3rd > March > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

DoubleClick throws in the towel on profiling

The recent controversy surrounding Web marketing outfit DoubleClick and its decision to merge a database of personally-identifiable consumer information with its database of Web-user data has come off the boil for now, and much to the satisfaction of consumers for a change. "It is clear....that I made a mistake by planning to merge names with anonymous user activity across Web sites in the absence of government and industry privacy standards," DoubleClick CEO Kevin O'Connor announced today. The company has not yet implemented its plan to associate personally identifiable information with anonymous Web-user activity across Web sites, O'Connor said. He added that "until there is agreement between government and industry on privacy standards, we will not link personally identifiable information to anonymous user activity." In an aside to shareholders, O'Connor offered reassurance that the decision "does not affect our core business activity." "It means we are going to await clear industry standards before we decide the future direction of a number of new products," he explained. O'Connor vowed to expand the company's media, technology, e-mail and off-line data businesses and to continue building anonymous profiles with which to target advertisements to Web surfers. "It is now time for industry, consumers and government to develop a clear set of guidelines that help create a healthy, free Internet while protecting the privacy of all consumers," he said. Precisely what millions of Netizens have been saying for years. ®
The Register breaking news

Don't believe the Web sales hype

Web sales figures may be a load of hype, according to the US government. Retail sales in the e-conomy totalled $5.3 billion for the Christmas quarter, a survey by the Commerce Department claimed yesterday. This was just 0.6 per cent of the $821 billion in overall retail sales for the last three months of 1999, and conflicts with figures from the private sector. Independent research group Forrester Communications estimated Web retail sales for the Christmas quarter totalled around $10 billion. But the official figures from the US don't wash with some economists. The government report was based on a survey of 8800 retailers. But it excluded some of the most successful cyber companies, and didn't measure airline ticket sales, services or banking. Forrester estimated customers spent $5.5 billion on goods, and a further $3.5 billion on travel or event tickets in the period. New media researchers Jupiter Communications reckoned $7 billion was spent online last November and December. For the year, it estimated an extra $4.2 billion went to online travel companies. First quarter 2000 figures from the Commerce Department are expected in May. ® Related Stories E-commerce sales to reach $3.2 trillion in 2003 Forrester predicts online banking boom Online sales hit logistical brick wall
The Register breaking news

AMD's 1GHz Athlon arrives this month – official

A posting on AMD's own web page shows clearly that the company will launch its 1GHz microprocessor this month, thus prompting rival Chipzilla to drag its own gig processor screaming and shouting into the same time frame. This reference in a FAQ at AMD's site clearly states it will bring out a 1GHz microprocessor this month, and just in case execs seek to stalinise the reference, here's the Q and here's the A. (Update Saturday morning: Sorry readers, the airbrush was applied to this FAQ just a few hours after we posted the link... ) Question "How did AMD reach 1GHz so much earlier than your projected introduction date?" Answer "AMD's process and manufacturing abilities, coupled with the AMD Athlon™ processor's advanced seventh-generation architecture has enabled AMD to reach this significant industry milestone, and successfully enable a leading manufacturer to bring 1GHz AMD Athlon systems to the marketplace in March." Other questions and answers lurking in the FAQ right near the bottom indicate the depth of AMD's desire to embrace the commercial desktop market by offering Athlons "at a fair price" to corporations which want them. AMD also makes it clear in a couple of Qs&As in the same location that it is going to price Athlons without reference to Intel's model -- a fact which is bound to trigger terror in Chipzilla's corporate HQ, only a stone throw from Cheapzilla over there in Satan Clara. And there's more. We understand that the first 1 GHz Athlon PCs will be available in Germany week 14 or 15. They will use standard cooling and will be produced for the market by a major international first tier vendor. Germans will be able to buy as many 1GHz machines as they like within four weeks, provided they have enough cash. ®
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Liberty Surf takes X-Stream measures

European subscription-free ISP, Liberty Surf, is to merge with The X-Stream Network in a deal that values the British outfit at £47.69 million ($75.35 million). Under the agreement Liberty Surf will acquire all of the outstanding shares of X-Stream common stock. Once the deal is finalised X-Stream will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Surf. X-Stream shareholders (other than Liberty Surf, which currently owns around ten per cent of X-Stream) will receive £0.80p ($1.26) for each X-Stream share, representing an aggregate cash consideration of £43.28 ($68.35) million. No one at X-Stream was prepared to comment further on how this would impact on the business since Liberty Surf is currently engaged in an IPO. Liberty Surf is looking to raise some £307 million in and it's believed that the cash will help fund expansion overseas. Elsewhere, France Telecom said it was looking at the possibility of floating its ISP, Wanadoo, the country's number one service provider. ®
The Register breaking news

Chinese e-dissident released from jail

Lin Hai -- the Chinese businessman imprisoned by Chinese authorities last year for passing on 30,000 email addresses to dissidents and activists -- has been released from jail. According to a report by AFP today, Lin was released in September 1999 -- almost six months ago. It appears his release went unnoticed. When AFP caught up with him, Lin was not particularly keen to talk to them. There are suggestions that his early -- and noiseless -- release was the result of a deal between the businessman and Shanghai authorities. Elsewhere, China Daily reported that China Telecom -- the country's dominant telco -- is to spend up to $2.4 billion improving its network. The cash will be used to improve bandwidth and security enabling the development of ecommerce in China. ® Related Story China jails software developer for selling email addresses
The Register breaking news

Nvidia NV11 goes mobile too

Nvidia is planing to hit the mobile market soon. The 0.18 micron based NV15 has only half the power dissipation of Geforce 256 and the NV11 has approximately 30 per cent lower power dissipation than the NV15, and so we can expect some mobile computers based on the NV11. Another fact that can give us a clue is the ACPI power management with On, Standby, Suspend and Off modes supported by this card. As Nvidia is already announcing cards using the NV11 and NV15 as the "world's fastest GPU in Spring 2000" that gives us a whopping clue about the availability of NV11 based products. Of course, we can't be sure this going to happen with mobile products too, but does suggest some possibilities for future laptop gaming. ATI is finally getting some real competition in the 3D mobile market. We think this will pump lower prices on mobile based 3D products and bring some more games on our laptops with an affordable price. ® Related Stories Nvidia NV20, NV15 details leak Nvidia hides NV11, NV15 under CeBIT bushel Fuad Abazovic is the editor of the Bosnian IT magazine Info
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Samsung demos MP3 cellphone

Samsung this week demonstrated a cellphone equipped with a built-in MP3 player which it plans to ship in the US later this year. Given current cellphone technologies' data transmission speeds aren't sufficient to download an MP3 - at least not in any sensible timeframe - so it's no surprise that the Samsung machine doesn't support downloads through cellular networks. Instead, users can hook the phone to a PC via both devices' USB ports. The phone contains 64MB of memory, which should be sufficient for up to two hours of music, though newswires reporting Samsung's launch claimed the phone holds only 15 minutes' worth of music, enough for two or three songs, and so of limited use. The point here though is not really the utility of the device demonstrated - it's a prototype, after all - but that it demonstrates the way cellphones can evolve to provide features beyond voice communications. Start bundling WAP access and built-in organiser facilities, and the cellphone quickly becomes a rival to PDAs and other handheld devices - doubly so since already more people carry cellphones than PDAs. Many WAP pundits, for instance, believe that the technology will thrive because users will automatically gain access to it when they upgrade their phones - they'll get it for free, as it were. And it may eventually work this way for MP3 too. Samsung's selling point is that there's no need to carry a separate MP3 and a cellphone when you can have a phone that does both tasks. ® Related Story Japanese trio unveil MP3-on-cellphone system
The Register breaking news

AMD to be fourth fabber for Alpha…

Intel is forced, through the might of the United States government, to make Alpha chips for its customer Compaq for perpetuity. Well, not quite perpetuity, but in chip terms, 10 years is equivalent to 1,000 years of software. When the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) took its mighty finger and wagged it severely at Intel a few years back for stifling competition in the US microprocessor market, it decreed that other companies should also make Alpha processors so that never, ever again would the giant stomp all over its competition. Compaq (which now has the Digital mantle) told us the other day for sure that IBM would fab out the Alpha, ending a whole year's discussion on the matter. It also told us that a fourth non-Intel firm would fab Alphas. That fourth non-Intel firm is AMD, we now learn. According to a source which has Jerry Sanders' ear: "AMD is dreaming of a day when a box rolls off its lines and the last thing you decide is whether you want it to be an Alpha or an Athlon. "They're already using Alpha's bus architecture (responsible for a fair portion of their performance lead over Intel's x86) and the only real sticking point in the deal now is memory: A 128 Mb memory module for an Alpha runs at $1,500. "Compaq is soon to give up the margin on these, and/or allow lower quality DIMMs (non-CL1, non-parity, non-EEC) into their boxes. AMD is looking to sweeten the pot by "at least $100 million" to make it worth Compaq's time. Robert Palmer, who older readers of The Reg will remember was DEC's CEO and described as he of the walk in wardrobe, is an executive on AMD's board. ®
The Register breaking news

Willamette explained by Willamettian

Letter "According to my daughter's homework today, the sound of a vowel in syllable which is not accented is called a schwa. I have lived for 51 years not knowing this. The a in america, the u in bonus, and the i in Willamette are all examples of this. "Yes, we do live on the Willamette river here in Oregon, and in the Willamette valley. So are Intel's research, fab and marketing facilities located in the Willamette valley, which used to be a huge inland sea before a big earthquake or volcano compromised the end of the lake (40 miles wide by 100 miles long) and let all the water flow into the ocean. "Thousands of years of lake bottom sediment made the valley very flat and fertile. Intel should build its facilities in the deserts, which are in ample supply in the western USA. "There used to be Willamette Indians here before the settlers who arrive on the Oregon trail gave them diseases which killed virtually all of them. "So, the Willamette name lives on, which is more than we can say about Intel's dominance, i'nn't?" ® Name and email address supplied There is a thread currently running on our Forum on the topic of Willamette.
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SDMI embarks on Phase II of universal digital music spec

Opinion The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) this week launched the development of Phase II of its specification for a digital content copyright protection framework with a request for submissions for the screening technology that will lie at the heart of the system. The Call for Proposals (CFP) essentially describes the technical and legal framework screening technologies must fit into in order to have a chance of being adopted by the organisation. Draft proposals have a 24 April deadline with final, complete technological details to be submitted by 18 June. SDMI Phase II will ultimately define the how future digital music systems, be they PC-based software players, portable devices or hi-fi units will prevent piracy but still allow users the rights they enjoy now to copy music for personal use. At least that's the theory. The organisation's critics claim that it's the puppet of the music industry, interested either in giving the major the labels the kind of control they currently wield over the CD market, or in creating sufficient FUD that the digital music arena never makes it as a mainstream market. The SDMI naturally denies such charges. But the development of Phase I - a short-term measure designed to calm the music business' fears over the use of the MP3 format and the portable players that are based upon it - exposed the difficulties in balancing the protectionist desires of the recording labels and the mass marketing orientation of the hardware and software vendors. Quick and Dirty Phase I was timed to allow player manufacturers to get kit out into the market in time for Christmas 1999, but few managed it. SDMI Phase I compliant players are beginning to appear at last, primarily from the big Japanese consumer electronics companies. But with stacks of Korean MP3 players around that don't support SDMI, it's a wonder that the others are bothering with it. We suspect it's more about showing a willingness to co-operate than genuine support for Phase I. Phase II, however, is different in that it should be supported by the content companies as well as the player providers. Like the DVD spec and the various CD 'books', it's about defining a standard (rather than a sop, which was all Phase I was about) and is likely to have a far greater impact on the way music is sold three or four years down the line. Or possibly longer. Once the proposals are in, they will have to be evaluated and tested for compatibility with Phase I's screening technology, developed by Aris Technologies, recently renamed Verance. The screening system ensures players will play pre-Phase I tracks, and legitimate Phase I and Phase II files. Illicit copies of Phase I and Phase II tracks will be rejected. Time for Testing As yet no testing procedures have been established, according to E R Cole, manager of digital audio and media technologies at Texas Instruments' Dallas DSP R&D centre, cited by EE Times. Assuming testing gets done by September - Cole's estimate for completion - that's still to late for devices to ship in time for this Christmas, so we're clearly looking at Q1 2001 at the earliest. Incidentally, late Q1, early Q2 2001 is the timescale for the launch of Sony's PlayStation 2-based digital content distribution system. As an SDMI member, Sony's clearly aware of the how long the organisation believes the development of Phase II will take. It's not clear whether that has affected Sony's schedule for its delivery system, which depends as much on the widespread availability of broadband Net connectivity solutions as it does on SDMI Phase II, but the timeframes for both are curiously coincident. And the SDMI can afford to wait. True, the longer it takes to get Phase II done and for music and hardware companies to support it in their products, the more time the MP3 crowd has to build up support for their self-styled open approach to content, but there's little real evidence as yet - no, MP3.com's share price doesn't count - that the digital music has any appeal beyond hardcore PC users. That said, that sector is growing, and as it's likely to form the core of the next generation of music buyers, it shouldn't be ignored. The SDMI has time to take things carefully, but it doesn't have unlimited freedom to act when it feels the time is right. What's in Store The broader state of the digital music business is clearly shown by the likes of Liquid Audio and RealNetworks striking deals to promote in-store custom CD systems. As yet the content - tracks from big name artists - isn't there for such systems to take off, but it will come and DIY CD kiosks are likely to prove the vast majority of buyers' primary use of digital music. The major labels and many of the smaller ones continue to believe that they'll sell more music if they get it in front of buyers through High Street outlets. It makes no real difference if they're selling pre-pressed CDs, custom discs or digital tracks downloaded to Memory Sticks or Compact Flash cards, the point is the decision to buy and the sale are both being made through existing retail operations. Even the likes of Amazon.com aren't really suited to browsing, and, as most music industry and retail staffers will tell you, more sales are generated by folk browsing the racks than by buyers coming in to make specific purchases. In fact the real threat that digital music poses the traditional music retailers isn't online sales from the recording labels but the opportunities it opens - now you don't need shelf space for CDs - for other kinds of store to offer music. We've already seen bookshops, supermarkets and gas stations stock CDs (some well, others with abysmal selections of discs), but kiosks connected to CD-R kit allows anyone to offer a huge selection of titles. It's noteworthy the Liquid Audio's first kiosk in the UK is in TopShop, a clothing store aimed at mid- to late-teenagers and aging trendies, rather than a music shop. SDMI's role Operations like these still require the SDMI, of course, particularly as kiosk operations are likely to be sourced from databases that also provided the basis for download sales. No matter how the process of selling music evolves, the music business is set on a course of preventing piracy at source rather than dealing with illegal copying after it's taken place, and that means SDMI-compliancy across the board, from CDs to downloads. ® Related Story Prof proposes music biz ends copyright protection obsession
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We're so sorry, says SurfVeryLimited firm

Cable Internet has issued a formal apology concerning the difficulties that have beset the service since the launch last month of its Surf Unlimited flat-rate tariff. In a statement issued to The Register last night Cable Internet said: "We apologise to any customers who have been experiencing difficulties getting through to Cable Internet. "The launch of SurfUnlimited has been an overwhelming success. We are currently in the process of increasing our Cable Internet network capacity by 50 per cent to handle the very high demand that SurfUnlimited has generated. "This will be completed in the next few weeks and we are confident that this measure will enhance the online experience for all our customers." Yesterday, Telewest confirmed that it had suspended registrations for the ISP in a bid to buy time and resolve the outstanding network performance problems. ® Related Stories Telewest goes tits up in Bristol Refunds for SurfVeryLimited customers
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Telewest marches to broadband beat

Still mopping up the mess made by its haphazard free Net calls service, Telewest has announced it is to launch its broadband cable service later this month although exact details are being kept under wraps until the official launch at the end of March. What is known is that the service will be offered in just one of Telewest's regions to start with, before being rolled out nation-wide over the rest of the year. The cableco is also keeping mum about pricing but it's understood that Telewest's unmetered broadband service could cost around £50 a month, although this would also include the cost of a cable modem. A number of content providers have already been signed up ready to jump aboard the broadband bandwagon. Telewest announced it was to introduce a broadband service in August last year. Rival cableco, NTL, began rolling out its broadband cable service at the beginning of last year. The service costs £40 a month for a 512KB service, although users have to buy their own cable modem as part of the deal. A spokesman for NTL said a decision concerning the cableco's decision to buy the cable network from Cable & Wireless would be announced within the next month. Elsewhere, BT has extended the trial for its ADSL product, which will mean the service won't be available commercially until the summer. ® Related stories: Telewest to tackle BT, NTL with broadband launch NTL fires first volley in Net calls price war Autumn leaves will fall before ADSL rolls out in Britain
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Palm stock rockets to create $53.4bn company

Trading in Palm's freshly-IPO'd shares added over 300 per cent to the stock's launch price yesterday, taking them from $38 apiece to a high of $165 before closing at $95.06. The final price of the day left Palm, Inc. valued at $53.4 billion on paper, way above that of the company it emerged from, 3Com. Palm's former parent saw its shares fall over $22 to $83.81 after a period of strong growth in the run-up to the Palm IPO. 3Com has said that it plans to offer the bulk of its 93.8 per cent stake in Palm to its shareholders within the next six months. The drop suggests, perhaps, that buyers with a long-term view - and in these day-trading times, six months is the long term - have got their stakes in 3Com set up and ready for the windfall. That said, given the way Palm's stock has rocketed in value, others may now be persuaded to take the 3Com route to, so trading in 3Com stock is likely to become more active. As is typical with hi-tech stocks, Palm's valuation far outweighs its profit expectations. In the six months to 26 November it made itself $12.9 million, and there's no way that's going to give shareholders a decent dividend - it represents earnings of around two cents a share ($12.9 million spread among a total of 575 million shares). Not, of course, that most of these folks are in it for the dividend - it's the get-rich-quick buy cheap, sell high deal that attracts most hi-tech stock buyers these days. However, Palm's outlook is bright, and it's profitability and sales growth is likely to continue for some time. The company's strategy of building its licensing business ensures - it wants 25 per cent of sales to come from licensing within the next three to five years - allows the Palm brand to spread into new markets without Palm itself having to take any of the risk. And risk there is. Microsoft continues to promote Windows CE, which shouldn't be overlooked, despite the PalmOS' overwhelming marketshare. And Symbian's Quartz platform is a powerful opponent to attempts to push PalmOS into that grey area where wireless data, the Net and telecoms all come together. That said, Palm's level of brand awareness far outweighs its rivals' and even the most conservative predictions for the scale of the emerging wireless data market suggests there's plenty of room for Palm to win for itself some very nice sales growth indeed, even if it's marketshare never reaches the 70-per cent it has in the organiser/PDA business. ® Related Story Palm stock goes on sale, nets $1.09bn Smart card company sues over Palm patent piracy claim Inside Quartz: Symbian's new Palm-killer platform
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Alta Vista launches in France and Holland

Alta Vista is continuing its European roll-out with local language sites for France and Holland. They join country versions for the UK, Germany and Sweden. The new sites are located at: www.altavista.fr www.altavista.nl
The Register breaking news

Colour Palm VII due August

Info leaking out of newly IPO'd Palm suggests the company will follow up its recently launched colour Palm IIIc with a non-mono version of the wireless data-oriented Palm VII in the summer. At this point we should point out that the source, as it were, for this rumour is Infoworld's psedonymous columnist, Robert X. Cringely - the real Robert Cringely has nothing to do with InfoWorld and hasn't since 1995. That's not to imply the counterfeit Cringely's moles are any less accurate than anyone else's in this profession, simply that the bogus Bob generally likes to serve these titbits as appetisers rather than main course items. So that's all we have: Palm plans to ship the VIIc in August. It's certainly the obvious choice for Palm. We've heard from other sources that a colour Palm V is unlikely given the size of its shell (small) and the colour LCD's demand for power (big), though it was often said that Palm wouldn't be able to get colour to work at all, so perhaps it's wiser to never shay 'never', mish Moneypenny. The VIIc is a more likely choice since it's already geared up to power a battery-draining wireless link, and wireless is, of course, a key market for Palm, particularly now the momentum behind Symbian is starting to build up. ® Related Story Palm stock rockets to create $53.4bn company
The Register breaking news

DRAM prices on the up again

DRAM prices have rebounded for the first time in six months. Spot market prices have increased around 30 per cent since Friday for PC-100 modules. Memory Corp and Dane-Elec were yesterday selling 128MB DIMMs at around $110, compared to $85 on Friday. Distributor GSI was this morning quoting $98 for a 128MB, and $52 for a 64MB module. This is the first memory price increase since September, when prices nudged the $300 mark for 128MB DIMMs in the wake of Taiwanese earthquake. Since October, prices have fallen steadily. There are many rumours circulating in the industry for the reasons behind the price hikes - some no doubt started by distributors keen to cash in on the rise. There doesn't appear to be a chip shortage - manufacturers are still able to meet demand. But demand is starting to catch up with supply. And some distributors' stocks do appear to be low, which has prompted fears that manufacturers and OEMs are ramping up prices to compensate for selling below cost in recent months. There are also reports from Asia of a printed circuit board shortage, which is causing problems for the assembly houses. Distributors in the UK described the increase as "a blip". Prices seem to have levelled off today, but they are likely to rise again after the weekend. Micron and the Japanese fabs look set to up chip prices to $6.10, and Hyundai to $6.20 next week, one source said. Prices today are $5.90. ® Related Stories DRAM prices go through roof DRAM prices start to drop Taiwan quake sees DRAM prices rise
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Sugar flogs Spurs(.co.uk) to BSkyB

Alan Sugar's favourite football club has sold its Web site www.Spurs.co.uk to Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB for an undisclosed sum. BSkyB will gain access to Tottenham Hotspur's fan base, apparently the second richest supporters in the UK after Chelsea's. Spurs will get a share of the profits from the merchandising and other e-commerce ventures on the site. Yesterday, the club reported pre-tax profits down 26 per cent to £2.1 million for the six months ended 31 January. Sales were up 33 per cent to £29.7 million, while players wages jumped 35 per cent to £17.9 million. ®
The Register breaking news

Apple opens online sales to small resellers

Apple appears to be taking a more relaxed attitude to online Mac suppliers, according to one US-based reseller cited by MacWeek. Don Mayer, CEO of Small Dog Electronics, told the Apple-watching Web site that Apple's latest terms and conditions for Authorized Apple Resellers permits them to sell computers online from 1 April. That's a major change. Until recently, only a small number of high-volume resellers, including MacMall and MacZone, could sell via the Web alongside Apple's own online AppleStore. However, the new Ts&Cs aren't quite as liberal as they sound at first. Resellers' Web sites are only permitted to sell to existing customers, who are forced to enter a password before they can submit their order. So while it has clearly adapted its Ts&Cs to meet the demands of resellers, it's not exactly making it easy. According to MacWeek, Mayer reckons Apple's plan here is to allow smaller resellers to set up what he calls "buying clubs", which is essentially what low-volume dealers do anyway: create a network of dedicated customers and focus on serving them. Mayer said current Small Dog customers will be sent login information and new buyers will receive a password the first time they use the site, which goes live next month. Clearly, they won't be able to buy a new Mac there and then, but "if you buy RAM you can come back and buy a G4", he said. ®
The Register breaking news

How AMD beat Intel to 1GHz chip

Analysis Intel has clearly lost the PR war it has engaged in with AMD to bring a 1GHz x86 microprocessor to the market first. Earlier on this week, we reported that Intel has plans to trickle out a 1GHz microprocessor, although the press relations division declined to confirm or deny that point. We reported yesterday that the likely dribble of Intel's 1GHz chip was the eighth of this month. But the news we reported earlier on this morning that AMD was to ship 1GHz microprocessors to a tier one company during March will send a clear message to Intel that "paper launches" of processors is not enough. Although our understanding now, thanks to our colleagues at Tec Channel who followed up our story, is that the 1GHz microprocessors will use aluminium interconnects and be fabbed at AMD's Austin plant, we had heard as early as October last year that the company was happy with its execution and, even then, could deliver 1GHz technology. This is in German but gives further AMD confirmation of the fact. One OEM will ship GHz PCs in March. Although not giving the name, he pointed out that Compaq and Gateway showed near-mass-production-units at CeBIT at AMDs booth with 1 GHz. They were then still labeled "technical demonstrations", according to Tec Channel. This is highly embarrassing for Intel, considering that up until the introduction of the Athlon, it could clearly dictate the ground rules in the x.86 market. It is clear from the AMD FAQ in this morning's story that the company feels that it need no longer play by the same rules that in the past forced down the average selling prices (ASPs) of its chips and had a disastrous effect on its financial results. At the Intel Developer Forum last month, that company scored a PR coup when it announced its Willamette processor, which, rather strangely, was misreported in many places as if the processor was actually introduced. Long-time readers will recall that both Intel and AMD have played this clock speed demo game for quite some time. Does the fact that there are 1GHz chips out there mean a great deal? Obviously, those able to afford such a system and who want a maxed-up machine, will go for the option. But that old pesky software is always clogging up this raw computing power, and however fast chips get, the likes of Microsoft are always going to come along and slow things down. A 550MHz Intel system we have at home truly rockets along using old DOS versions of Paradox and Word, for example. Well, maybe it's time for old Intel to stop banging on about raw microprocessor speed. It's no longer relevant to its business model. And while Intel may be slightly down, it's far from out for the count. Jerry Sanders III, AMD's CEO observed a few years back, "Only real men have fabs". He's got a couple, but Intel's has 16 manufacturing facilities, five at .18 micron and two more planned. If the company begins to execute as well as it used to, that makes its CEO, Craig Barrett, a much bigger man... ® See also AMD 1GHz Athlon arrives this month -- official Intel to dribble out 1GHz Cumine this month
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Big Blue PC support is roses, roses

A story we wrote about Gateway's problems with support earlier this week has prompted Big Blue to tell us what it is up to. Dermot O'Laughlin, programme director for IBM US services and support, said that steps the firm took in the last few years has paid dividends for its customers. O'Laughlin said that four or five years ago, IBM took around 6.5 million support calls a year, using 3,000 different agents, but decided to completely revisit its support strategy. "The most important thing we discussed was architecture to get our data delivered in a consistent way. The Web, then, was in its infancy. We started to consolidate our call centres and we ended up with a call centre in Greenock and Dublin which covered Europe." He said that worldwide, IBM now has 14 call centres, with only one of those, in Florida, being outsourced. The consolidation was important because, for instance, its Raleigh operation could be affected by hurricanes and its Canadian centre by ice storms. The system now allows him, effectively, to switch the loads anywhere around the world. "I can flick a switch, send people home, and transfer the calls to other centres," he said. Big Blue also opened up a centre in Brisbane, which is being used to cover its Far East operation, O'Laughlin said. He said that IBM uses knowledge based software to filter the types of calls it gets, and brought in the IBM Research Labs to implement a data mining methodology for its PC support centres. Although the number of calls IBM has taken has dropped to around five million a year, he said that many queries were satisfied by its Web support site. "Calls have come down, but when we went on the Web, around two and a half years ago, in the first month we had 256,000 visits from people in 132 countries," he said. The Web figure now runs at around eight million a month, with a large proportion of visits, three million or so, downloading patches, drivers and other software. He also claimed that IBM had surveyed customers to find their level of satisfaction with support, and the results were positive. So are you happy with IBM support? Mail us at The Reg with your thoughts. ®
The Register breaking news

Register to IPO

Gotcha! No, we aren't floating. Not yet, anyway. Register.com, the domain-name registrar, has announced it plans to float five million shares on Nasdaq at $24 a pop. The company, which in true dot com style has yet to make a profit, was one of the companies to win the right to challenge Network Solutions on its URL-registration monopoly last year. Your super soaraway Register, meanwhile, remains in private hands. ®
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Hemscott weighs up options

Online finance information service Hemscott.net is in talks regarding a possible IPO. The company, which claims 20 million page impressions per month, is being advised on its options by merchant bank Rothschilds. "One of these options might be flotation or a trade sale," confirmed one Hemscott representative. The company has received £5 million from institutional shareholders, which it plans to spend on marketing, new staff and developing its financial records database. The leader in the finance information sector is Yahoo!Finance, while Hemscott rival Interactive Investor International (iii) recorded 23 million page impressions for December 1999. In terms of users, Hemscott has 500,000 and iii 738,000. As well as the database, which contains five-year financial records of UK companies, Hemscott charges online stockbrokers to put "broker buttons" on its site. It also makes cash from subscription charges for certain parts of its site and from advertisements. ® Related Stories 'Defamed' bulletin board firm primes lawyers UK shares bulletin board faces legal bullet
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Polish porn ban leaves cyber door open

Polish politicians today voted to ban all pornography. The parliament in Warsaw narrowly approved a total ban on the import, distribution and sale of porn. There was nothing said about sitting in front of your PC plumbing the depths of the Internet's flesh pots though. The bill, which passed the Sejm - parliament's lower house - by 210 votes to 197, would allow offenders to be fined or jailed for up to two years. In cases of child pornography, offenders could get five years' imprisonment. The move, backed by the Roman Catholic Church, still has to be approved by President Alexander Kwasniewski. His leftist allies say the ex-communist is likely to veto it, the Associated Press reported. Poland has experienced a thriving sex and pornography industry due to the freedom resulting from the collapse of communism in 1989. Top shelf Polish mag readers will presumably now have to get their kicks via the Internet. At least in cyberspace the pages can't get stuck together.® Related stories: Porn up for grabs as Excite turns off Green Light Porn sites undermine Paris brothels China shuts down Internet cafes