2nd > December > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Ingram late filing accounts

Ingram Micro UK is facing a fine for the overdue filing of its accounts. The distributor's financials for the year ended 31 December 1998 were due at Companies House by the end of last month. But according to Companies House, Ingram has neither submitted the figures nor applied for an extension. But the distribution giant only faces a fine of £100, increasing to £250 after three months, so it will not have to dig too deep to cover the costs. Ingram pleaded innocence, saying there were definitely no skeletons in its financial closet. A company representative at first claimed to be unaware of any delay. "We have been working with our external auditors, and we now just need to schedule a final meeting with them in the near future," the representative said. "We anticipate that the results will be posted around New Year time - if not before." ® Related stories: Ingram sees turnover and profit up for '98 UK management blamed for Ingram woes
Linda Harrison, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu Siemens hands over server manufacturing

Fujitsu Siemens Computers is to outsource server production in its German plant in Padborn to Flextronics International. The company will not relinquish control of the research and development or the sales and marketing of the advanced network products, but it will pass the manufacturing and logistics facilities in Germany to Flextronics, AsiaBizTech newswire reported today. The business, with all 650 staff, is due to become a Flextronics subsidiary on 1 January. This is the second outsourcing move by Fujitsu – or one of its divisions - in recent weeks. Two weeks ago it was revealed that the Japanese company would cut its own DRAM production for both PC and non-PC devices, hiving off the manufacture to firms in Taiwan. And its current union with Siemens in Europe means it has harnessed the German manufacturer's facilities for PC production, while using its own technology. David Teague, Fujitsu Siemens Computers president for the UK and Ireland, said: "There is no strategy to pull out of manufacture." He said the European company was going through a period of "inevitable" rationalisation, but admitted it would look at more outsourcing deals if this would cut overheads. ® Related stories: Fujitsu Siemens launches first post-merger notebooks
Linda Harrison, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Coppermine bug a marchitectural disaster

Analysis Now that the "respectable" news wires have picked up on our story yesterday (you know who you are) about the bug that means you have to switch your PC on twice, it's worth taking a longer look at the implications for Intel and for people able to buy Coppermine processors. We note that several of these wires have run, verbatim, comments from Intel US PR spinners claiming that the problem only affects between one to two per cent of Coppermines going out the door. But, as we pointed out some months back apropos Q dumping NT for Alpha, one per cent is 100 per cent for the one per cent affected. Would you get cross if you switched on your machine and nothing happened? How many Coppermine processors have shipped so far? You know, the one question that Intel will never answer is how many of anything it has shipped, and so we don't know whether this famous "one to two per cent" is between 500,000 and a million, or one, or two. We rather suspect that it's not 500,000 that are affected, and these are the reasons why. Currently, Intel is manufacturing .18 micron Coppermines in four fabs, to wit and those are in Oregon, Arizona, California and Israel. To the best of our knowledge, these are not 100 per cent devoted to churning out the pesky parts. Intel, when we spoke to the company some weeks back, said that it would continue making and selling .25 micron processors, although it wants to move its entire fabrication procedure over to .18 micron by the end of next year. One Wall Street semiconductor analyst said, off the record yesterday: "I do not think they have a fundamental manufacturing problem. In my opinion, Intel with Texas Instruments, Micron and Samsung are the best of the best in semiconductor manufacturing. However, almost everyone is having a problem in the 0.18 transition compared to 0.25 transition. This underestimation seems to be the main cause of the problem. I believe intel will sort this problem out in 1Q00." Yet even if this soon-to-be-famous "one to two per cent" only represents five to 10 Coppermine chips, Intel has found itself caught on the dangerous fork of perception. Self evidently, there are not yet enough Coppermines around to satisfy demand, and that has cost Intel and its PC customers face, as well as making some of its most loyal customers move to the AMD Athlon competition. The most famous of Intel's previous erratumnotbugs was the FDIV "flaw" with the Pentium processor which caused it to massively crank up its keyring production as it was forced to recall chips and re-imburse customers. At first, it didn't want to do that. Does anyone seriously think that Dell (and now presumably other major manufacturers), would put a stop to selling PCs if only one or two machines were affected? We think not. The launch of Intel Coppermines prematurely on the 25th of October, without proper motherboard support, can now be seen as a kneejerk reaction, forced on Intel by marketing issues. The 49 bugs in Coppermine so far reported further demonstrate that Intel, like Ethelread the Unready, was unready for Verdigrisgate. ® See also Intel, now Dell, acknowledge Coppermine bug
Mike Magee, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

HP hopping mad at Merced-partner Intel

Sources close to Hewlett Packard confirmed yesterday that it has expressed its displeasure to long-standing partner Intel over supplies of the ill-fated Coppermine processor. But although HP is hopping mad that it, like other major vendors, was given very little advance information when Intel launched the Coppermine family on October 25th last, it is still striving to keep its temper, given the two companies' close, but increasingly strained, cooperation on the Merced Itanium processor. Three weeks ago, we reported that one of Intel's most loyal customers, one of the top two in the notebook arena, was only given a few days notice of the introduction of mobile Pentium III Coppermine chips, when it usually received samples months in advance. Notebook machines, unlike desktops, demand a strict qualification and testing, and also require careful customisation of motherboards. A day after Intel announced the Coppermine family, we were able to reveal that the mobile Pentium IIIs were unlikely to be available in any quantity until Q1 2000 at the earliest. HP finds itself in the same boat as other tier one vendors, and not just on notebook devices. And the ire of the first tier vendors was reinforced earlier this week by Computacenter. A staffer at the mammoth reseller told The Register: "Computacenter is the largest (UK) reseller of IBM, Toshiba, HP, Gateway and Compaq systems. All of the above OEM's are saying the same thing [about Coppermine]." A senior analyst at a major Wall Street investment bank confirmed the HP reports to The Register yesterday. He said: "This is what I am hearing. Coppermine shortage is acute. HWP has indicated that they are not seeing much of it at all. "The Taiwanese motherboard and chipset vendors do not seem to be much worried. They are still treating this as a ramp-up issue. Intel is not saying much. [AMD's] Athlon is clearly getting all the publicity. You have indicated that GTW (Gateway) is going to say yes shortly. I strongly believe HWP (HP) is looking at it closely too. "However, Taiwanese suppliers for motherboards and chipsets are not expecting to see high volume in 4Q99. They are expecting high volume only in 1Q00 and beyond." ®
Mike Magee, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Faces will go red over digital signature crack

As we reported yesterday, crackers have managed to break apart the chip that powers Siemens digital signature card, posing questions about the European Union's recent ratification of the standard. Now we have received details of the disassembled file together with comments from Matthias Brüstle, who posted a TeX file on a German bulletin boards yesterday. The file shows disassembly of the CMS/RMS for the Siemens SLE44/66 chip at the heart of the security system for Germany, dated yesterday. Brüstle comments at the head of the document, which is dated the 1st of December: "A plain disassembly read from a chip card is commented. There is also shown a possible attack." He then shows the structure of the CMS/RMS system, saying: "The Chip/Resource Management System (CMS/RMS) is split in two parts. The first 1kB at the address 0x0000, the second 1kB at the address 0x4000. In the following I describe only the parts I understood what they do." He points out that the normal execution of the chip can be bypassed in two ways, both of which can lead to security breaches by anyone with a card who understands the assembly codes. His conclusions: " Never trust anything." So far, we are unaware of how Siemens, the German government or the European Union are reacting to the claimed crack. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

AOL plans mobile phone instant messenger

AOL has boosted its "AOL Anywhere" strategy with the acquisition of Tegic Communications, a Seattle-based outfit specialising in wireless text messaging. Tegic builds smart software that can be used by cellphones to allow single key entry of text messages, thus making it a lot easier to use them, and AOL intends to work with the company to produce, among other things, a wireless version of AOL Instant Messenger. That however begs an interesting question. Tegic claims its software has already been licensed to manufacturers representing 90 per cent of the world's cellphone output, but essentially it's something that's going to be embedded in the mobile phone by the manufacturer. It's possible to use the software on other devices that have the capability to load it (a Palm Pilot, for example) but the major market is going to be cellphones. So go figure. Already in parts of Europe - most famously, Helsinki - use of mobile phone short message services (SMS) is exploding as a wireless, mobile version of PC-based instant messaging. Except it's going to be a lot bigger, and AOL not being the kind of company to miss this sort of trend, it's climbing on the band-wagon. But rolling out a branded service like AOL Instant Messenger into an area like SMS is going to be tricky. Phones come with SMS as standard, so there's got to be something extra to attract users to the AOL flavour. Crossover platforms, and interoperability between SMS and PC instant messaging look like sensible lines of attack. A Communicator or a mobile phone that could send and receive instant messages transparently would certainly have its attractions. But of course AOL has to get the software onto the client, which means deals with the phone manufacturers and - maybe - AOL badged mobile phones. Tegic's software, by the way, works by using a dictionary of commonly typed words, and comparing keystrokes to it. So instead of having to press the mobile phone key several times in order to get a particular letter, you just tap away and the software decides which word you mean. ®
John Lettice, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu Siemens goes gunning for HP, IBM

Fujitsu Siemens UK is to try and poach resellers from rival vendors via a channel-only sales policy. Outlining the company's strategy for the next three years, newly appointed president of the vendor's UK and Ireland operations, David Teague, said the company would stick to selling all kit –- except mainframes –- through resellers. Teague said he wanted to push the vendor from its current number five slot in the UK into the top three by 2002. The company will first attack the territory of IBM and then HP, currently the UK's third and fourth biggest PC vendors. It is expecting £350 million turnover in the UK in 2000, with £40 million coming from ecommerce. This equates to £4 billion and £700 million for the whole of Europe, with all Web sales being fed through resellers. Teague said he wanted to triple sales over the next three years and take advantage of the current confusion in the channel. "Resellers are confused by some of the vendors in the market and want to reduce their dependency on them," he said. "They don't know if these manufacturers will turn around and be competitors. And this undermines resellers' confidence." Teague said he wanted the company to increase its number of contracts in government, health and education sectors, as well as growing sales in the SME and consumer markets. He added that the company was also working on a reseller accreditation scheme. ® Related Stories Dixons chins AOL over "too dear" remarks Chipzilla, AOL enter into confusing PC deal Fujitsu Siemens sign on the dotted line
Linda Harrison, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Smutty emailers sacked at New York Times

The New York Times embarked on a mass firing this week after staff were discovered sending "offensive" and smutty emails.
Team Register, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Non-Intel Processor Serial Numbers around for 20 years

Chipzilla's much-maligned PSN is not the first system serial number. Sun has had a hardware serial number coded into each system (as have most Unix hardware vendors) since the early 80s. Most large (aka expensive) Unix software is usually locked to a certain system serial number to prevent piracy. "Sun puts a serial number -- termed a 'host ID' -- on the non-volatile ram (NVRAM) chip on all its motherboards. It's roughly equivalent to a PC's BIOS, but easily removable just in case some part of the motherboard craps out. The host ID is rather short, but the chances of having two systems with the same host ID in the same state or province are small," writes reader Larry Knox. Chipzilla's PSN isn't guaranteed to be unique either, but -- as Intel is at pains to remind world + dog -- the main benefit of a PSN is to system administrators in large corporates where the chances of two chips sharing the same number are pretty remote. And since this was first posted, readers have supplied us with some more non-Intel PSNs for you. First: "The earliest 'serial number' implementation I've heard of is by Alpha Micro. Each system had a unique SSD chip which software interrogated to check it was on the licensed system. When upgrading, the SSD chip would be moved to the new system." Second: "Apart from UNIX boxes - Acorn machines since the RiscPC all had a 48-bit unique (guaranteed unique, and not just because so few of them were ever made ;)) serial numbers, used for copy protection. In fact, companies like Dallas Semiconductor make a huge range of ID chips to be put into electronic products, all with guaranteed unique numbers laser-etched into the silicon. A lot go into dongles, but many also go into machines - we serial number our products electronically so we can track support better... but as they're car radios, I don't think this is much of a problem. :)" So there we have it -- government departments, the military, hospitals and suchlike have been using Unix boxes for years now, and each one has had a CPU serial number on them all that time and civilisation doesn't appear to have come to an end. So will you please all stop banging on about PSN now? The only risk it poses is to make the use of illegally copied software more difficult -- but of course, that was what the 'privacy' protestors were really worried about all along, wasn't it? ®
Pete Sherriff, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony steps on gas to get Palm-based products out quickly

Sony's crash programme to develop PalmOS-based devices looks set to bear fruit early next year, the company told attendees of the PalmSource Tokyo Summit conference this week. "We hope to have our first offering ready for release at the earliest possible date in 2000," said Sony executive Masafumi Minami.
Tony Smith, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Pentium III found on chick's navel

Intel yesterday announced that a Pentium III CPU has been turned into a fashion accessory. (Is it a Coppermine processor? Ed) We have, in front of us as we write, a picture of a lady's navel and next to it a Pentium III designed by Icelandic jewellery artist Sigridur Sigurjonsdotter, although we don't think it's her navel in question. The so-called Future Pocket is either a, err...pocket, or can be worn as a temporary tattoo and the chip can store all sorts of personal information such as a person's bank account number, or her or his DNA profile. This is one step beyond FDIV Pentium keyrings, that's for sure... ®
Mike Magee, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Nortel allies with France's Cegetel on wireless Web

Nortel and French private telecoms operator Cegetel have teamed up to develop third generation (3G) broadband wireless networks for the French market. Cegetel is the number two wireless operator in France, and following deregulation has been expanding into fixed telephony. The Nortel-Cegetel deal, which takes the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) announced yesterday, is contingent on Cegetel winning a licence to operate a 3G UMTS network in France. UMTS is the intended European successor to GSM, and when it rolls out over the next few years will enable broadband data capabilities as well as voice telephony. The two companies intend to start tests of high speed wireless multimedia services in the middle of next year, with initial commercial services commencing approximately a year after that. The deal also seems to involve Panasonic; Nortel says that "Cegetel is expected to be one of the first customers to capitalise from the alliance formed in 1998 between Nortel Networks and Panasonic to develop 3G wireless voice and data solutions." Nortel and Panasonic have been testing broadband wireless Internet services using Panasonic handsets and devices, so these will likely form the client platform for Cegetel's service. ®
John Lettice, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Motorola slims chip transistors to quarter of current size

Motorola scientists have devised a scheme to shrink the size of the semiconductor chip transistors by a factor of four. Now, The Register doesn't pretend to be expert in matters of semiconductor physics, but the gist of Motorola's discovery appears to be the use of new substances that make each transistor's gate -- the bit that controls the flow of current through the device -- appear electrically smaller than it actually is. As we understand it, the practical upshot of all this is that you need less material to make your gate work efficiently (so less current leaks out to interfere with the transistor's operation), so each transistor can be made thinner. Motorola's boffins reckon that the new gate insulator is ten times better at its job than the silicon dioxide (sand, to the rest of us) chip manufacturers currently use, so not only is it thinner, but it works better too. The new substance is known as a perovskite and is basically an oxide of strontium titanate, chemistry fans. At a processor level, Motorola's work means that chips can either be made much smaller or a lot more transistors can be packed in to provide extra processing facilities or more on-chip cache memory. The smaller and more efficient the chip, the less power it requires to operate, which is good news for mobile users. Motorola's announcement follows a similar discovery by the University of California at Berkeley's electronics department, revealed last week. UCB's discovery is said to reduce the size of transistors by a factor of ten, making for a fourhundredfold increase in the number of transistors chip designers can get onto a CPU using existing process technology. Motorola will presumably be keen to guard its own discovery closely, but since the UCB team plan to make all the details of their technology freely available, Motorola may be forced to follow suit. ® Related Stories Storage tech boffins to demo 140GB 'CD-ROM' UK boffins unveil $35 '2300GB on a PC Card' RAM breakthrough
Tony Smith, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Big bucks URL is the business(.com)

A Londoner yesterday missed out on the cyber domain name sale of the century. This unnamed person sold the rights to the Web address business.com for $150,000 two years ago to buyer Marc Ostrofsky. Yesterday Ostrofsky sold the URL for a cool $7.5 million (£4.6 million), making it the universe's most expensive virtual address. The sale, to Canadian start-up eCompanies, beat the $3.3 million Compaq previously forked out for its altavista.com search engine address. However, business.com may soon lose its crown, as it emerged that URL auction house GreatDomains.com was claiming to have received a $10 million bid for america.com, The Times reported today. Ostrofsky is no stranger to the URL Midas touch and has even employed his domain name selling skills to butter up his wife. He previously sold the rights to eflowers.com, and ensured the deal involved his wife getting free flowers every month for the rest of her life. There was no such agreement believed to be in place for yesterday's sale. eCompanies, started by former Disney Internet executive Jake Winebaum, said it would use the business.com name for a new Web service. ®
Linda Harrison, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony to sell digital music online before Christmas

Sony will open its first Internet-based digital music delivery service -- dubbed Bitmusic -- on 20 December. Aimed exclusively at Japanese listeners, Bitmusic will offer an initial batch of 44 singles from Sony Music artists. Whenever singles are released through record stores, they will also be made available on Bitmusic, priced at Y350 ($3.42) per download. The tracks themselves will be encoded in Sony's CD-quality ATRAC3 format, originally developed for MiniDisc but now being touted by the company as an industry-standard alternative to MP3. Listeners will initially be forced to use Microsoft's Windows Media Player to play music downloaded from Bitmusic -- Sony is providing an ATRAC decoder plug-in -- and will only be able to do so using their own PC or one of Sony's upcoming digital music players: the MemoryStick Walkman and MusicClip. And then they'll only be able to copy over each single once, though that's less of an issue if the file is transferred to a MemoryStick card. The MS Walkman goes on sale in Japan on 21 December; MusicClip on 15 January. Both will be rolled out globally later next year. Sony is marketing both devices as MP3 players, but in fact its OpenMG Jukebox software converts MP3 to ATRAC before downloading files to the player, according to a Sony spokesman at Comdex. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Amazon denies misleading discount claims

Amazon.co.uk has been misleading customers about the size of the discount it offers on some its books. Following a Register investigation, the British branch of the mammoth online bookstore was found claiming discounts of around £35 on certain titles when the real reduction was just £6.
Tim Richardson, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple drops Yikes mobo for Sawtooth

Apple has finally dropped its Yikes-based Power Mac G4 and filled out its line of professional-oriented desktops with models based on the more advanced Sawtooth mobo. Yikes was a version of the blue'n'white Power Mac G3's motherboard, knocked up by Apple engineers to allow the Mac maker to ship a bottom end G4 using components originally selected for the G3 line, such as PCI graphics cards. The more sophisticated Sawtooth mobo brought AGP support to the Mac, doubled the memory bandwidth to 800MB/s and allowed up to 1.5GB of RAM to be installed. It also supports Apple's AirPort wireless networking add-in card. In the shift to a Sawtooth-only G4 line, Apple has also upgraded the machines' graphics card to an AGP Rage 128 Pro and replaced the low-end box's CD-ROM drive with a DVD unit. Apple's online store continues to list the three basic models as 350, 400 and 450MHz, the speeds Apple shifted down to when emerged that the PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) would not run at 500MHz or more. However, according to reader reports on MacInTouch some US resellers have begun selling G4s at their original speeds of 400, 450 and 500MHz. Motorola originally said last month that it would have a fix for the 500MHz bug late 1999/early 2000. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

UK Apple Expo 2000 is toast – official

The plug has finally been pulled on Apple Expo 2000. When Apple bailed out of the UK show, then due to be held at the end of March 2000, we wondered whether the show would be dropped.
Tony Smith, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Why worry about the death of Apple Expo?

Opinion The hoo-hah over Apple's decision to abandon the UK's Apple Expo 2000 to focus all its attention on the Paris-hosted show is understandable but ignores one key issue: for the last five years Britain's premier (because it's the only one) Mac event has been decidedly lacklustre. Shows have their good times and their bad -- last year's MacWorld Expo in New York is perhaps a case in point -- but the London event has almost always failed to ignite the excitement of the island's many Mac fans. Even in its better years, Apple Expo UK lacked the buzz that visitors get from, say, each January's MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. Reading through former Apple Expo sales manager Faye Moss' open letter to Steve Jobs, you could be forgiven for thinking that everything has changed. In particular, Ms Moss frequently champions just how exciting, successful and well-attended the show is set (my italics) to be. Well, call me a cynic, but while she may be right, that's no recommendation -- indeed, after last year's dismal effort, it couldn't be any worse. Ms Moss apparently worked on the last four Apple Expos. I've attended all of those and plenty of others besides, and I find it very hard to share her optimism. I do share some of her sympathy for the shows exhibitors, and to be fair, there has been some improvement here. Previous shows have seen some big names drop their support for Apple Expo, most notably Microsoft and Quark, and the absence of some lesser known names (to US readers at any rate) too. This time round, they have renewed their support for the show, and at this level at least, Apple UK has blundered. While Apple's withdrawal from AppleExpo 2000 isn't as precipitous as its decision to pull out of last year's Total Design Show, which attempted to go cross-platform and appeal to the Windows NT brigade, with disastrous results, it will still have hit some of the British Mac market's resellers and distributors hard. Claims that marketing plans will have to be torn up and started afresh should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, but they will require some major modification. But then that's often been the case in the past, even with Apple's presence confirmed. The shifting tides of the Mac market have often left exhibitions and exhibitors stranded, largely as the shows' organisers have failed to keep up with wider events. AppleExpo 2000's organisers are new to the show (with the exception of Ms Moss, of course) so shouldn't be included here, but their predecessors have had problems getting the focus of the show right. So, some years back, 12 months after AppleExpo became a broad church, aimed at consumer and professional alike, we got a show that was focused almost exclusively on the latter, with suppliers of leisure and educational products squeezed out by the pre-press, design and DTP specialists. AppleExpo has always attracted Mac resellers keen to set up stalls and sell hardware and software to attendees, but they too were larhely frozen out as 'too consumer-oriented', the organisers apparently forgetting that even professional users like to pick up a bargain or two. The following year, Apple refocused on the consumer and education markets with the Performa range, and suddenly all the games and dealers were welcome once more. Kids were allowed back in. It started to become a little more fun. We were back to square one, but at least it gave the show more of a buzz. To be fair to the organisers, much of the pressure to focus the show more on the professional markets has come from the big distributors and vendors who also focus on those areas. Their desire to turn AppleExpo into a serious, somber trade show is understandable, but frankly misguided. The Mac isn't a serious, somber system and neither, although the pre-press guys might like to think otherwise, are the vast majority of its users. Thank God. But it's that inability to cater for the needs of all types of Mac user that has doomed AppleExpo if not to failure -- it's rarely been truly unsuccessful -- then to blandness. That spread is what makes the US shows work so well. It's easy to cite British diffidence and American exuberance for the difference in the two shows, but supposedly calm, collected Brits love the US shows as much as the natives do. No, it's the fact that you can wander from the Adobe stand over to the Bungie stand and not feel like your commiting professional suicide that makes the difference. Which is, of course, why a focus on Paris makes real sense. By bringing the whole of Europe together in one show, Apple should finally be able to get not only sufficient numbers of attendees but a wide diversity of exhibitors to ensure the show is big enough to cater for ever taste, to give it the scale of a US event. Ms Moss is probably right to complain about last September's AppleExpo Paris being too French, but since at that point it was a show aimed at the French that's not surprising. Still, the test will be how well the organisers respond to the presence of a wider constituency. The increased cost to British exhibitors and attendees will be an issue, it's true, but the advantages that a truly broad, cosmopolitan show offers over a more parochial, pros-only event will, I hope, persuade them that the extra expense is worthwhile. However, the Euro show's real success depends on Apple. Having pulled out of AppleExpo 2000 and similar shows elsewhere in Europe, it's up to the company to prove that it was right, and give us something special. Earlier this year, I criticised Jobs for simply rehashing his previous keynotes from US shows -- this time, he's going to have to offer something unique. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

TV brings email to the masses

World CallNet -- the company that brought toll-free dial-up Net access to Britain last month -- wants to bring email to the masses with the launch of an interactive text-based service using TVs. M@ilTV is cheap, low tech, and can be used on both digital and analogue TVs -- which is exactly why its makers reckon it will take off in countries where PC penetration remains stubbornly low. Described as an interactive teletext service, M@ilTV will be available in Britain in January. A small set-top box will be available for under £50. TV's fitted with the M@ilTV box internally, complete with a wireless keyboard, could retail from around £180. The service is also being rolled out in Europe, Australia and Far East next year as part of a global push. M@ilTV has also been licensed by Zi Corporation to introduce a character-based service for China. In Britain, World CallNet will make part of its cash from the interconnect charge of subscription-free email service. In countries where M@ilTV can't take a cut of the cost of the phone call, it said will levy a small subscription. As well as email, M@ilTV will also provide interactive text-based services such as home shopping and banking. "M@ilTV will bring email and an expanding choice of interactive information services to the global mass consumer market at the fraction of the cost of a computer or other existing set-top boxes," said Paul Goodman-Simpson, CEO of World CallNet. Part of the reason why M@ilTV is so affordable is that it uses a chip developed by ZiLog which costs just 50 pence. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Computers are bad for your health

Kitting the office out with new PCs makes workers disloyal and want to quit. These are the findings of research by Toshiba into the effect on employee morale of upgrading IT equipment in the workplace. The Japanese vendor found that staff resent new technology and that it increases stress and dents enthusiasm. Almost 60 per cent of those surveyed reported higher stress levels since computers had been introduced into the workplace. And almost 80 per cent of company directors said they were not satisfied with productivity levels since spending money on IT. According to Toshiba, managers are expecting too much from technology investment –- and those with increased expectations from the new equipment were three times more likely to see staff leave. Alan Thompson, MD of Toshiba UK, said: "They buy technology that only serves to automate the existing business processes of their company, which puts staff under immense pressure to produce more. They confuse faster with better and the spiral continues." "What you then have as a consequence is a workforce of highly stressed, uninspired and disloyal people who don’t care about their work or the company they work for," said Thompson. ® More tales of computers that can kill: Man beaten to death for using mobile phone in pub
Linda Harrison, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

Another OEM win for Flextronics

Flextronics International has netted a deal to make kit for Psion Computers, the US company's second IT outsourcing agreement this week. Flextronics will make Psion's Series 5mx product and assemble printed circuit boards for the Series 7. It will also be responsible for the final configuration and packaging of the company's new Revo palmtop. The deal will involve Psion's factory in Greenford, Middlesex, transferring to Flextronics. The manufacturer will pay Psion PLC, Psion Computers' parent company, £370,000 cash for the plant's assets. Psion will take a charge of £450,000 in fixed asset write-offs and other costs relating to the deal. Psion's other manufacturing sites at Didcot and Milton Keynes would not be affected by the agreement, the company said. The move follows an outsourcing deal struck between Flextronics and Fujitsu Siemens Computers, reported here yesterday. Through this agreement, Flextronics is to take over server production at the company's plant in Padborn, Germany. ®
Linda Harrison, 02 Dec 1999
The Register breaking news

CallNet to re-open registration site

CallNet 0800 said it would allow people to register for its toll-free Net access service again before Christmas. The ISP shut down its registration service a fortnight after launching the product in Britain because it was overwhelmed by the sheer number of Net users looking to cash in on the service. More kit is being installed to cope with the increased number of users, but CallNet 0800 still needs to clear a backlog of 50,000 users who have registered their interest but have yet to be signed up. One CallNet 0800 exec refused to speculate on how many people in Britain are waiting to sign up to the service once the ISP opens its doors again. But it is clear it is a sizeable amount. He also said the ISP was being approached by companies on a "daily basis" who want to hook up with CallNet 0800 to offer a similar toll-free dial-up service. ® Related Stories: CallNet boasts big numbers in spite of problems So how good is CallNet 0800? Security hole found at CallNet 0800 CallNet 0800 lambasts 'reputable' journalists CallNet0800 up and running BT blamed for CallNet collapse NAG to offer free calls for low income families 'No catch' 0800 access opens for UK business
Tim Richardson, 02 Dec 1999
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Power supply fault prompts Psion warning

Psion has issued a warning to owners of its Series 7 handheld computers about a potential fault. According to the company's Web site, the external power supply may be faulty on certain devices. "A potential failure with the Power Supply Adapter supplied with the Series 7 product has been identified and under exceptional circumstances may malfunction," it said. Only certain external power supply units are affected. Users can find out if their kit is likely to be faulty by entering the batch number here. ®
Linda Harrison, 02 Dec 1999