6th > September > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Via, SiS aim for high chipset market share

Taiwanese chipset firms Via and SiS both announced over the last few days that they mean business in the chipset market. They want to grow their market share at the expense of chip giant Intel. On Friday, SiS said its target was to have 35 per cent of the market by the year 2002, while Via is even more ambitious. It claims it will have as much as half of the chipset market by the year 2001. SiS claimed it will ship over 20 million parts in 1999, representing around 20 per cent of the market. The claims are not idle boasts. Intel takes competition from Via and the other indie chipset companies very seriously indeed. At last week's Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, senior VP Pat Gelsinger said he was more paranoid about Via than about AMD. Via today announced it had now completed its acquisition of Cyrix. ®
Mike Magee, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq pursues aggressive Linux strategy

Without much PR fanfare, Compaq has begun an aggressive advertising campaign to persuade Linux users to adopt the Alpha platform in Asia. The company has taken out adverts in the The Straits Times which highlight Alpha Linux as the choice for servers, with headlines such as "Linux screams on Alpha" and "Alpha puts Linux on full blast". Compaq is offering deals on its Alpha uniprocessor and dual processor 264 systems in a bid to attract users. Although Alpha boxes have been seen as expensive in the past, both Compaq and API, which also manufactures systems, are committed to bringing down the price of entry level systems. Compaq has recently released its C compiler for Alpha Linux, which has many resemblances to its Tru64 Unix compiler. But, unlike Tru64, Compaq is offering the compiler to the Linux community at no charge to attract support for the Alpha platform. Meanwhile, it and API are both readying faster revs of the Alpha processor, which the latter clocked at 1GHz at PC Expo in June, without any cooling. Compaq's task is to push Linux on the Alpha platform without antagonising its corporate users, who pay good money for Tru64. ®
Mike Magee, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Why Intel and Rambus are so close

Analysis Many people have wondered why it has taken Intel just so long to say it will support PC-133, even though its acceptance by the chip giant is hedged about with many a caveat. Interest in the relationship between Intel and Rambus has been fuelled not only by the small matter of endorsing PC-133, but also by the fact that most of its big hardware customers, including Dell, HP and IBM, have now said that they will use DDR memory in future servers. Rambus, too, does not seem to play much of a part in the future of Intel's flagship processor, the 64-bit Merced, which the company demoed at its Intel Developer Forum last week. And that interest is once more compounded by the news that Intel engineers have been forced to abandon implementing Rambus in the Carmel quad chipset, and have instead turned to Reliance for a solution. Last week, Intel wheeled in seven memory manufacturers to the press at IDF and announced the formation of a Rambus implementors forum, to further encourage the adoption of the technology. It's no secret that the large memory manufacturers have never had much of a soft spot for Rambus technology. To manufacture product, they had to pay for a licence from Rambus, and, thereafter, pay the company a royalty fee. The memory manufacturers already felt their margins were squeezed enough, and resented being "bumped" by Intel and Rambus into the technology. At the same time, they, and the PC vendors, were not persuaded that Rambus could perform to the promised level and felt, rightly or wrongly, that the cost premium of Direct Rambus in line modules (RIMMs), was too high. To hedge their bets, the memory companies were forced to support both Rambus and competing technologies such as PC-133 and DDR memory, all the while conscious of the fact that you don't play fast and loose with the Great Satan of Chips. It was UK executive Jamie Minotto, when he headed up Tandem 10 years ago, who said of Intel: "You don't tread on the tail of a tiger." It now emerges that the i820 Camino chipset, which uses Rambus memory, may now actually underperform compared to the BX chipset using SDRAM. (For some technical information on these questions, Tom's Hardware Page has analysed the chipsets. Go here and here for his conclusions.) Some answers to the question of just why Intel is so closely linked to Rambus are, in fact, to be found in public documents. In the SEC archives, there is a 10-K filing by Rambus which could give the clue to the relationship. In an AMENDMENT NO. 1 TO SEMICONDUCTOR TECHNOLOGY LICENSE AGREEMENT is the following agreement: "Intel will use its continuing best efforts in marketing, public relations, and engineering to make the Rambus-D DRAM the primary DRAM for PC main memory applications through December 31, 2002; and (b)Intel will communicate to the top (10) DRAM manufacturers, Intel's intention to support the Rambus-D Interface Technology in its integrated circuits for low end workstation, performance desktop, and basic PC platforms." The reason for Intel agreeing to these terms is likely to be the existence of patents which hold the two companies in a tight embrace. But there's more. In the same section is the following statement: "In January 1997 the Company granted a warrant to Intel Corporation for the purchase of 1,000,000 shares of Rambus common stock at an exercise price of $10.00 per share. The warrant will become exercisable only upon the achievement of certain milestones by Intel, which will result in a charge to the statement of operations at the time of achievement of the milestones based on the fair value of the warrant." That deal is now worth between $80 million and $100 million, a sizeable carrot which is worth a lot to Intel's bottom line. Intel is obviously deeply committed to its deal with Rambus. You only have to look at the notebook roadmap we published over the weekend to realise that. Here, it's worth looking at the PC700/PC800 note in the slide we published. PC700 is a new Rambus phenomenon. PC800 is 400MHz Rambus while PC700 is the 355MHz frequency, which is a fall-back position. It is also difficult to see where applications and processors that take advantage of 1.6Gb/s bandwidth will come from, while the AGP 4x bandwidth will be mostly unused. It makes more sense here to place large graphics buffers on cards and not use AGP at all. Intel may well have found itself in a hole, and, what's more an expensive and deep hole over the whole, vexed subject. ® See also Intel abandons server Rambus efforts Seven Dramurai™ ride two memory horses at once Does BX chipset with SDRAM outperform i820 with Rambus? Intel move to PC-133 mere lip service Intel pushes Rambus hard
Mike Magee, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

LocalTel v. GreatXscape: so who won?

The slanging-match between Screaming.net and GreatXscape is growing ever louder and neither side appears to show any sign of developing laryngitis. Both sides are claiming victory after appearing in the High Court on Friday to settle a dispute between the two companies. LocalTel, the telco behind Screaming.net alleged that GreatXscape's claim to be the "UK's first nationally available free time online Internet Service Provider" was simply not true since it had launched its service in April this year. LocalTel threatened legal action against Manchester-based Telnet unless it removed its CDs from stores and altered the packaging making the claims. LocalTel also alleged that Telnet had been in breach of its copyright lifting wording from its T&Cs and FAQs. As part of its bid to stop GreatXscape from benefiting from what it alleged were bogus claims, LocalTel faxed the distributors of the GreatXcape's CD Roms warning them that legal action would be taken if they continued handing them out to the public. The Register understands that some of the CD Roms were pulled from the shelves of Allsports, one of GreatXscape's distributors although this was disputed by Telnet. In a counter move Telnet, the telco behind GreatXscape, alleged that LocalTel had "maliciously faxed" its distributors and called upon the High Court to issue a gagging order against LocalTel preventing it from taking similar action. The Register understands that Telnet's application was thrown out by Judge Parks on Friday. LocalTel then used the opportunity to tackle Telnet about its claims to be the "UK's first nationally available free time online Internet Service Provider". The Register understands that Judge Parks would not issue an order against Telnet on this matter. Instead, Telnet gave an undertaking to the court that it would change all its packaging by 15th September and that the existing CD Roms currently in stores would be handed out only if it carried a statement of clarification. This account of the outcome from the lawyer acting of behalf of LocalTel differs slightly from the account given by Ian Morris of Philip Conn & Co, acting on behalf of Telnet. He said on Friday that the court decided that Telnet was able to hand out the existing disks in the current packaging, however, he made no mention of the accompanying notice advising customers that GreatXscape was not the "UK's first nationally available free time online Internet Service Provider". To confuse matters still further, late on Friday afternoon Nigel Warr, the MD of Cheshire based telco GreatXscape phoned The Register to say that he'd won a legal battle in the High Court. "The judge kicked it out," he said triumphantly before announcing he was to launch a £10 million legal action against his Surrey-based rival. Warr said he believed GreatXscape had lost somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 customers because of this "bun fight" and would seek damages accordingly. The Register was unable to contact Judge Parks or his clerk to find out what really happened on Friday. See also: Fight breaks out between rival telcos Screaming.net takes legal cudgels against 'copycat' ISP Daily Net Finance News from The Register
Tim Richardson, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Nintendo to use ARM and copper PowerPC in next generation

Nintendo has just announced that its next generation Game Boy, provisionally entitled the Game Boy Advance, will ship in a year's time and will be based on a 32-bit ARM CPU. But it's clearly hedging its bets over CPUs. in May of this year Nintendo announced that its next generation game console (to ship next autumn) would be based on a 400MHz IBM PowerPC custom chip fabbed in 0.18 micron copper. The previously announced next generation product was codenamed Dolphin, and was intended to be aimed at the video game market. IBM is designing and manufacturing the CPUs, and the total deal was valued by Nintendo at up to $1 billion. The ARM contract may not be so lucrative for the British company, but has some interesting opportunities attached to it. It will be able to use a wireless phone for modem play, and is further sign that the games console outfits are positioning themselves for the brave new world of appliance-led total mobility and connectivity. IBM's processor, codenamed Gekko, is currently also at the heart of a joint venture between Matsushita and Nintendo covering home networking, but it's possible that, now it has its foot in door, ARM could win itself some of this as well. ®
John Lettice, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Psion to take on MS with notebook-style machines

Psion is returning to the notebook market this week, years after it abandoned development of a brace of intriguing, but commercially unsuccessful, lightweights. This time around the company is scheduled to launch the netBook, announced earlier this year and aimed at the corporate market, plus an unexpected consumer version, the Series 7. Both machines are A4 with approximately full-sized keyboard and colour VGA display, and as with Psion's previous foray into this area they're effectively bigger implementations of the current Series 5 platform (a plausible explanation of where the Series 6 went would be welcome, by the way). The applications that come with Psion's EPOC OS are sufficiently functional to make this translation with relative ease, so it's not particularly difficult for Psion to split its range into pocket computers and larger versions that compete with sub-notebooks and CE devices. Psion claims that customer demand prompted its decision to ship the consumer Series 7 machine after all, and the company seems to be aiming squarely at Microsoft's CE. But CE has had a long, hard slog to establish itself so far, and it's still not absolutely clear what the market for CE products is. Psion could have trouble getting in there, and even if it does, may find there's little or no profit. The two new Psions will cost UKP 699 (ex tax) for the Series 7 and UKP 799 for the netBook. The netBook has a faster CPU, a 190MHz StrongARM, more RAM - 32 megabytes, includes a JVM and networking capabilities. There's no built-in JVM in the Series 7, the CPU is 100MHz, and it's stand-alone. It can run a JVM, but the fact that it's not specifically included suggests Psion's still having problems in getting Java to run reasonably on lower spec hardware. Register historical note: Psion's previous attempts at the notebook market were the MC400 and MC600. Both were A4-ish with mono LCD, and one ran the precursor to EPOC. The other, intended to deal with the market's PC mania (remember when people wouldn't buy stuff because they weren't PC compatible?) ran Dos. Like the Cambridge Z88, they were bought by a few enthusiasts and quantities of journalists, then quietly faded away. ®
John Lettice, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Dabs Direct launches Playdirect.com

Resellers are flocking to get online and branch out to other areas apart from selling IT kit. Bolton-based Dabs Direct is set to launch website Playdirect.com, which will sell music and videos, by Christmas. Last week saw the launch of jungle.com, the cyber initiative of Steve Bennett, Software Warehouse MD, which will sell also music and videos (as well as traditional IT equipment)via the Web. But that is where the similarity between the two sites ends. Dabs Direct will keep its IT sales separate and, apart from the odd Palmpilot, will not sell any IT hardware through Playdirect.com. Jonathan Wall, sales and marketing director of Dabs Direct and subsidiary Playdirect.com, said there would be little overlap between the reseller business and new website. "Playdirect.com will not try to be all things to all men. "We want to build an area where people go to buy things for their play time – for the things they do when they finish work," said Wall. Users will be able to buy CDs, DVDs, console games and gadgets such as mini-disk players from Playdirect.com. Jungle.com's Bennett has combined the online PC sales of Software Warehouse with the jungle.com website, and will also continue to sell IT kit through the existing Software Warehouse retail outlets. Bennett compared his model to that of British Airways and Go - its cheap alternative flights business. "Some people will continue to prefer to buy by phone or retail, even if it is more expensive than buying online," he said. However, Dabs is pushing to be an Internet reseller, according Wall. So why are dealers branching out into selling other products? For Bennett, it’s a matter of getting as much traffic to his site as possible. "There will be enough features on there to get people to come into the jungle every time they use the Internet," he said. Around 10,000 users have joined jungle.com so far, and the site got eight million page impressions in its first two days. Over £1 million has been spent on marketing the venture, with another £7.5 million available for the next 12 months. And there are other features planned for the site - this week it will launch its free ClipArt section, allowing users to download pictures from the web. "We want people to come to the website as often as for as long as possible," said Bennett. Wall commented: "At the end of the day, people aren’t going to buy more IT equipment, but a greater number of people are going to want to buy over the Web. "Businesses already on the Internet will therefore get a bigger slice of the cake," he said. The two ventures will be in competition with US companies selling DVDs and CDs, such as CDNow. Wall said Playdirect.com would be able to handle such rivals due to the existing infrastructure at Dabs. "We will use our own logistics to enable us to keep margins tight," he said. "Also, there is a huge untapped market. A lot of UK end-users are buying CDs in the US and taking the risk of getting caught by the taxman." Bennett pointed out that the secret of his success would also lie in utilising the logistics and infrastructure already in place at Software Warehouse, but said there would be many other imitation companies that would crash and burn. "There will be lots more competition in this area over the next few years, but the only ones that will succeed will be those with the infrastructure in place." Both companies are currently expanding their storage facilities. Software Warehouse is in the middle of doubling the size of its existing 60,000 square feet warehouse. Dabs Direct is currently buying and extra 50,000 square feet of land to cope with the extra logistics involved. Both Wall and Bennett said companies in the channel would try and jump on the online bandwagon. However, they claimed to be the only two IT reseller companies in the UK that were large enough to take the business on, and which weren’t owned by US giants. "Because we come from an IT background, the IT channel has the perfect platform to grow from. "We know the people we’re selling to – the people online are the people currently buying IT equipment," said Wall. "But the businesses here in the UK that are owned by global American firms are too busy concentrating on IT. And besides, it would take them too long to get such decisions past their boards of directors," he added. Bennett also warned there would be casualties: "There will be lots of fatalities. It is easy for people to develop the front end and have a good website. But if you haven’t got the background established, the company will fail." ®
Linda Harrison, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Via offers succour to 1394 standard

Via is to breathe some new life into Firewire, the connection standard that has looked increasingly moribund since Intel decided to back the rival USB 2.0 camp. Via is putting the finishing touches on a 1394 solution, which will hit the streets in chipset form next year, Taiwanese reports reveal. More than 40 per cent of new PCs will use 1394 by the end of next year, according to Via projections, reported in the Taiwanese press. Not if Intel has anything to do with it: it is focusing on the development of USB 2.0. Last week we reported that as far as Intel chipsets go, 1394 appears to be left out on a limb. ®
Mike Magee, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel slashes PII/notebook chip prices

Paving the way for the introduction of higher performance Pentium III mobile chips in the near future, Intel slashed prices on its existing range at the weekend. The Pentium II/400 mobile, its .18 micron offering, fell by 32 per cent to $358, the 366MHz was reduced by 41 per cent to $187, and the 333MHz by 14 per cent to $161. There was no change to the price of the PII/333 mobile part, meaning the end of the road for that particular chip. The low voltage PII/255 fell by 15 per cent to $159. For Celeron mobiles, prices were also cut. The 400MHz fell by 43 per cent to $106, the 366 by 41 per cent to $85, the 333 by 30 per cent to $74, and the 300MHz by 13 per cent to $74. Intel will eventually phase out all of its existing Pentium II/mobile and Celeron/mobile chips, and replace them with models based on the Pentium III core. The company will further reduce prices on its Pentium III and Celeron desktop chips on the 12th of September, as reported here. ® All price cuts are when units are bought in 1000s. ®
Mike Magee, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

1.6GHz Alpha to be fastest Quake chip on planet

Compaq and API are readying a 1.6GHz Alpha 21364 which will include a version of SIMD 3D instructions and support for Rambus without the latency penalties that seem to dog the x.86 platform. A 1.6 GHz 21364 using the EV7 platform, is likely to belt out 6.4 single precision Gflops, according to sources. This would beat Merced hands down in ultraparallel single precision floating point. The processor will have a 128-bit 800MHz Rambus channels, and will load an entire 128-bit cache depth at the first transfer. Eight 16-bit Rambus channels make up the 128 bits. That compares with Intel's i820 chipset which, with one 16-bit Rambus channel, needs four transfers to fill the first 64-bit cache word. The 21364 integrates CPU, level two cache, direct memory controller and a transputer-class multiprocessing connection of each processor to four others at 10 Gbytes/s interprocessor bandwidth, in addition to cache and memory bandwidth, plus a dedicated 3.2 Gbyte/s IO bandwidth per CPU on one processor. The beast is not designed for Windows - its OS preference a version of real time Tru64 using current OpenGL for the platform. Real time versions of Tru64 might be used in a high end arcade game console, with workstations using a more "normal" Tru64 Unix with OpenGL. Quake and Quake 2 are native on Alpha Linux platforms. Terry Shannon, editor of Shannon knows Compaq,which specialises in the arena, said he thought the projections looked accurate. He said it was likely that the 21364 would also incorporate support for CPU lockstepping. Tandem Himalaya systems have a similar system, intended to support so-called "glueless SMP". This greatly reduces system complexity. ®
Mike Magee, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

OECD seeks to protect online shoppers

Online shoppers could get greater protection from rogue traders if internationally recognised consumer protection guidelines are introduced this week at a top level meeting in Paris. The Consumer Policy Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will seek to offer e-consumers protection against unscrupulous e-tailers and include a mechanism for redress if things go wrong. The OECD lso outline a set of recommendations concerning best practice and provide clear guidelines concerning the collection and use of personal information. According to Consumers International -- a federation of some 245 consumer organisations in 111 countries -- the rules are essential and long overdue. "The important point is to get some baseline protection in place so that consumers can have confidence in using electronic commerce," said Louise Sylvan, VP of Consumers International and CE of the Australian Consumers' Association. But she warned that the guidelines might not be adopted by the Consumer Policy Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) because of opposition by the business community. Business opposition has been one of the main stumbling blocks to passage of the guidelines and once again industry is lobbying hard to weaken them -- by turning the detailed, practical content into a set of vague general principles, she said. But the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC), which represents private sector views, denied it was dragging its heels. A spokesman for the Paris-based organisation told The Register that while the guidelines had improved, there was still room for improvement. Sylvan is unimpressed. "Electronic commerce will flourish only when consumers are reassured of real protection in the areas of privacy, security and redress. "Enough people are starting to use e-commerce that its potential can really take off, or it will start to produce horror stories and will falter from mistrust," she said. In April Consumers International published a report that showed that e-shoppers were getting a raw deal from e-commerce. Among the findings it discovered that around five per cent of items ordered took over a month to reach their destination and at least eight per cent never arrived. ® Daily Net Finance News from The Register
Tim Richardson, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft readies x86, Nvidia-based rival to PlayStation

In an attempt to widen industry support for Windows CE, Microsoft has begun development work on a games console reference design based on the PDA-oriented OS. According to Next Generation magazine, the console will be driven by a 500MHz Intel CPU... or maybe an AMD Athlon... or perhaps... well let's just say the point appears to be open. Handling the graphics side of the equation will be Nvidia's recently announced GeForce 256 chip. Microsoft is naturally keeping schtumm on the machine, allegedly codenamed X-Box, but Next Generation said sources had told it that the box would shop in the Autumn 2000 timeframe. The source also implied that the machine is aimed at PC vendors who want to break into the console market. How many of them will want to do so remains to be seen. Central to the X-Box's success will be compatibility with shipping PC titles. Given the machine's basis on the x86 platform and its use of a major graphics platform -- the GeForce 256 will have been shipping in volume long before X-Boxes do -- Microsoft could ensure compatibility simply by building in a WinCE version of Direct X. That would allow companies like Dell and Gateway to ship X-Box-derived products without having to worry about there being a sufficient volume of titles out there to appeal to buyers -- the number one problem that most console vendors face when they ship a new machine. Lack of titles is arguably what limited the appeal of Nintendo's N64 and appears to be doing the same for Sega's Dreamcast, itself WinCE-based. Given that X-Box, if it does indeed ship in an Autumn 2000 timeframe, will be right up against the PlayStation II -- a very well established brand -- a possibly established Dreamcast and maybe Nintendo's Dolphin project, it's going to need all the help it can get to get off the ground. Big name PC vendor support would be help indeed, and it's not hard to imagine Dell, Gateway, et al thinking that X-Box might well be a way into the console biz. The snag, though, is we've been here before. X-Box is decidedly reminiscent -- in platform terms, if not specification -- of Microsoft's previous attempt to dominate games computing: MSX. MSX was Bill Gates' early 80s attempt to create a unified home computing platform based around Z80 CPU Microsoft Color Basic (until that point used only by Dragon 32 and Tandy Color Computer owners). Microsoft Basic of course also shipped with the original Intel 8088-based IBM PC. Gates sold the MSX idea to half a dozen Japanese consumer electronics giants who wanted in on the US and home computer booms of the early 80s. Machines, all of them compatible, were launched, but utterly failed to take off, partially because they came too late to dent the very well established brands already in the market -- Commodore, Atari, Sinclair, Acorn, etc -- brands driven by the support of highly tribal 14-year-old boys. Another factor in their failure, surprisingly, was that they were too expensive - a home computer price war coincided with the rollout, and the Japanese companies weren't flexible enough to cut their prices to be competitive. In the late 90s, the only difference is that we're talking about games consoles not home computers -- though Sony and Sega's attempts to embrace the Net and support computer-oriented peripherals suggest the difference is rapidly blurring. From what we know so far, X-Box is simply a stripped down PC lacking most of the ancillary chips that make consoles much better games machines than PCs at even a nearish price. Like Apple's ill-fated Pippin -- a stripped down Mac lacking most of the ancillary chips that... -- we suspect X-Box may not be much of a runner. ®
Tony Smith, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Virgin goes tits up into Labor (Day)

It's been an unprofitable Labor Day Weekend for Virgin Megastore Online. According to CNET e-shoppers hoping to take advantage of a 50 per cent discount sale got more than they bargained for when the site crumpled on Friday due to heavy traffic. It's impossible to say how many people have had their brand loyalty to Virgin tested as they failed to cash in on the e-tailer's summer bargains. However, The Register can confirm that the site is still lying in a heap on the ground some 72 hours after collapsing under the weight of e-shoppers eager to part with their e-bucks. A message on the home page reads: "Thanks for visiting Virgin Megastore Online's Labor Day Weekend Frenzy. Due to the enormous turn-out, the check out lines are currently full. Please try again a little later. "Thanks again for your business, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you!" Despite Virgin staff in the US putting a brave face on matters a spokeswoman for the company in the UK said she was unaware of the problem. Elsewhere, The Register received a report from one of its readers warning that Amazon.com had also taken an unscheduled time-out over the weekend. "It's really amazing, they should tell us what's going on," wrote this hacked off bookworm. "All of us who use computers realize that there are times when a system will be down. That's fine. "But they just need to let us know that they are actively addressing any problems, and then handle them openly. Then I'll trust them, and be understanding of occasional downtimes." Sounds like Virgin did the right thing but could it be that the normally mild-mannered bookworms are finally turning... ® Daily Net Finance News from The Register
Tim Richardson, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

TFT famine runs until 2001

The Great TFT Shortage will last until the beginning of 2001, according to a poll of Taiwanese manufacturers. They say previous forecasts (that the shortage would be over by Q2 next year) were too optimistic. Cash-strapped Korean vendors have turned out to be the fly in the ointment for the forecasters. Now they have some money, but they still have to wait in line for semiconductor equipment manufacturerers to supply them with steppers, which are needed for the first stage of the TFT LCD FPD shortage, according to Taiwan's Commercial Times. The semicon equipment makers are capable of making only 60 steppers a year each, and their order books have long been filled up by Taiwanese vendors. Manufacturers of TFT components (such as substrates and colour filters0 are also failing to keep pace with demand, the Commercial Times says. New production capacity is expected to come on stream in the second half of 2000. ®
Team Register, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

You're almost liquidated, Olivetti Computers Worldwide!

Olivetti Computers Worldwide is in provisional liquidation, and there will be a creditors’ meeting later this month. Price Waterhouse Coopers, which is handling the affairs of the High Wycombe office in the UK, said a creditors’ meeting would take place on 21 September. A liquidator is expected to be appointed at the meeting, which is to be held at the Plumtree Court, London, offices of Price Waterhouse Coopers. Creditors said they had received notification last week that the UK office in High Wycome had stopped trading. Register Historical Note At one point, Carlo De Benedetti, convicted in Italian courts for fraud, was the CEO of Olivetti. We understand he has not served one night in prison... ®
Linda Harrison, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Brit Net agency to track drug gangs and paedophiles

The Government is setting up a unit of professional code crackers to track drug runners and paedophile rings on the Internet. The unit will get £20 million in Government funding, and will be staffed by encryption specialists from GCHQ, as well as new recruits from the private sector. It is expected to be called the Government Telecommunications Advisory Centre (GTAC). A government official told London newspaper Metro that major criminal organisations (especially drugs cartels) were extremely sophisticated. "They have whole departments working on codes so they can carry on business in secret," he said. "For now the encryption problem is not huge -- but it is going to grow and we need to be ready for it." In essence, GTAC is an extension of the Government's surveillance activities. In 1996 and 1997, authorised phone tapping operations resulted in 1,200 arrests and the seizure of 450 firearms and 115 tons of narcotics. The National Criminal Intelligence Service provides staff and support for the GTAC. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD to intro K8 at Microprocessor Forum

Fresh from the successful hype of its K7 (Athlon) family, AMD is now gearing up for the K8, its 64-bit follow-up. The company goes public on the K8 at, next month's Microprocessor Forum -- we understand. But the clone chip firm refuses to confirm or deny such a chip is on the cards. AMD reckons it's piling the pressure on Intel with the K7. And a quick introduction of the K8 would certainly give something for Chipzilla to think about. AMD aims turn up the heat by launching its next generation of (64-bit) processors within months -- and it has enlisted top chip engineer Jim Keller (a former Alpha male)to make it happen. He worked on the Alpha 21264 - a seriously out of order chip. He is likely to make the K8 seriously out of order too, meaning Intel will feel seriously out of order. The step up from 32-bit Athlon K7 to a 64-bit K8 (Octathlon?) chip is relatively trivial to achieve, we are led to understand, from sources close to the company's plans. So the 64-bit chip scene could look fairly crowded next year, with competing flavours from Compaq, Intel -- and now AMD. Compaq and Intel will also take steps to make sure the developer community is aware of their future 64-bit plans. Compaq already has a 64-bit chip while Intel's Merced is close to fruition. ®
Mike Magee, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Tosh, Panasonic recall Intel notebooks

Toshiba and Panasonic have admitted there is a problem with notebooks fitted with mobile Pentium IIs and Celerons, and have recalled some stock. Earlier today, Intel UK confirmed it had slashed prices on some of the very same parts. According to information on the Intel Japanese site, the problem is connected with boot failures and packaging problems. There is information on Intel's Japanese site about the local difficulty, but several other sites have commented on the problem. If you go here, you will see Toshiba's statement. Panasonic also has a statement on the problem, which you can find here. But trusty PC Watch, which you can find here, has the definitive statement on the ongoing debacle. ® Intel EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) people were unable to comment on any difficulties at press time, until the problem was checked out. ®
Mike Magee, 06 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Swedish God is in Hollywood wearing fancy Finnish dress

The mystery of the latest virus to hit our PCs may have a link to Hollywood, religion or even Scandinavian fancy dress. The "Thursday" virus is set to start weaving its mischief on December 13, and experts were last week said to be baffled by the significance of this date. But our international readership has come up with a few options to mull over. One reader suggested a possible religious significance, as this date is St. Lucy’s day in the Catholic calendar. St Lucy, so our reader tells us, is the patron saint of the blind, and, in northern Italy, traditionally gives good or bad gifts to children depending on how they have behaved. Another noted that in the film "Twelve Monkeys", in which a real virus threatened to kill off five billion people, the trigger date was indeed December 13. Or could these virus inventors be related to that nation of good, clean living - the Swedes? According to one email we received, December 13 is the day when the Swedish nation celebrates "Lucia", a pre-Christmas fiesta. This involves the natives donning white gowns and parading around the streets singing. Maybe those naughty virus creators thought this day of merriment needed spicing up a bit? ®
Linda Harrison, 06 Sep 1999