11th > August > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Intel invites Linux developers to help spend $200 million

Only 10 per cent of Intel's IA-64 funding cash is taken so far, chairman Andy Grove told delegates at Linux World yesterday. That means it has at least a staggering $200 million left, a full three months after it started the IA-64 fund. (Story: Intel in desperate cash bid to push Merced) It also means there's lots of money available for Linux programmers to try their hand at building parallel applications for the up-and-coming 64-bit Merced chip, he said. Grove said the world can expect to see Merced silicon in the next few weeks. Intel demonstrated the Linux OS running on a Merced simulator. His right hand man, senior VP Sean Maloney, told the audience that Intel will move to further support the Linux OS, including providing testing at some of its IA-64 facilities. An Intel representative reacted vigorously to any suggestion the IA-64 fund was not successful. He said: "You don't just throw $250 million around, you evaluate the huge range of potential candidates for investment - because of the broad nature of potential uses on the iA64 architecture. All of this takes time - the first investments have been made and more will follow." He added: "Contrary to a serious lack of interest" the Intel 64 fund has been welcomed by the both the developer and corporate user communities" He said that on June 22nd, the Intel 64 Fund made investments in its first five companies and the group of corporate users now includes the Boeing Company and Enron who have joined the Intel 64 Fund as investors. The fund, he added, was one of several Intel and industry programs intended to enable broad adoption of the IA-64 platform, starting with the Merced processor. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony stops shipping ‘X-ray vision’ camera

A year ago From The Register No. 90 -- a year ago Sony says it has halted shipments of a video camera that can see through clothes, and no, this does not appear to be a publicity stunt. Just shy of a million of these - now intensely valuable - units have gone out of the door, but Sony, which says it knew nothing of the interesting application of its camera until magazines tipped it off, has modified the feature so it only does what it was supposed to do. The Handycam uses infrared to allow shots to be made in darkness, but apparently if you use it in daylight or a lighted room with a special filter it can see through clothes, especially thin ones and swimsuits. Sony is hard-wiring the camera so it only works in the dark, but if you're lying on the beach and you see somebody filming you intensely, worry. ®
John Lettice, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Now Intel-IDT enter cross-licensing frenzy

A low-key announcement in what would have emanated from a smoke-filled room if it happened thirty years back has resulted in Intel signing a cross licensing deal with IDT, which still owns the x.86 Centaur intellectual property (IP). The Register has learned that IDT will make a statement about this deal tomorrow. Last week, Taiwanese chipset firm Via said it would buy IDT's flagging Centaur WinChip business, and also announced it would have access to the x.86 IP. And towards the end of last week, NatSemi (or was it Via), terminated half the Cyrix engineers, spelling doom for the up and coming M3 technology. Intel and IDT are keeping details of the cross licensing deal they signed yesterday close to their corporate chests. Intel is going to pay $20.5 million to IDT for licences granted under the agreement. The statement said: "..the two companies have entered into a cross-license agreement that enables each company to utilize the intellectual property (IP) covered by the other's patents. Under the terms of the agreement, both companies will license each other's technologies with certain exceptions." What those exceptions are, only Intel, IDT and their lawyers know, because the terms of the agreement are secret squirrel. But Pat "Kicking" Gelsinger, VP and GM of Intel's desktop products group, said, rather obviously: "Intellectual property is a key ingredient to success in our industry. This new agreement provides the design engineers of both Intel and IDT with greater flexibility as they design new products, enabling both companies to better serve customers' requirements." And the licensing deal "releases both Intel and IDT from any past infringement associated with the licensed intellectual property". It could be nothing to do with x.86 technology, but with SRAM technology (which IDT still develops), but the world and its dog have no way of knowing. There is some interesting game going on here. Intel and Via are currently in the middle of a bitter legal dispute, with Chipzilla claiming that the Taiwanese firm has breached its patents... ® See also Via claims National to blame for Cyrix layoffs Cyrix M3 Athlon Killer strangled at birth by Via Cyrix layoffs confirmed at Richardson, Arlington Why does Via want Centaur technology? Via to buy IDT's Centaur NatSemi-Via ink $167 million Cyrix deal Via-AMD finalise chipset deal NatSemi rolls out Information Appliance chip (which talks about the unfortunate Cyrix staff)
Mike Magee, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Chip firms FUD end users over .18µm v .25µm technology

A reader of The Register has highlighted the level of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) chip companies are generating by using the micron (µm) word in their spin doctoring. A few days ago, the reader said he was about to buy a notebook PC and had heard that Intel had introduced a .18µm processor for the mobile market. But when he approached his favoured vendor, the PC firm was unable to tell him which machines used mobile .25µm and which .18.µm microprocessors. He said: "Here's my problem. I want to get a laptop with the .18µm mobile PII processor, but I have no clue how to tell which manufacturers are using the .18 version and which are using the .25 version. We have some .25µ 366MHz PII's and they run *dang* hot, so I know I don't want the 400MHz version of the same. The .18µm version should be real nice, if I can be sure I'm getting one. "So, do any of you know who's using what? My account rep at Dell told me they are using the .25µm chip and won't switch to the .18µm chip until the Cumine PIII comes out, which is (now) going to be in November. I don't want to have to wait that long." An Intel representative commented: "Thereis no way for an end user to differentiate, dual availability is more targeted at transition management of corporate users/manufacturers - performance is comparable, but .18µm is obviously the start point for the faster mobile processors to come." In other words, you can't tell. Now that the megahertz thing seems to be fixed in people's minds, the chip manufacturers -- and both AMD and Intel are guilty here -- seem to want the world to think about microns and sub-microns and the difference thereof. In reality, as every PC user knows, the performance of a machine is based on a combination of factors including hard drive speed, memory type and speed, graphics card as well as the microprocessor. For some reason, everyone has got fixated on the chips. Some of us here at The Reg are even obsessive-compulsive about the subject... ®
Mike Magee, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq fears for $7 billion if Taiwan and China fight

Earlier this year, after dickering over prices, Compaq struck a deal with 16 Taiwanese firms worth an estimated $7 billion. (Story: Compaq strikes $7 billion Taiwan supply deal) The Houston-based outfit was keen to ensure it could knock around 15 per cent off its supply chain so it could compete with the Great Stan of Hardware (Dell). And now, in an interview with the Bloomberg wire, the head of Compaq's Greater Chinese Division has expressed unease over the continuing tension between Red China and Taiwan ROC. According to Bloomberg, Larry Fox, a VP of Compaq's unit, said: "If a war does happen, it will affect a lot of people". He explained that Compaq had bought many products from Taiwan and those businesses have subsidiaries on the mainland. Compaq also has subsidiaries there. He is hoping that common sense will prevail. So, too, are the 26 million folk who live on the island, of which very few want to be part of Red China. Taiwan was pretty much left to its own devices until the leaders and the rump of the Republic of China forces fled there after being trounced by Mao's People's Liberation Army (PLA). A number of other major manufacturers, including IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Sharp, Philips &c. &c would also be badly hurt, economically, by such a conflict. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

No more deals behind closed doors – EU tells NSI

Network Solutions (NSI) may be forced to cough up ten per cent of its annual sales if found guilty of abusing its monopoly position as a domain name registrar. The US company is still under investigation by the EU and US authorities who are worried that some of the licensing deals between NSI and the five would-be registrars may be anti-competitive. The European Commissioner responsible for competition, Karel Van Miert, decided to open the enquiry after receiving informal complaints regarding NSI's alleged abuse of its dominant position. There were also complaints against the licensing agreements themselves and problems in the implementation of the agreements, according to an EU statement. A spokesperson for Commissioner Van Miert told The Register the EU was unable to disclose complainants' details. There is apparent concern that because some aspects of NSI's deals are not out in the open, the company could be raising prices, or even putting clauses into agreements to stop customers from dealing with future NSI rivals. Van Miert's representative said the EU had powers to ask NSI to refrain from unlawful behaviour, if found guilty. Should NSI not comply with its wishes, the EU has the power to fine the company 10 per cent of its global annual turnover. NSI made over $93 million in sales for the year ended 31 December 1998. The EU said the anti-trust enquiry was part of its overall monitoring to ensure the openness of the Internet. ®
Linda Harrison, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Novell makes pirate walk the plank

Novell is suing a man for copyright and trademark infringement after he allegedly tried to flog almost $48,000 worth of illegal software over the Net. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges that Gregg Olsen of Plainview, NY, tried to sell a pirate version of NetWare using the Yahoo! auction site. When Novell investigators made a test purchase they found a fake license diskette for 1,000 users along with a NetWare 4.11 operating system CD. The total retail value of the product was said to be worth almost $48,000. "We have refocused our efforts in combating piracy to include those individuals who are offering illegal Novell products over the Internet," said David Bradford, senior VP and general counsel for Novell. "This will continue as a priority for us as long as people use the Internet as a vehicle to abuse our products and programmes," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

HP thrashing Umax in scanner market

Survey A survey by PC Data on the retail scanner market said that HP is "eclipsing" Taiwanese firm Umax. Ouch! The spin doctors had better be careful they don't overuse this word too much, today, else they'll get a thrashing... According to PC Data, HP's move to compete in the retail market has meant it doubled its unit share from 13 per cent in June 1998 to 26 per cent in June this year. But while the retail market for scanners has rocketed, any company playing in the field is seeing declining margins, with retail prices steadily dropping. PC Data says that unit sales in the sub-$100 market represent 62 per cent of the total units sold retail, compared to 39 per cent in the same period last year. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Online shopping appeals to third of all Net users

A third of all people online regularly buy things off the Net according to a study by US-based CDB Research & Consulting. It claims consumers are using ecommerce to order everything from travel bargains to laxatives and says that the floodgates (of e-commerce, that is) are officially open. The most common purchases are inexpensive items such as books, CDs and small gifts. It also maintains that Internauts are happy to purchase expensive items such as PCs, cars and airline tickets. "When it comes to ecommerce, consumers clearly prefer well-defined items -- those with which they are already familiar," said Ann Middleman, VP at CDB Research & Consulting. "Online shoppers tend to stick to known quantities -- a John Grisham book is a John Grisham book and a ticket to Chicago is a ticket to Chicago." The study also revealed few differences between the way men and women use ecommerce although it discovered that women were more likely to use the Web because it is convenient. Men, it seems, are keener to use it for those hard-to-find purchases. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

SGI pledges ‘major commitment’ to Linux

SGI claimed yesterday it was making "a major commitment" to Linux -- the biggest from any major computer vendor -- following its announcement of its latest major restructure. That commitment, said company execs speaking at a press conference this evening, is to move all of its software technologies over to the open source OS and into the open source community, as SGI itself shifts away from IRIX and toward Linux. Beau Vrolyk, senior VP of SGI's computer systems business unit, said: "Linux has 12 million users worldwide and is being installed at a rate of one million new installs per month -- faster than all the other Unix-like OSes put together. Linux is better for our customers than any proprietary operating system, so we'll be merging technology out of IRIX and into Linux." While he didn't admit that meant IRIX would ultimately die off, that's effectively what this strategy means, in as much as Linux will eventually offer the same features as IRIX, so there won't be any real reason to support SGI's currently proprietary Unix derivative. NT won't be eased out, said Vrolyk. "NT remains a successful OS from the most powerful software developer in the world. Customers have already chosen between NT and Unix depending on what applications they want to run." Those who choose Unix, will then make a decision whether to adopt IRIX or Linux, he added. SGI also said within nine months it would unveil a new hardware architecture which will offer both MIPS and Intel CPUs, and IRIX and Linux operating systems. "It will give is a 2x speed advantage and a 3x cost reduction," said Vrolyk. MIPS machines will continue to be offered until 2002 -- the current limit of the chip developer's roadmap. "There's no back off from our MIPS/IRIX support," said CEO Rick Belluzzo. SGI's focus on emerging broadband Internet applications, as hinted at in the initial restructure announcement, centres on the emerging scope consumers have for high bandwidth Net connections through DSL and cable modems, said Vrolyk. However, he admitted that the company was coming at the issue from the server end, rather than the client. Vrolyk confirmed that SGI's donation of its graphics technologies to nVidia was essentially about passing the graphics R&D burden over the 3D specialist, which, he said, would be developing products based on SGI technology not only for the mainstream PC market but would be creating systems "only for us". "nVidia will be concentrating on the low-end modules within the graphics pipeline," he said. "SGI will be focusing on the large scale architectures that contain those low-end modules." This is not a weakening of SGI's technology, he stressed, since every SGI machine will still be based exclusively on SGI intellectual property. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Amazon to expand into Japan

Amazon.com will extend its geographical presence with the formation of a Japanese subsidiary, Japan's Asahi newspaper reported today. The online store will open within the year and focus on the company's gadget sales business rather than books, the commodity that made its name. The paper also claimed the subsidiary will be set up from scratch, a marked contrast to Amazon's expansion efforts in other territories, most notably the UK and Germany, which have been driven by the acquisition of local online booksellers. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Web workers to get own trade union

Web workers will be asked to unite in solidarity against the repression of the managing classes if a new trade union receives the backing it needs. The brothers and sisters behind W4U -- the World Wide Web Worker's Union -- claim that a global union would be able to negotiate with employers on issues such as wages, overtime and working conditions. Global working practices could be imposed on multinational companies to create a level playing field for Web workers. And if established, W4U would also be able to campaign on behalf of workers in other sectors who may not have the industrial muscle to fight for their own rights. Of course, there would always be the threat of strike action on an unprecedented scale if Web workers' rights were not met. According to W4U: "Web workers are the most powerful workforce in the world today (in bottom-line terms of revenue per employee) and yet are, by and large, exploited. "Although relatively well paid, most Web workers see a hierarchy of management and salespeople above them who reap much larger rewards with much less effort. In particular, Web workers are often asked to work long hours to meet unrealistic deadlines set by over-enthusiastic salespeople." Martin Cosgrave, one of the people behind W4U, told The Register: "At the moment it is an idea, and there are no fixed plans. I think it's a great idea that with some co-ordination could be a positive benefit to the whole planet. "I would expect that the union would affiliate itself with whatever unions were most relevant in individual countries, although I haven't been in touch with the TUC (Trades Union Congress) yet. A spokesman for the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said that he thought there were enough unions in existence to cater for the people who work on the Web and that any new union would only serve to fragment existing co-ordinated approaches. ® See also: Flying pickets turn to Internet to wage war on factory owners
Tim Richardson, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Wibbly Wobbly Web casts shadow over eclipse

The anticlimax of today's once-in-a-lifetime solar event was eclipsed only by the difficulty experienced by people trying to watch it on the Web. Thousands of moon watchers flocked to BBC Online to watch the corporation's coverage of the eclipse. How many were disappointed when they couldn't get on is another matter. Simon Rahamin, a spokesman for BBC Online, admitted that some people would have not been able to see their blinding coverage but said that this was simply due to the sheer number of people logging on to the site. With six Webcams in the path of the moon's shadow it's estimated that one million people accessed the site during the eclipse. "I don't know the exact figures yet but early indications are that we almost reached our maximum bandwidth just before the total eclipse," he said. Eclipse99.co.uk appeared to have fallen out of the sky completely, while visitors to excite.co.uk or total-eclipse.co.uk needed a plug-in to see their coverage. In truth, there can only have been two places worth witnessing this astronomical event. Either on TV -- the coverage was stunning I'm told -- or in a dark little pub in the centre of Winchester appropriately named The Eclipse. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Behind Bill Gates' ‘cooked’ email

MS on Trial Just occasionally the curtains are drawn back and we get to see just what is really happening behind the scenes in the Microsoft trial. Further extraordinary information has now come to light as a result of a June Motion by the Department of Justice asking that Microsoft be compelled to produce documents in response to an April 1999 DoJ subpoena. The DoJ's Motion asks Judge Jackson "to compel production of documents or, in the alternative, for an in camera inspection of documents". The documents concerned a defence exhibit that John Warden, Microsoft's lead counsel, offered when he was conducting the rebuttal examination of David Colburn of AOL. Just before Warden offered the document, Judge Jackson had gleefully chided him: "The best person to call you don't want to call [meaning Gates]. And I don't blame you." Perhaps Warden thought it would be clever to try to turn the tables by producing the next best thing: the word of the young master himself. Warden said: "I ask that the witness be shown, and I offer, defendant's exhibit 2533, an email from Bill Gates to his executive staff, dated Tuesday, December 1, 1998... and stamped by AOL 'highly confidential'". The Gates email essentially sets out Gates' views about the Netscape-AOL-Sun deal. David Boies, the DoJ's special trial counsel, objected to the admittance of the email: Boies: Your honour, this is a statement by Mr Gates during this litigation. It is, I think, from the reading of it, a self-serving statement. Mr Gates has chosen not to subject himself to cross-examination by coming to testify at trial, and I don't think that they could get this in by having -- no matter who they sent it to. Warden: Your honour, I think this is a very interesting document to have produced from AOL, and I would like to examine the witness about it. Judge Jackson: It may very well be an interesting document, but it was not sent to AOL... there is a standing objection to this document. Warden: I'm not -- the document has not been admitted; I understand that. Your honor hasn't ruled, but I assumed you were going to sustain the objection, but I think I'm entitled to ask him if he agrees with certain statements. Judge Jackson: Objection is sustained. The judge added: "Without some testimony to give it some context, it doesn't prove anything to me... You have got to have a witness that can give it some context who have some knowledge about it, before it becomes probative evidence. Just a free-floating document doesn't prove anything to me." As we remarked in our commentary in The Register on the 14 June proceedings at the trial: "It was very strange that the memo should have found its way to AOL, by whom it was marked 'highly confidential', and from whom it was 'discovered' by Microsoft. The most likely explanation was that it was deliberately leaked... by Microsoft so that it could be offered in evidence." It turns out that we were right. Warden's innuendo was that there was something underhand about AOL having a copy of the "highly confidential" email. Although Warden almost certainly knew that the email had been deliberately leaked, and that AOL would have been given a copy by the media in an attempt to get a story from AOL, Warden evidently had no intention of informing the court about this. The DoJ's Motion has some very interesting attachments. A telling email from corporate mouthpiece Greg Shaw on 1 December noted that "reporters will be upset that we just gave it to AP" and that Adam Sohn would give it to reporters if asked. Associated Press has been used as a conduit for Microsoft's propaganda more than once, so that its stories about Microsoft must now be seen in a new light. On 3 December, a petulant and self-important Gates emailed Shaw, Paul Maritz, Tod Nielsen and Mich Mathews saying: "I am really surprised that we restricted distribution of this [1 December email] so much. My comments are the best tool we have to shift the dialog and get people to understand who gave consumers the fair price [ie. a 'free' predatory price] for browsing. Just putting it in AP doesn't have much impact I don't [sic] think. At least we should give it to the MAGAZINE people also." Mich Mathews, the VP for PR and Gates' minder, hasn't figured much in the trial but she was probably much involved in drafting the 1 December email for Gates. It certainly bears her fingerprints. Gates was purporting that it contained "his" comments, so it would not have been drafted by Shaw. Shaw replied to Gates within the hour that the email was the main focus of a Washington Post story, as well as a sidebar in the New York Times. He wrote: "It's a dilemma. If we give it to everyone it looks cooked and no one will cover it. If it appears as a breaking story everyone feels they have to cover it." The DoJ complained in its Motion that an earlier email from Shaw to Maritz and Nielsen, sent three hours after Gates' "cooked" email, was marked by Microsoft "Privileged Material Redacted". The DoJ wanted to see the redacted email, and "at least four" other redacted or withheld emails. It appears that in his email, Shaw was forwarding another email, since we know he wrote "fyi". The DoJ maintained in its Motion that Microsoft had refused to provide the redacted email, referred a second request to "lawyers in Redmond", and refused to provide a written claim of privilege. It was clear that the content must be highly damaging to Microsoft, but the claim of privilege, the DoJ maintained, could not be sustained since Microsoft had not established a basis for the privilege. Furthermore, a claim for privilege is only valid for narrowly defined purposes concerned with legal advice, and not with respect to hiding embarrassment. Finally, the DoJ claimed that since Gates' email had been used in the trial, Microsoft's failure to produce what is called a privilege log should be considered to be a waiver of the privilege. Alternatively, the court should be shown copies of the material for in camera review as to whether the documents were privileged. So far, Judge Jackson has not ruled on the Motion. A letter from DoJ lawyer John Cove on 15 June asked Michael Lacovara of Cromwell & Sullivan to reconsider his position, and to produce by the end of the day a written claim of privilege for the document. Lacovara accused Cove of wanting him to produce a document that the DoJ could use in court the next day, and that it was "a trial stunt, and I shall not facilitate it". He suggested that Cove was fishing, and challenged him to file a Motion, but he did not provide the information that Cove had legally required, referring the matter to "Redmond lawyers", which suggests some embarrassment and possibly that there was dissent between Sullivan & Cromwell and Microsoft lawyers about the matter. Cove called his bluff, and did file the Motion, which is why we now know about these curious events. Only Microsoft knows what was redacted, but it seems likely that Microsoft head lawyer Bill Neukom (or possibly some other Microsoft lawyer), might have sent an email to Shaw in response to Gates' cooked memo pointing out the problems in trying to use the contrived email. It could also be that Neukom was pointing out that Warden had not been told that the memo was deliberately leaked by Microsoft. The procedural aspect is nothing short of an attempt to mislead the court. The irony is that Colburn was a great mistake as a rebuttal witness for Microsoft. He said he had never seen the document before, and did not know how it came to be in AOL's files. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will now apply the tar and feathers to its ace legal team from Sullivan & Cromwell. Another question that may soon be resolved is whether Bill Neukom will be the next Microsoft executive to go walkabout. ®
Graham Lea, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Saucy hacker whips Feds' Web into shape

Another US government Web site has been hacked -- this time by the most saucy and voluptuous villainess around. Sarin -- a busty, PVC clad, whip-wielding dominatrix -- broke into the site last night, according to a report by ZDNet. Instead of being able to read about the rather sober day-to-day workings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), visitors to the site were ambushed by a rather blunt message. "First of all, I own your Federal ass," it read. "Secondly, it's a fucking disgrace that you didn't fix your cold fusion vulnerabilities after such widespread publicity. "I'd seriously consider hiring a new admin if I were you. "Respect to: vOOdOO, mozy, pOgO, neeper, syxx, Xessor, xoloth1, Devil-C, Pulsewidth, gH, keebler elves, blOw team, LevelSeven, HFD, HiP, NYS and all others. "Hacked by sarin" Although the hack attack took place last night, FERC has been quick to show "Miss Whiplash" the door. The site appears to be up and running again, but there is no mention of the break-in. Earlier this week Kevin Mitnick was sentenced to three years and ten months in prison and ordered to pay $4,125 in token damages for his notorious hacking offences. The only hacker to make the FBI's 10 most wanted list, it's thought Mitnick could be out on parole within a year. ® See also: US hackers picket for Mitnick... Hackers drive us crackers, says FBI Hackers to wage war on Serbs Register hacked but not cracked Hacker infiltrates military satellite
Tim Richardson, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Cisco beats Street – just

Cisco's earnings continued their upward spiral yesterday when the company reported Q4 profits of 21 cents a share, a 38 per cent increase on the 16 cents a share it recorded for the same period last year. The figures were a smidge above expectations: Wall Street had anticipated earnings of 20 cents a share, but what's a penny among friends? Translating earnings into real revenue, Cisco made $727 million in the quarter, up from $525 million last year. Revenue reached $3.55 billion, a 48 per cent on last year's $2.40 billion. That contributed to annual revenues of $12.5 billion, up 43 per cent on the $8.9 billion the company posted a year ago. For the whole year, Cisco achieved a profitability before charges of $2.55 billion, up 35 per cent from $1.88 billion last year. Cisco's growth-by-acquisition strategy continued apace throughout the quarter, leading to charges of $92 million, pushing net income for the quarter down to $635 million (18 cents a share). For the same period last year, net income totalled $493 million (15 cents a share). ®
Tony Smith, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

StorageTek, Sun team up

It's debatable or not whether storage is dull (it is dull, ed), but there's a never ending round of activity these days. And it is lucrative. The latest adjustment in the market has arrived after StorageTek, which fell out with Big Blue just the other day, forged a new relationship with Sun. According to the Sun announcement, it and StorageTek will drive "open standards" in the marketplace. All storage companies, especially Hewlett Packard, which fell out publicly with EMC earlier this year, claim openness. EMC itself, which bought DG the other day, also claims this. And Compaq says it is open too... The agreement lasts for a number of years and Sun and StorageTek will create joint technologies to be integrated into storage area networks (SANs). Products created by the alliance will appear next year. The amount of money involved was not disclosed. See, we said it was debatable whether storage is dull. (it is, and I told you it was before you started, ed). ®
Mike Magee, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Athlon mobos three times dearer than PIII equivalents

Athlon K7 motherboards are more expensive than their Pentium III equivalents, according to Taiwanese OEM magazine Eurotrade. Motherboards from MicroStar and GigaByte are typically three times more expensive than equivalent Pentium III mobos, making any price reduction AMD has managed on its Athlon family negligible, Eurotrade comments. This could change if and when chipsets from Via, Ali and Sis start to be adopted big time by other Taiwanese manufacturers, says Eurotrade. And That will depend on AMD supplying Athlons in volume. On the bright side for AMD, Eurotrade cites benchmarks from Mercury Research, published on The Meter, which show the Athlon delivers a typical 14 per cent performance boost over Pentium III technology. The Meter also confirms a mass of other benchmarks from Web sites, showing that the AMD chip trounces Intel's current offerings. The Eurotrade story on the Athlon can be found here. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD needs cash for the Dresden money pit

The chief financial officer of AMD caused a few hearts to beat faster in corporate HQ when he said his company was looking for a partner to help fund its fab. But now we have had word from a contractor who worked at Dresden that there are acres of space in the 90,000 square foot clean room. Fab 30, which we visited at the beginning of last week, uses a SMIF clean room of Class 100T (100@0.3µ). Its eight inch wafer size has a technology limit of below .13µ and can produce 5,000 wafers a week at full build out. Fab 30, he claimed, only has approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the total machines to produce this number of wafers a week. And service contracts have recently been changed in an attempt to save some money. According to the contractor, AMD is keen to get cash, including more loans from German banks,to buy more equipment. He said that AMD could do serious damage to Intel if and when it ramps up Fab 30. Its process is ahead of Intel's, partly because Chipzilla uses SVG scanners and partly because of its "copy fab" policy. Intel tries to replicate its fabs using particular processes exactly. "This is do or die time for AMD," he said. Currently it's very difficult to get high yields from copper parts, he claimed. Current tools for copper are only development tools, he added. AMD uses the SMIF technique to isolate wafers from the clean room and this means a "dirtier" cleanroom can be used. This is also a cost cutting move. We were not allowed a peek at the clean room when we visited it at the beginning of last week. AMD's current financial status is underlined by the latest report from Duff & Phelps Credit Rating, issued last Friday. It outlines the debts and debt types AMD has incurred, with the Federal Republic of Germany and Saxony together guaranteeing 65 per cent of the loans. "AMD's goal to remain the major maker of Intel-alternative microprocessors exposes it to difficult competitive issues, rapid product cycles, and the volatility of the PC market," the report says. "Other issues include further K6 price deterioration; AMD's ability to make Athlon in volume after a history of manufacturing execution problems; and computer makers` acceptance of Athlon, which, unlike previous AMD products, uses different interfaces than Intel's." AMD's total adjusted debt to the end of March this year is $2,038,000,000, according to Duff & Phelps. The report also shows current cash flow and a record of previous cash flows. It's obvious that AMD could do with a partner, as its CFO said. And quick. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Memory claws its way back

Opinion The memory market is currently on the up, clawing its way slowly out of one of the biggest troughs in many years. SDRAM, presently the biggest volume product, has been in oversupply. Manufacturers have been overproducing during the first quarter 1999, for a market that has not expanded to prediction. Realising this, most have cut back production and are now able to sell at a profit, something that has not happened since January 1999. The first half of the year has been tough, with a capital 'T'. Dane-Elec has witnessed a lot of its competitors closing down or ceasing to sell memory. As for the resellers, memory sales are linked to PC sales and these have been dire this year so far. However, looking on the bright side, we are very optimistic about the balance of 1999 and expect to reach or exceed targets by the end of the year. All predictions show that the memory market is always growing, although sometimes at a lesser pace than at others. Historically, there is always a year on year revenue growth, it all comes down to supply and demand and whether a balance can be kept. People still need computers, and therefore memory, so as long as there is a computer market the memory market will follow. This year has been below expectations, but seems to be picking up now and is expected to stay this way for the remainder of 1999. Looking ahead there are several developments that are likely to affect the memory market in the new millennium. Flash is an up and coming arena that I believe is going to take off 'big time' over the next year, with a four-fold increase in units sold by end 2000. VRAM sales are fairly static and likely to stay this way, fixed by the number of PC's sold. Although talks of 32MB and 64MB cards being developed are busy circulating. We know from earlier this year that there is capacity to produce this product, and manufacturers will use their facilities to the full if they see the demand. Other products like set top boxes are also likely to increase the world wide volume of memory that is required. Another new technology likely to drive the market forward and the cause of recent problems is Rambus. Rambus is much harder to manufacture than PC100, the modules are harder to build and consequently will be a lot more expensive. Most DRAM OEMs realised that in order to produce Rambus in volume (which was forecast for end Q1999) they would have to increase production capacity as they expected to get a much lower yield per silicon wafer. Hence the overproduction this year. Rambus still has not taken off -- PC133 is just another variety of SDRAM. We expect volume sales to start during Q4 1999. Price will be slightly higher than PC100s, the only problem will be having yet another product line to stock. Difficult for the brokers, not for the distributors and manufacturers. ® Alan Stanley is UK managing director of memory company Dane-Elec
Alan Stanley, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Lucent logo – the pin win

We had a good response to our question about Lucent's logo (see below). Thankfully, most respondents understood our British reluctance to engage in sexual innuendo so instead many focused on more fundamental issues... Of the replies we received, 95 per cent seemed to think the Lucent logo had some sphincter-like message to tell the world. We'll pass over those. Four per cent reminded us that the Dilbert cartoon strip had suggested the Lucent logo was based on a mark a coffee cup had left on an executives table. And the one per cent yielded the winner. We liked this from a Lucent employee: "We moved into the manufacturing of square pegs." One entry that came close went: "I like the zero -- that's the percentage of Lucent equipment we use." The Register's own (is he our own?) Pete Sherriff said that when AT&T spun off Lucent, the internal codename for the logo was Ring of Fire. Nuff said... ®
Team Register, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu Siemens tie-up under threat

Fujitsu and Siemens failed to sign an agreement that would merge their European PC operations into a single company, according to German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche. In a report to be published tomorrow, the magazine claims the companies were due to sign a contract on 2 August, but that did not happen. Instead, both of them fell out over who will take charge of the joint venture. The battle is between Winfried Hoffmann, Fujitsu Europe's German boss, and Robert Hoog, head of Siemens' computer systems division. Hoffmann wants the job himself, but Hoog has the backing of Siemens CEO Heinrich von Pierer. Hoffmann has threatened to quit if he is passed over, Wirtschaftswoche claims. The combined operation -- Fujistu Siemens -- is due to commence trading on 1 October, so the two principals have a little time yet to come to an agreement. The deal was announced back in June -- we predicted it back in May -- after a Siemens' attempt to get into bed with Acer failed. So could the Fujitsu plan go the same way? Possibly, but since the whole deal is a way of providing Siemens with a way of getting out of the PC business, it's in the German giant's interest to keep Fujitsu sweet, and that will almost certainly ensure Hoffmann gets the job after all. Other issues are emerging too. Back in June, Fujitsu UK MD Brian Taylor said the merger would not involve any redundancies since the organisational change would be "relatively minor". However, Wirtschaftswoche cited industry analysts who believe that the two companies' combined workforce of 9600 people (1,600 from Fujitsu, 8000 from Siemens) will have to be cut by up to 30 per cent. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Eclipse update: Apple PR stunt shocks World

The IT industry was left reeling today as Apple mounted its most audacious promotional campaign yet -- one that literally cast its famous 1984 Superbowl ad into the shade. At 11am British Summer Time, the UK was overcast by the largest Apple logo ever seen. In central London, traffic halted as millions of Brits paused to watch what Apple spokesmen called the Message of the Millennium. "Find out why 2000 won't be like Y2K," was blazoned across the majestic canopy, fretted with golden fire, as the Apple logo faded to totallity. Speaking from Apple global HQ, interim CEO Steve Jobs said: "God is a great Mac fan, and when we took the plan to Him earlier this year, He was thrilled to take part." Company CFO Fred Anderson told The Register the Almighty had initially refused to have His creation used for marketing purposes, and could only be persuaded to hire out the sun and moon for the occasion for a substantial dollar sum. "The payment was significant," admitted Anderson, "but no more so than any other advertising campaign of this scale. God's rates are really quite reasonable. "We expect to a take an exceptional charge over the next two financial quarters, but this will hopefully be covered by an increase in iMac sales of Biblical proportions over the period," he added. Apple's move follows Microsoft's failed attempt last year to buy the moon and convert it into a permanently revolving Internet Explorer logo. "We may as well go home," one representative of Microsoft's ad agency was heard to say when rumours of the Apple extravaganza emerged last night. God is on holiday and not available for comment, said an Oracle spokesman. ® See also Lucent logo captures company in 'single masterful brush stroke' Intel registers loop to stop people going inside Wibbly Wobbly Web casts shadow over eclipse
Tony Smith, 11 Aug 1999