8th > August > 1999 Archive

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Cyrix layoffs confirmed at Richardson, Arlington

Reports reached The Register early today that National/Cyrix fired over 160 employees from Richardson and Arlington late Friday. We will confirm whether or not such layoffs occurred tomorrow, although Mark Hachman at TechWeb reported Friday confirmation of the cuts from NatSemi-Via. There are also some comments about the layoffs here, which suggest the reason for the cheap price Via paid is because it didn't want the technology, just the intellectual property. Towards the end of last week, Via said it would buy IDT's Centaur business, as reported here. But, at the same time, we pointed out the cores of Cyrix processors and IDT WinChip processors are completely different. All last week, rumours were circulating that the NatSemi-Via deal was off -- but those were scotched when both inked a letter of intent mid-week. According to the unconfirmed sources, those remaining at Cyrix will lose their jobs towards at the end of August, just as the Gobi and MII were due to start going into production. If the reports are true, that means the M3 project will enter the shadowy underworld of failed processor projects. And it also appears Via thinks the Centaur core is better than anything Cyrix can offer. This is, possibly, a big mistake. One source extremely close to the company's plans said: "It is well known within Cyrix that Centaur's products cannot even make it through a 24 hour application/OS/compatibility stress test in Cyrix's labs. In contrast, AMD's products make it through a couple of days, the Cyrix MII goes four to five days, and Intel manages five to six days." ® See also Why does Via want Centaur technology? Via to buy IDT's Centaur NatSemi-Via ink $167 million deal
The Register breaking news

Last week in review

For a full list of the 130+ stories we wrote last week, including all the Bootnotes & Gossip, go here Semiconductors dominated the The Register's coverage last week, in the build up to AMD's big Athlon K7 announcement tomorrow/Tuesday. At the start of the week, Intel showed itself slightly confused over the Celeron 100MHz Frontside Bus. Although there is a slide on its own site showing it will start to support the higher bus speed as early as Q3, representatives said it wouldn't. By the end of the week, Intel had still not clarified the position but as predicted here two weeks earlier, comprehensively slashed prices on its existing Celeron range as it intro'd a 500MHz flavour. AMD arranged for a raft of Euro PC journalists to go to its Fab 30 semiconductor plant in Dresden, Germany. Here, we were told that AMD had successfully produced the K6 in copper, given some details about how it will position the K7 at the high end, but not shown round the fab itself. Just the week before, AMD's CFO confirmed it was attempting to find a partner to help finance Fab 30. Speculation favoured Motorola rather than Intel. The German language version of AMD's Dresden house magazine showed CEO Jerry Sanders III putting two fingers up, prompting a discussion that the gesture was devised when English longbowmen trashed French knights at Agincourt. Via confirmed it was buying Cyrix last week, while sources told us that Rise had laid off staff in its Taiwanese office. Towards the end of the week, Via surprised everyone by announcing it would buy IDT, and we speculated on how that might work, given the chip cores were completely different. Late Friday, Via apparently resolved that conundrum by laying off Richardson and Arlington Cyrix staff... The wonderful world of the wibbly wobbly worldwide Web was also fast and furious last week. AOL tried to grab the headlines with a stream of initiatives including putting Net terminals into kinemas and shops, and striking deals with Fujitsu for so-called Free PCs. BOL gave away £100,000 worth of books on its site, generating so much demand that the whole site fell over. The UK government got repeated stick during the whole week for its e-commerce policy. In the middle of the week, it looked as though all the world and its dog was beginning to believe that Internet stocks and shares were overvalued. A stack of Net IPOs slumped on Wall Street, while later in the week, Microsoft put out its stall, mooting free net access for MSN. This received a lukewarm welcome from the world and its dogs. It was a relatively quiet week on the software side. Bill Gates and his philanthropic ways received some attention, while there was some discussion about the up-and-coming IPO of Linux distributor Red Hat. A report from IDC suggested that NT wasn't growing as fast as some people thought it might, challenged by -- you guessed it -- Linux. On Friday, IBM extended its support for Linux, yet again. ®
The Register breaking news

AMD manages to undercut Intel on K7 pricing

William Henning, over at CPU Review, has performed a price comparison between Intel Pentium IIIs and the up-and-coming Athlon K7. The interesting thing is that the comparison is based on retail and not 1,000 pricing, and it shows that the Athlon is, by and large, cheaper than Pentium IIIs. The one exception is at the 600MHz level, which was going to be the sweet spot for AMD. However, it is now being widely reported that when AMD intros the Athlon K7 tomorrow/Tuesday, it will announce a 650MHz processor too. Meanwhile over at JC's hardware site, there are reports that AMD will have a clear lead over Intel on the MHz front for as much as five months. ®
The Register breaking news

Motorola unwraps Linux strategy

Motorola will later today announce a new strategy centred on Linux and with the backing of Linux distributor Caldera Systems and sister company, Lineo, as predicted here. That said, the programme isn't quite as far reaching as some observers had hoped. Motorola Computer Group (MCG) will announce two Linux-based server systems, both aimed at its OEM customers. Moves to increase the availability of Linux on the PowerPC platform are not part of the deal, nor does it tie Lineo's embedded version of Linux, dubbed Embeddix, into any of Motorola's other processor families. Instead, MCG will offer the SLX family "network appliances", essentially Net access servers for small-business LANs along the lines of products already offered by US-based TeamInternet and, in the UK, Inty. MCG's plan is to sell the box to telecoms OEMs, who can then sell them on as part of an overall Net connectivity package. The SLX-2010 is based on a 333MHz Celeron CPU; the SLX-2020 on a 450MHz Pentium III, and the rest of the spec. -- 10/100 Ethernet, two "I/O ports" (serial and parallel, presumably), floppy drive, CD-ROM drive and 6.8GB hard disk -- reveals that these are just standard PCs squeezed into rack-mount cases. Interestingly, MCG said both SLX boxes may be ordered with Caldera's OpenLinux installed. That suggests the choice of OS is being left to the customer, which is hardly a ringing endorsement for Caldera on MCG's part. The other part of the MCG/Linux announcement is its line of emS x86-based "embedded" servers, and this time its Cobalt that MCG appears to be gunning for, selling the boxes to ISPs, medium-sized businesses and the like. The emS family consists of rack-mounted server modules based on either 450MHz or 500MHz Pentium III processors and ATX form-factor motherboards, which provide all the usual desktop PC components: irDA, USB, serial and parallel ports; 10/100 Ethernet; three PCI slot, one shared PCI/ISA slot and one ISA slot; 32x CD-ROM; 4MB AGP graphics card; 9GB SCSI hard drive; and an UltraWide SCSI port. Most server applications won't need half of this stuff, but we guess MCG feels it just has to throw them in anyway. Again, the systems will be powered by Caldera's OpenLinux, and the good news for Motorola's other subsidiaries is that MCG is planning to offer "PowerPC Compact PCI products, Passive PCI products, PowerPC motherboard products and PowerPC VME products" -- so at least Moto's own chips aren't being entirely left out in the cold. MCG's support for Lineo's Embeddix will emerge more clearly as the company extends the emS line into real embedded server markets beyond the Net server arena targeted by the initial models. MCG will provide OEMs with Lineo's Embeddix SDK. ®