26th > August > 1999 Archive

Net Finance News: 15-21 Aug 1999

Cash Register21 Aug 1999 Bertelsmann has teamed up with fellow German publisher Gruner+Jahr to run online auctions. The European Internet auction market will be worth $1.6bn, according to Bertelsmann -but it doesn't say when. Neither does it reveal how it will fund the new business, called Andsold.
Team Register, 26 Aug 1999

French ISP market to go freebie mad

France Telecom is to offer new tariffs to its customers, in a move that could restructure the French ISP landscape. One of the suggested models is a subscription free, flat-rate call charge, of 28 centimes/minute, including tax. This would match the current peak rate cost, but include free access to an ISP. France Telecom says that it will suit lighter Internet users. France Telecom's own ISP, Wandoo, currently charges 75 Francs per month plus between seven and 28 centimes/minute for access to the Internet. Although free Internet access has been a reality in France since April, the new model would allow France Telecom to offer kickbacks to ISPs, which is not familiar practice at present. Industry watchers say that the plan would drive growth in the free Internet access market, as it did in the UK. France Telecom moans that it is losing money on discounted calls directed through third parties, such as Colt or UUNet. The new tariff would make it harder for other carriers to make money linking subscribers to their ISP's, and conversely, stop France Telecom losing money. The company said that its hardware upgrades have made it possible for it to offer new tariffs to the public, as it can now direct calls more efficiently. ® Daily Net finance news from The Register
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Aug 1999

Intergraph claims Intel still strangling it

Workstation company Intergraph's long-running feud with Intel took a further bitter twist yesterday after it accused the chip giant of not complying with a court's instructions. It filed a further action in its litigation against Intel, alleging that its workstation business is collapsing because of the chip monster's action. Intergraph said it has been forced to fire staff because of Intel's alleged action. The original action it filed against Intel can be found here The trial will not come to court before the middle of next year, but in the run-up period, the presiding judge ruled that Intel supply it with the necessary information it needed to make PCs. Part of Intergraph's charges against Intel was that it was strongarmed over technology it had patents for. ®
Mike Magee, 26 Aug 1999

Phoenix snuggles up to Java developer Insignia

Phoenix Technologies COO David Frodsham has joined the board of Insignia Solutions, and we feel a Register stock tip coming on. Insignia is best known for its SoftWindows product, which is by no means the money-spinner it once was, but Frodsham's arrival indicates a positive future for Insignia's next generation products, and a strengthening alliance with (perhaps even purchase by) Phoenix. At the moment the companies have quite a bit in common, and Insignia's software technology must be of considerable interest to Phoenix. It's recently started shipping Jeode, a Java implementation designed for embedded systems. It's based on Insignia's Embedded Virtual Machine (EVM), a runtime engine which has a small memory footprint, and which Insignia claims, using a proprietary technique known as adaptive dynamic compilation, can execute Java applications around six times faster than interpretive VMs. Phoenix meanwhile has got a lot more interested in appliances and the like recently, and struck a licensing deal with Boca Research for the latter's Internet appliance development earlier this week. Boca's designs are being used for AOL TV set-top boxes. So Insignia could bring quite a bit to the Phoenix party. Jeode supports numerous operating systems, including CE, NT, VxWorks and Linux, and a range of hardware, including MIPS, ARM, x86, PowerPC and Hitachi SH. So if, say, you were a major bios vendor looking to strengthen your pitch in the coming Internet appliance market, and you therefore needed to broaden your wares out beyond Wintel, Insignia could come in very handy. Mr Frodsham, incidentally, has something of a history. He was part of the team that defected from Psion back in the 80s in order to develop pocket x86 PC designs. The nicest of these was built by Sharp, but it wasn't successful, and The Register broke three before giving up (the case wasn't tough enough). He subsequently got himself taken over by Phoenix, and seems to have done rather well for himself. Hiya, David. ®
John Lettice, 26 Aug 1999

Gates hints Win2k shipment will slip to next year

Here's a puzzle. Yesterday Bill Gates was widely reported as expressing confidence that Windows 2000 would ship this year, whereas what he really said could more comfortably be interpreted as suggesting further slippage. You hear what you want to hear, apparently. He was speaking to some of his firmest friends, at Dell's DirectConnect conference, and he said "We are very close to the final shipment... We're pretty sure the builds will go final by the end of the year." But although these are confident noises, they're less confident than the ones Microsoft was making earlier this year. Six months ago or thereabouts Microsoft was saying it would ship when it's done, but it was clear that Win2k slipping beyond December was unthinkable. MS was even indicating to the more docile elements in the press that it was pretty sure it would achieve a private, internal target of, er, October. We don't hear those leaks any more, do we? And check out precisely what Bill was saying. Effectively, he's pretty sure that Microsoft will be able to get to final builds before the end of the year. He didn't say gold code, and while that might be what he meant, it might not be, too. Whatever, if the target has slipped to getting to Release To Manufacture (RTM) by the end of December, then it'll be into Q1 2000 before Win2k starts shipping. Which is somewhat different from 'will ship this year,' no? This incidentally tallies with what Microsoft was telling the analysts, and most of the press (and, god help us, the analysts) were failing to notice, a few weeks back. The company doesn't expect serious revenues from Win2k until the second half of the year, and said so in its PowerPoints. ®
John Lettice, 26 Aug 1999

Chip prices start to soar in Taiwan

Local Taiwanese wires are reporting that component shortages are allowing silicon manufacturers to raise their prices by significant amounts. According to one report, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), has announced price hikes of 25 per cent, starting in early September. The company had already warned of earlier price increases of 15 per cent. TSMC is the biggest silicon foundry on the island. Other major Taiwanese foundries, including UMC, are bound to follow suit. Earlier this week, we reported of major shortages in all component sectors. ® See also Shortages in Taiwan are getting crucial, man Taiwan mobo makers put on severe BX/ZX chipset allocation
Mike Magee, 26 Aug 1999

Microsoft puts boot into 64-bit Alpha

Compaq has suffered a further body blow to its Alpha chip strategy after it emerged any Microsoft support for 64-bit software will be thin gruel indeed. Earlier this week, senior VP Enrico "The Cloak" Pesatori held out hope for 64-bit Microsoft Alpha development, but those dreams have been dashed by a PR release from the Satan of Software. In a company statement, Microsoft said 64-bit versions of its products will be targeted at the Intel IA-64 architecture. It will discontinue development of future 32-bit and 64-bit Alpha products across its product line, Microsoft added. We have obtained a leaked Compaq Q&A which is illuminating to all. (Leaked Compaq Q&A shows level of Alpha chaos) Microsoft and the then Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) formed their NT alliance on 3 August 1995. As part of the deal, Microsoft developed an NT which mysteriously seemed to have lines of DEC code in there. Digital funded the Alpha port of NT, and, subsequently, Compaq inherited that mantle when it bought DEC. Now it appears, corporate end users which took the decision to invest in this future, will be left holding the NT Alpha baby. ® See also Gates hints Win2K shipments slip to next year Leaked Pesatori memo spills Alpha beans Compaq Alpha cuts pull rug from under MS 64-bit NT Compaq set to fire Alpha NT developers Will Compaq change direction on Alpha?
Mike Magee, 26 Aug 1999

MS partner Telewest gobbles up Cable London

Microsoft's prospects of setting the standards in the British cable TV industry have improved slightly, with the news that Telewest is buying the 50 per cent of Cable London it doesn't already own. As part of its recent deals with AT&T Microsoft itself is acquiring a stake in Telewest. But Cable London isn't quite the heavy-hitter its name might suggest. It covers only around 440,000 homes in parts of London, and so far hasn't exactly been in the vanguard of the interactive cable revolution. Its 50:50 ownership by NTL and Telewest was basically unfinished business from this year's massive consolidation of the UK cable industry. Telewest is paying NTL UKP 428 million for the stake. This is on the high side, but a somewhat more dynamic approach could win it greater penetration in the Cable London franchise area. Register factoid: Earlier this year Cable London refused point blank to transfer a Register phone number from BT to its own phone service. There was a certain twisted logic to this which we won't go into here, but Cable London should really report itself to Oftel. ® Daily Net finance news from The Register
John Lettice, 26 Aug 1999

AMD's Sanders gets chips with his chicken

Adamson Rust, 26 Aug 1999

Intel's NEWSPEED's little legs continue to run

The debate over the virtues and vices of Intel's NEWSPEED.EXE utility has taken a further twist. The Hard OCP boys have received an email from a vendor who has explained what the utility is for. According to the vendor, pre-production PIIs with SIMD on a Seattle mobo has an adjustable clock speed BIOS. But to make use of it, the case needs to be opened, so the utility is a software way of avoiding that fuss and bother. He claims he's clocked 450MHz chips to 550MHz without any special cooling, while clocking it to 600MHz just locks the machine up. Go to Kyle's page for the whole dirt. And go here for our last story and links to previous ones. ®
Mike Magee, 26 Aug 1999

Dellfest hosts the Bill and Mike show

Michael Dell and Bill Gates cuddled up yesterday at Dell's DirectConnect customer conference in Austin, Texas, but it was a lacklustre performance by both of them. In his speech, Dell introduced a new fat Internet PC, pinched in the middle, and code-named the Webster. Dell has not been known for the sexiness of its boxes, but the hourglass-shaped Webster will run Windows, have an Intel processor and a hard disk. Pricing was not announced, nor was the release date. It will have what Dell calls a relationship button: press it and you get a form to report a problem via the Internet. This service will not be free, however: you have to pay for your relationship. Dell is not saying if the Webster will be the first of a new line. Dell vp Carl Everett said that "For many buyers, megahertz doesn't really matter. What counts is what the machine does for you on the Internet." Dell said with great gravity that "We believe that the Internet will be your business", but he was really talking about Dell, which is making $30 million/day or $11 billion/year from Internet sales. That's not as much as IBM's Internet sales, by the way. Dell noted that 80 per cent of Dell's technical support problems (he actually said "issues") are solved without dispatching a technician, whereas the industry average for this was 27 per cent. Dell will be offering a new online support service it calls OpenManage Resolution Assistant, which will be initially available on its PowerEdge servers and across its range by the end of next year. The idea is to use the Internet to diagnose problems and to offer corrections. Dell calls this "self-healing". Dell said he was not about to retire, and likes his job as the number two PC maker. He also liked seeing Dell "grow and bring change to society". Of course the money is good too: he was paid $109 million last year, and has about $15 billion stashed away. A recently released Dell white paper on wireless technologies pointed out that Dell was participating in the review of the Bluetooth standard, and that Dell "plans to work closely with Microsoft and other software vendors to ensure that operating systems and applications programs include support for wireless applications". Now Bluetooth devices do not work with Windows since they are incompatible with the Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS), but the Symbian EPOC operating system is optimised for wireless devices. Could it be that Dell is thinking the unthinkable? Will we see a Dell EPOC hand-held? (No - Ed.) Mostly Gates' talk was a boring rehash of the his new book, but he did say about Windows 2000 that "We are very close to the final shipment. We're pretty sure the builds will go final by the end of the year." His caveat for slipping the shipping date was that "Quality is key". There was a hint that Windows 2000 may not support as many clients as expected, because "you are always going to have a lot of servers". Gates said that Microsoft R&D would increase 25 per cent to $3.8 billion, so it sounds as though he is expecting some considerable bug fixing costs for Windows 2000. In addition, he said that new interfaces would be developed for voice-recognition and handwriting-recognition software. Presumably Microsoft's effort at speech recognition has failed, since about a year ago, Nathan Myhrvold, then head of Research, had said that Microsoft had completed the development for this. It sounds as though Microsoft has made no progress in persuading L&H, Dragon and Palm to let Microsoft have their technology. Gates was clearly upset that the new Turner Network TV movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley" cast him in an adverse light: "They didn't get the facts quite right," said the man who has reserved the right to rewrite history. The way he saw it was: "This business was fun and exciting and full of great people and it's been a great privilege to be part of its being created. I hope that someday somebody can capture that in a truthful way." In response to a question about future threats (excluding legal actions), Gates said Microsoft's problem was its success and making sure people maintain that innovation, stifling bureaucracy and moving fast. He then added the curious remark that "You don't let somebody come along like we did and change the rules of the game". What could he mean? ®
Graham Lea, 26 Aug 1999

Banner ads more appealing to women

Men are less likely to 'click thru' on banner advertising than women - but only just, according to research from PC Data. 51 per cent of women and 43 per cent of men said they occasionally clicked on advertisements, while 39 per cent and 29 per cent respectively stated they 'seldom' clicked on the banners. But men and women both respond the same way to styles of advertising. Nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of all respondents said that animated ads were their favourite type. Men favour non animated ads more than women, 25 per cent to 20 per cent, again a very slight difference. Neither group like pop up FLAB ads though, with only six per cent of men and eight per cent of women citing these as favourite. So what grabs the punters attention? PC Data says that curiosity about subject matter gets more people clicking on banner ads than anything else (61 per cent). Discounts and product recognition trail with a rather dismal 10 per cent each. And as much as we all say we hate advertising, a large proportion of surfers rely on banner ads for information about new sites. 49 per cent of men and women listed advertisement as a favoured source of information about new sites. It was the third most popular trigger, beaten only by personal recommendation and search engine results. ® Daily Net finance news from The Register
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Aug 1999

New Jersey Environmental Protection dept. sues IBM, others

Departments of the state government of New Jersey filed suit two days ago against Big Blue and a host of other firms, including several technology companies. The administrator of the NJ Spill Compensation Fund, and the commissioner of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, filed the environmental suit against Lucent too. Other large multinationals named in the action include Exxon, Texaco, Shell, Ford, General Motors, Hoechst, Dow, Du Pont, Colgate Palmolive, Pfizer and Texaco. No from IBM was available to comment on the legal action at press time. ®
Mike Magee, 26 Aug 1999

Osmosis man to stage comeback

John Fenton, ex-Osmosis MD, is launching a components sourcing firm in the UK next month. Fenton is opening a UK sales office of IT brokerage firm Tradelink Distribution, which is based in the West Indies.
Linda Harrison, 26 Aug 1999

Acer pushes into networks with Cisco deal

Taiwanese PC builder Acer, is to branch out into networking following a deal signed yesterday with Cisco. The deal will initially focus on voice and data comms systems using Cisco's data, voice video integration (DVVI) protocol. According to reports on Taiwanese wires, video phones will be among the first products developed under the partnership. While pushing Acer into new, higher margin sectors, the market for video phones is unlikely to bring big rewards. Cisco has said it will modify a number of its existing products to incorporate Acer kit, which could open the door for Acer to OEM Cisco kit. At a press conference yesterday, Richard Freemantle, vice president of Cisco Systems Asia Pacific, said: "There will be modifications within our core set of products to accommodate the Acer products. Going on from that, the sky is the limit." ®
Sean Fleming, 26 Aug 1999

Microsoft share price rise is a puzzle

For no agreed reason, Microsoft shares have increased in value by 14 per cent this week. There's an opinion from Michael Stanek of Lehman Brothers which noted that Microsoft is "somewhat immune from Y2K", and projects a price of 130 within 12 months. Bloomberg and Dow Jones cited "a favourable court ruling" which may be an optimistic way of describing the failure of the judge to give some reasons for decisions in Sun's action against Microsoft over Java. Bloomberg also mentioned as a reason the expected appointment of Richard Belluzzo to head Microsoft's Internet activities, but this was unrelated, according to Bill Epifanio of JP Morgan, who though the approach of Windows 2000 was more important. Steve Ballmer is on holiday and Gates is essentially out of operational matters, so the word from Microsoft is "no comment" about Belluzzo. Since he is tipped to start on 1 September, he is no doubt negotiating his contract details and reading the relevant Dummies book on the Internet, since his background is strongest in printer sales. The rise in Microsoft's share price will be bad news for head lawyer Bill Neukom, who sold 90,000 shares last week, just before the price rose. There has also been some curious activity in the Pacifc Exchange Microsoft options market, with many out-of-money calls being sold earlier in the week (essentially they are a bet that Microsoft's price will go higher). The proceeds from the sale of the calls was being spent on buying Microsoft stock, according to traders. The volatility index, which is seen a kind of fear gauge, was down 4 per cent at one point, according to a Microsoft trader. There are also mixed views as to whether there is an increased or decreased likelihood of a tracking stock to spin off Microsoft's Internet activities, to be known as the Consumer and Commerce group. Some were of the opinion that it would be a way to measure Belluzzo's performance, but whether Microsoft would be willing to entrust to him what could be around $50 billion of its $486 billion of assets is uncertain. Microsoft's Internet business showed revenue of $725 million in the FY which ended in June, but the losses are not disclosed. Another advantage of a tracker could be that it would provide a way to make expensive Internet acquisitions without diluting profits. Gates is believed to be against the tracker idea because of "implementation challenges" and CFO Greg Maffei thinks it would be expensive and complex to initiate. Of course, there could be trouble with other Microsoft staff if employees saw those with Internet options doing better - although this appears to be rather unlikely in the near future. Separately, AT&T may be considering creating a tracking stock since it scrapped a plan to create shares for its cable and wireless businesses. This could now have a tracker, with another for its long-distance services. AT&T's rationale is that investors have not valued AT&T shares sufficiently - they are down 20 per cent on their high last month. Of course, all this speculative analysis is based on an assumption that the markets are rational. ®
Graham Lea, 26 Aug 1999

Chat network bans Malaysian users

Malaysian Internet users have been banned from the Undernet chat system, following allegations that not enough is being done to stop abuse of the Internet Chat Relay (IRC) network. Undernet has been quick to point out that Malaysian Net users are not more ill-mannered than those from any other country, but lays the blame at the feet of the country's two ISPs. According to a report on Newsbytes, Undernet has taken the unusual action because the ISPs in question -- TMNet and Jaring -- failed to comply with the IRC administrators' requests to crack down on individuals who were abusing the system. The sort of abuse in question could range from spamming other users to attempts to hack into the IRC network. It is common procedure for the IRC to ask ISPs to step in and caution their users when incidents such as these occur. But according to Undernet, the two Malaysian ISPs were slow to respond. As a result, Undernet banned all incoming traffic from users with a .my domain -- the Malaysian domain. Two other IRC networks -- DALNet and EFnet -- have also instigated bans against Malaysian users. It understood that the Jaring ISP has had its ban lifted after contacting Undernet, but TMNet has not responded, Undernet said. Undernet said the source of the conflict was the "irresponsible and unresponsive administration of the Malaysian ISPs". The IRC went on to say: "We are not singling out Malaysia, but it is in general is the most abusive domain currently accessing the Undernet. Malaysian IP space and resources are being used to launch denial of service attacks and the last attack against one of our routing servers was the straw that broke the camel's back." ®
Sean Fleming, 26 Aug 1999

Microworkz president falls on sword

Rick Latman, president of budget-PC vendor Microworkz, today said he will quit his post on 15 November to make way for a new management team. Latman will stay on at the company he founded, but take a more back-seat role as chairman of the board. Until a replacement is found, Microworkz will be run by recently arrived COO Lance Rosen. Microworkz' spin on Latman's move has the president moving on in response to the company's fast -- "perhaps too fast", confessed Latman -- growth. As a result, Microworkz reckons it needs to get out of that start-up frame of mind and start acting like a major IT operation. Or, as the company puts it, expand "its organisational bandwidth" -- whatever the heck that means... Still, it's a curious move given that it's a tacit admission that Microworkz has been getting it wrong of late. There's been the issue of whether the company can ship its $199 iToaster Net access box -- it has finally begun to do so, it now claims. And there's the ongoing legal tussle with US ISP EarthLink, which alleges Microworkz failed to pay it for the 1000 or so users the ISP gave free Internet access to on Microworkz' behalf. Microworkz arrogantly claims to be "a household name". It may well be -- but not for selling bucketloads of computers. But then this is a company that believes itself to be "the darling of the computer world", and has a president who seems to view himself as a latter-day Henry Ford, bringing computers to everyone. That kind of attitude is unlikely to appeal to prospective partners, and Latman's move may well have been decided upon to give the company a more conservative front as it seeks to shift its business model away from selling direct to consumers but to ISPs and large retail chains, such as AOL, British free ISP Freeserve and its retailer parent, Dixons Stores Group. Latman's off-the-cuff remarks earlier this year about how Microworkz was on the verge of a major multi-million dollar deal with Freeserve can hardly have made negotiations with the ISP's straight-laced owner any easier. Finally, Microworkz is probably looking to make an IPO once it's got the iToaster shipping smoothly, and putting a more conventional management team in place makes it far less likely the company might alienate Wall Street. ® Related Stories Microworkz moves to settle EarthLink suit Microworkz signs $300m ISP deal with AT&T
Tony Smith, 26 Aug 1999

Young blood pushing out Intel old blood

What were the most important events of 1929, 1936 and 1939? Some might say the Wall Street Crash, Jesse Owens thumbing his nose at the Nazis at the Berlin Olympics and the premiere of John Ford's western masterpiece, Stagecoach. But for the denizens of Chipzilla's hallowed cubicles, the obvious answer would be the births of top bananas Gordon Moore, Andy Grove and Craig Barrett. Intel's gang of three have an average age of (IA) 64.3 years, an age where regular folks are planning on putting their feet up, wearing cardigans and pretending to be deaf in order to annoy people. But despite Moore taking a bit of a back seat and Grove thinking strategically instead of tactically, they're still holding the corporate reins real tight. Young Craig Barrett took over day to day responsibility for steering the chip behemoth last year, but at 60 years old and counting, surely someone young enough to have heard of the Beatles, or even the Spice Girls, must be being groomed for the top job. But who? Kicking Pat Gelsinger, Paul Otellini and marketing supremo Sean Maloney have variously been tipped as candidates by Intel watchers. A look at who is giving presentations at high profile external events makes interesting reading: of the most recent 20 major presentations given by senior Intel glitterati, Otellini and Gelsinger scored two apiece, Craig Barrett did three, but the clear winner was Sean Maloney with star billing at no fewer than four blue chip events. And he's not even an American. ®
Pete Sherriff, 26 Aug 1999

BSA bullies blasted by accountants

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, but you never expect one to look like an accountant. Yet that's just what has happened. One of the UK accountancy community's trade bodies - the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) - has blasted the Business Software Alliance (BSA) for its bully-boy tactics, becoming a champion for many in the UK business world. The BSA is the self-styled anti-piracy policing body for the software industry. It has a reputation for being rather direct in its dealings with companies it suspects are using illegal copies of software. It regularly sends out letters to companies on its mailing list demanding they disclose information about what software they use and asking them if they can prove all their software is legal. The BSA has no legal or official remit to act in such a manner, it claims it is acting in the interests of its members and seeking to uphold the rule of law where software piracy is concerned. The ACCA is not impressed. The association has advised its members to throw letters from the BSA in the bin and has accused the BSA of using subterfuge to invade business privacy, according to a report on TechWeb. ACCA small business committee secretary David Harvey added: "The letter suggests that the BSA has powers it does not. It is bullying and we don't think that is effective." Some letters sent out by the BSA have reportedly demanded a response, saying: "You have seven days to complete and return the enclosed BSA Software Declaration Form." This is part of what the ACCA is calling the BSA's bullying and intimidating behaviour. Among the BSA's members are Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Corel and Symantec. Last month, the BSA in Uruguay was accused of being in Microsoft's pocket after it dropped a pursuit of the country's national phone company, Antel. According to reports, Antel had been found using pirate copies of Microsoft, Novell and Symantec software. The BSA stopped pursuing Antel for damages when it standardised it operation on legally bought Microsoft software. ®
Sean Fleming, 26 Aug 1999

Asda lashes mobile carriers for price hikes

Vodafone and BTCellnet are feeling the wrath of Asda after announcing plans to raise pre-paid mobile phone prices by 90 per cent. The supermarket chain has complained to Oftel, the telephone watchdog, that the companies have broken sales agreements. Asda has been buying mobiles at a cost price of around £30, but BTCellnet has announced it will up this to £60. Vodafone is doing the same, and Orange and One2One are believed to be taking similar steps. Asda claims this is anti-competitive behaviour. The price hikes follows the price war which broke out over pay-as-you-go mobiles in supermarkets last week. Asda, Safeway and Sainsbury’s all followed Tesco's price slashing, resulting in some packages on the shelves priced as low as £49.99. Apparently, Vodafone and BTCellnet were unable to cope with the surging demand, so decided to push up prices. They also expressed worries about a repeat of the problems experienced last Christmas following booming sales. However, according to today's Daily Telegraph, Asda accused the telecomms companies of being just plain greedy. "Having turned mobile phones into everyday items, BTCellnet and Vodafone now want to re-introduce higher charges and put the low-price genie back in the bottle," said Sioned Rees-Thomas, Asda home and leisure business director. Asda called for Oftel to act fast, warning that otherwise customers would lose out. "The words 'cake' and 'eat it' spring to mind," another Asda representative added. BTCellnet defended its actions by claiming the company was simply not wringing enough profits out of its customers. "No one foresaw that the acceleration in unit demand would outstrip customer call volumes in the short to medium term. "Lower-than-expected levels of billable usage, and a higher-than-expected level of sales of phones have therefore necessitated these changes," wept one BTCellnet representative. Oftel this afternoon said it was unable to comment as it had still not received the complaint from Asda. So much for Asda imploring the watchdog to act fast - obviously, the supermarket thought it was more important to alert the press than the regulator itself. ®
Linda Harrison, 26 Aug 1999

Vodafone Scoots info to handsets

Online information company, Scoot.com has won the contract to provide Vodafone with Internet Directory Services. The deal means that when Vodafone launches its new phones with Internet access, its customers will be able to get results of any searches sent to their phones as text messages. The deal is a good one for Scoot, but the new phones will not be available for at least 12 months. In the mean time the people finder service can be accessed at www.scoot.co.uk, and will soon be available at Vodafone's site www.vodafone.com. Incidentally, when Vulture Central called UK Directory Enquiries for a phone number for Scoot.com (the company name), we were informed that directory enquiries "doesn't normally list emails you know." Oh boy. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Aug 1999

Official: the Net can give you syphilis

The Internet has swarmed with health threats lately, the vast majority of which seem inevitably to originate in the United States. We have heard of ten-year-old American fatties glued to the monitor and developing adult-onset diabetes; we have heard how the mouse and keyboard are implicated in carpal tunnel syndrome; we have heard that the Internet causes insanity, addictions, compulsions, and personality disorders. Evidently one would be hard-pressed to locate a primitive band of hunter-gatherers in poorer health than the average American family today. Now even cybersex threatens the American public. Each of the last seven consecutive cases of syphilis reported to the San Francisco Department of Health pertain to patients who had visited an AOL chat room for gay men called SFM4M (San Francisco Men For Men), the Department confirmed on Monday. Public health and privacy interests collided as the Department sought to identify and warn other visitors to the channel, but AOL's privacy policy made that impossible without a subpoena. The resourceful Department then enlisted online gay and lesbian group PlanetOut, which supplied volunteers to chat in SFM4M and distribute Health Department literature among its visitors. Health Department spokesman Jeffrey Klausner confessed to some innocence of the Internet's role as a sexual network, calling the discovery an "eye-opener". As the director of the sexually-transmitted diseases division, Klausner owes it to the good citizens of San Francisco to get considerably better acquainted with the cyber-sexual habits of a wired society. We just hope the online research doesn't ruin his health. ® Related Stories First they come for you Computers Kill Brits Attack of the Killer Laptops emails damage your health Monitor health risk is rubbish Killer monitors - the facts IT equipment is bad for your health Then they cripple you.. and give you cancer, too Kids, cancer and mobile phones Mobile phones are a pain in the neck ...and links to five more brain maim stories Get off your sick bed, it's time to fight back Woman hacks into husband's PC - literally Half of users attack their PCs Users smash up PCs in outbreaks of networkrage But whatever you do, don't listen to Compaq -- it's on the computer's side, I'm telling you. Turn away before it's too late... Hate your PC? Tell Compaq all about it
Thomas C Greene, 26 Aug 1999

Leaked Compaq Q&A shows level of 64-bit NT Alpha chaos

This internal Q&A should be viewed against our story Microsoft puts boot into 64-bit Alpha. Any of our own comments are italicised. Windows NT Alpha Strategy Q & A Version 1 - 25 Aug 99 General Questions: Q. Exactly what has Compaq changed in its Alpha Windows NT Strategy? What has Compaq announced? Why has Compaq decommitted from Windows NT on Alpha systems? A. Based on the extremely good scalability of our 4- and 8-way ProLiant servers with 32-bit Windows NT, Compaq believes that this platform can satisfy all market requirements for 32-bit Windows NT. We have therefore been able to simplify our strategy and offerings. Compaq will end 32-bit Windows NT Alpha systems development with V4 SP6, late in 1999, and will not support either 32 or 64-bit Windows 2000 on Alpha systems. This change will enable us to sharply focus our Alpha strategy and resources on our aggressive plans to grow Tru64 UNIX market share, support our loyal OpenVMS customers, extend our Himalaya range, and drive volumes for Alpha systems with Linux. Q. What is Compaq's Windows NT strategy going forward? A. As the leading provider of Windows NT-based platforms and solutions, Compaq is a strong supporter of Windows NT and will remain at the forefront of moving Windows NT into the enterprise as its capabilities continue to mature. We will maintain our leadership role in providing the environment in which Microsoft is developing its 64-bit capable versions of NT as well as our extensive involvement in assuring the best performance and reliability on Microsoft's current and future 32 bit offerings. The only change in strategy is that all of Compaq's efforts on behalf of 32- bit Windows NT will now be built around our industry-leading IA32-based systems. The recent very strong performance results achieved with Compaq's new 8-way ProLiant servers demonstrates that we can meet 100% of the market requirement for 32-bit Windows NT systems with these platforms. Q. Will Alpha support for 64-bit Windows NT also be discontinued? Why? A. We will continue partnering aggressively with Microsoft on development of 64-bit Windows NT, utilizing Alpha systems. We do not plan to offer 64-bit Windows 2000 on Alpha systems, and will focus our efforts on offering the very best 64-bit IA32 Windows NT platforms in the market at the time of its introduction. How can you have a 64-bit IA32 system? Q. Is this a sign of Compaq slowly backing away from Alpha? A. Absolutely not. Alpha still remains a vital component of Compaq's NonStop eBusiness strategy for the enterprise. As evidence of this, the previous commitment to move the NonStop Himalaya and Integrity system architectures to Alpha is intact, as is the recent commitment by the senior management to spend an incremental $100M to further the position of Tru64 UNIX/AlphaServer in the marketplace. There is also strong market interest in Linux running on Alpha, and this will be a major focus for driving volume based on the Alpha architecture. Finally, the Alpha chip roadmap continues advancing, with "shrinks" of the 3rd-generation of Alpha architecture (the 21264), the finalization of the EV7 design, and early design of EV8 technologies all presently underway. Installed Base Impact Questions: Q. Am I "dead-ended" with the current investment in my AlphaServer? What options do I have? A. No. Compaq is putting in place programs and growth paths to satisfy our customers' requirements through this change in plans. For already installed AlphaServers running Windows NT: In the short term, customers can continue to use their existing systems ith current applications and have the option to upgrade to Service Pack 5 and then Service Pack 6. In the long term, customers can continue to use their current systems with Windows NT 4, and will be supported by Compaq Customer Services until at least Q1 CY2001. For future needs (including Windows 2000), customers should take advantage of trade-in programs and migration services to Windows NT or Windows 2000 on ProLiant servers, or to Tru64 UNIX, OpenVMS or Linux on their AlphaServer systems. For customers considering new AlphaServer systems running Windows NT: Customers can move to ProLiant Servers and run Windows NT 4 or Windows 2000, depending on their requirements. For each of these circumstances, Compaq will provide attractive programs, upgrades and migration services to fit the individual customer needs. Details on these programs are available from your regional representative. Q. I bought my Tru64 UNIX or OpenVMS AlphaServer with the promise that it would run Windows NT in the future. What do I do now? A. Compaq will provide upgrade and trade-in programs to ProLiant Servers for customers who chose to move to Windows NT in the future. Details of these programs are available from your regional representative. Q. I have an Alpha Windows NT-only DIGITAL Servers (white box), what options do I have? A. Customers with Alpha Windows NT-only DIGITAL Servers can continue to run Windows NT V4 with support provided up through at least Service Pack 5. For customers who wish to move to Windows 2000, Compaq will provide attractive upgrade and trade-in programs to new ProLiant Servers. Q. How long will my current Windows NT Alpha system be supported? A. Our Customer Services organization will continue to support both hardware and software, for the foreseeable future and at least through Q1, 2001. Hardware support will be offered under standard terms & conditions. As a demonstration of this commitment, Compaq Customer Services still supports VAX and PDP technology. Q. How long will you ship new Alpha systems running Windows NT V4? A. A specific roadmap that details the last ship dates for each system model is provided in supporting materials. Q. I have a large investment in Alpha for UNIX, why won't Tru64 UNIX be next to be dropped (when Merced ships)? A. The market for enterprise servers running UNIX remains a very strong and vital one, and Compaq intends to be a leader within the segments of this market we focus on, in order to service the needs of our enterprise customers. Tru64 UNIX is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest UNIX operating systems in the market. The recent commitment by senior management to spend an incremental $100 million to fortify the position of Tru64 UNIX/AlphaServers in the market is tangible evidence of our intentions. Q. I am in the middle of Y2K validation and am planning to move to Windows 2000. Why has Compaq dropped Alpha support for Windows NT at this critical time? A. Customers will continue to be able to run Windows NT Service Pack 4 for Y2K conformance and have the ability to upgrade through Service Pack 6. This will enable customers to run current Alpha systems through CY2000 without impacting their Y2K readiness. As customers begin to move to implement Windows 2000, they have the option to re-deploy their current AlphaServer to run Tru64 UNIX or OpenVMS, add ProLiant Servers running Windows 2000 or take advantage of upgrade and trade-in programs being put in place by Compaq. Q. How will this decision affect StorageWorks? Will Compaq StorageWorks products continue to support NT on Alpha? A. The Raid Array 8000 and Enterprise Storage Array 12000 product lines will support 32-bit Windows NT on AlphaServers in FCAL configurations. Customers will have the option to upgrade to Service Pack 5 and then Service Pack 6. Compaq is making beta versions of the FCAL drivers available today and will have a production FCAL driver available for AlphaServers 32-bit Windows NT in October, 1999. This solution will support both clusters and high availability single system configurations. In the long term, customers can continue to use their current systems with Windows NT 4, and will be supported by Compaq Customer Services until at least Q1 CY2001. For future needs (including Windows 2000, support for FC Switched Fabrics, and value-added features such as Data Replication Manager), they can move to ProLiant Servers or consider trade-in programs and migration services to Tru64 UNIX, OpenVMS or Linux. Q. What will happen with my ISV software licenses as I move to another platform? We are working closely with key ISVs, for example Oracle and SAP, to assure that there are migration plans in place. Our key ISVs are supportive of this decision and are also committed to taking care of customers in the very best way. More details will be provided as each ISV develops their plans. Business Questions: Q. Was Compaq counting on Alpha Windows NT to drive volume? A. No. There is enough Tru64 UNIX, OpenVMS, Himalaya and Linux business to sustain a competitive Alpha processor for the long term, along with our partners such as Samsung/API. Q. What is Microsoft's position on this decision? Does this reflect a weakening of the Compaq/Microsoft relationship? A. Microsoft supports this decision. It in no way reflects a weakening of the Compaq/Microsoft relationship. Compaq is working quite closely with Microsoft in the development of 64-bit Windows NT, in support of our drive to address more demanding enterprise requirements with Windows NT. Q. How have Samsung and Alpha Processors, Inc. reacted to this decision? What will happen to other OEMs who are developing systems utilizing Windows NT on Alpha? A. Recognizing the opportunity that exists for Alpha on Linux, Alpha Processor, Inc. has already made all its products available for Linux. Most recently they've been assisting an effort in bringing leading Linux tools and libraries to Alpha. API's and Samsung's resources will continue to support Linux-based solutions. With respect to OEM's who have been utilizing Windows NT on Alpha, API and Samsung are working closely to help those who wish to transition to other platforms. We'd recommend contacting API for further discussion regarding their platform strategies. Q. What proportion of AlphaServer business is on Windows NT today? Has that fraction been increasing or decreasing? A. Less than 2% of AlphaServer current business. Tru64 UNIX has become the predominant choice for Alpha systems, with OpenVMS in second position. While Tru64 UNIX and OpenVMS customers have benefited from Alpha's accelerated performance with EV6 technology, 32-bit Windows NT customers needs can be met with the performance and capabilities of the superior performing ProLiant servers. Q. What proportion of AlphaServer business is on Linux today? A. Small, but growing very rapidly. Q. What has been the reaction of ISV's? What about those ISV's who have made significant investments in Alpha/NT? A. Our key ISVs support this decision. We will be working closely with our ISVs to offer trade-in and migration programs, to take care our mutual customers needs. In addition, Microsoft has committed to support ISVs with all aspects of their 64-bit development program. Q. What is the impact of this decision on Compaq's workstation business? A. The decision regarding Windows NT and Windows 2000 affects both AlphaServer systems as well as Alpha-based workstations. Attractive migration and trade-in offers will also be in place to IA32-based Compaq Professional Workstations or to other operating systems on the currentplatform. Q. How will this announcement impact Compaq's focus on the ISP market? A. It does not affect our comprehensive and aggressive focus on the ISP market, addressed with a combination of Tru64 UNIX on AlphaServers and Windows NT on ProLiant servers. Overall Server and Competitive Positioning Questions Q. How are Tru64 UNIX AlphaServer solutions for ISPs, ASPs and eBusiness positioned in the market? A. Compaq Tru64 UNIX AlphaServer solutions are competitively positioned. Unlike any other RISC UNIX platform on the market, solutions delivered on Tru64 UNIX V5.0 AlphaServer systems offer our customers the highest availability with the lowest cost to implement, operate and manage. Additionally, eBusiness applications require the ability to scale to meet the peak demands placed on them. Unlike other UNIX platforms, Compaq's Tru64 UNIX AlphaServers have the power to meet the peak load requirements. Your systems will not slow down during a ritical time of network traffic. Q. Compaq appears to be positioning the ProLiant 8-way server against Sun. Isn't that in conflict with the positioning of Tru64 UNIX AlphaServer solutions? A. Not at all. Compaq has a stronger set of products than Sun since we have both superior UNIX and Windows NT products, offering the customer more choice! The newly announced ProLiant 8000 and 8500 servers were announced to compete directly against Sun in the ASP and low-end of ISP markets, complemented by Tru64 UNIX for the higher end requirements. Compaq Tru64 UNIX AlphaServer solutions continue to compete effectively against Sun as demonstrated by numerous industry standard benchmarks and with the extremely high levels of availability and scalability. Q. What are the benchmarks and how do Compaq ProLiant and AlphaServer offerings compare with Sun? A. As an example, Compaq's AlphaServer DS10 with Tru64 UNIX, featuring 2GB memory and up to 54 GB disks, outperformed Sun's dual- and quad-processor servers running Internet applications at less than half the price on the SPECweb96 benchmark. The AlphaServer DS10 with Tru64 UNIX delivered results of 3404, outperforming both the Sun E450(2963) and the Sun E250 (2625). There are many other examples in other target market segments. The ProLiant 8000 running Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 on Windows NT 4.0 offered more than double the performance at 30 percent better price:performance than the Sun E450. Our key strength versus Sun is that no matter which OS our customers chose, either Tru64 UNIX on AlphaServers or Windows NT on ProLiant servers, they can be assured of the best absolute performance as well as price/performance across a range of applications and systems. Sun only has UNIX and cannot offer their customers the Windows NT choice. Q. Isn't Compaq's strong support of both Windows NT and UNIX solutions confusing to the market? A. Compaq is committed to solving the full range of business and technical challenges throughout the enterprise. Analyst reports estimate that 90% of all IT environments will be using both UNIX and Windows NT. Compaq, a leader in 64-bit UNIX and the market share leader in Windows NT solutions, is not only committed to offering a broad range of solutions for each operating system, but also to continuing to enhance its leadership position in UNIX/Windows NT interoperability. Compaq allows its customers to take advantage of both systems - without two support and development staffs, and a host of cross-platform application issues. Workstation Alpha NT Strategy Q. Why did Compaq decide to discontinue Windows NT on the Alpha workstation platforms? A. Compaq re-evaluated the Windows NT strategy for workstations because of vastly improved graphics capabilities on Compaq AP and SP Professional Workstations and limited Windows NT sales on the Alpha workstations. Q. How does this announcement effect(sic Alpha Windows NT customers? A. Compaq continues to ship and support Windows NT version 4.0 (Service Pack 3) on current Alpha workstation platforms (DPW500a, 600a, and XP1000/500MHz). Compaq will qualify, release, and support Microsoft Service Pack 5 and Service Pack 6 for current Alpha workstation products (DPW500a, 600a, and XP1000/500MHz). Q. How will this announcement effect(sic) Alpha workstation products? A. Compaq will not support Windows NT or Windows 2000 on future Alpha products. Platform upgrades and future Alpha workstations will support Tru64 UNIX, OpenVMS, and certified Linux operating systems. Q. Will Compaq support 64-bit Windows NT on the Alpha workstation platforms? A. There are no plans to deploy or support 64-bit Windows NT on Alpha workstations. Q. How does this announcement effect(sic Tru64 UNIX, OpenVMS, and Linux Alpha customers? A. This announcement does not directly affect Tru64 UNIX, OpenVMS, or Linux Alpha workstation customers. We expect to re-deploy certain resources from Windows NT to these operating systems in order to provide a higher level of support there. Q. How does this announcement effect(sic Compaq Intel workstations? A. This announcement does not affect Compaq AP and SP Professional Workstation customers. Q. What is the migration path for Windows NT Alpha workstation customers? A. Compaq will work with customers to help them migrate to the optimum AP or SP Professional Workstation or to one of the other operating systems supported on Alpha. Q. What does this decision mean for Windows NT Alpha workstation OEM customers? A. Compaq will work with OEM customers on an individual basis to determine how best to meet their short and long term needs. This can include OEM specific last buy dates and technical support for hardware. (r)
Mike Magee, 26 Aug 1999

Merced silicon happens: Linux runs, NT doesn't

Reliable sources close to Intel's plans say that the company has produced first silicon samples of the processor in its fabrication plants. Intel has struggled to produce working silicon for some time, with various stops and starts, as reported here previously on numerous occasions. But while the news may be good for Intel, Microsoft is already gnashing its teeth. Because the Linux operating system is already running on the silicon while Microsoft's Win64 software won't. Microsoft Redmond has drafted in armies of developers in an attempt to sort out the embarrassing fact, the sources said. Intel has always said it is software agnostic, but actually will use any grist to make its chip mill run the faster. ® See also: HP forced to clarify Merced status Intel invites Linux developers to spend $200 million Intel's IA programme threatened by IMS patent Leaked Compaq Q&A shows level of Alpha chaos Pfeiffer positions Alpha against Merced Microsoft puts boot into 64-bit Alpha Compaq Alpha cuts pull rug from Microsoft's 64-bit NT
Mike Magee, 26 Aug 1999

How a leaked Pesatori Alpha NT customer letter reads

The following document was forwarded to us and we have no idea as to its veracity. But we do know, for a fact, that Microsoft has pulled the rug on 64-bit NT for Alpha... and the following is a pretty convincing validation of earlier stories, and written in Q style. If Compaq would care to take the time to contact us, we would love to sub the following down into a more palatable form... By the way, we believe this is the real thing. See also: Leaked Compaq Q&A shows level of 64-bit NT Alpha chaos and Microsoft puts boot into 64-bit Alpha NT. Dear Valued Customer, During the past two months, we have taken a close look at Compaq's platform strategy, the needs of our customers and the realities of the marketplace. We concluded that we needed to simplify our strategy and more clearly define our value proposition for you, our customers. As a result, we have decided to focus all of our Windows NT efforts on our Intel-based ProLiant platform, where we have clear leadership and a long track record of innovation. The recent introduction of Compaq's new 8-way ProLiant server demonstrates our ability to deliver Windows NT solutions that meet your needs for performance, scalability, manageability and reliability. We will continue to support customers who have deployed 32-bit Windows NT on Alpha systems for as long as they require. And we will continue to partner with Microsoft on the development of 64-bit Windows NT, which is being developed on Alpha systems. But we will end systems development for all 32-bit and 64-bit Windows NT products on Alpha with the delivery of V4 SP6 in late 1999. We recognize the investments that many customers have made in Windows NT on Alpha, and we are committed to protect those investments. In addition to continued support for NT on Alpha, we will offer migration paths to other Compaq platforms. We are completely focused on your satisfaction. I want to emphasize that this decision in no way diminishes our commitment to Alpha. We will continue to invest in Alpha as a core component of our NonStop eBusiness strategy, including next generation Alpha chip technology and a robust Alpha system roadmap. Our plan is to drive Alpha at the high end of the enterprise market, where our strengths in 64-bit platforms, NonStop technology and clustering help you build a competitive advantage. We have already announced an aggressive plan to grow Tru64 UNIX on Alpha in such key markets as high performance technical computing, eCommerce, telecommunications and enterprise applications, among others. We will drive Alpha volumes by leveraging the growth of Linux. We will continue to service and maintain the highest levels of customer satisfaction with our OpenVMS customers. This includes a five-year rolling roadmap for OpenVMS. It also includes a commitment to invest in OpenVMS in the areas of business critical capabilities and software that enables NonStop eBusiness solutions. As we have already announced, Alpha will become the engine for future generations of our Himalaya systems, further extending Himalaya into markets requiring robust 24x7 solutions. The decision to end support for Windows NT on Alpha systems was not an easy one. We know it is important to some of our customers. But we are convinced that this decision is the right one for Compaq and its customers. We will be more focused on a powerful set of solutions that deliver the greatest value for you - from Windows NT on our ProLiant servers and Professional Workstations . . . to Tru64 UNIX and Open VMS on Alpha . . . to NonStop Himalaya. We appreciate your business, and we look forward to building an even stronger partnership with you. Sincerely, Enrico Pesatori Senior Vice President Enterprise Solutions and Services Group Compaq Computer Corporation ...well, that's how it might look and we think it's the real thing. If Compaq's PRs want to repudiate this draft, they can email us at the usual address and we'll report on that one too... ®
Mike Magee, 26 Aug 1999

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