31st > January > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Kinder, gentler NSA admits human frailties

An admission by the US National Security Agency (NSA) that its computer networks were crippled for three days last week is a puzzling development for an organisation normally loath to admit so much as its own existence. Nevertheless, the agency issued a press release on Saturday admitting that its systems were down for three days, but hastening to add that they had since been repaired satisfactorily. The breakdown "did not affect intelligence collection, but did affect the processing of intelligence" at the NSA's Fort Meade, Maryland headquarters, the agency said. In other words, they were for a while unable to digest even a minute portion of the gargantuan torrents of data that some critics say have been overwhelming them and making them a paper tiger. Such a frank admission, coming as it does on the heels of a prior confession regarding dysfunctional spy satellites over the New Year's holiday (itself unprecedented), tempts one to foresee a trend here. But what might it mean? We think part of the answer is simple: we think the NSA is getting hip to public relations. And high time, too. It's been a rough twelve months for the agency. In addition to suffering routine, frantic denunciations by the usual gaggle of conspiracy paranoiacs, the legendary super-spooks have lately been ridiculed in the press over numerous suspected failures, threatened with oversight by Congress, sued by privacy advocates, and booed by Big Business which resents the software and technology export controls which the NSA helps to develop. It is perhaps the threat of Congressional oversight that offers the greatest inspiration for the NSA to smarten its image. It may be too little too late, however; Congress has been decidedly snippy with the agency since NSA officials snubbed the House Intelligence Committee last year. Further inspiration may be coming from the White House, which appears to be pressuring numerous military and quasi-military groups to come clean on a number of embarrassing open secrets. We note for example that Energy Secretary Bill Richardson had a little revelation of his own this weekend, conceding for the first time what everyone with an ounce of common sense has always known, namely that workers in the nuclear energy and weapons industries die younger than the rest of us, and far more often of cancer. The Clinton Administration will at a minimum have approved these disclosures, and more likely have ordered them either directly, or indirectly as part of some sunshine policy. The strategy may be to elevate the agencies' credibility with a bit of old-fashioned humility and self-examination, and so boost their standing in the arena of public opinion. If so, this may be just the beginning of a slew of military and quasi-military agencies coming forward to show us just how human and vulnerable they really are. We are not looking forward to it. ®
The Register breaking news

System builders take brunt of Intel PIII shortages

The shortage of Pentium III microprocessors is set to hit system builders worldwide, as more distributors report their February backlog of box processors is being slashed and burnt. Last week, we reported that a major European distributor complained bitterly that it had been told 13,000 boxed units of Pentium IIIs that it expected in February had been cut. And now further confirmation has come from the US, which reports that giant distie Avnet had said supplies of Pentium IIIs will be tight during the entire quarter, according to US publication Electronic Buyers' News. System builders generally buy their microprocessors in boxed units, while PC manufacturers use a scheme called Ship Direct to order microprocessors in trays from Intel. While PC manufacturers we have talked to suggest that they are receiving allocations of their microprocessors, they add that supplies are not as free flowing as they would like. But the chips, whether in trays or in boxed units with the Intel logo, are the same parts, suggesting that the Intel PC customers are being fed while the channel partners are being starved. Intel never breaks out figures for which microprocessors go through its channel partners and which through its PC manufacturing customers, although in some territories it is suspected that system builders account for the lion's share of Intel business. ® Intel cancels Pentium III supplies for February
The Register breaking news

Bill Gates shot my Shark, says Ellison (again)

Oracle boss Larry Ellison has repeated claims that Bill Gates personally intervened to stop Digital's development of an NC, codenamed Shark. Answering a question at Upside's Showcase in Palm Springs, Ellison said that the Network Computer concept hadn't taken off because Bill Gates called Bob Palmer, then Digital CEO, and told him not to make them. Ellison has apparently been telling people this is the first time he's said this in public, but maybe this means that his view of "public" is different from most people's. In September 1998 he and a number of former Digital employees spoke to the New York Times (privately and separately, presumably) about the cancellation of Shark. According to the Digital guys Shark, which had been a joint project with Oracle, was cancelled in response to pressure put on Palmer by Gates, while Ellison then said that Palmer wouldn't tell him why the project had been canned. So he didn't quite say it then, but he seems to have hinted fairly heavily. Even so, Ellison coming up with the death of Shark at Bill Gates' behest as the reason why the whole NC concept failed to take off is a little extreme. At the time Shark was pulled it seems to have been pretty advanced in development, and there was a prospect of sales of around 500,000 of them in China. But it was a prospect, not a promise, and a lot of other manufacturers' NCs didn't take off either. Did Bill call all of them, Larry? ® See also: Gates forced Digital to kill NC, says Ellison
The Register breaking news

Psion, Motorola to co-develop Symbian Internet devices

Motorola has finally made a public commitment to developing devices based on Symbian's EPOC. Psion today revealed that it has signed an agreement with Motorola to co-develop a range of mobile Internet access devices, for launch in the first half of 2001. Although both companies are founder shareholders of Symbian (Motorola was slightly late, but we'll stretch the point), Motorola has been slow in getting down to the specifics of devices using Symbian technology, while the other two founders, Nokia and Ericsson, have seemed somewhat more forward-looking. Motorola of course has the disadvantage of having its own semiconductor business to support, and Symbian's ARM platform is a rival to this. But in joining Symbian the company was tacitly admitting that it couldn't go it alone, and sooner or later its announcement of a Symbian product roadmap was inevitable. But is it later? If the company actually ships in first half 2001 (a big if) it quite possibly won't have missed much. Nokia and Ericsson both have stuff to strut before that, but the wonderful world of wireless Internet isn't really quite as close as some people think. WAP-enabled phones aren't shipping in volume yet, while WAP itself is going to remain a moving target for most of this year. Meanwhile GPRS (General Packet Radio System), which will be the other great wireless Internet enabler (for GSM territories), will only start deployment from the middle of this year. So from where we're sitting, 2001 doesn't look that late at all. ®
The Register breaking news

Camino chipset poses new lamps for old question

Intel is keeping its card close to its corporate chest on when it will roll out its Solano II chipset, following the news last week that it will produce a combined DIMM-RIMM i820 in the very new future. Solano II (i815) is designed to support PC-133 memory, and according to our information will also have additional AGP4X facilities. Samples of Solano II have been with PC manufacturers for some weeks now, but it is unclear, given the new version of Camino, when Intel will roll out the chipset. It is also unclear how Intel will address the question of whether people should wait for the fresh revision of i820 or order machines using the existing two versions of the Camino chipset. The new rev of the i820 manages to combined both PC-100 memory and Rambus memory on the same motherboard. The existing version comes in two flavours -- one for synchronous PC-100 memory, and the other for Rambus memory. Intel said it will not comment on unannounced products. ® See also Fresh i820 chipset close to completion
The Register breaking news

Full CTS 2000 coverage

Register coverage from CTS 2000 Inside-IT opens channel portal Maxdata goes on a VAR hunt MS unveils Win2K anti-piracy tools Avnet plans European invasion
The Register breaking news

CTS 2001 already 50% booked

The build up to the Computer Trade Show 2000 may have created a lot of channel flannel, but organisers iMark have already filled nearly half of next year's floor space with exhibitor bookings. Among those making announcements at CTS 2000 were Fujitsu Siemens, which has signed up Hampshire distributor AGP to sell its motherboards in the UK. The company is offering the D1107, D1127, D1170 and D1171 models. Compaq said it was backing online trading start-up Hyporium. The two have signed a deal to let Big Q's accredited resellers use the service – which promises to turn them into eResellers – without charge for one year. On Wednesday, Hyperchannel, owner of Hyporium, netted $24 million in funding from GE Capital. Also spotted around the show was Chris Walmsley, of Memsolve fame, who was sporting a new job badge. The former Memsolve sales and marketing manager, who left the distributor for rival Logitek last May, has moved to LG International. Walmsley is now UK sales manager for the Korean vendor. He will be starting a distribution and OEM direct channel for the company's monitors and MP3 players at the end of this month. CTS organisers, iMark Communications, said they were pleased with the show and had already optioned 45 per cent of next year's floor space. Among exhibitors signed up for next year were Ingram Micro, Microtronica, Maxdata, Datrontech and Microtronica. In response to the outcry at price hikes from the previous year, CTS 2001 will cost £249 per square metre, around £50 cheaper than this year. According to Jon Gibson, iMark portfolio director, this year's show had 6,600 pre-registered visitors, compared to 4,300 in 1999. But he was unable to say how many of these were trade. iMark plans to place a stand size restriction of 100 square metres for the next show to allow for more smaller companies to come on board. This year's biggest stand was Avnet's 170 square metres. Next year will also see more educational seminars for trade visitors, such as those this year from Microsoft and Dabs Direct. ® Related stories: Typhoon hits Logitek in wake of Osmosis fallout Memsolve calls in receiver The channel is revolting – against CTS prices To see other stories from CTS 2000, click here
The Register breaking news

Sega plans high-speed cable TV Dreamcast Net access

An a belated attempt to catch up with rival Sony, Sega is partnering with 30 Japanese cable TV companies to bring broadband Net access to its Dreamcast games console. According to reports in Japanese business paper the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the 30 cable companies -- who together cover 70 per cent of Japan's cable TV viewers, in some seven million homes -- will resell Dreamcast/cable modem combos. Sega will provide cable customers with online games and a videophone service. Cable-based Dreamcast customers will be charged a fixed monthly fee for unlimited Net access, with connections up to 30 times faster than the Dreamcast's built in 56kbps modem can provide. The cable TV companies will be begin selling Dreamcast in April. That's one month after Sony's PlayStation 2 goes on sale in Japan, and this is really what this is all about. While Sega has promoted Dreamcast as a games console with Net access, Sony has long said it intends PlayStation 2 to be more than that. It wants to see the console as the interface between the Internet, home entertainment systems and their owners. In essence, it's the epitome of the information appliance concept. Sony's plan calls for the modem-equipped PlayStation 2 to be eventually hooked up to broadband Net access systems, ranging from satellite-based links to high-speed land line and mobile cellular connections. Then, so the plan goes, Sony can capitalise on PlayStation 2 to sell people digital music and movies, video-on-demand fashion. Clearly, Sega is beginning to wonder if it shouldn't be in the same game, and while Nihon Keizai Shimbun claims the companies strategy will also involve supplying digital media through the cable TV links, it's not certain when this will take place. More to the point, Sega needs something -- anything -- to help it compete with the mighty zillion dollar launch campaign that Sony has lined up to push PlayStation 2. Faster Net access is clearly the best it can do. ®
The Register breaking news

IT exec left brain dead in bar attack

A Silicon Valley entrepreneur was beaten unconscious and left for dead in a Beijing karaoke bar just hours after attending an IT conference in the city. Steven Leung was declared brain dead after being found slumped over a table in the An Ka bar and dance hall in downtown Beijing. Leung, a top exec at chip maker Scenix and telecomms company Emvix, was being treated in a Hong Kong hospital, the San Jose Mercury News reported. But details of the attack remained a mystery to Leung's family, who said they had received little information from the Chinese authorities. The father of three had arrived in the city on 13 January to attend the conference organised by the Chinese Ministry of Information Industries. No one seemed to understand how Leung ended up in the An Ka on 18 January. According to his wife, Melody Leung, "Steven doesn't drink and he isn't known to go to karaoke bars". It is not even apparent how many hours elapsed between the attack and Leung being rushed to hospital. But he was declared brain-dead after an emergency operation. His wife said: "This is so horrible and we want answers to what happened." ®
The Register breaking news

Palm sets sights on $368 million (minimum) IPO

Palm Computing gave out a little more information on its upcoming IPO on Friday when it made its latest filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the filing, Palm's parent, 3Com, intends to issue 23 million shares in its subsidiary, previously revealed to amount to around four per cent of the company. The shares will be priced between $14 and $16, the latter resulting in a valuation of $368 million. Given how the share price is likely to rise once the stock goes on sale, we expect that valuation is going to increase by a very healthy margin indeed. The filing says Palm will use its IPO proceeds to fund a dividend payment, debt repayments to 3Com, and increased spending on its own infrastructure, R&D and marketing. All of which will leave 3Com, which will be left with just over 93 per cent of Palm, looking very healthy indeed -- it will end up with $8.57 billion on paper, assuming Palm's shares stay at $16. However, 3Com still plans to offer the bulk of its stake to 3Com shareholders six months from the IPO. Nokia, AOL and Motorola, all of whom have small stakes in Palm, will end up with $84.8 million, $84.8 million and $68.4 million, respectively. Again, that's assuming the shares stay at $16. In total all this will leave Palm with a market cap. of $9.1 billion, almost two-thirds of 3Com's $15.9 billion market cap. ® Related Stories Colour Palm IIIc to ship 20 February -- Best Buy Palm loses ground to WinCE over Xmas Xerox patent action over Palm Pilot casts cloud on IPO Apple Palm-based PDA release real soon now
The Register breaking news

How Rambus lost the PC memory war

Analysis You would expect Hyundai's controversial statement that DDR will hog the memory market for servers this year, followed by an estimate from Semico that Rambus memory will hold only a tiny fraction of the market by the year 2003, would dent its share price. But there's no accounting for investors, is there? On Friday Rambus Ink (RMBS) dropped a couple of bucks to close at $74.5625, but despite the barrage of bad press RMBS has had, it still seems it's hanging on in there. (By the way, thank goodness the SEC has decided that all share prices must be shown in decimals by July 3rd this year -- fractions in HTML are a nightmare). When licensees of Rambus technology, such as Memory Corporation, say that the memory "standard" is dead, we can suppose that their opinion is shared by many other of the licensees, save those, like Samsung, which still seem to be equivocating on the future of the platform. Hyundai, despite sweeteners to produce more RIMMs, just didn't want to go for it. Even staunch Rambus friend Intel seems to have realised that it must abandon this memory technology to its fate. The recent news that it will develop an i820 chipset that combines both RIMMs and DIMMs on one planar is a half-hearted concession to its former best buddy. Soon after the new improved i820 ships in machines, we expect Intel to introduce its PC-133 Solano chipset -- another nail in the coffin. If RMBS for the PC platform is as dead as these people are suggesting, then the future for the company seems bleak indeed. The Sony PlayStation II,which is still on the starting blocks, will use Rambus memory but there's no evidence, and in fact there's a lot of evidence to the contrary, that PC manufacturers are going to sit around and wait for the Sony Corp to steal all their business. But, as the saying goes, although DDR may be "roses, roses" at the moment, what is sure that as day follows night, there will be "thorns, thorns" too. It's all about pins, really. Anyone remember a pincushion? DIMMs have 168, RIMMs have 184 and DDR-II will have over 200. What happens, for example, when DDR-2 makes an appearance? It will have a different number of pins to SDRAM , so forget all that compatibility stuff with existing technology. However, what it won't have is a whacking licence fee that the memory manufacturers have to pay Rambus Ink, but the JEDEC steering committee to agree a standard. Jedec, Jedi? It's all going far too far. Next thing, someone will be suggesting that AMD's Dresden fab is called Deathstar. ® SEC orders Security Markets to Start Trading in Decimals
The Register breaking news

MS enforces Win2k TS licensing via Web ‘Clearinghouse’

A new, largely unnoticed feature of Windows 2000 takes control of client licensing out of the hands of network administrators, and transfers it to Microsoft. The new system only applies to client licensing within Terminal Services for Windows 2000, but as Microsoft gets deeper into the application rental/services business, it provides a glimpse of the shape of Microsoft licensing to come. Terminal Services for Win2k includes Terminal Services License Management (TSLM), which is a mechanism for ensuring that any device initiating a Win2k Terminal Services session has a Win2k licence or a CAL (Client Access License). This is the case for non-Microsoft clients as well as for Microsoft ones. As Microsoft puts it, prior to Win2k "management and assignment of CALs was left up to the system administrator, which led to the difficult problem of tracking purchased CALs against deployed devices." Microsoft is therefore making it easier for administrators by relieving them of this irksome burden, and automating it through the grandly-titled Microsoft Certificate Authority & License Clearinghouse. We can't help noting, however, that system administrators still have to deal with CAL-tracking in non-Terminal Services scenarios - for now? It works like this. Win2k Terminal Services uses a licensing wizard to access the Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse can also be contacted via the Internet, by fax or by phone. Says Microsoft: "The Clearinghouse stores information about all activated licence servers and client licence key packs that have been issued, manages authentication, and validates purchased CALs." It works with a licence server, which is a server with Terminal Services Licensing enabled, at the customer end. This stores and tracks issued licences. The impact of the licence server on the network is described as "minimal," but although it can co-reside on the Terminal server, "In most large systems, the licence server will be deployed on a separate server." Although this system currently applies only to Terminal Services for Win2k, Microsoft is moving in a similar direction with its new licensing model for Win2k server in general. Citing customer demand, Microsoft says it has simplified the Win2k CAL system by "creating a new licensing model based on authenticated use." This is intended to produce licences "that recognise the move towards Web-based applications and services." And it's also Microsoft-speak for maximising the number of clients that have to pay up in order to use Microsoft network services. Microsoft puts forward two scenarios where customers may have to buy more CALs than they needed under NT 4.0. Customers whose applications use Win2k authentication or directory credentials will need CALs for them, while Internet sites using Win2k authentication will also need CALs. This does not apply to vanilla Web servers - access to Internet sites by anonymous users does not require a CAL. As an alternative to buying individual CALs for Internet sites using Win2k authentication, Microsoft has also introduced an Internet Connector licence. This allows unlimited numbers of authenticated users to access a single Win2k server, costs $1,999, and you need one for each server accessed. It should not be confused with the existing Internet Connector licence for Terminal Server, which allows 200 concurrent connections to Terminal Server via "anonymous connections from non-employees." ®
The Register breaking news

Gates rules out outright MS purchase of content companies

Microsoft will not own "50 percent or 100 percent in businesses that are primarily driven by content activities", Bill Gates said in Davos, where he is attending the World Economic Forum. But co-operation agreements were possible, he said. Bernard Vergnes, chairman of Microsoft Europe expanded a little, and suggested that the strategy to be a pure software company was linked to Gates' assumption of the title "chief software architect". While it is true that the AOL-Time Warner merger was announced before Gates' job change, there is little evidence to suggest that the events were really linked. Microsoft is evidently breathing a little more easily - Vergnes called AOL an important Microsoft customer - now that AOL appears to be heading towards content rather than platform competition. However, the timing of the Gates' announcement may have had more to do with the DoJ mediation talks. Vergnes added that the "potential" technology innovations offered by the Internet were more important than content enhancement. He tried to distinguish between people being drawn to the Internet for what's there, and Microsoft's desire (to be spelt out in New Generation Windows Services this Spring) as to how the Internet could be used in other ways. ®
The Register breaking news

Compaq eyes 50% Net sales

Compaq has outlined plans for almost half of its corporate PC sales to be direct by Q4, while slashing prices on its business desktops. The vendor today cut prices by up to a third on its Deskpro EP, EN and Workstation AP lines, including discounts of 19 per cent on the 550MHz EP, 20 per cent on the Workstation AP250, and 30 per cent on the EN Space Saver 600MHz. Meanwhile, Compaq's CEO Michael Capellas has admitted the company's ailing corporate PC business needs to be turned on its head and will not be profitable until at least September. According to today's Wall Street Journal, Capellas told Wall Street analysts that the vendor intended a quick shift to direct sales first in the US, then in Europe. It aims to hike direct sales on corporate PCs from their current nine per cent to 40 per cent by Q4. And in the US, Capellas wants 60 per cent of all desktop sales to be direct by the end of this year. Capellas said analysts could expect the Inacom deal, which saw Compaq fork out $307 million to buy the PC assembler earlier this month, to "kick in pretty quickly". Regarding financial forecasts, he said he was "comfortable" with the estimated pre-tax profit of $1.82 billion for this year. He told analysts to expect sales of around $43 billion, up 10 per cent on 1999. The company also aims to boost sales on services, and what the Wall Street Journal labelled "big-computers", by 14 per cent to 17 per cent. And it hopes to raise between $50 million and $100 million a quarter by selling off some of its investments. Capellas said the company planned to upgrade its Alpha minicomputer range in March, which should haul in an extra $1 billion in revenue for 2000. Compaq's corporate corporate PC business, which made a loss of $448 million on sales of $12.2 billion last year, has been losing market share and sales to direct seller Dell for the past two years. ® Related stories PC sales up 23 per cent last year despite Y2K Compaq/IBM trash PC prices
The Register breaking news

Intel to go for McKinley before Itanium-Merced

Updated Chipzilla's follow up to the Merced-Itanium platform, McKinley, is likely to beat its predecessor to the market, informed sources told The Register late today. This, however, is something that Intel absolutely rebuts, according to a company representative who claimed that the Itanium processor is "absolutely on schedule". He would not however comment on whether McKinley is close to taping out. McKinley is close to taping out and the IA-64 development team believes that limited clock speeds on Itanium yields have forced Intel to this conclusion. The Merced-Itanium has so far failed to achieve over 600MHz clock speeds on the part, although Intel and its partners want it to clock at at least 1GHz. Official HP charts show that they want 800MHz from Itanium-Merced before it can be a viable microprocessor for the competitive 64-bit market. In part, that is prompted by AMD's success with its 64-bit chip, codenamed Sledgehammer. McKinley, when it tapes out, will hit 1GHz "straight out of the starting gate", the source added. Taping out is chip company speak for the design being finished. That suggests silicon samples of McKinley at 1GHz may arrive as early as June. Even long-time IA64 platform partner Hewlett Packard said before Christmas, and on the record, that it was likely to be October before we saw Itanium Merced systems. Over the weekend, persistent rumours and insider emails have suggested that Intel is ramping up Willamette far faster than it originally wanted, and that competition from AMD on the Athlon has forced a re-visiting of its chip development strategies. According to these sources, Willamette did tape out only a few weeks ago. This may also explain why there is a sudden lack of ramp-up to the Coppermine platform, as Intel, normally very fast footed, reacts to market realities. ®
The Register breaking news

MS-backed trade group backs MS with trial brief

MS on Trial The Washington-based Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), an industry lobbying group, has confirmed that it will be filing the amicus curiae (friend of court) brief on Microsoft's behalf this week. Judge Jackson is also expecting a similar brief on the DoJ's behalf. ACT most definitely swings the Microsoft way. When Judge Jackson's finding of fact was issued, ACT president Jonathan Zucker loudly denied that a monopoly was possible in the IT industry. Its Web site doesn't list its total membership, but the "Just a few proud members" section identifies Visio (relation), Symantec (defence witness), Sheridan Software, Sax Software, Microsoft (double relation), Elsinore Technologies, ComponentSource and Clarity Consulting. An impressive roster. Not. If we did cheap shots round here we'd point out that the ACT's current star in the "member showcase" is the IRA, Information Resource Associates, but we don't, so we won't. For the brief the ACT has retained Lloyd Cutler, a one-time special counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton. Cutler represented US West in the so-called battle of Portland case concerning cable Internet access. Jonathan Zuck says that he has raised the money to pay for the brief from high-tech company contributions; one can always speculate about who in the disclosed membership has the most spare cash, but Zuck claims the money came from other members. So Symantec? Microsoft has also lined up support from a mixture of Democrat and Republican lawyers, including Boyden Gray who was counsel to President Bush; Griffin Bell, who was attorney general during President Carter's administration; and Nicholas Katzenbach, who was President Johnson's attorney general and who worked side-by-side with DoJ lead counsel David Boies in the IBM antitrust case. The next stage in the trial will be the filing by Microsoft tomorrow of its revised brief - essentially its legal defence - followed by a day in court on 22 February for final arguments. Bill Gates commented in Davos that "There's a good mediation process going on in Chicago," but he wouldn't comment any further. ®
The Register breaking news

Merry Quip cocks snook at telco cowboys

BT has entered the cut-price telco market in a bid to compete with the "cowboys" currently rustling up customers in Britain. Milton Keynes-based Quip is an Internet-based joint venture backed by majority stakeholder BT, along with Unisys and Bank of Scotland. Like other low-cost telco services, Quip can undercut the likes of BT because it buys spare capacity on networks which it purchases at a discount. It is these savings that are passed onto consumers. But according to Quip, what differentiates it from the competition is that it is also a pukka e-business with none of the associated overheads of traditional discount operations. It claims Quip can offer consumers up to 20 per cent off the cost of their national and long distance phone calls. Not content with just publicising its service in the run-up to a nation wide ad campaign, Quip also used its launch to attack the reputation of the low-cost telco sector in Britain. In a statement, Quip founder and CEO, Steve Gandy said: "There are many problems with the present market; the complex pricing and discounting schemes available, the hidden extras charged by some cowboys in the market and the lack of trust by consumers for the multitude of so called low-cost telephony suppliers." Cowboys? About whom can Gandy be talking about? Unfortunately, since he didn't return a call by press time we simply don't know. A spokeswoman for low-cost telco, OneTel, refused to be drawn on Gandy's view of the sector, worth around £100 million in Britain. Instead, she agreed that consumers needed to "well educated" when choosing a telco. But she made it clear that since OneTel was a "leader in the market", Gandy's words obviously didn't refer to her company. Quip is aimed at residential customers, single office/home office workers and SMEs. ®
The Register breaking news

MS sells stake in SCO, and a chapter closes

Microsoft has apparently sold its entire 12.3 percent holding in SCO. The indication on SEC Form 144 is that the sale took place around 12 January, with Goldman Sachs acting for Microsoft. Strictly speaking, the filing is an indication of a proposal to sell, and not a definitive notice. The timing of the sale is certainly interesting. Had Microsoft decided to sell its holding on 27 December, it would have done so when the share price was at a 52-week high of $35.875. But by 12 January, the price was around $25, and sank on 12 January when Goldman Sachs started selling the shares. A key point is that on 12 January SCO announced an expected shortfall in earnings because of Y2K effects, which was confirmed in the Q1 results on 18 January. Microsoft acquired the shares as a result of getting SCO, founded in 1978 by Doug and Larry Michels, to work on a version of Unix called Xenix. Microsoft had licensed Unix from AT&T, and the product was first marketed in 1979. In 1987, Microsoft was concerned that AT&T's Unix applications might not run with Xenix. As a consequence, AT&T agreed to add some Xenix code to its Unix and to pay Microsoft a royalty for this. Novell subsequently acquired Unix from AT&T, held it for two years, and then sold it to SCO in 1995 (with Novell receiving a 13.8 percent holding in SCO as part of the deal). The next year, SCO realised that the code added to Unix was no longer needed or relevant, so it asked Microsoft to agree to end the agreement. Microsoft refused, with the consequence that SCO complained to the European Commission competition directorate early in 1997. In FY 1998, SCO paid Microsoft more than $1.138 million in royalties. Four months later, the EC saw Microsoft's action as a restraint of trade, so Microsoft quietly agreed to settle the case and avoid a formal hearing. The Commission noted that SCO could "design its future products as it wishes, is not obliged to use any Microsoft intellectual property in future UNIX products". SCO said that "the lifting of this burden" would have a "positive impact". Microsoft's press release "applauded the decision of the European Commission to close the file" and failed to mention the EC ruling against Microsoft. ®