20th > December > 1999 Archive
800MHz Athlons tip-up in Intel-AMD Desperation Derby
The race between Intel and AMD to win the race for the trophy of fastest x86 chip on the planet is a lot like UK major horse race, the Grand National. It's a long haul for both horses, spin jockeys and spectators with many cruel hurdles and jumps, at each of which the nags could well fall over and break their legs. But just when Intel thought it was ahead by a nose ahead with its announcement today of an 800MHz Coppermine Pentium III, it seems as though the AMD spin jockeys have applied the whip to the rump of their Athlon beast, with 800MHz Athlons mysteriously tipping up for review on some of the hardware sites. Take a look at Tech Report, for example. Andandtech also seems to have an 800MHz Athlon. According to the former site, AMD needed little persuasion to give it an 800MHz Athlon. There are other 800MHz Athlons at Ace's, and at Sharky Extreme there's a look at a Pentium III-800! That has led some to think AMD might actually announce the beasts today, just to cock a snook at Chipzilla. We believe that Chimpzilla will now announce its 800MHz Athlon on the 4th of January 2000, however, and at that point be able to deliver shortly afterwards. There's not much coincidence in the semiconductor business, that's for sure. Intel's very need to apply the whip to its own Pentium III Whoppermine® chip is in itself a sign of desperation on the part of the bigger nag. There's little, or some say no possibility of very many machines using an 800MHz Whoppermine® arriving before the middle of January 2000, while AMD's own hack is in something of a better position. The problem here is that if Intel carries on pre-announcing faster and faster versions of its Pentium III, there will come a time when its Coppermine falls over at the semiconductor equivalent of Beecher's Brook, tipping its head spin jockey onto a hard surface. At that point, Chipzilla 2000® shareholders will want to ask the trainer of the horse whether putting its Coppermine hack on steroids was such a good idea after all. Let it be said, however, that it is not just Chipzilla which is pre-announcing chips it cannot supply. Chimpzilla was equally guilty of this shameless PR tactic back in June when it "launched" its Athlon well ahead of any processors actually being available. We suppose it's all about raising expectations -- and share prices. According to Japanese reader Battlax, 750MHz Athlons have only just become available on Tokyo's Akihabara. However, while Chipzilla and Chimpzilla fight on, customers are going to enjoy the prospect of having faster processors, cheaper and sooner. Given the high stakes involved, it's little wonder that the world's press, most not knowing the difference between a chip and a fish, are confused today... Meanwhile both noble steeds (shurely thish horshy metaphor hash gone too far, Ed) will race each other relentlessly towards the 1GHz finishing post, with AMD's Athlon still tipped to be the 6/5 on favourite. Both Chipzilla 2000 (INTC) and Chimpzilla 2000 (AMD) share prices will be worth watching today. Last week, Intel's price soared to close at $80¼ last Friday, while AMD's closed at $29½. Depending on well the spin jockeys have done, Chipzilla 2000 might well rise again today, although rumours persist that it may issue an earnings warning for its Q. Chimpzilla 2000, however, is still a good buy over the next couple of months if you're into this share thing (and we're not). ® See also Intel CuMine chips pre-announced, pre-announced again
Intel's 800MHz Spinola
Rather than re-write Intel's 800MHz press release, we thought we'd publish it in full, just so that when you read other accounts of this pre-announcement, you'll be able to see just how much re-writing the other journalists did. To see our views on this announcement, go to 800MHz Athlons tip up in AMD-Intel Desperation Derby, and previous stories we've written, such as Intel will sample 800MHz Pentium IIIs next Monday. The only editorial changes we've made are to italicise the parts we'd closely question Intel about, knowing full well, of course, that we probably wouldn't get the answers. Press Release SANTA CLARA, Calif., Dec. 20, 1999 -- Intel Corporation today introduced Pentium® III processors at 800 MHz and 750 MHz, establishing Intel's highest levels of performance for the desktop. "Intel's Pentium III processor is the fastest microprocessor in the desktop PC market segment," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Business Group. "We are committed to delivering the highest performance processors and platform solutions to our customers." Like all Pentium III processors based on Intel's advanced 0.18-micron process technology, these new processors feature Advanced Transfer Cache and Advanced System Buffering. These technologies boost performance by placing a full-speed level two cache memory directly on the processor die and increasing the width of the data pathway to the processor. Intel's latest Pentium III processors are ideal for enthusiasts who want state-of-the-art performance and features for the Internet, as well as advanced applications such as video editing, digital imaging, and 3-D gaming. Computers based on these processors, combined with advanced 3-D graphics solutions, bring a superior experience to today's advanced first person and simulation games. Higher Performance Intel's 0.18 micron-based Pentium III processors feature the Advanced Transfer Cache and Advanced System Buffering to deliver higher performance than earlier versions based on 0.25-micron technology even at the same clock frequencies. The Advanced Transfer Cache includes 256 Kbytes of on-die level two cache running at full processor speed and connected to the processor via a new, 256-bit wide data path. Advanced System Buffering technology increases the number of "buffers" between the processor and its system bus to further speed the flow of information for higher overall system performance. As a result of higher clock speed and these advanced features, the Pentium III processor 800 MHz achieves a SPECint95* benchmark rating of 38.4 and a SPECfp95* result of 28.9. Intel's 0.18-Micron Process Technology Intel began shipping processors based on 0.18-micron process technology in mid-1999 and is currently shipping high-volume production based on this technology from four factories around the world, with Fab 11 in New Mexico coming on-line with the process in the first quarter of 2000. Intel's 0.18-micron process technology features structures smaller than 1/500th the thickness of a human hair. Pricing and Availability The Pentium III processor 800 MHz in SECC2 packaging is priced at $851 in 1,000-unit quantities; the 750 MHz version is priced at $803. Both speeds are available now with volume ramping in Q1. ®
Akamai signs AltaVista owner for app delivery scheme
Net acceleration specialist Akamai's plan to provide application delivery services was given a boost last week when it signed AltaVista owner CMGI as its first major customer. CMGI will use Akamai's EdgeAdvantage technology, announced earlier last week, to develop decision-making software which it can then sell on to businesses as a hosted application service. CMGI said it will be aiming its offering at companies seeking targeted advertising, and market research analysis services. In addition to the AltaVista search engine, CMGI owns NaviSite, which provides Web site and application hosting services, NaviNet, which provides corporate branded Internet access services, and free ISP 1stUp.com. NaviSite will be the first to use EdgeAdvantage services, but it's not hard to imagine other divisions ultimately doing so too. EdgeAdvantage isn't due to ship until Q1 2000, when it will be provided across Akamai's network of FreeFlow servers. The FreeFlow system essentially mirrors Internet content -- and, through EdgeAdvantage, applications -- across the globe to bring that content closer to the user for faster access. EdgeAdvantage is based on ICAP (Internet Content Adaptation Protocol), which Akamai is pushing as a Net standard. ®
Yamaha brings digital music service on-line
Yamaha has jumped on the digital music bandwagon, days before Sony launches its Net-based digital music distribution service of its own. Curiously, MidRadio's offerings are provided in none of the usual compression formats - MP3, ATRAC3, RealPlayer G2, Liquid Tracks, etc. - but in MIDI form, the electronic musical instrument encoding system pioneered by Yamaha.
Corel takes on US govt over software procurement
Having scored a $6.7 million success in a case against the Canadian government for not following correct tendering procedures, with the result that Microsoft was awarded a contract for Office, Corel announced on Friday it had filed a suit against the US Department of Labor for its procurement practices. It was filed in the District Court in DC, and wouldn't it be amusing if Judge Jackson (or Sporkin) were assigned the case? Corel is asking for an injunction against the contract (said to be worth $8 million, and which also went to Microsoft) and for the contract to be re-opened to competition. Corel said that it had taken this step "to ensure that the United States government follows its own rules for open and fair procurement". Meanwhile, there is increasing evidence of that Corel is gaining sufficient momentum to become a major player in the office suite and Linux markets. Downloads of Corel Linux from two of the main independent sites in the first month of availability were 158,344, and estimating for the third site, the total downloads have probably now passed 250,000. Still some way to go to catch up with Red Hat, we suspect, but the number of copies in use can be expected to increase significantly once it is included in the cover CD-ROMs of magazines. Three Linux alliance announcements were made last week: Corel is partnering with Bitstream to provide font support for Linux, which translates as Corel licensing Bitstream's Linux font server. Corel has also partnered with S3 to create drivers for S3's 2D and 3D graphics acceleration products -- no big surprise, this, since S3's rivals, Nvidia and 3dfx (the latter in particular), are already pushing hard to court Linux users). The third alliance was with Creative Technology to develop Linux drivers for Creative's audio and video cards. The latter are largely based on Nvidia chips, and drivers for these are already in the works, but SoundBlaster Live! support should be welcomed. Less welcome will be Corel's latest senior executive departures. The company's VP of sales left recently to join an Internet firm in Ottawa, while the respected CFO, Michael O'Reilly, resigned without announcing any future plans, but he was probably vested and enjoying Corel's share price, which did wobble a little after the announcement of his departure, but quickly recovered. Meanwhile, CEO Michael Cowpland remains under a cloud over insider trading allegations. ®
Adobe elevated to $1bn-a-year company…
Adobe made steady progress in its fourth quarter ending 3 December, increasing revenue to $282 million, up from $247 million a year earlier, and from $261 million in the previous quarter. This makes Adobe a billion dollar a year company for the first time, following 1998 revenue of $895 million. Net income for the quarter was up by 94 per cent year-on-year to $97 million, compared with $50.3 million in the year-earlier quarter and $57 million sequentially. Annual net income was $238 million which compares very favourably with last year's $105 million. Adobe has around half-a-billion dollars in cash and short-term investments, nearly double that of last year, so it could be on the acquisition trail before long -- and that shoud fuel those Corel takeover rumours nicely. Adobe is looking to 20 per cent annual growth and a 30 per cent increase in operating profit next year. Just over half of Adobe's revenues come from the Americas, with 29 per cent from Europe. The revenue increase has been coming from its Web content creation and delivery products. Only font-printing software decreased in revenue. A Linux version of the Acrobat Reader for Linux has been available for some time, and last week Adobe announced Acrobat Distiller Server, which does high-volume PostScript to PDF conversion, for the open source OS would ship next quarter. A beta trial of FrameMaker for Linux is now also available. Meanwhile, Charles Geschke, president and co-founder (in 1982) of Adobe, announced he will retire next March, although he will continue as co-chairman with CEO John Warnock, who will take on the presidency role. It does seems strange that American executives feel the need to have three roles, especially when the time has come for potential successors to be given some leadership opportunity. Some financial analysts have been expressing the view that Adobe could be caught short by XML so far as PDF was concerned, but perhaps they did not know that Geschke had pointed out that PDF was more widely distributed than browsers, and that FrameMaker does HTML, XML, PDF conversions. The financial analysts were ten per cent low on their consensus estimate, as reported by First Call, and they probably missed out on the doubling of Adobe's share price over the last year in their quest for Internet carrion. It was the fifth consecutive year that Adobe has beaten the financial analysts: it sounds as they need some mild chastisement. ®
The Register's IT Company of the Millennium Award
A panel of seven sages has decided that the prestigious Register IT Company of the Millennium Award go to International Business Machines (IBM). The judges, meeting in closed session in the Freemason's Arms, close to Vulture Central, unanimously agreed that IBM deserved the award because of the services it had delivered to others. "IBM had a better Windows than Windows with its OS/2 operating system," said one judge. "It selflessly allowed a small company from Seattle to grow larger through allowing OS/2 to enter the city of Desuetude. Another judge was glowing about IBM's services to the PC industry. "Although it wasn't the first company on the market by any means to have a personal computer, it could have had the whole market to itself, especially when corporate America adopted Lotus 1-2-3 as the spreadsheet of choice." However, she added, IBM kindly stepped out of the way and allowed first Compaq, and then Dell to dominate the x86 PC market, and then bought Lotus 1-2-3 when it was a minority piece of software eclipsed by Microsoft Excel. The semiconductor judge cited the performance of IBM Microelectronics as "peerless". He said that although it had own advanced fabrication plants, every bit as good as Intel's, it decided to make x86 processors using a Cyrix design and not use them in its own machines, losing a heaven-sent opportunity to compete with Chipzilla. Special mention was given to IBM's faultless inability to execute its sales strategy properly. One judge observed that for a long period of time, IBM had allowed several different internal sales forces to all compete with one another for the same corporate users. In particular, the decision to sell all of its systems through the distributor channel, then its decision to sell all of its systems direct, then to sell all of its systems through the distributor channel and then to sell all of its systems direct showed an inconsistency that took some beating. The judges recommended that the current CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner, be nominated for the IT CEO of the Millennium prize, which is currently being judged. They felt that Mr Gerstner's contribution of electronic boots, which first gave rise to The Register's Bootnotes column, was a service to all humanity, and would persist well into the new Millennium. The prize, a can of London Pride (kindly donated by Compaq), will be awarded at a conference of the Glitterati on the eve of the next century. ®
Millennium IT staff more valuable than nurses
NHS IT staff stand to earn 20 times more than nurses working on Millennium Eve. Moon Communications, which provides the computer links between hospitals, is offering to pay workers a £250 bonus to stay at home on standby this New Year's Eve. And they will get £300 an hour if they are actually called in to work – a tidy sum of £2,100 for a night's work. Thousands of the country's nurses will get a paltry £106 for the same seven-hour shift - on what may be one of the busiest nights of the year for the Health Service. Even Tube drivers will net £1,500, and the humble GP around £150 per hour, for working through the Millennium, the Sunday Mirror reported. "It says something about the way nurses are valued when people saving lives are paid so little while computer personnel are paid so much," said Josie Irwin, senior employment relations adviser at the Royal College of Nursing. Health union Unison warned: "This could cause staff to quit if they feel they are being unfairly treated." ® The winners and losers in the Millennium wage packet stakes: Financial IT expert - £50,000 Bank executive - £5,000 Party DJ - £4,000 Security guard at the Millennium Dome - £3,000 BBC presenter - £300 Fire fighter - £216 Junior doctor - £4.20 per hour
Book votes man as book of the year
Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos was yesterday named Time magazine's Person of the Year. At 35, the Internet shopping guru is one of the youngest people ever to grab the title – putting him in the company of royalty and revolutionaries. After four years, Amazon.com is worth an estimated £13 billion – more than the combined value of its two biggest competitors Barnes & Noble and Borders. And Bezos' own fortune is said to have already hit the £4 billion mark. The company, which started as an online bookshop but now stocks everything from home improvement to toys, expects sales of £5 billion this year. It has 13.1 million customers and 2,100 staff, but has yet to make a profit. Time managing editor Walter Isaacson said: "Bezos is a person who not only changed the way we do things, but helped pave the way for the future. "E-commerce has been around for four or five years, but 1999 was a time in which e-commerce and dotcom mania reached a peak and really affected all of us," Metro newspaper reported. Bezos said the award was "an incredible and humbling honour". Bezos is the fourth youngest person to be named Time Person of the Year, after Charles Lindbergh, 25 in 1927, Queen Elizabeth II, 26 in 1952, and Martin Luther King, 34 in 1963. ® Related stories: Round one to Amazon in Click-1 fight Outage hits Amazon sites Amazon.com sues Amazon.gr
Compaq developing 'BeOS Lite'-based Net appliances
Compaq is working on a line of Internet appliance products to be powered by Stinger, the cut-down version of the BeOS aimed at such devices. The agreement signed by two companies allows Compaq to distribute Stringer -- which despite statements from National Semiconductor (for its WebPad product) and Compaq has yet to be officially announced -- on "future Internet Appliance computing devices under development in Compaq's Consumer Products Division". Both firms will co-operate on development and marketing. Curiously, Compaq has a built a 'get out of jail free card' into the non-exlusive agreement, which "does not contain any minimum purchase commitments on the part of Compaq", essentially allowing The Big Q to switch over to an alternative OS -- Linux, anyone? -- if it wants to. And it probably will. NatSemi's WebPad project, although flagged by Be as a major Stinger win, also takes in Linux as a reference design OS, so it would be surprising indeed if Compaq's Internet appliance effort didn't run along similar lines. It's notable that today's announcement was made by Be, not Compaq, so Be could easily be playing up its role. ® Related Stories Red Hat to buy Be? Be to bundle Opera Web browser Be preps BeOS-in-Windows 'Trojan Horse'
Red Hat revenues up – losses way up
Leading Linux distributor Red Hat today announced a massively widening loss alongside rather narrower growth in revenue for its third quarter of fiscal 2000, its second quarter since it became a publicly owned company.
Memory stolen at gunpoint was ours, says Dane-Elec
The vanload of memory chips stolen in Surrey earlier this month belonged to memory distributor Dane-Elec, it has emerged. This is the second time the Chessington-based outfit has been targeted by robbers since the summer. In September, Dane-Elec's warehouse was broken into, resulting in £100,000 of modules stolen. The latest robbery saw around £250,000 worth of kit taken on 10 December. According to Alan Stanley, general manager at the distributor, most of the product stolen was notebook memory. The lorry, belonging to courier service Amtrak, contained most of the company's deliveries for the day. There were over 1,000 pieces of memory in the shipment. It was hijacked, and the driver abducted at gunpoint, in Chessington. Stanley said police had so far not told Dane-Elec of any developments in case. And he asked the IT industry to watch out for the kit. He would not give details on the product stolen, but said: "This was not run-of-the mill PC memory. Because of the nature of our business, not all of it was standard memory." Stanley asked for anyone offered cheap, volume notebook memory to get in touch. Information can be given to Dane-Elec on 0181 391 6900 or Kingston CID on 0181 247 4915. ® Related stories: Computer kit grabbed at gunpoint DRAM robberies are back Compaq robbery – five per cent of sales lost
Yank consumer report underscores EU privacy concerns
As electronic privacy negotiations between the US and EU deteriorate further in acrimonious deadlock, one of Uncle Sam's own has tossed a bit of ammunition to the opposition.
Cisco buys into optical communications
Pirelli today announced a strategic alliance with Cisco Systems in optical communications. Cisco will make a 10 per cent equity investment of $100 million in Pirelli's optical components division and submarine optical transmission systems division. The agreement includes the sale of Pirelli's terrestrial optical systems business to Cisco for $2.15 billion, of which about twenty per cent is contingent on revenue targets and other performance milestones. The deal means that Cisco will inherit Pirelli's new bag of optical ticks, including its multi-wavelength optical amplifier system which the company says can amplify up to eight channels at bit rates of up to 2.5 Gbit/S. The package will help to flesh out Cisco's growing stable of networking technologies, in this case with an eye toward high-bandwidth Net access, a goal for which Cisco is of course well geared. Last month, Nortel unveiled its New World routing and IP technologies in the wake of its own optical networking developments. The Cisco/Pirelli deal will be seen by many as a response to Nortel's move by the giant of the networking industry. ® See also: Nortel raises stakes with open IP