivers only half of what Sun is promising, it will still form the basis for some very smart Internet access devices -- devices, more to the point, more than capable of matching the performance of top-end consumer computers. And that could well make it very difficult for Apple to sell iMacs. So forget all this guff about free PCs -- the real challenge to Apple's pricing, hardware and consumer strategies will come in 18 months' time when the first Magic-based machines appear. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

MS ready to take free ISP battle into US

Microsoft could be ready to undermine AOL's position in the US as the leading dial-up Internet service provider. The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft is looking to offer dial-up access cheaper than the $21.95 monthly fee currently charged by AOL. There is also speculation that Microsoft may even go as far as to scrap subscription tariffs -- a move that could spark a subscription-free inferno in the US similar to the Freeserve firestorm in the UK. One Microsoft exec was quoted as saying that the software giant "intends to be aggressive with access." AOL is reported to be ready for anything Microsoft can throw at them. While a growing number of ISPs in the US are offering subscription-free access, Microsoft's latest posturing could be designed to hurry things along in the spat over instant messaging (IM). Last week Microsoft and others wrote to AOL calling for the adoption of an industry standard on IM as soon as possible. The deadline for AOL's reply is tomorrow. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Former Compaq sales director joins Fujitsu

Former Compaq UK channel sales director, Ian Jackson, has turned up at Fujitsu. Less than a month after Fujitsu lost its UK sales director, Frank O'Brien, Jackson is in place as head of the company's UK channel sales division. O'Brien left Fujitsu to pursue other opportunities. Jackson left Compaq to take up the post of MD at Tiny, the direct selling PC vendor, but his tenure did not last long. According to Fujitsu, Jackson will be concentrating on beefing up its channel and focussing on recent successes in less than obvious channels. The Japanese-owned PC manufacturer has signed up deals with Tesco, Safeway, Texaco and others in its search to find alternative channels to market. ®
Sean Fleming, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel Coppermine: the facts emerge

After we filed Peter Sherriff's earlier story about Coppermine being delayed because of marchitecture rather than architecture issues, an Intel engineer in Israel has emailed us to put the record straight. (Story: Intel Cumine delay caused by fear of AMD) At the same time, she also commented on our stories about AMD's process in Dresden. Our source, who wishes to stay anonymous because she wants to keep her job, but who is nevertheless, extremely reliable, said: "I can assure you that Coppermine's delay had nothing to do with marketing. For once, Intel's PR is telling the truth. There was a RASH of unexpected problems with it, mostly due to last minute problems hitting the frequency target." She said that Dixons early success was because it failed to fully exploit the .18 micron P858 process. Coppermine, which does (or perhaps should) fully exploit P858, showed a number of problems with both process and design. Coppermine will launch at 667MHz because of the holdover P856 version, she said. Intel will take a rather standoffish position towards AMD's Athlon, she said. There will be no official reaction while architects, engineers and designers "fab out" (make) faster and faster Cumines until Willamette emerges. And the engineer further claimed that there is nothing in AMD's Fab 30 that Intel hasn't already tried. However, she added, Intel doesn't promise things it can't produce... Hmmm... Flip chip technology is in place all over the place at Intel, she said, since the Pentium II/350. (We do remember that our old friends at IBM Microelectronics were talking about this flip chip technology in 1992. Where is Mr La Rosa these days? Is Via gonna buy IBM too? This chip stuff is dead tricky, init?) ®
Mike Magee, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

3i drums beat for Jungle Online

3i is shelling out £10 million for a 20 per cent stake in new web retailer Jungle Online. Opening its virtual doors for business on August 18, Jungle Online is the latest wheeze of Steve Bennett, serial entrepreneur and boss of Software Warehouse, one of the UK’s most successful IT retailers/mail-order operations. Jungle Online will be more than a IT retailer – the operation is likened a department store selling everything from consumer electronics to wine and music. Everything will be transacted over the web, including post-sales service. But the company will be an example of what ecommerce gurus are now calling clicks and mortar operations. With Software Warehouse’s backing, Jungle Online will have the distribution infrastructure in place from day one. We found out about the new business last month, after picking up on gossip in the direct channel. Bennett, who we like, gave us some info about his web retailing plans, but asked us to lay off publication, until launch date. And for once, we agreed. Deal's now off -- the story -- sans financing details -- appeared on PC Dealer today, courtesy of "a source close to Bennett". ® Daily Net finance news from The Register
Drew Cullen, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

FortuneCity founder chases silver surfers

FortuneCity co-founder Richard Jones has recruited his former boss, VNU publisher Ben Tisdall to run his latest venture, a community site for the over-50s. We’ll give you more details of the silver servers...as soon as we get them. Word from former colleagues is that Jones no longer plays an active role at FortuneCity, where he used to be managing director. Once upon a time, Thirty-something Jones was a computer journalist -- in the early 90s he was Tisdall’s deputy on Personal Computer Magazine, a long defunct VNU title. This is where I'm supposed to declare my interest (I've read those Maoist self-criticism ethics torture sessions conducted by American hacks): Tisdall was my boss too, for three months or so, on the same rag, and Jones was my replacement. Jones moved much further up the publishing ladder, on joining EMAP. Here, he launched Network Week in the UK, now a CMP title that looks destined for the chop, when it gets taken over by VNU on August 9. Jones is an example to hacks everywhere – he made a killing from FortuneCity’s Neuer Markt IPO earlier this year. His 6.7 per cent stake was worth $23 million on IPO day but, last time we checked, has since fallen to a measly $17 million. Presumably, he’s salted some more away by releasing shares at second stage finance and IPO times. Some of which will find its way into the new business. And if I've got any of this wrong, Richard, you'll know where you can find me. ® See also: Daily Net finance news from The Register
Drew Cullen, 05 Aug 1999
Eve in the Garden of Eden talking to a rather angry God on Snapchat

Computers kill Brits

It's official -- computers are killing us. We Brits are in the throes of a love affair with technology , but it will all end in tears. We have so many computers, mobile phones and other gadgets that we are now ahead of the US when it comes to how frantic and stressful our lives are.
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Softbank closes $600 million VC fund

That most curious Japanese company, Softbank, has capped SBTV V, its spanking new Net VC fund at $600 million. This is nearly twice as much as SBTV IV, the previous fund, which invested in 40 or so Net companies. Softbank is a computer distributor-cum VC which owns ZiffDavis; which, until this week, owned DRAM company Kingston Technology; and which still owns slugs of E*Trade and Yahoo!. ZD should be a hugely valuable Net stock, once it gets the hang of making profits. In its current state, the company is described by one analyst as a "debt-bloated carcass". The Register likes this quote. A lot. ZD generates a lot of revenues. But boy, does it know how to lose money, too. Look at ZD UK, for example. It lost a jaw-dropping £24 million in 1997. Word from rival publishers is that ZD UK was in the red to the tune of £27 million in 1998. But boy, does it know how to throw a party for its advertisers. So far as the share price is concerned, investors are pinning the blame on ZD's print history. Last month, Softbank announced its intention to divest ZD's paper interests. This should earn a decent short-term return for Softbank, while maintaining -- or increasing the value of its investment in a slimmed-down ZD(Net). Softbank's 1995 Kingston purchase -- weird at the time -- misfired disastrously. This month, Kingston's founders bought back Softbank's 80 per cent share in the company for $450 million, around a third of what they eventually sold it for. (The initial £1.8 billion headline price was chiselled down to around $1.2 billion following a memory price fall which turned, after the deal was completed, into a lot of a slump). So what about Yahoo! and E*Trade. Some people have expressed concern with revenue deals between with ZD and Yahoo! (Check the debt-bloated carcass link above, if you're interested). But by most people's books these investments have been unadulterated successes for Softbank. ® See also: Daily Net finance news from The Register
Drew Cullen, 05 Aug 1999