27th > February > 2000 Archive

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NatSemi says Transmeta, Intel no threat to Geode

CeBIT 2000 A senior executive at National Semiconductor has told The Register that the firm believes it can stay ahead of Transmeta's Crusoe technology and continue to make big design wins for its Geode, x86 compliant, technology. Jurgen Heldt, marketing director of National Semiconductor Europe, said that since Geode's launch last year, his company had made large design wins, the most significant being Microsoft and Ericsson, announced this week at CeBIT. Sources said that the company is set to announce further big OEM design wins in the next few weeks. NatSemi is designing several flavours of the Geode, aimed at different markets, including a version for Deutsche Bank (in a DM50 million deal), Heldt said. Other recent wins include deals with IBM for its thin clients, and with Compaq. Heldt questioned Transmeta's software-driven approach to CPU architecture: "We ourselves tried to emulate code in the past, but you burn performance. We did with our 3200, which was able to run x86 code, but it impacted performance by 40 per cent. Transmeta says its performance hit will be between 20 and 40 per cent." Unlike Transmeta technology, the Geode had sound power management abilities, he said. "In our process and architecture we still think we're ahead of them. On the system level, we burn 10 per cent less power on a chip that doesn't yet even exist." Intel's Timna technology would not impact the Geode platform, Heldt claimed. He said that there were "something like" 23 other functions built in to the chip, as well as x86 emulation, none of which would be easy for Intel to emulate with the Timna. There were several technology demonstrations on NatSemi's stand in Hall 13. Vtech, a Hong Kong based company, showed two email terminals which, apparently, use a RISC based Geode. There was also a section of the stand demonstrating Sensil GSM mobile technology, which appeared to use a tiny embedded Geode microprocessor. NatSemi also demonstrated a Bluetooth videoconferencing solution based on two small Sony notebooks which included tiny cameras built into the machines. However, a staffer at the stand pointed out, the problem with Bluetooth was not the technology but the lack of infrastructure. The telcos and the consumers would have to subsidise this in the initial stages, he predicted. Slim Web Pads using Geode technology from Samsung, Acer, Vestel and other manufacturers were also on display at NatSemi's stand, while the Ericsson HS 210 Web Pad and phone held pride of place. NatSemi was also showing its iDVD on a chip solution, while other executives revealed that Japan was likely to be the first to market with products that had Bluetooth technology built into mainboards. Web Pads from the different manufacturers cost under $1,000 for consumers, according to Heldt. He predicted that price would start to fall steeply as the technology proliferated. ® CeBIT 2000: Full Coverage
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AMD Athlon 600 goes on allocation

CeBIT 2000 Vendors and distributors at German trade fair CeBIT have said they were told last week that supplies of the Athlon running at 600MHz will now be severely restrained. This is further evidence that AMD will phase out the 600MHz in April of this year, to make use of Athlon processors with higher frequencies, and to aggressively move against Intel's pricing model. The 550MHz Athlon is due to become an end of line item tomorrow, while AMD cranks out more volume of its top-of-the range microprocessors. A plane pulling a streamer with AMD's logo was circling over the company's stand in Halle 13 at CeBIT, where the firm was showing several machines running the enhanced Athlon platform, codenamed Thunderbird. On the stand itself, executives were showing the Socket A form factor and the Thunderbird chip to journalists, who were, however, not allowed to take photographs of the parts. That suggests that AMD may displace the Slot A cartridge for its Socket A model sooner than expected. One PC vendor at the show said he was surprised that AMD was moving to cut prices of the Athlon by as much as 60 per cent. But, he added, the drought of Intel Coppermine Pentium IIIs has now ended, and he and others were beginning to receive "more than sufficient" quantities of the chips. Meanwhile, sources close to Kryotech, a US firm which offers souped up Athlon solutions which use supercooling technology, were suggesting 2GHz systems will be available by the end of this year. ®
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Mobo makers unenthusiastic about Camino

CeBIT 2000 A straw poll of a number of manufacturers exhibiting at CeBIT has demonstrated that Intel's Camino i820 chipset is unpopular with third party mainboard vendors. Soyo, Chaintech, Gigabyte, Asus and a clutch of other Taiwanese mobo manufacturers were displaying boards using the i820 chipset, but conversations with staff at these stands demonstrated a general lack of enthusiasm -- and weak sales -- for products based on the Intel solution. At the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, two weeks ago, Pat Gelsinger, a senior VP at the firm, maintained that his firm will ship "multimillions" of the i820 chipset between now and when it introduces Caminogate II, now known as the 820E, later on this Spring. Staff at the different stands all said that sales of their boards using the current revision of the i820 were weak. One told us: "Write something nice about the i820 so we can sell more boards." Meanwhile, most of the manufacturers at CeBIT were exhibiting motherboards based on the Via KX133 chipset; however, one vendor said there were still reliability and yield issues and, to ensure quality control, an extra testing of the boards before release was essential. ® CeBIT 2000: Full Coverage
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USB 2.0 spec two, three months away

CeBIT 2000 Hall Nine at CeBIT is the noisiest place in Hannover, and also the most crowded, with firms like 3dfx demonstrating their wares at ear-numbing decibels. Right at the front of the show, there is a large area devoted to smaller companies from Taiwan, with many showing the elements that make up a PC (such as cases and power supplies), and others demonstrating peripherals from the island. It appears that some of these firms still wish to emulate the iMac look-and-feel, with plenty showing cases, keyboards and speakers with that transparent, highly coloured Maccy feel about them. Concept PCs were, however, pretty thin on the ground. On show from these vendors was a vast array of USB hubs and devices, so we thought it worthwhile to ask when we could expect to see peripherals for USB 2.0, which Intel promoted heavily at its Developer Forum a fortnight ago. "The specification hasn't been finished yet," said one Taiwanese vendor. "It's likely that the specification for 2.0 will not be completed for another two to three months, with peripherals arriving later on this year." That was the consensus from other Taiwanese USB vendors too, who hoped, but were sceptical, that the specifications would be complete sooner rather than later, so they could exhibit their wares to buyers at Computex 2000, the Taiwanese trade show held in June. ® CeBIT 2000: Full Coverage
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Intel slashes prices, intros 866MHz, 850MHz chips

A memorandum from Intel to its channel has confirmed price cuts it will make on its products as from today. (See bottom of story for links to our previous predictions about these price adjustments). At the same time, in the memo, Intel has explained the reasons for the price cuts and the introductions, which it attributes to the Chinese New Year, the recent introduction of Windows 2000, and the move from SECC2 (Slot One) to FC-PGA (flip chip) packaging. There is a shortage of motherboards to accept this flip chip packaging, the memo confirms. In a previous Intel memo we published, the company advised people, in the meantime, to use so-called Slotket technology. Sorry about all these % marks below -- this is how Intel presents its information to its customers. The memo reads: "We want to make sure that our customers have an opportunity to develop plans and take appropriate action to manage their ordering. Please note: "On February 27, Intel's price to authorized distributors for the Pentium® lll processor 550 MHz and 533 MHz will be reduced to the current price (today's disti price) of the 500 MHz Pentium III processor. Intel's price for the Pentium® lll 600 MHz processor will be reduced to the current price of the 550 MHz Pentium III processor. Intel expects market demand to quickly shift to these higher performing Pentium® lll processors. "Intel is transitioning the Pentium lll processor line from SECC2 to FC-PGA packaging. Intel expects that about 1/2 of the Pentium lll processors shipped to authorized distributors in March '00 will be in the FC-PGA package. "The transition will continue through '00. Customers should transition their Pentium lll processor-based desktop system offerings to the new FC-PGA form factor. We believe that additional coordination time is needed in order to evaluate and order Motherboards that support the FC-PGA form factor. "At the same time, Intel will make price reductions on Intel® CeleronT processors for the Value PC market segment. Intel does not expect this price move to make significant changes to the high volume runners in the Celeron processor family. "The percentage decline of Intel's published 1000-unit processor price is listed below. The new boxed processor Merchandising Incentive Payment (MIP) amounts are updated on the I.P.D. Products page. This percentage of price decline is similar to the price decline for Intel boxed processors sold to authorized distributors. Intel Product Dealers should expect to see similar percentage declines in their quoted boxed processor prices from authorized distributors. The new Intel pricing and MIP are effective as of February 27, 2000. Please contact your authorized Intel distributor after February 27 for specific pricing and availability details. "Intel appreciates your continued support as we realign our manufacturing and inventory positions to support our new products and customer demand. As well as the introduction of the 866MHz and 850MHz Coppermine Pentium IIIs, Intel notified the channel of the percentage drops as follows 800EB MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 24%, 800 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 24%, 750 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 29%, 733 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 23%, 700 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 26% 667 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 25%, 650 MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 25%, 600EB MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 24%,600E MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 24%, 600B MHz (SECC2) 24%, 600 MHz (SECC2) 24%, 550E MHz (FC-PGA/FC-PGA) 20%, 550 MHz (SECC2) 20%, 533EB MHz (SECC2/FC-PGA) 10%, 533B MHz (SECC2) 10%, 500E MHz (FC-PGA) 0%, and 500 MHz (SECC2) 0%." For its Slot Two (Xeon) processors, it is also introducing a 866MHz part. The 800 MHz (SECC-Slot 2) 256K Cache drops by 29%, the 733 MHz (SECC-Slot 2) 256K Cache 22%, the 667 MHz (SECC-Slot 2) 256K Cache 15%, the 600 MHz (SECC-Slot 2) 256K Cache 0%. Here are the Celeron changes. Intel has introduced a 600 MHz (FC-PGA) and a 566MHz (FC-PGA) Celeron. The percentage drops since the last price cut on the 23rd of January are as follows. The 533A MHz (FC-PGA) 24%, the 533 MHz (PPGA) 24%, the 500A MHz (FC-PGA) 27%, the 500 MHz (PPGA) 27%, the 466 MHz (PPGA) 18%, the 433 MHz (PPGA) 0%. Prices, said Intel in the memo, are subject to change without notice and are for direct Intel customers in 1000-unit tray quantities and, "unless specified, represent the latest technology versions of the products." We will have the actual prices for you in a separate story filed tomorrow, but in the meantime it is worth referring to these links below. AMD also makes reductions on its Athlon processors tomorrow. ® Intel's Pentium III pricing to June Intel's Celeron pricing to June Intel to play speed ketchup 27 February Intel chipset roadmaps more like roadworks AMD to slaughter Intel on Athlon pricing Intel's Y2K server, desktop, mobile roadmap Intel 933MHz scheduled for May
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BT offers free local calls ‘within a year’

BT is to introduce unmetered access for consumers "within a year", according to the Sunday Express. In return for a "relatively small" monthly flat fee, the company will offer what the paper calls "free local calls" for voice and data services. BT expects to recoup revenues lost from charging calls on a metered basis, by attracting more Internet users, the Sunday Express claims. The move will "slash bills for ordinary users and especially pensioners who rely heavily on local daytime calls," according to a tabloid which has a much higher proportion of elderly readers than most. The Sunday Express was confident enough to splash this story as its front-page lead. It is also instructive that the article was written by a political correspondent, Jonathan Oliver. However, his quotes are a little thin on the ground. He cites a "senior BT source", who says: "We are determined not be bullied by Mr. Brown [the Chancellor], the telecommunications market is already a highly competitive on and we are already looking at whether we should cut prices. Prices will definitely come down in the next 12 months." Aside from the swipe at Gordon Brown, this is not exactly earth-shattering stuff. Radical Plans Earlier this month, the Chancellor beat up on BT, by calling for the reduction of Internet costs for British consumers and forecast prices would fall in half by 2002. BT's share price plummeted, following the misreporting of his speech by the FT, which suggested that Brown would actually do something to accelerate the process as opposed to simply giving his tuppence ha'penny worth on Net access prices. Now BT has "decided to pre-empt Mr. Brown with its own radical plans", the Sunday Express says. Following the recent Brown-inspired shenanigans, BT's market cap has fallen to below £70 billion. This makes it vulnerable to takeover. According to the FT, BT thinks it is worth £20 per share, not the £11 or so it's trading at currently. An aggressive move on flat fees will show that BT is determined to not become prey. The company recently completed a five-month strategic review, the fruits of which (including a possible demerger of its mobile phone concern BT Cellnet) should be revealed real soon now. Strike While the Iron's Cold BT must have had plans for unmetered access mouldering in the bottom drawer for months, if not years. To date, the company has delayed the UK introduction of ADSL, an intrinsically unmetered technology -- and it has not been exactly forthcoming over plans to introduce unmetered local calls. This is because it is not its commercial interests to do so. As an effective monopoly supplier for fixed lines to consumers in most regions of the UK, the company would be tearing up its proven, lucrative licence-to-print money revenue model, for an uncertain future. However, this monopoly effectively disappears in July 2001 when the local loop or last mile is opened up to all BT's competitors. This is when the UK see flat fees for all. So why would BT introduce flat fees for consumers "within the year", ie. before this cut-off date? Could it be convinced by the recent reams of reports claiming Internet usage would more than treble, with the move to flat fees? This is possible, but it seems reasonable to infer that BT's economists have run the slide rule over this one, dozens of times, and they still don't think it makes commercial sense. Yet. On the corporate finance level, the move to unmetered access makes a heap of sense -- it shows that BT won't let go of its local call traffic without a big fuss. The City will love it. Oftel, the UK telecoms regulator, and BT's upstart rivals will watch the company closely for any signs of anti-competitive behaviour. ® Related Stories Brown to slash Net charges Brown Net cuts story is false BT shares tumble on false Brown Net cuts story Brown takes heat off BT Durlacher slams metered prices
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Exhibitors less than gruntled with CeBIT crash

CeBIT 2000 CeBIT 2000, the world's biggest technology fair, had a problem with its technology, this week. Hundreds of exhibitors were left without Web access on their stands following a hardware crash on the show's main telecomms system. Deutsche Telekom was "nearly overwhelmed", according to CeBIT organisers, by the flood of calls from disgruntled exhibitors who were paying through the nose to show off their latest hi-tech offerings. The problem sprang from around 40,000 ATM, ISDN, LAN and Ethernet connections having to be configured in one week. The first time the network was fully tested was 9am Thursday morning - when the show opened. As a result, 160 stands - only around two per cent of CeBIT's exhibitors, but a no-doubt expensive glitch for those involved - were left without Internet services. It took technical teams until 3.30 that afternoon to replace the two crashed DNS servers and get the system up and running again.® CeBIT 2000: Full Coverage
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Pine trails MP3 on CD portable

CeBIT 2000 Pine Group will have a portable CD and MP3 player in UK shops from 1 April, the company said today -- no joke, honest. The Hong-Kong vendor is claiming a world first with the product, which will let users play CDs made by downloading music from the Internet via a CD writer, as well as being able to play normal music CDs. With a retail price of £199.99, the D'Music SM-200C on show at CeBIT today was the size of a Discman, but able to play CDs holding ten hours of music -- more than 100 songs. The company said it was in talks with high street retailers such as HMV to stock the product. The player will also be available through OEMs and the channel. Pine also exhibited several prototypes on its stand, including an anti-pirate digital audio player, a pager-sized MP3 player which runs for 11 hours on one AA battery, and an FM radio version of its current MP3 player. Meanwhile, the company has launched a Web site where its dealers can order online.® CeBIT 2000: Full Coverage