2nd > February > 2000 Archive

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Friends of MS flounder in court brief

MS on Trial The first surprise in the Association for Competitive Technology's amicus brief supporting Microsoft against the DoJ and the States is that the ACT appears to be claiming 9,000 company members. A very careful reading shows that it counts the corporate members of other industry associations that have joined ACT, which is rather presumptious since it assumes that each of these members supports the ACT when they may not be aware that they are numbered amongst Microsoft supporters. The second big surprise is that although the brief is intended to support Microsoft's proposed conclusions of law, it attempts a reinterpretation of some key facts and takes an independent legal line that is not exactly parallel with that of Microsoft. The defence claim that copyright gives Microsoft the right to act as it does gets no airing, with the ACT brief only casually mentioning copyright in two unrelated contexts: once in a reference to the Sun v Microsoft case; and the other in a novel and questionable suggestion in footnote 45 that "As a copyright holder, Microsoft was free not to license Windows 95 to an OEM [IBM] that was in arrears on its royalty payments under past licences and, unlike other OEMs, was favouring its own software over Microsoft's". In fact of course Microsoft could have taken action against IBM under the terms of its licences with IBM, and copyright was not an issue. As to the favouritism, it has no relevance at all. We labour the point, because this is the essence of the brief: it is tangential, and many questionable assertions ignore the evidence presented in court. The ACT brief prefers the argument that IE attained its market share because "AOL - Microsoft's competitor in Internet access and the owner of Netscape - found Internet Explorer's technology superior to Navigator's" and that "Microsoft gained a competitive position in the browser market by competing aggressively on quality and price." Apart from this being a new theory - and it is too late to present either new evidence or new interpretations of "facts" when the issue is to consider the legal aspects - the volte face towards AOL seems to be related to the AOL merger with Time Warner, and Microsoft's more relaxed view of the competition that AOL will offer. Judge Jackson found that: "Microsoft entered a contract with AOL whereby Microsoft actually paid AOL a bounty for every subscriber that it converted to access software that included Internet Explorer instead of Navigator." He also noted that: "Microsoft executives thus realised that if they could convince AOL to distribute Internet Explorer with its client software instead of Navigator, Microsoft would - in a single coup - capture a large part of the IAP channel for Internet Explorer. In the early spring of 1996, therefore, Microsoft exchanged favourable placement on the Windows desktop, as well as other valuable consideration, for AOL's commitment to distribute and promote Internet Explorer to the near exclusion of Navigator. AOL's acceptance of this arrangement has caused an enormous surge in Internet Explorer's usage share and a concomitant decline in Navigator's share." Although the brief says that "For the purposes of the brief, ACT assumes the Court's Findings of Fact to be correct" it then proceeds to make statements that do not correlate with the letter or spirit of Judge Jackson's Findings of Fact, starting with the suggestion that Microsoft's monopoly was "lawfully acquired" - which is nowhere suggested by Judge Jackson. The ACT brief makes the unfounded assertion that AOL found IE superior, but the truth is that Microsoft made the financial and promotional terms sufficiently attractive for AOL to opt for IE, although Navigator was preferred technically. The brief also claims that the renewal of the contract in January 1999 showed that IE was preferred, but again the truth is that it was not until September 1998 that Netscape delivered to AOL a beta version of a componentised browser (codenamed Raptor, and also Gecko), with the expectation - possibly optimistic - that a gold master could be ready by 1 December 1998. This was probably just too risky for AOL, hence the renewal of the IE agreement. Judge Jackson found that: "Microsoft entered a contract with AOL whereby Microsoft actually paid AOL a bounty for every subscriber that it converted to access software that included Internet Explorer instead of Navigator." The ACT brief also attempts to argue that it was competitors who were harmed, and not consumers, but again Judge Jackson found otherwise: (para 173) "Microsoft's actions have inflicted collateral harm on consumers who have no interest in using a Web browser at all. If these consumers want the non-browsing features available only in Windows 98, they must content themselves with an operating system that runs more slowly... More generally, Microsoft has forced Windows 98 users uninterested in browsing to carry software that, while providing them with no benefits, brings with it all the costs associated with carrying additional software on a system." He continued: (para 174) "Microsoft has harmed even those consumers who desire to use Internet Explorer, and no other browser, with Windows 98." Time after time, the brief tries to re-argue factual matters, when a judicial finding has already been made that negates the arguments that are rehearsed again. Nor is there any consideration of any earlier situation, but the judge was certainly critical of Microsoft's behaviour: (para 175) "No technical reason can explain Microsoft's refusal to license Windows 95 without Internet Explorer 1.0 and 2.0." In its legal arguments, ACT is understandably in advocacy mode, but suggestions like "If a dominant supplier acts consistent [sic] with a competitive market - out of fear perhaps that potential competitors are ready and able to step in - the purpose of the antitrust laws is amply served." ACT seems to be suggesting that no holds are barred if Microsoft thinks there are competitors out there. After all, the antitrust laws are designed to maintain competition. The brief points out that the conduct challenged must be "objectively anticompetitive" and "actually monopolise or dangerously threaten to do so". Judge Jackson found, as a matter of fact, that (para33) "Microsoft enjoys monopoly power". Consequently arguments that the DoJ and the States have not established monopolisation claims and attempted monopolisation claims, but that Microsoft is just a "lawful monopoly" are not in accordance with the facts - and in any event, are too late. ®
Graham Lea, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

MS fights back: DoJ ‘rewriting law to protect competitors’

MS on Trial Had there been a different set of facts on which to base the arguments, Microsoft would be well on the way to winning the case, judging by the arguments in the Sur-reply, as it's called, to the DoJ's and States' Joint Reply of last week about proposed findings of law. The brief is head-and-shoulders above the pedestrian amicus effort of the ACT, using audacious arguments that are sometimes breathtaking in their ingenuity. But all syllogisms require the premises to be true, and that is the fundamental failing of the brief. Microsoft kicks off with an attack on the DoJ's barbed remarks about "strawmen" and "out-of-context passages from decisions involving patently different market circumstances", but ignores the fact that this happens in an Introduction where a little rhetoric goes a long way, before the gloves are off as it were, and before the business of legal citation starts. Microsoft huffs and puffs in its own preliminary statement, suggesting that: "This Court should decline plaintiffs' invitation to rewrite the antitrust laws to protect Microsoft's competitors at the expense of consumers". That's audacious, you see. The arguments are solidly made, and Microsoft's lawyers squeeze the juice out of their case until you can hear the pips squeaking: but in the end, there's just not enough juice. The canards - such as "Windows 98 is a single, integrated product" - may just appeal still to the very faithful, but after the evidence, it's an impossible case to make convincingly. Microsoft uses as its main pleading the Court of Appeals' findings about the Windows 95-IE tying, but it looks increasingly unlikely that if there were an appeal, the DoJ would allow itself to be pushed around again by an appellate court that is well-recognised to be pro-monopoly. The alternative would be for the DoJ to use its powers to have the case offered to the Supreme Court directly. It is a rather desperate argument to claim that there can be no tying because IE has no price so nobody could "pay" for it. The zero price was evidence of predatory pricing, and Microsoft's clear intention was to put Netscape out of business by cutting off "Netscape's air supply". Microsoft tries to make the case that in any event, the DoJ did not establish foreclosure of 40 per cent of Netscape's market, but this depends on how you read the data, and whether you accept the trend projection. Of course Microsoft can claim that it "did not act with a specific intent to monopolise Web browsing software" or "There is no dangerous probability that Microsoft will obtain monopoly power in Web browsing software", but the facts do not generally support these assertions. Even Microsoft occasionally feels the need to insert a softening word, for example when it is making a claim that: "Microsoft did not engage in anticompetitive conduct that contributed significantly to the maintenance of a monopoly." It is the "significantly" that is rather unexpected. Microsoft decided to persevere with its plea that it is not a monopoly, although the Amici had already put Microsoft down as a monopoly and were arguing that this was OK because Microsoft acquired the monopoly legally. A pricing argument that does not easily withstand scrutiny is Microsoft's assertion that "Microsoft does not have the power to control prices or exclude competition in the relevant market". It becomes a value judgement when Microsoft claims that "Microsoft's so-called 'binding of Internet Explorer to Windows' was not anticompetitive because it resulted in improvements to the operating system", but the penalties do seem worse than the supposed benefits. It is clear that Microsoft is on thin ice over pricing, and so it "vigorously disputes" the contention that the IE tying satisfies a "below-cost requirement" of a cited case. Judge Jackson's assertion that middleware was the "most serious competitive threat to Microsoft's operating systems" is somewhat faulty as the relevant market would exclude what the judge was calling middleware. Microsoft bravely has another go at copyright arguments, but has nothing particularly new to say, except the observation that it may "unilaterally refuse to grant OEMs the right to make unauthorised modifications to Windows without running afoul of the antitrust laws." However, a lapse in the quality of Microsoft's argument is seen when it chides the DoJ for failing to challenge its copyrights for Windows 9x - an argument that is not likely to endear it to the court. A recurring vice is that Microsoft does not discuss earlier situations and wishes to be judged on the present circumstances only. There is no doubt about Microsoft's potential liability for its earlier acts, so defences based on Microsoft's agreement that OEMs may now modify the Windows boot sequence in certain limited ways, or the quiet nod that Microsoft gave Compaq that it could load Navigator from January 1999, cannot negate any earlier sins. A footnote says that Microsoft focuses on Windows 98 because "that is the product of current significance". The main new line is an important one, to do with "monopoly broth": Microsoft argues that the antitrust argument that it's the behaviour "when considered as a whole" that determines the guilt or innocence "has been largely discredited". Microsoft cites for support the Intergraph case in which the Federal Circuit said that each theory of antitrust liability must be considered separately based on all the evidence, and that it would not allow "the degrees of support for each legal theory" to be added up. The present case is legally very important. It has been characterised by some new legal issues, or issues that are more acute in this case than in any preceding ones. The most obvious is faster product evolution: appellate court arguments about Windows 95 are not necessarily valid for Windows 98. Furthermore, many precedents have only marginal relevance in a high technology case, where legal generalisations for the steam age do not fit easily. There is of course a dearth of really relevant precedents, so Judge Jackson will probably find that his judgement is much quoted in the future. The US has in recent years become very political about its attitudes to antitrust, with the right being commonly aligned against government interference and antitrust, and the left for it. But there has been a breaking of ranks as it becomes realised that it is not a left-right issue, but one of right and wrong - and that each case has to be considered as a whole. This is bad news for Microsoft, because when it comes to a judgement about intentions towards competitors, Microsoft's actions speak very eloquently. ®
Graham Lea, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Dell finally shipping notebooks with Red Hat Linux

Dell is finally starting to ship notebooks with Red Hat Linux preinstalled, a full ten months after the company took a stake in Red Hat and made a public commitment to the OS. But despite it's apparent feet of clay, Dell's move - on two models - still gives it a marginal lead over other major PC companies, because Linux on laptops is hard. Dell's Linux support started with servers and workstations, then moved on to desktops, and then went kind of quiet until this week. During the intervening period rival IBM has made numerous supportive noises about Linux, but has also contrived to illustrate, embarrassingly, the issues involved in shipping Linux on notebook computers. A Red Hat certification for IBM ThinkPads running Linux escaped early, before IBM had actually done anything in the way of producing drivers for ThinkPad-specific hardware. As far as we're aware the situation at IBM hasn't changed since then, so Linux remains effectively an unsupported option on ThinkPads, in common with most other brands of laptop (although there's copious support available from enthusiasts if you're prepared to accept 'some assembly required). The major issues tend to be proprietary modem and audio hardware which make it difficult to produce open source drivers. Built in Winmodems in particular are a no-no as far as non-Windows operating systems are concerned, so shipping Linux on these models is tricky for manufacturers. Dell is currently offering the OS, using PC Card modems, on two models, the high spec Latitude CPX and the Inspiron 7500. They're the same price as versions with Windows preinstalled, and considering that Linux is free, we can't help wondering if this means Dell is paying MS the licence fee anyway. Surely not... ®
John Lettice, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Jobs dropped at BT as profits fall

BT is to axe 3,000 middle managers in the face of falling profits, the giant telco mumbled today. Instead of being up front about the redundancies, the telco buried the announcement in a small paragraph deep in the bowels of BT's Q3 results. Some 49 paragraphs into the statement -- and after it had discussed operating profit and the Year 2000 transition -- an innocuous-looking heading read: "Voluntary redundancy programme". It explained: "As part of the continuing programme of reshaping the group, we are implementing a new voluntary redundancy programme covering approximately 10 per cent of managers, some 3,000 people, who we expect will leave over the next six to nine months. The total cost of this programme is estimated at around £350 million, including the cost of incremental pension benefits." A spokesman for BT said there was nothing unusual in the practice. He said BT has cut its workforce from 250,000 10 year ago, to 125,000 today. The announcement to cut a further 3,000 jobs was part of a well-documented "ongoing process", he said. Investors have reacted nervously to news of today's fall in profits. By mid morning BT's share price had fallen 211p -- more than 17 per cent down -- after the telco said Q3 pre-tax profits slumped 24 per cent to £651 million pounds. BT blamed greater competition for the slide. Yesterday, BT announced it was to invest in a new European business-to-business portal. Called VerticalNet Europe, the portal will be supported by more than $227 million (£141 million) in cash and assets from the three partners, BT, VerticalNet, Inc, and CapitalGroup. The JV is part of BT's strategy to become an "Internet, mobility, and multimedia" company, a spokesman said today. ® See also: BT's witch doctors of spin fail to cast a spell on the UK
Tim Richardson, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel PIII shortages hit Taiwan's board makers

Intel has confirmed that its Pentium III chips are in short supply, a situation that will cut demand for Taiwan's hi-tech products, industry sources say. "If the customer can't buy the [Pentium III] CPU, then they don't want to buy motherboards, or some other PC products," said Tony Yang, a spokesman for motherboard manufacturer Aopen, a member of the Acer group. "Supply is a little bit tight now," admitted Intel Taiwan spokeswoman Deborah Yen. She attributed the problem to a forecasting error. "Forecasts from OEMs and our internal forecasts were a little low." However, sources at motherboard manufacturers claimed that the shortage is a result of a bottleneck at the CPU packaging stage, not just a forecasting error. According to these sources, Intel has experienced difficulties putting the CPU into FC-PGA packaging, which will enable it to connect to motherboards that use Intel's newer, cheaper, Socket 370 design -- the Pentium III was originally designed for Slot 1 motherboards. However, Yen emphatically denied this. "No, That's not true, in fact we had that product [Socket 370 Pentium III] available last year." "This definitely will affect some of Taiwan's hi-tech companies," commented Christine Lee, a PC industry analyst at Merrill Lynch. "But I think it will be very short-lived, just a blip. Intel can't afford to make any more mistakes after last year." In 1999, Intel suffered chip shortages and serious problems with the introduction of the new Rambus memory technology. There are a few alternatives to the high-end Pentium III chips which Intel says are most seriously affected by the shortage. AMD's Athlon is one. "I think people have been looking at alternatives. But they'll wait and see whether or not to switch over," said Lee. The effects of the supply problem are not yet apparent, said Yang. "The CPU shortage will impact the motherboard market a little in February and March. But we didn't see any problem yet." Yang was unable to quantify exactly how serious the problem would be for Aopen. In times of shortage, industry insiders say, Intel generally favours larger and more loyal customers at the expense of others. ® Related Story Memory makers suffer from Intel chip drought
Simon Burns, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Compaq's Capellas thinks W2k key to future growth

CEO and president of Compaq, Mike Capellas, said today that there was still a need for improved performance in its PC sector, despite better figures it turned in for its financial quarter. Capellas, speaking in London at an international press briefing, said that while he had succeeded in cutting operating expenses at the company, there was still more work to be done on that front in the coming two quarters. Every employee at Compaq has been given stock options, he said, to foster a spirit of innovation and to give the feeling of a start-up to the firm. We’ve made sure that every employee in the company understands and can clearly articulate our strategy, he said. We still need to return our PC business to profitability, he said. He said that Compaq’s position as a platform partner for Windows 2000, gave it a clear lead over its competition on the x.86 platform. Senior VP of Compaq’s enterprise business, Enrico Pesatori, underlined that by claiming that in the last quarter it had shipped 3,500 Proliant eight way servers, with its nearest competitor only shipping 300 in the same period. Pesatori confirmed that Compaq will introduce its Wildfire Alpha platform in the next quarter. That is likely to be at the very beginning of March, we understand. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Motorola's 500MHz G4 yields very low indeed claim sources

Motorola continues to experience major problems producing 500MHz PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) CPUs, with yields down to as little as one per cent, according to industry sources cited by AppleInsider. Said sources claim that the problem lies with the G4's architecture and Motorola's copper fabrication process. Regular readers may recall that it was concerns over just these issues -- and the possible effect on the scheduled introduction of the G4 -- expressed by The Register last June that prompted Motorola to contact us and expressly state that it wasn't having any difficulties with either. Our copper process works just fine, senior semiconductor spin doctor Will Swearingen told us, and we've been using it successfully in memory products for some time now. True, but DRAM chips and microprocessors are very different beasts and operating tolerances for the former are far rougher than they are for the latter. In the end, the G4 did debut within Motorola's broad -- some might say, very broad -- "sometime in Q3" schedule. However, AppleInsider's sources claim that as of early December Motorola had shipped just 10,000 G4 CPUs to Apple, insufficient to allow the Mac maker to re-introduce its 500MHz PowerPC, which debuted at the end of August and was later canned before it was due to ship, thanks to both low volumes and the bug that prevented the chip from running at 500MHz or more. Motorola sources suggest that little has changed, and that yields are as low as two or three 500MHz-rated chips per 300-processor wafer. It's worth noting that the same source suggest G4s that rate at 550MHz and even 600MHz are occasionally produced, but in insufficient volumes to ship at that speed. That at least suggests Motorola has finally quashed the 500MHz bug. Comment from IBM Microelectronics sources suggests tends to confirm there are major problems with the current version of the G4. IBM is, of course, now ramping up G4 production following an agreement to produce the CPU for Apple. IBM always said it would be Q2 2000 before the chip entered volume production, so there seems little hope for 500MHz or faster PowerPC G4s in the immediate future. Motorola is said to be working on the next revision of the G4, which, it's hoped, will solve the problems limiting the production of the current iteration. What's not clear at this stage is whether the next release will be a modified G4 or the G4 Plus, Motorola's attempt to rebuild the G4's architecture to allow it to support clock speeds of 700MHz and up. We suspect the latter, since the current G4 architecture, by its very nature (primarily its short processing pipeline) is never going to get much beyond 600MHz in any case, and the way things are looking right now, it can only just reach 500MHz. Then again, the problem may simply be a hurried attempt on Motorola's part to get the chip out at all, and all that's needed is the update that all chips get some six months after launch when all the errata-no-bugs that were left in order to ship the chip on time are finally cleared out. IBM may well be waiting for that six-month revision, which is why despite agreeing to make G4s for Apple last October, it won't actually do so until around six months after that agreement was made. The timing seems appropriate. When the possibility of a major delay to the G4's debut was first mooted, various sources and commentators independently suggested the chip wouldn't actually ship until May 2000 -- which is pretty much when working 500MHz G4s will ship in volume. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel execs to sell $80m shares

The champagne corks will be popping even more ferociously than normal in Satan Clara, after three top Intel geezers prepare to cash in shares worth a combined $80 million. Chipzilla's been having a rough time of it lately and - as any fule kno' - the best way to cure a dose of the blues is with a little retail therapy. So maybe that was the motivation behind the collective cashing in of chips (that's the casino variety) by Intel chairman Andy Grove, VP Albert Yu and another Intel director, Leslie Valdesz. The sale was reported in a release from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier this week, and picked up on by our friends at Electronic Buyers' News (EBN). Grove is offloading the lion's share of the err, shares, some 484,208 in all, which could net him a cool $50 million, based on Intel's closing price on 14 January, EBN said. Nice work if you can get it. Yu filed to sell 164,000 shares, and Valdesz 149,330. If the three amigos complete their sale, that too will be recorded by the SEC. ®
Sean Fleming, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

2m PlayStation 2s to ship in first 2 days – Sony exec

A Sony executive today said the company expects to ship a massive two million PlayStation 2 consoles in its first two days. The sound you can hear in the background is the combined noise of hundreds of Sony staff rubbing their hands in anticipation of a major boost to the company's revenues. The 'two million units in two days' figure a significant increase on Sony's previous predictions, which cautiously called for one million units to ship throughout March, the month of the console's Japanese debut, and six million more throughout April and the rest of the console's first year. Sony most recently expressed that forecast last week when it issued its Q3 results. The latest prediction was made by Sony corporate advisor Kiyoshi Yamakawa in an interview with Reuters. Yamakawa also revealed more of Sony's plans to become a global e-commerce giant, recasting itself as what company president Nobuyuki Idei last year described as "an online department store". Sony yesterday opened an online store in Japan to sell its Vaio computers and consumer electronics kit direct. Yamakawa said this will be followed by e-commerce operations in Thailand and South-east Asian countries. Sony expects 30-40 per cent of its sales to be made online and direct to the customer in the future, he added. "I think it is vital for us to do a certain part of the business directly with customers," Yamakawa said. "If we don't handle it, we will lose the market share." That statement comes a day after the US National Association of Recording Merchandisers sued Sony for allegedly forcing shops to sell CDs that drive users to online stores affiliated with the company. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Linuxcare opens support services for customer rebranding

Linux services specialist Linuxcare today opened its support offerings to allow customers to rebrand them as their own, and said it had already signed up Hewlett-Packard, VA Linux Systems, Informix and ThinkFree.com for the Custom Solution Service (CSS). CSS, of course, marks the company's latest scheme to attract customers for its services and support offerings. The trouble is, With almost every Linux company other than hardware specialists like the aforementioned VA Linux Systems looking to services as a key revenue generator, the market is becoming increasingly crowded. Linuxcare's upcoming IPO filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission reveals that Linuxcare handled 15,000 support calls in Q4 1999, up from a mere 140 in Q3. At that rate of growth (10,700 per cent), there should soon be plenty of business to go round. The problem is that that level of growth will attract the attention of the major commercial service and support companies. Most of them have already hopped on the Linux bandwagon, largely by working with the likes of Linuxcare and Red Hat. The question is, how long are they likely to operate at a partnership level, or will the likes of IBM Global Services soon prefer to bring it all in house? Linuxcare's scheme is a canny one in that it allows the services majors to appear to be offering their own services without actually doing so, and should encouraging them to stick with the partnership strategy -- on which all of Linuxcare's hopes for future growth and profitability are based. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

E by gum e-Envoy

Britain's new e-envoy, Alex Allan, has been out and about giving support to e-ntrepreneurs in the North of England. He managed to cram in a photo shoot with Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell yesterday, and a visit to Manchester's own 'Silicon Valley' before heading for a schmooze with other new media types. Apparently, Allan even took part in a live Web cast. He slapped Northern e-ntrepreneurs on the back for the way they were developing their e-businesses but warned that firms in the North still "lag behind other parts of the country in their take-up of e-commerce". In an upbeat announcement he said: "The Government is committed to backing business in the North by providing the right framework and nurturing the skills for e-commerce to flourish. "The region is already showing it has the creative spirit for e-commerce to thrive. We want the surge to continue and for all local business to realise the huge potential technology like the Internet offers for business," Allan said. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Tories pull plugs on ill-fated ISP

The Conservative Party has pulled the plug on its ill-fated ISP by blocking all future registrations for the service. The link to sign up with Tory.org was removed from the site's home page yesterday, less than a week after The Register exposed the slipshod vetting process of the service. No one from the Conservative Central Office was available for comment this morning to discuss why it has taken such an extreme measure or when the service will be made available again. As well as putting a stop to future registrations, links to several sites hosted by Tory.org exposing the inadequacies of the Tory Party's Internet policy have also been purged, although the Cash for Questions site has reappeared at www.tory.org/home/bollocks/. No doubt it will be removed later today. The updated site now reads: "This page was originally at www.tory.org/home/cashforquestions (cashforquestions@tory.org), but following an article in The Register it mysteriously disappeared, but, as if by magic its back! "The Register article neatly summed up the reason for this site, so take a look at it. "This site is not done because of my deep loathing of the Tories (although that is a good reason in itself), but because it really winds me up that people jump on the Internet bandwagon with absolutely no clue as to what it's all about. WISE UP!!!! "It was interesting to see that following the article the Tory 'portal' (www.tory.org) pulled all references to it's ISP and how to register. This means that I have managed to make the Tories squirm, think about what they are doing, given some Web developer some work to do, given a fellow coder some work to develop a decent ISP registration system, and even given a few people a laugh. Mission Accomplished!!" The cheeky prankster behind the Tory Party-hosted Cash for Questions Web site ends by recounting a line from a well-known socialist song: "Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer/We'll keep the red flag flying here." Someone else has even used Tory.org to host a parody site publicising Harrods' boss Mohamed Al Fayed's bid to become the next MP for Knutsford. Knutsford is part of shamed former Tory MP Neil Hamilton's former constituency of Tatton. Hamilton and the Harrods' boss recently faced each other in a libel trial over allegations about cash for questions. ® Related (s)tories Online Tory sleaze makes way for cash-for-questions Sleaze unearthed at Tory party ISP
Tim Richardson, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Leaked MS email reveals deal plans with BT, AT&T, Airtouch

An apparent blunder in email addressing seems to have revealed a string of major Microsoft deals in the wireless market a month early. The recipient of the email, which is claimed to be a highly confidential Microsoft internal document, was lucky old CNET News.com, which promptly and happily proceeded to publish its content. The news service doesn't name the MS executive who perpetrated the blooper, but if the mail's genuine it must have been someone relatively senior, considering the nature of the deals planned. It speaks of a major deal pending with British Telecom and AT&T, and distribution deals being negotiated with AirTouch and Sprint PCS. All of these are plausible. Microsoft is already allied with British Telecom and AT&T, and these two are themselves allied. BT is currently running a pilot wireless data scheme in conjunction with Microsoft, and extending this would make sense. The fact that the email speaks of Airtouch rather than Vodafone-Airtouch suggests that Microsoft's deal-makers are focussing on the US here. The proposed Airtouch and Sprint links concern the delivery of Mobile MSN 2.0, an extension of the service Microsoft already offers with another US wireless outfit, Nextel. But the recent slew of wireless Web announcements from Vodafone-Airtouch makes it pretty clear that the company wishes to build its own services rather than tag along behind Microsoft ones, so although this deal will be a major catch if it happens, it'll be a tricky one to pull off. Aside from any friction caused with potential partners by the leak, the memo is actually pretty positive for Microsoft, because it suggests that the company could be about to make major breakthroughs in wireless. Up to now it's tended to find itself outflanked by the existing wireless players, so in an odd (one might almost say 'suspicious') sort of way the leak is great marketing spin. According to CNET, the purpose of the email was to plan the content of Bill Gates' keynote speech for the Wireless 2000 show on 28th February, the big deal announcements being preferred as the ones to major on. But it also proposes a few others. A Mobile MSN 2.0 demo is mooted, along with Mobile Explorer running on a smart phone and/or CE PDA. Samsung is also put forward as a licensee for Mobile Explorer, but as Samsung is already committed to building CE wireless devices, this is hardly what you'd call a biggie. So if BT, AT&T et al throw fits about the leak and refuse to play, Bill may wind up having to major on the vision thing again. ® CNET story: Internal email discloses Microsoft's wireless plans
John Lettice, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Sun gives NFS component to open source world – sort of

Sun has announced that it is giving a "key component of Network File System to the open source community." But as it transpires from the small print, only sort of, again. Sun is already well-known for its eagerness to embrace the open source community without quite going open source, and already has its own licensing system, the Sun Community Source Licence (SCSL), which is sort of like open source except Sun's in charge. The great NFS giveaway is however backed by another new Sun licensing plan, the Sun Industry Standards Source Licence (SISSL). This looks a bit like open source too, except, er, Sun's still in charge. SISSL makes source code available to developers, and they are allowed to "modify and distribute source code and derived binaries freely." But they are also allowed to choose whether to keep their mods confidential or to make them public. The licence also "has requirements designed to prevent divergence from the standard(s) referenced in the licence." If the developers deviate from this, then they have to provide a public description and reference implementation of those deviations. From Sun's perspective this approach has the advantage of keeping a single standard under Sun's control, which is of course what Sun usually wants, and what usually causes brickbats to be thrown at it. The other plus point is the secrecy aspect - under SISSL commercial vendors can keep their development to themselves, if they so choose, whereas under GPL they'd have to release it. The component of NFS that Sun is releasing under SISSL is the Transport Independent Remote Procedure Call protocol, or TI-RPC. Sun describes this as one of the foundations of NFS, and a key component of the security advancements in version 4. Sun is also doubling its funding to the University of Michigan to create a Linux implementation of NFS 4, and is releasing its rights to the NFS trademark. The company also says SISSL "is designed to meet the requirements of the Open Source Definition as articulated by the Open Source Initiative," and that it has submitted the license to the Open Source Initiative for consideration. Is all this more likely to win open source applause, or to generate more abuse for Sun? Whatever, it looks like Sun has blown it anyway. In another release today Sun "announced broad support by the Linux community for Sun's highly regarded productivity suite, StarOffice." The Linux community is unlikely to be impressed by Sun's temerity in announcing its support for Sun software. ® See also: Sun to give away Solaris source code
John Lettice, 02 Feb 2000
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MS aims to straddle WAP, HTML with Mobile Explorer

At the GSM World Congress in Cannes today Microsoft opened up some more about its plans for its Mobile Explorer microbrowser in the wireless market. And the first mobile phone to implement Mobile Explorer, the Q from Finnish company Benefon, was announced. But as Benefon wasn't even showing a working prototype, and is only promising the Q for Q3, its firstness is open to some doubt - Microsoft's partner Ericsson ought also to have units out by then. According to Microsoft group product manager, Kevin Dallas, the company's Mobile Explorer browser is handset o/s agnostic, has the ability to allow Microsoft to compete in both the feature phone space - where Phone.com with its WAP browser is currently king - and in the smartphone/PDA space where Symbian with its mobile software application suite is presently dominant. Crucially Mobile Explorer can dynamically configure itself to server type - switching to HTML or WAP mode as appropriate. Given the present lack of serious WAP content providers and ISPs, this provides mobile users with multiple means of accessing their email messages and data. Previously Microsoft partners Samsung and Sagem had announced Microsoft CE based handsets in aasociation with BT's technology trials, but their browsers were HTML only. Samsung is however tipped to go with Mobile Explorer shortly, and Sagem will no doubt follow suit. In a related announcement, Microsoft showed the latest version (3.50) of its Internet Cellular Smart Access (ICSA) email server built with technology from its recent acquisition of Sweden's Sendit. Thanks to support from both WAP and POP3 polling, operators using ICSA - which include the UK's One2One - can offer mobile users a single point of access to their email mailbox. ®
Tony Dennis, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

How did Intel get it so wrong?

Analysis Chipzilla is keeping a brave face on things in the face of shortages of Pentium III processors that seem to be pushing its customers into the arms of AMD. So what's gone wrong in Chipzilla Centrale? Chatting to a colleague here, he suggested that perhaps the real problem is that for once, the fire drill isn't a drill. And it isn't. For the first time ever, since AMD and Intel engaged in fisticuffs, the chip contender has got the champion on the run, and appears to be knocking the stuffing out of him. This all, of course, must put an end to any talk that Intel is a monopoly. The last six months, since AMD Athlon chips started leaving the fab, have seen the company knock nine out of the ten major PC dominoes down. We'll leave aside here the question of whether the Athlon 800 is faster than the Pentium III 800, and those nagging questions of scaleability, although we shall return to these questions later on this week. This is not about chip architecture, it is about chip marchitecture, and it's also about an inflexion point in the industry. Andy Grove, who gave up day-to-day running of Intel a couple of years back, wrote his now famous Only the Paranoid Survive, on the basis that Intel got caught short by the FDIV bug in the Pentium. All businesses, he argued in that cogent book, have inflexion points and ought to recognise them before they happen. Intel, with the massive resources it has, must have had voices telling the powers that when AMD took over Nexgen, it was doing something a little more than just being a company that mopped up on its aftermarket. With that acquisition, it bought in good technology and some good technologists capable of executing on their chip dreams. Instead, it seems that Intel sat on its laurels and thought that the big machine would just carry on doing that big mechanical thing. The document we published yesterday demonstrates that fighting fires is not the best way to react when things are going wrong. Instead, conditions should be such that no flames ever get near tinderwood. ® Intel confirms huge Pentium III shortage
Mike Magee, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Red Hat founds ‘Xerox PARC for Linux clustering’

Linux distributor Red Hat has clearly come to think of itself as a latter day Xerox -- today it announced the formation of a PARC-style research centre charged with developing "world class" Linux clustering technology. To be fair to Red Hat, the prime motivator here appears to be its partner Alpha Processor (API), the Samsung-Compaq joint venture. The clustering technology the centre -- to be based at Red Hat's facility in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina -- will create is aimed at promoting Alpha as a server platform. The message here is clear: if you want to combine Linux servers for performance, you'll be much better off doing it with Alpha kit, honest. API's contribution to the centre is 32 dual-processor PowerRAC systems for Red Hat's clustering software guys to play with. Presumably the software side of the centre's research will appear first in the Alpha version of Red Hat's eponymous Linux distribution, but since the work will be carried out as an open source project, it will eventually appear in the Intel and Sparc versions of Red Hat Linux too. Indeed, Red Hat was keen to stress the open source aspect of the deal and its similarity to the company's other think-tank project, the Red Hat Center for Open Source. "If we are going to deliver true world-class performance, we need to enable Linux developers to work for a common goal," said Red Hat's director of clustering technologies, Mike Wangsmo. "Our collaboration with API gives us access to a world-class resource to further the development of Linux clustering solutions... and the ability to accelerate the development of clustering technology for the Linux community." ®
Tony Smith, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Compaq's Pesatori outlines future network strategy

Interview Enrico Pesatori, senior VP in charge of the Compaq enterprise division, set out his thoughts today on how the company will grow its server business in the future, and also discussed its reasons for dropping its development of NT on the Alpha platform. In an interview with The Register this afternoon, Pesatori said that Compaq's relationship with Microsoft, which includes past relationships from the Tandem and Digital days, put the company in a unique position to leverage its server business. Pesatori said: "The strategy is right on. We have formidable assets and all we need to do is execute on that. [One of] the biggest strengths we have is to extend the ProLiant line and introduce Task Smart application servers, which provide a single function and will speed up Web access by a factor of ten. We'll be even more aggressive on the low end." He said that Compaq currently has over 50 per cent of the four way Intel server market, and 80 per cent of the eight way 32-bit server market. One main reason for that was because of Compaq's very relationship with Corollary, before it was acquired by Intel. That gave it the development edge on the IA-32 technology. It was already working to ensure that when the Intel Foster technology is released it could use its clustering know-how to offer advanced systems, in conjunction with storage area networks (SANs), well in advance of its competitors. "You will see there is a very good synchronicity with Microsoft to push this market share higher and higher. This is why Windows 2000 is so important to us." He said that Microsoft and Compaq will cooperate to offer enterprise level data centre W2k solutions as early as April. He said that because Tandem and Microsoft had cooperated so closely on clustering technology, Compaq was able to leverage that technology both in the Intel server and in the Himalaya and Alpha arena. He said that storage was the second major driver of increased growth for his division, which accounts for over half of Compaq's revenues. Alpha Wildfire high end servers will be first seeded into key Compaq accounts in March, Pesatori said. "We'll ramp up production in May and June and full production will start in Q3 and Q4." He anticipated that Compaq will receive $1 billion in revenues from Wildfire by the end of this year. He said that claims by Compaq's competition, notably HP, that the company did not have a scaleable solution, were groundless and that it had extended its PA-RISC architecture by a further three years to ensure its revenue streams were intact, after IA-64 failed to ship in volume this year, as originally anticipated by HP. "We're not artifically going to push the Alpha platform," he said. A major reason that Compaq had decided to cease development of NT for the Alpha was because of its up-coming partnership with Microsoft on the Windows 2000 platform and because the company did not want to confuse its customers. Those corporations which had started to go down the Alpha NT route were re-assured by the steps Compaq took to ameliorate the situation, he said. Further, Compaq wanted to clearly differentiate its platform offerings, he said. He claimed that the company held a 30 per cent market share in Linux on Alpha systems. ®
Mike Magee, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

No repeat of Inacom deal in Europe, says Compaq

Compaq has no plans to repeat its Inacom purchase in Europe, Michael Capellas said today. The vendor's president and CEO told journalists in London: "If you're asking me if we're thinking about making an acquisition of a distribution capability in Europe, the answer is no". Last month Compaq stepped up its direct business by paying $370 million for the US distributor's PC assembly facilities. But Capellas' comments should not be taken for misguided loyalty towards the channel. Today's presentation, which set out Compaq's plans for Europe in 2000, was littered with promises to up direct sales in all areas as the vendor embraces the Internet. Compaq also said it intended to return the commercial PC business to profitability while beefing up online sales. Mike Winkler, senior VP and head of Compaq's personal computer groups, said the company aimed to "simplify the PC environment" and "Internet-optimise everything we do". He said business PCs needed to be simplified in terms of choice and price, with fewer components and a more straightforward distribution system – with products sold directly over the Web. Compaq's consumer side was also beating the simple PC drum. Sean Burke, VP for the Presario division, told journalists to watch out for more EasyPC machine types. He described this year's home PCs as being a fusion of personality and style. Compaq said it would launch an MP3 player and bring its printers to Europe this year.® Related stories Compaq buys Inacom's PC operations Compaq's Capellas thinks W2K key to future growth
Linda Harrison, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel buys in fab capacity to help tightness

Chip giant Intel said today it will buy a fabrication plant (factory) from Rockwell International, and the idea is that it will be able to assist the company to satisfy demand for its microprocessors in the short term. That follows our scoop yesterday, when Intel confirmed that its fab capacity was not all it could be for its leading-edge Coppermine technology. The now ex-Rockwall fab will be in full production by the end of this year, according to a senior chap called Mike Splinter, an Intel senior vice president. The fab is based in Colorado Springs, which presumably has an aquifer below it. Large chip companies need lots of water to make CPUs, which are sometimes described as the brains of a computer. The Rockwell Fab has been mothballed, and Intel said that it will spend $1.5 billion to bring everything up to speed. It will manufacture .18 micron chips there. A micron, Intel says, is around 1/100th of the width of a typical human hair. What is a typical human hair? Answers to the forum please, not to the journalists direct. And no, you don't win an Intel Bunny Suit if you get the answer right. ® See also Intel confirms huge Pentium III shortage How did Intel get it so wrong? Intel Pentium III shortages hit Taiwan's board makers Memory makers start to suffer from Intel chip drought
Mike Magee, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

DVD industry is “screwing customers” – Torvalds

The DVD industry is motivated by fear to maintain control of their technology, which at the moment is not available to Linux users from any licensed source, Linus Torvalds claimed at the LinuxWorld Expo Wednesday morning. In an obvious set-up following Torvalds' keynote address, an audience member asked, "I have Linux on my laptop, and I'd like to play DVDs on it. What have you got to say about that?" In reply, Torvalds stated with uncharacteristic bluntness that the DVD industry is willing to "screw its customers." The industry "wants control" more than anything else, he added. "Some companies just can't let go -- they need to maintain control," Torvalds said. He added that he hoped the DVD consortium would lose its lawsuit, filed recently against several Web sites where a crack to disable a security feature had been posted. The DVD security crack, developed by Norwegian teenager Jon Johansen, would enable Linux users to play DVDs with an unauthorised media player. Johansen and his sympathisers insist that the crack was developed solely for that purpose, but the industry, represented by the powerful Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), says it would enable easy pirating of content via Internet downloads. Critics have pointed out that bandwidth charges would make any such pirating scheme unprofitable, but the industry insists that the threat is real. The case is being tried in the USA, in both New York and California simultaneously. And if the DVD consortium should prevail in court, Torvalds said he hoped that "some commercial company" would license the technology and develop a media player compatible with the Linux operating system. We can't help noting that if the MPAA had devoted half as much energy to outfitting a vendor for a licensed Linux DVD player as it has squandered on pursuing lawsuits against those who have taken the matter into their own hands, this legal entanglemant would probably not have been necessary. ®
Thomas C Greene, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

SCO unleashes Tarantella for Linux

SCO is to release a Linux version of its Tarantella software in Q2, and has struck distribution agreements with Caldera, SuSE and Turbolinux. Tarantella is SCO's answer to Citrix ICA, and is intended to allow diverse clients to run applications remotely on NT and Unix servers. This particular end of the business is starting to look pretty packed, and pretty confusing, but SCO's USP is that - via what is in effect a reverse engineering of Microsoft's Terminal Server RDP protocol - it can do the NT end of the business more cheaply than a Citrix-based solution. Citrix itself is due to go gold with MetaFrame for Solaris shortly, so on the one hand we've got the remote NT guys (Citrix) pushing into Unix territory, while on the other we've got SCO aiming at NT. Citrix itself is adding to the arms race by pushing more and more into ultra-slim clients that won't support heavy graphics, Java and the like and therefore need these to run on the server (via Citrix's "Charlotte" project), and to confuse the issue more than a little, we hear Citrix boss Ed Iacobucci has joined the board of Caldera, which has just partnered with SCO. More info on this when he get it/catch Ed. At the announcement of Tarantella for Linux in New York today SCO seems to have been pelted with the usual 'are you going to open source it' questions, and the answer was of course no, but we don't propose to make anything of that here. But we're slightly baffled by Caldera CEO Ransome Love, who claimed he could make Linux easy to install for your grandmother. We didn't realise Linux-ready grandmothers existed - can you get them in Best Buy? ® See also: SCO crosses Microsoft's Maginot line
John Lettice, 02 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Trillian team releases IA-64 Linux to open source community

The source code for the Trillian project, the Linux port to Intel's forthcoming IA-64, is being released to the open source community, the Trillian team announced today. The move is an intriguing innovation - 'normal' OS developers usually work with pre-production versions of new chips, but by putting code out into open source now, the Trillian team is pioneering the application of the 'Linux effect' to this process. Trillian kicked off early last year under the auspices of VA Linux System, Intel and HP, and Caldera, CERN, IBM, Red Hat, SGI, SuSE and Turbolinux are now also on board. Programme director Sri Chilukuri commented today that the source code release "is further proof that companies and the open source community can work together to achieve common goals." One might suggest that the real proof will come after they've done so successfully, but that would be churlish on Trillian's big day. But the move is an interesting bet. We can presume that the groundwork the Trillian team have done will be approximately equivalent to the efforts of SCO-IBM, Sun, and (we'll give them the benefit of the doubt here) Microsoft. So by kicking it out into the open now, the Trillian partners reckon they can achieve massive momentum for Linux IA-64. Nobody can know for sure what effect this could have, but it's possible the result will be Linux taking the lead on Itanium. ® The source code is available at www.kernel.org. The beef on Project Trillian is at www.linuxia64.org
John Lettice, 02 Feb 2000