30 Nov 1999 Tesco is selling £2 million worth of groceries online each week, the company said today, making it one of the biggest e-supermarkets inn the world. 29 Nov 1999 The Inland Revenue, and Customs and Excise, are to let people file their tax return online, the Government said today. The first electronic submissions are expected to be made during 2000/2001 and the IR also plans to offer discounts on tax returns filed over the Internet. Further details will be announced in Budget 2000. Ex-Creation records boss Alan McGee, Richer Sounds supremo Julian Richer, Boomtown Rat Sir Bob Geldof, and Virgin's Richard Branson have ploughed cash into independent music portal, clickmusic.co.uk. Exactly how much they've shelled out is being kept under wraps. AIM-listed Startit.com is set to raise £828,250 after it was approached by an anonymous institution keen to subscribe to 6,000,000 new 1p ordinary shares at 14.5p per share. Affinity Internet Holdings Plc -- the Internet and telecoms company -- has entered into a three-year joint marketing agreement with COLT Telecommunications to offer voice, data and Internet services. Affinity has also acquired GamesZone from ICL for an undisclosed sum. Booksellers, BOL, has appointed Robert Nichols director of books after the exec jumped ship from rival W H Smith Online. Freeserve books deal with WH Smith Consumers reject clothes shopping online Hopeless: M&S dips toe into e-commerce water Show me the money, Register tells ISP 26 Nov 1999 eVetsment has made a rash of new appointments following its decision in the summer to concentrate its investment activities on Internet and e-commerce businesses. Christopher Roberts has been appointed CE, Jackie Donnelly takes over as executive director and Adrian Graham becomes the new FD. Tom Vaughan and John Drinkwater become non-executive directors. US shopping mall bans the Net ThreeW.net -- which was launched in October 1999 to invest in Internet companies -- has conditionally agreed to acquire Smith Directories Limited for £11.1 million. Smith Directories is a private company which provides access to on-line business-to-business directories of suppliers of goods and services. It also allows users to conduct business on the Net. The deal was made up of £600,000 cash offer with the balance comprising threeW.net shares valued at 125p. Cambury Investments PLC has changed its name to e-capital investments plc as part of the company's switch in investment strategy to focus on companies in the Internet and e-commerce sectors. 25 Nov 1999 Online auctioneers, QXL.com plc, announced today that Francois Tison has resigned as a non-executive director of the company. Sherland Limited has reduced its stake in ISP Voss Net to 6.85 per cent after selling 210,000 shares in the company. 3i -- the VC specialists -- claims it's invested £1.15 billion in hi-tech companies. 24 Nov 1999 New media content providers, 365 Corporation plc has upped its guide price to between 150p and 160p. Earlier this month it suggested a price guide of 135p to 150p when it published its prospectus detailing its bid to seek a listing on the London Stock Exchange. Inktomi Corp is to provide mobile phone operators, Orange, with search technology for its portal, orange.net. Details surrounding the deal were not released. GlobalNet Financial.Com -- the online financial news outfit -- has opted to raise £20 million on AIM because it claims Easdaq would have taken too long, This is London reported. 23 Nov 1999 EMI Group reported an increase in sales of 8.7 per cent to £1,080.1million and a 71.6 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to £86.5m, the company said today. Internet and new media initiatives contributed £24.8m of licensing income following a deal with musicmaker.com. The company also said it was poised to "exploit the power of the Internet and the rapid development of digital technology, whichever direction they may take" and that it was "reinvesting in new media". British Web services company, Freecom.net, has been valued at £48.75 million after the placing of shares prior to listing on AIM was oversubscribed 20 times. The placing of 15,384,615 ordinary shares at 130p per share raised £20 million before expenses. The placing price was outside the original range of 97 – 120p stated in the company’s prospectus. Flextech Interactive, the Internet and e-commerce division of media group Flextech plc, has agreed to buy a controlling stake in Way Ahead, Britain's leading rock and pop ticketing agency. Flextech is paying £7.2million for a 77.5 per cent stake in Way Ahead, the company said today. 22 Nov 1999 Online information guide, Scoot.co.uk, has taken its first step into the US market following an agreement with BBCAmerica.com. Scoot's UK classified listings will now be available at www.bbcamerica.com. Internet recruitment company, Internet Times PLC, confirmed today that its offer for subscription raised £1.6 million. According to AFX, the offer was "substantially oversubscribed". 19 Nov 1999 Bol locks horns with online CD sellers Open for business today:The Sotheby's Amazon love in 18 Nov 1999 Electronics giants, fashion houses bar online discounting Online banking hits the right note 17 Nov 1999 British e-tailing portal, ShopSmart, has acquired Enterprise City, the UK web store directory and site evaluation service for an undisclosed sum. Under the terms of the agreement, Enterprise City's content is to be incorporated into the ShopSmart site. It's founder, Adey Merrick is to join ShopSmart as content manager. On-the-move traffic information service, Trafficmaster, is to raise £65.9million to fund its expansion into Europe. It will also provide traffic information in Britain next year via the Web and mobile phones thanks to a tie up with French technology company, Webraska, according to the FT. 16 Nov 1999 Energis has poached David Wickham, CE of Cable & Wireless GlobalNetwork, to be its new COO. He will take up the position next month. Bookmaker, Coral, acquired Gibraltar-based betting outfit Eurobet yesterday. Details of the purchase were not released. The acquisition will help Coral establish tax-free betting for its customers, the FT said. There's speculation that online information outfit, Dialog, could become the target of a take-over, the Daily Telegraph reported today. FT.com has teamed up with US financial Web site, CBS.Marketwatch.com, as part of the pink paper's growing presence online. The FT will retain a 60 per cent stake in the JV.
Sources only a fag* paper away from Hewlett Packard have revealed a refresh of HP Pavilion PCs due any day now. One of the machines HP will introduce uses the AMD K6-II, while another uses the brand new Celeron 533MHz part which Intel is expected to announce today, a week ahead of the date we predicted last century. The HP Pavilions include five mini towers and a tower machine, and the last box will come with an 800MHz Intel Pentium III processor. The 6640C Pavilion, which uses the K6-II 500MHz part, will cost $950, and comes with 64MB of memory, a 15GB hard drive, and a CD-RW with 11MB of shared VRAM. The 8650C mini tower uses the new Celeron 533MHz part, also has 64MB of memory, a 20GB hard drive, and comes with DVD and CD-RW, costing a modest $1,100. The 8660C mini tower uses a Pentium III 533 part with the 133MHz system bus, includes DVD and CD-RW, a 20GB hard drive, 11MB of shared VRAM and will cost $1,500. Its 600MHz twin, the 8670C, costs $1,700 and has a 30GB hard drive, and 8MB of VRAM, as well as a DVD drive and CD-RW. The 9680C mini tower uses a 650MHz Pentium III, will cost $2,000, has a 40GB hard drive, DVD and CD-RW. The high end 9690 Pavilion will use the Intel 800MHz Pentium III (how many of those are around), and again will come with DVD and CD-RW. The exact hard drive size is, so far, unclear. That machine will cost $2,600. HP was unavailable for comment at press time. Meanwhile, we have had further news of the freezing Presario story we broke over the Yule break. A source at Circuit City in the US said: "We, too, experienced freezups with the computers on the floor. We also had an unusually high return rate on the 5838 model. "We found that the problem was eliminated when the virus detection software was disabled. Two of the machines (models 5838 and 5868) have functioned without problems for several days at a time (our italics) without rebooting. Obviously no-one should have to do that, but that fact indicates to me a software fix should be possible." Compaq is replacing its 5800 range with a new range catchily titled the 7000 series. ® * A fag is UK slang for a cigarette. See also Last .25 Celeron slated for 10 January Compaq favours AMD K6-II for mobile range Compaq AMD 7XXX series to have Firewire support Frozen Presarios found in Compaq support glacier
Rumours that AMD's K6-III is destined for the chip gulag have been scotched by the company today. Instead, AMD will roll out new variants of the K6-III during this year and will continue to develop the product, a representative of the firm has confirmed. But AMD has acknowledged that the part is not as popular in the retail market as either the K6-II or the Athlon. The representative said: "There will be variants of the K6-III well into this year. The K6-IIs have always been popular in retail products and we've yielded that microprocessor to higher speeds." He said that the K6-III continued to be successful for notebook PCs because of its integrated Level Two cache. The same reason, he said, made the K6-III popular for business applications. ®
Samsung yesterday said it had finished work on a 288Mb DRAM chip based on the Direct Rambus format. The South Korean manufacturer announced plans to start mass production of the semiconductor this month. It aims to churn out two million units of the RDRAM component, which is based on 0.17-micron technology, per month, the Korea Herald reported. Samsung also said it had developed a 576MB Rambus in-line memory module (RIMM) using 16 288Mb RDRAM chips. The company did not give a start date for volume manufacture of the RIMMs or pricing details on the semiconductors or modules. But Samsung said it aimed to speed up production of Rambus products in general and expected Rambus to account for around half the DRAM market by 2002. The new chip technology was said to be able to draw a pattern measuring one-600th of the width of a human hair. ® Related stories Intel snubs Rambus ink Samsung to spend $3 billion on Rambus boost Rambus Intel contract set to expire
The Multimedia Corporation has bought a 6.8 per cent stake in WeddingGuideUK.com, "the leading UK website for engaged couples and newlyweds" for £500,000. This includes the acquisition of loan stock, so presumably it will be repaid some of this money (or convert to equity at a later stage). Mike Barratt, the founder and "UK wedding etiquette expert", remains as a significant shareholder and will continue to run the business. WeddingGuideUK.com made a "small profit in the year to 31 March 1999 and had net assets of approximately £12,000 as of that date". Which is not very much, is it? Set up in October 1996, WeddingGuideUK.com "has achieved an outstanding growth record as a result of its very high levels of on-line and off-line customer support and strong editorial content. In March 1999, WeddingGuideUK.com had audited ABCe page impressions of 1.2m. A respectable figure, but hardly earth-shattering. There is of course, a potential ecommerce play here, as Multimedia Corporation points out. But that's going to cost a lot of money. Multimedia Corporation is buying the WeddingGuide UK stake through its £9.5m Puma II fund. ®
A proposed French law adopting free and/or open source software as the official state standard has been rewritten and tightened up, following the French Senate's pioneering experiment with electronic discussion. The new text, originally proposed as loi 495 but now retagged 117, cleans up terminology, but perhaps the most intriguing new aspect is the proposal to establish L'Agence du Logiciel Libre (the Free Software Agency) to oversee the process of switching and standardisation. The law was proposed last year by French senators Pierre Laffitte and René Trégouët, and since then has been debated in a forum on the French Senate's website. Its specific purpose is to help kick-start an electronic society in France by defining standards, compelling state agencies to make services and information available electronically and allowing the general population free access to them via the web. But in the view of the senators this can best be facilitated by the adoption of open, free software that can be modified freely. The original text however contained something of a blooper, specifying "software free of rights and for which the source code is available" as the standard to be adopted by central government, local government and state agencies. The "free of rights" wording would have restricted the software that could be used drastically, while requiring that "the source code is available" although seeming to point towards open source, didn't quite get there. Some of the wording changes derive from a meeting between Richard Stallman, Frederic Couchet of APRIL (Association pour la Promotion et la Recherche en Informatique Libre) and senator Laffitte. Rather than "free of rights" we're now talking about software "the use and modification of which are free," covering a fairly broad territory. Linguistically though the law remains delicately poised; Stallman sees its genesis as a victory for the free software movement, and at the time of our original reports was determined to stop it being seen as one for open source. If it is passed, however, it still creates a major opportunity for open source, and for free software in general. The law doesn't use the language "source ouverte," or "L'Open Source" (the latter, although apparently fairly common in France, wouldn't have made it to the statute books anyway), referring instead to "source disponible," i.e. available. This possibly avoids the mention of "open source," one of Stallman's hot buttons, but source disponible/available source is commonly used in descriptions of open source software, so it's not necessarily loaded. "Logiciels libres" meanwhile doesn't have quite the same resonance in French as in English, because French has two equivalents of free, "libre" as in non-captive, and "gratuit" as in no charge. It's perhaps also significant that "logiciels libres" didn't figure in the original text at all. While it does show up in the new text, the law still concentrates on how the system will work rather than getting itself too involved in religious wars. L'Agence du Logiciel Libre is however far more interesting than arguments about angels, pinheads and "why do those open source bastards always end up getting the credit?" It is intended to supervise the implementation of the law, determine the software whose use is permitted, and to determine the areas where applications qualifying under the law aren't available (and hence where ordinary commercial software will still be permitted). If it flies, it will be a powerful agency that will determine the whole of France's IT policy and its implementation. But the decisions it makes will be discussed on the web first, which means that the senators are now proposing that France's switchover to free software will in itself come via a continuing online review process. As citizens, geeks, agency and government clash on the web we foresee the chilling possibility of the whole of France turning into some kind of nightmare version of Slashdot... ®
Yasuo Nishiguchi, the president of Kyocera Japan, has snapped up Qualcomm's terrestrial based division -- the CDMA people -- for a vast amount of money which the company will not disclose. Kyocera is one of the biggest mobile phone manufacturers in Japan, and found itself associated with the ill-fated Iridium venture last year. Said Mr Nishiguchi: "As a result of the acquisition, Kyocera Group will be in a position to establish a system with the world's highest quality, covering all aspects of development, design, sales and marketing and after sales service in the growing business segment of CDMA portable phones. Kyocera Group will consequently possess bases in the United States, in addition to Japan and Korea, where we already operate CDMA phone business." Qualcomm was one of the most highly valued shares on Wall Street, last week, as reported here, last week. Mr Nishiguchi declined to comment on Kyocera's previous investment in Iridium, as reported last year. ® See also Japanese coverage from The Register Kyocera rejigs management to reverse situation Iridium gets 60 day reprieve Iridium CEO breaks orbit
Another source at a major US retailer has written The Register to confirm, and complain about the Presario 5800 freeze-up we reported last week. A source at Staples US said there was around a 25 per cent return rate on the Presario 5800 series at stores throughout the US. Most PC companies that ship systems expect between a one to five per cent return rate -- at most. The retailer CEOs have infuriated bosses at Compaq, we can reveal, causing questions to be pointed directly at Mike Capellas, fresh at the company as its CEO, as to how and why the screw-up has occurred. Retail shops hate returns. Technical support personnel have done their utmost to fix the problems during the Christmas period. According to the Staples source, who confirms other reports from both Circuit City and Frys, the freeze up problem was compounded by Compaq also shipping Western Digital hard drives which fell far short of expectations. The Staples source added that Compaq was investigating the latest reports of hard drive fatigue. And, in a twist to our previous stories, Staples said it too will be carrying the new Compaq 7XXX family -- but will undercut its competitors by $100 per system. Compaq price drops will start two days after St Valentine's Day, which our 1999 calendar tells us is on the 14th of February. Compaq Houston was still not answering our calls, at press time. ®
Those nice folk down at London's Millennium Dome have taken time out from sweeping up the remains of last week's mega-party to end the confusion over the countdown on the Dome 2000 Web site. We had already reported on the site's clock which was used - back in 1999 - to count down to the year 2000. Now it claims there are only 362 days left… but to what? A spokeswoman for the Dome said that it was a countdown for when the multi-million pound educational attraction closes later this year. Ahh, we suspected as much. Unfortunately, for anyone accessing the site such a distinction is as clear as a pint of cloudy English beer. At least this latest faux pas is not the result of some mythical bug that is supposed to have crippled mankind at the end of the 20th Century. ®
The British government's latest madcap scheme to sort out the country's transportation has been all over the press here today. The powers, in their infinite wisdom, have been part-funding a project to build satellite-controlled speed regulators that stop cars exceeding the limit. The most disturbing thing about the scheme is that, although there's no certainty it will go ahead, quite a number of people seem to think it's a good idea. It's currently being researched at Leeds University in conjunction with the Motor Industry Research Association, and is intended to work as follows. Cars get compulsory built-in electronics that use global positioning satellites to pinpoint the vehicle's location. This is then compared to an on-board digital roadmap which determines the speed the car should be travelling at. Then, if the car's going faster than this, petrol flow is cut to slow it down. Result - nobody gets to speed ever again. The devices are expected to cost around £200 and to be made compulsory over a period of about ten years. But it's fairly largely bonkers, isn't it children? For starters they're doing it all wrong, and there are big holes in the way they're doing it. The speed map of the UK's roads could probably be kept down to a reasonable size, as it wouldn't need any more detail than precise road sections and their relevant limits. So it's really a database rather than a map. But as somewhere in the UK every day a road and its limit changes, the system also needs a regular update mechanism. British motorists however do already have access to traffic information services that use a combination of GPS and cellular, and it would probably make more sense to build on this to implement the service. Or alternatively, roads themselves could be fitted with limit broadcasters (Bluetooth, anyone?) which the cars could then act on without satellites or servers needing to be involved. Here's another problem to be going on with though - how do you use petrol flow to regulate the speed of a particular car? It'll change depending on innumerable factors, so it can only work with vehicles that are already so heavily computerised they've got most of the necessary kit already built-in, or if you fit a feedback device that measures the speed and passes it on to the regulator in order to allow fine-tuning. Petrol flow and feedback device would however be relatively simple to bypass, and while it would be suicidal to break the system sufficiently for you to be the only one doing 90mph when everybody else was doing 70, would it be handy to be doing 75? Which might help you out with another difficulty that occurs to us. Say you're travelling on a single carriage road with two-way traffic. The limit is 70, and you come up behind a truck doing 68. Your relative speed on overtaking is therefore 2mph, so in order to cover, say the 100 (relative) yards to overtake the truck you would have to be on the opposite side of the road, facing oncoming traffic, for getting on for two minutes. During this time you would have travelled rather more than a mile (relative to the Earth, as opposed to the truck). As few roads in the UK are empty enough or straight enough for anybody to be able to do this, overtaking will become impossible/fatal, and the government will no doubt then begin scratching heads about why the number of head-on collisions has been climbing... ®
Chip maker TSMC-Acer Manufacturing Corporation (TASMC) has confirmed it is to merge with chip foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). The consolidation with Acer's chip division will take place on 30 June, when TASMC will be absorbed into TSMC at an exchange ratio of 6-to-1 of TASMC to TSMC. The move follows a deal last June, when TSMC bought 30 per cent of Acer Semiconductor Manufacturing Inc (ASMI) from Acer Group, renaming the facility TASMC. At the time, Acer Group continued to be the major shareholder in TASMC, but TSMC effectively took over management of the foundry. Acer will still be one of the major shareholders in TSMC after the merger, Taiwan's Eurotrade reported. "The Acer Group's competitive advantages lie in its brand management strength, extensive global sales and marketing network, and system implementation and IC design," said Acer Group chairman and CEO Stan Shih. "After the merger between TSMC and TASMC, Acer can concentrate on aggressively developing its PC, peripherals and key components business and exploring opportunities in intellectual property and digital service. "Also, Acer will focus on reinforcing its IC design innovation to create new market demands for IC products." Shih had previously expressed his desire to rid Acer Group of its chip making arm. ® See also: Acer Semi to merge with TSMC?
VA Linux Systems will take its SourceForge open source software foundry out of beta and into the commercial mainstream later this month. SourceForge is essentially a large-scale distributed project management system that allows open source development team leaders to juggle the contributions of staffers and external programmers and ensure everyone is kept up to date. Full-scale open source efforts will be hosted free of charge, but SourceForge is also available to more corporate-led commercial distributed development projects for a fee VA has to make this pay somehow; it has that huge stock price to justify, after all. Commercial projects will be billed between $600 and $1000 per user. The benefits for VA's bottom line aside, SourceForge is a canny idea, and represents the kind of project management service that will be essential if open source development is to become a mainstream programming technique. Managing development contributions from everyone and their dog is no mean feat, particularly when commercial release schedules and professional quality control requirements become an issue. VA also sees SourceForge as becoming Linux users' and developers' one-stop shop for Linux and open source software. As the company's president and CEO, Larry Augustin, put it: "There needs to be a place where everyone can go and get every release of Linux and other projects. We view it as a way to maintain the relationship with the community." And, indeed, a way of moving beyond more basic Linux distribution business model into a more portal-style approach, much as Red Hat is already doing with its website with the addition of related offerings such as online magazine WideOpen. Such schemes subtly promote brand over product, make it easier for companies to differentiate themselves (tricky, when your products are as near as damnit identical) and provide access to that lovely ad revenue stream. We expect other Linux companies - particularly those with designs on the IT mainstream - to launch similar offerings. VA has a significant head-start, however. Over 3000 developers signed up during the SourceForge site's first seven weeks of beta testing, and the company claims the number of registered developers is growing by around 25 per cent a week. That should increase further when VA launches the site officially around the middle of this month with a major marketing drive. ®
E-business kit maker AppNet has made a deal with MCI Worldcom to deliver what it calls "end-to-end e-business solutions" to MCI business customers, the company announced today. MCI will re-sell AppNet's numerous Net services under its own name to its own customers, much to the delight of AppNet, which is naturally eager to expand its customer base. A sale by any other name is still money in the bank, after all. The deal is estimated to be worth $30 million in targeted sales over the next 18 months. AppNet provides interactive marketing design, advert ROI tracking, site and ad hosting, and Web-site design services, all of which are carried out in-house. The company claims that its advert tracking service, AdMaximize, generates the most comprehensive and accurate data available. We had a look at the product and can report that it does look mighty impressive - to us, anyway. Categories included such novelties as confirmed page impressions (those that load fully), and cached impressions for tracking of repeat visitors. AppNet's customers include Sprint, Baxter Healthcare, Dial, Ford, Ralston Purina, Hyundai, multex.com, Value America, UNICEF, K·B Toys, NEC, and Unilever. The company will be announcing deals with several other high-profile customers in the coming weeks, Levin said. ®