25th > November > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Gates email rallies troops to target congress candidates

The MacOS Rumors site has published the text of what appears to be an email to Microsoft staff from Bill Gates, rallying the troops to help fund a campaign to target "only those key individuals who can make a difference" in next year's US congressional elections. That means helping candidates "who are sensitive to IT issues." The email looks genuine, as it describes the kind of actions you'd expect Microsoft to be taking under current circumstances. It was sent out to the Microsoft Corporation Political Action Committee (MCPAC) in the middle of last week, and solicits up to $5,000 a year ($10,000 if your spouse is also feeling riled) in contributions from Microsoft staff. MCPAC isn't exactly a well-known organisation, but it's perfectly legitimate, and this kind of set-up is pretty common in US corporations. Companies aren't allowed to contribute directly to the election campaigns of federal candidates, so PACs are used to pool individual contributions from employees. MCPAC was formed in 1988, and according to the email raised over $500,000 for the 1998 election cycle. Now, says Gates: "There is a high-stakes battle today over the proper role of the government in the Information Age between those who desire a positive, limited role, and those who want an interventionist, regulatory role that stifles innovation in the marketplace... With the critical 2000 elections just one year away, and the increased political activity of our competitors, your support is more important than ever." There's a shopping list that pretty much tallies with the official Microsoft one, with antitrust at the head: "MCPAC specifically targets only those key individuals who will make a difference on issues such as competition, encryption, intellectual property rights, privacy, Internet regulation and taxation, immigration, telecommunications, and other issues that are important to our business and industry." There's also a little more light shed on the round of meetings Microsoft staff have been having with presidential candidates, most prominently the on-off-on again but public meeting with Al Gore. "The MCPAC hosted every major presidential candidates on campus and more than 300 events, each of which has provided opportunities to better educate federal policy makers." Gates suggests contributions of $1,000, $2,500 or anything up to the annual maximum of $5,000. At those levels the number of Microsoft participants funding the 1998 budget of $500,000 would seem improbably low, so we'd guess he's trying to up the stakes pretty substantially from a much lower average contribution. ® Full text at MacOS Rumors
John Lettice, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel loses big industry face to AMD over Coppermine

Analysis Chip giant Intel pre-announced the 733MHz version of its Coppermine Pentium III along with a heap of other .18 micron processors on the 25th of October last. But now the evidence is mounting that we're only likely to see systems introduced by major vendors in January of next year. Both Gateway and HP have confirmed to us in the last week that they're not selling systems using the 733MHz processors yet, while as we also reported, other major OEMs think Intel's Coppermine is pants. (Pants here refers to the situation on yields and supplies, of course, rather to the technology itself, which is very probably not pants -- no, we didn't say hot pants. Fujitsu-Siemens, which maybe is number three manufacturer in Europe, will use the Athlon because of the embarrassing lack of Coppermine processors, while Compaq is taking a similar step. Next Monday, as we predicted here shortly after the "announcement" of Intel Coppermine processors, AMD will intro a 750MHz Athlon processor, likely to be sold, in the US at least, by Gateway. AMD has 750MHz parts at .18 micron. Intel has so few 733MHz parts at .18 micron that none of the major PC vendors can introduce machines based on it for a fair while yet. What is going on? At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) held in Palm Springs last September, there were more journalists present than ever before. Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, stood next to senior VP Pat Gelsinger and said that his company would introduce these Coppermine parts on time. But there is a big difference between an "introduction", otherwise known to spin paramedics as a "launch", and to factories actually rolling enough microprocessors off the production line to satisfy demand. One OEM (original equipment manufacturer), and one which is a loyal Intel customer, took the unprecedented step last week of laying into his supplier for only providing mobile Coppermines to its research and development team four days before the "launch" of mobile Pentium IIIs using the .18 process. Notebook manufacture is far trickier than making desktop machines -- this PC company pointed out that it needed three to four months to be able to make motherboards for notebook machines using the processor. Meanwhile, AMD has shown that it is able to execute on its plans for its .18 micron process. Surely heads must now roll at Chipzilla Central? The Coppermine launch was quite evidently not related to anything but the marketing need to stick one in AMD's face. That's not what we should expect from a company of Intel's size, which previously prided itself on good execution of its plans. Perhaps someone should sharpen a suitable Dramurai sword so that a senior suit at Chipzilla Central can fall on it. In the meantime, we shall now refer to Coppermine as Verdigrisgate, where necessary... ® See also So why is Intel's Coppermine not pants?
Mike Magee, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD wins major battle in Intel price war

There will be no price reductions on existing Athlon processors when AMD introduces its 750MHz microprocessor next Monday, sources only a cigarette packet away from the company said today. That represents a major victory for AMD against Intel, and shows that the upstart chip firm is beginning to make the chip giant feel the pain. The sources said that AMD will introduce the 750MHz Athlon at around $795 or so, but will keep prices of other chips in the same family stable. One source said: "Given Intel's current position on 600MHz plus parts I don't think AMD need to reduce their prices just yet." As we reported last week, Intel will take steps on the 12th of December next to cut prices on its Coppermine .18 micron processors, despite the fact that supplies are still constrained. It is expected to make larger cuts than usual, in a counter attack on AMD, but will keep its powder dry on the older .25 micron parts until January next year. At the end of last year, we reported that AMD would stand firm against Intel's aggressive pricing strategy some time in 1999. It suffered grievous bodily harm from Intel's ability to reach deep into its pockets throughout most of last year and the first half of this year. Intel cannot afford to see high margins on its high end processors degraded for very long. The Coppermine debacle has turned into Verdigrisgate. ® Factoid Verdigris is now usually applied to compound Copper Carbonate, formed as a result of leaving Coppermine out in the rain for too long. See also Intel loses big industry face to AMD over Coppermines Big PC vendors furious over Intel Coppermine yields Intel will cut Coppermine prices earlier than expected
Mike Magee, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

PalmOS extends lead over WinCE – just

Palm Computing and its licensees continue to outsell Windows CE-based handheld providers, and by an even greater margin, if market research company NPD Intelect's latest snapshot of the US market is anything to go by. According to the numbers, the 3Com subsidiary took 77.9 per cent of the US PDA market this September, up from 75.4 per cent for the same period last year, an increase of three per cent. That said, it's not all bad news for CE. Casio's market share, for example, rose from 3.5 per cent in September 1998 to 9.5 per cent in September 1999, more than balancing the fall of 5.7 per cent to 3.4 per cent experienced by Hewlett-Packard. IBM, with its PalmOS-based PDA, also saw a its marketshare narrow, from 2.5 per cent to 2.3 per cent. Overall, $256.8 million worth of PDAs were sold in September, around 80 per cent of the overall handheld computing device market. Simple personal info databases garnered eight per cent of sales, and personal electronic organisers accounted for the remaining 12 per cent. There's clearly some cross-over here -- for many users there's little practical difference between an Palm PDA and a Sharp organiser, but it shows that the market is clearly favouring more expensive devices, possibly for their generally better synchronisation and Internet access facilities. Their more notepad-like form factor may also work in their favour. Taking all three categories into consideration, nearly 2.5 million devices were sold in the US, said NPD Intelect, an increase of 62 per cent year on year. Sales for the year should reach $450 million, the company added. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

08004u in relaunch bid

Troubled ISP 08004u has shut down -- for the time being at least. It seems the Dundee-based company is getting ready to relaunch its service on 1 December. No doubt it's looking to start again with a clean slate. This is contrary to speculation that the ISP was on the verge of going bust after 22,000 Net users gained unauthorised access to the service at the company's expense. Attempts to contact the company to quiz it over the allegations have so far proved difficult since its phones don't appear to be working. Its Web site was also not receiving visitors yesterday returning error messages instead of the usual garish flashes. At least Dundee Trading Standards officers are still on the case. They paid yet another visit to the ISP on Tuesday to make sure everything was tickety-boo -- well, as tickety-boo as you can get with 08004u. ® Related story: 22,000 people and the 08004u security lapse
Tim Richardson, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Net exec convicted of child porn offences

As America sits down to its annual binge of turkey and pecan pie, perhaps it should give thanks that another paedophile has been nailed by police.
Tim Richardson, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Kenwood unveils first MP3 hi-fi system

Japanese consumer electronics giant Kenwood this week demo'd the world's first hi-fi units with built-in support for Internet-sourced digital music tracks. Kenwood's offering, a mini component system, was shown at the Audio Expo 99, held in Tokyo. In addition to the usual CD player, radio and tape deck, the unit contains a modem and a 13GB hard drive. The unit's remote control features an 6.5in colour LCD panel to display Kenwood's music distribution Web site, allowing users to select tracks for download and, presumably, pay for them too. The remote control currently hooks up to the unit by a cable, but Kenwood said it plans to replace it with a Bluetooth-based unit in the future. The company also envisaged equipping the unit with a satellite reception link at some stage, to allow music tracks to be downloaded more quickly using a one-way high-speed link. The modem would be retained, said a spokesman, for access the Web site and selecting which tracks to download. Kenwood didn't specify what music formats the device supports, but presumably we're talking about SDMI-compliant MP3 and MS Audio here. The unit will ship with Sony MemoryStick and Matsushita Secure Digital (SD) Memory Card support to allow tracks to be copied over to portable devices. Kenwood plans to ship the unit at the end of 2000 or early 2001. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Chipzilla, AOL enter into confusing PC deal

AOL Europe and Intel have got their heads together to devise a way of making buying a PC and gaining Internet access easier and more affordable Unfortunately, no one seems to know exactly how it will be done. In a vague statement received from Intel today, the chip maker said: "Through the agreement with Intel, AOL Europe will work with a variety of hardware manufacturers to provide a simple integrated package combining the purchase of a Pentium III processor-based PC with online access. "The offering will be tailored to meet the needs of different markets. Aimed at both first-time PC consumers as well as those adding multiple PCs in the home, the offer will conveniently combine the cost of the hardware and online access." Apparently, this new approach will be "implemented via a number of PC manufacturers on a country-by country basis over the winter, beginning with an alliance with Fujitsu Siemens to deliver a cashback rebate on PCs purchased by new CompuServe members in the UK". According to Andreas Schmidt, AOL Europe president and CEO: "Our agreement with Intel will make putting a computer in your home as commonplace and as straightforward as buying a new telephone or TV." Well that's all well and good, but until punters know how it is to be done, how much it will cost -- that kind of thing -- they're left completely in the dark. No one AOL Europe's UK office could shed any light on this and Intel's man-that-knows didn't return a call before press time. So your guess is as good as ours. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu goes lead free

Fujitsu has said that it will make all its products lead-free by the year 2002 and will unveil a line-up of chip with lead-free solder by next October. The Japanese company has developed two types of lead-free solder, according to AziaBizTech. One is used for printed circuit boards and the other for parts assembly. There will be a three-step path to lead free products, the company said. First, a range of lead-free microchips will be released by October 2000. Second, a target has been set for half of all PCBs used in Fujitsu's products to be lead-free by December 2001. And finally, the company aims to eliminate lead from all its products by December 2002. ®
Team Register, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Pick your own bug squisher

McAfee Software has launched a clutch of restructured products which it claims allows users to choose how they receive protection from viruses. McAfee VirusScan includes 30 days' product updates, 30 days' technical support and a lifetime's supply of file updates which users can download form McAfee's Web site. Priced at £24.95 (including VAT), the anti-virus company believes this will appeal to users who are confident about updating their software online. McAfee VirusScan Deluxe (£34.95 including VAT) offers the same package and includes full copies of Oil Change and First Aid 2000. Dr Solomon's VirusScan Toolkit (£69.95 including VAT), on the other hand, is aimed at those users who would prefer not to download files from the Internet. Instead, they receive their virus updates courtesy of a CD distributed each quarter. "There really is something for everyone here -- for people who feel happy surfing the Internet, those who don't and those who want a sharp fix for viruses on their PC," said Sarah Whipp, European Channel Marketing manager for McAfee Software Division. ®
Tim Richardson, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Korea to take 40 per cent of DRAM market

Hyundai and Samsung are expected to increase their share of the DRAM market to over 20 per cent each this year -- equating to about £2.7 billion. News of the Korean companies boosted status comes at the same time as a merger between Japanese chipmakers NEC and Hitachi. This link-up will give the combined company 15 per cent of the market, but is not expected to make any noticeable difference to the industry. The two companies do not plan to increase production investment. The Big Four -- Samsung, Hyundai, Micron Technology and NEC-Hitachi -- now share 70 per cent of the world market for memory. ®
Team Register, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Dell nudges IBM out the way

Dell has overtaken IBM to become the number two in world sales of PC servers, and could soon be snapping at Compaq's heels, according to figures from IDC. The online direct seller's success is down to acceptance of the PowerEdge brand -- launched in September 1996. Since that year, Dell has seen its worldwide share shoot up 475 per cent to a current 15.4 per cent -- double the rate of the market's own growth. In the US, the company now owns 25.7 per cent of the server market. This impressive success had been achieved on the back of a heavy uptake of servers for ecommerce and Web-based needs. Famous as a direct-selling Internet company, Dell was always going to be the first to benefit, but its growth has surpassed expectations. You can bet Compaq is watching very closely. ®
Team Register, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel pumps $12m into Euro Linux distie

SuSE, the German Linux distributor and less-cool European equivalent of Red Hat, is receiving Euro 12 million ($12.8 million) from Intel and Apax Partners for marketing and the establishment of sales and support offices worldwide. SuSE also wants to establish a network of business partners. It seems most unlikely that Intel's European investment is any kind of sop against the EU dislike of Pentium III serial numbers, because of data security issues associated with e-commerce transactions that is being investigated by the European Parliament's STOA (Scientific and Technological Options Assessment) Panel. Earlier this year, STOA reported on the "development of surveillance technology and risk of abuse of economic information", while Franck Leprevost's study, Encryption and Cryptosystems in Electronics Surveillance has just been presented to STOA. Tim Keating, Intel's content group director for EMEA, said that "Intel is investing in SuSE because we want to encourage the diffusion of Linux on Intel-based computers in Europe" -- primarily the Xeon until the Itanic... sorry, Itanium is released. Intel's investment policy seems to follow the maxim that if it moves, or could use Intel chips, invest in it -- especially if it offers an alternative to Microsoft. Intel previously invested in Red Hat, which is still unprofitable. Questions are being asked as to whether this is Intel's way of discouraging competition, perhaps to discourage tuning Linux to AMD, or with deals with the likes of Intel-only VA Linux Systems of Sunnyvale, California, which announced at Comdex that it would pre-install SuSE. SuSE now has around 200 staff, and is headquartered in Nuremberg, with offices in the UK (Borehamwood, Herts), the USA (Oakland, California) and the Czech Republic (where Linux is less-raved about, but where there is potentially a fair market). SuSE claims 50,000 business customers worldwide. The question now arises as to when SuSE will have an IPO. The chances are that it wouldn't be in Germany, in view of the extreme German protectionist fiscal policy that may breach EU regulations, as is being seen in the Mannesmann affair. An IPO from a profitable Linux company could be seen as something of a problem: SuSE is profitable, and turned over E10 million in 1998, with an expectation this year for E22 million. ®
Graham Lea, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Big Blue stock drops after reporting practices slammed

IBM shares lost $4.125 at one point yesterday, and closed down $1.5625, following a report quoting the forensic accounting expert Howard Schilit of the Centre for Financial Research and Analysis in Rockville, Maryland, who criticised Big Blur's treatment of one-time gains in its accounts. Schilit had issued a report suggesting that IBM's Q3 results would be lower after one-time gains were taken into consideration. IBM disposed of its Global Network for $4 billion in Q3, which boosted income, but associated restructuring write-downs were included in earlier quarters. The contentious issue concerns financial reporting practice rather than accounting. IBM includes the one-time gains in earnings, and has done so since 1994. In addition, restructuring charges are reported in the operating results, which reduces profits (and tax of course). IBM's investor relations chief, Hervey Parke, said that IBM conformed to the Financial Accounting Standards Board and SEC guidelines. It seems that First Call/Thomson Financial asks brokerages to exclude non-operating charges from their estimates, from which the consensus is calculated, so IBM's reporting methods may require a little more arithmetic from the financial analysts. When IBM reported its Q3 last month, the headline news was a profits warning, with Lou Gerstner putting the blame on Y2K. Earnings were said to be in line with expectations. ®
Graham Lea, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Government hacking saga continues

Following the insane ramblings of the Conservative party yesterday, it appears as if there is a non-imaginary threat of hacking on the cards. A group which calls itself the Electrohippies has announced its intention to sabotage commercial and government Web sites on Tuesday to coincide with an anti-capitalist protest in London. City firms have been put on alert, although the likelihood of serious cyber disruption doesn't seem too great. The hacking group has not claimed it will break into the sites but instead plans to bombard selected sites with junk email and viruses. Whether this is lack of expertise or a refusal to admit to illegal activities is unclear, but it seems unlikely that the stated offensive will have much effect. The anarchists made the news in June after rioting in the City of London caused £2 million of damage. One of the groups concerned, Reclaim The Streets, has led various high-profile "direct action" protests throughout the country this year. Related story Anarchists run riot on the Web
Kieren McCarthy, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

The inside story on Alpha and NT

Updated What actually happened between Microsoft and Compaq when the latter pulled the rug on 32-bit Alpha NT in mid-August, and one week later did the same with 64-bit Alpha NT? Information Week is reporting today that Compaq said it will not take a restructuring charge, as it reported yesterday, which gives a fresh twist to the tale. According to the latest story on the Web, the programme to protect its customers will now be covered by normal operating costs. Our information differs somewhat from this. According to sources close to the company, Compaq will award all of its 68,000 (or so) employees options on 200 shares of Q stock. This could amount to as much as 13.6 million shares. Our insiders wonder about the whole, mysterious, tale. Yet the Microsoft-Compaq deal is, in itself interesting. Here we defer to top Q watcher, Terry Shannon, whose newsletter Shannon knows Compaq seems to have sifted the chaff from the wheat. Apparently, Microsoft was as shocked as the world and its dog at Compaq's decision to pull the plug on NT. While 64-bit NT seemed to live a whole week longer than 32-bit NT, this was because Redmond and Houston were chatting (negotiating) about the future. Microsoft wanted Windows to run on the Wildfire platform to prove that NT was scaleable, given that the charge of non-scaleability is continually being advanced by opponents. And Compaq was in for the idea of 64-bit NT for the Alpha, just as long as Microsoft paid for the privilege of the proof point. Microsoft didn't want to pay and so Win64 for the Alpha fell into desuetude, a place between Washington State and Texas. There's some history to this. In 1995, DEC promoted NT as part of a body called the Alliance for Enterprise Computing. According to insiders, DEC took the Microsoft shilling of support (worth very little indeed in 1995), without bothering to negotiate aggressively for this. Indeed, if DEC had hargued harder, Microsoft might well have granted it a guarantee of Alpha and Intel applications parity, rather than the server side parity it instead obtained. And how has Compaq's decision to deck Alpha NT affected the current state of the platform. According to Shannon, two years back Alpha sales by operating system were 60 per cent Unix, 30 per cent Open VMS, and 10 per cent NT. Sales by OS are now 65 per cent Tru64 and 35 per cent Open VMS. Shannon tells us that Alpha sales did not drop when Compaq dropped NT support, and says he accepts that it lost no customers in the US at least because of the decision to drop NT. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

FIC to bundle OpenLinux 2.3 with PCs

Taiwanese firm First International Computer (FIC), said today it has signed a deal with Caldera to bundle OpenLinux 2.3 with PC systems it supplies. At the same time, FIC, which is currently in litigation with chip giant Intel, said it would intro the KA11 and KA31 motherboards, supporting the 133MHz frontside bus and using the VIA Apollo Pro 694X and 596B chipsets. Its third announcement was of the KC19+, a Slot 1 board which supports the Intel i820 chipset and includes two RIMMs for Rambus memory. FIC said that it would be introducing thin client and server business desktops which will come with OpenLinux 2.3. The first systems to appear with the OS will be its Sahara 1000 Slim Line PC and the Equinox 1530 Thin Client. The latter has networking capabilities onboard and supports a 40MB DOC SO-DIMM hard drive. ®
Mike Magee, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Man acquitted in HP-under-the-bed case

A reseller accused of hoarding $4.7 million (£2.9 million) of stolen IT kit under his bed was last week acquitted by a US county court. Joseph Ventimigilia was arrested three years ago for allegedly receiving stolen Hewlett-Packard "nitro boards" – essentially very big, very expensive motherboards. US police found 78 of the boards, worth $60,000 each, tucked under his bed in Campbell, California. Ventimigilia, owner of PC components business Quality New and Used Computers, was accused of receiving the items, stolen from HP's Roseville plant, from young computer expert Joshua Cohen. Last week a jury in Auburn found Ventimigilia not guilty of the charges, the San Jose Mercury News reported. According to lawyers on both sides of the case, jurors did not believe Cohen, who pleaded guilty and got off with probation. Arthur Cantu, defence lawyer, said Cohen had lied about his relationship with the reseller to dodge a jail sentence. Cantu called the jury's verdict a "total vindication" for Ventimigilia, saying his client's business had suffered due to publicity surrounding the case. Exactly why the reseller had been snoozing on $5 million-worth of hooky HP kit was not disclosed. ®
Linda Harrison, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Incoming 3dfx CEO has axe and is willing to use it

3dfx's outgoing CEO Greg Ballard, who quit in apparent disgrace over the company's inability to get its next-generation 3D chip, the VSA 100, out in time for Christmas, has named his successor: Alex Leupp. Leupp was until last week president and CEO of Chip Express, a Santa Clara, California-based ASIC developer, and spent six years running Siemens' semiconductor operation, so is no stranger to the business of silicon design and development. He's also no stranger to silicon technology -- according to 3dfx, Leupp's PhD is in semiconductor physics and he has a number of semiconductor patents to his name. Ballard's resignation statement said he wanted to hand to reigns over to someone with a more technical background, and from Leupp's resume, it's clear the company has found one. Certainly, the company's current run of loss-making quarters has been in part due to the difficulties getting the VSA 100, codenamed Napalm, announced officially last week at Comdex, out of the door, and Leupp will presumably provide a lead here. That said, the chief reason for the loss has been the STB acquisition -- despite the lack of Napalm product, Voodoo 3 continues to sell well, and while rival products like Nvidia's GeForce 256 continue to lack software support for their more advanced feature, Voodoo 3 still has some breathing space until Napalm turns up. Given, 3dfx's problems primarily relate to infrastructure rather than products, Leupp's plane to get 3dfx "making money" could very well lead to cost-cutting measures. "If it is necessary to clean house, then that is the case," he told EE Times. "I've done it before, and I'll do it again if I need to." That should at least bring encouragement to 3dfx's shareholders, who have seen the company's stock plummet in value over the last five months or so as an early release date for Napalm was extended out into 2000. Ballard's resignation gave a short boost to the stock, but so far, as did Leupp's appointment -- well, just about. Real improvements, however, won't come until the new guy is clearly seen to be solving 3dfx's financial woes. ®
Tony Smith, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Visio unveils upgrade 2000

Software developer Visio is launching two upgrades to its range of network management products. Visio 2000 Professional Edition starts shipping today in the UK and Northern Europe. It is an upgrade to Professional version 5.0 and is designed for database analysis and basic network management. The product has an RRP of £279, or £139 for the upgrade. The company's 2000 Enterprise Edition will be available from the start of December. It is aimed at higher end users, and can create network diagrams and help with traffic management. It will replace the Enterprise Edition 5.0, priced at £699, or £349 for the upgrade. The company was today promising that the products offered a whole host of improved design tools for network managers and diagram drawers around the globe. Visio is based in Seattle and has 680 staff. It has a UK office in Epsom with 50 staff and its customers in the UK include Price Waterhouse and BT. Today's announcements add to Visio's other 2000 products, the Standard and Technical Editions, aimed at business and engineering customers respectively. ®
Linda Harrison, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Supermarket price wars: mobiles, the sequel

Like a bunch of kids in a playground, the supermarkets just can't stop winding each other up. Now Tesco has taken the argy-bargy to the hopscotch patch, aka the pre-paid mobile market. The market leader will cut £20 off One2One models, charging what it claims is one of the lowest prices in Britiain - £49.99. All the others are expected to get the hump and follow suit so they don't miss out on the Christmas rush - when almost two-fifths of annual sales are made. But hang on. What a strange sense of deja vu. Why, wasn't it just this summer that a similar thing happened? Yes, it was August. And... Blimey! It was Tesco cutting One2One phones to a new super low of £49.99. Then all the boys joined the fun and cut their prices too. It all went awry three weeks later though when party-poopers BTCellnet and Vodafone told them to stop because it was ruining their profit predictions. The fact is that the supermarkets play a non-stop game of price cuts that are nothing more than advertising and can be easily be budgeted for. But have a look at that product's price when the next promotion is in full swing. Consumers are thus kept in a permanent frenzy and left with the feeling that supermarkets are great value for money when the simple fact is that we get ripped off each and every weekend. It is not clear whether Tesco has cut a special deal or will be making a loss on each sale, but if it manages to sell hundreds of phones to technically illiterate consumers it can rely on the luddite mentality for profitable repeat sales. ® Related stories: Asda lashes mobile carriers for price hikes Mobile war spreads to supermarkets
Kieren McCarthy, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel's Vancouver mobo still very slippery

Boxed motherboard Cape Cod (the CC820) may be swimming around the channel in shoals, but its counterpart, the Rambus one from Vancouver (the VC820) is still pretty hard to find. After ringing round major UK distributors including Avnet, Flashpoint, Hall Mark and others to try and buy an Intel boxed Rambus i820 motherboard, we gave up. There might be lots of fishy Cape Cod i820 mobos swimming round in the channel, but the Vancouver i820 is as rare as a sturgeon. An Intel representative commented: "It takes a little while for the motherboards to become available through the channel." Last week, we reported that Intel's workstation mobo, the OR840, is still hard to net. Yesterday, we reported that HP will introduce an alternative mobo on the 13th of December that uses the Reliance chip set. Today, First International Computer (FIC), introduced a mainboard which has support for two DIMMs. So they're obviously as rare as herrings, haddocks, and even mackerel. Let's hope the species doesn't go extinct before it's even evolved... ® Intel Cape Cod mobo stinks
Mike Magee, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Nvidia Q3 revenues set record – again

Nvidia's run of record-breaking quarters continues, this time through its third three-month period of the 2000 fiscal year racking up revenues of $97 million and profits of $10.6 million. That compares to revenues and profit for the same period last year of $52.3 million and $7.1 million -- amounting to growth of 86 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively. That puts Nvidia not too far behind its arch-rival, 3dfx, which earlier this month posted Q3 revenues of $105.8 million -- and that's with all the board sales made through the STB acquisition taken into account. Nvidia, which only produces chips, clearly is probably justified in feeling more than a little smug about all this. Last quarter, the 3D graphics company recorded revenues of $78 million (representing a year-on-year increase of 543 per cent) and income of $6.7 million. For the nine months to 31 October, the last day of Q3, revenue increased 165 per cent to $246.1 million. Income hit $23.5 million, compared to a loss of $3.5 million for the same period last year. ® Related Stories Acer Labs to build GeForce 256 killer into North Bridge Nvidia drives into pro 3D market with Quadro Nvidia goes bi-annual barmy Nvidia unveils '256-CPU Cray' GeForce 3D chip Nvidia Q2 revenue rockets up 543 per cent
Tony Smith, 25 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

AOL guns for gay grannies

Top marks to AOL for promoting minorities -- or at least targetting the homosexual over-60s market with its new AOL 5.0 software. How else can we explain the 'user' testimonial included in the Great Satan of Online Services' latest US radio ad, which says (and we quote, having heard it at least five times over in Las Vegas last week): "My Grandma really digs those gay pictures." True, for 'radio' read United Artists Showcase cinemas' in-house audio network, but we'd be very surprised if AOL had a separate creative for said -- unless, of course, they assume US movie-goers are all a bunch of gay wrinkles... Our attendance at UA's Las Vegas movie house was occasioned by the chance to catch a stack of new flicks which will inevitable take nine million years to make it across the Atlantic. In particular, we were chuffed to catch Kevin 'Clerks' Smith's latest, the highly cool Dogma. Smith, of course, also directed the critically loathed but hugely funny Mallrats, which contained the immortal couplet: "My grandmother, also a churchgoer, always said the key to success lies in dick and fart jokes. But then she did decide to become a lesbian on her 70th birthday..." Perhaps AOL's ad team is rather more movie-literate than you might imagine... ®
Big Gay Al, 25 Nov 1999