17th > November > 1999 Archive
A report on a US wire said that Intel will bring the launch date of an 800MHz Coppermine Pentium III forward to the first quarter of next year. The Intel roadmap had this processor slated to appear in quarter two, said Pat Gelsinger, a senior VP at Intel, according to PC Week. And Intel has also acknowledged the shortages of many of the Coppermine parts it announced in October, as reported here a day after the launch. Gelsinger admitted that supply of many of the Coppermine parts was tight but claimed this was not due to any fundamental problem with its .18 micron process technology. Instead, Intel had underestimated demand for processors. However, the more fundamental problem is likely to be that Intel has not yet cranked up its .18 fabrication to produce sufficient microprocessors to satisfy demand. ® Huge shortages, technical problems dog Intel's Coppermine debut So why is Intel's Coppermine good?
Following a fall in its end-of-year profits, the Lynx Group has also warned of "uncertainties" in its distribution business coming up to the new year. The UK company blamed the poor performance on the millennium bug and difficult market conditions. Pre-tax profits fell to £11m from £13.3 million despite a 17 per cent rise in turnover to £212.5 million. The group has made a number of acquisitions in the last year, and may now be suffering the longer term effects of a short-term income boost. Richard Last, Lynx chief executive, said the company will now concentrate on growing its consultancy and support services operations. Last also said the company had set aside "a number of millions" for future acquisition targets both inside and outside the UK. ®
ICL is to create 1,000 new Internet jobs in Britain as part of a massive £100 million investment in e-business. It's also creating 2,700 jobs in Europe and a further 700 in the US as part of its global investment. In total, ICL will create 4,400 jobs over the next three years, the company announced today. The move follows a doubling of its e-business revenues over the past year and a surge in demand for its skills for developing a whole new generation of Internet services, the company said. Keith Todd, CEO of ICL, said: "This Internet revolution is all about banking, shopping and doing business how and when people want it -- whether by PC, mobile phone, TV, household appliance, in-car system or games console." "Too few organisations have woken up to the opportunities afforded by these new channels and the power of this anytime, anyplace, anywhere service model for transforming their relationships with their customers. "Fewer still have risen to the challenge of integrating all their business processes around the Internet. We foresee a multi-billion pound business for ICL in these areas over the next three years and are expanding aggressively to capitalise on our leadership position." The investment in hi-tech jobs was endorsed by the ecommerce minister, Patricia Hewitt MP, who said this was further evidence that "Britain is a leader not a follower in e-business." On Monday BT announced the formation of BT eBusiness -- a new UK division dedicated to the on-line revolution -- and the appointment of IBM executive, Ben Andradi, as its MD. ®
AnalysisIn the next week or so, Via, First International Corporation (FIC), KMS and Everex will have the chance to respond to litigation initiated by Intel. The Intel legal action focuses on allegations that the above companies have infringed on its patents. Via was sued earlier in the year by Intel over what is supposed to be a completely separate set of alleged patent infringements. However, there is still some mystery about whether Intel has a leg to stand on, particularly given that its legal department chose to single out this small clutch of companies and to ignore other vendors -- such as IBM and Compaq -- which also use Via technology in some of the machines they market. According to a source close to Intel (in fact from Intel in the US), the reason why his company is not sueing people such as Compaq and IBM is because there are cross licence agreements between the three parties which cover the big boys. It's very hard to get any further than that. When you ask Intel what the nature of these cross licences are that protect Big Blue and Big Q, the stock answer is that these details are confidential and cannot be disclosed. The argument is circular, and by the time you get round to the beginning again, your head is spinning from spin. On the face of it, Intel's argument does not appear to stack up. It's not just Compaq and IBM which use Via technology -- there's a whole heap of other second and third tier vendors also not named in the suit. FIC itself seemed puzzled by the legal action, quite plaintively hoping that its existing relationship with Intel would not be harmed during this process. Recent data published in Taiwan shows that AsusTek, Gigabyte, Microstar and the PC Chips group have the lion's share of motherboard production, collectively shipping 40 million units during this year, amounting to around 40 per cent of the total global market. FIC is no minnow, however, and OEMs motherboards for a number of large firms, including Compaq. According to a source close to FIC, the last thing Intel wants to do is to antagonise Compaq, because the Big Q would quite definitely stand up to Chipzilla in an out-and-out fight. That leads to the suspicion that Intel is using its considerable legal and financial muscle to make an example of the companies concerned, in the hope that it will warn off other firms that dare to dabble in the Via waters. In the equation, we must not forget the part AMD has to play as it begins to steadily nibble into areas of Intel's market that it has never tasted before. Via has consistently denied, and continues to deny, that any technology it produces infringes in any way on Intel patents. This looks like being a long and drawn out battle. ®
The boxed Intel motherboard which supports the i840 workstation/server chipset is delayed, according to information at the company's site. Intel launched the i840 on the 25th of October and its partner Rambus Ink, heralded the OR840 motherboard on its Web site the same day. The two firms made a song and a dance about the i840 and the associated mobo because here was a chipset, using Rambus memory, which actually worked. However, a message posted on the Intel site on the 4th of November last now only says that the boxed OR840 (formerly codenamed Outrigger), is due for release "later this year". Intel has had a very bad mobo year, particularly with its i820 Caminogate chipset, which was launched to the sound of polite applause for Comdex, earlier this week. ® See also Wave of Intel mobos to wash over world+dog Intel's i840 is a chipset that works Intel'sh Cashcades to cash in on more cache i840 Carmel mobo details leak
Oftel has jumped off the fence and said it is in favour of unmetered access for heavy users of the Internet in Britain. This is the first time the telecomms watchdog has openly supported unmetered access. A spokesman for Oftel said: "We've never been against it [unmetered access]… this is the first time we've said we're in favour of it." It may only be a subtle shift, but for those campaigning for cheaper Net access it could prove to be significant. In a document issued by Oftel at its industry-only Internet Forum yesterday, the regulator said it was even prepared to help negotiate a way forward. "Operators are free to introduce new retail tariff structures, but in some circumstances this may be difficult with the current structure of interconnect charges," the document said. "If this is of concern, it is up to operators to discuss their needs with BT. If negotiations fail, and Oftel considers the request to be reasonable, Oftel can intervene and determine a tariff on the basis of the new tariff structure." Oftel went on to say that it hoped any resolution to the problem would be overcome quickly so that the development of ecommerce in Britain is not stifled because of "inappropriate tariff structures for Internet access". Unfortunately for BT, Oftel's new position has made the telco even more isolated. As the dominant telco in Britain, BT faces even greater pressure to introduce new tariffs from those groups calling for the introduction of unmetered access. At yesterday's forum BT failed to convince an audience of ISPs that its new planned tariff -- announced last week -- would allow providers to introduce unmetered access. ®
AMD has introduced its EasyNow PC platform, designed to make PCs easier to set up, use and upgrade. The chip vendor's platform design includes an oval shaped PC with a translucent case. Features include Instant On capability to cut boot time, and advanced power management features which the company claims enables the PC to re-start from sleep mode in less than 15 seconds. The product also uses USB ports so peripherals can be connected easily and requiring minimal technical skills from the user. Early systems, planned to be available later this month through direct and retail channels, will be based on the EasyNow platform and will use AMD K6-2 or AMD K6-III chips. CyberMax is expected to be the first to start making PCs based on the platform. Other partners include Pionex, Biostar Group, Dixon's, Softsell, Tecnodiffusione, Proton, Gentry Tokyo, Sofmap, Leo Systems and Education to Home, AMD said. "We believe that easy-to-use and stylish PCs based on the AMD EasyNow platform design will help expand the market for personal computers," said Dana Krelle, VP of marketing for AMD's Computation Products Group. ®
The withdrawal of over 400,000 Western Digital Caviar (Cadaver) hard drives last month have been blamed on defective chips supplied by ST Microelectronics. According to newswire Bloomberg, ST Microelectronics is now attempting to repair the damage by supplying chips for the hard drive which actually work. However, there is no word of how much the withdrawal of the 6.8Gb drives has cost WD in terms of production cost, nor the potential damage to the disk drive maker's image. ST Microelectronics can expect to pay through the nose after the admission that its chips were the cause. The drives were withdrawn after tests showed that their life expectancy was likely to be less than expected. ®
AOpen has released two new motherboard designs on to the US market using the i820 chipset. The components and peripherals company launched the AOpen AX6C and AX6C-L motherboards, supporting 100MHz and 133MHz front side bus, 4X AGP port, RIMM memory and an AOpen expansion port. Both models use Intel's delayed 820 chipset and are designed to maximise performance of the Pentium II, Pentium III and Coppermine processors, the company said. They also support a maximum of 1GB DRAM, with either two or three RIMM slots, and PC600, PC700 and PC800 RIMM specifications. It currently offers a V.90 56K modem that plugs into an AMR slot. Al Peng, director of motherboard management at AOpen America, said: "Because the motherboard is the heart of every PC, it is essential that users understand the vital role that a motherboard plays." "By integrating the best available technologies into our motherboard designs, AOpen customers are assured that their system is off to a great start." ®
US Application Service Provider (ASP) FutureLink yesterday bought KNS Distribution for £27 million. Newbury-based distributor KNS will be re named FutureLink Europe. FutureLink paid £7.25 million in cash and deferred cash, and £19.75 million in FutureLink stock. The US ASP will add KNS to its recent acquisitions – these include Citrix resellers in the US such as Micro Cisions, CNI and Async Technologies. The company said its target market for the ASP offering would be SMEs with between 10 and 500 staff. The services will be sold only through KNS and its 360 resellers. And the company said it would be looking for extra staff to set up a new ASP division. ®
Egg is to tighten security measures at the online bank after it admitted breaking its own internal procedures and compromising the financial integrity of one its customers. The security breach -- which allowed personal account details to be included in the subject line of an unencrypted email -- was put down to "human error". "If someone sent you a letter, and in the letter was your credit card number you might think there is a slight risk of a security flaw," said an aggrieved Egg customer who asked not to be named. "But when you get a letter that proudly states, "S DD CARD : XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX" on the address you might worry a little more. Perhaps there's nothing to worry about… who knows, but I believe software is available that scans packets for 16 numbers at a time." A spokeswoman for Egg said the security breach was "totally unacceptable" although she did say it was an "isolated incident". Egg has issued a full apology to the customer. ®
Web-based trading company VirtualNet will acquire the component broker NECX Exchange to build a vast online inventory for engineers and hi-tech purchasers. The deal, split into $10 million cash and $95 million stock, will give 18,000 trading partners access to a three-million product inventory. VerticalNet runs over 50 industry-specific Web sites and will gain access to NECX's large user base through the deal. NECX will gain from putting itself online, heading towards its president's one-stop-shop dream. Following the acquisition, the company intends to sign up supply partners to get costs down. NECX deals with semiconductors, electronic components, computer products and networking equipment. It made a $37 million profit on $350 million revenue last year, and has headquarters in the US, Singapore, Ireland, and Sweden. ®
Reed Elsevier has revealed that it had filed suit against Microsoft and Expedia in the District Court in New Jersey alleging that Microsoft and Expedia breached a 1998 contract with Cahners Travel Group (part of Cahners Business Information).
Notebook case manufacturer Targus is giving its UK channel a free anti-theft alarm with every purchase of its Deluxe cases. The company's distributors and resellers are to get a free DEFCON 1 notebook alarm worth £39.99 to accompany Targus' leather cases, which cost £129. The Targus DEFCON 1 alarm has a motion sensor, activated to set off a 110 decibel alarm with any unauthorised movement. The company's deluxe notebook case can accommodate a laptop measuring 43.2cm x 33cm x 10.2cm. It comes with a zip-down workstation section, pockets for disks, a detachable shoulder strap and lifetime warranty. Targus is based in California, with a UK office in Hounslow, Middlesex. ®
Despite an intensive search to find out why the Camino i820 chipset does not work with three Rambus RIMMs, engineers have still no real idea what the problem is, although Intel claims the problem is not in the chipset. That means that there is no absolute guarantee that the i820 chipset will work with two RIMMs, according to sources close to Intel, although the two RIMM version has been exhaustively tested. An engineer told The Register that designers have failed to find the root cause of the problem, although motherboards using the i820 with two rather than three RIMMs does seem to work. The three RIMM design with the i820 chipset caused signal errors and engineers at both Rambus and Intel have still not pinned down exactly what the problem is. Since the company withdrew the i820 chipset, engineers have tested a large number of two RIMM i820 designs and so far have not detected any problems with these designs. The basic re-designed design has not been re-worked, although no doubt Intel is still trying to get to the bottom of the problem. An Intel representative said that the additional RIMM on the three board i820 gave no additional memory support over and above 512Mb, but was designed to add flexibility so that smaller memory modules could be added to systems. He said: "We did do a root cause analysis. The problem wasn't in the chipset so we targeted the two RIMM motherboard as a working solution. You can still get the same memory size of 512Mb as in the three RIMM version." ®
One of Tony Blair's advisers has told him to embrace new media or risk appearing "impotent and irrelevant" to modern voters. Philip Gould, the government's adviser on public opinion, said that while the world had changed significantly, the UK's political processes remain in the past. Coupled with increasing public scepticism over politics, the inaccessibility of MPs and parliament is damaging the democratic process, Gould said. Instead, he advised constituents should have direct access to their MPs over the Internet. Gould also attacked the "adversarial" debating in the House of Commons which serves to alienate the public. Politicians should concentrate on co-operation, collaboration and teamwork, he said. The government is already considering online voting as a way to modernise British politics. ® Some more scenes from the Blair Net Project Blair outbids Gates on Net platitudes Blair condemns kids to life of everlasting Cobol
June's anarchist backlash against City fat cats looks set for a repeat performance at the end of the month. What's more, the organisers (anarchist organisers, whatever will they think of next? - Ed) are using the Internet to promote the next uprising.
The dreaded taxman is going online, and "nothing will be safe," Virginia Governor James Gilmore declared during an electronic commerce policy forum sponsored by the Bureau of National Affairs at which he spoke on Monday.
Everex Systems Inc, an affiliate of Taiwan's First International Computer (FIC), has dropped out of the market for palm-sized PCs, say US sources. The company's decision is attributed to component supply problems and poor sales. However a source close to the project claims Everex never firmly committed itself to the palm-sized plan. The move comes as other firms are strongly promoting similar products at the annual Comdex exhibition in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ironically, mobile computing devices with communications capabilities - a category which includes Everex's product - are seen as one of the hot items at the show. Everex representatives in the US said demand for the company's Freestyle series of palm-sized PCs has been poor. The company's palm-sized PCs are based on specifications developed by Microsoft and run the US software giant's Windows CE operating system. Everex has also had problems recently with a shortage of color LCD screens for its newest model, the Freestyle 540. A former FIC employee, who worked closely with the team that developed the Freestyle series, said the company's senior executives had never intended it to be a viable own-brand product. Instead, he said the primary goal was to secure OEM (original equipment manufacturer) orders from foreign companies. The employee suggested overseas companies would be more interested in the product, and more confident in its quality, if they saw Everex devoting resources to marketing its own version. In fact, Everex was successful in attracting a large order from Compaq and makes the Aero range of palm-sized PCs for the US computer giant. Meanwhile, at news.com, a story suggests that Compaq's commitment to Win CE handhelds may also be wavering. Instead, the story says, the systems vendor may switch to the Palm OS. Company officials could not be reached for comment. Staff at LEO Systems, which handles manufacturing for Everex and sells its own version of the product in Asia, said they were unable to comment. Leo, Everex and FIC are all members of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group. LEO launched its own Chinese-language version of the colour Freestyle last month for sale in Asia. It is not yet clear whether this product will also be cancelled. ®
About time too. The government confirmed plans to extend surveillance powers to the Internet, in today's Queen's Speech. Under current legislation, government agencies -- the police and the secret services -- are allowed to tap telephones (they have to ask the home secretary very nicely), but they are barred from intercepting communications over the Internet. British ISPs reckon the new law, which will be enacted in the next Parliamentary session ( ie before June next year), could increase their operating costs by up to 15 per cent. We thinks they doth protest too much. Costs will be passed down the line to their consumers, few of whom will notice that they are paying a stealth tax for government-sanctioned snoops. And most of those that do will welcome the opportunity to support the government's anti-crime drive. Terrorists, pornographers and anti-social elements don't stop being thieves, pornographers and anti-social elements when they are using email. And the police can hardly be expected to do their job properly with one arm tied behind their back. Besides, there's not much in the way of privacy rights offline in Britain so who are to expect rights online? ® Related stories Govt Net Snoopers Charter slammed UK extends buggers' charter to Net Cyber snoops come unstuck US net snooping plans debunked
Future Power, developer of the iMac-alike ePower PC and target of legal action from Apple, is already working on a successor product that looks less like the iMac than the current ePower. Last week, Apple won an injunction against Future Power from shipping the ePower in the US until the Mac maker's claims that the machine infringes its iMac copyrights come to court.
Our thanks to Register reader Matt for pointing out the uncanny similarity between Sony's cutting-edge PlayStation 2 and home computer pioneer Atari's never-shipped Falcon 040 from 1993. The Falcon 040 was the follow-up to the Falcon 030, adding a 32-bit bus, Motorola 68040 CPU, and an alternative casing to the ST styling of the 030. Apparently, Atari only ever constructed a small number of Falcon 040. The machine never saw full-scale production -- Atari instead chose to focus its efforts on the ill-fated Jaguar games console. The similarity between the Falcon 040's styling and that of the PlayStation 2 is clear, even if the Sony machine comes in black -- its internals are obviously very different. Both are designed to lie flat or stand on their edges. ®
AMD announced yesterday that it is developing mobile-oriented versions of its popular K6-2 and not-so-popular K6-III processors. Based on its 0.18 micron process, the new chips will feature a built in power-saving mechanism, codenamed Gemini. AMD didn't reveal how many Watts the technology will conserve. Gemini allows users to switch the chips into one of three different states to best balance an application's need for speed against the host PC's battery life. Users will be able to choose maximum performance, maximum battery life or some point between the two through their computer's BIOS settings. Phoenix is supporting Gemini in its own BIOS code -- whether other BIOS providers will do the same isn't yet known. Gemini will one day be able to switch states on the fly, as Intel's equivalent, SpeedStep, can -- in the first generation of K6-2 Plus and K6-III Plus parts it won't. Like the desktop K6-III, the mobile version will feature on-chip L2 cache, as will the new K6-2, dubbed the K6-2 Plus. The latter will contain 128K of L2; the K6-III Plus will have 256K. Both chips will operate at over 500MHz, AMD said, but declined to be more specific. AMD also said it is planning a desktop version of the K6-2 Plus, to be unveiled next month. However, there are no plans to produce a desktop K6-III Plus. Since the key change in the K6-2 Plus is the addition of the on-die cache, and the desktop K6-III already has this, a K6-III Plus for desktops would be largely unnecessary. That said, you'd have thought AMD would want to release a desktop K6-III Plus if only for marketing purposes -- unless, of course, it reckons it's still not going to be able to sell them... The K6-2 Plus is set to ship in the first quarter of next year and is aimed at the low-cost notebook market. Unsurprisingly, the K6-III Plus is AMD's mid-range to high-end portable part. Both will be followed by a mobile Athlon in the second half of 2000, possibly with second-generation Gemini technology. ® Related Story AMD intros EasyNow PC platform