22nd > October > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

MS and Nokia deals help Spyglass prospects

Spyglass has reported a 49 per cent Q4 revenue growth for the quarter ended 30 September, and a financial year net loss of $1.9 million on revenue of $30 million, compared with a loss of $10 million the previous year. After three quarters in profit, it seems that Spyglass has now transformed itself since it changed its strategic focus in 1996 to the device market. Microsoft ran into trouble with Spyglass when it was accused of not making proper payments under the terms of the agreement between the companies for Microsoft to license Spyglass Mosaic, which formed the basis for Internet Explorer. Microsoft's preferred way of getting around what it would no doubt see as minor legal problems with intellectual property, and what others would call techno-piracy, is usually to make an investment in the harmed company, or give it a contract. In April, Microsoft contracted with Spyglass to give it $20 million over three years to develop CE software and to "to license technology". The next day, Spyglass announced the acquisition of the privately held Navitel Communications. According to Spyglass CEO Doug Colbeth, Navitel had been a key contributor to Microsoft's Hermes Web-enabled telephone platform for CE that was previewed at CeBIT in March. Acer, Daewo, Panasonic, Philips and Vestel demonstrated prototypes with some data capability. The coincidences are considerable. Philips had also licensed Spyglass technology for its handhelds, until they were recently discontinued. In the quarter just reported, Spyglass formed an exclusive partnership with Nokia to accelerate the acceptance and implementation of the WAP standard, for set-top box software, and to distribute Nokia's WAP browser. It also licensed its Prism Internet Content Delivery platform to Seiko Epson. With Toshiba, Spyglass partnered to produce a telephony card and CE software for Web-enabled telephony. Spyglass also has a contract to supply Motorola with set-top box software. Spyglass' main enthusiasm at present seems to be over its Nokia relationship, so providing another possible bridge between Microsoft and Symbian, if Microsoft accepts that CE is a non-runner in smart phones. ®
Graham Lea, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Cognito expands into Internet email

A nationwide wireless data network that has been profitable since 1994 and made profits of circa £1.5 million last year bucks industry trends completely. Cognito has managed just that -- and now it has launched an Internet email service for its customers. Cognito uses proprietary technology -- including its own Messager terminals -- to provide fixed-cost data services to a number of Blue Chip companies, including Cable & Wireless, Granada, Kenco and Xerox. The new system, which went live yesterday, allows email messages of 11,000 characters to be exchanged between Messager users and standard Internet email accounts. That's roughly 100 times bigger than SMS (Short Text Message) messages handled by GSM phones. The USP for Cognito is that it can provide a complete turnkey wireless data solution to end users. Not only does it manufacture the Messager terminal but has also succeeded in reducing the cost of its base stations down from £40,000 to £5000. Its technology looks tame when compared to the high data speeds soon to be offered by the likes of Orange with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and Internet browsing via WAP protocols. Cognito claims it can offer reliable wireless data communications covering around 95 per cent of the UK right now. Managing director Richard Harris freely admits that makes his company an ideal target for a takeover. Most observers speculate that Cognito's specialist integration skills -- it wrote the base station software using Linux -- make it attractive to any company wishing to break into the wireless data arena. It would even make an excellent testbed for WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) offerings since WAP is designed to work over ANY wireless network -- even one as slow as Cognito. Baring an outside acquisition Cognito is looking to expand -- possibly by exporting the system to third world countries. Harris estimated that at current prices the whole of the UK could be covered for around £1 million in terms of hardware costs. Another possibility is that Cognito will work more closely with GSM networks. It has already co-operated with Cellnet to allow SMS messages to be exchanged with its Messager terminals. ®
Tony Dennis, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Acer to centralise distribution in Holland

Acer plans to consolidate its worldwide warehouse operations into one plant in Holland. The vendor said it would stop shipping notebooks from its Taiwanese base to warehouses in each individual country from January, and PCs from mid-2000. Instead, it intends to send incomplete product from Taiwan to its assembly plant in Tilburg, Holland. All orders will be assembled in Holland, and from there shipped directly to distributors and resellers worldwide. Acer will also offer to ship kit straight to customer addresses, although users will still have to place orders through the channel. The scheme will also involve changes to Acer's Internet operations. From January, Acer's resellers will have a direct link to the vendor's Web site, which will be able to immediately trigger orders in the Dutch factory. "The aim is to touch product as little as possible. Every time it is handled, we lose money," said Dion Weisler, Acer's UK MD. "Resellers will be able to track goods wherever they are in the supply chain. Costs will be reduced. And customers will get their products faster." ®
Linda Harrison, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Queen's Web site runs on Linux

Shame on us - we've apparently been asleep at the switch, and it's fallen to Germany's c't</> to notice that the big house down the road from Register Towers runs its Web site on Red Hat. As c't notes, The Official Web Site of the British Monarchy trundles along on Red Hat 5.2 and Apache 1.1.3. Stung by c't's discovery we decided to dig a little further, into the site's links page (ever wondered which Web sites the Queen thinks are cool? We hadn't until just now). Mixed results are revealed. HRH The Prince of Wales ("Chuck") is another Apache fancier, but running on Irix. This may be because it sounds like a plant. Or maybe his techies just fancied cool workstations all round. Prince Michael of Kent, who is a .org.uk rather than a .gov.uk, is an NT-fancier, as is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Still, Her Maj is the big one, and she's a Red Hat shop. This we presume means that Red Hat now stands a chance of obtaining one of those coveted Royal Warrants. That'd look nice on the box: "By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen..." ®
John Lettice, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Symbian partner Motorola chooses OS-9 for smartphone

Despite all the buzz about Symbian in the mobile market the company's EPOC isn't getting an entirely free run, even from its shareholders. Motorola has just announced that its next generation Timeport P1088 smart phone, due out in January, will run Microware's OS-9. The Timeport is a dual band GSM phone which uses Java technology and incorporates personal organiser, Web browsing and WAP capabilities. It's the first 32-bit mobile phone to use OS-9, says Microware. This makes it a double breakthrough for the company, given that 32-bitness is one of EPOC's selling points. Motorola of course was the tail-end Charlie Symbian shareholder, bringing up the rear behind founders Psion, Ericsson and Nokia. Its commitment to the project might not be 100 per cent in the first place, but as it has its own embedded and low-resource semiconductor products to support, there are difficulties associated with switching to ARM-EPOC. ®
John Lettice, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Psion Revo doesn't work with Motorola phone

Update Psion's latest handheld, The Revo, is a wireless wonder. Hook it up to a mobile phone (via the IR ports) and send all that data over the Internet. On the Psion Web site, you can find a long list of Revo-compatible phones. This includes the Motorola L7089 mobile phone. Unfortunately, the L7089 does not work with the Revo, as London-based consultant Al Sutton found out when he tried to link the two together. A quick call to Psion's tech support established that (a) the Revo shipped with a dud driver for the Motorola mobie, (b) a new driver is planned, and (c) no date for the revision has been announced. Sutton was so cross that he phoned Trading Standards and The Register. Good man. Readers reply Stu Coates of Chelmsford, England writes: "The Series 5mx also doesn't work out of the box with the Motorola phone -- I know as I have both. Thankfully, a "workaround" is available independently of Psion. Info is at andy.burns.net, and it does actually work!" Simon Rockman, publisher of What Mobile?, says the Psion and L7089 "sort of works, but in spirit I agree that it doesn't. The Web and email programs don't work, the glass teletype does. So you can log into Cix but not do anything useful". Julian Prokaza, features editor, of What PC?, thinks "some confusion seems to have crept in. The Revo does work with the L7089 out of the box with no extra tweaking. I've been using both since the Revo was launched and everything works perfectly -- email, browsing and SMS (there's no fax feature on the Revo). What doesn't work with that phone is the Series 5mx -- as detailed on the andy.burns.net site. A patch for the 5mx is due from Psion shortly (although I already have it but have yet to try it)." ®
Drew Cullen, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

ATI posts modest growth for Q4 1999

ATI recorded a modest rise in profits and revenues for its fourth fiscal quarter, reported yesterday. Already the world's largest graphics chip company, with a good but hardly glowing product line, you can't expect ATI to show the kind of financial leaps and bounds made by young pretenders like Nvidia, and, indeed, Wall Street made no such expectations: analysts got ATI's results pretty much on the button. So, ATI posted a profit for the quarter of $32.2 million, which was then knocked down to $16.8 million thanks to the latest anticipated charge relating to its acquisition of media processor developer Chromatic Research, made last year. The latest figures mark a increase of ten per cent on the $29.4 million profit ATI recorded for the same period last year. Revenues for Q4 1999 totalled $304.7 million, up 49 per cent from last year's $204.7 million. For the full fiscal year, revenues rose 67 per cent from 1998's $737.3 million to $1.23 billion. After charges, ATI made $159.3 million, an increase of 48 per cent on the previous year's profit of $107.3 million. ® Related Stories Real3D dead -- Intel buys bones GigaPixel takes on 3dfx, S3, Nvidia with... tiles
Tony Smith, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

UK Net access as cheap as US

It's just as cheap to access the Internet in the UK as it is in the US, according to a report just published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). People who use the Net during off-peak hours are on a par with their counterparts in the US, a fact that throws serious doubt on the arguments put forward by those people campaigning for cheaper access in the UK. According to OECD Internet Access Price Comparison, people in the UK who use the Net for 20 hours a month at off-peak times pay just $32.42 -- $2.76 less than their US counterparts. For 30 hours a month, UK Net users pay $40.86 -- just $4.62 more than in the US; and for 40 hours, Net users pay just $12.01 more -- or the equivalent of a couple of pints of warm beer and some pork scratchings. Unfortunately, the only reason why the two Net nations share any parity is because people in the UK have access to subscription-free ISPs. It is this -- and not because the UK benefits from cheap telephone calls -- that the OECD maintains has brought the overall cost of off-peak dial-up Net access on a par with the US. Focus on just the cost of dial-up access -- ignoring ISP charges -- and it becomes abundantly clear that Net users in the UK are paying a fortune to spend time online. For 20 hours a month at off-peak time people in the UK pay $32.42 in line rental and phone charges. In the US, it's just $13.23. For 40 hours a month British Net users pay $49.31. In the US, it's $15.35. Such disparities are nothing more than small change when the overall cost of peak-rate Net access is assessed. Twenty hours of peak rate access in the US costs $35.18 -- in the UK, that figure is $60.57. At 40 hours, UK Net users pay $105.61 a month compared to just $37.30 in the US. With such crippling charges there's little wonder why the UK lags so far behind the US in the e-conomy. Erol Ziya, spokesman for the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), said the figures showed that the UK was not on a level playing field with US. "As the hours go up so the statistics get worse," he said. Commenting on the report a spokesman for BT said: "We feel our pricing packages are competitive. "The low penetration rates [of Net access in Britain, compared to other countries] are not solely down to call charges," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Free calls keep users online for longer

There's further evidence today -- if proof were needed, of course -- that reducing the cost of dial-up Net access will increase the amount of time people spend online. People who use Screaming.net, which offers off-peak toll-free access to the Net, stay online for an average of 45 minutes a day -- almost as much as the daily average for Net usage in the US. By comparison, Net users who use Freeserve or AOL UK only stay online for around 11-14 minutes online a day, the company said. Screaming.net, which now boasts 150,000 customers despite being besieged by problems, said its users clocked up 100 million minutes online during September -- the equivalent to a whopping 190 years of surfing the Web. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq switches tack on networking

Compaq is pulling out of the networking infrastructure market. A letter sent out to resellers and customers this week claims that the PC giant can no longer provide the broad spread of networking products demanded by customers and that it is walking away from the market altogether. The letter says: "It has therefore been decided that we will no longer provide via our Partners' (sic) infrastructure networking products either as Compaq-branded products or the legacy Digital-branded network products." Those products no longer being sold under the Compaq bade will still be available from Compaq's OEM partners and will still be sold by Compaq's professional services division. The move will affect sales of hubs and switches through the channel. A source close to the Compaq networking division said the total volume of sales generated by the canned products had "never amounted to a substantial figure". All the products in Compaq's network and access communication division have been moved to end-of-life status and will be phased out by February 2000. Despite pulling these products from its channel, Compaq has pledged to honour all support agreements. Details of the change of direction at the Compaq network and access communication division can be found here. ®
Sean Fleming, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Receivers called in at CHS Electronics UK

CHS Electronics PLC, the British arm of distie giant CHS, has fallen into the arms of the receivers. Simon Michaels and David Gilbert of BDO Stoy Hayward have been appointed administrative receivers at CHS Electronics Plc by Deutsche Financial Services. It doesn't look too voluntary. We'll tell you more, Monday.®
Drew Cullen, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Freeserve ADSL trial to cost £60pm

Freeserve is to charge Net users £59.99 for its ADSL broadband service -- but this is only a trial price and could change once it's rolled out next year. The trial is due to go live in December -- a month later than planned -- before being rolled out in the spring of next year. According to an email from Neil Sansom, marketing director at Freeserve: "The monthly charge is £59.99 (inc. VAT) with no connection fee. This is the trial pricing only, the launch pricing is likely to be different. "There are no Internet call charges with High Speed Access, voice call charges still apply though." It also appears that Freeserve -- Britain's largest ISP -- is also happy to hand out "a limited number of free subscriptions to the trial" although exactly how these will be dished out is not known. Nor is it known how "different" the launch price will be or what the technical specifications of the service will be. Freeserve delayed the announcement of how much the service would cost because BT had failed to set a wholesale price for the service. Earlier this week The Register reported that BT had increased the cost of its ADSL trial to £49.99 while reducing the bandwidth available to punters. No one from Freeserve was available for comment at press time. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

MS trial – verdict due next Friday

MS on Trial We can reveal that Judge Jackson will issue his findings of fact next Friday, 29 October, according to a source in a position to know about these things. Microsoft has been stepping up its lobbying efforts in preparation for adverse findings, with lobbyists at the ready in all states that are participating in the linked case brought by the states against Microsoft. The thrust of the campaign was going to be that the economy would suffer as a result of any persecution of Microsoft, but this will now have to be re-thought somewhat in view of yesterday's events on the Street. Former Republican party chairman Haley Barbour, previously retained by Microsoft to work on recalcitrant Republican governors, has been trying to persuade Hartford, Connecticut area business economists that it is wrong for the DoJ to attempt to regulate the Internet through the courts, and that the case should not have been brought. He was rather upset that not many people turned up to listen to him. Between 1997 and 1998, Microsoft tripled its total political contributions of soft and hard money, giving about two-thirds of its contributions (including those from its staff) to the Republicans. Officially, Microsoft spent $3.2 million in 1998 on political contributions. The soft money includes paying for parties and supporting advertisers that back approved candidates, so getting around the campaign-limit law. In March Microsoft sponsored a table at a National Republican Congressional Committee fund raiser, and although the table fee was only $25,000 it is normal practice for much larger sums to be given. Time magazine reported its belief that the committee had asked Microsoft for $1 million. Microsoft has also retained four former members of Congress, two Republican and two Democrat, and is supported by Gates' local rep, Republican Senator Slade Gorton, although Gates is reckoned to be a closet Democrat insofar as he cares about politics at all. Apart from the current preparations for a lobbying blitz, we have already seen the charity card being played in a clumsy attempt to whip up popular support. On Wednesday, it was announced that the latest gift was to the New York State Library, which received $7.7 million from the Gates Foundation to provide computers, Internet access and training. Stand-by for news of more donations to particularly heart-tugging charities in early November. Microsoft will also be considering the possibility of getting Congress to enact legislation to nullify any decision by the courts, "in the national interest". This has been done once before, when AT&T managed to get many of the onerous conditions of the break-up swept aside with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The obstacle that Microsoft faces in any lobbying effort is its own lack of political sophistication - something that cannot be readily bought with money. ® Full Register trial coverage
Graham Lea, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Mesh PC spec confirms Coppermine features

Confirmation of Intel's upcoming Coppermine Pentium III have come courtesy of UK PC vendor Mesh which today announced its first desktop based on the part. As anticipated, the PIII will ship at 733MHz -- "with faster processor speeds in the pipeline", Mesh warns; according to Intel's pitch at Microprocessor Forum, 800MHz and beyond -- fabbed using a 0.18 micron process. The chip will contain 256K of on-die L2 cache and supports a 133MHz frontside bus. Put all this together and you get, apparently, a "25 per cent performance increase", though increase over what, Mesh doesn't mention -- not a 700MHz Athlon, we'd hazard to guess, but Intel's current PIII running on a 133MHz FSB. Mesh's PIII-powered PC is the latest addition to its Elite line, and will ship in two versions. In addition to Chipzilla's newest CPU, the Elite Pegasus will contain 128MB of SDRAM, 16.8GB hard drive, Matrox Millennium G400 graphics card with 32MB of VRAM, 10x DVD-ROM drive, Zip drive and Creative Labs sound card. Bundle with the PC are a Diamond Multimedia modem and a 17in Sony monitor. The Elite Entertainer will ship with a 19in Taxan screen, 20GB hard drive, 32MB ATI Rage Fury graphics card, Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live card, four-point surround sound speakers and a built-in CD-RW drive. Other specs. match the Pegasus' configuration. Both PCs will ship on Monday, the day Intel is due to take the wraps off the Coppermine. ® Related Stories Consumers face PC confusion post-Coppermine launch Intel mobo prices and spex for the 24th: we got the lot Intel Coppermine mobiles: we got the prices Coppermine prices -- it's an Intel goldmine
Adamson Rust, 22 Oct 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony, Sharp create optical 1394 for portable devices

Sony and Sharp are to co-develop a slimline, optical version of IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire) for portable devices such as digital cameras and music players. The technology will combine Sony's iLink (it's name for 1394) with Sharp's Optical Mini Jack plug specification, which is essentially the optical equivalent of a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The new system will allow data to be sent using the 1394 protocol across a single optical fibre. The Sony/Sharp project is an extension of the P1394b specification, which allows 1394 to operate over an optical connection in order to extend its maximum cable length from the current 4.5m limit. P1394b, which has yet to be finalised and ratified as a standard, is based on twisted-pair optical cabling -- the Sony/Sharp approach will use a single cable. The two companies reckon that will enable them to achieve data throughput rates of up to 100Mbps through a 10m cable. That's less than the 1394 maximum of 400Mbps, but sufficient for downloading still images or MP3 files. Sharp's Optical Mini Jack was developed to provide hi-fi units with direct digital connections, so it's likely the new, 1394-based technology will be deployed there too -- ten metres will accommodate even the most widely-spaced speakers -- and as such will mark a major step toward the 1394 supporters' goal of establishing the protocol as the basis for all home entertainment and consumer electronics interconnections. In addition to this new technology, Sony, along with Hitachi, Toshiba, Matsushita and three others, have already proposed a second alternative connector (a smaller version of the standard 1394 plug) for standard P1394b links. The draft version of the spec. has already been submitted to the relevant standards bodies for inclusion in P1394b. Sony and Sharp said they expect to submit the new connector spec. by the end of the year. ® Related Stories Canon gets 1394 'FireWireless' up to 100Mbps Sony adds data protection to 1394
Tony Smith, 22 Oct 1999