18th > October > 1999 Archive

Gates knocks stuffing out of Paxman

"You can punch him; you can explode his head; you can decapitate him; you can even put a pie in his eye." This video-clip narration, accompanied by some rather childish animated screen shots of what some people think of Bill Gates, set the tone for Jeremy Paxman's interview on BBC2 television last night. The only critical remark in the video was that Gates was "A difficult little sod whose parents ended up sending him to a child psychologist because they thought he was underachieving." The interview continued in the same vein, and it soon became clear that there was another under-achiever doing the interviewing. The ace interviewer was ill-prepared, and a confident Bill Gates had been well-rehearsed by his travelling PR team. The interview was recorded on Wednesday before a specially-screened audience. There were silly questions about Gates' wealth: "Was it worth his time to bend down to pick up a $10,000 bill?" "Yes." What does Gates do when he is not working? "Today, I went and saw the Prime Minister. You know it's neat to see the leaders in various areas, and talk about the wonderful changes that are going on." This was pure spin: Gates was working, and it was a sales call. Paxo let Gates get away with statements like "We [he and Paul Allen] wanted to create software that would empower lots of people, and so we thought of ourselves, you know, what would we like to see. Would we like a neat spreadsheet that could do new things ... and we still see things like a computer that you can handwrite to, or speech recognition are on the frontier that we want to tackle. We want to be the first to do it." This interesting claim to the effect that Microsoft is about to invent speech recognition was made three times during the interview. Paxo noted that Rupert Murdoch had said that "Bill Gates wants to take over the world" and observed that this was pretty rich coming from Murdoch. < Gates quipped: "He's hiding behind me. He's your man." Paxo asked what Gates made of extraordinary claims like that. Gates had his response ready: "Not much" and stuck the knife in by adding that "Somebody who owns a newspaper can say I'm going to pick the editor that runs headlines that I like,". Whereas he in effect just provided the printing technology. The closest Paxo came to any criticism of Microsoft software was to relay that he had heard people say that "there are built-in frustrations with it, for example video, sound, the capacity is so limited, the necessity upon the user is to buy the upgrade as soon as it become available. You are deliberately manufacturing, as it were, built-in obsolescence". Yes, that's what he said. "Certainly every product that we do is absolutely as capable as it can possibly be. There's no holding back. We do absolutely our best job [of building software] and in fact that's why we've been successful," Gates replied. When Gates said that what Microsoft had done would lead to "better prices", it should be remembered that he was talking from a Microsoft standpoint, and "better" surely meant "higher". The software industry had grown by a factor of 100 since Microsoft had become involved, Gates said, but Microsoft only had 8 per cent of it. "[Critics] would contrast you with Linus Torvalds," Paxo claimed, noting he "had made his software freely available, and they would say that Microsoft made so much money that they don't need to charge any more for what they produce," Paxo suggested. "Well, I guess there could be a view that nothing should be charged for. The way that we're able to do great support of these products, to do the new R&D, tackle the new frontiers is partly because we are a business. ... There's always been a mix of free software and charged-for software ... I have to make sure that my software is so valuable that people choose [sic] it over free software ... this is a very, very competitive business." And then the trial. "Even your own government is accusing you of monopolistic practices," Paxo challenged. "The Department of Justice did file a lawsuit thatcertainly we disagree with it and.. and we have yet to see the outcome of that. We actually look forward to the final resolution of it [Aha! "final" - does this imply an appeal?] because the facts have been presented... no observer can say that we haven't shown how competitive our business is." "What's it like being sued by your own government?" "It's surprising." Gates re-wrote history again, observing that: "The fact that there's a lawsuit there where somebody's [he was trying to not to mention Netscape by name put forward some notion for example that us... We, we took the browser, er... and came up with one that won all[sic] the reviews, and we noticed that the advertising revenue we could get from the browser meant that we could provide it free to people, and still make money on innovating in that browser space. "And so we brought a new price, we brought a new level of capability and bec,ause of the Internet anybody else had total open capability to distribute their product and get it out any way that they chose to do. The fact that somebody got, you know, confused about that, that's disappointing, but it's certainly not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about." Several times it seemed that Gates was forgetting his lines. "At what point did you get this famous dream ‘A computer on every home and in every desk'?" Paxo was a bit confused, and may have meant to say "A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software". "Paul - Paul Allen and I - had talked about that in late-1974...". The first mention of the slogan at Microsoft was in mid-1980. Paul Allen has confirmed in a 1992 interview that it "was like an early ‘80s thing" [Manes & Andrews: Gates]. Paxo's admiration knew no bounds: "That was an extr,aordinary vision to have." Gates modestly replied: "That's right." Gates is often considered to have a very good memory, but he made another mistake when he claimed that "Finally in 1973, they came up with [the Intel 8080 processor] that was powerful enough. I said to Paul: ‘This one we could do BASIC for." The error: it was the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics (on the news stands in early December 1974) that announced that Altair had developed what it was calling a ‘minicomputer' with an 8080, and kick-started the BASIC development. What's sort of a boss was Gates, Paxo asked. His subject claimed he was "more of a technical leader". Ballmer will be happy to know that his boss considered himself lucky to have been able to hire in some good managers to do ask typical management things like "Are you making your numbers [sales targets]". Gates brought "the technical vision," he said. Gates said "it does feel a bit awkward" that people treated Microsoft's achievements as though they were all his own. That's a new admission for him. "What's your favourite Bill Gates joke?" "I'm not sure, uh...No-one's ever told me... [loud laughter]" Paxo suggested Gates had words with his staff, since they were protecting him too much. Gates recovered by suggesting that any name could be used in the jokes, including Paxo's. Paxo went on to ask about the telecoms convergence. Gates pushed a fiction as his version of the truth: "There's prototypes that you can see today of getting ... the Internet on to the screen phone. In the next few years that stuff is going to roll out in significant volumes." Nokia and Ericsson will be pleased to know that Gates is aware of their prototypes", but perhaps ill was thinking of his smoke-and-mirrors CE mobile phone mock-up. Gates spoke about Microsoft's development of social interfaces with a chosen personality: "We - it turned out prematurely - took the social interface and put it into one of our software products. I think [sic] we called it Microsoft Bob and it was ahead of its time ..." which is a euphemism for being a miserable failure. Paxo glanced at his cue list: "Pornography is the major traffic on the Internet," he proclaimed, quickly adding "we are told." Gates put it at 10 er cent. Asked if he felt any sense of responsibility for Microsoft's software being used to disseminate pornography, Gates said he did, and went on about the parental content control built into the browser. Not wishing to end on a porno note, Paxo hastily asked Gates how he thought about having made about half a million dollars during the interview. Gates wasn't sure that this was the case. Even allowing for the fact that this was meant to be family viewing and not stuff for nerds, Paxo failed to show his usual form. It was a duff performance. ®
Graham Lea, 18 Oct 1999

More AMD Athlon prices leak out

AMD is preparing a further stage in its continuing battle to set the pace on prices, rather than follow in Intel's wake. As we reported here last week, the company will slash the price of its Athlon chips next Sunday in a bid to stymie Intel's introduction of .18 micron (Goldmine) mobile, desktop and Xeon workstation and server chips. Yesterday we reported that Intel is likely to introduce a 800MHz Coppermine chip, possibly with the rest of its range next week, but in any case not long after that date. According to reports, the 700MHz Athlon will drop to $664, which is no good. As we reported, $666 is a far better number. The 650 Athlon will fall to $510, the 600MHz part to just over $400, the 550MHz part to $270 and the 500MHz Athlon to $200. AMD is also expected to introduce a 750MHz Athlon processor -- if not next week then shortly afterwards. This, as we have pointed out, is very good news for consumers in the run up to Yule, but intensifies the pricing battle between the two chip adversaries. In such a battle, AMD is far more vulnerable than Intel. Intel will cut Celeron prices again on the 7th of November and Pentium III prices on the 12th of December, as reported here. ® See also Athlon 700 prices to crash: AMD, Intel war escalates Major Intel roadmaps ahead: keep left Intel's Cashcades to cash in on cache inside 1GHz copper Athlon production starts next week
Mike Magee, 18 Oct 1999

The Survivor's Guide to Geneva 2003

Tero Kuittinen is a survivor of Telecom 99, the international beanfeast for phone jockeys. Learn from his mistakes and you won't go far wrong, when the show next lumbers into action in 2003. * Wear a black suit and an expensive tie every damn day. It's possible to dress casually and get taken seriously at the booths... if you're Steve Ballmer. But most likely you get transferred to a 23-year old sales droid pre-programmed with 15 company slogans. Sweating like a hog in a suit is a small problem compared to this. * Think twice before booking a room in a student dormitory (if the alternative is a hotel in Lausanne). I chose proximity over comfort. I also expected that, after paying the high-way robbery room rates, there would be some soap, perhaps even shampoo in the communal shower room. I ended up sneaking into the communal kitchen and stealing some dish-washing detergent. After realising my mistake -- in the middle of my shower -- a crying woman started banging on the door and bawling: "Je t'aime, je t'aime". She had the wrong door. I'm not saying that driving 100 miles to a hotel is a better option; you just need to know what to expect. * Learn to understand and exploit cultural differences. It's not constructive to seethe in anger if you get the worst table in the restaurant and sub-par service after the waiter has decided that foreigners deserve no better. Getting even is much better than getting mad. My favourite approach is a demonic strategy called The Texas Gambit. - order some heavy red wine with the salmon and mispronounce the menu items - eat your salad with the inner fork - ask for some ketchup with the veal (when the waiter brings it, ask politely if they wouldn't have Heinz, like other high-class joints) - slap the maitre d' jovially on the back while leaving the restaurant It's not necessary to get the accent right. Foreign movies are all dubbed in Switzerland so they probably can't tell the difference. Using this tactic doesn't make your service any better... but seeing the aristocratic Swiss waiters twitching in impotent rage is always therapeutic. ® Related stories Telecoms 99: The winners and the (many)losers The Future is bright, the future is wireless
Tero Kuittinen, 18 Oct 1999

The Future is bright, the future is wireless

1. Value is migrating towards the core of the networks. Voice and data merge seamlessly and huge data volume growth will turn leading IP infrastructure companies into the biggest winners of the industry. Applications and consumer devices used to access data will become commodity items, hawked at ever-decreasing prices by Asian low-end wonders. Mobile operators destroy each other's profitability by price competition and massive network build-ups - funneling the money to manufacturers who build the voice/data core networks, not base stations and other dinky periphery stuff. The Future belongs to Cisco, Lucent and Nortel. Over-valued losers: Motorola, Nokia, Ericsson and mobile operators. 2. Value is migrating towards the periphery of the networks. Huge demand in voice and data traffic has triggered a massive over-investment, which will turn into a glut of overcapacity. New innovations will demand new mobile data access devices - feeding an orgy of consumer interest in high-margin gadgets. Only strongest consumer brands can fully exploit this trend. Voice over IP is still a hazy dream in mobile networks - and everything is going mobile. Mobile operators will achieve an unforeseen profitability by turning themselves into M-commerce portals and concentrating on value-added services. Delivering voice and data in bulk becomes a despised commodity: the real profits are in the companies closest to consumers. Wire-line infrastructure joins railroad industry at the trash-heap of business history. The Future belongs to Motorola, Nokia, Ericsson and mobile operators. Over-valued losers: Cisco, Lucent and Nortel. There you go - you only need to look at the big picture and predicting industry trends is a breeze. ® Related stories Telecoms 99: The winners and the (many) losers The Survivor's Guide to Geneva 2003
Tero Kuittinen, 18 Oct 1999

Telecom 99: The winners and the (many) losers

Yes... there were sexy concept phones never to reach the retail market.... there were spandex-clad dance troupes celebrating Eastern European telecom companies nobody has ever heard of... there was vicious rumour-mongering and shameless over-hyping. Geneva 1999 was enginerd heaven. This wasn't the right place to argue that "winner-takes-all" concept in high technology is obsolete. Even though the crowds were huge, most third-tier pavilions like Hitachi and Bosch were graveyards of empty desolation. Even second-tier pavilions like Siemens had trouble attracting substantial traffic. On the other hand, some rudimentary combat skills were necessary to gain access to Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia. Motorola's edgy ad campaign was probably the best in town. Gritty, graffiti-style posters with a menacing message: "It's the end of the world as you know IT". I was hoping for an innovative inner-city gangsta theme at the pavilion, but it turned out to look like a production number from "Saturday Night Fever". Nevertheless, the wrist phone was a huge attraction and looked much better than the clunky Samsung version. Tiny V-series phones still extract that "ooh" reaction from much of the audience. The industry concern seemed to centre on Motorola's spectacularly bad network sales numbers announced during the Geneva meeting. The consumer focus is probably a necessary counterweight to the seriously underperforming infrastructure division. Paging unit and Iridium remain the two most malignant growths at Motorola - witness the defensive "It does work, too" ad campaign for Iridium in Geneva. So Motorola is now balancing between the good turn-around news (semiconductors-mobile phones) and the evil, decaying divisions (mobile networks-paging-satellite junk). To most people I talked to this adds up to two pluses and three minuses. Do the math. Ericsson previewed third generation phones - on a laptop simulation level. It drew considerable interest. The big GPRS push Ericsson is now making also created a buzz. The analyst meeting had a hostile tone, however. Ericsson's R380 WAP phone is probably the most anticipated smartphone model announced so far. It is genuinely compact and the display covers most of the surface. The problem here is Ericsson's tap dance about the shipping schedule. We might not see this in volume until early summer, which would spell trouble. Ericsson's mobile network division seems to be the talk of the industry, though. It has managed to maintain a dominant position in both Latin America and Asia, which is something no other company has been able pull off. This might become relevant in 2000-2002 - some of the competition seems to be waking up to that now. On balance, Ericsson's traditional wireline business seems even more moribund than last year. This is a time for tricky transitions. Nokia's pavilion was jam-packed by dignified professionals clawing to get their paws at the 8850 and 7110. I was mesmerized by Snake II... you can actually see the scales and the fangs of the damn creature, the display is that much better. There are now walls to make it harder to get at the apples. Some of the new WAP applications actually seem to have relevance. I liked the stock service where you can see the daily chart of a given share performance. Six lines of text is just enough to make the CNN service work. You get a menu of leading headlines and then choose which ones to read in detail. Detail meaning 3-6 sentences. It ain't WWW multi-media, but it's a whole lot better than existing short message services for mobile phones. Here's the key observation: even the existing, rudimentary text-messaging over mobile phones is a monster hit in Europe and Asia. In Britain, mobile message traffic is growing by nearly 1000 per cent over a 12 month-period *before* WAP. Yeah, that's three zeros. Top that, Internet over PC. So the comparison between WAP and laptop performance may be irrelevant. What counts is whether WAP can deliver a substantially improved performance over existing mobile text services. And there are reasons to believe that. Interestingly, Nokia's Thursday analyst presentation studiously avoided references to consumer gadgets, only mentioning them in passing. It was all about wireless LAN, IP, Bluetooth, 11 Mbps PC cards by 1Q 2000, etc. I sensed a serious annoyance at the "consumer product company" tag. Changing that preconception is probably going to be a tall order - perhaps that is Nokia's transition challenge of the moment. In general, Alcatel seems to be the most loathed company around right now. It had a hot 1998 mobile phone season, but has apparently lost momentum by clinging to the cheapie approach that worked so well last year. Its infrastructure division is widely derided and recent US acquisitions are deemed clueless even for a European telecom firm. Siemens may be getting a second wind - somewhat surprisingly, they seem to be doing well in Asian mobile network market and the new phones are hits. More importantly, Siemens is well-positioned to cash in on the wireless data phenom. Everyone is talking about colour displays. Siemens was the company to deliver the first commercially successful model. Siemens' US acquisitions were dissed, of course. But trying to find an American having something positive to say about a European IP-related telecom acquisition is as hard as trying to find a European with anything positive to say about the mobile infrastructure competence of Motorola, Nortel and Lucent. One of the bigger surprises was the hostility towards Cisco. Apparently the much-advertised deal with Telia is not what it could be - and the bad buzz may turn into a problem as Cisco continues to court traditional telecom operators. On the other hand, Lucent seems to be building positive momentum in the European infrastructure market. Which would be a good second act after their recent success in the North American market. Samsung talked big, but may be over-reaching with their massive consumer product program. Its WAP demo seemed low-end and plagued with long delays between access commands and the delivery of data to the mobile phone. Globalstar presentation broke the golden rule Nokia set for its sales personnel back in 1989 - never use both hands to lift the phone from the table. It sends the wrong message. Interestingly, the antenna volume of the Globalstar handset is bigger than the entire volume of the new Ericsson GSM-900/1900 worldphone previewed at Geneva. ® Related storiesThe Future is bright, the future is wireless The Survivor's Guide to Geneva 2003
Tero Kuittinen, 18 Oct 1999

1GHz Athlon to arrive 10 Jan 2000

Sources close to AMD's plans have said that the company is likely to intro a 1GHz Athlon early next year. (see 1GHz copper Athlon production starts next week) That is likely to throw Intel into near-panic and makes the likelihood of an 800MHz Coppermine, followed by higher clock speeds shortly afterwards, even more likely. But although AMD will formally open Fab 30 this week, doubts remain about when it will start producing 0.18 micron copper parts for a hungry gamer's market, even though it's theoretically ready to roll. Production will start in Austin (Fab 25), with the lessons learnt from that replicated in Germany. Reliable sources say that its copper process is likely to start at Dresden in the middle of Q1 next year. While it could do so earlier, the loan it negotiated to build the state-of-the-art fab is such that there is little sense in shipping from Dresden before then. Nevertheless, the fact that AMD has executed on its production plans so far flawlessly will send shivers into Intel's CEO's timbers. *Factoid. Craig Barrett designs and sells log cabins to the cognoscenti, so he's got lots of timbers to shiver. ®
Mike Magee, 18 Oct 1999

Citrix confirms move on Unix

Citrix is preparing to launch a Unix version of its applications server software, Codenamed MetaFrame U. The crucial factor behind this decision, as recently revealed by Citrix's senior VP, David Jones, is the company's belief that a Unix version of MetaFrame won't offend its major trading partner, Microsoft. Citrix has to tread carefully here since it not only has a team of engineers working at Redmond but also has a guaranteed annual income of $40 million from the Gates Gang. However, Jones maintained that Microsoft views Unix as old hat whereas Java is regarded as the real threat. The ace up Citrix's sleeve is its acquisition of a 60-strong team of Unix engineers as part of a deal with British firm Insignia earlier this year. Although Citrix hinted strongly at September's i-Forum in Orlando that Java and Unix products were a possibility, this is the strongest indication yet that a server-based rather than client-based offering is imminent. Jones said the product will be released in response to demand from telecoms companies who have standardised on Unix applications rather than Windows NT. Previous efforts to attract these customers have been relatively low key, such as the creation of a special OS/2 ICA client for one French telecoms operation. A Unix offering is essential for Citrix's planning to move up-market -- right now, MetaFrame only runs under NT. Although it already has an installed based of 150,000 servers worldwide, Citrix expects its major customers to start running thousands of servers rather than just hundreds as at present, and is clear that for all its NT background, the company reckons that OS isn't up to the task. ®
Tony Dennis, 18 Oct 1999

Roundup of the hardware sites

Time was when if you had a 5Mb hard drive, you'd feel real lucky. Time was, actually, when if you had a floppy drive rather than a tape drive for an IBM PC, you felt lucky. Times have changed. Over at 3D Spotlight, the boys and girls are taking a gander at a Western Digital drive with 27.3Gb of storage. That should be enough to store any amount of DLLs Microsoft might throw at you, shouldn't it? The site says that the performance of the drive is stunning too… Despite spoof reports that Anand was blown up last week trying to overclock a Merced-Itanium, the boy is still alive and kicking. Over here, Jason Smith reviews Klipsch Promedia V2-400 speakers, which he describes as of outstanding quality. A plug for a relatively new site called slotA.com, which the boys from AMD Zone have now got up and running. It deals with -- no, you've guessed that one already. Anything and everything you need to know about the Athlon and support for the K7 chip. Kyle, over at HardOCP has a link to a retail water cooled heatsink which is being sold in Japan. Some people will do anything to run their microprocessors that bit faster. Surely there's got to be some way to link it to an integrated system with solar panels on the roof, popular in Japan but very thin on the top of buildings in hot areas of the US like Palm Springs, the venue for the Intel Developer Forum. Finally, Jan Simon, over at Sharky Extreme, reviews the Diamond Stealth III 540 graphics card. He (she?) concludes it's a great low end card. Those big books you buy in newsagents must be wondering how they can cope with these instant reviews. As we warned at the beginning of this year, they'd better start looking to their laurels and quick. ®
Mike Magee, 18 Oct 1999

Insight walks away from Action takeover

Insight Enterprises has scrapped its plans to buy Action Computer Supplies, causing Action's share price to plunge 60 per cent. The US company today said it had ended the agreement to buy the Middlesex-based reseller "in light of a deterioration in Action's operating results". In a statement to the stock exchange, it also blamed "the difficult near term trading conditions to which Action is exposed, particularly with the Millennium year end still to come". Action was told on Friday that the Insight board would not be able to recommend the deal to the company's shareholders. As reported here, Action then asked for its shares to be suspended pending a further announcement. As part of the proposed deal, Insight had the right to stop proceedings if the merger was not completed by 31 December 1999. On Friday, Insight stated it did not want to renegotiate or extend the agreement. Action today also announced an expected drop in pre-tax profit before exceptionals to £2.2 million, from £7.1 million last year, in its preliminary results for the year ended 31 August 1999. In the unaudited estimate, sales were forecast to increase to £276.6 million, from £249.6 million. Action said net exceptional items totalled £300,000, made up of £800,000 of costs from the proposed buy-out and £500,000 of recovered tax. Henry Lewis, Action chairman, stated that the board of Action was disappointed with the decision, saying Insight had acted ignored the long-term benefits of the deal. "In our opinion, the effects of recent short term weakness in the United Kingdom IT market should not have outweighed the strategic benefits of the merger." According to Lewis, spending from Action's biggest customers were continuing to fall below historic levels, reflecting companies' Y2K planning. But he said he expected "a gradual recovery during the first quarter of the New Year, with a consequent return to satisfactory trading for the company as a whole". Action saw Web sales continue to rise, up 37 per cent to £26 million for the year to August. It also said it would be launching a new Web site this month to encourage customers to use ecommerce. Action's shares dropped 112.5 pence to 65 pence in the first one and a half hours of this morning's trading, after being restored to the listing at 7.55 am. In July, they peaked at over 300 pence. ®
Linda Harrison, 18 Oct 1999

Canon gets 1394 ‘FireWireless’ up to 100Mbps

Canon has developed a wireless version of the IEEE 1394 bus capable of transmitting data at a rate of 100Mbps, Japanese newswire Nikkei reported today. The company said the system, currently in the prototype stage, can transfer data between devices up to 20m apart -- Canon demonstrated the technology using a VCR and a digital camcorder. The prototype operates at a signal frequency of 60GHz. It is not yet known whether the system requires a line-of-sight connection. This isn't the first attempt to extend 1394 into the wireless world. Consumer electronics giant Philips had previously developed a prototype system that operates at several megabits per second. By comparison, radio-based wireless networking systems, such as Apple's AirPort technology, transmit data at around 11Mbps. Of course, products like that are aimed more at networking roles than device-to-device communication, 1394's raison d'etre. However, given that 1394, unlike USB, can operate on a true peer-to-peer basis, so its use as an networking technology -- at least in a wireless context, if not across a cable -- perhaps shouldn't be ruled out. Canon said it will submit the specification for its technology to the 1394 Trade Association, which is currently developing a wireless specification for the bus. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Oct 1999

More than a article of truth in Intel Cern story

Raghu Murthi, workstation marchitecture manager at Intel Dupont, wouldn't be drawn on whether it was Cern that was moving to x.86 based systems or not. But, we know for a fact that Cern is dumping its Alpha boxes. And now we also know, because an employee has emailed us, that they are indeed buying stacks of x86 boxes. But rather than buying from Compaq, IBM or HP, they're just popping out to a local superstore and buying them in lots of 100... But wait... A Cern employee has just emailed us and says the above is imprecise. He says: "It is true that Cern looks for and uses "cheap" non-risc PC farming for integer number crunching for partocle physics. For floating point applications in the engineering field we are buying new Alpha machines. The Alpha CPU is still the leader in this field. At a later stage we might consider the Athlon CPU for CAD applications. So we do not generally dump Alpha machines as said also in the article "Alpha: the chip that time forgot?" Good news for AMD and Alpha there... ®
Merlot Xinfandel, 18 Oct 1999

Ignorant American red-necks boost US Net economy

The development of ecommerce in Europe will continue to lag behind Northern America because Europeans are far more socially sophisticated and enriched than their red-neck US cousins. That's because US Net users have little else to do with their spare time other than stay glued to their PCs in search of entertainment or in the hope of finding some fleeting, yet distant, human interaction. Europeans, on the other hand, "have a life" and enjoy a far wider range of activities, according to Fabiola Arredondo, MD of Yahoo! Europe. Speaking at a round table discussion on the shifting landscape of Europe's wired world at the fifth annual Jupiter Consumer Online Forum Europe, she said that there are many "cultural and generational differences" between Net users in the US and Europe. "People in Europe have a life," she said. "They are not just hooked onto the Net as they are in the US." "Usage levels in Europe will lag behind the US for the next 10 years because Europeans have a life outside the Net," she said. Her views were endorsed in part by Tony Salter, CEO of the Boxman Group, which sells CDs and videos online, who spoke of the cultural differences between the two continents. Of course, the serious point the delegates were trying to make was that people in Europe only use the Net for seven hours a week or so. In the US it is much higher. The more people stay online, the more chance they have to buy goods and services. It doesn't take a highly paid Internet business consultant to work that one out. Martin Dunn, editor-in-chief of Associated New Media, was realistic about the challenges ahead. Agreeing with Arredondo, he said: "We do have lives in Europe but it is up to us to convince them that people can have an even better time online than going down the pub." His opinion got a laugh, but only just. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Oct 1999

MS pushes system builders back to distribution by withholding CDs

Microsoft plans to stop providing operating system CDs to direct OEMs. From January 2000, OEMs buying software direct from Microsoft will either have to put a back up of the system on the customer's hard drive, or provide an OEM branded recovery CD that is BIOS locked to run only on individual customer systems. This will apply to Windows 95 and 98, NTW4 and Windows 2000, sources told The Register. Originally planned for November, the software vendor's move has been pushed back to 1 January. This seems largely due to the fact that most system builders were unaware of the changes until a few weeks ago, and are unhappy with them. In a leaked email, Microsoft said it was making this move to prevent software counterfeiting via CD copying and sharing. Yet it will not stop the main aspect of the problem – professional software piracy. Nor will it prevent CDs appearing in people's homes, as smaller systems builders buying Microsoft product through distribution will still get CDs to send out to users. Plus, Windows 2000 upgrades are also to be sent out via CD, our sources told us, weakening the argument that this move will hit the software pirates. And it will make life harder for some people in the Microsoft OEM channel. Those systems builders without the muscle of the big tier-ones, but still with enough volume to buy direct from Microsoft, will be left out in the cold. Most will not be able to fulfil orders requiring certain specifications. The new rules will mean vendors building a special version of their BIOS with the PC builder's ID on the motherboard. The chances of some mobo makers agreeing to this are considered to be slim. "A total nightmare" was how one source described the situation. Of course, it will not hit the tier ones, who can insist that their own spec be used in orders. And neither will it hit the smaller resellers buying from distribution. The decision is seen by many as Microsoft pushing smaller PC builders into buying through distribution. Microsoft has been cutting back on its number of direct OEMs – Essex-based Hi-Grade Computers was canned in May. Hi-Grade joint MD, James Siabi, said the company was expected to order a minimum of 3,000 units of operating systems direct from Microsoft per month. "It suits Microsoft for people to buy through distribution because it can charge more for product and does not need as many account managers," said Siabi. Microsoft was unavailable for comment. ®
Linda Harrison, 18 Oct 1999

Mystery surrounds TFT shortage…

The jury is out on whether there is a shortage of TFT panels for notebooks and monitors, a senior display analyst said today. That follows reports throughout this year that notebook prices and LCD monitors would suffer price hikes as manufacturers struggled to build up supplies. But Bob Raikes, director of research at UK company Meko, said that opinions were divided on whether the shortage exists or not. Raikes said: "On the one hand, two major analysts say that there will be a very big shortage until the end of next year, but another major analyst says there isn't a shortage at all." He said that it was in some companies' interests to talk up a shortage. Raikes said: "Very few vendors haven't got stock. This is a difficult one to call and a lot of people stand to gain a lot from reports of a shortage.@ The LCD market, said Raikes, is a commodity business like memory. Most notebook panels, for example, obey similar market rules of supply and demand. He said that prices for consumers had risen since the summer. A 15-inch LCD monitor, for example,currently costs around £700, when in summer it's price was around the £550-£600 mark. But deals can be had, he said. The earthquake in Taiwan had had little effect on the prices because most manufacturers there have not yet ramped up supplies. Acer, he suggested, may have lost some production. ®
Mike Magee, 18 Oct 1999

Mobile Phone Squelchers – - Register readers weigh in

Thanks to all the readers who filled in the gaps on my recent piece on phone jamming(Mobile Squelcher jams cellphone calls). Now here are some answers. The Israeli company which makes mobile phone jammers is called Netline Communications and its squelcher is called C-Guard. And there's an article about C-Guard in New Scientist But as reader dunking Ben Rose points out, C-Guard makes quite a large device to be used in "restaurants, cinemas, theatres etc. It was also apparently "smart" and so might let calls through to certain phones eg. those of doctors. " SESP, A British security company with a vaguely sinister Web site also flogs jammers for commercial and private use, says technical consultant Fraser Smith. South Africans love squelching mobile phone calls, according to Craig Blanckenberg, who sends us the following links: In South Africa we use on people who use their cellphones while driving the Rooikat-76 or for those with less of a budget or who don't like demolishing buildings to get to illegal cell users (which the Rooikat does very well) you can try the C-Guard. Register Factoid 63: The Rooikat76 is an armoured personnel vehicle. It has also happened in Africa as a "competitive business practice", as this link sent by Ken Hendrickson shows. There could be a bit of an Oriental theme to squelching phones, according to Mark Vanstone, a Brit who has lived in Hong Kong "for 10 years. One of the things that needs to be put in context here (lest the guy (Mobile Phone Squelcher inventor Anil Vora) look like a complete asshole) is that Hong Kong people do not have the same value set as most Brits, and frequently answer, or sometimes even make cell phone calls (loudly as you would know from eating Dim Sum in China Town) whilst watching a movie in a cinema, and at the very least one can expect to hear many pagers go off. You would think that cinemas would forego the 'asking' to turn off phones, and actually install a Faraday cage in the brickwork". Looks like there's huge demand for mobile phone jammers in Japan where a company called s Medic Inc. peddles the Wave Wall.. Check out this link www.caller.com/biz98/business20543.html sent by alltheweb.com afficionado Jim Mitchell. Even better, he says, try out the following search: www.alltheweb.com/cgi-bin/search?mode=all&query=mobile+phone+jamming Ken Hendrickson suggests you try searching for Japanese Movie Theatres. Search for "Kengai-kun" or "Nikko-do" in the following links: www.nikkeiresearch.com/Sources/Cellular.htm and http://bot.fringeware.com/msg/1998/msg8323.html Sometimes mobile phone jamming happens by accident. www.popsci.com/news/01151999.cellphone.html. But from the several dozen emails we've received from readers wanting to buy the Mobile Squelcher, an awful lot of you out there want to jam mobile phones on purpose. Broadcasting and satellite communications engineer Paul Stimpson confirms my suspicion that the legality of this device is "questionable. Provided its transmissions can't be detected outside your premises you may be able to use it (but you would still almost certainly need an official licence - which is about as likely as pigs achieving unaided sub-orbital flight) but if it causes trouble for someone standing 6 six inches outside your door then the DTI/RA would be most interested in "having a little chat" with you. Allan Stokes disagrees with my contention that fights will break out between phone jammers and phone jammees. "The point of having such a device is NOT to be ostentatious (if that was your goal a cell phone would do just fine). Hide it in your briefcase and disable commuter train calls. Not every day. Just on days when the market is topsy. That's the best way to use it. Very hard to catch." Dave Preston takes issue with my comments about the inventor "having a problem, I probably get out less than he does and boy do inconsiderate jackoffs with cell phones irritate me, primarily in restaurants and movie theaters. I'm not overly concerned with people walking down the street jabbering away into thin air...hell, Tesla'd be proud...but there are more than enough people with those phone who have no consideration of others." Register Factoid No.64 Nikolai Tesla was the 19th Century pioneer in the study of electromagnetism. All right then, why don't you just go ahead and make your own Squelcher, just like Ken Shimmin. "Just out of interest," he writes,"I made a crude mobile phone jamming device once - it consisted of using my computer to generate white-noice signal at a multiple of the frequency of the mobile phone, then running the output from my soundcard through a powerful audio amplifier, to which was attached, instead of speakers, a radiator (yeah, I know it sounds odd...) "This crude system broadcast a very strong signal around the radiator, disrupting a mobile phone (it probably simply swamped the phone's noise control circuits). The range extended for about 20 meters from the radiator, and people outside could be seen shaking their phones and looking puzzled. The range was actually better than I expected, but I suppose that comes from using an amp that is much more powerful than the mobile phones. "Needless to say I only tried it out a couple of times... the things we do as students! I must have been very bored that day." This seems an appropriate time to resurrect one of our more popular stories Build your own Klingon Disruptor Register Bulletin Board stalwart and retired phone jammer Bill Jackson weighs in with some useful pointers. " The older analog phones are far easier to jam. All that is needed is a multifrequency oscillator that puts out a small signal on each channel. This will make the users system see a busy network and knock him off the air. Spread spectrum CDMA is far harder to jam and I suspect that squelcher does not do that mode. To jam spread spectrum you need to make a frequency agile unit that will fill the available frequencies with fake signals that resemble genuine signals at a high enough level that the system finds it hard to establish a frequency spread pattern. This may take 100 times more power than an actual cell phone will put out since you have to make all the possible frequencies unuseable. This is very hard to do, even the military has a hard time jamming CDMA signals. Years ago I used to make a jammer for Satellite broadcasts of champion fights to jam the small bars that had bootleg decoders. This was easy since the space signal is micro micro volts and then needed a 12 foot dish. So I made a small 1/4 watt voltage controlled oscillator that went from 3.8 to 4.2 gigahertz driven by a voltage ramp from a 555 timer at a 200 sweeps per second rate. The whole thing cost about $20 and I sold them for $200 would buy 20-30 pieces and then find out what bars were offering to show the fight and who had not paid his fee ($2000, up, depending on seating). And then he would send a person to place one of these about 200 feet SW of the satellite dish and turn it on after the preliminary warm up bouts, just as the main event was starting up. Talk about riots and anger. The bar owner was charging $20-50 per head as well as selling drinks and all these angry drunks wanted their money back. Of course Bill Ballard (the license holder who bought the units) said that it was advanced scrambling technology in the transmitted signal, etc etc. He and I had many a chuckle over the stories of the fights that broke out when the video went west. The only problem was the fact that I should have made sealed units that would break after one use so I could sell him more next time, or better yet rent them. Hey I was young and foolish, but it paid the rent and then some. They soon went to an encrypted digital method that made it impossible to crack the signal and they still cannot crack the expensive pay per view direct satellites stuff. Each decoder box costs about $10,000. Domestic DBS satellite stuff can be cracked as the box has to be so cheap they can sell it for $200 and that will not permit the fast CPUs and other parts to decrypt video in real time. " But what kind of guy would invent such a mobile phone squelcher? Alan Stokes, a self-confessed trainspotter, wonders if Anil Vora, is the same guy as the " Anil Vora who went to school in the early eighties at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. He was tallish, thin Indian pursuing a degree in stock speculation. He's the kind of guy who could be found living just about anywhere. Hong Kong: no problem." How common is this name, he asks? Could c-guard have anything to do with the "guy at Hertfordshire University", asks Kemal Bayram, "who designed exactly that product for a course project about two years ago.. I heard he ended up selling it to some security company in Israel after no one in the UK was interested in buying the design (go figure)". Or can we pinpoint the birth of the phone jammer on Marc Abrahams, who claims it was all a joke. "You might be interested to see the original idea for this: my humor column in the late, lamented Byte Magazine. The column is still up on the web here. Sincerely and improbably, Marc Abrahams Editor Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) PO Box 380853 Cambridge MA 02238 USA" AIR runs the annual Ig Nobel awards. Find out more at www.improbable.com ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Oct 1999

Fried green brain cells at the mobile phone café

Mobile phone companies are running on blood money, according to a leading scientist. Dr George Carlo claims the industry is ignoring and hiding evidence on the health risks of mobiles. After leading a £15 million research study into cellular safety, Carlo has written to the heads of every mobile phone company about fears that his scientific findings are being hidden. Carlo's current Wireless Technology Research (WTR) project is ending and he is moving into other public health areas. Speaking to The Guardian, he said: "The industry has known for a long time everything that I am saying. "It is alarming to me that they have taken so long in responding to he findings. They have sold another 25 million phones to people in the US alone since I raised these issues in February." Carlo found a higher rate of death from brain cancer in those using mobile phones. People using a mobile for at least six years doubled their chances of developing a benign tumour. He accused some companies of "repeatedly and falsely" claiming the devices were safe, and asked for safety leaflets to go out with every mobile sold. There are almost 20 million mobile phone users in the UK, with an average of two mobiles sold every second in the UK this summer. ®
Linda Harrison, 18 Oct 1999

MS-Gartner in tangle over Linux-knocking reports

From the look of events over the weekend Microsoft would appear to have appointed Stan Laurel as VP i/c propaganda. What else can you say when Microsoft's famous Linux Myths Web page references a stack of "Gartner" reports questioning Linux's viability, and then the reports turn out to have been written by er, Microsoft? Actually they're only maybe written by Microsoft, because although Gartner claims they are, Gartner also, er, claims they're not. Well, not exactly anyway. But we'll get back to that - the easiest way into this ludicrous morass is to start at Linux Myths and work backwards. At time of writing Linux Myths included a short section headed "Gartner Group Reports." Three were listed: Will Linux be viable competition for Windows desktops/; 1999 OS Forecast: the Linux Face-off; and Red Hat's Future: Boxed in. Briefly, the reports conclude that Linux isn't a serious competitor on the desktop, that it won't gain acceptance as a substitute for Unix and Windows in the near term, and that Red Hat's "future success is not a foregone conclusion." No, we don't know why they bothered with that last one either. But here, in any event, we have three reports written by an independent analyst outfit that question the viability of Linux. That's what you'd understand from how Microsoft presents them, anyway. But follow the URLs to Gartner, and you find they lead to http://www.gartnergroup.com/webletter/microsoft/article3/article3.html and so on. It's worth noting that only articles 3, 5 and 6 are referenced, and that what is being published on the Gartner site currently seems to be in some state of flux. There were five articles up there on Friday, according to Rick Moen, who's been beavering away at the matter, but some of them have been going MIA. Number 1 at time of writing was something dull about desktop upgrades with no mention of Linux, 2 had an "access expired" notice on it, as had 4, which doesn't appear to have been live when Moen complied his first list on Friday. But it would appear to have been called "TCO best practice" at some point in its short life. No matter - doesn't the form of the URL look suspicious to you? No? But if you check right down at the bottom of each article, it certainly does. There's a disclaimer. It's long, but worth reading a couple of times so you get the meaning: "Microsoft Web Letter is published by Microsoft. Additional editorial material supplied by Gartner Group Inc. © 1999. Editorial supplied by Microsoft is independent of GartnerGroup analysis and in no way should this information be construed as a GartnerGroup endorsement of Microsoft's products and services. Entire contents © 1999 by Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. GartnerGroup disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. GartnerGroup shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The reader assumes sole responsibility for the selection of these materials to achieve its intended results. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice." OK, so we've got a Microsoft publication here. On the Gartner site. Microsoft's Linux Myths page is presenting a Microsoft publication hosted on a Gartner site as an independent Gartner viewpoint. Gartner is saying that Microsoft supplied the editorial, and that it's "independent of" (note this doesn't necessarily mean "not") Gartner analysis. Gartner does admit to supplying "additional editorial material," but although it disclaims all liability for the content, it claims copyright for the lot anyway. It all looks incredibly murky, doesn't it? But an "explanation" offered to ComputerWorld Australia (this paper originally wrote up the reports as straight Gartner ones) complicates matters further. Gartner Australia VP of marketing John Barrow claimed to ComputerWorld that Gartner originally sold the research to Microsoft for use in the Microsoft Webletter hosted on Gartner's site. Despite this claim, Barrow is also quoted as claiming that the Webletter had reproduced Gartner's original research in its entirety, and that the research had not been funded by Microsoft. But didn't he just say it had been paid for by Microsoft? Different matter altogether, apparently. Gartner says that its reports were independent and objective, and that it stands by them. So shall we disentangle? We must of course believe Gartner when it says that Microsoft didn't fund the research. But in Gartner's line of work the research clearly gets paid for by companies who want to use it. Gartner's customer contracts, one surmises, will cater for situations where the customer wishes to use Gartner research in conjunction with its own presentations. Gartner however will want to keep hold of its own intellectual property (can't have these expensive reports getting all over the place for free) while protecting itself in the event of customers getting over-enthusiastic with the embroidery. We think that explains the disclaimer/copyright notice. But what about the hosting itself? With hindsight Gartner may now be thinking of this as an innovation too far. You'd expect Gartner reports to be published on the Gartner Web site, but research sold by Gartner to Microsoft, and presented (apparently) by Microsoft is a different matter. Wouldn't you expect that to appear on the Microsoft Web site? But then, if it did, and it wasn't an unadulterated Gartner report, people might think it had been sponsored by Microsoft. So Microsoft wouldn't like that, so maybe we'd best publish it on the Gartner site. But in a special Microsoft newsletter. Come to think of it, there seems to be some kind of Stan Laurel input in version 1.0 of Gartner's Web publishing plans as well. ® See also Rick Moen's analysis
John Lettice, 18 Oct 1999

Online advertising is no pot of gold

Web entrepreneurs who think they can make money simply by generating advertising revenue may be in for a reality slap that will really make their cheeks smart. According to e-business evangelists at the fifth annual Jupiter Consumer Online Forum Europe in London today, there simply won't be enough advertising bucks to go round. It's a worrying prognosis for Net companies -- especially for content-based services –- which may have based their business plans on generating cash this way. If they're right, the result is that there will be casualties as Net companies fail to stay afloat. The question is how many, and whether e-ntrepreneurs are prepared to face up to reality and seek alternative revenue streams. "There's not enough advertising revenue to keep sites buoyant," warned Martin Dunn, editor-in-chief of Associated New Media. "And it's inevitable that some companies will fall by the wayside." That applies to Britain just as much as it does to other European countries, he said. "I can't see that that there is enough advertising revenue to support us all –- there will only be room for handful of big sites to succeed," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Oct 1999

Free Net calls group to meet minister

The Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) is to meet the Minister for E-commerce on Wednesday to call on the government to cut the cost of Net access in the UK. News of the meeting between the lobby group and Patricia Hewitt has left many people wondering whether this is a carefully calculated PR exercise to stifle criticism that the government is not doing enough, or whether it could be about to signal a U-turn in government policy. Only last month, Hewitt told a conference at the London School of Economics that she wanted to cut the cost of Net access for consumers -- but that it wasn't her priority. Any inkling that Hewitt was paving the way for the government to alter its position on the cost of Net access was quickly snuffed out by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). A spokeswoman there said it was still government policy to let the market decide on the cost of Net access. So what's changed? Nothing really, except that a few very vocal names, including Rupert Murdoch's News International, have started to whinge about the cost of Net access. But even this New Labour government isn't that transparent, is it? ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Oct 1999

Intel 1100MHz ‘Athlon killer’ to launch in December? Hmm..

Before we launch into this one below, we'd better say what we know about Willamette already. We know, from a highly reliable source, that Intel is going flat out to demo the silicon with a date at the end of January. We know that Intel was originally supposed to introduce it in 1998. We know that Intel is now saying 2000 and 2001. It's also worth referring back to this piece, which also came from a highly reliable source - Hard facts emerge about Willamette. So the following has to be placed in that context. There may be more than a grain of truth in it, but other information we've received since this story was filed suggests Intel just can't do it yet. It can do a Coppermine 800MHz real soon now, as we have reported. And when it revs Willamette, the first is likely to be at 800MHz. Another source we can rely on tells The Register that Willamette silicon won't sample until early next year and that Tehema, the chipset for Willamette, isn't yet complete. It is true that Intel knows in its heart (what heart, Ed) that Coppermine just can't cut it in the race against Athlon, so Chipzilla has a little surprise up its sleeve - the next generation of IA32 processor, codenamed Willamette, could be here a staggering nine months early. One US source says the chip will have a paper launch at the end of December, with product in the shops two months later, although if AMD keeps up the pressure it could be even sooner. If true, this two month gap is to enable OEMs to shift bucketloads of Coppermine systems before they're rendered unsaleable by the new super chip. We now think the 800MHz rev will be the first, while Intel may be able to ramp that up by June. Coppermine arrives next week, but still uses the venerable P6 core that first saw the light of day in the Pentium Pro, albeit at a dinky 0.18 micron process, coupled with on die level 2 cache. It'll be faster than existing Pentium IIIs, but not earth-shatteringly so. Now with Athlon starting to win the hearts and minds battle, and still wincing from the Camino chipset cockup, the chip behemoth - still smarting from Chimpzilla's new found ability to deliver silicon rather than hot air - desperately needs to do something impressive - and fast. Intel's been quietly shipping 0.18 micron mobile processors for the best part of six months, but even so, bringing Willamette so far forward is pretty impressive stuff. If that's so... The entirely new 0.18 micron Willamette was originally scheduled to arrive around Q3 2000 at 1100MHz with more than 1MB integrated level 2 cache and Intel performance estimates say it will score around 50 on Winstone98 and 43 on SpecInt95. Although following the FTC investigation, Chipzilla is supposedly under strict orders to avoid using 'aggressive' terminology in internal communications, it is reported that Willamette is being referred to as 'The Athlon Killer' by Intel insiders. Presumably this is toned down in written communication to 'Cute, cuddly and totally unthreatening'. Have thoughts about the story as it stands? Pete Sherriff can be contacted here. ® Related stories Major Intel roadmaps ahead: please keep left Intel pulls into fast lane as workstation plans unfold Intel'sh Cashcades to cash in on cache inside 1GHz Athlon to arrive 10 Jan 2000
Pete Sherriff, 18 Oct 1999

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