6th > December > 1999 Archive
Microsoft has denied it has sold off its Visual J++ Java development tool and that it has no intention of doing so. The company's statement, made by Tony Goodhew, Visual Studio product manager, follows claims made to Computing by senior sources with Microsoft tools development team that Visual J++ is to be pulled from the next release of Visual Studio. Goodhew reckons the confusion arose through the emergence of something called the Visual Studio Integrators Program (VSIP), a scheme to allow third-parties to offer compilers and other add-ins for Visual Studio. Rational Software, the company the original Microsoft sources said had taken over development of Visual J++, was simply preparing a Java compiler that would operate within Visual Studio, said Goodhew. A simple enough mistake to make, no? And yet, there's a flaw in Goodhew's own logic. "We stand behind the innovations first surfaced in Visual J++ and want to see them continue," he said. "Unfortunately, there is a cloud of doubt over the industry's ability to innovate and advance Java long term. Until we receive and understand some rulings currently pending before the court hearing the Java lawsuit we cannot make announcements on future Visual J++ product strategy." So here we have a Microsoft employee having a dig at Sun (the "ability to innovate" bit) and claiming that the company can make no announcements on its plans for Visual J++ -- at the same time as saying that the plan isn't to sell it off. If Goodhew is so sure of the latter, why the former arse-covering? Could it be that the original sources have something after all? Since Microsoft is preparing a C++ based alternative to Java, dubbed Cool -- as a number of unrelated developer sources have pointed out to The Register -- the future of Visual J++ remains open to question. Certainly Microsoft isn't going to say, one way or the other. ®
The buzz on Intel's 64-bit Merced processor has lessened a little since the company's CEO Craig Barrett triumphantly announced silicon at the last Developer Forum in September. But that doesn't mean that the whole world has suddenly gone quiet on Intel's flagship IA-64 chip. Instead, programmers and partners have been in a kind of Merced purdah, as they busy-bee away with their virtual screwdrivers and software wrenches. And now a student has come up with a freeware Merced simulator. Jasonp, a self confessed geek, posted information about his simulator on COMP.ARCH over the weekend. In his posting, he warns: "Unfortunately, working with this first version is going to take a great deal of patience and a fairly indepth knowledge of the IA-64 ISA. Large expanses of the coded-up instruction set need testing and the assembler has no symbolic support right now. I'll be happy to put together an email distribution list if folks are interested and will gladly answer questions, but I don't think I'm going to do major work on the project in the near term. Getting this far has been exhausting, with miles more to go." You can find his simulator, bearing his warning in mind, in the form of a ZIP file, here. This is not for the faint of heart. The ZIP file is not large but contains some tightly coded C code. There's no EXE there, so don't think you can just click on an icon and test it for yourself. And, obviously, if you choose to accept this mission, it's your lookout, but it's also worth looking at jasonp's home page, just a step back from the zip file. Everything here you'd ever want to know about Pi and Fast Fourier transforms that you'd need to ask. We'd expect Intel to be giving us an update any day now on work-in-progress on Merced, and indeed, later this week, we are meeting the HP Merced team. ®
OK, maybe only one to two per cent of Coppermines might have the latest erratum which forced Dell to temporarily stop shipping some machines last week. Last week, Intel said it would not recall the affected chips because of the erratum, which is No.50, instead saying it would fix the problem in the next stepping. The bug, which has already been dubbed Stutterbug, means that machines have to be switched on twice. But while a consumer may find it slightly tiresome to have to switch on a machine twice, those designing embedded systems (the so-called 'gulag') that use the processor may stop twice to think. Intel has a wide range of customers designing single board computers (SBCs), in applications ranging from telecomms switches to...err...missiles. One reader pointed out that it is pretty hard to switch on a system embedded in a missile twice once the thing has left the ground. There could also be a problem for symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems. In such systems, there may be either two or four CPUs, and if one (or more) CPUs were affected by Stutterbug, the BIOS (basic input output system) which controls the system could well suffer a nasty turn. Further, as an ex-Intel employee pointed out to us at the weekend, if the company knows that only two per cent of the output has the Stutterbug, it must know what the problem is, and, if so, it is rather surprising it has not yet told the world. Unconfirmed reports said that Dell had started shipping its Optiplex systems again at the end of last week, but is still suffering from a dearth of Coppermine parts. ®
The prize for being the channel's Chris Tarrant wannabe went to Hewlett-Packard this weekend. Since August, the vendor had been running its HP MillionAIR competition, taunting the nation's smaller reseller community with the chance to win a million pounds before Christmas. The final round of the promotion took place at the weekend. But months of hope and hype came to nothing, as no one walked away with a cool million in their back pocket. Friday night saw 59 dealers attend a glitzy dinner in London's Park Lane Hotel. All had answered scratchcard questions and come up with winning slogans along the lines of "I love selling HP kit because..." At the bash, where Abba's "Money, Money, Money" was played relentlessly, the finalists had to answer one more question. How many printers did HP sell in the UK and Ireland last year? Gerard O'Connor, from Cork-based reseller PC Pro, got closest to the correct figure of 1.4 million. On Saturday the assembled resellers were then whisked off to fly on Concorde, where O'Connor face the three questions that would determine if he was going home loaded. The three multiple choice questions were:
Special report The Battle of Seattle last week, swiftly followed by the complete collapse of the World Trade Organisation summit itself, left a stack of IT-related issues up in the air, and co-hosts Microsoft and Boeing are no doubt now ruefully looking at the bills and wondering - alongside President Clinton, who instead of a nice photo op got tear gas and robocops - why it had seemed such a good idea in the first place. The Third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation was an organisational disaster, with the cancellation of many key meetings for logistical reasons. Normally even a bad WTO meeting ends up with the warring parties papering over their differences in a final communiqué, but not this time, and the key IT concerns, tariffs and TRIPS are currently up in the air. On tariffs, the US had been expecting to extend the moratorium on tariffs on electronic commerce, keeping e-commerce tax free, while it also wanted agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS). US trade rep Charlene Barshefsky had earlier said she was "completely confident that the US would get an extension of the moratorium on e-commerce tariffs, whereas in reality by Saturday EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy was happily telling reporters "it was not agreed here and it will have to be agreed elsewhere." This display of independence may not however be enough to save Lamy, whose earlier concession on GM foods provoked the near-unanimous view in Europe that the lad should be genetically re-engineered himself on his return to Brussels. This is serious from the US point of view, because although US reps are now saying the tariff ban will stay in place until the WTO reconvenes, EU negotiators had earlier threatened to require it to be linked to the "classification" issue that concerns how Internet-delivered software is to be regarded for tariff purposes. A pound of flesh may therefore be exacted, if the US wants to retrieve its chestnuts. The US is also looking exposed on TRIPS. Barshefsky had said that there would be no blanket extension of the 1 January deadline for the next group of countries to implement TRIPS agreements about anti-piracy enforcement, but some countries were known to be seeking an extension, and could view the collapse of the talks as letting them off. Another group - the least developed countries - has until 2006 to implement anti-piracy measures, while the developed countries have been bound by TRIPS since 1996. The US software industry won't be happy about Barshefsky's discomfiture, because TRIPS is a key plank in the enforcement of anti-piracy measures. Background Delegates who brought a raincoat instead of a gas mask and riot gear to Seattle for the WTO meeting made a mistake, since this made it difficult for them to get to the meetings because of protestors, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. The police were caught when the wind direction changed, blowing the gas back to their lines, and although they confiscated gas masks from protestors, they were unable to prevent the cancellation of the opening ceremony. Subsequently, most working groups were also cancelled. To clear the streets around the conference area, there were curfew zones, last used in Seattle when the US army ordered Japanese nationals to keep off the streets after Pearl Harbor. Protestors set up spoof WTO websites, and the WTO wisely decided to respond to criticisms. The Tear Gas Round, as it is now being called, wasn't able to make the key decisions that were expected, although night sessions were organised, but it will be back. The Round will go on for some years, but this week was supposed to launch the round and set the political priorities. In reality the collapse of the talks was caused by the vast gulfs separating the WTO member nations, rather than by the Battle of Seattle, but both of these will have an effect on the complexion of the future of the round - a kindler, gentler and more careful WTO, one suspects. The WTO was established in 1995, although the idea of an international trade body had evolved from a discussion at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944. This however foundered until 1947 when the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) took on the role. There were eight GATT negotiating rounds, ending with the Uruguay round from 1986 to 1994, where dumping, non-tariff barriers and intellectual property issues began to be discussed. The US and several developed countries had held out against the establishment of the WTO until it had been agreed that intellectual property protection would be included in what became known as TRIPS. The understanding was that the developing countries would agree to TRIPS in return for their getting access to markets in developed countries for their labour-intensive products. This didn't exactly happen, so there is considerable resentment as a result. Either the globalisation of trade could be left to the law of the jungle, where the biggest and richest would win, or it could be regulated. The US IT industry has found that jungle law is difficult to enforce outside the US, so wants a system that supports the approach globally. The developing countries remain deeply suspicious and are more concerned with fundamental things like food, water and the repayment of debts. The lobbyists and special interest groups want a say in the regulation, but they are no match for the corporate lawyers and bureaucrats who now negotiate these things. The Seattle backlash by protestors against the new global economy is a mixture of protectionism and isolationism, with free trade being viewed as responsible for most of the ills of the world. The counter argument being used by the WTO is that GATT did cause tariffs to fall and world trade to increase as a result, so yielding the money for aid programmes. The argument is ultimately circular of course. US arguments this time around tended to lack diplomatic sophistication; saying that the US gained 20 million new jobs in IT in the past six years does not cheer up those in the developing world who see the new technology as an expense that they cannot afford but can hardly ignore. The result is clear: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. For its part, the US responds that it can only find jobs for the unemployed, help the homeless, and contribute to feeding the world if it is economically successful. Mike Moore, the WTO director general, says he favours the removal of all barriers to imports from the least developed countries. If agreed, at the same time as allowing the developing countries to establish tariffs against imports, this could make real growth possible, always providing of course that the level of corruption and armament purchases did not bankrupt the country along the way. E-commerce WTO director general Mike Moore said that a "continuation of the moratorium on duties applied to electronic commerce transactions is... a possibility". The EU's negotiating position over e-commerce classification (which amounts to how it is taxed) was that it wanted electronically delivered content to be treated as a service, but the US - and Microsoft in particular - wanted software classified as a good. The reason is that different rules apply, and each side favours whichever suits it best. Microsoft could well find that the only way to get the moratorium extended is to compromise with the European desire, and link tariffs and classification issues. The WTO has identified three kinds of Internet transactions: those where selection, purchase and delivery take place entirely on the Internet; those involving distribution services, where the product selected and purchased online is delivered physically; and transactions such as the provision of Internet services. It is not clear yet whether these categories will be treated differently, and if so what the treatment differences would be. WTO member governments mostly consider Internet transactions to be covered by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and that GATS does not distinguish between the delivery method. The disagreement is over how to categorise software and books. Books delivered physically are goods, but some governments wish to regard electronic books as services. Microsoft and others advocate the recognition of a third category: virtual goods. TRIPS TRIPS is a comprehensive agreement on IP rights. It covers copyright, trademarks, geographical labelling of products; industrial designs; patents; integrated circuit design; and undisclosed trade secrets and test data. The TRIPS agreement sets out minimum requirements for protection that must be observed by WTO members, as well as enforcement procedures and a dispute settlement process. It is of particular interest that it does not include any copyright protection for "ideas, procedures, methods of operation, or mathematical concepts" which rules out business processes you might think, until you discover that the US patent office thinks it is acceptable to award patents for business processes. Computer programs are protected under the Berne Convention, whether the program is in source or object form. There is also protection for databases and compilations of data, but not necessarily for the data. Getting TRIPS extended is of great importance to Microsoft and the rest of the US software industry, since if it lapses, piracy is likely to increase. Many developing countries would do little or nothing to control it. Indeed, some of them believe that piracy is a business like any other, and that anything that contributes to the economy - and especially technology - is a good thing. TRIPS is seen by many as a form of late 20th century colonialism that will set the scene for how business is carried out in the next century. It is believed that the US has been readying a raft of litigation to pursue through the WTO procedures against businesses in developing countries that have copied patented drugs or have pirated software. However, the amount of litigation may well prove to be too great for the TRIPS council to handle. Information Technology Agreement In January, most IT products, including office and telecom equipment, will be free of tariffs under the Information Technology Agreement, which has been reducing customs duties since 1997. There are now 51 participants in the agreement. The discussions in Seattle were intended to centre on a so-called ITA-II broad list, but agreement was not reached over some electronic consumer goods. The present ITA only deals with tariff elimination, and not with trade barriers, such as differing safety standards, import licensing requirements that increase costs. The leading exporters of equipment covered by the ITA are the US ($114 billion); Japan (86 billion); Singapore ($58 billion); and the UK ($43 billion). With importers, it is US ($156 billion); UK ($47 billion); Germany ($46 billion); and Hong Kong ($43 billion). Microsoft Microsoft's efforts at the Seattle Round have been rather low key. Like all private companies, it can only play at fringe meetings, which don't attract delegates. Microsoft COO Bob Herbold chaired a meeting of the Seattle Host Organisation on trade and commerce. The first speaker was from Deloitte and Touche, who just happen to be Microsoft's auditors. The meeting was rather thin on IT luminaries, but outgoing HP chairman Lew Platt and Teledesic CEO Bill Owens were there. Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel for international affairs, is handling Microsoft's involvement with the Seattle Round. It seems that he has realised that delegates were in Seattle to talk to each other, and that Microsoft had only had "some communication" with delegations. He had found it "challenging for anybody to follow what it happening" but reiterated Microsoft's desire to achieve an extension to the existing moratorium on e-commerce tariffs, and to oblige developing countries to seek out and punish software pirates. The US Trade Representative is fully behind (or perhaps pushed in front) of these goals. Smith likes to refer to his success in Sweden when in an expansive mood, since a TRIPS case there has had the effect of reducing piracy from 54 per cent to 38 per cent, he says. But while this 30 per cent reduction, even if true (and measuring such things accurately is all but impossible), the amount of money does not add up to much. Smith ran the BSA's European piracy efforts from London before accepting a position with Microsoft. Gates has been keeping a low profile during the WTO meetings. Wearing his Gates Foundation hat, he met UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to discuss how the private sector could help to stimulate development in poor countries. Annan himself was physically prevented from addressing the WTO because demonstrators blocked access. ® Related Stories: World trade body declares MS profits illegal US software exports illegally subsidised, rules WTO MS lobbies senate to lean on Europe, WTO Trade: MS and Boeing get ready to rock with Rocky MS WTO tax push skips IP, values software at zero MS pushes 'no net taxes' for Seattle WTO
Last week's Register article suggesting Microsoft was pulling Windows support for OpenGL has generated considerable response, some of it critical, some positive and some positively menacing.**
A quick look at the Rambus home page shows that the firm is claiming that its memory provides three times the performance of PC-100 synchronous DRAM. That is highly debatable, given a PC platform like the i820, and given comparisons we've seen and written about on the world wide web. And even if it is true, a RIMM is currently over seven times the price of equivalent synchronous DRAM. Last week, a 64MB PC-100 piece cost around $70, a PC-133 piece about $88 and a PC-800 RIMM $490. A 128MB piece cost around $150, a PC-133 piece about $170, and a PC-800 RIMM $999. These prices may, almost definitely have, changed, but you can bet your bottom buck that the ratio hasn't. A RIMM also seems to be at least seven times as scarce as PC-100 and PC-133 memory and that brings us neatly to the tale of the Seven Dramurai. Hyundai, Infineon, Micron, NEC, Samsung and Toshiba lined up with Intel and Rambus itself to promote direct RDRAM. What has happened to the Seven Dramurai in the wake of Intel's well-documented problems with its i820 chipset? Hyundai is not, apparently, interested any more in Rambus. We understand that Toshiba now says that it will produce Rambus, but not for the PC market. Samsung, which ceased production after Caminogate, will not be able to supply volume until January next year. Hitachi and NEC are reducing Rambus production to one million parts a month, "depending on demand". But, one memory distributor pointed out to us, quite a few of the manufacturers still have stock from those halcyon days when they thought the big launch would be in September. Dataquest, a few weeks ago, estimated that Rambus will dominate the market by the end of next year. We feel it had better get its skates on, and quick. See also Seven Dramurai ride two memory standards at once Seven Dramurai say they will make Rambus cheaper
Microsoft now seems to be confirming the strategic change we read into the company's latest reorganisation announcement on Friday. By merging the two Windows divisions, Consumer and Business, into a single unit within Jim Allchin's Platforms Group the company was effectively signalling the end of the Millennium consumer Windows project, and reverting to a 'one Windows' strategy, at least for the PC space. Millennium has been in development for most of this year, and made Beta 2 late last month. But it has also been the subject of a tussle within Microsoft; earlier ambitious plans for the OS were steadfastly pooh-poohed here months ago, and subsequently the project declined to the status of a service pack (not entirely on our say-so, we concede). Microsoft is now being quoted in today's Wall Street Journal as saying Millennium will go out next year as "a relatively minor upgrade to Windows 98," and is also worth noting that MS is telling the WSJ that it will be previewing "features" (no, we're not sure what that means either) of Neptune, the consumer version of Win2k, shortly. While we're sifting the spin coming out of Redmond we'll just draw your attention to something you may have missed - an interview with Jim Allchin in the December issue of Wired. This would have been conducted a few months back now, when any internal battle over Millennium would still have been decidedly live, and so its claim that "Even the Dos-based next-generation consumer OS - codenamed Millennium - has been pushed back to 2001" is intriguing. The piece doesn't attribute this claim to Allchin, and it could be a typo, but one wonders... Anyway, you'll have noted that the Microsoft strategy for consumer Windows now seems to have rewinded a year. Until early this year the Microsoft plan, as stated by Bill Gates himself at WinHEC 98, was to cease development of the Win9x codebase and follow up the shipping of Windows 2000 with a consumer OS based on Win2k. This plan was shelved shortly before WinHEC 99, and the dual-track Millennium-Neptune programme were kicked off instead. Neptune was intended as the new OS on the common codebase, but was clearly headed for a ship date in 2001 or later. Millennium's role was therefore to fill the gap. Note that the Wintel strategy papers that were live at the time of WinHEC 99 still implied the appearance of a Win2k-based consumer OS for the next generation PCs due to ship in autumn 99 (i.e. now), so a hasty revival of the 9x development programme seemed necessary. The trouble was, of course, that doing much useful in terms of software for easier to use and legacy free platforms would be hard, and even if you weren't doing it (as turned out to be the case with Millennium) the OS wasn't going to make it out of the door for Q4 99. Which is why more recent versions of the PC2001 design guide have appointed Windows 98 SE as the OS for these platforms instead. That leaves Millennium looking a bit pointless. As a minor rev of Windows 98 it could just be a service pack and/or an OEM code refresh for around mid-2000, but it won't butter many parsnips either way. Microsoft can use it to introduce some of the new features it promised in the EasyPC initiative, but it could equally have done so without the more radical up-front hype. Win98 SE was no big deal, but added some stuff, right? That's an indicator of what Microsoft is likely to do with Win9x for the future - minor revs to the OS will act as a kind of holding action until the company is able to ship the main event, Neptune. And there's a possibility that the promised Neptune feature demo may signal an acceleration of development - at the very least Jim Allchin probably thinks he can accelerate it. Allchin, you'll probably recall, has been driving Windows development for quite a while and has had a lot of trouble with synching twin-track development (IE for Win98 and NT, for example). As tear-stained trial emails show, he's positively allergic to this stuff. One of the earlier suggestions for Millennium was that it would introduce next generation UI technology; this would have been something that made the OS look more radical, and it would also have been another one of those headaches for Allchin, who'd have had two different development groups trying and failing to keep in step again. But the new consumer UI developments now seem to have departed to Rick Belluzzo's Consumer Group along with former Consumer Windows Division head David Cole. So Allchin has a cleaner sheet than he's had for some time. That doesn't necessarily mean that Neptune development is going to be any less of a pig, but it does mean the Platforms Group can assign a lot of resources to it. And if we're talking a ship date of say, mid-2001 circumstances should have changed by then. Consumer PC hardware specifications will have gone up, and the Win2k code will have got tidier and more efficient. A lot of legacy games support will have to be lost along with legacy Dos and hardware support, of course, but in 18 months time, Microsoft possibly calculates that it'll be able to sustain that. And if not, there will always be the 2001 Win9x service pack ready to plug the gap again... ®
Entrepreneur Craig McCaw's attempt to rescue -- and in the process take control -- troubled satellite networking company ICO Global Communications on Friday won the backing of the US bankruptcy court. Last month, the court allowed McCaw to pump in $150 million in interim debtor-in-possession financing. The latest ruling permits McCaw to take that figure to $225 million and throw in a further $275 million in second-round financing next January. McCaw's plan also calls for a further $700 million to be injected into ICO, taking the total investment to $1.2 billion. However, that part of the plan has yet to be approved by the bankruptcy court, but its approval seems now little more than a formality. ICO said McCaw's money would be used to fund the conversion of its as-yet-unlaunched satellite network from a cellphone system along the lines of the one run by Iridium into a broadband data network not dissimilar to the one planned by McCaw's company, Teledesic. ICO plans to launch its satellite network sometime in Q2 2001. McCaw isn't the only investor in the ICO recovery plan, but he remains the largest. Of the $700 million inject yet to be approved by the court, for instance, he will put up 62 per cent, with the remaining 38 per cent being supplied by Indian media mogul Subhash Chandra. Meanwhile, McCaw's focus on satellite-based networks is now turning to Iridium, the other bankrupt satellite service. Sources suggest McCaw and Iridium are close to signing a rescue deal which, like the ICO plan, would see a McCaw-led consortium of investors pump money into the ailing company in return for McCaw's elevation to chairman of the board or some similar senior executive role. Given the problems Iridium's biggest shareholder, Motorola, has had persuading the satellite company's other institutional investors to back the management's restructuring plan, some kind of 'passing the buck to McCaw' move seems a very likely possibility, ultimately leading to a unification of the three operations -- Teledesic, ICO and Iridium -- into a single business. With Teledesic keen to get up and running sooner than later, using ICO's in-production and Iridium's already launched satellites to provide data and voice communications, respectively would certainly be a major step in that directions. ® Related Stories ICO wins court approval for McCaw's $150m cash injection Teledesic's McCaw to bail out ICO Iridium rival ICO plans Teledesic makeover Teledesic to launch sooner than expected
MS on Trial Later today the DoJ will file the first of two briefs allowed for under the timetable established by Judge Jackson, but there will be no mention of proposed remedies since the judge has ordered that the briefs address only proposed findings of law. It is likely that the DoJ will press for a Sherman Act section two finding, which prohibits monopolisation, attempted monopolisation, and conspiracy to monopolise any market for a particular service or product (more generally described as attempted monopolisation or monopoly maintenance). If there is a specific intent to monopolise; anti-competitive or predatory conduct directed to accomplishing the unlawful purpose; or a dangerous probability of success; then there may have been an unlawful attempt at monopoly. Abusive practices to gain or keep a monopoly in a relevant market are also prohibited. In fact two section two charges are likely: one for operating system monopolisation, and the other for the monopolisation of the browser market. However, it is less certain that Judge Jackson would sustain the latter argument as the browser market share has not yet reached the point of being a legal monopoly, according to the evidence presented. A further possibility is a request for a finding that Microsoft has transgressed the Clayton Act, which extends the Sherman Act and prohibits tying arrangements in which the purchase of one item is tied to or packaged with the purchase of another. Also prohibited under this Act are exclusive dealing arrangements in which the seller makes the buyer agree not to sell products from the seller's competitors, especially in view of IBM's evidence. Dow Jones today is quoting an unnamed Microsoft spokesman as spinning that there is insufficient evidence for either a section one or two finding, because the judge's Findings did not support any such claims. Quotations are then taken out of context in the Dow Jones story, with generalisation from a particular. The report relies on the last sentence of paragraph 336, in a section dealing with "Inducing ICPs to enhance Internet Explorer's usage share at Navigator's expense", and ignores the earlier part. The paragraph reads in full: "336. It appears that, at the time the obligation expired, Microsoft had not yet begun to enforce its requirement that the Top Tier, Platinum, and IEAK ICPs develop content that would appear more attractive when viewed with Internet Explorer than when viewed with Navigator. Moreover, there is no evidence that any ICP other than Disney developed any "differentiated content" in response to its agreement with Microsoft. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to find that the requirements that Microsoft sought to impose with respect to the use of Microsoft-specific browsing technologies had any discernible, deleterious impact on Navigator's usage share." Likewise, in a section dealing with "The success of Microsoft's effort to protect the applications barrier to entry from the threat posed by Navigator", the claim is made that AOL's acquisition of Netscape "makes it less likely Microsoft will succeed in monopolising Internet browsers" and cites the first sentence of paragraph 384 (before going on to confuse Microsoft's desire to stop the migration of applications from Windows to the Web with a different conclusion in the second sentence of the paragraph): "384. Although the suspicion lingers, the evidence is insufficient to find that Microsoft's ambition is a future in which most or all of the content available on the Web would be accessible only through its own browsing software. The evidence does, however, reveal an intent to ensure that if and when full-featured, server-based applications begin appearing in large numbers on the Web, the number of them relying solely on middleware APIs (such as those exposed by Navigator) will be too few to attenuate the applications barrier to entry." It has been determined from case law that a monopoly can certainly exist when the market share is 70 per cent. Judge Jackson determined in paragraph 373 that "The most reasonable prediction, then, is that by January 2001, Internet Explorer's usage share will exceed sixty percent while Navigator's share will have fallen below forty percent," hence the doubt about a claim for a browser monopoly finding from the evidence presented. There is also a strong possibility that the DoJ will press for a Sherman Act section one finding, that prohibits "contract, combinations or conspiracies" that restrain trade, and anti-competitive agreements such as price-fixing and tying" (more generally called business practice transgressions). Microsoft has the problem that because it has been found judicially to be a monopoly, then exclusive contracts to help maintain that monopoly are illegal. Microsoft must respond by 17 January, and then there is a week for the DoJ to comment and another week for Microsoft to comment . The judge specifically ordered that the parties must not address the subject of remedies, if warranted. Meanwhile, the pas de deux will continue in Chicago, with nobody expecting a successful mediation at the moment. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
IBM CEO Lou Gerstner shook hands with Prime Minister Tony Blair last week, sealing an agreement that will see the IT giant pump £625,000 ($1 million) into the British education system. As part of the initiative the government will also stump up the same amount of cash to help fund the scheme.
Total retail sales in Britain are set to hit a whopping £7.4 billion by 2004, according to shopping researchers Verdict. Although online sales will increase 12-fold in just five years, Verdict warns that this will only represent around three per cent of Britain's total spend. What's more, Verdict reckons most of the growth seen in dot-com sales will be at the expense of traditional retailers. According to Reuters, Richard Hyman, director of retailing consultancy Verdict Research, said: "There's a massive intellectual challenge here for many retailers." "They can't ignore it because some business is going to be done on the Internet. But on the other hand, it's potentially suicidal for them." However, The Register's verdict is that this research needs to be taken with a Christmas stocking-full of salt. How can they be taken seriously when they can't even email the press release over or make it available on the half-hearted excuse they call a Web site? ® More Net finance stuff at Cash Register
Intel will have to act fast to regain the initiative in the price battle it has waged with AMD during 1999. According to Bill Henning at CPU Review, the latest set of figures he has collated on Athlon vs Pentium III prices show that AMD is winning the battle hands down. Henning states that AMD K7 Athlons are now cheaper than Pentium IIIs at all clock speeds, with a 700MHz Athlon coming nearly $140 cheaper than a Pentium III 700MHz chip. He also gives the cost difference for the whole set of clock speeds so far available, which demonstrates that the percentage difference amounts to around 10 per cent, with the Athlon 550MHz being 19 per cent cheaper than the equivalent Pentium III part. We don't think Chipzilla is going to lie down and let Chimpzilla stomp all over its customer base, however. When Coppermine production ramps up a tad, expect nature red in tooth and claw but blue in logo to fight back very aggressively on the price front. ® See also AMD, likely to beat Intel, Alpha for 1GHz crown AMD wins major price battle in Intel war
Well this is a Register first: Infineon has taken the trouble to issue a press release denouncing our story concerning a hack of Siemens' SLE44 microcontroller family used in Geldkartes. The least we can do is repay the compliment by publishing the release in full. First, we'd like to make the following points. Every now and then the hacker community lays into us for mixing up our hacks with our cracks. Now its Infineon's turn. Next time, we'll make sure that we're more precise with our hacking/cracking definitions. Our story was not meant to convey the meaning that the system was fatally compromised by a malicious perpetrator. But let's get this straight. A hacker (nice, cuddly geek) not cracker (malicious saboteur) did unmask some security aspects of the Siemens microcontroller family SLE44, and he did post the results on the Net. The hacker may be running a little scared, for Infineon now knows who he is, as the company's press release makes clear. "The supposed hacker is a student who programmed a free programmable card to analyse the chip behavior. He has apologized to Infineon Technologies and confirmed that the reports relating to his attempt at cracking the chip are not true. He had only tried to find out the functional principles of the chips." Now for that Infineon press release in full: Infineon Technologies reaffirms security of cashless payment chips Infineon Technologies rejects claims in the article published on the Internet by The Register that the Siemens microcontroller family SLE44 has been 'cracked'. These chips are used in 'Geldkarte' cards and digital signature smart cards. The Geldkarte scheme enables cashless transactions. According to The Register, a hacker had posted part of the coding structure on a bulletin board stating that unauthorized transactions were possible. This is not true. The posted data is in no way a threat to security. There has been no attempt to manipulate a "Geldkarte" or digital signature card. There is no risk to owners of "Geldkarte" cards and bank customers as mentioned in the article's analysis of the security functions of banking and digital signature cards. Furthermore, the security of chip card systems is always based on a combination of security functions on the chip and the background system (software). The published analysis refers solely to a free programmable card based on the SLE44 family. This analysis is neither relevant for nor transferable to other card applications or chip families. The supposed hacker is a student who programmed a free programmable card to analyse the chip behaviour. He has apologized to Infineon Technologies and confirmed that the reports relating to his attempt at cracking the chip are not true. He had only tried to find out the functional principles of the chips. Infineon Technologies (formerly Siemens' Semiconductor Group) has been producing chip card ICs for various applications since more than ten years. The security mechanisms of these chips are continually investigated by independent institutes for their suitability in high security applications –- eg. in banking and digital signature cards. About Infineon Technologies Infineon Technologies, Munich, Germany, formerly Siemens' Semiconductor Group, is the 10th largest semiconductor manufacturer world-wde according to Dataquest. Infineon provides semiconductor solutions for the telecommunications, automotive, data networking, consumer electronics, and industrial automation markets. The company's comprehensive product portfolio includes integrated system ICs, memory and high frequency components, security and chip card ICs, discrete semiconductors and power ICs, sensors and fiber optic components. Further information at http://www.infineon.com
Oftel is to help consumers compare telcos in a bid to encourage them to change phone companies. The service, available online at its Phonebills site, reportedly lets consumers get an immediate set of telephone bill comparisons to help them find the cheapest deal in their area.
Dell today extended its Linux support when it announced that all of its PowerEdge servers can now be ordered with Red Hat's version of the open source OS pre-installed. Dell already offers Red Hat Linux as an alternative to Windows on selected workstation and desktop PC configurations, so extending the scheme to servers is perhaps no big deal. That said, since Dell is the World's number two branded server vendor, at least for Q3 99, according to IDC, it does make Linux accessible to rather more server customers than it was before. "Our shipments of Red Hat Linux have more than doubled over the past quarter," said Jack Steeg, Dell's VP of Alliances within the company's Enterprise Systems Group. Of course, it's hard to be sure what percentage of those increased shipments are to customers who would have bought a copy of Linux anyway and how many to those who are getting the OS simply because Dell has made it easier to do so, but Dell's support for the OS must be helping here. The deal also provides worldwide PowerEdge/Linux customers free and discounted service and support through Red Hat. PowerEdge buyers will get the usual 90 days' free phone and Web-based support, plus 180 days' priority access to Red Hat's upgrades FTP server. Dell customers seeking further help or installation consultations will get a discount if they go through Red Hat's Services division, though neither company specified what discount they're likely to get. ® Related Stories High spec games PC outfit to ship Red Hat Corel chief denies Red Hat takeover bid Red Hat aiming to buy Corel Linux rival?
Publishing giant Reed (home of such terrific titles as Water Power and Dam Construction, Electric Drives and the terminally dull Computer Weakly), has announced it is to specialise in "New Media". But clicking on the link on the Weakly site results in the following fascinating story: Issue date: 6 December 1999 Microsoft VBScript runtime error '800a000d' Type mismatch: '[undefined]' D:\INETPUB\WWWROOT\COMPUTERWEEKLYLIVE\CWARCHIVE\DAILY\19991206\../../../cwin clude/cwarchive/cwdailycontainerinc.asp, line 74 Don't give up the day jobs, chaps.
Pets.com, the Amazon-backed US online retailer, is moving into Britain through an equity stake in Petspark.com, online pet store and "community site", and perhaps the most twee site this side of Barbie. Terms of the deal were not revealed. Petspark was "conceived by a group of friends at a teatime meeting in London in August 1998. The goal was clear -– to create a place where pet and animal lovers could meet and share their experiences as well as shop for all their pet care needs". Kicking off with a nauseating and highly illegal injunction: "Love your pet on the Net," Petspark cartoon characters Stanley and Minxie guide you through the various services. There's a Vet! And a Behaviouralist (for the animals, not their owners)! There's even a bafflingly useless Pet Alphabet. You can send picture postcards from the site to fellow animal lovers, and you can commune with likeminded Petshop boys and girls on the community section. So what do you collectively call the members -- a herd, a flock, a shoal? Last and certainly not least is the pet superstore, which has plenty to offer, except for pet owners whose livestock extends beyond cats and dogs. ® More Net finance stuff at Cash Register
Apple's decision in 1997 to kill off its MacOS licensing programme has been dubbed the worst ever management decision in the history of management decisions. Writes one Stuart Crainer, in his book The 75 Greatest Management Decisions Ever Made and 21 of the Worst: "Playing by the old rules, Apple strove to retain total control of everything -- and lost big." While we wouldn't ever suggest that Crainer isn't an expert in the field of management decisions, we have to say his knowledge of the computer business in general and Apple in particular doesn't amount to very much. Falling into the old trap of assuming that because cloning made the Wintel market rule supreme, it would do the same thing for Apple, Crainer clearly fails to realise that timing is more important here than actions. He also forgets that Phoenix's successful attempt at reverse engineering the IBM PC's BIOS had as much to do with the growth of PC clones as Microsoft's ability to license MS-DOS to cloners. Apple's experiment with cloning, while good news for Mac buyers, who could get a Power Computing machine that was faster and cheaper than anything Apple could chuck out at the time, probably did more to shrink Apple's marketshare and hurt it as a business than anything else in its history. Of course, had John Sculley gone down the licensing route in 1985, back in the days when the Mac had a clear technological lead over PC, or at least tackled the price differential, matters might have been different, but Crainer isn't referring to Sculley's decision not to take Bill Gates' advice and license the MacOS. Instead, he saves his hindsight-fuelled ire for Steve Jobs' move to can Michael Spindler's half-arsed, desperation-driven attempt to rebuild crumbling marketshare. True, Jobs could perhaps have made a better job of axing clones, but it had to be done, and given how things have gone for the Apple over the last few years, it's a good job it was. Apple "lost big"? Check out last couple of years' financials, Mr Crainer. And what was the best management decision ever? Why, Bill Gates' move to license MS-DOS to IBM, of course. Mind you, Apple's in there at number two for kick-starting the microcomputer market in the first place with the Apple II -- though Crainer calls it the Apple I, forgetting that this was little more than a circuit board sold to hobbyists. ®
A high street clothing chain has had its attempt to grab a URL thwarted in the courts. French Connection was unhappy with a UK company using its Fcuk trademark in a Web address. It claimed this was an abuse of the goodwill generated by its £3 million advertising campaign. Fcuk.com belongs to Tony Sutton and was registered in April 1997. It is currently used by the company First Consultants UK, or FCUK for short. French Connection had its attempt to stop the Web site using the four letter word scuppered by Mr Justice Rattee on Friday. The judge said: "Fcuk is just a euphemism for the obscene expletive f**k". "It may be you have been hoist by your own petard in using such an extraordinary advertising slogan." "How can you talk about goodwill in connection with such a tasteless and obnoxious campaign?" he asked. French Connection’s lawyers had been playing on the fact that the consultancy, based in Wallington, Surrey, was exploiting the "goodwill" created by the fashion house’s £3 million advertising campaign. The judge was not impressed. He ignored French Connection’s plea for an immediate injunction and ordered a full trial. According to Nick Lockett, defence lawyer for the case from Sidley and Austin, French Connection may lose the right to use the Fcuk trademark due to the case. "The judge has already said that he thinks the use of the term offensive," said Lockett. "If he deems that the use of the Fcuk campaign is against public policy, then he may revoke the trademark." If French Connection loses the trademark, then the case will be dropped. "This is a real David and Goliath case," said Lockett. French Connection said it was very disappointed in the judgement. "However, we are confident that we will be successful when taking this to a full court hearing," it added.®
CallNet 0800 is urging users to be on their guard after someone masquerading as an official from CallNet Security was found asking for user names and passwords. "On no account offer this information to ANYBODY!!," explained Keith Goodyer, chief technical officer at World CallNet. The email message was a fake and the net was closing in on the perpetrator of this particular scam, he said. Elsewhere, subscribers of AOL UK have created an Online Members Group to address problems some users have with the service provider. According to an OMG spokeswoman, people cannot log on, they experience engaged numbers, and speeds have suffered. "We were not getting the answers we wanted from the AOL tech people," she said. "All we are constantly being fobbed off with is that they are working on it." ® Related stories: Security hole found at CallNet 0800 CallNet boasts big numbers in spite of problems So how good is CallNet 0800? 'No catch' 0800 access opens for UK business
Hammer Distribution regained its independence via an MBO from parent company 4front plc on Friday. The $13.1 million (£8 million) buyout was led by Hammer founders Paul Sangster and Steve Easterbrook. The headline price includes $4 million of debt assumed by the new owners. In 1996, 4front paid £2 million for the business. Sangster and Easterbrook, formerly sales and marketing director and finance director respectively, will be joint MDs of Hammer. Sangster said the company, founded in 1991, planned to change its name within the next two weeks and drop the term "distributor". It would continue to specialise in high-end storage distribution, but would add more services, he said. Hammer was moving to bigger offices, still in Basingstoke, later this month, he said. It will offer facilities such as a SAN lab where it will have demonstrations for customers. The company has 60 staff, and will be looking for between 12 and 16 technical sales staff over the next year. According to Sangster, 4front had long-term plans to sell Hammer and concentrate on its own services and maintenance business. He and Easterbrook therefore made a bid to buy back the company.®