9th > February > 2000 Archive

Chip shortage knocks Tosh off top notebook slot

The latest Dataquest report for Europe shows that Toshiba, top dog in the notebook market since the man and his dog were a boy and his puppy, have been displaced by Compaq. The quarterly report from Dataquest, run in the Wall Street Journal, says that Tosh now only has 16.3 per cent of the market, with The Big Q holding 17.2 per cent. Just two years ago, Tosh held 30 per cent. The Dataquest analysts seem to be saying that Toshiba has been caught on the hop because it traditionally held the lion's share in the corporate marketplace, and had not realised that there is so much demand for notebooks in the retail sector. There are other reasons, however. When Intel announced its Pentium III mobile Coppermine parts last October 25th, we began to hear rumblings, and rather quickly, from major Intel customers, including Toshiba, that while they normally had something like two months to test these new parts, in fact they actually had two days to look at the new processors. As we all now know, these mobile Pentium IIIs have been in what Intel describes as a "tight" situation. (Tight has other meanings here in Blighty -- it means drunk as well as cheap, the latter may be more appropriate). AMD, as we have reported earlier, seems to be making waves in the retail sector in the US, and a company like Tosh, while it does now have some notebooks using these parts, may not have adapted to well to the shifting sands as Compaq. And where's IBM with its ThinkPads? It remains in third place, a position it seems to have occupied since the dawn of time, that is before Lou Gerstner started wearing the Big Blue boots. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Feb 2000

AMD, CA kiss and canoodle on corporate desktop

Yesterday, AMD and Computer Associates announced that Unicenter TNG desktop edition will be bundled with PCs using Athlons and K6-2s at no charge from 1 March. While one swallow does not make a summer, the move is significant, but not really for Computer Associates. Unicenter is one of those corporate enterprise desktop management thangs which allows IT managers to regulate Windows PCs on desktops. It includes asset management, software distribution and network management. This can mean two things, and two things only. AMD machines are either already finding their way into the corporate environment or the management at AMD want them to find their way into that environment and need to provide them with tools. When AMD opened its Deathstar fab in Dresden to journalists last summer, its European marketing director, Robert Stead, made it clear that the company did not just have its sights set on the overclocking headbangers of this world, but wanted a slice of the corporate pie. While people can use this bundled version of Unicenter in the home, few would care to, we suspect. In fact, Rob Herb, chief marketing suit at AMD in the US, confirmed this when he said: "As we move our award-winning AMD Athlon™ processor into the commercial environment, we know that desktop management is a key component of our enterprise strategy." This may also be AMD's way of telling Intel distributor Dell, which it has, definitively visited many times in the last four months, that it is not as fragile as Intel spokesman Michael Dell would have the world+dog believe. AMD is believed to have got its own internal structure into less of a ramshackle state than it formerly was. We understand from sources at AMD US that you now need a stationery requisition form filled in triplicate to get a pen from the cupboard. This is, no doubt, down to the influence of those folk who used to work for Intel and then worked for AMD. It would be very interesting to know what share AMD already has in the corporate environment. But there's no way either it or Intel are going to tell us that.... ® AMD positions K7 for enterprise
Mike Magee, 09 Feb 2000

Northamber profit squishes Y2K bug

UK broadline distributor Northamber very nearly bucked the trend of the rest of the IT industry by riding the wave of Y2K sluggishness and turning in some healthy figures for the last six months of 1999. For the six months ending 31 December pre-tax profit was £3.4 million, for the same period in the previous year that figure stood at £4.6 million. So, while everyone from Compaq down got bitten by corporates' reluctance to buy new kit in the run up to the millennium, Northamber managed to keep its head well above water. Indeed the £3.4 million looks all the more impressive against £1.7 million pre-tax profit made in the six months ending 30 June 1999 - the back half of Northamber's last full fiscal year. Turnover for the six months ending 31 Dec was also down slightly at £133.4 million against £140.8 million for the same period in the previous year. Net cash held rose to £5.9 million, against net borrowings of £36,000 for the six months ended 31 December 1998. Net asset value per share is up to 96.6p from 92.2p and the Northamber board has put forward a 33 per cent increase in interim dividend to 2.0p net, payable on 4 may to shareholders on record at 14 April. In his chairman's Statement, David Phillips, described the outlook for the second half of the year had "started well and we are seeing an improvement in gross margins". He continued: "Much has already been made of the pre millennium 'lock down' by many corporate users. During that period we focussed on enhancing our involvement and facilitation management expertise providing support for a number of major Internet based initiatives." The Chessington-based distie is also on the lookout for a new financial director, after the departure of Marilyn Lee, who had been FD since 1997 and left at the end of December. ® Related stories: Profit falls at Northamber, but at least it made one Profit warning from Northamber
Sean Fleming, 09 Feb 2000

Paul McCartney account details leaked on second user PC

An obsolete PC sold on by a blue blood bank "contained 108 files relating to Sir Paul McCartney's private cash dealings". The PC was released into the second-user market without first being wiped clean of data relating to money movements in Sir Paul's account. According to The Express, merchant bankers Morgan Grenfell Asset Management had "simply failed to erase the memory contained on the computer's hard disk". Other client details contained on the PC included a "large charity for the blind, the Cancer Research Campaign, the International Association of Odd Fellows and a duchess". Tonight, Channel 4 News will broadcast the findings of Jonathan Calvert and Peter Warren, a well-known investigative journalist who specialises in the IT industry. In their research of the second-user PC industry, they established that many "banks and government departments are failing to take sufficient care" with the PCs they sell on. In an interview with The Express, Jon Godfrey, consultant at Technical Asset Management, the Welwyn, Herts PC disposal company, said: "There are tens of millions of second-hand computer systems freely available in the open market with commercially sensitive data on. "Companies are careless when they replace computer systems, not thinking about what happens to the old PCs. But they have a duty to clients not to pass on confidential information. It's gross commercial neglect." Under the Data Protection Act, it is an offence for organisations to allow the unauthorised disclosure of personal data. Computers containing sensitive information are supposed to be wiped free of data before being sold on. The only surefire way to achieve this is to overwrite information hundreds of times using software such as Sanitizer. Deutsche Asset Management (as Morgan Grenfell Asset Management is now called) has issued an unreserved apology to any clients who are "embarrassed by this incident". It says it is reviewing its disposal procedures. What will it do to the unnamed disposal company that landed it in this mess? ®
Drew Cullen, 09 Feb 2000

UK shares bulletin board faces legal bullet

Popular shares site Hemscott, run by Hemmington Scott, is facing legal action from a wallpaper company, the Daily Mail reports. Walker Greenbank is threatening to sue Hemmington Scott for alleged defamation published on its bulletin board, and it wants Hemscott to reveal the identities of the message posters, who often use pen names. The move follows controversy in the US over individuals who attempt to pump the price of shares so they can then clean up, as other readers of the bulletin boards pile into what they consider to be "hot tips". Of course, the Hemscott Walker Greenbank comments are the opposite of "pump and dump". They are more along the lines of "dump and dump". Like many other similar boards worldwide, there are messages separating the opinions of posters from the firm that hosts the posts. UK law so far has no powers to intervene in these type of cases, although the Financial Services Bill, likely to become an Act of Parliament later on this year, is expected to have more clout than the current legislation. ® * Register FactOid 111. Every time we think a technology stock is worth a flutter, the price seems to fall.
Mike Magee, 09 Feb 2000

Gumzilla gums Blairzilla

The august Houses of Parliament debated biogradable chewing gum yesterday, and why we don't have any. Perhaps our Mr Tony Blair should ring up his mate Michael Dell. Because last Friday he took a massive private investment in the spun-off bit of re-branded Monsanto that looks after GM sugar and something called biogum. Funny, we always thought that chewing gum was biodegradable. ®
Adamson Rust, 09 Feb 2000

L&H unveils Linux speech engine

Lernout & Hauspie has unveiled its automatic speech recognition and text-to-speech engines running on a prototype CyberGenie 2400 from Cygnion (a spin-off from Ericsson that is now funded by the WK Technology Fund). At the Demo 2000 meeting at Indian Wells, Cal. L&H claimed a first for its large-vocabulary engine, which runs on Linux, and makes it possible to listen to the full text, or summaries, of email. The demo included ordering a book from Amazon.com, finding the weather forecast, and carrying out a stock transaction online from a PDA, all using voice commands. Evidently some of those present at the meeting succeeded in contacting their brokers, because there was a surge in the L&H share price around 2pm, with a 40 per cent rise at one stage before they settled down last night, up 24 percent. The extent to which speech user interfaces (SUIs) will take over from GUIs remains to be seen, but the current uses are likely to be in environments where hands-free operation is desirable or essential. So far there has been no demonstration of joggers' huff-and-puff speech, but work is proceeding on using such interfaces when technicians need to access manuals to carry out servicing in confined spaces. ®
Graham Lea, 09 Feb 2000

Intel to become Toyzilla™ for Barbie, Ken

Intel engineers are building toys at a skunkworks which Mattel, makers of Barbie and Ken, The Washington Post reports. The deal, according to the often amusing piece, is because kids of today want challenging and innovative toys rather than those tired old favourites, dolls and guns. Intel Play, the existence of which we have already reported, has already launched four products in the US, including a rather snazzy $99.99 computer microscope. It is unclear whether this microscope is powered by a Coppermine chip. These products are likely to become the sine qua non for Eurokids, probably later on this year. According to the WP piece, which quotes an editor of a Toy publication, the Intel brand is like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Brokered by Intel chairman Andy Grove and Mattel CEO Jill Barad, other products likely to arrive this year will include a sound morpher and a digital movie creator. You can find the Washington Post article here. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Feb 2000

Warner threatens Harry Potter fan sites

Warner Brothers is setting the attack dogs on Harry Potter fan Web sites. The media giant which has film rights to two Harry Potter books, is demanding that Web sites such as harrypotterisawizard.co.uk transfer their names to the company. More than 50 Web sites are devoted to JK Rowling and her blockbusting Harry Potter books for children. But there is little if any evidence of any attempts by the site operators to deceive or pass themselves off as the official Harry Potter experience, merchandising and all. Bloomsbury, Rowling's publisher, confirmed that Warner has merchandising rights to the Harry Potter books. This isn't the first company which has attempted to round up fan site URLs; other examples include Paramount, with Star Trek, the BBC, with Teletubbies, and Porsche, with -- er -- Porsche. By stomping on the Harry Potter fan sites, Warner may succeed in stopping unofficial merchandise sales. The company has the money and the firepower to beat the Harry Potter fan sites into submission. However, it appears unlikely that Warner can insist on domain name transfer, although it could prevail in court if it has the requisite intellectual property rights. But, as with the character Jeeves, the only protection is for illustrations, since there can be no valid copyright in the name of a character. So far Warner has done nothing about a Harry Potter Web site other than to direct those who hit harrypotter.net to its own consumer Web site. Since the purpose of fan sites is promotion, it seems particularly silly of Warner to decide against harnessing the enthusiasm, and to act in this way. Some Harry Potter fans accuse Warner of trying to limit the dissemination of adverse reviews of films, and they see putting clamps on Web sites as one way the film company is trying to do this. They hope that Jo Rowling, who has been informed about developments but has not yet reacted, will intervene and sponsor an official site. But she may have had to sign away all rights to a website and be unable to act. Film contracts are renowned to be some of the thickest in the lawyering business. London-based Bloomsbury told the The Register that it will re-launch its Web site and include more about Harry Potter later this year. Warner had not returned our call at press time. ® Register goes to the Movies Many years ago, Warner tried to stop the Marx Brothers using the title "Night in Casablanca", because it had made an earlier film called "Casablanca". At the time, Groucho wrote to Warner Brothers asking if they thought they had the rights to "Brothers", pointing out they had been brothers before Warner had been invented, and that before them were the Brothers Karamazov. Related stories efax.com fights efax.co.uk Microsoft bullies IT news site into submission
Graham Lea, 09 Feb 2000

Compaq, Dell, Gateway sued over comms patent

Three of biggest names in the PC industry have become embroiled in a patent row over the simultaneous broadcast of voice and video over data links. A company called Multi-Tech Systems is alleging that Compaq, Dell and Gateway have infringed its patents and is said to be seeking an unspecified sum in damages. According to the Dow Jones news service, Multi-Tech is planning to pursue other PC makers in light of the lawsuits issued the three PC companies, which were filed in the US District Court, Minneapolis, with a view to collecting royalties. ®
Team Register, 09 Feb 2000

AMD share price tipped for $56 by YE

The share price of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) closed at $41.375 on Wall Street last night, as yet another broker gave it the thumbs up. Broker Needham and Co has repeated its advice to buy and estimated that in a twelve month period the stock could be worth as much as $56. AMD's share price has, however, gone through the roof since it bumped along in the bargain basement for months at $16 during last summer. That was before it introduced its Athlon microprocessor, which now appears to be gaining some momentum in the corporate market, compounded by difficulties rival Intel has had in delivering sufficient Coppermine Pentium IIIs to sate demand. Meanwhile, it emerged that Jerry Sanders, charismatic chairman and CEO of AMD, disposed of half a million AMD shares towards the end of last month. The details were reported on a form 144 with the Security and Exchange Commission at the beginning of the week. Any success that AMD has had in terms of shares, however, have been more than matched by its big brother, Intel. Yesterday, its share price closed up at $108.8125. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Feb 2000

Reuters to put its core business on the Internet

Pinch us. Reuters stock has been climbing since yesterday when, according to a Reuters report, so it must be true, it announced a £500 million plan to shift its core business to the Internet. This sort of announcement, by anybody, usually does have a happy effect on the stock price, but depending on what you reckon Reuters' core business is, shoving it on the Internet might not actually be an obvious recipe for success. The reverse, maybe. Reuters uses a global network of reporters to sell news, and although Bloomberg is the closest obvious enemy, the Internet itself is a bigger threat, because whatever it is you sell on the Web, the rule is that someone, somewhere, is giving it away for free. Reuters itself could also be seen as its own competition, because the Web has provided it with mechanisms to broaden its own distribution. Stories from the wire services are becoming more commonly used as differentiators, but the more of the same differentiator you have, the less effective it is, and the more the price goes down. Reuters isn't entirely informative about the nuts and bolts of its four year plan to migrate its services to "Internet technology." According to CEO Peter Job: "The Internet has...enabled us for the first time to start serving an infinitely wider market, including individuals making financial decisions at home and at work. It has also allowed us to adopt a more cost-effective model for our base business." The infinite nature of this market for a finite product is dubious - how many different places can you stand having the same information fired at you from before you get sick of it? And how much will you pay? The viability of this not terribly clear plan isn't at all clear. Reuters' planned flotation for its Greenhouse Fund, which invests in Internet startups, and the possibility of an IPO for its Instinet electronic brokerage look more convincing. But are these core? Or indeed, are the 50-50 joint venture with investment community Multex.com, or a wireless-related venture with Aether Systems core? Perhaps Reuters, which announced pre-tax profits of £632 million and warned of a £300 million reorganisation charge, is cannily redefining where it's core's at. ®
John Lettice, 09 Feb 2000

Massed hack attack hits major Web sites

No Web site is safe from the kind of massed denial of service attacks that have hit Amazon.com, CNN.com, Buy.com, eBay and Yahoo! this week, the head of security at anti-virus specialist Network Associates' PGP Security unit said yesterday. "At least one person or a group of people have the ability to take down a site at any given time," Jim Magdych told the Dow Jones newswire. "If this is someone who has a large collection of sites waiting to attack, they could literally fire off one attack after another." His chilling prognosis for the Web industry: "They can probably take down pretty much any site on the Internet." Magdych's claim comes after the Amazon.com was hit late yesterday. The e-commerce site didn't go down, but did slow it up. The attack appears to have been a standard denial of service hit, in which hackers attempt to crash a site by flooding it with junk data. What separates the latest attacks from the norm, however, is the apparent use of multiple machines, connected via the Internet and centrally co-ordinated, to hit the hackers are involved -- and perhaps even just a single operator. CNN.com was hit a few hours before the Amazon.com attack. It was left able to provide content but only sporadically. Buy.com, meanwhile, was by a tidal wave of data -- up to 800Mb at its peak -- that brought down it servers for a three-hour period. Online auctioneer eBay also reported a similar attack, which left the site inaccessible to many users and chronically slow to others. That said, eBay has been having so many problems with its servers over the last 12 months, we can't be entirely sure there weren't other problems at play here. All four strikes comes a day after Yahoo! was knocked out for a couple of hours or so through a denial of service attack of its own. At this stage it's not known whether those responsible for the action against Yahoo! also led the attacks yesterday, but the downing of Yahoo! does have the feel of a dry-run about it. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Feb 2000

Upstart Amazon gets very own FTC investigation

Things move a lot faster in the dotcom world than elsewhere, so we shouldn't be surprised that Amazon has just managed to achieve its very own FTC investigation. And how long did Microsoft and Intel have to work at it before the Feds took an interest? But things are cool in the dotcom world too, so it's an "informal" investigation of Amazon subsidiary Alexa Internet that was revealed in an SEC filing earlier this week. Alexa software keeps track of where users go on the Web, so is a possible live privacy issue. The software is also the subject of two lawsuits alleging breach of privacy. The lawsuits claim that software installed on the users' browsers secretly grabs user data and sends it to Amazon and other companies. The system records complete URLs, and ubiquitous privacy expert Richard Smith points out that these can include personal data, which could be used to associate Web use with individuals. According to Amazon and Alexa, this doesn't happen, according to the lawsuits, it does. So the FTC is looking into the matter. ®
John Lettice, 09 Feb 2000

IBM has very fine clutch of code-names

Check this one out. Big Blue US, the company that has comprehensively trashed its PC strategy time after time, decided to send a press release to US hacks last Monday outlining its future notebook and desktop strategy. Big Blue EMEA, on the other hand, decided that it didn't want the details broadcast in Europe, and that it preferred instead to wait for mammoth trade show CeBIT before it spilt the beans. It instructed its various PR outfits in Europe not to spill said beans, but to wait reactively, at which time it would tell us Euro-hacks. IBM, the company which prides itself on its Internet and e-commerce strategy, obviously has no idea whatever of how news works over the Web. In fact, we noticed on one of the hardware sites we regularly visit that the story, which includes details of its EON range, and of a comprehensive restructuring on desktops, including the use of AMD microprocessors, was on US wire Cnet. We got about 275,000 US readers a month, according to our latest ABCe figures for last November. So what sense is there in any of this? Answers, on a postcard please by snail mail, to IBM, La Defense, Paris. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Feb 2000

Compaq's build your own Linux PDA project

Could the appearance of a Samsung StrongARM-based Linux PDA the other day be in some way related to Compaq's Itsy project? Compaq inherited the Itsy, "an open development platform," from Digital, and continues to run it as a research project at the old Digital Western Research Lab, but has no plans to turn it into a product itself. But it is making the information needed for people to build their own Itsy prototypes freely-available, and is now up to version 1.5 of the spec. It's also developed a StrongARM 1100 version of Linux for the Itsy, and this is also available for download. According to Compaq most of the components needed to build a prototype are available off the shelf, although the likes of LCD and touchscreen aren't. We can't help noticing that this limits the ability of smaller outfits to mess around with Itsy-based PDA prototypes, whereas companies with ready access to and knowledge of this class of component - like, for example, Samsung - would probably find it fairly easy to knock one up. So one does wonder whether they might not be related. And indeed, why Compaq doesn't want to put the Itsy into production itself. ® Download the spec: Build your own Itsy See also: 'Compaq' invents Linux PDA Samsung's do-everything Linux PDA
John Lettice, 09 Feb 2000

Geldof and Moore plug WapWorld

Sir Bob Geldof, dot-com avatar, is joining the WAP phone scrum with Brian Moore, former England rugby union international and current city solicitor to the rich and famous. They are promoting WapWorld, supposedly Europe's "first free, independent dial-up WAP gateway and portal", The Guardian reports. Moore and Saint Bob will use their contact books to sign up big name columnists from the sports and entertainment world. "WapWorld will have hip content generated by an inhouse editorial team who know the sort of things people want to read and listen to," Moore told The Guardian. WapWorld will be celebrity-driven, Moore told the paper. So is it going to be a Sun or an Hello for phones? We can see an IPO coming on, and quickly too: with celebrity names like Geldof and Moore, it's a sure-fire bet that dumb money retail investors will pile in. WapWorld, a JV between Geldof's Ten Alps, Moore's digital marketing business Abacus, and Internet plumbing company, Jingo Communications is reportedly embarking on second round fundraising. The company is making all the right noises -- Visionary, First Mover Advantage, Two Celebrity Endorsements and crucially - a distribution deal with Carphone Warehouse which will see its technology installed on all WAP-enabled handsets sold through the UK's biggest mobile phone retailer. ®
Drew Cullen, 09 Feb 2000

Intel Bunny Suit no protection against deep freeze

We are pleased to report that the Intel Bunny Suit that Doug Thomsen won in our once-in-a-lifetime competition has arrived, safe and sound, in Nebraska. But it will be some months before Doug will be able to wear said golden Bunny Suit, because it seems that the weather is inclement over there. Mr Thomsen won the prize after he said he was gagging for a Bunny Suit because he wanted to see the neighbours' faces when he washed the truck wearing the outfit. We have also notified the other winners of their prizes, and they will be arriving duly. We can confirm that Mr Thomsen has set up a photo opportunity session for The Register, but given that the weather is pretty flakey over there, it might be quite some time before the sun shines and meltdown comes. We are grateful that the suit has been delivered because there was a small bit of concern that the Bunny Suit, manufactured in the US of A, might be impounded by US Customs and burnt. No such luck. ® Trucker wins Intel Bunny Suit
Team Register, 09 Feb 2000

WStore offers 99% discount on PCs – kinda

WStore admitted yesterday that it had been hit by a serious glitch on Monday when it started selling top-of-the-range PCs for just a few quid. PCs normally priced at £1,200 were being offered for just £12.00 - just one per cent of their true cost. The glitch affected 90 per cent of the items available on the site and the company claims it was the result of a site upgrade that happened last Friday. The error was fixed within an hour but two people did manage to place orders. And although the orders were confirmed and money debited from their credit cards, WStore refuses to complete the transactions. It says its Ts&Cs protect it from such mistakes. Those state: "The company reserves the right to remedy any obvious mistakes in the listed prices by charging a proper commercial value price to rectify the error." Last month the company said it vowed to start a price war - but it probably didn't mean it to be quite so violent. Elsewhere, gadget retailer Tandy is embroiled in a dispute concerning the sale of Pace 730 On Digital Box for 1p plus £2.50 postage and packing. The box usually retails at £199.99. Those who have bought the digital TV decoder claim there is no mention of having to subscribe to the service (which starts at £9.99 a month) as part of the 1p offer. The box can also be used to receive free digital channels, but Tandy says they can't have it unless they subscribe to the digital TV service. What Tandy and WStore have in common is that in both cases, money was debited from consumers' accounts. A legal expert told The Register that just because money has changed hands it doesn't mean, necessarily, that the sale is complete and legally binding. Laws governing sales are not as clear-cut as some people may think. Last year retailer Argos hit the headlines when it tried to flog Sony TVs for just £3. ® Related stories WStore starts price war with UK channel Argos £3 TV fiasco provokes test-case lawsuit Argos BT's badly, ups price of Sony TV to £3,299.99 Argos welshes on three quid TV Net 'offer'
Tim Richardson, 09 Feb 2000

EU to investigate Windows 2000

The European Union said today that it will investigate Microsoft over alleged market dominance arising from the launch of Windows 2000. The EU is examining claims that W2K will give Microsoft an unfair advantage in ecommerce as well as software, in Europe. The software giant has four weeks to respond to enquiries instigated by EU enforcement officials. Mario Monti, EU competition commissioner, has reportedly received several complaints from end-users and Microsoft competitors about the alleged future monopoly. No immediate response was available from Microsoft at press time. Windows 2000 will be launched later this month across the world. ® See also MS CFO doesn't expect Y2k revenues until mid-2000 MS to hike enterprise pricing 50 per cent -- Gartner Dirty Dozen picked for W2k
Mike Magee, 09 Feb 2000

Intel could revisit Socket Seven

Sources at a Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer said today that Intel engineers are working on a subset of the Socket Seven market. If true, and Intel could not be contacted at press time, for a confirm or deny, this means that the company has completely reversed out of its Slot One strategy only to drive back into its old Socket Seven strategy. This may well be a question of competitive market forces. Socket Seven was abandoned by Intel apparently because it could not support high clock speeds. It so happened at the time that its competitors AMD, Cyrix and IDT had Socket Seven solutions. According to the reports, the low-end Intel Socket Seven market will compete with offerings from AMD on the K6-2 and the K6-2+ front. Intel originally developed the Socket Seven design but has been through some changes since then. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Feb 2000

Murdoch gang rejigs Net offering

News International has got an Internet strategy. Another one. This time, Rupert Murdoch's monster media company has set up a separate outfit to handle the development of its online strategy. But far from simply migrating its content -- The Sun, Times et al -- online, News Network Ltd is planning to create a number of e-businesses based on its offline collateral. Not only will it build on its existing brands, News Network is keen to build completely new ones, such as its online entertainment site, FiredUp.com. It is also planning to ensure that whatever is created will be available not just on the Web, but also on digital TV and via WAP -- and anything else that comes along in the future. In effect, News Network's new strategy goes against the grain of traditional ecommerce development. Instead of being an e-business in search of content, here's a publishing company looking to enter the world of commerce. Tony Hall, marketing director of News Network said today: "The plan is to generate a number of Web-based business. "We're not just a dotcom -- we're a new media company," he said. Regarding News International's haphazard new media strategy in the past (News International Digital Publishing, CurrantBun.com, Bun.com, Murdoch stating the Net was a load of puff... etc, etc) Susan Boster, chief commerce and marketing officer admitted that the strategy had been "fragmented", but that it was fine now. Time will tell. ® Related stories: News Corp mogul talks down the Web Murdoch loves Web. True Times promotes Murdoch interests with call for Free Net CurrantBun goes stale, gets thrown in bin UK tabloid papers launch Web access for the masses
Tim Richardson, 09 Feb 2000

Cromwell falls under InterX spell

InterX, the parent company of UK distributor Ideal Hardware and hardware info site the IT Network, is to merge Cromwell Media into its operations. The deal sees InterX hand over 11.94 million shares to Cromwell, priced at £11.80 each at the close of play yesterday, in return for the remaining 63 per cent of the company – it already held a 37 per cent stake. The deal values Cromwell at £226 million. Cromwell is a media company-turned software powerhouse and develops seriously techie Web content personalisation/ marketing/tracking software called Bladerunner. Currently this is used by a handful of customers, including InterX subsidiary, ITNetwork.com and NMTV's Silicon.com. Cromwell names Broadvision and Vignette as competitors. But it's going to take a hell of a lot of money to take Bladerunner onto the world stage. For the present, InterX has got the capital raising sussed out: the company is taking advantage of its huge leap in share prices to issue £30 million of new stock. This will fund Cromwell's expansion plans for months to come. In an announcement made earlier today, InterX said it would appoint Philip Crawford, EDS International president, as part-time chairman. Cromwell gets a new CEO – Robert Bruce, ex MD of Broadvision UK. The takeover is expected to complete by the time InterX announces interim results in March. News of the merger deal coincides with the appointment of Rob Wirszycz as chief executive of IT Network. Wirszycz joins ITNetwork from EDS. Prior to that, he was at industry body the CSSA. All InterX has to do now to turn itself into a pureplay Net/VC holding vehicle is to sell Ideal Hardware, its IT products wholesaler. Broadview, the investment bank, is hawking the company to US disties (which may be keen to get its hands on Ideal's Compaq franchise), and it should be close to a sale by now. But for how much? In this climate, anything more than £60 million (cash) could be considered an excellent deal. ® For more Net finance news, visit Cash Register. See also InterX share price goes through roof Ideal to split from parent group InterX: from distie to Net VC vehicle?
Sean Fleming, 09 Feb 2000

Sony confesses PlayStation 2 won't play all PSX 1 games

Sony has admitted that the upcoming PlayStation 2 may not be quite as backwardly compatible as the consumer electronics giant has previously claimed. According to a Bloomberg report, Sony Computer Entertainment director Kenichi Fukunaga said some older titles may not run on the new console after all. Potential problems with the PlayStation 2's ability to play original PlayStation games was first mooted by Japanese gaming publisher Jiji Press. It claimed some games don't work with the new console's video system. Fukunaga was unable to confirm why this should be an issue here, instead claiming that problem software was probably not written to "Sony standards" -- essentially games that bypass Sony's APIs and write directly to the hardware. Fukunaga couldn't say how many of the 3000-odd PlayStation titles would not run. However, it's worth noting that the PlayStation-on-a-PC software Bleem! will run only around 300 PlayStation titles perfectly. While Bleem! (the company) has yet to test every single PlayStation game, most of the ones the do fail, either by refusing to run at all or with various graphical glitches, do so because they work directly with the game's hardware. Of course, since Bleem! is merely a 'black-box' that behaves the way a PlayStation might, it's not a perfect test of PlayStation 2 backwards compatibility, but it does suggest that, since the two versions of the console are architecturally different, the degree of backwards compatibility may not be as high as Sony anticipated since a lot of titles won't find the hardware they expect to find. Backwards compatibility problems are unlikely to dampen the PlayStation 2's sales too much, but they will come as a blow to existing PlayStation owners keen to upgrade and take their favourite games with them. ® Related Stories 2m PlayStation 2s to ship in first 2 days -- Sony exec Sony to launch e-commerce biz to serve PlayStation 2 users
Tony Smith, 09 Feb 2000

It ain't so heavy, it's my Novell

Novell appears to have caught wind of some Microsoft announcement next week, and has come up with a little spoiler launch of its own -- four new products designed to please NetWare ang NDS users. Java has evidently grown up enough for Novell to have developed its look-up-and-connect eGuide product in that language. Since it works with NDS eDirectory and any LDAP directory, and runs on NetWare, NT, UNIX, and Linux, the maxim of write-once, run-anywhere seems to make sense. Gunnar Bengtsson of Volvo IT said there was a Swedish word for what Novell is calling this simple-yet-customizable product - it's "lagom" and that means "not too heavy", for those who've forgotten their Swedish. Product pricing will be published when it ships in two weeks time. For integrating business processes, perhaps between different company websites, Novell has come up with iChain, which is an extension of NDS eDirectory, with fine-grained security. It is scheduled for release within 60 days. ZENWorks for Networks, now available, makes it possible for network administrators to have software control of the bandwidth of the application and the user on networking kit from various vendors. In a month or so, ZENWorks for Servers is scheduled, which is planned to help manage multiple servers across networks. Novell seems to be showing that there's plenty of life left in NetWare and NDS with cunning little add-ons, but it does make you wonder how people did these things before the gizmos were invented. ®
Graham Lea, 09 Feb 2000

Cash Register: Jan 4-31, 2000

31 Jan 2000 Freeserve is in talks to buy Dorling Kindersley, after it was reported that the publisher issued a profits warning last week. Sources claim that Freeserve boss, John Pluthero, could be about to part with £500 million in cash and shares for the for P B Bear to Star Wars publisher. 27 Jan 2000 Former MD of Sunday Business Publishing Ltd, Andrew Hart, has been appointed CE in the UK and Ireland of soon-to-be-launched Ask Jeeves. Ask.co.uk is a JV between Ask Jeeves International, Carlton Communications Plc and the Granada Media Group. Carlton and Granada have each invested £20m in the new partnership. Voss Net has appointed Robert Burns, 33, as their new FD. Burns has worked at Voss Net for two months. Before that he was chief accountant at Zuken-Redac, part of software company, Zuken Inc. Former IBM UK CEO and Silicon Graphics GM Javaid Aziz has been appointed as an executive board director of online financial group eXchange Holdings. France Telecom last night took full control of the loss-making Global One telecommunications alliance paying a total of $3,882bn (£2.35bn) to Sprint Communications and Deutsche Telekom. The deal ends an unhappy alliance between the stakeholders who each held different management strategies for the company. WH Smith expanded its online sales market yesterday in a deal to allow the company access to BT's online customers. Notice of the tie-up coincided with news that WH Smith found High Street trading difficult at the end of last year, but saw online trading grow by 55 per cent over the last 19 weeks. WH Smith Online hopes to have a 30 per cent share of the online book market within three years challenging companies such as Amazon and BOL. 26 Jan 2000 Newmedia Spark plc is to invest £1 million for a minority stake in online business-to-business travel service, Travelstore.com. ZY.com has received $5 million in first round private placement. The Internet Application Service Provider will use the cash to set up a US operation and extend its European customer base. Business to business ecommerce hub Hyperchannel today received $24 million funding to develop its cost-saving procurement and automated trading system Hyporium. Hyperchannel already has its system throughout much of Europe including the UK for buyers and sellers in the $300 billion European IT market. The funding came from GS Capital Partner III, LP and affiliates, GE Equity and MRV Communications Inc. 24 Jan 2000 Regional newspaper publisher Newsquest plc is to take a 9.9 per cent stake in Freeserve Auctions, the ISP's online auction service. In return, Freeserve Auctions will receive £10 million in "advertising support" from Newsquest's regional newspaper titles over three years plus £2 million in cash. Chrysalis Group Plc has confirmed weekend press speculation that it is considering a small fund raising to invest in early stage New Media opportunities. It's likely that any investment will tie-in with Chrysalis's existing assets, particularly in radio, music and sport. Online estate agent, easier plc, has applied to join AIM. If successful the move could raise £12 million, the company said today. 21 Jan 2000 365 Corporation, the sports and music portal, is expanding its production arm with a move into TV. 365Television will "make programmes and interactive content for digital television, and further looks to exploit 365's existing brands and content over the broadband and television platforms". Its first product is a documentary on convicted rapist Mike Tyson, which is broadcast on the BBC on Jan 31. Lastminute.com has launched in Sweden, and says it plans to open localised sites for Denmark and Norway, in coming months. Sports Internet is climbing into bed with Brendan Foster, former Olympian long-distance athlete and current businessman, with a site devoted to running. Called onrunning,com, the site will feature stats and details of race results, lifestyle content, a registration facility for the Great North Run, and an online shop, which will flog Nova’ s ViewFrom clothes brand. Onrunning is owned 50:50 by Sports Internet and Nova, Brendan Foster’s business. Internet Indirect PLC has raised £68.8 million, net of expenses, after the hi-tech investment company secured an institutional placing of 200 million new ordinary shares at 35p a share. The company is keen to invest in private companies involved in media content, software, enabling technologies, b2b e-commerce and Internet infrastructure. The company said it will tend to avoid business-to-consumer propositions, which envisage "multi-year losses, which aggressively subsidise customers or which are overly-dependent on future advertising revenues". The proceeds of the placing will take the total net funds available to Internet Indirect to £74.7 million, the company said. AIM-listed Net VC group JellyWorks today announced it had had exercised options to acquire shareholdings in a number of Web companies. They are: computer telephony integration outfit, ComTelco International Inc; digital media and communications start-up, TalkCast and Net dating agency MatchNet plc. The aggregate option price -- including the previously announced shareholdings in Orchestream Limited and beenz.com -- was £3,681,000, chairman Ed Guinan said today. Magic Moments Internet PLC is to create a new subsidiary -- Magic Moments Investments Limited -- to make a series of investments in Internet and e-commerce related businesses. 20 Jan 2000 AOL profits triple but traders are worried CNET is stumping up $700 million for robot shopping site Mysimon.com. Yahoo Japan Inc. broke Japanese records for the price of a single share reaching over 100 million yen (£59,237). Prices topped 101.4 million yesterday. The announcement came as total revenues for this quarter were 1.61 billion yen, 94% of which came in advertising revenues. The share price today dropped below 100 million yen again. 19 Jan 2000 Freeserve has joined forces with Dialog’s ecommerce division to give users online access to Dialog’s OfficeShopper service. The two are to provide a co-branded version of the product over Freeserve’s business channel. Simon Murdoch, the driving force behind the launch of Amazon.com’s UK Website, claims to be starting Britain’s largest Web start-up fund dedicated to cybercompanies. The entrepreneur has teamed up with Chase Manhattan Bank to form Chase Episode-1, which will launch the business to provide a $100 million venture capital fund. The reasons behind Amazon’s losses could lay in a technical fault, according to today’s Times. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos revealed how the company discovered it was making small occasional payments to one of its customers. On tracing the glitch, it turned out that the individual was typing minus orders and Amazon was programmed to send them the price of goods as a refund. Channel 4 has announced plans to quadruple its spending on the Internet in 2000. The company has formed an Interactive Department to handle the expansion, and also plans to launch up to six online businesses in the next 12 months. Net credit card fraud pushes up crime figures 18 Jan 2000 Furniture Web site slammed for cheap prices 17 Jan 2000 Buy.com prepares assault on UK 14 Jan 2000 Totalise doles out free PCs to schools 13 Jan 2000 Lastminute.com is raising $31 million from a clutch of big-name trade investors in its new finance round. Joining the shareholders' register are BAA plc, priceline.com, Bass Hotels & Resorts, Sony Music Entertainment, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Viventures and Mitsubishi Corporation Finance. Lastminute will spend the money on marketing and technical infrastructure. It also gains some hefty new suppliers, while its new trade investors gain a ready-made distribution channel for their ecommerce activities. Lastminute also presents The Register with a small ecommerce activity of its own: every day we get four – five calls from would-be customers thinking they are calling Lastminute. One of our telephone numbers differs by single digit from Lastminute's main number. What is worth to another online travel agency for us to send re-directs their way? AIM-listed Internet VC group, JellyWorks, has invested $750,000 in WorldCap Internet Solutions, the Latin American Internet incubation company. WCIS was formed in October 1999 to develop Internet businesses in Latin America. WCIS has offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Mexico City and has just closed a $3 million fund raising deal. Gameplay.com plc -- the British home games retailer and on-line games community -- has teamed up with BT to take part in trials of its broadband ADSL service due to go live later this year. Gameplay also signed an agreement with Cable & Wireless Communications to provide a games channel for C&WC's Web site and new snoopa search engine. Gameplay also confirmed commercial terms for hosting its on-line retail services on C&WC's interactive television service. As with Gameplay's other interactive television agreements, hosting fees will be payable and a profit share will be agreed with C&WC. Internet Technology Group has increased turnover by 215 per cent to£16.61million for last year (£5.28 million in 1998) according to interim results published today. Operating profits increased by 38 per cent to £830,000, up a smidgen from last year (£600,000). eVestment -- Internet and e-commerce investors -- has taken a "strategic" 10 per cent shareholding in Israel-based 4HighTech.com. 4HighTech uses the Internet to find and screen "high quality, technology driven, start up Israeli companies" and takes part in fund raisings of between $500,000 to $3 million. 10 Jan 2000 Primus Knowledge solutions is to buy Atlanta-based ecommerce software maker 2order.com for $90 million. Primus said it intended to expand its software family and enhance its consulting organisation. The deal is subject to shareholder agreement and upon closing of the deal, 2order.com will be owned by Primus. Online auction QXL.com's founder and £250 million stakeholder, Tim Jackson will head one of Europe's largest investment funds. Jackson will become director of Carlyle Internet Partners, Europe which, according to The Times is believed to have raised more than 500 million Euros (£315 million). Jackson hopes to offer his experience with QXL and said that he had missed having an advising venture capitalist in the first six months of QXL.com. ISP Silicon Valley plans to move from Ofex to AIM. The company, already valued at £52 million, markets free internet services and provides internet portal sites and offers ecommerce solutions. Investment company NewMedia Spark has bought a £713,000 minority stake in Internet software company, Purple Voice. Purple Voice creates software mainly for financial institutions to convey a voice over the Internet rather than the telephone. NewMedia's chief executive, Michael Whitaker told the Financial Times that Purple Voice was poised to benefit as more telephone calls were routed over the Internet 7 Jan 2000 AIM-listed Net investment house, JellyWorks, has reached a strategic alliance with EPO.COM, a Swedish company which aims to become a pan-European online investment bank for electronic public offerings. JellyWorks said it is actively pursuing investment opportunities in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia. Trad and new media publisher Future Network plc,has acquired four magazines and three Web sites from Dennis Publishing. The sites are home-entertainment.co.uk, hifichoice.co.uk and metalhammer.co.uk, which served a total of 1.2 million page impressions in November 1999, up 27 per cent on the month before. AIM listed investment vehicle, e-capital, has bought 2,000,000 ordinary shares and 2,000,000 warrants at the offering price of 5 pence per share in Internet Indirect PLC. Internet Indirect is the tenth Internet and/or new technology investment made by e-capital. The board of Web company, freecom.net plc, has confirmed press speculation that it might make an all-paper offer for business and accounting software outfit, Pegasus Group plc. The board of freecom.net confirmed it is considering an offer, but that there is "no guarantee that any offer will be made". 6 Jan 2000 Michael Lynton is to head AOL's international business to help develop its operations outside of the US. He moved from book publisher, Penguin, part of the Pearson group. The Financial Times Group and the US' MarketWatch.com, are to launch a new Web service that will provide free, fast, incisive, real time financial and market news to Europe's private investors. The move comes ahead of the launch of TheStreet.com in Britain. Music e-tailer, 101cd.com, generated £245,000 revenue in sales over the Christmas period, with over 21,000 packages shipped, the company said today. 5 Jan 2000 Virgin dotcoms banking arm Dotcoms master the universe Internet cash shell NewMedia Spark is pumping in £700,000 for a 35 per cent stake in an online M&A info-startup. Called Mergermarket.com, this launches in quarter two this year and will supply paid-for information on mergers and acquisitions throughout Europe. It will be formed from Financial News and the management buyout of an existing financial information database. NewMediaSpark were formed in October 1999 from a collaboration of Globalnetfinancial.com and Newmedia Investors ltd. Jewishnet is expected to float on the stock market in April/May this year turning its teenage founder into a multi-millionaire. Jewishnet was set up ten months ago by Benjamin Cohen, 17, with just £150. By September 1999 the site was valued (by whom) at over £5 million. The site will be relaunched in February and renamed Sojewish.com. Virgin Radio has been voted the Web's best radio station at the first Streaming Media People's Choice Awards, beating the best of the US' radio Web sites. This people's choice award is a reflection of Virgin Radio's outstanding achievements to establish an online community, the company said today. 4 January 1999 MultiMedia Corp takes WeddingGuideUK stake Britain's biggest bank -- Lloyds TSB -- is to launch an Euro-wide e-bank later this year. It's understood the move is to counter other British e-banks, Egg and Smile. Net investment house, e-capital, is to invest $400,000 (£250,000) in Exonet Communications SA. The deal represents five per cent of the issued share capital of Exonet. Exonet is to create the first Internet Protocol telephone service in Greece as an alternative carrier to the dominant national telephone service OTE SA, the company said. ebookers.com is to buy Geotours, a Norwegian discount travel agency for "under $1 million" in cash and shares. Ten per cent of Geotours $7.5 million sales in 1999 were online. CMGI is buying an 80 per cent stake in German-based ADTECH Advertise Service Providing for an undisclosed sum. It will act as the European arm of Adforce, another recent CMGI acquisition. CMGI also owns the rather better-known online ad server company, Engage. Teltran, a US IP telephony company, has stumped up $17 million in cash and stock for London-based Internet Protocols Ltd, described as an "emerging provider of value-added products and services to Internet Service Providers (ISP's) and Virtual Internet Service Providers (VISP's) throughout the United Kingdom".®
Team Register, 09 Feb 2000