9th > February > 2000 Archive
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. ®
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
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.
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.
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. ®
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. ®
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. ®
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
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. ®
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. ®
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. ®
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. ®
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. ®
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. ®
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
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. ®
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
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. ®
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
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.
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
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. ®
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.