21st > February > 2000 Archive

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Halifax, the UK's biggest mortgage bank, has splashed out $1 million for the domain name address IF.Com.
Team Register, 21 Feb 2000
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Intel now at inflection point – Grove

Most observers thought that Andy Grove, Intel's chairman, gave a lacklustre performance for his keynote speech at last Tuesday's Developer Forum. But in contrast to that, when he spoke to European journalists the day before, Grove positively sparkled. Taking questions on a wide range of topics, Grove was particularly lucid about the future of Intel as a corporation, and agreed that the firm had reached a so-called "strategic inflection point" -- a term he coined in his book Only the Paranoid Survive to describe sea-changes in the direction of companies. He claimed that companies which were re-engineering their businesses did not wish to spend vast sums of money on IT infrastructure, which gave Intel an opportunity to remove that burden from them in the shape of both off-site servers, such as the up-and-coming Itanium servers and in services. That went some way towards explaining both its investments in other companies, its acquisitions and its intent to set up server farms to service other companies. "The reality is that for a number of companies, 80 per cent of their first two years of business is spent on computational infrastructure and the rest on re-engineering their business," he said. "It is clear to us that a large proportion of these companies would like to buy, as a utility, the computational infrastructure of their business. We will go 80 per cent of the way to simplify their life. All we are doing is selling silicon, and by selling it as a service, we exempt them from having to do it themselves." Despite predictions that silicon will reach the end of the road in 10 or 15 years time, Grove said he still foresaw a future for it. "Sooner or later, we'll reach the physical limits that engineering can't get round. What is likely to happen this is a matter of substantial debate," he said. "My opinion is that [growth will come] through extensions of the existing structures, something like skyscrapers building upwards. There's something fundamental about silicon and its oxide that is very stable and lasts, basically, forever. That is a personal opinion." He said that he projected similar growths on Moore's Law "at least until 2010". Intel's 64-bit Itanium, he said, has 25 million separate transistors. The cost of equipment would continue to grow rapidly. Currently, it cost $2.5 billion to build a fabrication plant and that figure was likely to rise. The growth in server sales would rise steeply because of the Internet, and would in some respects mirror past sales in the desktop PC market. He said that the function of the Intel Developer Forum and its strategy had shifted, and the focus of the conference had broadened. "We are not a venture capitalist but our aim is to replicate our investment profile correspondingly to our sales profile." Currently, the sales model stands at 50 per cent sales inside the US. Intel was "starting from zero" in its investments outside the US, but that would grow. Grove said that Intel is currently in the very middle of its next "inflection point". Moving from a microprocessor to a building block company were "very significant changes" and required Intel to respond to ever changing factors in the market itself. He said the changes in Intel which are happening now were very different from when it shifted its strategy from memory to microprocessors. At that time, he said, "we were bleeding". "The challenges are different and we are stretched," he said. "It is a big challenge for us and we are hoping to fare well. " ® Intel Developer Forum Q1 2000
Mike Magee, 21 Feb 2000
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Intel's Y2K desktop, server, mobile roadmap

Towards the end of January, Intel presented its 2000 roadmap for the Asia Pacific region. While much of this information is by now already known, there are some striking features about the roadmap which are well worth stressing. Desktop/Celeron As we reported yesterday, 866MHz and 850MHz Coppermines will now be introduced at the end of February, while the 933MHz Pentium III Coppermine will arrive in May/June, and the 1GHz Pentium III will appear in the third quarter. All front side buses will be 133MHz by the end of the year, while the Willamette will intro at 1.4GHz, as previously reported. What is striking about this desktop roadmap is that Intel is positioning its Celeron processor against AMD's K6 and K7 in the value part of the market, with a 600MHz part being introduced in March, a 633MHz/666MHz Celeron in April, a 700MHz part in June, and a 733MHz Celeron in the third quarter of the year. Intel wants to win the battle in the retail market by aggressively pricing these parts in the first half of this year. However, we now understand that AMD will aggressively take the price war to Intel on the 27th of February, and has decided to cut prices on its Athlons and K6-2s even more aggressively than we have already reported. Intel's Timna will launch at 600MHz and 666MHz in September of this year. Although the Timna will originally come with support for synchronous memory, Intel has still not abandoned plans to give it Rambus support. Server, Itaniums, Foster, Cashcades The Itanium will clock at 733MHz when it is introduced, and will only reach 800MHz by the end of the year. Xeon Coppermines (Cashcades) will have 2Mb of cache at 850MHz and have between 1Mb and 2Mb at 800MHz in early October. Intel will introduce a 1GHz Xeon in August, and, as with the desktop parts above, a 866MHz in March and a 933MHz Xeon in May/June. Foster, like Willamette, will launch at 1.4GHz but will have two way support using the Colusa chipset and 256K level two cache. Chipsets As previously reported here, Intel is adding a 2 RIMM and 2 DIMM capability to its i820 chipset, to satisfy PC customers who don't want just one or the other. It has told its customers that 810, 815 and 820 chipset platforms have to be flip chip PGA ready. The 810 and the 810E chipsets are being aimed at the value segment of the market, while its 815E and 820E (Solano II/Camino II) chipsets will ramp through the first half of this year. Intel still wants to push its 0+2 820 chipsets through the first half of this year, with the 2+2 refresh coming in June this year. And it's still pushing the Rambus solution, as we reported from IDF last week. The consumer and business chipset roadmap for this year now looks more complicated than anyone could have ever imagined. Intel will price its .25 micron 550MHz Pentium III at $163 to bid in the low-end retail market, while it will still supply outmoded Pentium IIIs right up until the end of May. Notebooks At the end of May, Intel will make a mobile (notebook) price move which will effectively drop the price of its SpeedStep (Geyserville) chips to around $200. It will also introduce new prices for its Xeons at frequent intervals between March and May this year. On the mobile Celeron front, Intel will introduce .18 micron parts to replace its entire .25 range during the first half of this year, with a low price 650MHz Celeron mobile aimed for June, and a low price 700MHz Celeron mobile aimed for September. Time to flip the chip Intel is telling its partners that all new platforms launched from Q2, 2000 or later must use the flip chip packaging, with SECC2 (Slot 1), lasting until the end of the year in parallel, and subject to availability, as previously reported here. We now have the prices that Intel will make for its Pentium III and Celeron processors through to the end of May, which we will publish in a separate story later on today. ® See also Intel's Celeron pricing to June Intel's Pentium III pricing to June
Mike Magee, 21 Feb 2000
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Intel's Celeron pricing to June

The following shows the pricing of Intel's Celeron family from the next drop, on the 27th Feb, to the launch of its 700MHz Celeron in June. All prices are for units of 1,000 while the 66 designation is the speed of the system, or front side bus. On the 27th of February next, the biggest price cuts on Celerons will be for the 533/66 and the 500/66 parts, which will drop in price by 24 per cent to $127, and by 27 per cent to $93. The 466/66 part will drop by 18 per cent to $73. The new 600/66 part will cost $181. At the launch of Intel's 666MHz Celeron part in April, it will cost $192, while the 633/66 part will cost $170. The 600/66 part will drop by 24 per cent to $138, the 566/66 will drop by 38 per cent to $103, the 533/66 part will fall by 27 per cent to $93, the 500/66 part by 22 per cent to $73, and the 466/66 part will drop by five per cent to $69. The 433/66 part will also be $69. At the introduction of the 700/66 part in June, it will cost $192. The 666/66 will drop by 11 per cent to $170, the 633/66 part to $138 -- a 19 per cent fall, and the 600/66 part to $112, also a 19 per cent fall. The 566/66 will drop to $93, the 500/66 to $69, while the 466/66 will stay unchanged at $69. Lesser processor speeds will drop off the roadmap. These prices should be viewed in conjunction with the Y2K roadmap published earlier. ® See also Intel's Y2K desktop, server, mobile roadmap
Mike Magee, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel's Pentium III pricing to June

As with the Celeron prices published earlier today, quantities are for 1,000s in trays. The boxed pricing for the channel (provided they are available), will differ. Here, below, the 100/133 designations after the processor speeds refer to the speed of the system or front side bus, while 256 or 512 refers to the amount of cache. These are prices for SECC2 (Slot 1) processors. Intel introduces its 866/133 processor on the 27th of February which will cost $776. The other launch on that date, the 850/100, will cost $765. The 800/133 and the 800/100, both with 256K will drop by 24 per cent to $647 on the 27th of February, while the 750/100 will drop by 29 per cent to $530. The 733/133 will fall by 23 per cent to $455, while the 700/100 will drop by 26 per cent to $417. The 666/133 will fall by 25 per cent to $337, while the 650/100 will fall by the same percentage to $316. The 600/133 with 256K will fall by 24 per cent to $241, and the 600/133 with 512K will also cost $241. The 550/100 with 256K and 512K of cache will both fall by 20 per cent to $193. On the 23rd of April, the 866/133 drops by four per cent to $744, the 850/100 to $733. The 800/133 will drop by 13 points to $562, while the 750/100 will fall by 14 points to $455. The biggest cut is on the 733/133, which falls by 26 per cent to $337. The 700/100 falls by 24 per cent to $316, the 666/133 to $251, and the 650/100 to $241. The 600/133/100 each fall to $193 -- a 20 per cent reduction. The 550 processors with both 256K and 512K cache stay unchanged at $193. On the 28th of May next, Intel will introduce its 933/133 Coppermine Pentium III, which will displace the 866/133 and be initially priced at $744. The 866/133 will drop by 24 per cent to $562, the 850/100 to $551, and the 800/133/100 to $385 -- a large drop of 31 per cent. The 750/100 will fall to $337 (26%), the 733/133 to $246 (27%), and the 700/100 to $241 (24%). The 666/133 will fall to $193 (23%) and the 650/100 will also be priced at $193 (20%), meaning the other members of the Pentium III family drop off the roadmap. These prices should be viewed in conjunction with both the Intel Celeron pricing and the Intel roadmap published earlier on today. Later, we will put the prices in context for those contemplating buying PCs over the next three months. ® See also Intel's Celeron pricing to June Intel's Y2K server, desktop, mobile roadmap
Mike Magee, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Infineon IPO to raise $5.9bn

Infineon, Siemens' spun-off semiconductor operation, will IPO on 13 March -- a share issue the company believes will raise between five and six billion euros ($4.94-5.93 billion) -- the company said today. The IPO will take place on both the Frankfurt and Nasdaq stock exchanges, with shares hitting the market between 29 and 35 euros, the exact price to be announced 12 March, just before the float. Infineon's IPO has been on the cards since last July when CEO Ulrich Schumacher mooted the possibility and finance director Peter Fischl hinted at an October 1999 launch date. Back then, the idea of an Infineon IPO seemed laughable -- as a Siemens business unit it was well known for its inability to make money. As part of Siemens, Infineon lost 1.2 billion marks ($606 million) in 1998. Not long after the IPO 'announcement' -- the two were sufficiently close for Schumacher to have know the results when he said what he said -- Infineon posted its first profit: $22.75 million on sales of $1.25 billion for what was effectively its third quarter of fiscal 1999. Immediately after the results were posted, the IPO date was switched to February/March 2000. Last month, Infineon posted a Q1 2000 profit of 117 million euros ($11.58 million). As one of the world's leading memory producers -- the Seven Dramurai™ -- it's likely to continue doing very nicely thank you, as new Internet, mobile and digital content markets open up, all of them requiring RAM chips. The IPO will seen 26 per cent of Infineon being floated. Siemens will retain the rest, but Schumacher said that the German industrial giant plans to divest itself of most of that 74 per cent share by next year. Whether that means there will be a second share issue next autumn isn't known, but that certainly what the German edition of the FT has predicted. However, according to analysts cited by Reuters, Siemens still holds all of the key patents on which Infineon's products are based and these will have to be transferred to Infineon if Siemens' plan to keep just a minority stake in the company is to make financial sense. The snag is that the transfer process is legally complex and could easily take a year to complete. Schumacher reiterated earlier statements that Infineon will use the IPO proceeds to fund acquisitions, both at home and abroad. No names were named, but the he did say the company was interested in "small firms with know-how". ®
Tony Smith, 21 Feb 2000
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Transmeta launches in London

Transmeta CEO Dave Ditzel breezed into London today to launch its SuperHype Crusoe CPUs to an indifferent British public. The fabless -- and chipless -- and productless -- company did not extend an invitation to The Register, Europe's biggest IT news site, which is based in London. PR dummies of the Week are US company Ketchum Thomas PR. Its notion of engaging with British IT publications is to stick a notice up on Transmeta's web site. This follows: "Transmeta will be holding an exclusive European press conference at The Design Museum in London, England on February 21, complete with demos and presentations from CEO David Ditzel and VP of Marketing Jim Chapman. Please respond to the contacts above by February 16 to reserve your seat." Press conferences tend to work best when PR companies inform the journalists where and when they are to take place. Press conferences where journalists have to find out where and when they take place are not usually so successful. Or well attended. Perhaps Transmeta would consider hiring a European PR company next time. American imperialists on remote don't hack it with us. London is, incidentally, a peculiar place to hold an "exclusive" European press conference, given that it's CeBIT week. The world's biggest computer show springs into action, Thursday. Oh well: The Register's own Annie Kermath attended Transmeta's big US bash last month. So on the basis, that Ditzel is going to be mostly in reprise mode, here's a dusting down for our launch stories. On the slim chance that something stunning or new is announced today by Ditzel at London's achingly fashionable- but crap to get to unless you're ZDNet UK - London Design Museum, The Register is offering good rates for the story. You don't have to be a freelancer: we won't tell. ® Transmeta launch coverage Transmeta's real mystery: its OS tweaking auction No home for Rambus at Transmeta Transmeta could face Intel legal challenge A Linux, Transmeta Web-enabled Diamond Rio for CeBIT? Transmeta chips to run Linux, Windows, attack Intel x86 IT Network: When Crusoe met Speedstep IT Network: Crusoe explained
Drew Cullen, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel's manufacturing and packaging crunch

While we were at the Intel Developer Forum last week, news broke that Kyocera, one of the world's major producers of ceramic substrates, had said it wanted more money from the chip giant for the parts it made for its microprocessors. Just another supply nightmare for Chipzilla. But Intel faces more challenges than that, as Sunlin Chou, VP and general manager of its technology and manufacturing group, made clear when he talked to a small gaggle of international journalists before the forum started. His job is a particularly tough one. He said that Intel wanted to diversify into other areas and, of course, they include the lucrative Flash memory area as well as its other, networking, silicon business. Earlier, Pat Gelsinger, a senior VP in the corporation, had explained to us that Intel wanted to blanket the world with its silicon. Chou said that Intel already had four fabs in full production of .18 micron silicon, and the fifth was, in his words, "coming on line right now". That .18 micron silicon was "ramping very fast" he said. Gelsinger had earlier claimed that any shortages in this type of technology would come to an end by the end of Q1. One of the challenges Intel faces, said Chou, is that ceramic fabrication is at such high temperatures that copper interconnect at .13 micron, which the company has vowed to introduce at the end of 2001 is not suitable for this process. Flip chip packaging, which Intel wants to replace its current Slot 1 technology, is "very thin, very light and has very high performance," he said. It is also very cost-effective. Intel currently produces its chip dies on eight inch (200mm) wafer, and will do so through 2001. But, in 2002, it aims to move to twelve inch (300mm) wafers, initially in Oregon. This latter method helps reduce cost but the move to both copper interconnect technology and to 12-inchers, poses formidable challenges for the corporation. Albert Yu, a senior VP at Intel, proudly waved a 12-incher at the assembled masses last week as proof that the corporation was serious about the move. However, Intel has a policy of mirroring its fabrication plants. It is moving to .18 micron technology, aims to produce its Willamette 1.4GHz processors which also use .18 micron technology in the second half of this year, but is also committed to moving to .13 micron process using copper and then to 12-inch wafers. These moves are not trivial, and will force Intel to re-equip and/or to build additional fabrication plants, so incurring a large amount of capital investment and R&D. Said Chou: "We are on track for copper. Beyond .13 micron we can see other challenges coming along." Those could include, eventually, technology at the 30 nanometer level. Here, Chou was alluding to Moore's Law, which many estimate will come to an end in around 10 year's time. "Some people have said 'slow down' so we don't bump into this brick wall in the next 10 years," he said. "Our view is completely different. We've got a decade to do this and our industry should take this as a call for action." But Intel's short term challenges of shifting its production to faster and more economic models are probably of more concern to Sunlin Chou. Its ability to shift its entire fabrication efforts in around 18 months is a more immediate headache for Intel. ® Intel Developer Forum Q1 2000
Mike Magee, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Alcatel snaps up Newbridge

Newbridge, the troubled networking infrastructure firm that has not been for sale for as long as we can remember, is to succumb to the advances of Alcatel. According to FT.com, the $6.5 billion deal could be announced as soon as late Tuesday. It looks like a good home: Alcatel, the huge French telecoms equipment manufacturer, is already a player in datacoms, but very much a second division player. With Newbridge it gains scale: Newbridge, hamstrung by a series of poor results, gains breathing space, and a rich parent. It will be interesting to see how well Alcatel has learned the lessons of its previous big North American acquisition. (telecoms equipment maker SC Communications in June 1998). An Alcatel profits warning shortly after that transaction resulted in a big class action by disgruntled former DSC shareholders. ®
Drew Cullen, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

EMI to launch digital music service via Supertracks

UK music giant EMI will today announce a major push into the digital music market in partnership with online music specialist Supertracks. The deal will provide EMI with a fourth format -- digital download -- to offer alongside CDs, MiniDiscs and tapes. Music provided in the new format will, at least initially, be sold through online retailers. EMI will release singles first, in two months' time, followed by albums at a later date. "This is the beginning of making digital distribution a normal part of the business," Jeremy Silver, VP of EMI's new media division, told US newswires. "There will be a way for honest people to take part in this without turning themselves into pirates". Under the terms of the deal, full details of which have yet to be released, EMI will take a small stake in Supertracks in return for full access to its back catalogue, which includes works from some 1500 artists and bands. And this could easily be doubled if EMI's proposed merger with Time Warner's music operation goes ahead later this year. EMI also has a partnership with Liquid Audio, which has the right to offer all of EMI's recordings via digital download. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

CallNet 0800 plugs ISDN loophole

CallNet 0800 has closed a loophole that allowed its users to access the 24/7 toll-free service using ISDN. Until recently, some Net users were able to take advantage of ISDN connections with no dial-up costs. When this facility was pulled, ISDN users accused the ISP of foul play. But a spokesman for CallNet 0800 said: "It is clearly stated in the terms and conditions that the service is not available for people using ISDN." CallNet 0800 is a domestic ISP, and its ISDN freephone ban is to designed to deter business use. "Only a handful" of customers are affected by the ban, the company claims. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Feb 2000
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WebTV propels e-district to financial stratosphere

A London-based 12-man outfit plans to become the latest to profit from the cyber-boom with a £100 million float next month. Three-year-old e-district.net will use the £15-20 million expected to be raised from the listing to expand into the US.
Linda Harrison, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

UK Chancellor gives BT another good kicking

Chancellor Gordon Brown is to take another swipe at BT amid criticism over the continued high cost of Net access in Britain. Brown's aides reportedly briefed journalists over the weekend and it seems he'll tell the British and American Chambers of Commerce tomorrow about his desire to see the cost of Net access fall -- and quickly. And yesterday, even Foreign Minister Robon Cook threw his own tuppence into the debate. Interviewed by BBC Radio Four's The World This Weekend about Britain's possible entry into the single European currency, Cook said that right now there were more important matters to British business, including the cost of Net access in the UK. Last week an interview in the FT was responsible for wiping more than £2 billion off the value of the telecoms giant. And there is speculation that unless BT can regain the confidence of its investors it could fall prey to a hostile take-over bid. A spokeswoman for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) denied Brown's intervention was a snub to the e-commerce minister, Patricia Hewitt, who has held talks with the industry and campaigners over bringing down the cost of Net access. She also denied that Brown's personal involvement was a direct criticism of Hewitt's handling of the issue, and that she had failed to deliver any tangible benefits to consumers. Regardless of whether Hewitt has been sidelined, or whether the Government has changed its policy towards letting the market decide the cost of Net access, what's clear, is that BT is enraged by Brown's intervention. A spokesman for the telco said that July 2001 -- the date by which the local loop would be unbundled -- was already a "tight deadline". At the moment it is reluctant to see that date brought forward claiming that the logistical barriers would simply make it too difficult. The issue is whether Brown, OFTEL or anyone could realistically bring forward local loop unbundling by any sizeable amount. Even with BT's co-operation and a following wind how much could be shaved off. A month? Two? Whatever your view of BT, is that a sufficient reason to wipe billions off its share price? BT is expected to send a timetable detailing the rollout of local loop unbundling to OFTEL within the next four to six weeks. This morning BT's shares had rallied up 76p to £10.40 by lunchtime. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

BSA declares UK piracy truce

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is offering the pipe of peace to British businesses which may be using illegally installed software. The industry lobby group is offering a 30-day truce, kicking off on 6 March. At the same time it is offering a the BSA GASP auditing tool at bsatruce.com, as well as free Web-based advice. (This site did not appear to be live at time of writing.) Often criticised for heavy-handed tactics, BSA's 'carrot and stick' approach is to be welcomed. Companies can download the BSA software, self-audit and pay-up without fear of being crucified by punitive back-payments and fines. Or prison. The BSA truce should even bring in more revenue for its software publisher members than its more usual method of scaring the bejaysus out of corporates... once companies are brought into the clean licence fold, they tend to stay there. According to BSA, there is nothing new in the truce -- it is merely formalising a process that it has "always offered UK businesses". Mike Newton, BSA campaign manager said: "We understand that some of the illegal software in use is as a result of poor systems management, rather than deliberate theft." ®
Drew Cullen, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Micro$oft to sack temp workers after one year

Microsoft has replied to criticism that it exploits temporary workers by employing them for years -- making them virtual permanent workers -- while denying them the benefits associated with a permanent position. This so-called 'permatemp' status saves the obscenely wealthy software giant millions in fringe-benefit costs each year. Microsoft's solution, announced last week, is one Scrooge himself would admire: the company will now sack its temporary workers after one year of service, and require them to wait 100 days before being re-hired. The new policy is scheduled to take effect on 1 July. The company's previous practice of stringing temps along for years has been challenged in lawsuits filed by long-term temporary workers seeking regular benefits. Microsoft lost one case to a decision enabling temporary workers to buy company shares at the 15 percent discount enjoyed by staff. A second suit seeking medical and retirement benefits is currently pending. The new policy will indeed indemnify the company against further claims that it exploits its temps; but it will also have the ironic effect of decreasing the number of experienced casual workers it employs, while simultaneously reducing their economic benefits and job security. A lose/lose situation if we ever saw one. And you thought those Redmond boys were such a lot of cutting-edge geniuses. ®
Thomas C Greene, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

AMD to slaughter Intel on Athlon pricing

As we revealed earlier on today, AMD has decided to take its price war right to the gates of Chipzilla central and has further revised its pricing on the Athlon in a bid to make Intel hurt. Our information is that AMD has decided to make the Athlon 700 its sweet spot -- cutting the price by a staggering 60 per cent next week. Here is the latest distributor pricing, which will hit on the 28th of February next. OEM prices, for quantities of 1000, will be even less expensive. The Athlon 550 is now terminated. The 600MHz will cost $190, the 650MHz $226, the 700MHz $270, the 750MHz $350, the 800MHz $530 and the top of the range model, the 850MHz Athlon, will cost $750 from next Monday. Our sources say that AMD is making these moves to help counter Intel's plans to position its Celeron against the Athlon and the K6-2. While the reductions have the effect of reducing AMD's average selling prices, and so its profits on Athlons, the cuts also demonstrate that the company is determined to take advantage of shortages in supply of Intel's Coppermine processors. Intel has described its shortages as temporary, and lasting only until the end of Q1, but there has been tightness since the first .18 micron Coppermine products were launched on October 25th last, as exclusively reported here at the time. In January, we reported that Intel's distribution channel's allocation had been subjected to massive shortages. The UK cuts, obtained from sources close to our local distributor and OEM channels, have also been echoed by similar information on German site Tech Channel, which also gives percentage cuts for the other AMD parts. ® See also Intel's Pentium III pricing to June Intel's Celeron pricing to June Intel's Y2K server, desktop, mobile roadmap
Mike Magee, 21 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Tesco slams ‘unnecessary’ DVD zoning

UK grocer Tesco has launched a one-company war against DVD 'zoning' -- the fixing of DVD players and discs to operate only within specific world markets. In a letter to the president of Warner Home Video, Warren Liebefarb, Tesco world sourcing director Christine Cross dismissed zoning as an "unnecessary practice". She described the regulations as being "against the spirit of free competition and potentially a barrier to trade". Cross' complaint is unlikely to carry much weight with the major movie distributors, including Warner, since they were the very organisations that forced through zoning in the first place by refusing to support the format unless hardware vendors built such a facility into their players. However, the supermarket giant will probably have more luck with its own entry into the DVD market. During a recent sales trial of a DVD player from Cambridge vendor Wharfedale International in three of its stores, Tesco discovered that after a bit of tampering, the machines could be made to play discs from other regions. Even by Wharfedale's own admission, the DEV-750, priced at £179.99, is "easily hackable". "It was not our intention as a manufacturer, but with a few physical adjustments to the machine, it can be made to play discs from Region One," a company representative said. Region One is North America. Under normal circumstances, European and Japanese players, designated Region Two units, will not play US discs -- a shame, since DVDs are cheaper in the US and far more movies have been released in the format over the Atlantic. The culprit is the LSI Logic chip used in the player -- a component used by many manufacturers. Other players, including machines from Samsung, are known to be easily converted to 'Region Zero' -- aka worldwide access -- or to circumvent the zone check altogether, by simply pressing a handful of buttons on the remote control. DVD fans have worked out many ways of converting players for multi-zone playback -- the DVD equivalent of overclocking -- but these usually involved modifications to a player's motherboard. A Tesco spokesman told The Register: "Demand has been massive. We've sold thousands of them since they went on sale on Thursday." In regard to the letter to Hollywood, he added: "We hope that Warner Home Video will decide to end the practice. But our priority now is to keep up with demand for the machines." ® Wharfedale was not permitted to reveal the 'de-zoning' secret of its Wharfedale DVDS-750. The Register would welcome any contributions from readers. Related stories DVD industry is "screwing customers" -- Torvalds DeCCS temporarily banned from the Net
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E-retailing kills children – yeah, right

The Internet was last week accused of taking children's lives. Those reading an article in Thursday's Express newspaper could have been forgiven for believing that the Web was about to kill off most of the nation's nippers while they were playing outside their homes. "The Internet revolution's promise of car-free shopping could backfire by creating new traffic jams -- of trucks and vans rushing to deliver ordered goods," it pointed out. "A detailed report warned yesterday that the prospect raises fears of increased road casualties, particularly to children playing near their homes." Not that this was complete nonsense – the report, by Lex Transfleet, warned of "an increase in the use of trucks and vans in residential areas that have previously had very little or no heavy goods vehicle traffic." But The Register can reveal that there is no need to keep your children locked in their rooms. "There will not be a massive increase in road deaths as a result of the Internet," clarified Peter Saunders, marketing strategy director for the company. "There are dangers that there will be increased congestion on residential streets. Suppliers need to pool together so we don't have ten vans going down the same street from ten different supermarkets," he said. "There could be a potential danger to children. But the freight and logistics industry is pretty responsible."®