13th > December > 1999 Archive
Online investors looking for a quick buck have been told to take care or risk losing their shirt. The warning was delivered by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in the wake of a massive increase in the volume of share dealing by private investors. It's the second warning the FSA has dished out about online trading and Internet stocks in as many months. In a message directed at consumers, the FSA said the upsurge in demand was partly due to a number of investors new to the market, many of whom are particularly interested in smaller, new technology companies. Investors must recognise that these smaller stocks, by their nature, can often be illiquid and thus subject to volatile price movements, the FSA said. Christine Farnish, of the FSA, said: "Consumers investing their money in smaller company shares need to know that the prices of those shares can be very volatile - both up and down. They need to think carefully about the risks involved before deciding what shares they buy and how many," she said. In October, Howard Davies, head of the FSA, warned investors about the hazards of day trading on the Internet. He said that only three out of 10 day traders in the US made any money, while the rest lost out. ® Related stories: FSA warns of Net trading dangers Finance watchdog calls for e-regulator status Cash Register
Dozens of students have become millionaires after being given shares in lieu of wages for their summer job. The mathematics and IT students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took jobs at Internet start up Akamai Technologies last year. They were paid in stock options for part-time and holiday job work at the company. Akamai floated last October, and some of the students now control shares worth more than $20 million (£12 million), according to the Financial Times. In fact, the company was so successful that many of the scholars decided to ditch university and work there full-time. But the Akamai management put its foot down – obviously mindful of that infamous Harvard drop-out, Bill Gates – and instigated a stay-in-school policy. "We had to say we're older and wiser, and it's not a great idea to drop out of school, said Paul Sagan, the group's president. We told them if they wanted to work at Akamai they would have to continue to be full-time students at MIT." Akamai was founded in 1995 and is a Web hosting company. One Akamai share today costs $252 (£155). ®
The Carphone Warehouse found itself in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority this month for promoting hands free phone kits in cars. One advertisement in the national press showed a red warning triangle with the words "Hands free be safe" written on it. "If you use a phone when driving, please make safety your priority. You need hands!" it continued. The ASA said the advert implied that the use of a hands-free kit enabled drivers to drive completely safely, without distraction. It also noted that the Highway Code advised drivers to pull over before taking a phone call. Knuckles were wrapped at Computer Warehouse after the company claimed official recommendation from the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). Another company on the wrong side of the ASA this month was Powercom Direct Ltd. The Slough-based company had advertised a laptop with 14.1in screen and PII 333 or 336 at £849 plus VAT. The advertising watchdog received a complaint that this price actually referred to an Intel Celeron 300 model with 12.1 inch screen. The ASA said it had instructed the company to withdraw the advert immediately. And Granville Technology suffered its fourth upheld complaint in a year, after Time Computers was caught rubbishing rivals' PC monitors. Time described a monitor in one of its adverts as a digital colour screen, warning: "Beware of lower quality 17in analogue screen offers from other suppliers". The ASA asked the company to remove this caution as its own advertised screen was actually an analogue monitor with an on-screen display, and not an LCD monitor, so therefore not truly digital. ® Related stories: ASA slaps Virgin for offensive ad The channel -- it's all breasts, gay men and dodgy ads ASA awards brickbats to IT firms Ads watchdog issues free PC warning Sage gets wrist slapped by ASA Web ad watchdog with no email ASA sinks teeth into channel advertisers UK body slams Cyrix/IBM for clock speed adverts Ad watchdog puts the boot in
Customs officers stopped fifteen containers of Intel processor products from entering Lebanon at the end of last week. The reason? Lebanon is still technically at war with Israel, and Intel has fabrication facilities in Israel.
If you can't get them round the front - try round the back. Following on from Novell's reverse engineered NDS-for-NT, the Santa Cruz Operation has become the latest intrepid to pop behind Microsoft's Maginot line.
We now have details of the changes in prices of Intel's .18 Coppermine processors, which the company notified to its PC vendors and channel partners late yesterday, and which we predicted many weeks ago. As we thought, the price adjustments are not massive, and that's because Intel is holding its horses for a mammoth cut in January next year. The list does not include packages using the flip chip Socket 370 configuration, but our Intel representative is attempting to clarify the position on these parts, and we will update the story when we receive further information. All prices following are when processors are bought in batches of 1000. On the Pentium III-Xeon chips, the 733MHz part now costs $804, a three per cent reduction, the 667MHz $633, also a three per cent reduction, and the 600MHz Pentium III Xeon $494, a two per cent reduction. For Pentium III Slot 1 chips, the percentage reductions are similar, save on the 533MHz parts (notice the change between .25 and .18 micron). The 733MHz (.18) now costs $754 (3%), the 700MHz (.18) costs $733 (3%), the 667MHz(.18) $583 (4%), the 650MHz (.18) $562 (4%), the 600MHz (.18) $444 (2%). There are seven per cent reductions on the 533MHz Pentium III desktop in both .25 micron and .18 micron, with the former now costing $294, and the latter $284. This indicates that Intel has successfully moved its process from .25 micron to .18 micron on this particular part. In the next months, we confidently predict it will do the same for other members of its so-far trouble dogged Coppermine family. ®
US Commerce Secretary William Daley served as moderator during a Thursday roundtable discussion of America's so-called digital divide, a growing disparity in technology access and computer "literacy" among populations according to income, location and race.
A Microsoft free education project could break the piggy bank for parents at Tudor Grange School, Solihull. They are being asked to stump up £1,300 each for laptops supplied by the school to enable their children to take part in Microsoft's Anytime, Anywhere learning scheme.
Apple appears to have embarked on a plan to centralise and amalgamate its numerous European offshoots into a single operation based in Paris. In October, the Mac maker pulled out of the UK's AppleExpo 2000 in favour of the show's French equivalent.
Asia-oriented Linux distributor TurboLinux has signed a "technical co-operation" alliance with Japan's leading PC vendor, NEC. The TurboLinux/NEC deal appears to be similar to agreements between other Linux distributors and hardware companies, such as Red Hat's alliances with IBM and Dell. Indeed, the TurboLinux deal follows a similar tie-up in Japan with Red Hat's subsidiary there. TurboLinux's Japanese subsidiary will work with NEC to improve the open source operating system's support for the vendor's iron. NEC will establish a Linux technical centre to provide support not only for TurboLinux but for Red Hat's and possibly other Linux distributions. Clearly, it too hopes to get into the wider Linux support business that Red Hat and go are also attempting to mine. The tie-in with TurboLinux will see NEC provide basic support for TurboLinux, with the latter handling the more complex issues. The deal extends NEC's support for Linux across its server range. Last month, the company dipped its toe in the open source ocean by offering Linux on its Express Server 8500 line. ®
Japan's Softbank will be using its takings from the sale of publisher Ziff-Davis to break into the soon-to-be-highly-lucrative digital music market. Later this month, Softbank will launch eS! Music, which will, in turn, launch an Internet-based music sales and download service aimed at Japanese consumers in the summer. Between the formation of the operation and the launch of its site, eS! plans to seek out and sign up record labels and individual artists. The service's USP will be very low prices. It plans to charge just Y100 (90 cents) per download, compared to around Y350 ($2.99) that Sony, for one, will charge when its site, Dotmusic, launches on 22 December. Sony's music subsidiary criticised the eS! pricing plan, claiming that it will ensure neither artist nor record company makes a profit. Sony itself claims to have the backing of almost all of the 200 bands and solo performers on its roster for Dotmusic, and will have 400-500 tracks available for download by this time next year, according to the Nikkei newswire. ®
Troubled ISP 08004u is facing an eleventh hour struggle to avoid closing down for good.
Alternative 64-bit chip supplier Compaq will announce further investments worth $500 million in its Alpha technology today, The Register has learned.
Troubled satellite telecomms company Iridium found itself the recipient of a cheque for $20 million on Friday courtesy of Motorola and a bunch of the company's other investors. Of course, that's a tiny drop compared to Iridium's ocean of debt - $4bn and counting - so it's clearly funding intended to keep the company going while its management seeks support from investors for a financial restructure.
According to the weekend UK press, Bill Gates is trying to stop an anonymous "entrepreneur" auctioning www.billgates.co.uk for something in the region of £2 million. But seriously folks, it's extremely doubtful either that the domain is really for sale at this price tag or that Gates and his merry men have the slightest intention of stopping any sale happening.
So Ziff-Davis has got shot of its print publications (bar Computer Shopper and a minority stake in Red Herring) at last. And a very sweet deal it seems to have cooked up too.
British Telecom is to revamp its £50 million piper logo in an attempt to make the telecoms giant more friendly and less remote. Actually, for 'revamp' read 'repaint'.
Intel announced that it would introduce a whole family of mobile Coppermine processors on October 25th last, and lulled a lot of manufacturers into a false sense of security. Compaq announced it would introduce machines using the mobile Coppermine technology that day but most of the big names did not follow suit. Now, Dell has announced it has a couple of the portables up for sale, only a week or so after Toshiba did the same thing. We revealed just one day after the announcement of the notebook that there were serious shortages of mobile Coppermines -- with distributors being told that they could not expect quantities of the chips until next year, at the earliest. So it has taken nearly two months for the processors to appear. One of the vendors above -- we won't pinpoint which one because we said we wouldn't -- complained bitterly that it had only received Coppermine mobile samples a few days, rather than the normal few months, before Intel pre-launched them. And so it has taken a couple of months for the machines to finally become available. ® Hugh shortages, technical problems mar Coppermine launch
Microsoft has been spotted advertising suspicious jobs again, reports LinuxToday, and currently has no less than four positions mentioning Linux in the job descriptions currently posted on its site. But regrettably, although the more dynamic-sounding jobs involve "developing and executing Microsoft's Linux strategy," it's pretty clear from the posts themselves - spinmeisters and uberspinmeister, it would appear - that the strategy isn't intended to be entirely constructive. On the positive side, Redmond is indeed searching for a software test engineer for the IE Admin Kit test team, and some Linux experience here would be considered a plus. Which means in the real world Microsoft is starting to run into Linux shops, and is having to do something about it. But back in the world of spinmeisters we're looking for a couple of product managers to handle things on the PR front. One must: "1. Develop key messages, themes and strategic thinking around three major competitive focus areas, Sun, Novell and Linux. 2. Educate the press/analysts on these messages and become the Microsoft spokesperson for a given competitive area. 3. Responsible for creating both the proactive and reactive PR activities and plans. Additionally work closely with our PR agency to develop and execute these plans. 4. Take leadership role in bringing together a virtual team to perform detailed SWOT [Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, Threats] analysis, understanding customer wins/losses and develop strategic thinking around the competition." The other two product managers (if indeed they're separate jobs, rather than a duplication) will be responsible for "developing and executing Microsoft's Linux strategy, providing competitive technical analysis of the Linux operating system, coordinating and driving cross-company efforts and providing the necessary tools and resources to educate the field sales force on Linux." The posts involve "high visibility" and require "excellent PR and public speaking skills," so we'd presume the other post will be press-facing, while these will be more a case of putting the message over to the OEMs and the OEM sales force. You can probably figure out what the message is likely to be for yourself, but it's worth noting that the nature of the second post suggests strongly that Microsoft is starting to take the threat of Linux in the PC market sufficiently seriously to get spinning against it to the OEMs. The Register would not of course dream of suggesting that some of the Caldera trial documentation, the stuff that covers the DR-Dos versus MS-Dos OEM battles, could turn out to be pertinent at this juncture. ®
Aureal has won its legal battle with arch-rival Creative technology when a US jury threw out Creative's claim that Aureal Vortex sound processor chip violated Creative intellectual property. The suit in question launched back in February 1998 and is one of many the two companies have been throwing at each other in recent years.
The UK's number two cable operator, Telewest, has announced it will offer unlimited Net access from just £10 per month. Only existing Telewest phone customers will be able to take advantage of the offer, the company said today. The new offering is scheduled to kick off on 14 February and will be called SurfUnlimited. Newswire service Bloomberg said Telewest customers using SurfUnlimited will have to agree to spend a minimum of £10 per month on Net access calls -– hardly a king's ransom. Although the new service will only apply to residential customers, Telewest said it has plans to roll out a package aimed at business customers in the first quarter of 2000. Telewest's key shareholders are Microsoft and Liberty Media, a division of AT&T. ®
AnalysisChina's recent moves to attract Taiwanese investors have drawn a favorable reaction from the island's technology sector, but many say they do not expect to see significant effects, because companies have already found ways around investment barriers.
See, there's still money in designing websites. US Web/CKS Corp is selling itself to Whittman-Hart, a Chicago-based e-business consultancy, for $5.88bn, a hefty 35 per cent premium on Friday's closing price.
AnalysisThe insiders at Digital, some of whom still remain after it was acquired by Compaq, are still asking long and hard questions about the future of Merced in the newly re-structured organisation. Although Jesse Lipcon, VP of Alpha strategy, who is in London today, took time out to remind people that, for example, the microprocessors are at the heart of scientific products worldwide, the strategy vis a vis Intel's up-and-coming Itanium-Merced project still remains unclear. For example, Lipcon said that the Merced-Itanium 64-bit chip still formed a very important part of Compaq's strategy. He emphasised that Compaq was still the big number one seller of Intel servers, and that the Alpha processor would form the basis of its high-end chip strategy. This contrasts strangely with HP. When we met them last week, the executives told us that HP, unlike IBM and Compaq, had a very clear strategy, which was to get rid of every trace of RISC as soon as it could. Now Compaq has, once again, decided to play the Joker in the Pack option. Everyone who reads The Register knows full well that Intel and Samsung are as cosy as two bugs in a rug. After all, it was only last week that Samsung was reported as having doubled its Rambus production, which might finally get to two million semiconductors by February next year. The game is playing far faster than any in the industry thought it might. Intel is still fabricating Alpha parts for Compaq (Digital) under a 10 year agreement that the US government imposed a couple of years ago. Under the terms of that agreement, Intel agreed to pay a large amount to the then Digital Corporation to defray the costs of a law suit which alleged that the former had stolen some elements of its Alpha technology to use in the Pentium Pro. Intel and Digital's deal was brokered by the Federal Trade Commission, although many at the time thought the former had bought the latter. It only seemed a moment afterwards that Eckhard Pfeiffer, then CEO of Compaq, snapped up Digital... So now it's totally logical that Compaq, under the Capellas brand, is trying very hard indeed to push the Alpha processor while slightly distancing itself from Intel. Intel is fabbing Alpha chips and so is Samsung. So too is IBM, and has been for a while. Lipcon is maintaining that Compaq is still strong on the x.86 server brand -- and so it is. And he maintains that will continue. Seems, in some ways, that ex-Digital CEO Robert Palmer, who is now a non-executive director at AMD, was more than halfway right when he said at the launch of the Alpha processor in 1991 that the processor was good for another ten years at least. Now, it seems that investing more bucks in the shape of R&D in Alpha might make a quite a lot of sense. We're sure that the FTC is still watching... And we haven't even started on the operating system front, yet. ®
Sources close to swanky and hip London venue The Rock Circus told us today that the corporate gig that Compaq held there last week was a bit of a washout. Apparently, Q executives, as well as their corporate customers, were supposed to tip up in fancy dress. And while a lot of people tipped up, only six wore fancy dress. Those fancy dresses were suits. The six people who wore suits were the laughing stock of the whole gig....and no-one danced. Furthermore, no-one tipped the staff and the beers trickled, rather than treated... ®
OK readers. Thanks to everyone who alerted us to yesterday's "big" announcement from Transmeta. Don't find out more at the Transmeta Web site. But if you check it out you may note a step or two forward in the design of Transmeta's famously minimalist Web site. That's right, they've added a couple of email contacts: one for job-seekers, the other for OEMs, resellers and the like.
Although the virus threat is omnipresent, The Register is fortunate enough to have a sufficiently IT-savvy readership for it not to be much of a problem. Not.