1st > March > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Psion produces surprise ARM plus, gets GSM phone tech

Updated Just a month after their last development agreement Psion and Motorola have signed a cross-licensing deal. And this time, Psion is going silicon - the Psion half of the deal includes a "next generation processor." This is quite possibly one of the largest rabbits Psion has ever pulled out of its corporate hat. Also one of the most satirical, given that Halla is a very strange name for a processor. Psion must be hoping that NatSemi system on chip evangelist Brian Halla has a better sense of humour than some of the gurus Apple has crossed codenames with in the past. The Psion announcement is sketchy on precisely what Halla is, but sources tell us it's an ARM9 with extra peripherals, including IrDA, USB and DMA. It's being fabbed by Samsung at 0.25 micron, and will tape out in the next few months. Dublin-based SSL is designing some of the peripherals and integrating existing blocks. Depending on how good and unique Hall's design is, it prosably means that Psion has got something the generality of Symbian shareholders and licensees have not got (cue gnashing of teeth in Scandinavia), and fancies some of that ARM stock momentum. In addition to its own, of course. It's also a reminder that Psion itself is rather different from the other Symbian partners in that it has a lot of ARM integration experience. Motorola's role as Psion's new special friend involves giving Psion a licence to its triple-band GSM cellular communication module, which means that Psion has decent wireless technology at last, and can therefore build phones. Psion licences Big M Halla, which means that once Motorola's developers have stopped phoning up NatSemi and giggling they can build killer ARM-based wireless PDAs and communicators. Halla, according to Psion "is designed to optimise the performance of products based on Symbian's EPOC technology platform. The processor is designed for low power applications but can operate at speeds of up to 200 MHz. Halla is notable as being among the fastest, lowest-power and smallest-footprint processors in its class." ®
The Register breaking news

Go Rambus, go!

A Rambus conference began in Japan today and coincided with an announcement which suggests the firm is edging towards cutting costs on packaging. The packaging in Rambus RIMM modules, which includes an expensive spreader, is one reason why the memory has been so expensive in the past, as Peter McWilliams, an Intel Fellow, explained to us at the Intel Developer Forum last month. Now Tessera, a supplier of packaging technology, has come to Rambus' rescue, by introducing a technology which will sharply cut the costs of packaging for the very pricey RIMMs. The process, known as Zinger 4, cuts the packaging costs of RIMMs by over 50 per cent, Tessera claims. That, in combination with other cost cutting methods Rambus is adopting, will further reduce the cost of the still very pricey modules. If Rambus drops its royalties, as it broadly hinted it might do, that will further help to reduce costs. Moreover, yesterday, Rambus issued a press release stating that Hyundai and Infineon, had passed their component and system level examinations and would join Samsung, NEC and Toshiba in "volume production" of RIMMs. Intel will be a quarter of a billion dollar investor in Infineon when it floats in mid-March. One positive move for Rambus, putting aside the usual motions the Dramurai are making, is that our understanding is that HP's print server division is, as we speak, designing in RIMMs for its rather successful range of printers. So, all in all, buy Rambus shares now before its stock price hits the $500 mark. You know it makes sense. RMBS shares closed on Wall Street last night at $301. The stock is obviously undervalued... ® See Also Six Dramurai forgive Rambus: Seven Dramurai on cards Intel memory strategy unchanged. Cough
The Register breaking news

Clarification : libel case author not libel case author

I just came across a story of yours dated almost 1 year ago, regarding Laurence Godfrey v. Demon Internet(story: Demon libel loss could cripple free speech). In it, you state the following: In March this year, a UK court awarded Godfrey £15,000 in libel damages from Canadian student Michael Dolenga, the real author of the Thai Usenet messages, who posted the piece while he was studying at Cornell University. "I'm not recognizing the British court's jurisdiction and the hell with it", Dolenga said at the time, according to Need to Know, the impeccable source on all things Web and cultural. While the quote attributed to me is essentially correct (it was given to a reporter from a newspaper in Toronto, Canada), I am NOT the real author of the Thai Usenet messages. My case with Godfrey dealt solely with postings on soc.culture.canada from 1994 only. While I have come to expect a good deal of confusion between his many cases, I find this particular instance troubling. Notwithstanding the fact that much time has expired, I ask that you print a correction. Michael Dolenga
The Register breaking news

Armed thieves hijack Dane-Elec van – again

Armed thieves made off with £100,000 of modules from memory distributor Dane-Elec on Monday, as the company suffered its second van hijacking in as many months. The vehicle, belonging to courier firm Amtrak, was targeted by four men outside Amtrak's depot in Kingston, Surrey, at around 7pm. The van had been transporting kit to the building from the distributor's warehouse in Chessington, Surrey. The sixty-year-old driver was abducted for two hours and finally dumped near the M25 in north London. He was the same unfortunate who fell victim to a van hijacking two months ago, where Dane-Elec lost £250,000 of kit. Fortunately this haul was not a full day's shipment. Alan Stanley, Dane-Elec general manager, said the company had started splitting its shipments between three different couriers following the last attack. But he appealed for the industry to be "extra vigilant" about security as a fresh spate of memory robberies could be on the cards. "If anyone else has been experiencing similar problems, please get in touch. We want to make a list of recent robberies and try to put together a joint reward," said Stanley. He added that the night before the robbery took place, police had been called to Dane-Elec's warehouse when they received notice that all the company's phone lines had been cut. ® Dane-Elec can be contacted on: 0181 391 6900 Related stories: Memory stolen at gunpoint was ours, says Dane-Elec DRAM robberies are back Chips are down for RAM burglars
The Register breaking news

Sony to sell PlayStation 2 mobos to arcade game makers

Sony is to provide eight giants of the videogame industry, including Capcom and Namco, with PlayStation 2 motherboards for their own coin-operated arcade game systems. Sony's motivation in the deal is clear: it wants to accelerate the translation of coin-op games to home consoles (and vice versa), and the easiest way to do that is to get the arcade software guys working on the very system that forms the basis for console. Traditionally, arcade games have provided the main inspiration for console releases. It's only when Sony simplified the PC/PlayStation porting process in order to increase the availability of PlayStation titles, that the console business and the PC game industry really got it together. Sony's scheme to simplify cross-platform development arguably made the PlayStation the success it is today - that and the use of cheap CDs rather than expensive ROM cartridges, of course - and clearly it's hoping to extend that cross-platform concept further with today's deal. It's also a major vote of confidence in PlayStation 2's technology. Consoles have always lagged behind the performance of dedicated arcade systems. While coin-ops are likely to stay ahead of consoles for some time yet - using hi-res monitors rather than lo-res TV screens is a big advantage, for starters - it's a testament to the power of the PlayStation 2's Emotion Engine CPU that arcade vendors are willing to use it as the basis for new coin-ops. That said, Sony did point out that, initially at least, the mobos will be shipped without CPUs, and that the company is "studying the possibility" of offering Emotion Engines to arcade game vendors. What’s wrong with this picture is that mobos tend to be pretty damn processor specific. You can't just shove a PIII onto a Power Mac G4 motherboard (not that you’d want to, mind...) And that goes double if you're looking to provide software compatibility. So we suspect CPUs are inherently part of the deal, it's simply that Sony can't supply them yet. There have been plenty of rumours that Sony and its processor partner, Toshiba, can't produce enough Emotion Engines to meet the demand for the PlayStation 2 when it launches next week, let alone supply third parties. Supply will be an issue, but while it's unlikely to dampen PlayStation 2 significantly, Sony will need all the chips it can get, and that rules out selling them to Namco and co. at least for the near future. ® Related Stories Sony confesses PlayStation 2 won't play all PSX 1 games 2m PlayStation 2s to ship in first 2 days -- Sony exec Sony to launch e-commerce biz to serve PlayStation 2 users
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Sun to loosen lock on Java

Sun is poised to relinquish some of its control of the Java standard, and is circulating a draft version 2.0 of the Java Community Process (JCP) among major interested companies. The gist of the new document seems to be that Sun will no longer have final and absolute control over Java, but that instead major licensees will be more closely involved in a consultation process. Sun has in the past come under fire from the bigger Java licensees, who include HP, IBM, Oracle, Novell and Apple, for its refusal to broaden control of the Java specification. These are now said to be discussing the JCP 2.0 with Sun. At the moment however it's not entirely clear how much control Sun intends to give up, and whether it will be sufficient to please its critics. A form of review group consisting of major developers and licensees is envisaged as determining any changes that are to be made to the Java specification, but this seems to be fuzzier than you might initially think. The group's decisions is intended to come to decisions by consensus, rather than via a majority vote, and Sun will still have final authority over the spec. Which could mean the changes turn out to be very little change. ®
The Register breaking news

Super soaraway Airtours banks on the Net

How far does a brand stretch? If you're Virgin or Sony, which last week launched a credit card for the Playstation generation in the UK, you can stretch your name to the moon and back. However, it's difficult to see people buying computer games or clothes from established banks (too dull, too crap). But it's very easy to see people buying financial services from their supermarket chain, such as Tesco or Sainsbury's. Which they are doing, in droves. But what about entrusting their money to their travel agent? This week, the British newspapers trailed the plans of Airtours, the UK's second biggest package holiday company, to form an online bank. Essentially this would be an online banking brand, as the Bank of Scotland has been lined up to do all the dirty back office work. Presumably, Airtours will offer travel insurance, some form of loyalty card scheme and what else? A current account, a credit card? This stretches our credulity. From what we infer, Airtours will run its online bank as a separate brand. Just as well. Package holidays = downmarket = chartered airplanes = late departures = cheap hotels = complaints = exposure on BBC TV's Watchdog. According to press reports, Airtours sells more than 10.5 million holidays a year. This gives it an "enormous customer base". But how many people who purchase holidays from the company actually think of themselves as Airtours "customers"? There may be lots of repeat business, but buyers are going to be using Airtours services no more than two or three times a year max. Business-oriented airlines such as BA or Lufthansa have much closer relationships with their pay-through-the-nose-because-they-need-to-fly clientele. And they're not jumping into Net banking. ®
The Register breaking news

Computacenter ‘to buy’ GE Cap reseller arm

Computacenter may be about to make a bid for GE Capital IT Solutions (GECITS), according to Richard Holway's financial IT Web site. "The rumours continue to grow concerning a possible bid by Computacenter for GE Capital IT Solutions (GECITS)," the site said today. "GECITS had admitted it was considering a merger with another European reseller and the field has been narrowed down considerably with last week's SCH acquisition of Buhrmann," it added. More channel gossip revolves around Ideal Hardware. Sources claim Ingram Micro big cheeses have been spotted once again in the offices of the rival distributor, fuelling rumours of a buy-out of the InterX arm. Meanwhile, shares in InterX continue to soar while the market waits for it to split from Ideal. The share price today stands at £30.25, up 12 times on its £2.50 value before the company announced its Internet intentions. ® Related stories Ingram wins GE Cap supply contract GE Cap sheds 200 jobs at ITS Channel Flannel Extra
The Register breaking news

ATI confirms $400m ArtX takeover

ATI has confirmed its $400 million acquisition of (smaller) rival graphics chip developer ArtX. Details of the deal were covered by The Register last month, but to recap, it's not a cash exchange - ATI is swapping ArtX stock for $400 million-worth of its own shares. As we noted previously, the deal makes a lot of sense for ATI, which is keen to expand both its OEM sales and to push into the emerging information appliance market. ArtX has strong business ties with both Matsushita and Acer, with whom it's integrating high-performance graphics facilities with the latter's North Bridge chip-set technology (see Acer Labs to build GeForce 256 killer into North Bridge). That kind of integration reduces the cost of a system's silicon, which makes it ideal for low-price platforms like budget PCs and Net appliances. ATI has been pursuing similar goals itself ever since it acquired media processor and system-on-a-chip design Chromatic Research back in 1998. ArtX's highest profile partner, however, is Nintendo. It's already working on the graphics engine for console vendor's next-generation, PowerPC-based machine, Dolphin. ArtX was founded in September 1997 by a handful of guys from SGI who had worked on the graphics engine for the MIPS-based Nintendo N64, which launched in 1996. Soon after ArtX was formed, SGI cried foul and launched a lawsuit against the company and its principals. Nintendo began to get cold feet over MIPS late 1997 when the SGI CEO Ed McCracken quit. At the time, company sources told US newswires it was unsure of SGI's commitment to low-cost CPUs and was considering alternatives. Other sources said ArtX was tipped to take over development duties from SGI, and that rumour may well have persuaded SGI to prime its legal team for action. However, the suit never came to court - SGI dropped it in May 1998, without prejudice, and without any form of financial settlement or blame assigned to either party. Ex-SGI insiders, however, allege it was dropped so as not to intimidate Nintendo. Certainly, Nintendo announced its decision to use ArtX technology in its next-generation console, now known as Dolphin, and that ArtX would be instrumental in the selection of a CPU for the new machine during the week that SGI said it had killed the lawsuit. Clearly, Nintendo's patronage counts for a lot these days, so it's just as well Nintendo boss Hiroshi Yamauchi was on hand to give the ATI/ArtX wedding his blessing and benediction. ® Related Stories NEC to build chip fab to service $2.8bn Nintendo Dolphin deal Nintendo deal could mean big PowerPC presence in home
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Intel positions Celeron against Athlon

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, Chipzilla was snug inside its ivory tower, pouring scorn on the 'imitators'. Everything in the garden was rosy and world+dog waited eagerly for every speed bump Intel deigned to release. At the low end, the chip behemoth poured scorn on little Cyrix and its System on a Chip plans. We sat through numerous presentations from senior Intel dudes assuring us that the SoC concept was complete crap because upgrades were impossible. At the high end no one took AMD seriously, due to yield and reliability questions. Intel had everything under control. But an unbelieveable series of self-inflicted cock-ups has so effectively screwed Intel's plans that it is now clear that the company simply doesn't have a clue about what to do next. Athlon goes from strength to strength and, coupled with continuing shortages of Coppermine Pentium IIIs, more and more OEMs are moving to the AMD platform for their high-end desktop systems. The latest price cuts on the Athlon make PIII look singularly unattractive. Intel's reaction? To position little Celeron against Athlon. How stupid does Intel think its customers and users are? Celeron looks like becoming a dumping ground for Coppermines that didn't make the grade in testing and don't run properly at 100MHz FSB. They get tweaked to run at 66MHz and flogged off cheap as Celerons at the same price as Athlons. Intel will naturally trumpet that Celeron now has Screaming Sindie's Extensions and the new 0.18 micron Coppermine core. Don't be fooled. It's only doing this because Chipzilla is desperate not to allow Pentium III to be positioned against Athlon. It is also worth remembering that Celeron - now a pretty good value CPU - was originally rushed to market before it was ready (no L2 cache) in a knee-jerk response to AMD eroding market share at the low end. Later this year, Intel will send out for a large order of humble pie when it launches the next generation Celeron, codenamed Timna - a SoC product just like the Cyrix ones it sneered at a few short months ago. And I'm not going to bore you by repeating the never-ending saga of non-functional Caminogate mobos and chipsets, let alone the Rambus farce or the abandonment of the i740, and with it, the graphics chip business. In a way it's a shame to see how the mighty Intel has fallen. It has produced some pretty damn fine products, but has been brought low by its unbelievable arrogance and a quaint belief that the world of IT owed it a living. For the first time in its history, the company has to react to a market it no longer controls. And it patently hasn't got a bloody clue how to do it. ®
The Register breaking news

Schools demand refund in wake of BT outage

The software glitch that brought chaos to BT phone lines also crippled the network used by schools plugging into the Government's National Grid for Learning (NGfL). The service has been so disrupted that some schools are calling for compensation. Earlier this week BT denied that the outage that affected emergency services, banks and ISPs on Friday had any impact on the NGfL. A spokesman for BT insisted he was unaware of any problem with the 0820 service. But The Register has discovered that schools in Devon and the West Country were hit. Reports indicate that this was not an isolated problem. Exeter-based Eclipse Networking, which services 400 schools in Devon and the West Country, has received more than a hundred complaints over the last couple of days from teachers saying that they are unable to use the service. And it's believed this is only the tip of the iceberg since many calls will have been routed directly to local education authorities. "The problems have been intermittent since Monday," said Jomie Carmichael of Eclipse. "It appears to have righted itself slightly today so touch wood, it'll be okay," she said. Thousands of schools up and down the country pay £790 a year for a single line providing toll-free access to the Net between 8am and 6pm. The only consolation for BT is that the main outage occurred on Friday during half term. ® Related Stories BT network crash caused by software BT struggles to cope with massive network failure BT network falls over
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e-district in pre-float bonanza

Two weeks ago, e-district.net, owner of the Leisure District Web site, told The Register it wanted to raise £15-20 million in an AIM float, capitalising it at more than £100 million.
The Register breaking news

Lastminute not worth £400m after all

Lastminute.com, the distressed-time-concept retailer which was supposed to IPO at £400m after its plans to float were announced in September, has settled for a more modest valuation. The London-based firm is flogging 33 million new shares at 190p to 230p, valuing it at £316 million at the mid-price, according to Reuters. Of course, the share price, and hence the market cap, could always creep towards the upper limit, nudging towards that magic £400 million mark, depending on demand for shares. According to MMXI Europe, 310,000 people had a nose around Lastminute.com in January, making it the UK's biggest online travel site (in terms of traffic). It may be a different matter when it comes to revenue. On that score, we suspect that ebookers.com is still the number one. ® Related Stories The wit and wisdom of Martha Lane Fox How meaningful are Lastminute.com registration numbers? Float announced for Lastminute.com Martha Lane Fox hedges bets with Sale of The Century
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Citroen claims first production WinCE car

Citroen claims to have become the first manufacturer to go into volume production with a "communicating car." It's got email, it's got voice recognition and control, GSM, GPS and in-car navigation, and it was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show yesterday. It is, says Citroen, "the first Windows car," and with the flair for marketing that has made Citroen what it is today (i.e., a subsidiary of Peugeot), the company has named it the Xsara Windows CE. Yes folks, it's the biggest CE appliance so far. It'll be available in two successive series of 250 (the level of volume production that made Citroen what it is today) in the first half. As far as the electronics kit is concerned, the Xsara has radio, CD player, address book, phone (an Ericsson T28), and a data transfer facility. The CE unit itself is linked to a GPS receiver and a six CD stacker. Curiously, although it uses the Internet for email, it doesn't offer Web access. But Citroen is predicting GPRS and UMTS vehicles Real Soon Now. Citroen does however have a concept vehicle, the XM Multimedia, which adds a monitor and keyboard in the rear. This project includes an interesting list of partners: Cap Gemini, Sagem, France Telecom, Microsoft, Intel and navigation specialist Magneti Marelli. Potential future Citroen customers who're unaccountably nervous about CE-based vehicles may wish to take on board the fact that the company proposes to offer drive and brake by wire systems in the relatively near future. ®
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Nintendo follows Sony with convenience store e-commerce deal

Game console vendor Nintendo yesterday took a lead from its rival, Sony, and formed an alliance with Japanese convenience store chain Lawson to build a network of in-shop Net terminals linked to Lawson's e-commerce Web site, according to today's FT. The deal immediately gives Nintendo a three per cent stake, but the vendor is hoping the real result will be increased sales of game cartridges. Customers can go on line, order Nintendo games and pick them up and pay for them in a day or so from their local Lawson store. Nintendo's scheme is rather smaller in scope than Sony's venture, announced last month. The Sony project deal connects convenience store terminals with leading Japanese music, video and games retailers and Sony's own e-commerce operation. The service will offer not only games but also a full line of CDs and DVDs supplied through Sony's retail partners. Again, the idea is that goods will be delivered to the buyer's nearest shop for collection and payment. Yesterday's deal marks Nintendo's second venture with Lawson. The console company already allows customers to download games to portable consoles and Internet-capable mobile phones from any of 7200 in-store terminals. ® Related Stories Sony goes direct in Japan with online Vaio store Sony to launch e-commerce biz to serve PlayStation 2 users
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Sex addicts rule online

Some 200,000 Net users are addicted to online sex and millions more are at risk, according to research published today in the March issue of the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. The research by psychologists at Stanford and Duquesne universities attempts to quantify anecdotal reports that the Net is inhabited by people getting their kicks from porn sites, adult chat rooms and cybersex. The report's authors also said this was a "public health hazard" which could explode unless something was done about it. "Cybersex compulsives" are described as spending more than 11 hours a week at adult sites and scoring high on a questionnaire. Last month Stanford published research saying how the Net was turning people into saddos unable to foster proper human relationships. ® Related stories: Every man is an island with the Net
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Porn up for grabs as Excite turns off Green Light

Excite@Home has ditched its child-friendly Green Light filtering software system on its Magellan search engine after The Register exposed it as little more than a worthless sham. The filtering mechanism was supposed to prevent searches from turning up unsuitable adult material. A Register investigation last week revealed that the system simply didn't work. A search on the word "sex" - which should have filtered out all adult material and left users with educational results instead, for example - generated a catalogue of XXX links. This included a link to the "NASTIEST Sex sites on the Net". From "BARELY-LEGAL TEENS" to the "Ultimate in HARDCORE sex !!!", "Slut World - Full of Sex" and "1 on 1 Lesbians". The results also displayed a banner ad asking if people would like to see "giant nipples". It has taken Excite@Home more than a week to reply to a Register request for an explanation and comment. Today, Vulture Central received an e-mail from Excite@Home spokeswoman Kelly Distefano. It read: "Well I finally got to the bottom of the Green Light Function - the answer to why it doesn't work is due to the fact that we no longer support that function, that is why when you do a search you no longer see Green Light sites as an option." Which is true. Excite@Home has now ditched the Green Light Function. But it hadn't ten days ago when The Register tried it out. This isn't the first time Excite has been caught in a scandal involving pornography. It's almost exactly a year since the The Register exposed a similar problem at the search engine. Although the Green Light filtered out adult sites, it didn't screen banner ads. Excite put this down to "an oversight". Last month Excite.co.uk was reported to Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit for carrying links to "kids porno" and a "free kids porno picture gallery" when users tried to search for anything to do with "kids". ® Related Stories Excite pulls porn off kiddie-friendly search engine Hardcore porn ads sneak past Excite filters Excite embarrassed by kiddie porn links
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Buy a Compaq PC – do e-commerce

Freecom.net has signed a deal to have its e-commerce software pre-loaded on all Compaq Prosignia PCs in the UK. The offer, which starts this month, is aimed at SMBs that want to set up a basic ecommerce facility on their Web site. The starter package is capable of putting 100 products up for sale. Compaq customers will get the package free for the first three months. It will then cost £50 per month. This is Oxfordshire-based Freecom's first such deal with a PC vendor. "It is another channel to market for Freecom, and part of its plan to expand following its flotation in December," said one Freecom representative. ® Related Story Cash Register: 16-30 Nov 1999
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Smart card company sues over Palm patent piracy claim

3Com has been hit with another patent infringement claim centring on technology used by its Palm Computing subsidiary. US-based E-Pass Technologies this week filed a suit against the comms giant this week alleging it has violated a 1994 patent, number 5,276,311, held by its founder, one Hartmut Hennige (a German-born UK resident) which describes a "multifunction, credit card-sized computer that allows users to securely store a multitude of account numbers, PIN codes, access information and other data from multiple credit cards, check cards, identification cards and similar personal documents". Back in January, it emerged 3Com had asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine claims made by Xerox that Palm's Graffiti software infringes 'unistroke' character recognition patents owned by the copier giant. Xerox made the allegation back in 1997, but such has been its relatively amicable approach to the case that it has always been open to a settlement. E-Pass may prove less amenable. "Not only do 3Com's products utilise the E-Pass-patented technology, but 3Com advertises, promotes and sells its products with literature that instructs customers on how to use its products in ways described very specifically and in great detail in the 1994 patent," Stephen Weiss, E-Pass' attorney told Bloomberg. It's notable, however, that E-Pass' suit was filed with the New York Federal Court in the very week Palm is to IPO. We wonder why, since Palm has been flogging allegedly patent-transgressing for several years now, it has taken E-Pass so long to figure this out. Are the two events - IPO and lawsuit - related? Surely not - but the timing certainly isn't to 3Com's advantage. E-Pass Technologies specialises in smart card development. The patent in question is about a password-protected device used to store details of multiple credit cards - essentially a single smart card that acts like all your Visa, Mastercard and AmEx cards together. Does that really describe a Palm handheld? Sure the Palm will store credit card numbers, and all its data can be protected with a password, but is does that count as a violation? We think not, but we did attempt to contact Jon Rolfe, E-Pass' UK Director or Technology, about the case but his mobile phone number proved to be no longer in use. Or maybe it's just password protected... ®
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Jobless get free mobile phones

The Government is launching a pilot scheme to give away free mobile phones to Britain's unemployed. Phones or pagers will go out to those over 25 who have been jobless for more than 12 months, the Department of Education and Employment said yesterday. The gadgets will be paid for by recruitment company Reed in Partnership, and will target four unemployment blackspots - Haringey and Newham in London, Doncaster, and Sefton, Merseyside. Reed will get paid around £300 for each placement that lasts at least three months, and aims to give out 19,000 phones and pagers over the next two years. The move is part of an attempt by the Government to give the unemployed quicker access to jobs. As part of the scheme, people will be matched to vacancies and be contacted by text message within minutes of jobs being advertised. Other planned perks include grants towards buying a new suit, a car, or even taking driving lessons. Speaking yesterday, the Chancellor Gordon Brown said there would be no excuse for people to continue signing on. "I say to the unemployed who can work - we will meet our responsibility to ensure that there are job opportunities and the chance to learn new skills," he told Radio 4's The World at One. "You must now meet your responsibility – to earn a wage." Meanwhile, the Government's Chief Inspector of Prisons was praising another give-away scheme. A programme to reward young criminals' good behaviour with Nintendos and TVs was deemed "very impressive" by Sir David Ramsbotham yesterday. When Ramsbotham visited Werrington Young Offender Institution, near Stoke-on-Trent, eighteen months ago he described it as "a disgrace". But yesterday he said the scheme, which also included rock-climbing and canoeing trips, had led to a "transformation" for the jail and its 106 inmates. "These were not expensive junkets, but challenging episodes in the young people's lives," he said. Twenty-five youngsters at the centre have so far earned the right to have a Nintendo console in their cells. Another four GameBoys are also given out each week to those who have behaved exceptionally well. Managers claimed that the hand-outs had cut the number of violent incidents and improved discipline. "The computer sets are only given out as reward for very good behaviour. If offenders' marks slip, the sets are taken away and the offenders know it," on prison representative said. ® Related stories: Truents rewarded with £1K notebooks UK is mobile phone laggard
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Intel-Compaq deal maketh eight-way SMP market

The VP of Compaq US' x86 enterprise server division said today that there were no circumstances he could contemplate where his company would ever use Rambus memory in its range of servers. Paul Santeler said that Compaq "has no plans to use Rambus in any of its servers, and that it would use DDR and synchronous memory for the foreseeable future. That came after Santeler's presentation on eight way servers where he explained Compaq's plans to proliferate its own chipset -- co-developed with Intel -- for servers using Willamette and Foster servers. Santeler said: "The 8500 is a tough act to follow-- we're going to extense (sic) it out with microprocessor refreshes. In Q1, 2001, we'll refresh it with Foster, which has a 400MHz quad pump front side bus. We'll have five memory controllers." He claimed that the performance of the Willamette/Foster processor will deliver double the performance of its current eight way offering, which uses the Intel Xeon processor. "Compaq will drive the price down, as it did with our 8500," said Santeler. When Compaq delivers the Foster eight way in Q1 2000, it will cost roughly the same as the current Proliant 8500, he said. Santeler also rubbished IDC's projections that only 90 eight way servers would ship in 1999, and said that it had already seeded 120 eight way servers before the eight way Profusion platform was introduced in last August. He repeated Enrico Pesatori's figure that Compaq had shipped 3,500 eight way Proliants since August, and although he absolutely refused to say how many Q will ship this year, he displayed a hand gesture that suggested a 45 to 50 per cent progression over last year's figures. The Sabre board, which Intel ships to Compaq competitors, did not cut it, said Santeler. "Compaq was very involved in making this market. When Sabre came out, it was broken and we kicked butt because we were ready with our solution." Forty one per cent of Compaq's eight way servers used six or more Xeon processors, he said. Part of the reason for Q's success in the market, said Santeler, was that it had chip level access to Corollary eight way server technology back in 1996, and when that company was taken over by Intel, the chip level relationship continued. ®
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Compaq to go from eight Fosters to eight McKinleys

Paul Santeler, VP of Compaq's x86 enterprise server division is perfectly sanguine about where Intel's Itanium microprocessor stands, at least in the Houston roadmap. According to Santeler, who was remarkably frank about Compaq's future roadmap in a lunchtime interview: "Positioning Itanium is like positioning the new 454 engine from Chevvy. The Itanium is a new engine and we'll use this engine in a new car when it makes sense." He said Compaq will bring Itanium to market in a four way system first, and targeted specifically at specialised markets. Compaq will use an eight way system based on Foster (Willamette) and then will migrate that model to the future Intel McKinley model. Interesting. Compaq reckons there is so much growth in the eight way market, as its sales figures have proved, that it makes more sense to migrate the eight way model to McKinley, kind of leaving Itanium for the Itaniates. He said deals Compaq had brokered with Unisys would allow it to leverage 32-way x86 based systems and that he and his team will pursue rival Sun relentlessly. "The people I'm going after is (sic) Sun," he said. "We're a threat to Sun. Sun isn't a threat to us." Compaq's switched fabric technology will, said Santeler, who has worked there for 11 years, "drive volume economics into 32-way space". And so our next question, and our next story, was What about Alpha then? ®
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BT Surftime hits wipe out

BT has ditched part of its proposals to offer unmetered access to the Net because of fierce opposition and complaints from Britain's ISP industry. Far from the fireworks that accompanied the launch of BT Surftime in December, this latest announcement was sneaked out last week with no fanfare or hoopla. Surftime -- BT’s product for other ISPs to use as the basis for their own unmetered packages -- has found itself undercut by BT’s retail offering BT Internet. Obviously BT can’t sit back and let the likes of Telewest have it all their own way, but with Surftime priced at £35 per month and BT Internet now down to £9.99, Surftime has lost more than a little of its sheen. So, what to do? Time to kick Surftime into touch and bring out its replacement -- Surftime II. The launch of Surftime II -- the sequel -- suggests BT is in a spin over the whole issue of providing unmetered Net access to the industry. Alternatively, deliberate obfuscation and foot dragging would merely protect the status quo and its current revenue streams. BT claims Surftime II will "deliver the benefits of unmetered internet access to UK customers while simplifying the process of delivering them to customers and IPOs (Internet Protocol Operators) alike." But a spokesman for the ISP trade association, ISPA, said the proposals needed to be reviewed and that some areas still posed concerns. No one from BT was available for comment today. It's still unclear whether Surftime II will be any cheaper than the £35 a month currently being bandied around. Despite the setback, there is a more disturbing trend that threatens to upset the whole area of opening up BT's near-monopoly to competition. Plans to roll-out ADSL in Britain have been delayed due to technical problems; the launch of a wholesale product to allow ISPs to offer unmetered access have also been delayed. So will BT hit its July 2001 deadline to unbundle the local loop and open up Britain's telco market to real competition? Of course they will, of course they will... ® Related stories: BT intros unmetered Net access Autumn leaves will fall before ADSL rolls out in Britain
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Big Q (Compaq) terribly coy about Alpha Wildfire

How interesting Compaq can get about its relationship with Intel, and how ever more interesting it is that the Alpha seems getting in the way, or finding itself the subject of, practically any conversation. We've written so much about Wildfire over the last eighteen months, helped out by Terry Shannon at Shannon knows Compaq, that we were pleasantly surprised to hear the official launch hadn't happened yet. Here we must invoke Michael Johnston, general manager of Compaq's server platform business in the UK, who said: "Wildfire is almost there -- it's exciting technology". Johnston was clear about the future of Alpha, as far as The Big Q was concerned. "The fixed cost of Alpha is just R&D (research and development)," he said. "Between us and Samsung we've put half a billion into this business. It's not something that's going away". The roadmap will head into 2010 at least, he said, because of the commitment Compaq has to moving the Alpha to the Himalaya platform. And Samsung, through joint venture API, will indeed cut out some of the elements of the current Alpha microprocessor and produce a games platform very soon now, said Johnston. Will Compaq introduce an Alpha OEM platform again, like Digital used to do in the good old days? Johnston was nonplussed by this -- suggesting that people could source their Alphas through Samsung -- but said he'd look into it. He also confirmed IBM will fab Alpha microprocessors, and said a fourth company was set to fab out the chips too. Now who could that be? Motorola? AMD? ® * All the Q execs were nonplussed by an ad we passed round from today's Financial Times which seemed to suggest that Compaq was powering the Vatican. Sources said the ads were booked from Munich, in deepest Catholic Germany....
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Intel to take over Aureal? Silence falls

Will Intel take over Aureal soon? We don't know, but that's what little birdies are telling us. It will certainly make a change for Intel to take over a chip company rather than a WAP or a networking company, just like the good old days. So we don't know for sure, but that is the word on the street. OK? ®
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Yet another MS Windows – NT in a server appliance

Yet another version of Windows? Microsoft today unveiled one it prepared earlier, Windows for Express Networks 1.0. From a company that has in the past gone on the record as saying it gets its products right when they've got a 3 in front of them, this may be a reckless designation, but WEN (is this a ship-date joke?) is actually based on NT Embedded, so it has more provenance than you'd initially think. As Microsoft tells it, WEN is a server appliance based on NT Embedded, and is being released to OEMs today - so it's a reference design/spec, right? Coincidentally - not - the first OEM will be Intel, which itself has announced "two versions of the Intel InBusiness Small Office Network," sealed, multifunction appliances priced at $1,499 and $1,999. The big one has data mirroring capabilities and faster CPU, and the option to add DSL or ISDN shortly. But come on readers, can you spot the embroidery? Intel has been happily shipping InBusiness server appliance gear for small businesses for some considerable time now, so in this area could be termed home of the Intel-based reference design, right? But Intel's previous versions haven't used Microsoft operating systems. They've used classic embedded OSes, VXWorks, for example. Not only that, but when Intel first took the wraps off server appliances the company made it abundantly clear that the classic Microsoft NT network licensing scheme would not be welcome in the server appliance arena. There would be no 'per seat' licence, the buyers could just pay the one-off price for the gear and plug in. So we can presume that Microsoft, in order to stop small business custom escaping, has swallowed that particular camel. There's certainly no mention of licensing in the announcement, although Microsoft says WEN offers "easy-to-use, highly reliable shared file, print and secure Internet access for small businesses with up to 25 personal computers." We suspicious types wouldn't be at all surprised if the 25 turned out to be hard-wired. We'd also guess, as was the case with a number of previous "joint" projects, Intel did most of the work on the spec. But Microsoft may have paid a high price in order to get into the tent. There are a lot of businesses out there with 25 PCs or less, and historically these have been a target for NT. Unsurprisingly Microsoft hasn't been overwhelmed by a stampede of small businesses determined to give it thousands of dollars in exchange for fiendishly complicated NT server and BackOffice systems, but perhaps WEN can be seen as Microsoft accepting that they're never, ever going to do so. ®
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AOL's Case smartens up the road show

America Online Chairman Steve Case took pains to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee every platitude ever written about the wonders of the Internet as they convened this week to consider the proposed merger of AOL with media giant Time Warner.