13th > October > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Intel chief: 64-bit could take ten years to conquer desktop

Gordon Moore is alive and well -- and so is his law, Intel boss Craig Barrett said at the Gartner ITExpo in Orlando yesterday, dismissing the recent suggestion by an Intel engineer that Moore's time was up. In fact Barrett envisaged five more generations before the limits of CMOS technology were reached, when the signal to noise ratio would become critical at around 0.05 microns. By most standard this is pretty optimistic, and provided Barrett isn't just whistling in the dark it suggests that Intel must have several rabbits it thinks it can pull out of its R&D hat. But as a consequence, Barrett thinks that the world will come to an end on 15 June 2015 - or at least CMOS will. For Intel, GHz chips were something for the second half of next year, Barrett said, although he liked to refer to these as 0.001 TeraHz processors. Asked about Itanium, he mentioned that as a metallurgist, he worked quite a bit with Titanium, which seemed to be a clue. Certainly he preferred the name Itanium to Celeron. He did have some ominous words to say about the move to 64-bit, suggesting that it could be five to ten years before it would be the norm on the desktop; he compared this to the ten years between the introduction of the 80386 and the significant development of 32-bit desktop applications. If it's really going to take ten years, then we can maybe start wondering about Intel's roadmapping. The company officially reckons McKinley, the iteration after Merced, will be the 64-bit Intel chip that moves into the mainstream, but that's hardly a ten years from now product. Intel does intend to keep plugging away at 32-bit alongside 64-bit for a few years, so Barrett could be signalling that this plan will be extended. Or alternatively, we could bear in mind that Intel was happily selling 386 chips for several years before the software started to catch up. But there were reasons for the slow development of the software that probably don't apply these days. At the 386 introduction Microsoft and IBM were in the driving seat (and incidentally still squabble over whose fault it was they originally aimed OS/2 at the 286). These days we've got Linux and several flavours of Unix aimed at IA-64, so take-up is likely to be a lot faster. But that's software, and a problem for Microsoft - so Barrett should worry. On bandwidth his line is down-the-line Intel. It will not only increase, he forecasts, but will become essentially free. Of course, the advantage will be that more powerful processors will be needed to compress, decompress and process the data. He also observed that France had at last emerged from the 15th century so far as encryption was concerned. Unfortunately, he was very gently questioned, so when he was asked about the Intel-Microsoft relationship, and whether Microsoft was becoming less Intel-focussed, he only genuflected and swore Intel would not develop an operating system. Nor would Barrett elaborate on whether Intel was taking any design steps to assist Unix flavours. When asked about Linux, he trotted out the usual bullet-point attributes, but Linux has some way to go in the processor-design space. Barrett said that Intel was one of the major users of workstations in the world, and had evolved from IBM to HP and now to NT machines, but with some Linux. He said he had a loose marriage with software. A question begging to be asked that was unfortunately not pursued - that e-commerce would demand great scalability in servers, and was NT up to it - might well have elicited an interesting reply. ®
Graham Lea, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel still king of x86 jungle despite Q3 slip

Chipzilla staggered to its full height yesterday and bellowed aw-wooh-aw-wooh-aw as it released Q3 financial earnings that only marginally disappointed Wall Street. (Yeah, we know that it was Tarzan that made that noise, but you get the picture.) And Craig Barrett, the rough and tough CEO of Intel, said that it expected its fourth quarter results, always its best selling period, would show considerable and good growth. For Q3, Intel turned in turnover of $7.3 billion, a nine per cent increase over the equivalent period in 1998. Its net profit rose by $1.9 billion, a rise of 21 per cent from the same period last year. If the acquisitions Intel made in the period are taken into account, its net profit amounted to $1.5 billion. In the period, it bought or completed the acquisition of Softcom Dialogic, Level One and NetBoost. The results demonstrate that Intel has only been marginally affected by competition from its closest x86 rival, AMD, which introduced its Athlon K7 during the period. That is discouraging news for AMD, which has always maintained that Intel's revenue and R&D model does not support smaller margins when faced with tough competition. In its Q3 results, Intel said its margins were only "slightly" reduced. Intel has slashed and burnt prices on its CPUs during 1999 and ramped its Pentium III faster than any previous chip family. However, what is slightly more worrying for the giant is that Intel admitted sales of its high-end Xeons were not as good as it wanted them to be. Yesterday, we reported that Intel is in the midst of repositioning this range. As we reported at the weekend, it will introduce its Coppermine family later on this month, and will both adjust its prices on its 90-strong chip family. (Coppermine we got the prices). Later today, we will reveal the prices for the two Coppermine parts Intel will introduce later this month. Barrett forecast that Intel will do "seasonally strong" business during the fourth quarter and said that its networking business was also performing solidly. However, Intel did introduce some cautionary notes for Q4. It mentioned the effect of the Taiwanese earthquake, and changes in the mix of processor types and speeds, as well as stock issues, as factors that might effect its earnings. When its different business units are taken into account, Intel claimed that both chip and chipset shipments, as well as motherboards, rose sequentially in Q3. Its flash memory business performed well, and set a new record, according to the company, but its embedded processor and microcontroller unit shipments (the Gulag), fell. Intel also reported that its Fast Ethernet connections showed flat growth in Q3, while its switch business rose. It did not give an explanation for why this was. As far as we are aware, Intel has not yet made any statement on whether it has fixed the technical problems it has with Rambus. (See Rambus fixed? We'll wait and see). However, Paul Otellini, a senior VP at Intel, is now on record as saying that it will ship Camino i820 in Q4, and does not believe that requires a further stepping of silicon. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

i840 Carmel mobo details leak

Sources close to Intel's plans have said that the company will release its Carmel (i840) chipset towards the end of the month, and, at the same time, introduce a motherboard aimed at the workstation market. The board, dubbed the OR840, is expected to cost around $250 for the boxed version and will support up to two Intel CPUs. It will come with support for up to 2Gb of memory, and four 168-pin RIMM (Rambus) sockets, supporting speeds of 600MHz and 800MHz. That indicates that Intel's problem with Rambus memory may be confined to the i820 Camino chipset only. While Intel has supplied details of the motherboard to its channel partners, that does not guarantee anything. Right up until the company admitted a problem with Rambus, it was pushing its i820 Vancouver and Cape Cod mobos to its distributors. The OR840 has built in support for floppy drive, ultra DMA and integrated Fast Ethernet 10/100 Base TX. Video, which is not integrated, has a 266MHz data transfer rate, while the board has two USB ports, one 32-bit PCI slot, and five other bus slots. Bus slot four uses AGP 4x. The board is likely to be part of a re-positioning of its entire workstation and server strategy in the months to come. ® Factoid. Clint Eastwood, star of Rawhide, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Dirty Harry, was the mayor of Carmel, which operates a strict no-smoking policy, despite the habits of the Man with No Name.
Mike Magee, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Gates to tangle with BBC's top attack interviewer

If you'd like to suggest a question to be put to Bill Gates by Jeremy Paxman in an interview on Sunday (BBC2 television, 20:00 BST) then just send an email to paxmanvsgates@bbc.co.uk It's unlikely that Gates will walk out in the middle of the interview as he did five years ago on the US Eye to Eye show, but we can but hope. Gary Clow, then CEO of Stac, which had won in court some $120 million from Microsoft when some unlicensed Stac compression code turned up in MS-DOS, said that dealing with Gates and Microsoft was not like playing hardball: it was "more like a knife fight". After Gates stormed off the set, it was more than an hour before he would leave the room where he had closeted himself. If anyone can engineer a repeat of this, it's surely Paxman. On one celebrated occasion Paxman asked Michael Howard, then Home Secretary, the same question 13 times, although in fairness it should be mentioned that Paxman had run out of questions and the director, talking into Paxman's earphone, urged him to carry on - so he pressed the question to which he thought he was not getting a straight answer. Gates has now had quite a bit of training in interview technique and has learnt to control his temper - but Paxman has the ability to get under his skin with a measure of urbanity that is likely to take Gates by surprise, however well his PR handlers have prepared him. Have Gates' handlers failed to assess Paxman properly before booking the boss in for a natter? Will they turn out to be in big trouble on Monday morning? Tune in next week, gentle readers... ®
Graham Lea, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel Coppermine mobiles: we got the prices

Informed sources have now confirmed the introduction of two high-end Coppermine mobile parts which will arrive at the same time as Intel launches its desktop and Xeon versions of the .18 micron technology. The 450MHz Pentium III/mobiles will cost $360 each when bought in boxes of 10, and $350 each when bought in boxes of 100. The 500MHz Coppermine Pentium III/mobile will command a price of $545 when bought in units of 10, and $535 when bought in units of 100. Both come with 256K cache. The introduction of these parts spells the real beginning of a shift away from .25 micron process technology to a situation where Intel's processors will eventually all have a smaller die size, and run cooler and faster. Joe D'Elia, senior microprocessor analyst at Dataquest Europe, said the introduction of .18 Coppermine is important because it shows that Intel is continuing to move forward on a technology front. He said: "Coppermine allows Intel to incorporate other new technologies, not necessarily on the CPU front, and will help them with [the introduction of] Willamette." On the mobile front, D'Elia said that the most important development will be when Intel introduces its Geyserville technology next year. That will allow notebook PCs to perform like desktop machines. D'Elia said there would be a period where older chips and newer Intel processors overlapped, but he expected that will last for a relatively short time. And reliable information we have received is that Intel will call Geyserville SpeedStep. ® See also Coppermine: we got the prices Pentium III/mobile .18 micron to arrive fall What the Hell is...Geyserville?
Mike Magee, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Porno filth removed by clean-living Register

This page replaces the original link from the story Mobo giant hosts secret porn site The Register has removed the Danish text that appeared on "Martin's homepage" because it contained explicit hardcore material of a perverse and disturbing nature. It tells of the first sexual encounter of "Martin" and two ladies at a party. Acute embarrassment and the famed British reserve when it comes to anything of a sexual nature prevent us from releasing any further detail. Nonetheless, let it be known that although we published the text in good faith in the hope that it would unearth some information about the person behind the Web site, we didn't think for one minute it would reveal such intimate details as this. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Quantum kicks C2000 into touch

Computer 2000 has been dropped as a Quantum UK distributor, in the midst of the broadliner's efforts to ramp up its components business. The contract was terminated on 1 October -- Computer 2000 claimed the two companies were heading in "different directions" in the market. In a company statement, Quantum director for Northern Europe John Barnes said: "In the UK region, it was jointly decided by Quantum and Computer 2000 that the best short-term business of both companies would best be served by letting the distribution arrangement lapse. "It is open for this situation to change in the future." Quantum declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the split, but Barnes said that Computer 2000 would keep its other Quantum franchises in Europe, including Germany, France and Spain. Quantum had been looking to trim its partners in the UK, and Computer 2000 was the likely candidate as it offered too many rival storage products, sources told The Register. Sven Mahon-Daly, general manager for PC components at Computer 2000, said: "The reasons lie in us going in different directions in distribution at the moment. Our needs revolve around focussing on hard drives. We have taken on other vendors, and are currently talking to IBM. "We want to strengthen our position in the hard drive market." Mahon said Quantum was unhappy about distributors signing up competing vendors. Computer 2000 is now looking to shift its remaining Quantum stock of around 500 IDEs and 50 SCSIs drives into the UK channel. The franchise termination follows Fujitsu's decision in July to sign up Computer 2000 as a distributor for its hard drives in the UK. At the time, Computer 2000 was setting out its stall to be the lead player in the UK components distribution market. Computer 2000 was this week telling customers it would be concentrating on its storage business with Fujitsu and Maxtor. Quantum's remaining hard disk drive distributors in the UK are Microtronica, Ingram Micro, Ideal Hardware, Karma, Datrontech, Actebis and Raab Karcher Distribution. ®
Linda Harrison, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Charity begins online

Twenty heavyweight UK charities have pooled their resources to create an online community and an ISP in a move that could help raise money for worthy causes. Not only does Care4free give charities such as Save the Children, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the Cancer Research Campaign and the World Wide Fund for Nature their own Web site, it also gives them the chance to capitalise on the growth of the e-commerce market. The new ISP -- backed by UUNet -- is also planning to distribute 75 per cent of the profit it makes from the interconnect charges, advertising and trade referrals to the charities. Care4free was created by home shopping outfit Fine Art Developments. It has already helped charities raise more than £150 million over the last ten years. Unfortunately, its claim that it's the "UK's first Internet service provider for charities and the fundraising community" may not be strictly true. In March, Thames Valley ISP Voss Net announced it had teamed up with Charity Logistics, a registered charity that provides support services and practical help for other charities, to offer the subscription-free service to all 184,000 charities in the UK. It also pledged to hand over some of its profits those charities who signed up for the scheme. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

MS out in cold as Symbian and Palm team up

Updated As predicted here (in both cases), 3Com has struck a deal with Symbian, and Nokia has licensed the Palm OS. But it's not a matter of 3Com buying its way into Symbian - instead, it's the company's Palm subsidiary that's coming on board via a cross-licensing deal. The objective is to put together Symbian and Palm technologies in order to "create a new pen-based Smart phones product category," said Psion in a statement this morning. If that comes off (there is an 'if' attached), it's the sort of news that will ruin Bill Gates Christmas. Microsoft already faced an uphill struggle in getting CE accepted (not just in the wireless market, either). But here we have the prospect of Palm OS extending its existing lead into the mobile phone sector, and forming a united front with the other leading contender, Symbian's EPOC. Before we get too carried away we should note that was was announced today was an "agreement to discuss" (our italics) cross-licensing of technologies. That explains why an announcement didn't happen on Friday or Sunday, as was earlier expected. Clearly the two sides have been wrangling hard, and are still at it to some extent. But the Nokia connection seems to be cut and dried. Nokia has licensed Palm OS and gone into a joint development deal with Palm with the intention of implementing the Palm UI and applications on the Symbian platform, allowing devices to run apps for both operating systems. Note the helpful bound here from the 3Com/Palm point of view - Palm OS will be available on 32-bit ARM architecture, and this will give it a considerable leg-up. Provided the cross-licensing deal gets properly nailed down, there's probably still plenty scope for closer relationships between 3Com itself and Symbian. Aside from Palm, 3Com could bring home networking to the table, and Nokia is particularly interested in the integration of cellular and home networking. 3Com meanwhile, as its strategic announcements at Telecom 99 have shown, is a mite exposed in the cellular market. The company boasts about its strong position in CDMA, and has roadmapped the evolution of its CDMA customers to 3G mobile systems. But CDMA is a very small part of the global pie; in the rest of the world it will be GSM that's being evolved. So 3Com deals with Nokia and the rest of its Symbian chums could be extremely helpful for the company. Register off-the-wall stock punt: In the past Siemens, Ericsson and even Alcatel have been suggested as possible buyers for 3Com. Nokia? It could happen. What could happen alternatively is that Palm itself could come into play as a target, if the proposed spin-off goes ahead. ®
John Lettice, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

USB 2.0 to reach 480Mbps – official

The USB Promoter Group yesterday released the draft specification for USB 2.0, taking the target data transfer rate up to 480Mbps, a fortyfold increase on the current version's throughput. Released to delegates at the USB Developers Conference, the new spec. calls for full compatibility -- forward and backward -- with USB 1.1, so at least no one is going to have to chuck out their old peripherals. The USB Promoter Group clarified its stance on IEEE1394 (aka FireWire and iLink): USB 2.0 will become the be all and end all of PC connectivity and 1394 will continue to exist in the consumer electronics space, connecting digital VCRs to digital TVs and the like. In the USBPG worldview, the only PCs that require 1394 will be those that need to connect to such devices -- all other high bandwidth devices, such as fast hard drives, will clearly be hooked up via USB 2.0. As the Technical Introduction to USB 2.0 puts it, even "high bandwidth interfaces such as SCSI adapters may no longer be required". So where we once had 1394 replacing SCSI while USB replaced the old serial and parallel ports, we now have USB 2.0 replacing everything. USB 2.0 is unlikely to supersede 1394, though, since it retains the need for a hub -- unlike 1394, there's no peer-to-peer operation; data can only from device to device via the hub. In fact, hubs will take on a greater role with USB 2.0 since they will have to arbitrate data traffic flowing at 480Mbps and the original 12MBps and 1.5Mbps. At least in the draft spec. there appears to be no plans to change this hub-based mode of operation, or to increase the number of devices the chain can support. Now the draft specification is in place, peripheral developers are at last able to map out their support for the technology. The final version of the USB 2.0 spec. is due sometime in the first quarter of next year, with the first devices using it coming to market in the second half of 2000 after volume production of USB 2.0 chipsets has been reached. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Another top exec quits Ingram

Ingram Micro saw its president and COO jump ship yesterday to run software company Hyperion Solutions. Jeffrey Rodek quit following three years at the US distributor, adding to Ingram's woes. He will be chairman and CEO of Hyperion, where he has been a board member since last January, according to a statement by Ingram. Ingram has not named a replacement for Rodek. This is just one link in a chain of setbacks for Ingram, and the second top level resignation the company has shouldered in just over a month. In September the company announced that CEO Jerre Stead would step down as soon as a replacement was found. This followed a profit warning for the third quarter. And last week it was reported that the company had been forced to delay its white-box expansion in the UK due to components shortages. Rodek was named Ingram president and COO in May 1996. He was responsible for developing Ingram's customer service and e-commerce businesses. He will replace Hyperion's CEO Stephen Imbler, who will become the company's president and COO. ® Register Factoid Hyperion is one of Saturn's moons, and in Greek mythology, Hyperion was the son of Uranus.
Linda Harrison, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Gateway opts for MIPS-Linux for Web server offering

Long-standing (if often somewhat reluctant) Wintel loyalist Gateway has announced what appears to be a shock defection to Linux and MIPS. The company has signed an with Cobalt Networks whereby Cobalt will supply it with "server technologies" for a new range of Gateway server appliances. Cobalt produces a MIPS-based range of cheap server appliances that are used for small and medium businesses, and also for Internet and Web hosting purposes. They're quite popular with service providers as part of a managed server service, as they're cheap, compact and fairly easy to service, and although they haven't been adequate for heavy-duty Web hosting, Cobalt announced clustering support last month. The "server technologies" Cobalt will be supplying to Gateway seem to be rather more of a badging exercise than the expression would tend to imply. According to Gateway senior VP Van Andrews the aim is to combine "the strength of Cobalt's server appliance technology with Gateway's growing Internet services." So Gateway intends to take the Cobalt product line and push it as "simple, reliable and affordable computing solutions to our business, education and government customers." This of course is by no means the first time Gateway has attempted to break loose of the Wintel straightjacket - it just hasn't been very good at it so far. As Gateway evidence in the Microsoft antitrust action showed, the company at one point put Microsoft's nose out of joint by attempting to develop its own UI for Windows. Then of course it there was the purchase of Amiga, which showed both a wish to break free and an apparent inability to do so. And just last month Gateway capped its refusal to use Athlon by saying it would phase out use of AMS K6-2s and K6-IIIs. Chipzilla, which has its own server appliance roadmap, is unlikely to be chuffed by Gateway playing footsie with MIPS - so will it be different, this time around? ®
John Lettice, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel inside Taiwan's Insyde BIOS

Chip giant Intel, which already has more than the number of engineers it needs after it got out of the discreet graphics business, has plunged some of its funds into a Taiwanese startup, Insyde. The company specialises in system level software and BIOS for both Internet appliances and notebook computers, as well as power management. That allows OEM manufacturers to bring their products earlier to market than usual, according to Jonathan Joseph, the CEO of the firm. Both Intel and the China Development Industrial Bank have plunged money into Insyde, but it is unclear exactly how much the investment is. Intel Asia Pacific director Tony Jansz said that one reason for the investment was that Insyde would help his company deploy the "latest technologies" for net based mobile computing. Whatever that means. Insyde also specialises in power management, an area that Intel needs to get into place quickly. Its Geyserville project was originally intended for launch this year, but has flipped over into next. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Motorola Q3 profits up 730 per cent

Motorola bosses were in a jubilant mood yesterday as the company met analyst expectations with a Q3 profit way in excess of the one it reported for the same period last year. The company posted earnings of $332 million for the quarter, up from the $40 million is posted for last year's third quarter. Sales for the quarter totalled $7.7 billion, up seven per cent from $7.2 billion a year earlier. As anticipated -- Motorola itself warned Wall Street to expect one -- the company took a hefty charge against its reserve thanks to its continued role bankrolling Iridium, the troubled satellite cellphone business. It exposure to Iridium totalled $944 million. Motorola also took a $344 million hit against earnings for the sale of its analog semiconductor devices business, now operating independently as On Semiconductor. Bringing these and other factors into the equation, Motorola ended up with a profit of $91 million for the quarter, up from $27 million for the same period last year. Both Motorola's cellphone and semiconductor operations led the company's growth, with increases in sales of 37 per cent (to $3.1 billion) and 11 per cent (to $1.6 billion), respectively. Motorola's Internet; Integrated Electronic Systems; Commercial, Government and Industrial Systems businesses also notched up notable increases in sales -- the only downturns the company experienced were in its satellite (surprise, surprise) and Network Systems operations. And while Motorola's outlook is good, Iridium continues to overshadow the company's growth. The company reiterated financial support for Iridium beyond what it's already contracted to provide is contingent on the satellite company successfully restructuring its business. And while it has various contracts with Iridium, Motorola is refusing to count what it makes out the deal as real revenue. The company even admitted it isn't actually being paid to maintain Iridium's satellite network. As with the previous quarter's results, Motorola warned investors that it may well take a further charge in Q4 thanks to Iridium. Much will depend on Iridium's attempt to persuade other investors to back its restructure plan, though given it's been trying to do so for over two months, it's hard to expect a positive outcome. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Porno hacker fingered by AOpen

AOpen Inc, which unwittingly hosted hardcore pornographic material on one of its FTP servers, was the victim of a cracker, The Register has learnt. An initial investigation into the incident by the giant computer peripherals company has ruled out any notion that the XXX material was put there by someone from within the company. The only other explanation is that the password protecting the server was published somewhere -- or it was cracked, said a spokeswoman for AOpen. If this is confirmed once a full investigation has been completed it means that AOpen's name can be added to a growing list of victims targeted by cyberterrorists on the Net. Although this incident is embarrassing for AOpen, at least valuable commercial information was not compromised. Recently NASDAQ's site was trashed and it was feared that the hackers had even gained access to its core systems. AOpen has since has carried out an audit to see whether any of its other servers were compromised and has confirmed that this was an isolated incident. Elsewhere, it's been reported that the former top executive at Infoseek in charge of Disney's Web sites has pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to solicit sex over the Net with a 13-year-old girl. Thirty-four-year-old Patrick Naughton, who was sacked last month after he was arrested by the FBI, told a court in Los Angeles that he would prove his innocence. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Gates' Euro 99 tour: If it's Wednesday, its Monaco

It was not billed as the Bill and Larry show at Telecoms 99 in Geneva, but the protagonists would certainly be great performers if they got together. Gates said that W2K would be "available very, very soon" (which sounded like a double amber signal), while Ellison remarked that "They claim Windows 2000, not putting a man on the moon or harnessing nuclear energy, is the most complicated engineering product in the history of mankind. Do you want this on your desktop?" It has become commonplace for Gates to take up a defensive posture about the PC ("not to be underestimated") but he contradicted this with his forecast that what he was calling "intelligent appliances" would take off because of consumer enthusiasm: "these things will really explode without needing a lot of marketing". So what's going to blow up, Bill? WinCE devices overheating? Ellison had another view: "Just as the PC moved the mainframe off centre stage, the Internet has pushed the PC off centre stage." He then got to grips with what he saw as the major problem of the computer industry, which was: "labour shortage ... because [the PC] requires so much labour." Larry also waxed on about wireless technology development outside the US: "users will be European and they will be Asian", and conceded that Europe would soon pass the US in having more Internet users. Neither sparring partner had a response to a sentiment expressed by Greg Papandopoulos, the new CTO of Sun, who observed that there was a "psychological barrier" to many people trusting their data to a server. Accompanying Gates through Europe was a cordon of secrecy, since he still rues the time in Brussels, to make a sales call on the European Commission in February last year, when he was creamed with a number of tarts thrown by the celebrated entarteurs led by Noel Godin. It was a surprise software launch that the did not appreciate, especially as the movie appeared on the Web. The tycoon's progress nowadays in Europe is not like the opera of Nixon in China. There's no time for singing, and no need to hang around airports waiting for an economy, stand-by seat. Air Microsoft jets him around so that he can do Geneva in the morning and Monaco in the afternoon, for the European Technology Roundtable Exhibition (ETRE). The rumour that Larry was in the cockpit was just that, but perhaps the confusion was that his MIG was parked nearby. En route, Gates' persona changed, since he departed in subfusc and arrived in open-necked khaki, which was thought more appropriate for him when extolling the apparent virtues of Microsoft's efforts with interactive TV. Quizzed about his philanthropy, the foundation owner said he now spent two-and-a-half days a month on foundation work. Gates said he saw the world issue as health, with "getting technology to spread around the world" being something of a secondary issue. He still doesn't seem to have thought through that proper water supplies and adequate nutrition could do more for world health than all the pills and potions from US pharmaceutical companies. Inevitably, Gates was asked if Microsoft's stock was overvalued. (Imagine how those PR minders and financial types were holding their breath at this one.) "It's complicated, it should be complicated," he said, to everyone's relief. ®
Graham Lea, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Porno cyber squatters target Intel

Intel was caught with its pants down today after discovering it was satisfying hard core porn fanatics. Not wanting to miss out on the multitude of IT addicts trying to log onto Intel's Web site, a porn site has opened up offering its services under the guise of intel-inside.com. Innocent voyeurs may well wonder why they ever got a kick out of chips after a quick gander at this spring-board site with links to 50freepics.com and cybererotica.com. The Web site, registered in March by one Thomas Puntman, displays an unholy host of bedroom activities. But this could actually work in Intel's favour, for punters will surely never again think about defecting to AMD. The Athlon may be fast, but it certainly can't beat this online performance. Intel was unaware of the site's existence when contacted this afternoon. "We take a very dim view of any abuse of our brand names or company name," said a red faced Intel representative. "This is a matter that we need to take further." Tim Ashley, sales and marketing director at domain registrar NetBenefit, said Intel's brush with cyber-squatting should serve as a warning to others. "This could happen to anyone. Companies who haven't registered their trademarks properly need to do it before someone else does," he said. Current UK and US laws mean that anyone can register domains without having a connection with the company or trademark. URLs are given out on a first-come-first-served basis. "It can be very damaging and embarrassing when something like this happens," said Ashley. "It wasn't very clever of Intel not to have registered it. "However, it would have been more dangerous if it was a rival chip vendor that had registered it." But he added: "I have the greatest sympathy for them. "These kind of responsibilities have moved out of the IT department of many companies, and into the marketing department –- which are often not so clued up about the situation." ®
Linda Harrison, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Massive ecommerce spending boom predicted

Online shoppers are expected to spend $31.2 billion this year -- an increase of nearly 300 per cent on last year. Such explosive growth is nothing compared to what analysts at Dataquest think will happen in the next couple of years. According to these Net watchers, by 2003 the figure is expected to exceed $380 billion. They reckon the US is on pace to generate $20.5 billion this year and almost $150 billion by 2003. And the European business-to-consumer ecommerce market is projected to grow from $5.4 billion this year to more than $115 billion in 2003. Dataquest claims Europe's growth has been buoyed by the falling cost of Net access and the development of country and language-specific sites dedicated to serving e-shoppers not necessarily catered for by established US e-outfits. Blaine Mathieu, senior industry analyst for Dataquest's ecommerce worldwide programme said: "The reduced costs of Internet access and the growth of locally-based online merchants will drive the birth of large-scale e-tailing throughout the world." ® Tune into Cash Register and turn on to our daily Net Finance News -- but only if you want to.
Tim Richardson, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

US computer glitch issues raft of entry visas

US government bureaucrats can't count -- it's official. They were supposed to dish out 115,000 visas for techie people to come and work in the country last year -- but ended up doling out up to 20,000 more than the US government said it could. At the moment bureaucrats are busy totting up exactly how many people have entered the US on unauthorised visas. Unfortunately, they keep losing count when they run out of fingers. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has been lambasted for the blunder by Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's immigration panel. INS blamed a computer glitch for the error but a spokesman for Smith was quoted by AP to have said: "They can blame system errors or the computer. They can blame anything they want, but ultimately this is an agency that cannot count." The problem now is what to do next. There's talk that those techies who received visas 115,001 and above should have them revoked although this hard line option has been rejected by most right thinking people. Another plan is to reduce the numbers coming into the country over the next couple of years although this is also believed to be unworkable. Of course, any suggestion this was a deliberate ploy by government officials to allow more qualified people into the US without wishing to admit it has an IT skills crisis would be just mischievous rumour-mongering… ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Palm Pilot TCO is $2.7k a year, says unhinged report

Data released yesterday reveals that TCO has entered the Twilight Zone of research topics. And maybe Gartner Group along with it, as the research outfit has come up with the shock news that a $450 PDA "can cost an enterprise nearly $2700 per year." Shockingly, the humble Palm Pilot scores an appalling $2690 on this scale, while the "more complex user interface" of Windows CE devices means they cost $2790. Of the total tab, 40 per cent is "end user costs or downtime." But then if you've got to buy AA batteries via IS we suppose they cost a lot more, and take longer to come. You'll recall the firefights a couple of years back when Larry Ellison thumped the TCO tub so he could "prove" that Network Computers were a lot cheaper to keep than Windows ones, and how the Microsoft camp fought back with a whole NT5-based TCO (Total Cost of Ownership, for those who've been holidaying on Alpha Centauri) strategy proving the opposite. Increasingly vast sums of money per station flew back and forth, but the world kept turning and nothing much happened. But Gartner's latest must surely consign TCO survey data to the coffin it richly deserves. That cheap pocket diary, phonebook and notepad you bought to straighten your life out is costing your company $2700 a year? Oh really? Actually, it seems that it hasn't been costing most companies much so far, because they haven't noticed it. "The PDA phenomenon has largely caught IS organisations unprepared," said Ken Dulaney, vice president of Gartner Group's Research and Advisory programme. "There are no funds to support such devices, and integration with network resources is being reluctantly given, since these devices are 95 percent unsecured. To offer support, IS organisations must understand the true resource requirements demanded by these devices." Got that? The process is as follows. Employee buys dinky little computer, works away with it happily. As IS begins to notice quite a lot of people in the company have dinky little computers with corporate data on them, it has to start integrating them into the corporate systems. Cue vast investment, massive infrastructure upheaval, appearance of sales teams from hardware and software companies selling curiously more expensive versions of cheap PDAs with large (and hideously expensive) server software suites attached. Gartner appeals to the Network Nazis in us all: "By not tracking PDAs, enterprises disassemble the hard work done by the IS organisation to provide a secure enterprise environment." And here comes the process. Says Dulaney: "We recommend that enterprises consider purchasing PDAs for employees to eliminate the uncertainty of who controls the data on the device. As PDAs are 'asset tagged' and thus supported within the enterprise, they incur costs similar to those found on notebooks and other enterprise-owned devices." We leave you to figure out for yourself, first, why it's a good idea to volunteer to jack a cost up from zero per PDA to the equivalent of a notebook, second, why you ever bothered to pay attention to TCO surveys anyway, and third, whether you deliberately set up an IS department is something in order to increase your IT budget by an order of magnitude or two. ®
John Lettice, 13 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Windows Millennium headed for dead pile?

A rumour that Microsoft is going to cancel Millennium seems to be spreading through the industry. The Register heard it via several beta testers a few days back, while Paul Thurrott of WinInfo heard the rumour at Internet World. But after reporting this (as rumour), Thurrott was deluged by Microsoft denials. The gist of the rumour is that Microsoft has decided that Millennium, which is now looking very much like a minor rev of Windows 98, isn't a good idea after all, and has decided to can it, and have another crack later with another project under another codename. This has of course been denied, but you can see the circumstantial evidence that supports it. Millennium was initially talked up by Microsoft as revolutionary and radical, but it became increasingly obvious from the pre-beta code that it wasn't, and once the beta actually came out the word started being spread around that actually it wasn't that much of a big deal, that maybe it would just turn out to be a service pack. You'll recall that Windows 98 SE came from the same kind of process, but running backwards. Clearly Millennium is now a much smaller deal than Microsoft, or perhaps Microsoft's Consumer Windows team, originally intended it to be. It's also clear that Millennium won't bring anything much of value to the Easy PC/PC2001 platforms whose spec will be frozen up in January. There's nothing radical in Millennium now, and no chance of getting radical stuff into it in time to ship with this generation of hardware. And anyway, Microsoft and Intel have already tagged Win98 SE as the relevant OS. So Millennium lacks purpose, unless Microsoft wants to position it as Win98 Plus One for a mid-2000 revenue refresh. Neptune, the truly ambitious OS development plan, is as we've said here ad nauseam going to be very difficult to get out the door, and to get into the kind of footprint consumer PCs will require. If Millennium doesn't make much difference, and Neptune is likely to be too big and too far down the line, then what do you do? Downplay Millennium, and beaver away on something more appropriate (shall we say a re-engineered 9x that really has no Dos and legacy support?) to roll out in the interim? That surely makes more sense than what Microsoft has apparently been doing. We could at this juncture also lob in the status of the Consumer Windows team itself. Microsoft isn't very good at running different OS development teams and keeping them on an equal footing. The NT team was the A team, for example, while the Win9x one was neglected until - oops - Microsoft discovered Consumer NT couldn't be built within a reasonable timeframe. The mess over the premature release of Millennium beta 1 might also be viewed as an indicator of the status of Consumer Windows - ignored, not consulted, overruled? We speculate, of course, but we wouldn't be at all surprised if the operation was quietly mugged in a future reorg. But of course, this whole piece is speculation. As we said, Microsoft has hotly denied that Millennium is being taken out and shot. Back at WinInfo Paul Thurrott has been assured it's on track for release next year, and that although MS isn't giving the press beta 1, "because it's an early build that doesn't necessarily reflect how the final product will look," all will be revealed at beta 2 stage. Paul guesses this will be before the end of the year, and we wait in expectation. ®
John Lettice, 13 Oct 1999