5th > November > 1999 Archive
The Senate passed a final Conference Report on the Financial Services Modernisation Act of 1999 yesterday afternoon following a rather brief debate. (Conference Reports are the final drafts of bills after House and Senate versions are reconciled by a Conference Committee.) The bill enables banks, securities firms and insurance agencies to merge, and so to bless consumers with one-stop shopping convenience for all of life's most important decisions. Now a consumer may insure his health, his property and his life, invest in stocks and funds, and borrow heaps of capital for all manner of shaky scheme, just as he might bulk up on pasta primavera, pad Thai, souvlaki and Big Macs in a shopping mall food court, and never notice that they all taste exactly the same, and not very good at that. The bill has been controversial because the conglomerates contemplated under it will be able to amass enormous quantities of quite sensitive data pertaining to customers, and share it freely among their several divisions. Privacy provisions in the final draft require banks to inform customers of their privacy policies, or their total lack thereof, but permit customers to opt out of only those data-sharing schemes which involve outside third parties not affiliated with the financial conglomerate. Consumers will have no control over data shared among an institution's divisions, or its subcontractors, which may include the dreaded barbarian tribe known as telemarketers. Senator Phil Gramm (R--Texas) praised the bill lavishly as a means of bolstering American economic performance. "It is our destiny to dominate the next century as we dominated the last," he gushed. Conservative nay-sayers, like Richard Shelby (R--Alabama), were disgusted, but few in number. The bill passed on a vote of ninety to eight. The big surprise came late last night in the House of Representatives. While it had been assumed that House members would vote soon, and vote favourably, no one expected them to finish the business before the stroke of midnight on the same day. But by early evening it was clear that House proponents were determined to ride the Senate wave and ram the bill through, even if it kept them there all night. House debate mirrored that in the Senate fairly closely. The great argument for passage in both chambers was the inadequacy of the current Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Spencer Bachus (R--Alabama) likened regulating today's banks with the Depression-era relic to driving a modern car along a dirt road. Almost without exception, proponents cited for justification the urgent need to update Glass-Steagall, and the fact that there is presently no federal privacy regulation addressing financial services, so some is better than none. Robert Menendez (R--New Jersey) proudly characterised the bill as a boon to consumers. "It's about more choices," he chirped. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) denounced the bill's privacy protections violently. "All you get is this," he shouted, and held up a placard with red block lettering: "NOTICE: You Have No Privacy Rights". Sheila Lee (D--Texas) summed up the moderate view: "It's not a great bill, but it's good enough," she sighed. She then quite reasonably and most intelligently recommended that Congress draft a comprehensive, stand-alone privacy bill at a later date, to address deficiencies in the banking bill's privacy protections. One objection which got very little mention is the likelihood that such vast financial empires might lead the US economy into financial interconnections and entanglements like those which have been strangling Japan and South Korea for decades. The legendary confidence Americans have in their genius for improvisation apparently persuades them that they can make precisely the same mistakes without consequence. In a letter urging passage of the bill, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers estimated it could save US consumers as much as $18 billion per year. Throughout the day, proponents lobbed the figure about to the point of exhaustion. Another tiring and endlessly-repeated refrain compared drafting the bill to labuors of Sisyphus. "We finally got the rock to the top of the hill," every other member joked. To be fair, financial sector legislation has been in the works for nearly a quarter century on Capitol Hill, with very little success. The banking, securities and insurance industries have been lobbying vigourously, but at cross purposes, for decades. It is only recently that they decided to harmonise their efforts; so if money talks, it has talked with one voice for only a very short time. The results have been spectacular. The bill passed the House at 11:20 PM on a vote of 362 to 57, and will now be submitted to the President for signing. It is not relevant that Congress has votes to spare in overturning a presidential veto. The Clinton administration likes this bill very much -- as it likes all accommodations of big-business ambitions -- and we would not be surprised to hear Al Gore taking credit for it during his election campaign. Of course one of his opponents, Senator John McCain (R--Arizona), actually voted for it, so there may yet be some dispute over bragging rights. We will keep you posted. ®
A love-struck squaddie has had his romantic hopes dashed via cyberspace in front of the world's military.
Microsoft has lost another round in the Caldera private antitrust case.
Online advertising is now drawing the sort of money that financial analysts notice, much to the delight of ad agencies, and much to the puzzlement of Web merchants who consistently fail to profit from them. Internet ad sales jumped a whopping 35 per cent over last quarter, from roughly $600 million to $935 million, as reported by PricewaterhouseCoopers New Media Group chairman Tom Hyland during a press teleconference yesterday. Spending in the first six months of fiscal 1999 has already exceeded the total spent during fiscal 1998. The leading categories in which companies now burn money on Internet ads are consumer-oriented products and services at 29 per cent; computing at 22 per cent; and financial services at 20 per cent, Hyland noted. The Internet Advertising Bureau, and industry front group, regularly sponsors the quarterly PricewaterhouseCoopers study, and hosted Hyland for the teleconference during its annual meeting in New York this week. There were no surprises in the study results. Investment in Web ads has been growing swiftly and steadily since PWC first started tracking it in 1996, when it amounted to the paltry annual total of $267 million. If the trend continues, fiscal 2000 will see an investment total in the range of $3 billion. Still, it would be nice if merchants were to profit from such sustained capital burns. There are numerous reasons why online sales fail to generate profits, and chief among them is profligate spending in expansion schemes. For example, Amazon.com has invested so much in its distribution network and warehouses that it has yet to enjoy a profitable quarter. Because e-commerce is new, sales revenues have to be rolled over into developing a sales infrastructure, of which advertising represents a significant part. Under the circumstances, Web ads will have to begin paying off. They rarely do: research indicates that banner ads, however ubiquitous they may be, are particularly ineffective, as Web surfers quickly train themselves to ignore them after a quick glimpse, thereby effectively looking around them, and keeping them in the periphery regardless of where they appear on a page. Internet advertising fails to pull its weight for a quite simple reason: it sucks. Rich media ads hold great promise, but the technology is woefully inadequate. "Advertising is limited by bandwidth," PricewaterhouseCoopers New Media Director Pete Petrusky told The Register. "Fewer than a million Americans have high-speed access; it will be some time before Web ads can offer the slickness of TV ads," he said. So there: limits in the technology, not in the evil ingenuity of advertisers or in the exploitative drive of merchants, impede the power of advertising on line, and bore us with insipid banners. Don't blame Madison Avenue: Web ads suck because the Internet sucks. ®
Analysis Apple has bought high-end 3D accelerator chip developer Raycer Graphics for around $15 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. News of the two companies' negotiations emerged earlier this week. Since then, MacWeek.com sources confirmed that the deal is "all but done", and it now looks like Raycer's staff will become Apple employees on Monday. So far, neither company has officially commented on the acquisition -- presumably that will happen on Monday, too -- so Apple's motives remain unclear. Improving the Mac's ability to process 3D information is the broad reason for the deal, but this method seems an unusual way of doing so in light not only of Apple's close relationship with the market-leading 3D chip company, ATI, but the trouble the Mac maker is having gaining support from the wider 3D hardware industry. Having an exclusive deal with ATI is bad enough, here -- having your own in-house 3D team could easily kill off ATI's support and the burgeoning friendship with 3dfx. Apple could argue that it wants to be free from reliance on third parties for such a key technology, but that's just going back to the 'not invented here' philosophy the company claims to have long since abandoned. However, a new take on the deal is emerging: Raycer's little-known interest in system-on-a-chip development. Apple's drive to bring down costs led to the development of its Unified Motherboard Architecture (UMA) strategy whereby all Macs are based around a single, core system. Having done that, the next stage is clearly to bring the cost of the UMA down, and the integration of the board's numerous chips is a clear way forward here. Hints that Apple was planning such a move emerged earlier this year when it was suggested that the company was talking to chip vendors about how to create an iMac-on-a-chip part which would combine the chip's networking, peripherals, memory, bus and video chipsets onto a single slice of silicon. For your instant iMac, just add PowerPC... Importantly, for Apple, this would allow it to get the price of both iMac and iBook right down, possibly under $700, and allow it to compete with the full range of consumer-oriented Wintel machines and heighten the iMac's desirability in an increasingly price-sensitive market. That could well be the motivation behind the Raycer acquisition. If Apple focuses the technology on its consumer lines, that would leave space at the high-end, where possible performance losses from such integration are more of an issue (the 'jack of all trades, master of none' vs dedicated products argument), for a continued relationship with ATI. Indeed, since ATI is itself interested in system-on-a-chip development -- last year it bought media processor developer Chromatic Research to kick-start its SoC design work -- Apple's acquisition may very well lead to a closer partnership between the two vendors. ®
Lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox has made it into the Tatler's Little Black Book, beating Kate Moss and Helena Bonham Carter in the posh people's magazine's league table of the 10-hottest female dates for 2000. The 26 year-old, who last month said she didn't get out of bed for cash, is officially one of the hottest dates for the nation's most eligible bachelors. She ranked number four in the list, behind Jerry Hall, Anna Friel and Daphne Niarchos. ®
Budget-price PC vendor Microworkz has been hit with a lawsuit from Washington State alleging flagrant disregard of consumer protection law, according to a report on PC World News. We're not entirely surprised. Microworkz doesn't appear to have had much success selling computers, not least because it apparently had much success shipping them. Washington State's attorney general has received 95 complaints against Microworkz, and earlier this year the Web was alive with the comments of disgruntled folk who had ordered either the Webzter Net access box or its successor, the iToaster. The suit alleges Microworkz failed to deliver equipment, honour warranties, issue refunds and respond to customer inquiries about its Webzter computers. Curiously, PC World News describes Microworkz as a seller of software since it no longer makes any of its boxes, it simply provides the software. Arguably it doesn't even do that -- since the iToaster runs the BeOS, Microworkz probably hasn't had much input beyond creating the iToaster's minimalist front-end. Certainly, Microworkz no longer offers fully-fledged PCs or the Webzter, focusing solely on iToaster, which it sells online and through the Electronics Boutique chain in the US. A defensive Richard Latman, Microworkz' founder and COO, said: "We are now a software company and have had nothing to do with hardware for the last 42 days." It's odd, then, that his site should continue to advertise the company's zPC, Workz and Z-Series machines. And, by Latman's logic, IBM, Apple, HP, Sun et al are also just software companies. Latman is stepping down from the day-to-day management of Microworkz on 15 November, something he announced in August. He also announced he was making way for a new management team -- to expand "its organisational bandwidth" -- but the company has yet to announced the team's appointment. The $299 iToaster comes bundled with free Internet access, which is ironically enough the cause of another anti-Microworkz lawsuit, this time from US ISP EarthLink. The ISP claims it provided around 1000 Microworkz customers with free Net access accounts, but has yet to receive any payment from the hardware vendor. It's suing for breach of contract -- Microworkz is countersuing. Microworkz currently provides Net access through AT&T. ®
AOL is being sued by the National Federation of the Blind for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Nine blind members of the Federation are claiming the ISP is incompatible with software programmes that change text into audio or Braille, despite other ISPs offering the service. Despite the Disabilities Act coming into force nine years ago, the Virginia-based company has still not brought its service up to speed. Daniel Goldstein, one of the solicitors for the plaintiffs, told AP: "Patience has begun to flag." The lawyers are arguing that AOL violates parts of the law that require equal access to public "accommodations." An accommodation can also be classed as a service, according to the federation courts. AOL said the next version of its software, due to be launched next year, would have features to make it more user-friendly for the blind. This would include members being able to get email messages by phone. But the lawyers involved in the case claim the technology already exists to redesign AOL's service to allow blind people to use it, and asked the court to order a redesign. Curtis Chong, the Federation's director of technology, said: "Despite our best efforts, though, AOL has steadfastly refused to modify its software in order to ensure compatibility with screen access technology for the blind." ®
Thieves have nabbed a consignment of Compaq Armada notebooks – the second time this has happened in the last three months. This most recent incident saw 141 Armadas slip their moorings in Glasgow - a haul valued at around £250,000. This could make the Armada the most popular notebook in the UK. How has The Register come to this conclusion? The theory runs like this: burglars (at least good ones) are the purest manifestation of capitalism - who understands supply and demand better? Surely they only steal that which is greatest in demand. Following the armed theft of 1,450 Compaq laptops in August, and this latest heist, the Armada is now top of the tea-leaf hit list. Of course, as with all indexes, there is a caveat. It may just be the case that Armadas are so poorly put together (BIOS revisions? Faulty power leads?) that it's not worth guarding them. We leave it to you to make your mind up. For our Glasgow readers, Detective Constable John McLaughlin advises you to be on the look out. If anyone approaches you with a brand new untraceable laptop and asks a vastly reduced price for it - don't buy it, but contact the police. Nice one, John. ®
Amazon has joined the latest gold rush by launching its own auction service. Apart from its usual staple of books, CDs and videos, Amazon has ventured into jewellery, garden furniture, software and art, among others.
Taiwan is to take a fifth of the world's LCD-TFT pie by the end of next year, according to a report by Acer Display Technology. The island has struggled with production of laptops and LCD monitors in the past due to a lack of local makers of LCD-TFT panels. But following the purchase of technology from Korea and Japan, the Taiwanese market is now set to expand. Six local Taiwanese companies, one of which is Acer, have finished building fabs this summer, and are increasing panel production. Most of the LCD panels made in Taiwan are destined to spend their lives in portable PCs. Their combined sales currently only account for three per cent of the world market. Acer also estimated that Taiwan would become the world's largest manufacturer of notebooks this year, supplying 46 per cent of the total market of 18 million units. ®
David Edmonds, head of watchdog Oftel, has finally pricked the BT hot-air balloon and said there is no reason why unmetered Internet access should not be made immediately available. He expects to see data calls charged at lower rates than voice calls and sees no reason for continued delay. BT's attitude to the Internet - summed up by its head's claim last week that poor people would have to go to night classes to get on the Web - has been strongly criticised by the IT press for months, but it was only after Tony Blair's ecommerce evangelising and a national newspaper campaign that the Oftel/BT stalemate started to shift. Half-hearted attempts by BT to smooth over the situation got Tony Blair on side, but Edmonds' comments to The Times newspaper yesterday demonstrate that Oftel is not satisfied with the giant's efforts. Preceding his comments with the unique Oftel disclaimer that competition is the most effective way of arriving at the end result, Edmonds recognised that BT is still effectively a monopoly. "Oftel has a role to ensure that BT is bound by the laws of fair trading," he remarked, before saying that the present price structure was based on out-of-date historical factors. Edmonds then said there was no reason why BT could not introduce unmetered Internet calls immediately. Expect a surprise announcement/technological breakthrough from BT soon. ®
MS on Trial The best product endorsement that Digital Research ever obtained for DR-DOS was from Microsoft, it turns out, and we know this thanks to a disclosure by Judge Benson in his 4-0 decision this week for Caldera. Phil Barrett, who was managing Windows 3.1 in 1990, received an email from a subordinate about DR-DOS 5.0, which said: "You asked me for a user's view of DR DOS 5.0... I used DR DOS 5.0 with a huge number of apps. I found it incredibly superior to MS DOS 3.31 and IBM DOS 4.01. ... The most important reason to use any version of DOS is to run DOS apps. DR DOS 5.0 runs every DOS app I know. DR DOS 5.0 works successfully with Windows (2.11, Win 386 2.11 and Windows 3.0 and 3.0a). ... Conclusion: DR DOS is vastly superior to MS dos 5.0." ® Back to start
MS on Trial Brad Silverberg, who is now surely rich enough to hire somebody to work his shift key for him, was concerned early on about how to make DR-DOS run badly, or preferably, not run at all. He emailed Barrett on 27 September 1991: "can you tell me specifically what we're going to do to bind ourselves closer to ms dos? ... Let me emphasize the importance; ibm is going to announce the drdos deal at comdex (almost certain)." Barrett replied: "The approach... is to use a vxd to 'extend' dos by patching it. ... We would not patch unknown OSs and, most likely, would only patch MS DOS 5.x. The big advantage here is that it provides a legitimate performance improvement. However, it wont prevent us from running on foreign OSs (unless we explicitly decide to refuse to run) - they just wont run as fast. Is this the approach you want to take? Or would you prefer a simple check and refuse to run? Thats a lot easier but clearly quite defeatable. I'll come talk to you about it." Silverberg responded, "let's talk." As he later drove development of Chicago, which would become Windows 95, Silverberg had plenty more to talk about, and the claimed illegal tying together of Dos and Windows to form Windows 95 is a key part of Caldera's case. In support of Caldera's standing to bring a technological tying case under sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, and section 3 of the Clayton Act, an internal Microsoft strategy document dated 16 June 1992 admitted that Novell was its biggest threat: "Novell is after the desktop. As you know, they have acquired Digital Research and are now working hard to tightly integrate DR-DOS with NetWare. We should also assume they are working on a Windows clone and/or that they are working on a virtualised DOS environment which will run standard mode Windows as a client. This is perhaps our biggest threat. We must respond in a strong way by making Chicago a complete Windows operating system, from boot-up to shut-down. There will be no place or need on a Chicago machine for DR-DOS (or any DOS)." In 1993, Microsoft's view of Novell was enough to make anybody's blood run cold, and it's a perfect example of the thinking that has propelled Microsoft to its present position. The statement is attributed by Judge Benson to "Microsoft executives" and no doubt in the fullness of time we shall know the identity of the would-be assassins. The message says: "If you're going to kill someone there isn't much reason to get all worked up about it and angry--you just pull the trigger. ... We need to smile at Novell while we pull the trigger." As regards the tying together of MS-DOS and Windows into Win95, in an extremely surprising analysis, Judge Benson rejected the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit's 1998 interpretation, and put forward the his own conclusion. He accepted that the evidence Caldera presented was sufficient to merit the view that Windows 95 effectively consisted of Windows 4.0 and MS-DOS 7.0, and that the matter could be presented to the jury. The future of this case does not bode well for Microsoft. ® Conclusion: DR-DOS is terrific, says MS tester Back to start
MS on Trial One of the claims by Caldera that Microsoft wanted dismissed concerned intentional incompatibilities between Windows and DR-DOS. David Cole and Phil Barrett exchanged emails on 30 September 1991: " "It's pretty clear we need to make sure Windows 3.1 only runs on top of MS DOS or an OEM version of it," and "The approach we will take is to detect dr 6 and refuse to load. The error message should be something like 'Invalid device driver interface.'" Microsoft had several methods of detecting and sabotaging the use of DR-DOS with Windows, one incorporated into "Bambi", the code name that Microsoft used for its disk cache utility (SMARTDRV) that detected DR-DOS and refused to load it for Windows 3.1. The AARD code trickery is well-known, but Caldera is now pursuing four other deliberate incompatibilities. One of them was a version check in XMS in the Windows 3.1 setup program which produced the message: "The XMS driver you have installed is not compatible with Windows. You must remove it before setup can successfully install Windows." Of course there was no reason for this. Brad Silverberg, the Microsoft exec who finally left the company last week, but who in an earlier life had been responsible for Windows 95, emailed Allchin on 27 September 1991: "after IBM announces support for dr-dos at comdex, it's a small step for them to also announce they will be selling netware lite, maybe sometime soon thereafter. but count on it. We don't know precisely what ibm is going to announce. my best hunch is that they will offer dr-dos as the preferred solution for 286, os 2 2.0 for 386. they will also probably continue to offer msdos at $165 (drdos for $99). drdos has problems running windows today, and I assume will have more problems in the future." Allchin replied: "You should make sure it has problems in the future. :-)", which is clear enough, and it should be noted that the pair were both high level Microsoft executives. Fake errors: should we tell the techies? Microsoft had a separate motion for dismissal of the AARD-related perceived incompatibilities. The message generated if DR DOS was used with Windows 3.1 betas was: "Non-fatal error detected: Error number [varied]. Please contact Windows 3.1 beta support. Press enter to exit or C to continue." Caldera said that the error message was false. Microsoft's defence was not that it hadn't done it (which it had previously argued), but that it was just jolly old product disparagement. Andy Hill emailed David Cole, Windows group manager: "Janine has brought up some good questions on how we handle the error messages that the users will get if they aren't using MS-DOS. The beta testers will ask questions. How should the techs respond: Ignorance, the truth, other? This will no doubt raise a stir on Compuserve. We should either be proactive and post something up there now, or have a response already constructed so we can flash it up there as soon as the issue arises so we can nip it in the bud before we have a typical CIS snow-ball mutiny." Cole replied: "Let's plead ignorance for a while. We need to figure out our overall strategy for this. I'm surprised people aren't flaming yet, maybe they won't." Cole also sent an email to Silverberg suggesting a less severe message be used when DR DOS was detected: "A kind-gentle message in setup would probably not offend anyone and probably won't get the press up in arms, but I don't think it serves much of a warning. BillP made an excellent point, what is the guy supposed to do? With a TSR, the solution is to just remove it. With DR-DOS, or any others, I doubt the user is in a position of changing. He will no doubt continue to install. When he finds problems, he will call PSS. We will get a lot of calls from DR-DOS users. "Perhaps a message in the phone system for Windows. It would say something like 'if you are not using MS-DOS or an OEM version of MS-DOS, then press ##'. Then give them the message." Silverberg replied: "What the guy is supposed to do is feel uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is dr-dos and then go out to buy ms-dos. or decide to not take the risk for the other machines he has to buy for in the office." Motion denied, said Judge Benson. On whether Microsoft should have made a beta of Windows 3.1 available (called "predisclosed" in the jargon) to enable DR-DOS to be tested for compatibility, Judge Benson said that "the question currently before the Court is not whether Microsoft was under a duty to include DRI in beta testing, but rather whether excluding DRI from beta testing, in which it had previously been included, was predatory conduct under the attenuating circumstances" and went on to confirm that "the Court does intend to uphold the basic antitrust principle that a monopolist may not eradicate its competitors through anticompetitive means." The judge gave his conclusion on the motion: "When viewed in context with Caldera's other anticompetitive allegations the fact that DRI was blacklisted may be considered by the fact finder along with other alleged predatory conduct to determine if a 2 violation has occurred." Motion relating to plaintiff's predisclosure claims is denied. ® Next section: Win95 - is it Dos 7 plus Windows 4? Back to start
Now that Intel has finally confirmed that it will introduce the i820 chipset, and presumably its VC820 (Vancouver) and its CC820 (Cape Cod) motherboards too, it's worth looking at what you will get for your dollars. Although Intel will use Comdex/Fall to demo its flagship chipset and the Coppermine processors it recently announced, that does not mean that it will be all that easy to go out, buy a mobo, stick in a 733MHz part and a couple of Rambus RIMMs for the VC820 platform. However, you can expect to see Intel reprise the presentations it made its last Developer Forum in September, when it pushed the performance benefits of the i820 chipset compared to the BX chipset, and also promoted Rambus as heavily as it could. Most memory manufacturers and their distributors will first have to ramp up their production, and with only two functional RIMM sockets, there may be less demand for the 133MHz bus design than anticipated. One problem will be buying the Direct RDRAM memory modules at a reasonable price, while the other problem will be actually finding the modules. Memory distributors, in the UK at least, are telling The Register that they do not expect RIMMs to arrive in any quantity until the beginning of next year. Sukh Rayat, MD of UK distributor Flashpoint, told us two weeks ago that so far there is practically no demand for Rambus memories. John Byrne, joint MD of Vanguard, also in the UK, said his company was not expecting supplies until Q1 of next year. However, third party manufacturers, such as Gigabyte and Chaintech, have, we understand, no real problems with supporting more than two RIMMs, which must be terribly aggravating for Intel. The chip giant is, of course, covering its options by also developing chipsets which will support PC-133 and double data rate (DDR) memory. But these will not be ready until next year. Meanwhile, Intel's own roadmap for Coppermine, which executives showed at a financial analyst meeting in the USA last week, show that production at the .18 micron process will be nearly 100 per cent by the end of next year. Whenever Intel moves from one process technology to another, One benefit is that the company can make more chips from the expensive silicon wafers, and so achieve economies of scale. And the BX chipset? Despite this being a very popular chipset, it is approaching the gulag. If you look at this roadmap on Intel's channel site, the giant appears to be giving it until February or March next year, at the latest. ®
MS on Trial Jim Allchin, whose job these days is to pilot Windows 2000 into harbour, was a key Microsoft figure in the Caldera case email chains, and was seriously worried about Novell. On 9 September 1991, he emailed Bill Gates: "We must slow down Novell. ... As you said Bill, it has to be dramatic ... We need to slaughter Novell before they get stronger." Allchin was not generous enough of spirit to express any admiration for Novell publicly, but in an internal email on 26 March 1993 he produced a ringing endorsement: "I still don't think we take them as serious as is required of us to win. This isn't IBM. "These guys are really good; they have an installed base; they have a channel; they have marketing power; they have good products. and they want our position. They want to control the APIs, middleware, and as many desktops as they can in addition to the server market they already own. We need to start thinking about Novell as the competitor to fight against - not in one area of our business, but all of them. If you want to get serious about stopping Novell, we need to start understanding this is war-nothing less. That's how Novell views it. We better wake up and get serious about them or they will eventually find a way to hurt us badly." ® Next section: The incompatibility card Back to start
Thanks to British games retailer Computer Exchange for the following readership-grabbing ditty, inspired by Lycos' revelation that Pokemon has replaced 'sex' and 'MP3' as the most frequently looked-for word on its search engine. "I think you'll guess the words, so feel free to join in whenever you're ready." Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, MP3, Pokemon, Pokemon, Britney Spears naked, Pokemon, Pokemon. Pikachu. And now for the plug of the day. Computer Exchange is sponsoring a retro-gamers event at Cranfield University on 27 November. Find out more at the The Joy of Cex. ®
MS on Trial Microsoft's inglorious history of employing preannouncements in order to destabilise the opposition goes back a lot further than DR-DOS, to Windows 1.0 and beyond, but by 1990 the practice was thoroughly bolted into the company's systems and business practices. In an email to several Microsoft executives on 2nd May 1990 MS-DOS product manager Mark Chestnut said: "On the PR side, we have begun an 'aggressive leak' campaign for MS-DOS 5.0. The goal is to build an anticipation for MS-DOS 5.0 and diffuse potential excitement/momentum from the DR DOS 5.0 announcement. At this point, we are telling the press that a major new release from Microsoft is coming this year which will provide significant memory relief and other important features. This was picked up by the major weeklies in the U.S." In addition, we learn that: " In a performance self-evaluation, Chestnut wrote 'virtually all of our OEMs worldwide were informed about DOS 5, which diffused DRI's ability to capitalise on a window of opportunity with these OEMs.'" At the time, one journalist, Paul Sherer (then with PC Week), interviewed Chestnut, which prompted him to email on 17 October 1990: " I'm afraid that this guy is going to write that we are being open about DOS 5 beta because we are trying to pre-empt DR DOS 5 sales. I tried real hard to present a different point of view, but I don't think he bought it. I'm concerned that this article may make us look bad. Can you guys follow up and see if we need to do some damage control? This was the toughest interview I've ever done, I felt like Richard Nixon giving his 'I am not a crook' speech." ® Next section: Kill Novell! Back to start
A week after astounding UK Mac users by pulling out of its own show, Apple has apparently knocked the localised version of MacOS 9 on the head.
MS on Trial Microsoft's efforts to block key aspects of Caldera's antitrust suit have now almost entirely run into the sand. US District Judge Dee Benson issued a judgement denying a further four Microsoft motions. Microsoft has been trying for summary judgement of various parts of Caldera's case, but has scored straight zeros, and only has one shot left for the judge to rule on. In moving for summary judgement Microsoft has basically been asking the judge to rule that there is no case to answer. So by denying the motions, the judge is saying that Caldera has produced enough evidence to suggest that Microsoft may have violated antitrust law in each of the areas. The latest batch of rejections cover claims that Microsoft: created intentional incompatibilities in order to undermine DR-DOS; used spurious error messages to create the perception of incompatibilities, thus making it look as if DR-DOS was broken; excluded DR-DOS developers from the beta of Windows 3.1; and merged DOS and Windows into a single product, Windows 95, in order to destroy competition from DR-DOS and other competitors. The judge is therefore of the opinion that there is evidence that all of these happened, and much of that evidence is now in the public domain via Caldera's court filings and the latest rulings. Much of this evidence derives, as is the case in the DoJ's antitrust action against Microsoft, from subpoenaed Microsoft emails. There will be more of these to deal with when the full trial starts next year, but the current batch provides the usual fascinating insights into the Microsoft approach to business. They ruling also reveals what could ultimately turn out to be one of the worst decisions in the history of the computer business. At one time Microsoft proposed that DRI (Digital Research, which then owned DR-DOS) stop marketing DR-DOS and the companies cross-license each others' products, "DRI, uninterested in a long-term relationship with Microsoft, offered DR-DOS technology to Microsoft for $30 to $40 million. Microsoft refused." That looks like being a very costly mistake, if Caldera, inheritor of the DR-DOS torch, ends up walking away from the case with a 10-digit jury award, after damages are tripled. Next section: How MS destabilised DR-DOS via vapourware announcements
Heads are bound to roll at Compaq after yet more research has revealed it is losing its lead over Dell. Research by Dataquest showed Dell's shipments of PCs in Europe climbed 49 per cent to 9.7 per cent of the market. Though Compaq stayed ahead, its European sales rose just 18 per cent to secure 16 per cent of the market. Total European shipments rose 23.5 per cent with PC prices dropping 14 per cent. Dell also recorded a whopping 85 per cent jump in its laptop sales in Europe for the quarter, compared to Compaq's 13 per cent and Toshiba's 18 per cent. Fujitsu Siemens Computers, the European newcomer, also put Compaq in the shade. Started only last month, the joint venture now has more than 12 per cent of the European market – second only to Compaq. Last month, Dell beat Compaq to the top slot in the US PC sales market, netting over 17 per cent of the market for the third quarter. ®
A British journalist has launched a Web site which he claims takes advantage of your brain cells to speed up searches on the Internet. Steve Homer, founder of Qaz.com, which opens for business on the 8 November, claims that the site works by category, making it easy to find stuff on the Web that interests you. He said that rather than going to a URL's search engine and typing in "cars" or "CDs" (or, we presume, sex), end users will be able to type in a URL on the lines of holiday.qaz.com, or cd.qaz.com According to Homer, who also works as freelance journalist, the site, when it goes live, will provide reviews of online shopping Web sites, demonstrating their strengths and weaknesses. There are likely to be hundreds of sites in over 70 categories, he said. ®
The battle between AMD and Intel in the high end desktop sector seems to be getting more, rather than less intense.