Four years agoFour years ago From The Register No. 22 -- four years back It sounds like a venue The Beatles played at in the 60s, but as it's based in Austin, Texas, we expect it's not quite as much fun. From here, the vice president of applications solutions products, Terry Smith, embarked on an epic journey which makes Easy Rider look like a wet day at Alexandra Palace. Mr Smith drove (presumably at brake neck speed) from Austin to Houston in a mercy mission which makes the ride from Aix to Ghent look a little like a wet day at Kempton Park. With a 100MHz Am486 processor, hewn from one of the first 8-inch wafers, as his pillion passenger, Smith screamed up to Compaq's Houston HQ and in a gesture gave Pfeiffer not only the chip but the bike too. "I'm privileged to travel the 160 miles to personally deliver our most advanced 486 microprocessor...to one of our most strategic customers," gasped an enervated Smith. Pfeiffer was unavailable for comment but the VP of corporate engineering at Compaq, one Jim Paschal, spoke for the leader. "This indicates the level of commitment they have to serving their key customers," Paschal said. The bike (and the chip?) will be auctioned at a charity event on October 14 with the proceeds going to Variety Clubs International. ®
Bill Gates has whacked in another $5 billion (or it could be $6 billion -reports vary) into his very own home-grown charity. This is the biggest gift yet made by a living donor. But Gates has a couple of billion dollars to go before his charitable foundation overtakes The Wellcome Trust, the world's largest, with $19.1 billion worth of assets. The foundation stakes are hotting up, with Bill and Melinda merging the William H Gates and the Gates Learning foundations to form, well, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Combined assets are $17 billion. The charitable focus remains on healthcare, and technology in education and libraries. One idea is to create a market for a malaria vaccine that hasn't been developed yet. Shades of Windows 2000, perhaps? The new foundation is run by two co-chairs, apparently Gates' father, and Patty Stonesifer who was previously a Microsoft vp. Today's US edition of Newsweek has a sympathetic article that reveals that the merged foundation has just over $17 billion. ®
Our friends over at Korean website K-Bench are reporting that the i820 Camino chipset has run into further difficulties. Samples supplied to Intel customers are incompatible with existing graphics boards, it claims. According to the report, which may be found here, Taiwanese mobo manufacturers say there is a problem between AGP 4.x and a number of existing graphics boards. Boards affected include TNT2, the Matrox G400 and the Savage 4, when running in AGP 4x mode, says K-Bench. The Camino chipset has represented something of a weight round Intel's neck for the whole of this year. If true, the difficulties will compound the situation for the Taiwanese firms, which have already been placed on severe allocations by the Great Satan of Chipsets (Chipsetzilla). Last week, we reported that the Taiwanese firms were also fed up with implementations of the 810 chipset, forcing them to consider options including chipsets from Via and SiS. ®
6 Aug, 1999 Online shopping kids are full of beenz Wall St tumbles as Net stocks stumble Ofex-listed EarthPort.com plc -- which operates fundraising lotteries on the Net -- has appointed Andrew Millard as MD of its EarthPort Entertainments Ltd subsidiary and a director of the main board. United News and Media (CMP's new owner) is buying an American online photo agency called Definitive Stock for $30 million in cash and shares. It will combine the one year-old royalty free company with its Visual Communications subsidiary and may float the enlarged entity as a pureplay Internet company, according to the FT. James Brearley & Son is offering real-time online share dealing for retail punters. Called ICON Personal Share Dealing, this service costs £25 per year joining fee and £20 per trade. Sign up in August and you don't have to pay the annual fee, the Investors Chronicle says. AIM-listed ISP Easynet shares are "high enough" at 745p, the Investors Chronicle advises. Easynet is "doing well, and parts of its market are here to stay, but priced at seven times sales and with thin profits there is room for a little caution". New AIM listing StartIT.com, wants to invest in start-up IT and internet ventures. It wants to do one deal a month from October and its investments will range from £30K to £150K, the Investors Chronicle reveals. The company has raised £1.8 million through a share placing at 5p. Shares are currently trading at 7.5p. FortuneCity.com is buying a 20 per cent stake in Bravenet.com for $1 million. It has an option to buy the rest of the company. FortuneCity will offer Bravenet's web design tools and personalised message forms to its 3.1 million members. 5 Aug, 1999 Softbank closes $600m VC fund Barclays says it is the UK's biggest Internet bank with 400,000 customers -- twice as much as its nearest, unnamed rival and six times as much as Egg, Prudential's extravagantly loss-making subsidiary. Fortune City founder chases silver surfers 3i drums beat for Jungle Online George Soros wannabes can trade in foreign currency on the Web following GlobalNet Financial.com's decision to unleash an Internet FX trading platform on Freeserve's Money Channel. Matchbook FX will enable independent foreign exchange traders, institutions, businesses and private investors to deal on live prices. UK private investors will be required to hand over a minimum deposit of £6000 and the minimum trade will be £12,000. Anyone who fancies a dabble can hedge their bets between the US dollar, sterling, yen, Swiss franc and the Euro. Mitsubishi has decided to close down its subscription-based financial ISP Infotrade at the end of September. The announcement follows an earlier announcement that the Japanese concern was closing MENET -- an ISP aimed at SMEs. Net IPOs slump on first day trading Wall St brutalises net shares 4 Aug 1999 EarthWeb snaps up Sysopt and CodeGuru Yahoo! wants Excite but @Home can stay at home 3 Aug, 1999 Fire stops (game)play.com Sportingbet.com (UK) PLC, the Alderney-based e-bookmaker, is in the final stages of securing a contract to enter the lucrative Japanese gambling market. The OFEX-listed company said it was in final joint venture negotiations with a leading Japanese company enable the sportingbet.com to launch its services into the specialised Japanese market. The sports betting market in Japan is estimated to be more than £100 billion compared to the UK which nets around £7 billion. "If we were able to achieve a penetration of 0.5 per cent, this would translate into turnover of £500 million and gross profits of £30 million per year," said Mark Blandford, MD of sportingbet.com. Media group Pearson is doubling this year's Internet-related spending to £120 million - £30 million more than it had originally budgeted for. Pearsons already has more than 1200 Web sites already orbiting cyberspace, and it's hoping to cash in on the e-commerce revolution. Its flagship site, FT.com, is set to earn £6 million in advertising revenue this year, an increase of £4 million on last year. Pretty puny really, when you consider that this is the UK's biggest Web site, in advertising terms. Pearson's international business sites generate 40 million page views a month, of which FT.com accounts for 12 million. UK domain name reseller VirtualInternet.net is raising £1.17 million through a placing of new shares on AIM. The highly acquisitive company lost £1.083 million on sales of £355,849 for the its maiden interims (covering the six months to April), 1999 but most of the losses come down to acquisition related goodwill write-downs and write-offs. Home Internet take-up rockets in UK 2 Aug 1999 Free-ISP boom brings Easynet rich pickings AIM gets a new member in the shape of Netvest.com. Described by the FT as a vehicle for investing in small internet-related businesess, this is more of a Mini than a Merc. The float for the start-up will value the company at £1.14 million, while net proceeds will be only £730K. Is the stock market really an appropriate way of raising finance for such a small enterprise? Presumably, the investments are already lined up, because the money won't go too far. Netvest is chaired by Andrew Balcombe, founder of an Internet dating agency called Matchnet. Netvest is advised by Grant Thornton. British online games portal gameplay.com will be valued at £53.6 million when it begins trading on AIM today. The company originally wanted to raise £21 million through the IPO, but it is now scaling up for an extra £10 million, following "very strong demand for the shares". 1 Aug 1999 Online auctioneer icollection is moving to the London Stock Exchange and -- probably -- Germany's Neuer Market too, the Mail on Sunday reports. Shares in the British tiddler are currently dealt on Ofex, the UK's smallest stock market, where it is currently valued at £40 million. Not bad for a company that lost £1.13 million on sales of only £500,000. The company is advised by Durlacher. 31 July 1999 Funmail, the UK Internet-based email service, has postponed its AIM flotation, on selling 20 per cent of the company to Eden Investments for £6.25 million. This values Funmail at £31.3 million -- the top end of market cap projections -- according to the FT.
Aug 13 1999 E-bank promises easy money online Sony commits to online music sales 12 Aug 1999 African-American site gets big four backing Web site set aside for free AOL registrations Ofex-listed Asian Online -- a portal for the Asian community in the UK -- has raised £800,000 from the issue of two million ordinary shares. Priced at .40p per share, the directors of Asian Online have confirmed the issue was oversubscribed. Applications for 12,500 shares were allocated in full although larger applications were subject to scaling down. Dallas-based stockbroker InvestIN.com is opening a day-trading office in London on Monday enabling investors to deal in US stocks online. But adrenaline junkies who want to ride the roller coaster of day trading have first to prove they know what they're doing before being let loose by the doormen at InvestIN. According to the FT, day trading is unlikely to garner the same following in the UK as it does in the US. Which means that the chances of a day trader gunning down as many people he can before turning the gun on himself when he loses his shirt are pretty slim. First-e, Europe's first bank that only operates online, has started trading ahead of its official launch in September. The Guardian reports that the bank has been inundated with enquiries from Internauts keen to stash their cash online. First-e can be reached here. Trading in the shares of ExecuNet plc has been suspended temporarily due to concerns about dealings in the company's securities. The Ofex-listed company runs a Web site offering discounted product and entertainment services for Pacific Rim countries. Vocalis Group plc is to offer its SpeechMail service free-of-charge to Freeserve users enabling them to access their emails from a telephone. Vocalis and Freeserve will split the revenue generated by the calls to the SpeechMail service. Virgin Net has a new MD. Alex Heath will slip into the new job on 1 September. The former CE of interactive investor international, Heath replaces David Clarke who joined IC24 in April. 11 Aug 1999 Amazon to expand into Japan Online shopping appeals to third of all Net users Global financier George Soros lost $700 million -- £430 million -- because he predicted that the value of Internet stocks would collapse. A report in today's Guardian claims that Soros' Quantum hedge fund is experiencing its "worst ever year" after wrongly forecasting that the so-called Net bubble was due to burst earlier this year. Although many of the brightest Net stocks took a hammering last week this came too late for Quantum. Shawn Pattison, a spokesman for Soros, told the Guardian: "We called the bursting of the Internet bubble too early." European auction house QXL.com has bolstered its presence online by acquiring two UK auction houses -- eSwap and Humpty Dumpty. The announcement was made yesterday although the exact details of the deal were not made public. QXL wants to float later this year for between £500m and £750m. 10 Aug 1999 Ellis Watson has stepped down as general manager of CurrantBun.com. The day-to-day running of the UK's sixth most popular ISP has been handed over to CurrantBun's management team until a replacement for Watson is found. AOL Europe reshuffles management Mondus.com raises funds for SME ecommerce portal Mediasurface and its hugely ambitious IPO plans HighwayOne, the British wireless ISP, is setting up shop in Germany, the FT says. The two-year old company is to seek a second round of funding at the end of the year. This will help it build its radio-based network. It will look for fresh injections of capital in each of the next few years. In its first round of funding, the company raised £20m from Apax and 3i. UK turnover is a "few million pounds", derived from 200 customers. 9 Aug 1999 Could British Net companies be about to pay for lagging 18 months behind the US? A string of companies is hoping to raise millions on the stock market in the coming months but it may be that they are simply too late to cash in on the Net moneymaking machine. Sports and entertainment site 365.com wants £500 million when it goes public in November. Online auction house QXL wants to raise the same next month when it comes to market. iCollector is content for a measly £100 million. In neat overview of British activity the Mail on Sunday described it as a race to "beat the Net panic". It could be right. Summer 99 may well be remembered as the dawning of a new age of enlightenment and a return to old-fashioned ways. You know, companies making a profit, that kind of thing. E-Trade claims to offer the cheapest online share dealing service in the UK. The Sunday Times disagrees after reporting that Leeds-based broker Redmayne Bentley will do it cheaper. Buy and sell through RedM and it will charge punters just 0.5 per cent commission (minimum charge £12.95). E-Trade starts at £14.95. Trading online may be getting cheaper. The question is, who would want to except maybe to downgrade their exposure to Net stocks? Most of the Sundays focused on the turbulence of the last week. Some people described the market as having a touch of the jitters. If the uncertainty continues it could be more a case of the squits. In the US, some Net stocks have vanished into a financial blackhole. The value of once bright stars AOL and Yahoo!, for example, have been cut in half while Amazon.com has plummeted almost 60 per cent. Lower share prices prices means higher money-raising costs for cash-crunching Net companies. The sector is an enthusiastic user of cheap junk bonds. But bondholders are now more likely to call on net debtors to pay up in cash, rather than convert their paper into equity. Exchange weathers Net IPO storm Fortunecity.com is buying German ISP Freepages.de for DM6mn in cash and shares. University of London college Birkbeck has set up a one-year postgrad diploma course to study e-commerce. It starts in October. Go here for more details. Also check out theecademy.com, an online teaching resource/club for the ecommerce community.
Chipset, and now CPU manufacturer, Via has strongly hinted it will support the Alpha processor in the future. But, at the same time, it has said it will only produce uniprocessor chipsets for the AMD Athlon. In a FAQ on its Website, Via says: "Currently there are no plans to support DEC-Alpha CPU's, but it is possible that in the future after the K7 builds up mainstream acceptance, VIA will make the necessary pin changes to support DEC-Alpha processors." Such processors are also produced by Alpha Processors Inc (API), which has vowed to drive the Alpha into the lower end of the market, on the back of a growing market in Linux-based systems. Meanwhile, according to industry analyst Terry Shannon, who runs newsletter Shannon knows Compaq, Q's decision to eliminated Alpha NT jobs at Bellevue, exclusively reported here, is likely to have little effect on the future of the Alpha chip. He said: "I anticipate no direct impact of the negative kind on Alpha. Alpha sales are up 16 percent year-over-year and Linux appears to be taking off nicely." ® See also Compaq set to fire Alpha NT developers Via to push Gobi chip in Q4
It was not surprising that Jeff Bezos should be casting around to turn what the Daily Telegraph magazine on Saturday called email@example.com into a "shop-the-Web" service. From Sonys to Viagra it says, so whatever next? Profits, you may cry. Well, not exactly. Amazon founder Bezos recently acquired a 46 per cent controlling interest in drugstore.com and promptly put Melinda French Gates on the board. Does this point to closer ties between Microsoft and Amazon.com? Or perhaps, Ma Gates wants some pin money as Bill's been giving away rather a lot recently. Drugstore.com is Ma Gates's first directorship. It is also her first job since she resigned as general manager of information products ( responsibilities there included responsibility for MS Bob, copies of which are now collectors' items) Ma Gates, wife of Bill and mother of two small children, will certainly have her hands full: according to Newsweek, on the night shift she feeds baby Rory while Bill tends to Rory's sister. ®
US Compaq analyst Terry Shannon has obtained a copy of an internal email that CEO Mike Capellas and senior VP Enrico Pesatori sent to all employees recently. The full text of the email, outlining Q's OpenVMS strategy, is obtainable at Shannon's Web site. According to the email -- dated 12 August -- Compaq wants to move existing OpenVMS customers to other of its own platforms. That suggests that Compaq is finding that people are moving to competitors's platforms. The reason Q wants to keep its OpenVMS customers is because, according to the execs, it is a high margin, high profitable business for the firm. Capellas and Pesatori said Compaq will continue to invest in OpenVMS, and will also provide "an easy" migration path to Q Tru64 and Windows NT. ®
Nokia, Lucent and 3Com have formed a new group to push ubiquitous wireless networking. And significantly, one of the other founder members of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) is Symbol Technologies, which produces wireless networked industrial handhelds based on 3Com's Palm Pilot. The objective of the group is familiar; by defining and testing common standards for wireless Ethernet the companies intend to speed deployment and to achieve interoperability between their product lines. One particularly intriguing area where this could apply is between Palm devices and Sybian-based ones, including Nokia smartphones. Ultimately the companies intend it to be possible for users to use wireless connections to link seamlessly into networks wherever they go, extending the campus networking model to the world in general. By defining common standards, they should be able to encourage wireless service providers to add data networking capabilities to their networks. Transportation however is the $64,000 question. A few years down the line it might be possible for wireless data networks to use the Bluetooth standard. But at the moment Bluetooth is being positioned as a cheap, robust local connectivity system - effectively it's now a substitute for cables and/or IRDA, and doesn't have the speed or support for full-scale data networking. But it is intended to be universal, and to allow devices to communicate seamlessly whenever they move into range of one another, so conceptually there's overlap with ubiquitous wireless Ethernet. Or there's GPRS (General Packet Radio System), the wireless data system that's beginning to be rolled out in Europe on the back of GSM. That would likely benefit from the efforts of WECA, but the addition of data networking standards and concepts would probably require that service providers adopt new pricing models. ®
Is Compaq pulling the rug out from under Microsoft? The news of job losses in the company's NT Alpha development unit last week at least indicates that Compaq is reducing emphasis on NT as an OS for the Alpha platform, but more important from Microsoft's point of view will be the crumbling of a long-standing alliance, and the withdrawal of resources that were important for the future development of NT. The old Digital DECWest facility in Bellevue, Washington is the major target for Compaq's latest cuts. Prior to the Compaq takeover this facility had been closely involved with Microsoft in NT development efforts. Digital had viewed NT as a strategically important OS for Alpha, and although Microsoft over the years pulled the plugs on development of NT for PowerPC and MIPS, Digital's NT engineers made important contributions in terms of 64-bit implementations, scalability and clustering. Joint development deals with Microsoft however usually mean the partner spends the money and Microsoft gets the technology (NT PowerPC went south when IBM decided to stop bankrolling it), and NT on Alpha hasn't been bringing in significant revenues for Compaq. So with Compaq in radical surgery mode, Bellevue was an obvious candidate - Alpha versions of Linux, True64 and OpenVMS are far more popular with customers than NT, and discontinuing NT development was therefore pretty much a no-brainer. It is not however yet absolutely clear that Compaq is pulling NT development in its entirety. According to a memo from Compaq senior VP Enrico Pesatori, Compaq "will continue to partner aggressively with Microsoft on development of 64-bit Windows NT. Alpha is the development platform for 64-bit Windows NT." But on the other hand, Compaq will continue to provide 32-bit NT support for existing customers, and will "offer migration paths to other Compaq platforms." So the 32-bit NT Alpha customers will be tempted over to these other platforms (which will not, for the immediate future, include 64-bit NT), while Compaq applies severe pressure to its "partner" Microsoft, which is now too deeply hooked on Alpha NT to be able to extricate itself. Yup, they'll be gnashing in the streets of Redmond tonight... Given what's known of Microsoft's scheduling for 64-bit Win2k, Compaq's move makes some sense. Microsoft will initially put out some form of 32/64-bit hybrid system for Intel's IA-64 hardware, and then will quite possibly find itself playing catch-up on rather more battle-ready 64-bit flavours of Unix for Intel. Quite a lot of the Win2k code that will ship (allegedly) late this year is going to have to be torn apart again to make it to 64-bit, so there's a logic to Compaq opting out of what could be described as an interim OS it doesn't sell many units of anyway. But by jumping ship at this stage the company is effectively breaking the development connection with Microsoft, and undermining the effectiveness of its own NT development team. You can't sack 100 people and then expect those who're left to carry on working as if nothing had happened. Compaq CEO Mike Capellas may however be playing a deeper game here. The Alpha NT development model (and indeed the old PowerPC and MIPS ones) has so far been based on keeping versions for Intel and Alpha platforms fairly much in sync, but if that's helped any company it's helped Microsoft, as Compaq development efforts have benefited NT in general without Compaq getting adequate returns. Compaq intellectual property and Compaq development skills (if they don't all walk out of the door with pink slips, that is) are however still important for Microsoft when it comes to getting to 64-bit. So Capellas may actually be trying to apply pressure on Microsoft in order to produce a more mutually agreeable deal. And of course Redmond minds will have been further concentrated by Compaq's recent enthusiasm for Linux and True64 on Alpha. But don't count on a 64-bit Alpha NT ever getting out of the door. Whichever way the cards fall, 64-bit NT development for any platform is going to involve a lot of ground-up effort on Microsoft's part, and a lot of trouble for any partner rash enough to get too closely and expensively involved. Even if Compaq does strike a revised deal that commits it to an Alpha port, it's quite likely that a year or two down the line this too will end up being abandoned. ®
Online auction house eBay finally decided where it stands on the auctioning of shares -- it doesn't like the idea. This weekend it pulled the plug on a member's attempt to offer a raft of shares in troubled satellite cellphone company Iridium to the highest bidder. As first reported on The Register on Friday, the Iridium shareholder, based in Phoenix, Arizona, last week offered 1300 shares in the company for a minimum bid of $6500. That valued the shares at $5 each -- a 164 per cent mark-up on the stock's closing price the previous Friday when trading in Iridium shares was suspended by Nasdaq in response to the cellphone company's move into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The shareholder was believed to be responding to the suggestion that an unknown trader made on a Yahoo! Finance bulletin board: if you can't trade through Nasdaq, why not try eBay? At the time, eBay said it would allow such sales provided they were legal. However, the US Securities and Exchange Commission was unable to say whether the auction would count as a private, legal transaction or a public, illegal one. Since then, eBay has decided that the legality of the sale is too open to question to risk, and so terminated the Iridium share auction. "Because of the complexity, we just decided we would not allow the sale of stock on our site," an eBay spokesman told the Reuters newsagency. That's sufficiently a generic statement to apply to other stocks, not just Iridium's, whether those stocks are currently trading on the markets or not. The spokesman also said the ruling against the sale of shares on eBay had been in force for some months, which, if true, suggests eBay really needs to pay a lot more attention to what its members are offering. ® Related Stories Iridium asks shareholders to cut stakes by 40 per cent Iridium defaults on debt Iridium crisis nears
As expected, for quite some time, Intel will today announce details of its "Profusion" symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) chipset. At the same time it will roll out Slot Two Xeon processors with 1Mb and 2Mb caches. The so-called "building blocks" for SMP systems will be processors with caches of 512K, 1Mb and2Mb, the Profusion chipset itself and the Saber (Corollary) board which will hold all these parts together. Intel claims it has 1000s of complete systems validated throughout the marketplace, using different operating environments. It has support for its SMP family from most of the big names you could imagine, including IBM, Dell, and HP. So far, 11 OEMs have announced systems, and 15 more are on the way, said Intel. The eight way systems actually use a bridge to link together two four way systems, and Intel is hoping to knock larger players using RISC based chips, such as HP, Dell and IBM, off their Unix pedestals. All these players, of course, are also releasing x.86 based systems. NT, said Intel, will scale past four processors. It is pushing eight-way systems as a cost-affordable SMP system. However, the figure Intel is mentioning is 1.6 times, which is not an enormous performance boost. ® See also Intel reveals plans up to Y2K The Register first revealed details of the Profusion family in November 1996.
Reader's LetterReader's Letter Chip giant Intel has warned since the beginning of this year that to overclock its processors is verboten. A reader describing himself as 'Firestormer' wrote to us with the following tale: "You might find this interesting, but if I'm correct, Intel and MS have finally come up with a way to defeat overclocking totally, at least under NT4 Service Pack 5 and with the Pentium III. The sorry tale is as follows. "I've dabbled from time to time with FSB adjustments on my Tyan Tsunami-based system, originally tweaking my Pentium II 350 to see if I could get another 50MHz or so out of it. My NT4 SP5 barfed at 112MHz bus, but I was able to get it running at 103MHz bus, and the speed difference showed up accordingly under NT Diagnostics as well as H-Oda's WCPUclk util. The performance boost was there, but at the time another 10MHz didn't seem to give enough of a boost to be worth while. "Recently, however, I upgraded this system from the P2-350 to a P3-450, and then tried to tinker with overclocking via the FSB yet again (enough is never enough where speed is concerned :P). BIOS, check; post screen, check; DOS level utils, check... all reported ~500MHz correctly (I'd tried 112MHz bus again). "However, upon getting into NT, I ran my benchmarks and found that the system performed identically to before the overclock. Upon further analysis, I found that all of my speed reporting utils still said that the CPU was running AT EXACTLY STOCK. Nothing I tried could get the chip to run under NT4 SP5 at anything other than stock and only stock speed. "This changed, yet again, when I manually replaced HAL.DLL (you know, the lowest level part of NT there is) with the HAL.DLL.SOFTEX that is included with SP5 so I could make the system shut off at NT shutdown. Earlier this evening, I decided to experiment with the FSB overclocking yet again, determined to find out why the overclock failed, only to find that it worked this time. "This has lead me to one and only one conclusion: the HAL.DLL in NT4 SP5 is capable of reading the processor serial number/ID tag and is using that information to ensure that the CPU will only run at stock speed under NT. And considering that there are utilities available which do similar things (see H-Oda's SoftFSB), this seems the most likely, if somewhat disturbing, explanation. "Make of it what you will, but this is one tidbit of information I'd like very much to see verified (if possible) and if found correct spread far and wide across the Net." ® NB We have received an unprecedented flood of emails about this reader's letter, many saying his points are factually wrong. If you want to comment, please post your replies to our bulletin board.
Internet content delivery specialist Akamai, close chum of both Apple and Cisco, has said it plans join the Net IPO bandwagon real soon now. The company said it hopes its stock offering will raise $86.25 million, though that's as much for the Securities and Exchange's benefit -- it will be used to calculate Akamai's registration fee. Other details of the upcoming IPO, including its date and the number of shares to be issued, were not revealed -- they will come later in a follow-up SEC filing. Cisco announced its purchase of four per cent of Akamai for $49 million last week, at the same time that Apple admitted it had spent $12.5 million for a five per cent stake back in July. Apple is using Akamai's network of 900 servers around the world to host its QuickTime TV showcase for the Mac maker's entry into the media streaming market. Cisco, on the other hand, wants Akamai's technology to be incorporated into its routers. Both companies could easily see the value of their minority shareholdings increase significantly once the Akamai IPO occurs. Internet companies' stocks have been down of late, but their shares are still priced ahead of the original IPO value. ®
Eleven million people -- six per cent of Internet users -- are addicted to the Net, according to a gaggle of psychologists in the US. People who surf for more than four hours a day are sick and should seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms range from mental disorders to behavioural abnormalities. In extreme cases, they could even get eyestrain and may have to wear corrective prescription glasses. "Marriages are being disrupted, kids are getting into trouble, people are committing illegal acts, people are spending too much money," researcher David Greenfield told US newswires. "As someone who treats patients, I see it," he said. One industry insider who asked not to be named said the whole idea of Net addiction was a load of jumped-up psychobabble twaddle. Elsewhere, an office secretary who was sacked for her own "Net addiction" is seeking damages at an industrial tribunal. The Independent reported that the woman was sacked for spending all day "downloading pornography, searching contact sites and surfing the Internet". The woman, who hasn't been named, claimed the dismissal was in breach of the Disability and Discrimination Act 1995. ®
Compaq is experiencing more than a little discomfort down under. As the PC giant reveals its plans to sell direct in the Australian market, it is being met by more than the usual channel whinging. Two of Australia's largest PC reseller chains have stopped selling Compaq kit in open retaliation to the direct-sales plan. The first, Harvey Norman, is Australia's leading PC retailer. Some estimates have valued its Compaq business at around $65 million per year. This is going to leave a hole in the Compaq coffers and it has been followed by the Harris Technology chain's decision to pull all Compaq kit off its shelves and Web sites. Long regarded as the channel's staunch ally, Compaq ruffled plenty of channel feathers when it started talking about selling direct, with many smaller resellers claiming they were being forced out of the market. The picture is slightly different in Australia than here in the UK, though, with Compaq opening up its own retail outlets. It is this decision to set up shop across Australia that has prompted some to sever ties with Compaq altogether. According to Newsbytes, Compaq is to open three stores in Brisbane and five in Melbourne. A store in Sydney is expected to open later this month. ®
A country vicar has sparked outrage by considering renting out his church spire to BTCellnet as a transmitter site. The Rev. James Watson is all in favour of netting the £3000 per year rental to fund All Saints' Church in Braunston, Northants. This ecclesiastical entrepreneur, who carries a mobile phone in his cassock pocket, says that as long as people are not making calls to carry out the devil's work, he sees no harm in it. But locals are up in arms at the plans for the Victorian Grade Two listed building. According to today's Daily Telegraph, Daventry district council has rejected the idea, with one member deeming it "ungodly and offensive". "This is a place of worship," said local councillor Peter Burt. "It should not be tainted by outside influences. "It is the thin end of the wedge -– a step towards having advertisements on the walls and sponsors." BTCellnet plans to disguise the three six-foot aerials inside the spire of the church. The company plans to replace slates on the exterior with plastic to let the radio waves through. According to the Rev. Watson, the 15-year contract with BTCellnet would help subsidise the £30,000 a year upkeep costs of the exterior of the church, which was built in 1849. And the vicar is evangelical about his beliefs in cellular technology. "Mobile phones are an important tool," he said. "They provide people with instant communication and in cases of emergency they are absolutely vital. "So long as people don't make calls for immoral purposes, I can't see any problem with having the transmitter over the church. "Reception around here is poor and this is an example of the church doing its job and providing benefits for local people." ®
Shortages of basic electronic components are hitting makers of computers and mobile phones, and may be followed by price increases, analysts and manufacturers say. Cheap resistors and multi-layer Ceramic Capacitors (MLCCs) are in short supply, said Mei Chen, who handles investor relations for Yageo Corp, one of Taiwan's largest manufacturers of what are known as passive components. "Companies like Acer typically will order seven to ten days in advance, but because of the shortage now, these companies are placing orders out as long as three months," said John Brebeck, electronic components analyst at Jardine Fleming Securities in Taipei. "PC unit sales are growing very strongly this year," Brebeck said, "also [mobile phone] handset sales are very strong this year. Passive components are used extensively in both. Also you've got some new products, like digital cameras, which are starting to sell well." Not only are more products being sold, he said, but they tend to be more complex, and use more passive components than in the past. According to industry sources, said Brebeck, the shortage of passive components will last "at least through the end of the first half of next year." The same sources expect Yageo to increase prices during the second half of 1999. Last year, price competition in the cheap resistor market pushed the market price down 25 per cent on average, said Chen -- some prices went down 40 per cent. Profit margins fell to single digits, and many companies closed down or dropped out of the market. Companies that stayed in the market shelved expansion plans, especially those in Japan and Korea. Yageo, alone among Taiwanese companies, continued to expand capacity, despite the falling margins, claimed Chen. Yageo built new production facilities in China last year, Chen said, because many of the company's customers had moved their factories to the mainland. Yageo reduced costs 30 per cent last year in an attempt to cope with price erosion, she said. Despite this, the company's gross margins last year fell from 30 per cent to 27 per cent. Even if components manufacturers start expanding capacity now, Chen said, there would still be a four to six month lag before their new products reached the market. New entrants to the market face technological and financial entry barriers, Chen said, and returns on investment are slow. "We expect from June 99 to June 2000, our competitors' production capacity of MLCCs won't expand too much." Yageo estimates that it holds around 13 to 14 per cent of the global cheap resistor market, in volume terms. Yageo has recently entered the MLCC market, monthly output will be 300 million capacitors by the end of this year, increasing to 500 million next year, according to Chen. Yageo aims to capture about 15 per cent of Taiwan's MLCC market initially. Executives at Team Young, a local MLCC manufacturer, believe their industry is at the beginning of an upturn that may last two years, said Brebeck, who visited Team Young last week. Team Young's current inventory is below its normal one month level, and the company is experiencing shortages of several raw materials, he said. "Their sales growth is constrained more by production capacity than by demand." Team Young expects MLCC prices to "increase by five or six per cent in the second half of 1999." Jonathan Yi, of local motherboard maker, Shuttle Inc, said that the shortage was affecting manufacturers of computer motherboards. However, he said, they are also facing a more serious shortage of chipsets, a vital motherboard component. Supplies of Intel chipsets are only meeting about half of the demand, he said. Shuttle's production averages about 150,000 motherboards a month, according to Yi. ®
The Intel chip monster has warned, unilaterally and specifically, and on its support pages that something is afoot on chip voltages. On the Intel support page, the giant seems to have declared a shift in its voltages strategy. While this may only be of notional interest to non-technical readers of this title, the move is significant. It signifies a shift in safety for many of its Pentium III chips, thus indicating that many are running far too hot. If you apply too much voltage to Intel Pentium III processors, says this page, untoward things may happen. Says Intel: "It's important that motherboards run at the right speed". Otherwise the VRM might blow up,as reported here earlier. ® See also Intel clocking software found on Web Camino delay to upset BX chipset
MS on TrialMS on Trial The most remarkable thing about the 800-page Plaintiffs' Joint Proposed Findings of Fact (PJPFF) is that is very much better than was anticipated. The PJPFF is the summary of the Microsoft trial so far according to the Department of Justice, so it is effectively a mirror image of Microsoft's version, analysed here last week. There had been concern that the consumer interest - the key issue in antitrust cases - had not been sufficiently emphasised by the DoJ during the examination of witnesses, but with the facts gathered together, there are 150 pages addressing this very topic. The difference between the PJPFF and Microsoft's Proposed Findings of Fact (MPFF) is very great. The PJPFF is a well-developed document in every respect, from its excellent tables of contents to the way in which the evidence is presented. The logic contrasts sharply with the Microsoft's labyrinthine rhetoric: both are likely to find an important place in the classics of legal literature, albeit for different reasons. Judging from what the professional team at the DoJ's San Francisco office has produced, had former DoJ antitrust chief Ann Bingaman left the first antitrust case to the Antitrust Division's professional staff instead of interfering, we might today have a competitive marketplace for operating systems. Bingaman played a politician's role in hoping to get a quick fix and an associated reputation, but failed because she was out-negotiated by Microsoft, and wound up with the faulty Consent Decree, which Microsoft was able to drive a legal coach and four through. The PJPFF comes in the form of structured statements, which are introduced by a heading and elaborated with concise extracts from the trial documents. There is no fat, no extraneous argument, and none of the new evidence that characterised the Microsoft document. Because of the logical approach, it is far easier and more pleasant to read this document than Microsoft's. It will be difficult for Microsoft to make any significant impact on the document when it files its comments next month. The person who comes out of the DoJ story worst is Microsoft economic witness Dean Richard Schmalensee. The DoJ says his analysis is "deeply flawed... based on suppositions that are contrary to both the evidence and common sense and contradict his prior writings and testimony". For the Caldera case, Schmalensee defined a market for Intel-compatible desktop operating systems, but claimed in his evidence to the DoJ case that assessing market share is "not helpful in an industry like software" because the industry is too "dynamic" to apply traditional methods of antitrust analysis. The DoJ uses Schmalensee's indiscretions many times to show that his evidence was inconsistent and therefore unreliable, even finding eight examples where Schmalensee's assertions about there being no applications barrier were contradicted by his evidence. Schmalensee should perhaps consider whether his testimony is consistent with maintaining an academic position, and MIT should give careful thought as to whether its reputation can survive its economist guns-for-hire. There are some frustrating gaps where evidence is still under seal, although Judge Jackson has said he will be considering whether to release more of the evidence. The DoJ is rather gentle about alleged future competitive threats that Microsoft seeks to use by way of explanation of its behaviour. The PJPFF patiently deals with these attempted excuses by Microsoft, although it could have dismissed them with the argument that the case is properly about alleged illegal past actions. Even Microsoft was unable to find responses by Bill Gates to questions that could provide some degree of mitigation for its conduct. Nor has the DoJ found much of Gates' 20 hours of deposition useful to its case, since his basic approach was not to answer questions. The failure of Microsoft's chairman to lead from the front with a best-foot-forward defence will almost certainly be seen to be Microsoft's biggest mistake. Certainly Judge Jackson has commented both verbally and with body language about this. It was very important for the DoJ's case that legal criteria for proof are met, and the PJPFF appears to satisfy this requirement in abundance. It would appear that Microsoft has been out-lawyered by the DoJ, not on quantity but on some mixture of determination and quality. The DoJ names 13 lawyers (with Phillip Malone of the DoJ San Francisco-based Antitrust Bureau as trial attorney, David Boies as special trial counsel, and Jeffrey Blattner as special counsel for information technology), plus an unknown but probably minor amount of support from lawyers from the plaintiff states. For Microsoft, Sullivan & Cromwell acknowledges nine lawyers on the case, with Microsoft naming five in-house lawyers. There is however deep cause for concern as to whether any remedial measures that the District Court might impose would be in force during an appeal, or whether the Court of Appeals (or the Supreme Court) would order such measures to be held in abeyance while an appeal is considered. The facts of this case would appear to make the outcome less of a political issue about the principles of antitrust law (which is not favoured by the mostly Republican-appointed appellate judges), and more one of dealing with Microsoft's pattern of behaviour. On balance, it is therefore unlikely that an appellate court would put all remedies into abeyance, although if a structural remedy such as divestiture or the creation of Baby Softs were the principal remedy imposed, this would create an immediate problem. It is therefore more likely that non-structural remedies would be imposed. However, reasons for Microsoft to seek a consent decree at the very last moment are becoming more compelling. ® Other Sections Part II - monopoly power Part III - Browser Battles Complete Register Trial coverage
Japanese consumer electronics giant Sanyo today pulled the wraps off its upcoming portable digital music player -- and announced it intends to offer a full range of digital music devices, from hi-fi separates to in-store kiosks. Sanyo's announcement follows July's release of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) portable player specification, and the unveiling of similar devices from Philips, Matsushita and Toshiba. The device itself, as yet unnamed, will be based on Texas Instruments DSP chips and use Liquid Audio's Secure Portable Player Platform (SPPP -- or SP3, as Liquid Audio puts it in a desperate attempt to make it sounds like 'MP3') as its music format of choice, although it will also play MP3, Dolby Digital and others. So far only Diamond Multimedia (in its next-generation Rio) has pledged support for Liquid Audio's music format, so today's announcement is a significant boost for the music software specialist. Sanyo intends to license its player to third-parties, and that includes SPPP and TI's DSP chip. The trio's combined offerings will be submitted to the SDMI for its final spec., now due next March. The Sanyo-Liquid Audio-TI partnership is also one of the growing number of alliances between technology, music and consumer electronics players in the emerging digital music market. For example, recording giant Universal has teamed up with Matsushita, Intertrust and AT&T, while Sony is working with Microsoft. All of which is good for the MP3 digital music format. As the only format almost every device will play -- except for Matsushita's, which may prove a costly mistake -- buyers are likely to choose to download MP3 files since that's the only way they can be sure their music collection can be ported to any further players they may buy from other manufacturers. ®
Here at The Register had no idea that we had so many God fearing folk among our readers. In response to the story we ran earlier about BTCellnet installing a transmitter inside a church (see story) we have been informed that at least two churches in Scotland have mobile phone base stations installed in their spires. And, as one emailer reassured us: "We have managed to resist the thin end of the wedge and being driven in any further!" "I wonder what the local councillor, Peter Burt, thinks about allowing in other "outside influences" such as electricity and amplification systems, maybe even a cordless microphone -- using radio communication?" he questioned. Another church-going techie pointed out that the vicar in question may have another problem. "The space in the Spire may not be his to sell, it may well belong to the church estates commission, who already have national deals with mobile phone networks. Lots of churches have cell sites in them." We are staggered by the religious knowledge pouring out of our readers regarding this story. All we can say is that if anyone can shed light on turning water into wine, please get in touch. ®
Online banking is growing faster in Europe than in the US, according to research commissioned by BT. The number of European banks offering online transactions rose by nearly 200 per cent between November and June, today’s Financial Times said. The US had less than a third of the number of Internet banks than in the eight European countries investigated, it was found. BlueSky International Marketing said that much of this expansion was fuelled by smaller banks clubbing together to pool technology. It reported 1,265 sites in Europe, compared to 451 last November. The US saw the number of sites rise to 386 from 184. The country driving this growth in Europe was Germany, with transactional sites up from 369 to 1,048. France was also a force, seeing the number rise by 216 per cent. Suzan Nolan, president and lead marketing analyst of BlueSky, explained: "Countries with a history of online usage have a higher uptake of transactional sites than countries such as the US and the UK, which do not." But others remained sceptical of the research. Kenneth Clemmer, analyst at US-based Forrester Research, said: "There is a big difference between building [a web site] and having people come." The report also contradicted another study released two months ago. Consultants PwC and the Economist Intelligence Unit claimed that European bankers were lagging behind in Web usage and did not understand the implications of the Internet. ®
Britain's leading supermarket is looking into opening cybercafes at its stores around the country. Tesco's plans coincided with news that it is to begin rolling out its home shopping service throughout the country. Ten stores will be hooked up to the scheme this week with a further five stores a week joining up until next spring, a spokesman said today. Tesco Direct enables users to order their groceries online and have them delivered directly to their door. It's not clear yet whether customers will be able to go to the Tesco cybercafes to order their groceries from Tesco Direct before returning home and waiting a day or two for their food to arrive. Last week The Register reported that Tesco had denied its home shopping trial had been hit by a glitch. ®
The founder of Scottish Telecom, Rod Matthews, is to join the board of Alpha Telecom, the company announced today. He commented: "Alpha has developed an impressive operation in a short period of time - their ambition and motivation is exciting. My experience of building a significant telecomms business should prove significant in accelerating the company's development." The appointment is part of the company's ongoing program of investment in staff and infrastructure, following a £9.5 million cash injection from venture capitalists at Royal Bank Development Capital. Matthews said that he was 'delighted' to join the company. A company spokesman said: "Whilst RBDC's investment is helping us to acquire technological infrastructure, it is the people behind the technology that really count. Rod is the latest in a number of key high level appointments at Alpha Telecom. With these industry leaders on board, we are well placed to capitalise on the various opportunities available to us." ®
Fujitsu is launching a new range of teamservers, based on Intel's Pentium III Xeon 550Mhz processor. The company says the new range will reduce the cost of ownership for its customers. The range includes the four-way L800i models and the eight-way T800i models. The L8001 prices start at £4060.00 for the L870ie 550/512 server, and top out at £7495.00for the L890ie 550/2MB server. The prices for the T800i models, which are available with either 1MB or 2MB capacities, have yet to be announced. A company spokeswoman said to expect prices in September. Mark Pini, product business manager at Fujitsu commented: "The new models provide our customers with excellent performance and provide a perpetual computing environment maximising system availability and reducing the Total Cost of Ownership through long lifecycles." ®
Making Markets has seen a parting of the ways between its two founders George Evans and Julia Duthie. Duthie, formerly Making Markets commercial director, has quit the company and its flagship service Send IT Now to join US start-up pingpong.com. Pingpong.com is Making Markets’ financial backer. But the company is pulling out its cash this week to pursue its data-tracking software services, taking Duthie with it. She is currently in California. Evans will continue his role as MD at Making Markets, which recently moved to offices in Kingston, south London. He said he was sad at Duthie’s departure and described the split with Making Markets’ financier as "amicable". "There just weren’t enough funds to go around," said Evans. "Pingpong.com is now going to develop its traceability software into a bigger idea for the Web, and Making Markets is looking for funding to continue with Send IT Now." Send IT Now is an on-line service which informs resellers of the latest distributor and vendor trade offers. Mark Davison, who joined Making Markets as its marketing manager from Datrontech in January, has also left the company. According to Evans, Davison wanted to pursue other interests but has not yet taken a post elsewhere. ®