4th > November > 1999 Archive
Computacenter has launched a e-commerce company to sell everything from PCs to paperclips to big corporates. Very big corporates. Companies with 15,000 users will have to fork out around £500,000 for the service. Biomni, a joint venture between Computacenter and its sister company Computasoft e-Commerce, will be an extension of the UK reseller's existing On-Trac e-commerce system. It will provide corporates with software to order office products and services online, including stationary, desks, car fleets and travel tickets. Biomni is to be a separate company from Computacenter. It's vendor-independent, selling IT equipment direct from manufacturers, or through other resellers. Biomni has three main sections. The Directa software sits on a company's Intranet, and allows users to customise the services they want, such as which suppliers to use. This is linked to Connecta, the transaction engine, and in turn to the suppliers' software, Provida. Computacenter and Computasoft, which makes On-Trac's software, will each invest £2 million in the venture. "Our decision to invest in this new company reflects our belief in the e-commerce opportunity," said Mike Norris, Computacenter CEO. "Biomni will enable us to extend the commercial reach of our joint developments over the last nine years and is our response to growing customer demand for a system that offers extended e-commerce capability." ®
Oftel is to put pressure on the UK's two biggest mobile operators, Vodafone and BT Cellnet, to make sure the market remains competitive. The watchdog will see that both companies continue to provide airtime to competitors, publish charges and terms and conditions, and produce accounts for each service they offer. David Edmonds, Oftel's director general, said the measures were aimed at getting the best deal for consumers as the mobile market continues to grow. Vodafone and BT Cellnet are able to influence the market to their own ends, Edmonds said. The Oftel proposals therefore hope to ensure providers compete solely on price and quality. Mike Caldwell, Vodafone corporate commerce director, said Oftel's announcement simply restated the status quo. "It will not have any effect on us. We already do all the things mentioned and I expect BT Cellnet does too," he said. The mobile market is expected to hot up as third-generation, Internet-enabled devices are released next year. The government announced the bidding framework for the five available licences earlier this week. ®
British Net users have started gorging themselves on their first real taste of 24/7 toll-free access to the Net, following Monday's launch of CallNet0800. It's too early yet to say whether this feeding frenzy will satiate the Net gluttons, or whether it will lead to a nasty bout of indigestion since the chatterers in the newsgroups have given the service a mixed reaction. Some say the service is fine although several have reported that they were kicked off after an hour. Others are pulling out their hair after still failing to register with the service. Others complained that despite signing up to CallNet0800 they have been unable to access the Net. CallNet0800 is upbeat about its service. It claims that the problems that dogged Monday's launch were down to BT and its inability to cope with the weight of calls to its registration hotline. And it maintains its toll-free ISP service is delivering an "excellent level of service and quality". In a prepared statement a spokesman for CallNet0800 said: "Registered users are already using the Internet through Callnet0800 totally free of charge and our network is providing an excellent level of service and quality. "However, we do acknowledge that other would-be users will experience delays in registering for CallNet0800 due to the phenomenal interest. "While we understand and share the frustration that people must be feeling, this just goes to show the extent of the public demand for unmetered Internet access. We will be dealing with everyone as quickly as we can and hopefully by the end of this week we along with BT will have dramatically increased capacity to speed up the registration process. "Please also remember that our service has not been down for one second and users are enjoying an unrivalled quality of Internet access service." ®
Toll-free ISP CallNet0800 may be fearless when it comes to blaming BT for being unable to handle calls to its registration hotline, but it's not quite so tough when it comes to journos. In a statement issued yesterday, a spokesman for CallNet0800 thundered: "It is also truly deplorable that reputable journalists should publish or repeat wholly inaccurate and unsubstantiated information without even the professionalism to check on the veracity of such statements. "Even the most junior of cub reporters should know the difference between phoning a sales line and utilising the service. A good analogy might be that if you go to a corner shop and they have sold out of the Daily Telegraph, you don't then automatically and instantly label the Daily Telegraph a bad product." Whatever can he mean? ®
News wire Reuters is reporting that the CEO of Intel, Craig Barrett, has at last made a statement on the i820 chipset. Speaking in Seoul, which he visited yesterday, Barrett told the press that the i820 will ship in a couple of weeks. This will hopefully prevent local Intel spin doctors from chanting the mantra: "The i820 will ship in Q4," and instead allow them to say the i820 will ship in a couple of weeks. Intel will use the Comdex/Fall jamboree to make a song and dance about the ill-fated chipset, which has dogged the company's fortunes during the whole of 1999. But the world+dog is more likely to be interested in the introduction of an AMD Athlon 750MHz part, which is also likely to be introduced around the same time. The news service, Reuters, did not report whether or not Barrett was talking to his chums at the memory semiconductor companies while he was chewing on his kimchi and quaffing his sojo. But we'd think it highly likely he took time out to re-assure them of Intel's best intentions. ®
MS on Trial I was a quieter Halloween weekend than we expected, with no news from Judge Jackson (OK, our source was a dud). But we do expect some news this Friday night.
Microsoft's main objective at the WTO ministerial conference is to make sure that there are no moves to impose duties or tariffs on software sent outside the US electronically, and that where there is a medium such as a CD-ROM for the software, only the value of the medium would be considered for tax purposes, and not the value of the intellectual property. Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, international, outlined the issues that were important to Microsoft in a conference call last night. He said that Microsoft was in favour of free trade, and believed that this would lead to strong economic growth. He claimed this would result in "lower prices for consumers" (which is not the case for Windows, of course), and "increase the choice for consumers" (which doesn't seem to have happened in the operating system market). Smith did not refer to the US Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) tax benefit that the WTO has declared to be illegal, and against which the US is currently appealing. Smith wants the WTO to make permanent the provisional agreement that freezes duties and tariffs on electronic commerce. Avoiding a protectionist environment was another desideratum, especially as there has been a move by Argentina towards imposing duties on software, although it has not yet been put into effect. A key issue was how software would be treated. Smith attempted to escape from the horns of the dilemma as to whether software was a good or a service by claiming it was intellectual property, and therefore neither. So far as "cultural products" such as motion pictures and sound recordings were concerned, Smith was evidently happy to sidestep the issue by giving way, so as not to inflame Gallic sensitivities to US cultural imperialism. It seems pretty clear that Microsoft wants to be sure that there is a cast-iron international regulatory framework in place that prevents any form of taxation on Web-delivered software. When this has been brought about, Redmond will most likely switch to mainly electronic distribution, cutting out resellers even more than at present. No doubt another hoped-for benefit is to curb piracy, but this would most likely require users to allow Microsoft to access a unique identifier on the user's hardware. If so, this would likely be a step too far for many people. ®
The rocky ride at DRAM maker Mosel Vitelic continues after the Taiwanese company lost its chief financial officer, William Chen, yesterday. Chen's departure sent shares in Mosel Vitelic plunging to their lowest point since 11 October, falling 2.8 per cent in one day - which adds up to an 8.1 per cent drop over two days.
In a bid to propagate its 64-bit version of Unix, formerly known as D/UX but now called Tru64, Compaq will today announce it is licensing the OS at a nominal charge of $99. Compaq will license the OS to enthusiasts, educational institutions and non-commercial users, starting in the US first and then extending the scheme worldwide. The package will include Tru64 Unix V5.0, a suite of developers tools including a Developer's Kit, server extensions and Internet. The licence will be limited in scope, with end users having to agree they will only use the product on one machine, and on the condition that they do not develop and sell commercial software based on Tru64. There is more information on this Web site, including details of how to order Tru64 in non-US regions. According to Terry Shannon, publisher of Q newsletter Shannon knows Compaq, the deal is good news for Tru64. He adds that the $99 Compaq is charging includes packing, but most of the amount is royalties paid to third parties. ®
ISDN hardware vendor Eicon Technology has achieved BABT (British Approvals Board for Telecommunications) certification for its DIVA 2.01 PCI ISDN adapter running under Linux. Eicon co-operated with stack developer Karsten Keil, using the HiSax hardware level driver with the isdn4linux kernel. Keil, senior engineer ISDN of SuSE Labs, said Eicon had worked hard to achieve compatibility between the DIVA adapter and the HiSax driver. The new Eicon driver is being made available via the GNU GPL, and is included with the 2.2 Linux kernel release. Updates are available from here. ®
Thomson Multimedia, the flagship French consumer electronics giant, stepped a little closer back into the private sector yesterday with a successful IPO. Shares jumped 35 per cent, putting a $4 billion price tag on the company, so presumably the companies were induced to take stakes in it last year will be pleased. Presumably - because it was never entirely clear what, if anything, Microsoft, Alcatel, DirecTV and NEC put into Thomson Multimedia for their 7.5 per cent apiece stakes. At the time the company, which via its RCA subsidiary is the leading TV vendor in the US, was one of several grim state-owned basket cases that the French government wanted to get shot of. But the presence of the four chums in the shareholder roster, and the areas of expertise they're supposed to be committing to the company, have helped greatly in repositioning Thomson Multimedia from a dud, legacy TV builder to a happening kind of 21st century consumer electronics giant. Alcatel does the digital networking technologies, DirecTV's bag is digital TV devices, interactive and satellite, and NEC contributes DVD and flat panel displays. Microsoft's contribution of WebTV, CE-based set-top boxes and a thirst to get people to install BackOffice might be seen as a debit, but the markets don't necessarily agree. Thomson Multimedia has managed to achieve a small profit for the first time in years, but it still has a long way to go. The French government still owns 51.7 per cent. ®
Palm licensee Handspring continues to disappoint its customers. Since it launched its Visor PalmOS-based handheld organiser, some 63 per cent of buyers have yet to receive their machines, according to a poll on Visor-oriented Web site Visor Central. True, it's not an entirely scientific figure -- only 286 people have voted -- but it does give an idea of the scale of Handspring's delivery problems. And it's rather more than the company's admission that it had let down a "significant minority" of customers would suggest. To be fair, Handspring has been the victim of its own success. Run by the two founders of Palm Computing, Handspring was always going to generate a lot of interest in the Palm community when it finally launched its organiser. Introduced mid-September with the promise of an early October ship date, such has been the demand for Visors that Handspring's Web site soon proved unequal to the task of handling the volume of online orders. Handspring set up a telephone hotline, but that fared little better. Of course, difficulty coping with too many orders doesn't account for the volume of complaints about missing components -- including even Visors themselves. Or, for that matter, the number of credit cards billed with the wrong sums, anything from $20 over the list price to double the cost of the goods ordered. This week, Handspring's site, now back online, continues to prove troublesome, frequently chucking "This store is currently experiencing heavy traffic and cannot serve your request" at would-be buyers. Interestingly, MacInTouch points out that Handspring's e-commerce site is based on Microsoft-IIS/4.0 running on Windows 98 or NT, according to Netcraft -- though these facts, of course, may not be related. Handspring at least acknowledges the shipping problems and generally hasn't tried to dodge the issue. And you can argue that, as a new company, it's bound to have teething troubles. That said, Handspring has had eighteen months to prepare for the Visor's launch, and some of the mistakes it made after that point were very elementary indeed. The company will now have to work hard to polish its tarnished image. ®
That 512MB of SDRAM still not enough for your Windows 2000 installation? A research team from Yale and Rice universities reckons it has the answer: molecule-sized memory cells.
US reports said that Compaq will introduce so-called legacy free boxes at the end of next week, using the slimmed down Easy PC design Intel pushed hard throughout the year. According to news.com, the PCs are also likely to include Internet services, although it is unclear whether this just applies to the US. The designs are likely to use either the i810, the i810e or the i820 chipset, and incorporate USB support, and is unlikely to have ISA slots. Both Intel and Microsoft are attempting to move PC vendors to machines incorporating snazzy designs but such systems are not necessarily cheaper than the traditional, beige-box model. That is because many of the newer so called "style PC" designs use LCD monitors, which are still very much more expensive than cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. Intel is heavily pushing USB as the preferred way for peripherals to communicate with PCs, despite criticism from some that FireWire is a more preferable option. ®
Apple's shares yesterday spiralled up to achieved their highest price ever, $83.25, before closing at $81.50 - higher than Intel, Dell and Compaq. Analysts reckon the trend will continue, with $90-95 being widely touted as the stock's price range within the next 12 months.
Tesco is to launch a virtual banking service in connection with its online home-shopping service by expanding its Tesco Personal Finance (TPF) scheme, run jointly with Royal Bank of Scotland. Customers will be able to check balances, transfer money or apply for Tesco-branded mortgages online.
Police are questioning a man after a raid on his home unearthed £100,000 of books allegedly stolen online. The bookworm from deepest darkest Deeplish, near Rochdale, pretended to be a linguistics professor at the University of Manchester to buy books over the Internet. He contacted online booksellers in the US, Denmark, India and Thailand, none of which asked him for credit card details before sending him goods. The 40-year-old unemployed man had eclectic tastes, including A Critical Survey of Studies and the Languages of Sulawesi and An Early Javanese Code of Muslim Ethics. Some of the books were worth up to £300 each. The scamster was rumbled by an antiquarian in America, whose suspicions prompted Greater Manchester police to investigate. They found books stacked in every room in the house. "We had a search warrant, but we didn't really need it," said Detective Inspector Martin Jeffs. "Every time we opened a door there were books just stacked up in piles. They were everywhere: the living room, the bedrooms, the bathroom, even the hallway." Police will be kept busy with the haul – around 4,000 books were found, and the job of cataloguing them is expected to keep two bobbies off the beat for up to eight weeks. Detectives were said to be puzzled by the man's motives, according to the Daily Telegraph. "He purports to speak 16 different languages," said Det Insp Jeffs. "His explanation was that he had got them for his personal use. He is 40 now, and it would take him until he's 100 to read them all. "I think you could say he's rather an eccentric." The man was arrested on suspicion of obtaining property by deception, and has been released on police bail. ®
UK firm Carrera Technology said that it will introduce a workstation that uses an Athlon processor running at 1GHz. The machine will be available in early December. The £5,873.83 box is called the Octan FrioSuper G and is aimed both at the workstation and the high end gaming market. The system uses an Athlon "thermally accelerated" to 1GHz, and includes 256Mb of SDRAM, has an 18Gb hard drive, with 3D Labs' GVX1 32Mb AGP video, a 22-inch Iiyama monitor, a Panasonic SCSI DVD-RAM drive, Aureal Vortex sound, NT 4, keyboard and so forth. AMD is expected to intro a 750MHz Athlon at Comdex. ®
"We have nothing to apologise for," Intel executive vice president, Paul Otellini, told The Register earlier today. Otellini was speaking in Taipei days after the giant US chipmaker sued Taiwan's First International Computer (FIC) and others for patent violation. Industry insiders claim Intel has targeted FIC to put further pressure on local chipmaker, VIA Technologies, with whom the US company has a long-running dispute. FIC along with Everex, one of several other companies named in the suit, has close ties to Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group, and to VIA. Otellini denied this, saying "we are not picking on any one company." VIA, though far smaller than Intel, has moved aggressively into the market for low-cost CPUs and chipsets, both sectors currently dominated by the US company. A book by Andy Grove, Intel's former CEO, is called Only the Paranoid Survive. Otellini agreed that this paranoia extends to VIA and others. "We don't write any competitor off - we'd be crazy to. We consider any competitor to be a serious competitor." Intel filed a lawsuit against VIA in June alleging patent infringement. "The value of our company is our intellectual property," Otellini said today, "we have a long history of protecting it." Repeated delays in the introduction of a new Intel chipset, the 820, have given VIA and other Taiwanese chipset makers a chance to grab market share. Chipsets are a key component of computer motherboards, the main circuit board used in all PCs. Local makers of motherboards say Intel failed to promptly inform them of changes to the 820 chipset. Asked whether his visit was an attempt to repair relations with Taiwan, Otellini said the trip was scheduled months ago as part of an e-commerce seminar and was definitely not a damage control exercise. An industry source said Otellini met with motherboard makers today to give them details of the 820 chipset schedule. "We plan to ship the 820 chipset in volume this quarter," he said. Speaking to reporters in Seoul yesterday, Intel CEO Craig Barrett was more specific, saying the troubled chipset would ship in two weeks - in time for the key Comdex trade show. During the past year, Intel has thrown its considerable weight behind a new type of memory, Rambus - even to the extent of investing in the company that invented the technology. The 820 chipset, one of the first to use Rambus, has been delayed by problems with its interface to the new memory format. A last minute reduction in the number of Rambus modules supported by the 820, forced Taiwanese motherboard makers into a costly redesign. "The redesign was not hugely painful for us," said Jeremy Smith of motherboard maker, Abit, "the main problem was that we weren't told by Intel until a few weeks ago exactly how to go about doing it…it took takes a few weeks because you've got to redesign everything, lay it out… and you've got to test it to make sure it actually works." Major motherboard maker, Asus, will ship an 820-based motherboard within two weeks, an executive said. He also said belated news of changes from Intel was the major source of delays in the project. "It cost us money in the sense that it's a delay and it cost time," said a source at another motherboard maker. Otellini said Intel had no plans to ditch the popular 440BX chipset in the near future, but would continue manufacture "well into 2000". The reason is simple: "People want it." ®
Chris Sarfas, Sun's UK product marketing manager, was in an explosive mood when he alleged that Microsoft has manipulated a price comparison between Solaris and Windows 2000 in its pricing announcement. Indeed, we said much the same thing earlier this week (see Win2k smoke and mirrors -- how MS is hiking OS prices.)
At Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, leader of the opposition William Hague launched into an attack on the government's IR35 proposals. "When it is so important to encourage small information technology companies to thrive in this country, what on earth are the government doing voting tonight for yet another of the Prime Minister's stealth taxes which will hit precisely those companies?," Hague queried. Tony Blair didn't appear to know what Vague was on about and muttered something about lowering corporation tax. Little Will reminded him: "We are talking about the knowledge economy, and judging by the Prime Minister's answer, he is not part of it. The government will vote tonight for another £500 million stealth tax that affects thousands of small businesses, particularly information technology businesses, and other contractors. That measure is called IR35, but it is really a stealth tax." So far so good. But whether it was a cunning ploy or simple ignorance, Bleurgh didn't seem to have a clue what all the fuss was about. The Yorkshireman tried again: "It is not too late to avert this, so will the Prime Minister look at it again, and vote with us tonight to strike it out of the legislation?" Still nothing. Then came the PM's faltering reply: "We are quite right to introduce this measure. Companies will be treated on a fair basis - the same basis on which everyone pays taxes in this country." Sensing there was no political capital to be made, Hague went for the easy gag: "When the government are driving thousands of IT businesses out of this country, there is no point in posing with a computer every other week trying to be computer-friendly - presumably looking for the on switch." That got a laugh and then it was off to arguing about whose figures for revenue, tax, social services etc. etc. were the more correct. The IR35 issue was then overshadowed when the House debated the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill - of which it is a part - by the issue of disability benefit. Despite over 50 Labour MPs revolting the Bill was still passed by 325 votes to 265. That may not be the end of it though. Peers in the Lords had announced their intention to introduce the self-same amendments - which included dropping IR35 - when the Bill is heard for a second time. ® Don't email us. Visit The Register's forum and share your views with the world. Related stories IR35 protesters march on Parliament Contractors: cast aside your IR35 fears, Paymaster General says
Boo.com, the online shopping service for slaves to sports fashion, has launched in seven countries.
First we had the Seven Dramurai, and now, we seem to have a recent, and largely unpublicised coalition between four large memory manufacturers.
Not content with frying your brains and digging a hole in your bank balance, mobiles are now also loosening the nation's bowels.
It hasn't been RealNetworks' week. Just as the company's scheme to nab Real Jukebox users' personal preferences data was exposed on Monday, yesterday it emerged that its engineers were responsible for the gaffe that allowed European hackers to crack the DVD encryption code.
Four out of five UK resellers are primed and ready to sell Linux to their corporate customers. This astounding figure has been revealed by research by broadline distributor C2000, which recently signed to push Red Hat Linux in the UK. The research also claims that 71 per cent of resellers surveyed said their customers were already asking about Linux systems. According to IDC, Linux has 15.8 per cent share of the server operating systems market. If the C2000 research figures are true -- and why wouldn't they be? -- there is a massive latent demand for Linux in the UK. All of which will no doubt put a collective smile on the faces of the "we hate MS -- we love Linux" brigade. The research also claimed that 70 per cent of respondents had heard of Red Hat and 60 per cent would be interested in attending Red Hat training courses. Support from big name hardware vendors, such as Compaq, Intel and Dell was cited as am major influence on the channel's acceptance of the open source platform. ®
The Church of England has urged its parishioners to take direct action against Internet porn by flooding the Web with positive, spiritual material. Next year will also see the appointment of a latter-day Noah who will co-ordinate the Church's stance, although the Bishop's name has yet to be released. The move came as a report into the "ethical and spiritual implications of cyberspace" was published. The report Cybernauts Awake!, encourages Christians to involve themselves with the Internet -- something that it believes will become the dominant form of communication in the future. Every church should set up its own site, the report continued, and put up positive and spiritual information, championing social justice and promoting religious awareness. However, the report also warns of corrupting influences such as pornography and image manipulation. As you would expect though, there is a happy ending. The Internet could itself be a force against atheism. The report suggests that the cyberspace experience may cause people to reflect on the spiritual side of life and subsequently return to the fold. Heaven may soon be just a click away. ®
Last April, you may recall, we reported on Minneapolis-based bookstore Amazon's attempt to seek recompense from Amazon.com for allegedly misappropriating its name. Today, nearly seven months later, the two bookshops have reached an out-of-court settlement. The agreement grants Amazon.com exclusive rights to the name Amazon (solely when used in the context of bookselling, presumably), but also gives Amazon Bookstore Cooperative (ABC), the real-world store's owner, a licence to use the name. Amazon.com gets to retain its trademark, something ABC's original suit wanted rescinded. Given ABC had failed to trademark the name, that's perhaps only fair. "While the lawsuit was at times difficult and both sides strongly advocated their positions, we do recognize and appreciate Amazon.com's good faith and willingness to work with us in resolving it," said ABC president Barb Weiser. ABC's case centred on its 30-year existence -- older even than the Internet, let alone one of the Net's leading e-companies. ABC alleged that "the rapid growth and vast size of Amazon.com, along with its massive marketing expenditures, is overwhelming Amazon Bookstore and negating its attempts to alleviate the confusion and preserve its unique identity". ®
Big Blue has slashed prices on its server range in the UK and now claims it is undercutting Dell and Compaq on similar machines. The Netfinity range now starts at £896, which IBM claims is £110 cheaper than the equivalent Dell machine and £190 less than a similar Compaq box. At the same time, IBM said it was offering cash back prices on a number of its machines which will also help it to keep prices lower than its opposition. The machines affected are the Netfinity 1000, 3000, 3500M10 and 5000 models. Tony John, UK Netfinity brand manager, claimed that the IBM server range was growing 100 per cent year on year. ®
The US Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the proposed American Inventors Protection Act unanimously and is passing it to the full Senate. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in August, but unless a compromise can be agreed by both houses, it may not be approved before the recess. The Senate proposal gives 17 years of protection after a patent is granted, compared with 20 years from the filing date at present. A provision that is likely to prove very difficult is the possibility of patenting business processes, although a "first inventor defence" is included apparently to give some rights to the developer of innovative ideas, rather than to the quickest filer. It is hoped that the legislation would be successful in stamping out invention promotion problems that are, according to the American Intellectual Property Law Association, a "$200 million-a-year scam". The most worrisome provision for most American inventors is that patent applications would have to be published for all to see after 18 months, so making the system closer to the European one. In the view of Greg Aharonian, the scourge of the US PTO (patent and trademark office), the proposed legislation "will do nothing to improve the quality of issued patents" -- except perhaps to maintain the flow of fees to patents lawyers. Aharonian also comments in Patnews on the revival of asserting some of the absurd Y2K patents that were granted by the US Patent Office, without what might be described as due care and attention. One patent that is being asserted is the so-called "century windowing" whereby years expressed in a certain double-digit range (eg 00 to 39) are regarded as 2030-2039 whereas 40 to 99 are regarded as 20th century. Amazingly, this common-sense approach was thought by patent examiners to be worthy of US patent 5,806,063. 'Inventor' Bruce Dickens is trying to get $50,000 licence fees and royalties of $1000/month for those who have used software incorporating this idea. Aharonian reported on the change from WordPerfect-based ActionWriter to MS Word-based OACS (Office Action Correspondence Subsystem) that is taking place at the PTO. One examiner wanted a CD drive for storage, since the WordPerfect-based product required about one floppy a month for backup, whereas the Word-based product needs around 100 floppies a month for the same work load. It's unlikely that the request will be granted, since the situation is so bad that only PTO supervisors may have a three-holed punch. As a result of Aharonian's many revelations, the PTO public relations office has even spent time dreaming up insulting ways to refer to him to the press (his favourite is 'Greg Erroneous'). He sounds like a Register kind of guy. ®
21 Oct 1999 NewMedia Spark, the UK's first quoted Internet incubator fund (that's what the FT says, at any rate) is raising £2.86 million on AIM. The founder investors, including Luke Johnson of Belgo and Pizza Express fame, are pumping in £2 million of their own money, delivering a pot of just under £5 million. Not a lot of money is it? That's the trouble with incubator funds, which tend to want an awful lot of equity from premature baby companies in return for very little capital. The baby companies are going to have to jump through a hell of a lot of hoops, to keep their VC paymasters happy. In an interview with the FT, non-exec director Johhnson said the fund would be ruthless in offloading companies that did not meet targets, keeping its losses as low as £300K. In effect, investors in the fund are being offered the chance to back the Net star picking capabilities of the NewMedia Spark management team, while spreading risk among many companies. And, of course it needs just one big hit for their investment to be returned many, many fold.
Intel will be using Solaris as the base OS for a new and decidedly more upscale "appliance" early next year. The Intel Web-caching appliance was announced last week at ISPCON, is aimed at small to mid-range ISPs, and is effectively an Inktomi Traffic Server box which was co-developed by the two companies. Intel doesn't ordinarily make much noise about the operating system used in its appliances, or indeed even about the spec of the base hardware. Communications products group general manager John Miner certainly doesn't seem to have mentioned either of these when making the Web appliance announcement. But the appliances rolled out so far have been largely cheap and cheerful networking and connectivity boxes from small business, typically running on VXWorks. The decision to go for Solaris for the Web appliance signals that it's going to be rather beefier (twin processor), and its positioning in one of Intel's key target (want to buy a server farm?) markets probably means the company expects high volumes. Interestingly enough, Intel could conceivably have decided to go with NT for the range, as Inktomi has implementations of Traffic Server on Solaris, FreeBSD and NT. Neither Intel nor Inktomi spokesmen could comment on why Solaris was chosen, but Inktomi European product marketing manager Joe Frost told The Register that 90 per cent of the company's business, which is currently largely ISP-driven, is on Solaris. And Intel's initial policy statements on server appliances made it crystal clear that it intended to sell hardware that didn't have complex and expensive per seat licensing fees attached to it. This ruled Microsoft out at the time, and probably still does. Intel is still currently talking of the Web appliance as going into the ISP space, and Andy Powell, European product marketing manager, says that the ISP is the number one target. "But caching server could equally well be installed in any corporate type environment." Inktomi meanwhile has just launched itself into the enterprise market with the Traffic Server E-Class, the market can clearly be seen as being a lot broader. Traffic Server makes sense for ISPs as a smart caching system, but the company sees E-Class as extending this into businesses for purposes like streaming media, traffic filtering, content delivery and management services. The company has also produced an API into Traffic Server, with the intention of creating a whole industry around it. Inktomi also, according to Frost, saw a role for a hardware/software solution, but as it doesn't want to get into hardware, teaming up with Intel made sense. The prospect of selling stacks of appliances into all sorts of new and upmarket areas will also have made sense to Intel. Neither company absolutely rules out NT in the future, and Frost comments that he expects the OS to play a larger role, but nevertheless this looks like a race Microsoft is getting set to lose. ®
Sony is warning that there will be shortages of PlayStations in the run up to Christmas. The Japanese manufacturer of the wonder console said yesterday it would not be able to meet demand during the festive season, according to Bloomberg. The statement came less than three months after Sony cut the price of PlayStations from $129 to $99, causing sales to rocket. Jack Tretton, a vice president for sales in Sony's US video games division, said the company had shifted more than 1 million of the consoles since the price reduction. "We're going to do absolutely everything we can to get product to the market, but it's painfully obvious that it's going to be hard to find on shelves this year," said Tretton. The US is expected to suffer the worst of the shortages. On Monday, Sony said it was expecting PlayStation sales to top $1 billion for the Christmas season. This was followed on Wednesday by rival Sega upping its own forecast of sales of its Dreamcast console from 1 million to 1.5 million by the end of 1999. Sony is spending $75 million during the fourth quarter on marketing the PlayStation by dishing out demonstration CD-ROMs at Pizza Hut and Tricon Global Restaurants. The PlayStation first showed its shiny face in 1995, and since then over 65 million homes have acquired one. ®