22nd > February > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

AMD Athlon 933MHz to cost less than $850 in April

Taiwanese OEMs close to AMD's plans have leaked details of the likely price cuts the firm is predicting for April, confirming once again the serious attempt it will make to topple Intel off its previously impregnable pricing tower. Yesterday we revealed that AMD will cut and slash its Athlon pricing next Monday, the 28th of February. But by April there will be a 933MHz Athlon -- which implies a 266/133MHz DDR/SDRAM bus. In April, the 600MHz Athlon will reach the end of its life. The 650MHz will cost $192, the 700MHz $235, the 750MHz $325, the 800MHz $495, the 850MHz $725 and the new 933MHz Athlon $860. These prices do not include heatsink and fans. According to the Taiwanese sources, the prices above are the minimum cuts AMD will make, and closer to the time the slashes are likely to be deeper still. Further good news for AMD and its Athlon Powers suggest that FIC's (First International Corporation's) SK11 boards are likely to hit OEMs real soon now, for around $85. These will use the Via KX153 chipset supporting 133MHz synchronous memory 4xAGP and other features. According to the source, the FIC SK11 has a software BIOS overclocking facility which will allow users to keep clocking up the board until it fails, and then to auto-drop to the last reliable clock-up. This mobo, apparently, will also tell users what error codes are, using real-life phrases like: "Your video it not working too well." The OEM splash screen will support 256 colours at 640 x 480, our source adds. ® See also AMD to slaughter Intel on Athlon pricing Intel's Pentium III pricing to June Intel's Celeron pricing to June Intel's Y2K desktop, server, mobile roadmap
Mike Magee, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel to plunge $250 million into Infineon

German financial news service Handelsblatt is reporting that chip giant Intel will take a one per cent share in Infineon, a Siemens subsidiary, when the company floats on the Frankfurt Dax market. The shares are set to float on the 13th of March next, and the investment is not the first Intel has made in a semiconductor memory company. It also has stakes in Korean firm Samsung and US company Micron. Over the last year, Intel's Capital division has taken an aggressive stance towards using its liquidity to invest both in large and small companies. As we reported yesterday, since Siemens span Infineon off as a separate unit, the company has turned in a profit. After flotation, Siemens will have over 70 per cent of the shares but its eventual aim is to divest most of those. ® See also Infineon IPO to raise $5.9 billion
Mike Magee, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Russian leader Putin unleashes KGB on the Web

The Internet will soon enable Russia to make a nostalgic return to its bad old days of official paranoia and general neurosis, as the state security apparatus has recently plugged itself into the Internet with a free hand to monitor virtually all electronic communications, the Moscow Times reports. Political blackmail and industrial espionage will undoubtedly feature heavily in the new online regime of strong-arm leader Vladimir Putin, a well-known former KGB spook. Russians are taking it with characteristic cynicism and gallows humour. "The whole Federal Security Service will be crying tomorrow over your love letters," huffs one banner Russian Webmasters have published. Moscow Times sources claim that Putin's goons have already compelled a large number of the country's Internet service providers to install monitoring software and equipment. The KGB, now named the Federal Security Service, needs a Web monitoring capability to thwart organised crime rings, terrorist organisations, child pornographers, and every other manner of very naughty person, it maintains. But the Russian securocrat establishment long ago established itself as a body obsessed with paranoid campaigns to gather incriminating evidence against influential politicians, civil servants and businessmen to be used as needed to bolster state control. "Security organs and special forces have the right -- and now the capability -- to monitor private correspondence and telephone conversations of individual citizens according to the law," the Moscow Times quoted a state official as saying. Monitoring citizens "according to the law" is a familiar incantation repeated throughout the world whenever a security organisation seeks expanded powers to snoop on the populace. But without clear, statutory limitations on the state's intrusive powers, and clearly articulated rights of privacy for citizens, such appeals all but guarantee abuse. Russia, like China, has of course no such statutory protections in place. There may yet be cause for optimism, however. Perhaps, after a period of ideological struggle, greed will eventually win out in this case, as it also might do in the recent Chinese demand that cryptographic keys be surrendered to state officials. Both governments are celebrated for their paranoia; yet both depend heavily on foreign investment and commerce to satisfy the needs of the populace, and both are characterised by spectacular greed and corruption at all levels of society. Should such Draconian security policies offend the more delicate sensibilities of enlightened foreign investors with extremely large quantities of money to burn, and in so doing threaten economic development, we may yet see a softening of this posture. Assuming, of course, that the lust for wealth can ultimately conquer the lust for control by which both governments live. It may be some time before we get a clear hint which way the wind is blowing, but for now The Register is prepared to take that bet. ®
Thomas C Greene, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel chipset roadmaps more like roadworks

If you're currently scratching your head over whether to buy a Pentium III or an Athlon now, or wait until next week or for a couple of months when the prices drop and the performance rises, and when everything's .18 micron whatever that is, you might think you've already got problems. But your problems are as nothing compared to motherboard and PC manufacturers, who are, as we write, trying to make sense of Intel's chipset strategy for both the consumer and desktop market for the rest of the year. They, remember, don't only have to compete against each other, but also have to time their product introductions to take advantage of "seasonal fluctuations" and try and make a decent margin on the whole mess. (Pity, for example, NECX Direct, which has a plaintive message on its direct Web site saying that there's a temporary shortage of Pentium III/733MHz processors -- click ETA for that message) Intel is currently showing its Asia Pacific partners two chipset roadmaps: one for the consumer (read Celeron, Timna), and one for the business (read Coppermines &c) markets. Consumer Chipsets Consumer first then. Luckily Intel has split 2000 into four quarters, which makes things slightly easier, and into seven segments (value, performance &c) which doesn't half mess things up. The 810 occupies the three value segments for this quarter, while Intel is positioning the 810E, the 440BX, and the 820 (Camino, remember) at the higher end. In Q2, the roadworks are more interesting. The 810E starts to dominate the value segment of the market ($0 to $999), while the 815E (Solano II) and the 820E (Caminogate II) make their appearance. At this stage the 440BX starts to assume a very small typeface on the Intel roadworks, suggesting that it does not wish it well after Q2. And, indeed, in Q3, the 440BX -- still a very popular chipset right now -- has a typeface so small that it's impossible to see. Instead, a small eight point Timna chipset starts to make its appearance, while the rest of the column is occupied by the 810E, the 815E, the 820E and a few 820s scattered about. Q4 is dominated by Intel chipsets ending in E (Solano II and Caminogate II), except that high on the performance end, the word Tehama, a Willamette codename, begins to emerge in quite small type. Business Chipsets The business chipset roadworks is far easier to understand than the consumer chipset roadworks. Q1 is dominated by the 810E, the 820, a bit of the 440BX and quite a bit of the 840. This could have changed a little by now, because Intel has discovered it has a little problem with some 820 and 840 chipsets, as reported here two weeks ago. Q2, Q3 and Q4 are dominated by 810Es, 815Es, 820Es and 840, with a smattering of Tehama and Timna right at the every end. The legend on this roadworks has the 440ZX AGPset marked, but it isn't in any of the 50 blocks in this pretty coloured picture. Contrast and Compare FIC clients Here, it becomes helpful to contrast Intel's chipset roadmaps with FIC's chipset roadmap for 2000, ignoring the AMD and Via (Cyrix) components for the sake of clarity. First International Corporation (FIC), currently in litigation with Intel, along with Via, still sees the 440BX chipset as aimed at the performance segment. Both the 810/810E are aimed at the value segment. Solano II -- which has no dual processor support, but supports integrated 3D and AGP4x, and supports PC-133 -- is aimed at the mainstream segment. It has support for 2-4 USB ports and 4-6 IDE devices. Caminogate II is aimed at the performance segment and supports both Rambus and SDRAM, as reported earlier. It will support dual processors, UDMA 66, and supports 2-4 USB ports and 4-6 IDE devices. We'll get onto the Via and AMD chipsets -- such as Irongate 4, later... Is everything Santa Clara now? ® See also Intel's Y2K server, mobile, desktop roadmap
Mike Magee, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Diamond MM threatens to sue SuperRio over trademark

Withering intimidation in the form of an e-mail from legal eagles representing Diamond Multimedia and disputing the Rio trademark has persuaded a virtual unknown to solicit new names for its portable MP3 player previously known as Super Rio. The little gizmo in question is a hard-drive based MP3 player using an ordinary 40 GB IDE hard drive. MP3 digital music is added through a parallel port interface and power is provided by any 2 amp, 12v power source, such as a car cigarette lighter or a computer power supply. Law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which represents Diamond and its subsidiary RioPort, warned the fledgling manufacturer that their clients "take a very dim view of your actions, and under the circumstances insist that you cease all use of the SUPER RIO mark." They further warn that Super Rio's use of "a domain name so similar to our client's famous and registered trademark to sell competing products has no other purpose than to lure seekers of our client's products to your Web site." The lawyers assure us, however, that their clients are "willing to refrain from taking immediate legal action" if Super Rio should "respond immediately by taking down the Web site and responding in writing confirming your intention to cease all offending uses of the mark." But they go on to warn that "their client's patience is quite short, and they will not hesitate to assert its [sic] superior rights if necessary. We ask that the Web-site be taken down and that you confirm your intentions in within seven days of receipt of this e-mail." Super Rio has decided not to throw its hat into the ring, and is soliciting suggestions for a new name on its Web site. The Register irreverently suggests "Rio Grande". Surely Diamond Multimedia hasn't been around that long.... ®
Thomas C Greene, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Contenders pile into Brit online finance news wars

The media job ads in Monday's Guardian is a great place to find out who's launching what - so let's take a peek in February 21's edition.
Drew Cullen, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Cash Register: 1-14 Feb, 2000

14 Feb 2000 Porn sites undermine Paris brothels
Team Register, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Net banking is for Scandinavians in anoraks

Top marks to the FT's Observer column for ferreting out this Central Banking interview with Abbey National CEO Ian Harley. Last week, Harley unveiled Cahoot, the mortgage bank's new online business. Last August, he told Central Banking that "while it would be possible to offer Internet access to mount a new product and attract 50,000 anoraks who play with the facility, it's not possible to make any money out of it." If.com, take note. According to Harley, Scandinavia is the one place where online banking could be transacted profitably. "If you spend six months in semi-darkness you will spend more time at home in front of your computer," he says, cheerfully. ®
Drew Cullen, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

MS loses Korean action over Windows trademark

Microsoft has lost an attempt to get a 1980 Korean trademark for "Window" overturned in the Patent Court after the Supreme Court ordered a re-trial last May. The trademark is held by diary and stationery producer Yangji Total Stationery Co of Seoul. The company has a turnover of $36 million, is the country's largest diary producer, and has the Window diary concession for 2002 World Cup merchandise. Microsoft challenged the trademark in 1993, and offered a paltry $1,000 for it in 1996, but to no avail. Microsoft may now find itself faced with a damages suit, and may have to stop using the name Windows in South Korea. It has been a long slog for Kim Yong Se, the president of Yangji, who has a trademark for Window in both English and Korean script. Microsoft had a very relaxed attitude to trademarks in the early days, and did not get a trademark on Windows in the US until 1994. Last time we checked in the UK, Microsoft's application was mired and looked unlikely to succeed. The problems that Microsoft encountered in Korea were that the prior trademark was both earlier and not used in bad faith, so the 1998 Trademark Act provided no help, nor did the Korean Industrial Property Office rules that allowed the expeditious handling of cases when requested by a foreign government. It would be hard to imagine the US PTO offering a similar courtesy to a foreign government request. To make matters worse, according to JoongAng Iibo News, the president of Microsoft Korea was "forced to resign" last year because his handling of the local company's affairs. Steve Ballmer was reported to be "quite angry", allegedly because the former president did not handle adroitly the anti-dumping investigation by the Korean Fair Trade Commission, the failed takeover of Hangul and Computer Co, and the "unfairly higher" pricing of Windows 98, compared with that in other Asian countries - or, it seems, the Windows trademark matter. ®
Graham Lea, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Gates buys stake in aircraft carrier builder

Bill Gates is investing personally in Newport News Shipbuilding, the US maker of nuclear aircraft carriers, through his Cascade Investment company, according to a Schedule 13G just filed with the SEC. His 2.6 million shares are worth around $69 million, making him one of the top two shareholders. Newport has been buying its own shares because it believes they are undervalued, having dropped 17 percent since August. Evidently Gates, or his investment manager Michael Larsen, has had the same thought. That's not his only punt this month: Gates' privately-owned Corbis, which he formed in 1989 (and in which Microsoft took a large minority stake in 1993), has become the lead investor in FootageNow. The company had its start last August when iXL Enterprises put in $200,000, followed by $25 million from investors. Gates has invested $8 million through Corbis, and provided a plug for the company in its press release: "Broadband media commerce using Internet technology will alter the way media is disseminated to customers worldwide". The investment is to enable the four-person FootageNow to speed-up the buying of stock film and video concerned with training, and its subsequent dissemination, reducing the turnaround from up to five days to one day, by working online. The company also intends to use the cash to acquire NY-based Second Line Search, which provides a similar kind of service for film studios and advertising agencies. Related Story Gates lacks golden touch with $5bn investment portfolio
Graham Lea, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Want to publish your credit card details? That'll do nicely, sir

A Manchester-based computer e-tailer has failed to solve a problem on its Web site potentially jeopardising the security of hundreds of its customers. On Friday, The Register informed MicroLand Online that the financial details of transactions were openly available on its site. The personal details of some 150 people -- including names and credit card details such as numbers and expiry dates -- were clearly and openly available on the site, without any form of password protection or obvious security. Andrew Percy, MD of MicroLand Online admitted that the information should have been protected by a password and insisted that he would implement a "short-term fix" to remedy the situation. According to Percy, the site was rebuilt more than a week ago and that this was probably the root of the security lapse. He said the construction and maintenance of the site was outsourced to a separate company. However, The Register delayed publishing the story on Friday when it became clear the "fix" was not as thorough as suggested and that the personal details of customers were still being published on the site. Today, transaction details can still be found although all sensitive information has now been removed. However, the information still has not been password protected. Kevin Black, of Internet Security Systems was dismayed at the lax security. "This kind of thing doesn't help anyone in e-commerce, and does nothing to boost consumer confidence," he said. The Register learnt of the problem after being informed by a concerned reader. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Colour Palm IIIc ships

Palm Computing launched its much-anticipated colour Palm IIIc this morning -- a mere two days after leaks from US retailer Best Buy said it would. As expected, the device sports a 256-colour active-matrix LCD, 8MB of memory and contains a built-in rechargeable battery. The price -- again as anticipated -- is $449 in the US. European pricing will be released later in the spring, when the device ships over here. And while the IIIc's dark plastic case is slightly larger than other models in the III family, it is compatible with add-ons designed for those machines, Palm said. A handful of colour-enabled Palm apps became available today, too, including AvantGo's Web browser and a digital photo viewer, Album To Go. Palm also unveiled today the IIIxe organiser, an updated version of its mid-range Palm IIIx. The new version has a dark plastic case and 8MB of RAM, all for $249. The 4MB IIIx is still available, at tthe new, lower price $229, though presumably not for long since the more capacious IIIxe is a mere $20 more expensive. Finally, Palm released its folding keyboard, a near full-size unit that folds into a pack that's about the same size as a Palm III, though quite what that says about its durability is anyone's guess. What is certain is that it costs $99. ®
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Crusoe to dominate Taiwanese production, says Transmeta

Transmeta CEO Dave Ditzel and VP marketing Jim Chapman did have something new to say when they showed up in London yesterday, but history will judge whether or not it was smart.
John Lettice, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Excite embarrassed by kiddie porn links

Excite.co.uk has removed a kiddie porn link from its search engine after it was reported earlier today to Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit. The link to "kids porno" and a "free kids porno picture gallery" was top of the list for anyone entering the simple and innocent word "kids". The other search results were harmless, including links to the Beano's Web site, an education site and the homepage of teen pop idols, New Kids On The Block. The kiddie porn link was removed this morning after Mike Hawkes, CEO of Internet Content Register contacted Excite advising them of the problem. He also contacted Scotland Yard. What dismayed Hawkes was the ease at which this could have been avoided. "Technically, it's relatively straight forward to demote certain words so that they appear well down a results list," he said. No one was available from Excite to talk about the porn problem but the Webco did issue a statement. "Porn sites are constantly trying to develop new ways of evading the filters and safeguards put in place by Excite," it read. "This is a never ending battle for us and for others in the industry as we strive to keep ahead of people who persist in marketing their sites in this malicious way. "We take the problem very seriously, constantly monitoring the site and making every possible effort to keep inappropriate material at bay," it said. ® Related stories: Hardcore porn ads sneak past Excite filters
Tim Richardson, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Psion, Nokia, Palm et al push mobile data sync standard

Various friends of Symbian, including Nokia, Psion, Palm and Motorola, have kicked off an effort to develop an open industry spec for universal data synchronisation of remote data and personal information. Other founders are IBM and its subsidiary Lotus, and Motorola sub Starfish (whose raison d'etre is of course synchronisation). The SyncML Initiative will be open to all, but you could say that there's maybe less to it than meets the eye. It's intended to produce an XML-based synchronisation protocol, so essentially it will be building on the XML industry standard and providing mobile appliance manufacturers with a standardised way to communicate and synchronise data with Web servers, PCs and enterprise servers. XML itself is likely to meet SyncML more than half way here. But that's not to say the Initiative isn't laudable. The partners intend to support email, calendar, contact management and data synchronisation, and as people find themselves more and more using multiple devices to communicate their need for simple and standard synchronisation systems will increase massively. ®
John Lettice, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Linuxcare challenges MS to open Windows source

In a pretty blatant, partial and even desperate piece of bandwagon-jumping, Linux services outfit Linuxcare has challenged Microsoft "to deliver its Windows code to the open-source community." Linuxcare yesterday "pledged worldwide support for... Windows as open-source software code - if Microsoft is willing to make good on statements attributed to Bill Gates" last week. As a services operation you'd certainly expect Linuxcare to support an open source Windows, and yes, that probably is drooling you can hear. "Linuxcare is ready to support Windows as true open-source software," says executive VP and co-founder Arthur Tyde. "We recognise that it would be a massive undertaking to wade through 35 million lines of code [more drooling], but we are up to the challenge if Microsoft decides to take its chairman's comments seriously." But while this might make a nice quick-and-dirty press release for Linuxcare, there are just a few little obstacles along the way. The Billblurt last week wasn't made on tape, and although the Bloomberg people who'd just done a taped interview with him insisted he's really said it, Bill's non-taped "statements" appear at most to have consisted of "yes" to the question: Would Microsoft be willing to open the Windows source code in order to settle the case. Opening Windows source code is slightly different from open-sourcing Windows, even if it was yes that Bill said, and not just "Erk!" Then there's the matter of Microsoft's PR people bouncing out minutes later and insisting he'd said nothing of the kind. And then there's the question of whether the Linux people would clutch Windows firmly to their bosom, if it was open-sourced. Still, you've got to admit Linuxcare knows an opportunity for a PR stunt when it sees one... See also: Gates paves way for opening up Windows source
John Lettice, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

How to hack Tesco's DVD player – Register readers write

Updated Register readers are clearly a resourceful lot -- we've had stacks of email revealing just how Wharfedale's DVD player can be hacked to support DVDs from any of the regions into which the movie industry has divided the world (see Tesco slams 'unnecessary' DVD zoning). Well, Wharfedale admitted its player was "easily hackable", and it sure is. The trick is simple: open the player's tray, put a Region One disc on the tray, press the 0, 1, 2 and 3 buttons on the remote control, and finally press Play on the remote. That closes the tray and from this point on the player will accept DVDs from any of the six main regions. Thanks to reader Patrick for pointing out that the hack also works with the Proline DVD1000, the Bush DVD-2000, the Grundig GDV-200 and the Grundig GDV-210 DVD players. And Tony D notes that you can also "press pause on an Aiwa stereo remote whilst pointing at unit. You will see a mainenance screen. Set the region, and off you go. This works on my Wharfedale". Readers Chris Dennis and Tom note that to convert the player back to Region Two only, the procedure is: open the tray, place a Region Two disc on the tray, press the Return button on the remote and finally press the remote's Play button. Of course, there's probably little point in returning the player to its original state since, as reader Rob notes, "my DVD quite happily plays Region One and Region Two without difficulty". Owners of Matsui DVD-110 player and the Schneider DVD-810 sold by Asda, there's a hack for them too, according to a number of readers. Simply press Menu, 9, Open/Close (note that the tray won't open at this point) and then 5 to call up a region selection screen. And thanks to Andy Crawford for pointing out Web site DVD Reviewer, which lists pretty much all the machines currently available with simple multi-region hacks and reveals just how effective the hacks are -- not always, it seems, particularly with older players. Kate Wolf dropped us a line to say that hi-fi specialist Richer Sounds offers an Ariston player that can also be easily hacked. And, according to Keith Kennedy and others, "90 per cent of all the DVD players sold in [Switzerland] are sold as region free". That said, this appears to be simply because stores send all their kit out for conversion before selling them on to the public. As Nick Barnes found: "Chatting to a staff member in Media Markt... he confirmed that stores buy X units from manufacturer Y and send them all to company Z that modifies them". Rob White had problems with the Wharfedale DVD-750 he bought from Tesco and took it back (he didn't say whether he tried a replacement machine). Instead, he uses his PC and PowerDVD software which "easily defeats the zoning information, by the way, just by storing the zone in the registry". DVD software region changing is tackled by DVD Informatrix (thanks to Phil Chambers for the link). Matt Rix, meanwhile, provides a little anti-spin (in the great Register tradition). "Tesco had been selling the Wharfedale player for several months before Christmas, but due to very high demand it went out of stock," he notes. "So really, they're re-launching the old product line." So much for Tesco's 'sales trial' line. ® Any more DVD region comments? Mail us here
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Euro Net foundation born – a think tank too far?

As though there weren't enough self-appointed Internet coordinating bodies, the European Internet Foundation was born yesterday in Brussels. It is backed mostly by large consultancy and service companies (15 so far, including Anderson, BT, ICL, Siemens, Telewest...), called associates, who probably welcome the lobbying opportunity to the 56 members of the European Parliament who have put their names down as founder members, but who will probably do little else. Oh yes, the objective of this "politically-led, politically-balanced, non-partisan venue for identifying and addressing network society issues" (which will not "take positions on specific issues") is to "help shape public policies responsive to the unique [but could it be non-unique?] potential and character of Europe's Internet revolution". The first meeting will be held in Brussels on 28 March, with the fee-paying associates picking up the bill. But is this vanilla think tank a think tank too far? At an unrelated event today and tomorrow, the EU is holding a public hearing on data protection, under the auspices of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs - with our very own Duncan Campbell, author of the Echelon study on the interception of telecommunications, being an invited guest. This afternoon they'll be discussing the US Safe Harbours scheme in what looks like a little European data protection paranoia for a change. Meanwhile, the French are going their own way next month with what they dub the 1st Worldwide Forum on Electronic Democracy, "under the high patronage of Jacques Chirac, President of France" and the apparently lower patronage of the European Parliament, with financial support of course from the European Commission. The Forum will address the French obsession of US-EU relations and the future of democracy. Political parties will no doubt be keen to hear the session on how they should organise themselves in the information society. We're sure they can't wait, in view of the cock ups so far. ®
Graham Lea, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

No settlement, so MS and DoJ return to court

MS on Trial The parties in the Microsoft trial meet again in Judge Jackson's court again today after a failure to reach a settlement during Judge Posner's mediation. Although a settlement is still possible, it is clear that the DoJ has stayed resolute and that the plaintiff states have not weakened. The deliberate leaks so far, despite Judge Posner's warnings to the sides not to brief the media, suggest that Gates and Ballmer have drawn the line at the splitting of Microsoft, but that most other things are negotiable. For its part, the DoJ evidently does not think that a conduct remedy would work, in view of Microsoft's previous behaviour concerning timely disclosure, amongst other things. It is known that Microsoft is gearing up for intensive lobbying in Congress, starting with recruiting a heavyweight as its chief lobbyist in Washington to argue against any breakup, and to get Congress to put pressure on the DoJ. Microsoft has failed to recruit either Republican Kyle McSlarrow (Quale's campaign chief) or Democrat Doug Sosnik (a former Clinton adviser). Microsoft has always exhibited brinkmanship, putting off settlements until the very last moment. Bill Gates is a poker player who likes to bet on a chancy legal hand, as he first did in 1986 when he agreed to a $925,000 settlement in the Seattle Computer Products case (over rights for MS-DOS, modelled on CP/M, and developed by Tim Paterson of SCP). A second example of brinkmanship was with the consent decree: DoJ antitrust chief Anne Bingaman strengthened her hand by getting a DoJ attorney to find a district court where there were few cases pending - where "the dockets were thin", as she put it - so she could threaten quick action if Gates didn't settle. Microsoft privately briefed that it was a 'pragmatic company' that had settled in previous cases, even when it thought it was right. After speaker-phone negotiations with her and the legal teams, Gates said: "I can live with this" and agreed to the consent decree in July 1994. We have also seen a third brinkmanship example last month when Microsoft decided it did not want the publicity of the Caldera case, followed by the probability of losing, so it settled the case as quietly as possible... Following the filing of briefs over the last three months, the oral arguments today are about the proposed legal findings of fact that the judge will make. This is the last chance for Microsoft to try to convince the court that the monopolist has not monopolised illegally, and it looks like uphill work. The DoJ has confined its case to its claim that Microsoft has contravened sections one and two of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. Those who are support Microsoft mostly believe the Act should be scrapped, while Microsoft's foes claim that the Act has not become outmoded. Reality suggests that what is outmoded is the speed of the judicial procedure. It's worth recalling that the present case was started in May 1998 after an abortive contempt action that started in October 1997 when the DoJ tried to blow the whistle on Microsoft's cavalier disregard for the Consent Decree. If there is to be a settlement, it would be in Microsoft's interest for this to be before any judicial finding that it had transgressed the Sherman Act, but any adverse findings are embarassing rather than painful. Based on his previous speed, it may reasonably be expected that Judge Jackson will deliver his opinion in March or April, and call for further briefs on proposed remedies, with a timetable of some three months. This would take us to around July, with his Order in the case being delivered in the autumn. Microsoft may well appeal the findings of law, hoping to buy itself enough time to delay the case until after the presidential election, with the rather slim chance that an incoming president would appoint a new attorney general who would be more amenable to settling the case on more favourable terms for Microsoft. The EU has put down a marker that may well be saying that if Microsoft is not brought to heel in the US, serious action will start in Europe. ®
Graham Lea, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Capita, MS push Win2k to schools market

Microsoft has signed a deal to help it flog Windows 2000 to British schools. The software giant today hooked up with outsourcing company Capita Group to offer a range of online services through an education portal. As part of the deal, Microsoft and Capita will jointly develop a site for the education market -- called education.uk.com, according to the FT -- due to launch later this year. The site will aim to cut administrative and bureaucracy costs to schools by offering online financial management systems and staff recruitment -- services already offered by Capita. It will also let parents make daily checks on their kids via the Internet, instead of having to wait for termly reports. Plus teachers will be able to get access to training online. In return, Capita will "encourage" the British schools currently using its administrative software to switch to Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 2000. Not only could this boost Microsoft sales -- Capita provides software to 23,000 out of 24,500 schools in the UK and works for 156 of the 178 Local Education Authorities -- but it may also help solve one of its worst piracy problems. Last month it was revealed that the UK education market is a hotbed for software counterfeiting. Microsoft is desperately trying to stop this, and has fitted the new operating system with several anti-piracy tools. Capita netted 17 per cent of its 1999 revenues -- about £55 million -- from the education market. The education sector accounts for ten per cent of Microsoft's software sales in the UK. ® Related stories Registration Wizard casts spell on Office 2000 Truants rewarded with £1K notebooks Linux groups expected to rally for Y2K launch
Linda Harrison, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

HP shows off chubby looking thin client

Hewlett Packard (HP) has launched the trimmed-down e-PC it started talking about last November, although it doesn't start to ship in Europe until mid-April. Rolled into the Vectra range, the snappily named e-Vectra is designed to perform in much the same way as the ill-fated NetPC thin client platform of the 90s -- easier to manage, simpler to configure and harder for users to screw-up; there's no floppy-disk drive, no PCI or ISA expansion slots. It comes with either a PIII or Celeron chip, running either Windows 98/2000 or NT4, Quantum 8.4GB Ultra ATA/66 HDD, 3Com Fast Etherlink 10/100BASE-TX integrated LAN connection, two PS/2 and two USB ports as well as parallel and serial ports, on-board audio and a maximum of 256MB SDRAM. The whole lot weighs in at just 3.8 kilograms (eight pounds) and can be mounted on a wall or stowed under a counter top. It comes priced at £371. Eric Cador, vice president and general manager of HP's business desktop division, said: "Corporate customers have been asking for innovative, appliance-like desktop solutions that fit easily into their specific computing infrastructures." Three years ago when the thin client debate reached a high -- with the likes of IBM and Oracle pushing network computers, and HP and Compaq, among others, waving the NetPC flag -- this sort of talk was commonplace among hardware vendors, although most soon walked away from the project claiming there was insufficient demand to sustain such devices in volume. As thin clients go, the e-Vectra isn't the skinniest kid on the block, but it addresses a number of manageability issues that might make it attractive enough to corporate IT users. ®
Sean Fleming, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Motorola buys network processor pioneer

Motorola is to buy network chip developer C-Port in a stock swap that values the acquisition at $430 million. Founded in 1997, C-Port's work has centred on the development of programmable processors designed to replace ASICs in high-end networking hardware: high-speed switches and routers, that kind of thing. The advantage of a directly programmable chip over a hard-wired ASIC is clear: it takes less time to develop applications in the first place, and upgrades can be installed far more quickly, because no one has fab a whole new chip. C-Port's key offering is the C-5 "digital communications processor". Motorola reckons chips like the C-5 are going to be big business. It believes ISPs and ASPs demand equipment that can be more quickly updated to support new Internet-based services, forcing the equipment makers to turn to the likes of Motorola to provide them with programmable network and comms processors. Market researcher Dataquest agrees -- at least about the demand part. It claims the market will be worth $1 billion by 2003. Maybe, but Motorola is going to have to work at it. C-Port isn't the only company working in the field. Chip giants Intel and IBM are both at work on chips of their own, and smaller operations like Cradle and even Sun, with its MAJC (Microarchitecture for Java Computing) chip have their eye on that billion dollars. Once the acquisiton is completed -- shareholders and regulators have to give the deal their blessing first -- C-Port will operate out of its existing HQ as a subsdiary of Motorola's Networking and Computing Systems Group, part of its Semiconductor Products Sector. ®
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2000
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German students get cut price AOL rates

AOL Europe is offering to subsidise Net access for students in Germany as part of a major educational scheme launched today. Under the initiative, all German schools will be offered the chance to receive free AOL accounts in a bid to enhance learning. Students will also be offered the chance to secure their own access. For an additional fee of 10DM (£3.18) -- above and beyond the basic subscription of 9.90DM (£3.15) -- students can also receive an hour a day without incurring any telephone charges. Normal dial-up charges for hour-a-day Net access would normally set customers back around 60DM (£19.08) a month, a spokesman for AOL Germany said today. The new discounted rate was described as a "pocket money tariff". AOL will also offer all 900,000 teachers in Germany free AOL accounts for private and educational use although they will have to pay local phone connection charges. AOL Europe president and CEO, Andreas Schmidt, said: "AOL's new school initiative is the biggest step ever to catapult Germany into the Internet Age. "AOL has always had a strong focus on advancing education and ensuring safe usage of the Internet, having 'wired' more than 3,000 German schools over the last two years. "We are now accelerating this initiative to make the Internet an even more central part of daily life here. At the same time, we'll also continue to work closely with the German Government to achieve its goals in bringing more of Germany online," he said. ® Related stories: Deutsche Telekom parades Net flat fees AOL demands flat fees for Germany
Tim Richardson, 22 Feb 2000
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AMD Athlon at heart of Microsoft X-Box spec

Upstart graphics firm Gigapixel has beaten off S3, Nvidia, ATI and other big-name rivals to win the contract to design the graphics chipset for Microsoft's X-Box. And it in turn has awarded the contract to build the chipset to AMD. An AMD Athlon CPU, a hard drive, DVD ROM and a modified version of Windows will form the other major components of the X-Box, according to sources cited by the IT Network. The Gigapixel graphics chipset in combination with the Athlon CPU will, apparently, provide the X-Box with enough power to exceed the performance of the Sony PlayStation 2 by six to eight times. Moreover, the Microsoft console will be less expensive and likely to be compatible with existing Windows applications. Bill Gates is scheduled to introduce X-Box at the upcoming Games Developer Conference in the US next month. The X-Box is meant to be a direct competitor to Sony's PlayStation 2 which is scheduled to be launched in Japan on 4 March. Gigapixel is a graphics IP company: it licenses only the technology and does not manufacture the chipset. The graphics chip will be manufactured by AMD at its new fabrication plant in Dresden. The same plant is currently producing Athlon CPUs using a 0.18 micron process. ® Related Stories Microsoft's X-Box PlayStation 2 killer spec. leaks out Joy of Cex claims Microsoft X-Box sneak peak Microsoft's X-Box PlayStation 2 killer resurfaces Microsoft readies x86, Nvidia-based rival to PlayStation The IT Network is carrying a review of the 850MHz Athlon, the fastest to hit the high street so far.
Ajith Ram, 22 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

France Telecom declines to open up ADSL to rivals

France Telecom has given a Gallic shrug to the European Commission's notion that it should lease lines to competitors such as 9Telecom (who made the formal complaint in November), Cegetal and Siris so that they can offer higher speed Internet access. All FT will say is that it doesn't think it could come up with a business plan for this in the eight weeks it has been given by the EC Competition Directorate. FT is in danger of being hauled up by the for abuse of its dominant position and creating barriers to market entry by competitors, but with the French government holding 63.6 percent of France Telecom shares, ART, the French telecom regulator (Autorité de Régulation de Telécommunications) has few teeth. FT has refused to publish tariffs for bilateral interconnection, and delayed negotiations over charges for many months. FT still has a throat lock on the local loop so far as new would-be entrants are concerned. One solution would be for ART to license wireless local loop entrants. Last July, the rates FT was proposing were approved and deployment was expected to take three years, with an investment of up to 2 billion francs. However, ART thought that FT was being too competitive, and restricted FT's Wanadoo Netissimo to a few suburbs and towns to the west of Paris. The launch was in November. Cegetel wants to use HDSL with FT local loops in the Lille, Nantes and Lyon areas at 5,000 to 10,000 francs per line. When France Telecom announced its first half-year results in September in the Financial Times, a slogan in its advertisement said "Profit from open competition to accelerate growth and benefit from it". They've nearly made it: it's just that pesky "open" word that's causing the problems. ®
Graham Lea, 22 Feb 2000