7th > March > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Intel's little 1GHz mysteries…

Some signs of a Dell page advertising 866MHz and 850MHz Pentium IIIs appeared and disappeared this morning even before we could tuck into our hot, piping, Ready Brek. Every dog has its day, and while yesterday was AMD's, we are now of the strong opinion that tomorrow will be Intel's, as it retaliates against the coverage that its smaller competitor got yesterday. The share price of AMD went, so to speak, through the sound barrier, closing at $47.5 yesterday evening (cough). With little more to substantiate this apart from nods, winks, nudges, the Houston Chronicle, and piecing everything together, we now believe that Intel will cajole Compaq, HP and Dell to get on its own 1GHz bandwagon tomorrow, as it rolls it some of those and also the 866MHz and 850MHz Pentium IIIs that were lost on the 27th of February somewhere in the equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle of Chips. Intel will also mount a counter-offensive against claims that a 1GHz processor is necessarily faster than its own offerings anyway. It may take pre-emptive action on pricing too. It's perfectly capable of doing so, in what's fast turning from a game of straight-faced poker into a game of Snap! It is likely to cite benchmarks, for example these ones from PC World, which show that a Gateway running a 1GHz Athlon only very, very slightly outperforms a Gateway machine running a 800MHz Pentium III. The reason? Coppermine processors have an integrated L2 cache running at full speed, and a wider pipe between the L2 and the core. The K7 runs the L2 at one third the speed of the core, slowing performance. Later today, we will do a hardware roundup and look at all the reviews we can find of the K7 1GHz. These technical issues of course will be lost on the vast majority of people, reading accounts of announcements from chip companies major and minor, laundered through the press release mill and re-gurgitated wholesale. And if Intel spinolas should start to talk about chips faster than the speed of light, quantum leaps, or the Coppermine being the biggest aspidestra in the world, they know what treatment to expect from this organ... Intel should, of course, have thought of all this before the company let the Megahurtz Genie out of the Klein Bottle, telling consumers that raw speed is a good thing. But that was so long ago, few people now remember and it has to carry on playing the game. ® See also AMD suffers Gigglehurts hype attack AMD puts Intel on 1GHz ropes -- confirmed
Mike Magee, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Blair hails NTL Free Everything ISP plans

NTL boss Barclay Knapp will today announce a subscription-free, unmetered access Internet service for everyone. And - get this - Tony Blair will hail the service as a "significant announcement". Hats off to NTL, Britain's biggest cable telephony company, for squirrelling an endorsement out of the Prime Minister. But what will other Internet services have to say about this? And will the City mark down BT shares yet again? Blair will deliver his pat-on-the back for NTL, when he delivers a speech, announcing that every British citizen should be able to go online in the next five years, the FT says. "We have to make sure people are not excluded from this revolutionary technology," he will say, according to the FT. "We have to have an internet for the people. We have to democratise the new economy. We must ensure it is open to all." The FT carries an astonishing quote from "an insider at the prime minister's office", who says the NTL accolade should not be seen as a snub to BT. "We put pressure on the whole industry and everyone's responded," the insider said. "The NTL offer is a step change and a world first, which leapfrogs us beyond the US, but we are not anti-BT: they are part of getting the cost down." Clearly, the government has learned its lesson from the Brown debacle of a couple of weeks back, when the chancellor (with help from a misreported FT article torpedoed BT's share prices by calling for cheaper Net access). But what about the hubris of "the insider"? Blair is jumping on the free Net bandwagon. His government has done nothing to start it rolling. NTL is to offer its free Internet access service to everyone - not just customers, and not just people within its cable areas. The service goes live from 17 April, but it's not clear if there is a trial period. Users must sign Customers must sign up to NTL's telephone service and agree to spend at least £10 per month on telephone bills. NTL says it can make the maths work because it is able also to squeeze ecommerce revenues from the Net service and sell other packages such as digital TV on top. In other words, it's a cross-subsidy situation. But unlike Alta Vista UK, which announced its free for all ISP plans yesterday, this time it is not a content company subsidising a telephony business - it is a telephony company taking the plunge. BT is by law unable to cross-subsidise its services, so the free access plan should deliver a massive boost to NTL. ®
Drew Cullen, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

US allies are spying with bugged software

America's allies, like France, and her adversaries, like China, are selling flawed software and hardware which can divert sensitive data from US corporations and government bureaus back to the country of origin, security outfit iDefense CEO James Adams claims. "If you buy a piece of hardware or software from several countries, among them some of our allies, there is real concern that you will be buying doctored equipment that will siphon copies of all material that passes across that equipment," Adams warned in testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee last week. Adams mentioned France and China by name, because in those countries there is a pronounced "blurring of boundaries between the public and private sectors. What the [national government] does, it does on behalf of the private sector," he noted. Of course we could name two dozen countries off the top of our heads where that is equally the case, and we took Adams to mean that high-tech equipment from Russia, Israel, Japan, India, and the rest we have in mind should be treated with the same skepticism. "Some thirty countries have aggressive information warfare programs, and all of them have America in their sights," Adams warned. He said it is absurdly easy for foreign nationals to steal US intellectual property, both public and private, because American businesses and government bureaus simply don't understand the threat. "The awareness among CEOs and CIOs in the private sector is lamentable," he said. "And the way America's technological advantage is being exploited is a national outrage." By way of illustration, Adams said that during a recent intelligence strategy meeting convened to identify future threats, it was agreed by all that China is a "very significant threat to the United States." But at that same meeting, a "senior officer of one of America's leading high technology companies described an investment decision about a new and revolutionary technology product," he recalled. The company was looking for a location with cheap labour and a good supply of engineers. And where did they build their new factory? Why China, naturally. An entertaining scene, we are sure. But we have to ask, with generous intellectual property giveaways like that, who needs to bother writing bugged software? ®
Thomas C Greene, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Is MS heading for a share price meltdown?

Just when Microsoft is being investigated by the SEC, a little forensic analysis of Microsoft's share price and of events over the last few days suggests the company could just possibly be trying to give a little upward nudge to its sluggish share price. The SEC is of course very sensitive to any attempt at manipulation of the market. But the recent heavy selling by insiders such as Bill Gates and Microsoft co-founder and board member Paul Allen is probably unrelated. Gates has sold 1.31 million shares for around $125 million (possibly for his foundation), with Allen selling 16 million shares for perhaps $1.5 billion (again, too much should not be read into this, as Allen regularly sells substantial numbers of Microsoft shares to finance his investment company). The daily average on NASDAQ for Microsoft shares is around 30 million, so although the over-the-counter parcels are large, they do not swamp the market. Of course it would not be a surprise to find that Microsoft was buying many of  the shares (making Gates indifferent to the price he obtains), but we shall have to await the next Microsoft financial report to see if this was the case. A recent SEC filing tells us that although the share sales by Allen and Gates were spread over eight days in February, there was no clash as to which days were used to sell their disposals, which strongly suggests some coordination. Momentum marketing A glance at Microsoft's history shows us that the company is a master at momentum marketing - suggesting that sales are going better than they are, in the hope of encouraging others to buy. One of the more amusing examples of this was last June when Microsoft's headline read "Windows CE devices outsell 3COM PalmPilot 3 to 1" and that these devices were "a big hit in Europe". It turned out that this was perhaps true for just for one retail store in Paris. The most infamous example was Microsoft's high claims for Windows 95 sales in Q3 of 1995, when Microsoft was keen to show that the product was a great success: testimony during the trial and other evidence adds support to suspicion about the accuracy of the claims. A third example was seen in the hyping of sales data for NT in the early days: these were often quoted as percentage increases, or combined with those of Windows 95 to create the impression that NT was doing well, when in fact sales were very slow indeed. Two recent Microsoft activities certainly look to be in the momentum marketing category, and designed to help Microsoft's share price, which is down around 30 per cent so far this year, notably languishing after the release of Windows 2000 and suggesting that Wall Street was not convinced that the product would be quickly successful. On Thursday, there was a private briefing to Microsoft's media chums and financial analysts in Redmond, with no press release and only a brief report carried by Reuters. The message from Keith White, director of Windows marketing, was that Windows 2000 sales were "significantly" higher than "our expectations" - he claimed that Windows 2000 retail sales were around half a million copies - but there was no information as to just what Microsoft had expected. A more interesting statistic would be the true figure for sales in March, to see if the initial sales were from "pent-up demand" and whether businesses are waiting for the first bug fix, which White said would be in four to six months - way past the end of Microsoft's financial year on 30 June. (White also stated that Windows Me was scheduled for the second half of this year.) The next day - last Friday - Microsoft's stock price went up $5 to $98.625 by noon, with very active trading. It began to look as though the briefing and apparent good news - which was not formally released to the stock exchange - was having the desired effect - but it was not enough: the afternoon saw $2 shed. Yesterday, another $5.50 was lost, with the close being at $90.625. Also on Friday WebSideStory, a Web audience analysis firm, just happened to announce that Windows 98 usage was at "an all-time high", which was no surprise at all since it is so difficult to buy a home PC without Windows 98 pre-loaded. Microsoft apparently sees its competitor as Windows 95. Although there are no obvious Microsoft footprints in the story, it would be surprising if Microsoft were not a significant customer of the firm. Then yesterday, Microsoft actually used the "momentum" word, saying in a release that there was "unprecedented momentum for MSDN", presumably to bolster the impression that developers are moving from similar Sun, IBM and Oracle developer programmes. The facts are of course that Microsoft developers must join MSDN to get key information, whereas this is less the case with the other vendors' programmes. The danger of meltdown Microsoft shareholders probably have two main concerns: they want a satisfactory outcome to the Microsoft trial,  and they are concerned that Windows 2000 quickly becomes a success. The consequences of bad news in either case for shareholders and staff (whose stock options would be become useless), are potentially very serious. The last 12 months has seen the Dow Jones industrial average rising just over 4 per cent while the NASDAQ composite index has doubled. In the same period, Microsoft's share price has gone up just 23 percent, and so is seriously underperforming in the high-tech market. Thoughts are increasingly turning to the question of whether there will be meltdown in the share price if Microsoft has a bad quarter. Many investors will certainly have an exit strategy in the form of a stop-loss sell order on their holdings, and once these begin to be triggered, a dramatic fall is a serious possibility. The evidence to hand suggests that any such fall would not greatly upset NASDAQ companies unless they had a high reliance on Microsoft. However, with Microsoft now being a component of the Dow, the chances are that the Dow would be dragged down to below levels of a year ago. In looking for a target for their wrath, it would be hardly surprising if the  financial analysts did not decide that the clay pigeon was Microsoft, and dumped their Microsoft holdings. ®
Graham Lea, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Motorola aims high end Linux servers at telcos

Motorola is to ship a high availability version of Linux aimed at carrier grade networking from May. The company's HA Linux will be available on Motorola Intel and PowerPC hardware, and promises 99.999 per cent (five nines) availability. HA Linux uses hot swap to achieve near-constant uptime, allowing CPUs, controllers, power modules and fans to be replaced without the machine having to be brought down. It runs on Motorola's CPX8000 family of platforms These currently use the Lynx OS, but Motorola sees Linux as the "platform of choice" for new telecommunications applications. But it's taken the company a long while to come to this conclusion. Faithful readers will recall, a long time ago, Motorola's first PowerPC platforms. They ran AIX, pending the arrival of the big one for Motorola PowerPC, Solaris. And then there were the Motorola Mac clones, which stopped happening the day Steve Jobs decided Apple had only been kidding about the licence. Subsequently Motorola Computer Group has retreated into embedded markets and carrier grade network servers, with Sun being the natural competitor in the latter area. But by going for Linux, Motorola may be on to a winner at last. It doesn't have OS baggage the way Sun does, so has the opportunity to push high spec Linux servers while Sun continues to circle round the question, apparently facing in several directions at once. ®
John Lettice, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Slate veteran to build high spec, cheap ‘air limos’

Remember Vern Raburn? A Lotus and Microsoft exec way back in the days when Bill Gates wasn't ruler of the world, and founder of Slate Corp, the pen-based computing venture that flopped in the 80s. Since then he's been combining advising Paul Allen on investments with various aircraft restoration bodies and projects. We're not sure how valuable Vern's advice to Paul will turn out to have been in the long run. If he's the guy who's been telling the Microsoft co-founder to plough his billions into a hugely expensive US cable network, then we're really not sure. But the aircraft stuff looks fun. Raburn owns a rather natty and operational Lockheed Constellation, and now he's president and CEO of a startup that intends to build groovy, cheap light jets, Eclipse Aviation. The first one on the stocks is the six seater Eclipse 500, and you can put your name down for one now. It'll use twin Williams EJ-22 turbofans, have a cruising speed of 423 mph, a 41,000 foot service ceiling and a 2,000 mile range. The gag, such as it is, is that Eclipse will use "advanced, high volume manufacturing techniques... and avionics and operating systems derived from the computer industry." It aims to bring the cost of private jet transportation down to "less than a full fare commercial airline ticket," and first deliveries are intended for 2003. The tab? It's aimed at $775,000 at current prices, but the aircraft are also intended to unleash the "air limousine" concept on the world, particularly on the US. It could conceivably be cost-effective for at least medium-powered execs to rent an Eclipse for point to point travel in pretty much the same way they'd rent a limo. For some reason Eclipse has decided to include a sound-bite from Queen Esther Dyson in the release, but it's not very interesting, so we'll skip it. Raburn, on the other hand, is going for it: "Eclipse," he says, "is using disruptive technologies to drive major change in the way that air transportation works in the United States... In addition to those technologies, we will be applying management principles from the high technology sector, creating a 'virtual corporation' that draws the best skills from wherever they exist and that partners with suppliers and others in the truest sense of the word. The result will be a series of aircraft that are affordable for the individual owner/operator pilot and that will foster the development of a completely new kind of commercial air travel, a limousine of the air." ® See also: Eclipse Aviation Vern's Connie
John Lettice, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Motorola slammed with PPC G4 supply limitation allegations

Motorola is acting like a spoiled brat by using contractual obligations to prevent IBM selling fast PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) to Apple just because it can't produce enough of them itself. That's the claim made by "contacts throughout the Apple-IBM-Motorola PowerPC alliance", according to MacOS Rumors - though by the sounds of it 'alliance' isn't the right word at all. The allegations centre on problems Motorola has had getting the G4 beyond 500MHz. Last year, a bug in the chip prevented it running at that clock speed, forcing Apple to withdraw its 500MHz Power Mac G4. By the end of 1999, a revision to the G4 allowed the chip to operate at 500MHz, and Motorola has been trickling processors into Apple ever since. The key word here is 'trickling'. According to sources from within IBM and Motorola, the latter is having major problems producing sufficient numbers of the CPUs. Apple signed up IBM late last year to second-source G4s because the likelihood of that very problem. IBM staffers claim to have identified problems with the G4 production process, but have figured out ways around them, and the company is now able to churn out not only 500MHZ G4s, but 600 and 650MHz parts in decent volumes too. And since IBM's yields are higher than Motorola's, it can charge less per chip than its rival. Fine, but according to the sources, Motorola is severely pissed off about IBM's success and its own failure here, and is allegedly using certain clauses in its AltiVec licensing deal with IBM to limit Big Blue's ability to sell to Apple. The irony here is that IBM's support for AltiVec is relatively recent, having been largely driven by its need to develop of a high-performance PowerPC processor for Nintendo's next-generation Dolphin games console. Certainly IBM wasn't too keen on AltiVec before last year, having decided that the technology has little value in servers and embedded applications, which are IBM's chief markets for PowerPC chips. IBM's decision not to back AltiVec when the technology was launched almost split the IBM-Motorola alliance apart, and as it was led to a breach that took over a year to heal. Or so we thought. Perhaps Motorola's latest actions - if the rumours are to be believed; and it's important to stress these are only rumours - show a long-held bitterness against its former busom-buddy. ®
Tony Smith, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Bumper year ahead for DRAM

The global DRAM market looks set to grow 25 per cent this year, according to a survey by Nikkei Market Access. Sales are likely to top $27 billion in 2000, the second highest level since 1995 when the sector saw a record year. But memory manufacturers will need to find fresh avenues for their products, or growth may start to slip as early as next year. If DRAM is tied to the PC, its growth will be limited by that of the PC market, the report warned. DRAM production in 2000 will be dominated by a handful of companies – Micron, Samsung, Hyundai and Infineon – taking around 70 per cent of the market between them. Japan, on the other hand, will lose some of its muscle in the market. Japanese manufacturers' combined share of world sales will drop to 25 per cent in 2000, compared to 47 per cent in 1995. This is because many Japanese companies are switching the bulk of their manufacture to memory chips used in mobiles, flash memories and consumer products. ® Related Stories DRAM prices on the up again 1999 a record year for chip sales The chips were up in 1999
Linda Harrison, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel to give away 70,000 PCs to staff

Chip giant Intel said today it is to give "state of the art" PCs, Internet access and services to its 70,000 employees for nothing. The scheme, called the Home PC programme, will utilise the latest (1GHz?) technology from Intel, but this morning the company declined to say who was the supplier. The machines will start to be delivered to employees' homes in June, with rollout completed around the time of the Willamette launch. As the reason, Intel says it wants to give its employees and their families access to both corporate data and unlimited Internet access. One employee, who asked not to be named, said the system spec is as follows: "It will be a Pentium III processor running at 667 MHz, 128 MB RD RAM, 20 GB hard drive, 48X CD-ROM, floppy drive, Intel® Create & Share(tm) camera pack, USB speakers and soundcard, graphics adaptor, modem, keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer, and software. Each employee also will receive an Intel®Play(tm) computer-enhanced toy. And each employee will receive Internet access. Fair play to Intel." We will be very interested to see who the lucky vendor is, but suspect we will only find out if someone nice from Intel invites us to their homes for a cup of tea between now and October... ®
Mike Magee, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Iridium steels itself to decomission satellites

Iridium has managed to stumble away from complete collapse once again, this time with a $3 million cash injection from its lenders. That's enough money to keep the moribund cellphones-by-satellite venture in orbit for just eleven more days. If no buyer is found, Iridium will prepare to bring its satellites back to Earth - a clear sign the company will be liquidated. Like a dying patient on a life-support machine, Iridium's time is drawing to a close. It's only real chance of recovery vanished on Friday when Teledesic boss Craig McCaw's investment company, Eagle River, pulled out of a takeover deal. Iridium's backers have been slowly distancing themselves from the company ever since it withdrew behind the US' Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection provision last summer. That said, they do appear to keep coming up with cash to keep Iridium operating for just a few more days, clearly in what must be an increasingly desperate hope that someone will buy it. How long that hope can survive now is open to question, and the grieving relatives may soon be forced to pull the plug. Even Iridium's management seems to have given in to despair. "We're asking for a very small amount of money for the hope - and that's all it is - the hope that we can find another purchaser," Iridium attorney William Perlstein told the US bankruptcy court yesterday. Iridium advisor investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette is even now approaching anyone who has ever expressed an interest in the company to see it they'll pick it up. We suggest the company be auctioned on eBay - at this stage, what else has it got to lose? The congregation will now sing The Hooters' 'I'm gonna buy me a satellite'... ® Related Stories McCaw to buy Iridium assets in 11th Hour change of plan Japanese teclo DDI to close Nippon Iridium Iridium to receive $75m from Teledesic's McCaw Nasdaq de-lists Iridium Iridium shares up for grabs on eBay Iridium to enter Chapter 11
Tony Smith, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Channel furious about Xeon support, i840 glitches

Problems with the i840 chip set have led to decline in revenues for distributors and dealers having stock of chips with no motherboard support, it has emerged. A US dealer, who bought 40 Xeon processors on the 10th of January, told us today that his distributor has now received instructions from Intel to honour any dealer request who wishes to return processors because of the lack of mobo problem. The dealer, who did not wish to be named, said: "The truth is, Intel has sold and delivered a product that is totally worthless since there is not one commercially available motherboard that will run any of the so-called Xeon 600MHz processors with 133MHz front side bus." The problem was confirmed by a European distributor, who said this morning: "We used to have a business selling Xeons but it has gradually been chipped away." He said: "We will only support Pentium IIIs using the Lancewood motherboard. Motherboard product has been hard to get. The Cyprus motherboard, for example, we won't support with anything running at over 550MHz on a 100MHz front side bus. "There have been deaths on the 840," he said, referring to the problem with the memory translator hub on Hemlock and Willow motherboards. That's down to synchronous memory problems in conjunction with Rambus. The dearth of support for the i840s has come as a surprise following the debacle with the i820 chipset last year. When the i840 chipset, which comes with dual channel Rambus support was introduced, Intel said that it was a separately designed chipset which would not suffer the kind of problems the i820 had. There is third party motherboard support for the 840 chipset, but distributors have done good business selling boxed Intel chips and motherboards, while many dealers will only buy Intel because their customers demand it. ®
Mike Magee, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Connectix ships PlayStation emulator for Windows

Mac software developer Connectix began shipping the Windows version of its Virtual Game Station (VGS) PlayStation emulator today through its own online store and retail outlets. The Windows release comes almost a month after the US Court of Appeal overturned a preliminary injunction against VGS granted to Sony last April by the Federal District Court of San Francisco. That injunction banned Connectix from selling VGS for the Mac and the then as yet unreleased Windows version. Sony said that Connectix copied the PlayStation BIOS in order to test its pre-release versions of VGS. On that basis the Federal District Court issued the injunction. However, the Appeal Court said that since the final version of VGS did not contain Sony proprietary technology - a fact Sony itself admits - the use of the Sony BIOS was protected under 'fair use' law. Consequently, it ended the ban. Sony has been on Connectix's case ever since VGS was released in January 1999. Less than a week after the preliminary injunction was overturned, Sony initiated a new, separate patent infringement case against Connectix, part of which almost certainly contains a fresh request that sales of VGS be blocked. And if that case fails, Sony can still tie Connectix up further for copyright violation under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which specifically outlaws the creation of tools to circumvent copy protection mechanisms, something that Sony alleges Connectix has done in order to make VGS work. Connectix said VGS for Windows is being offered at a special introductory price of $29. The software runs over 100 PlayStation games, listed at Connectix's VGS Web site. ®
Tony Smith, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Freeserve in NTL's sights

NTL is planning to be the largest ISP in the UK, knocking Freeserve off its perch. One NTL source The Register spoke to this morning was almost giddy with excitement and bullish anticipation. "We're going to be bigger than Freeserve," he said. "NTL probably has the best cable network in Europe, if not the world," he chirped. Which is great - no capacity problems there when it launches in six weeks time. But what about the registration backlog that has hit other services including CallNet0800 and Telewest? The answer seems to be that if people form an orderly queue and wait their turn instead of stampeding the service and bringing it to its knees, then all will be well. "It's going to be done on a first come, first served basis," said the NTL source. The NTL source also said that today's announcement was not in response to cableco rival, Telewest, introducing a flat-fee service last month. Elsewhere, NTL has issued more details about its new flat-fee unmetered Net access service, ntlworld. The service will be available throughout Britain from 17 April. Users will be able to access the service via their PC and, later this year, via their TV. According to the cableco: "ntlworld features no ISP subscription charge, no call connection charge and no Internet call charges." "NTL will be the first major company to launch a genuinely free Internet access service in the UK," it added in a press statement, although execs at CallNet0800 would probably disagree. Barclay Knapp, NTL CEO, said: "NTL has a vision to bring the Internet to all UK homes - either via the PC, or the TV. "ntlworld will help the UK in a drive to lead the world in making ecommerce, e-entertainment and e-education available to everyone. "We're able to announce this today because we own a high-quality national network and have a track-record of providing innovative services at great prices. And you don't get much better than free," he said. Responding to NTL's claims that it would overtake Freeserve, a spokesman for the Dixon's spin-off said: "We'll speak again in a year." ® Related Stories Blair hails NTL Free Everything ISP plans It's first come, first served: AltaVista Telewest to offer unlimited Net access
Tim Richardson, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Profit puts spring in Tulip's step

After clawing its way back from the brink of disaster, Dutch PC vendor Tulip has recorded a profit and is buying a notebook manufacturer. Tulip saw profit after tax rise to £100,000, compared to last year's £14 million loss. Sales were largely static at £68 million, compared to the previous year's £67 million. The company said its overseas sales offices contributed 80 per cent of turnover, including the UK - responsible for 24 per cent of that figure - France 40 per cent and Italy 16.8 per cent. The results, which were in line with expectations, were described by the company as "the best news since we went into administration in 1998". The vendor also said the acquisition of Dutch vendor 2L International was expected to be finalised within the next few weeks. 2L, which recorded sales of £26 million in 1999, makes notebooks, networking and communications products under brand names Dynalink, Topline and Conceptronic. Tulip said products would be rolled out via its resellers in the coming weeks. "The management board expects the new initiatives, in the area of remote local area network management and the co-operation with software suppliers and Internet providers, will result in a positive contribution to both turnover and the profits for 2000," it said. Tulip added that it expected sales to top £107 million this year, with profit after tax of 2-3 per cent. ® Related Stories Commodore wannabe don't want to be Commodore no more Outlook for European PC merchants 'generally grim'
Linda Harrison, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel's server strategy rolls on

Every month, Intel UK organises an informal breakfast dubbed Views at Ten, with a different topic each month. Today's episode was about enterprise servers, with Alan Priestley, product marketing manager of Intel EMEA, talking about what Intel sees as the third generation of the Internet. Priestley said that business Web sites started off merely as online equivalents of brochures, while e-commerce using a combination of credit cards and printed out forms which were validated by human being was the second stage. The third, he said, would integrate different data from different Web sites to allow people to get the best comparative prices. The last, he said, "was massively complex using HTML". He said: "There's no seamless process.You can do it today using EDI, but it costs a fortune, it's complex and it's point to point." That, to us, posed the question of how Intel, which its CEO Craig Barrett regularly says transacts billions of pounds worth of Web business with its suppliers and customers, does it itself. Priestley said that even within Intel there were some problems to solve. "We're going to use XML techniques and XML is one way to do it," he said. "XML is the starting point on this. Seamless integration is the goal but we're not there yet. The third generation is about personalisation, individualisation and automation." The move to the Web will be accompanied by a revolution in application software. "The application layer is now king," he said. "You don't want to rip out your company database and start from scratch." This led to a discussion about how large corporations scale businesses. Priestley said: "One of the challenges is how people predict the power they need to handle headroom. The Meta Group is saying you need ten times the performance you think you need. You can scale by adding microprocessors to symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems or you can scale the number of servers. Clusters are also one way to scale." Priestley seemed to suggest that corporations that had already chosen Risc architectures for their mission control systems will need to think hard about their strategy in the future. We asked: "Will people have to scrap their Sun systems?" and in our mind was the recent unseemly spat between Intel and Sun over IA-64. He said: "One of the considerations is that you have to aask what the back end is. Most of the industry is happy with the IA-64 architecture [as the future].People have to consider what their future architecture is going to be and whether the application environment is going to be available on that architecture." He admitted that IA-32 and IA-64 architecture will co-exist. "IA-32 will deliver the best price/performance for some time because of the infrastructure around it," he said. "IA-64 won't be an immaculate conception with everything available on day one. We will have a range of solution stacks from day one on 64-bit." He added: "IA-64 starts to become important when people want to hold big memory databases in memory. Security is another important area." He said that IA-64 sales are all long-time sales. While the IA-64 chips will support 32-bit emulation in hardware, Priestley was unable to say at which speeds that part of the silicon would run, except to say that it would be comparable with current PIII technology. There will be no problems whatever moving code from the current Xeon processor to Foster (Willamette) implementations of SMP, he suggested. Priestley also spent some time discussing Infiniband, the trade organisation striving to create a future IO which will boldly deliver high bandwidth where no high bandwidth has boldly been delivered before. He said: "This will be a very fast narrow channel that allows you to connect peripherals outside the box." It would essentially be a plug and play system for servers, he suggested. For a while, there would still be some legacy PCI, he said. "In time, you'll have legacy-free servers," Priestley said. "Infiniband isn't just a connector, it's a switched fabric," he said. "You'll be able to stack up to ten multiple channels together to give a very fast interconnect. We'll develop silicon to drive Infiniband and a number of other companies will develop switches and other components." He said fibre channel will still be used in the storage arena, and it will talk to other IO based systems. The Infiniband spec now stood at .9, he said, and Intel would have "volume silicon" there in servers. Next Views at Ten: Bruetoof technology. ®
Mike Magee, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Freeserve strikes back with unmetered service

Freeserve will launch a "low cost" unmetered Net access service to compete with other ISPs, but it won't say when or how much it will cost. Responding to today's news that NTL is offering flat-fee access to the Net a spokesman for the monster ISP said that it was considering several options. One of them is BT's wholesale flat-fee package, SurfTime II, although there is no indication yet when this will be available -- or whether it will be available at all. Elsewhere, a spokesman for AOL UK said NTL's offering was a "really interesting business model". But he said that the NTL deal was aimed at the "value end of the market" instead of the "value-added" content rich service provided by AOL UK. But with people now openly talking of a price war, AOL UK's spokesman was quick to finger BT. "Our major concern is that BT won't respond. We will do everything we can to bring down the cost of Net access but it will be difficult if the major telco provider is still charging on a per minute basis," he said. So if BT is dragging its feet is it possible that AOL UK could forge an alliance with NTL? NTL would get new phone customers and AOL UK would be able to offer unlimited access to the Net. AOL UK's spokesman refused to be drawn. ® Related stories: Freeserve in NTL's sights Blair hails NTL Free Everything ISP plans It's first come, first served: AltaVista Telewest to offer unlimited Net access
Tim Richardson, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Friendly DDoS takes out NTL site

Update NTL's Web site fell over earlier this afternoon but appears to be up and running again. NTL.co.uk went belly-up no doubt from friendly distributed denial of service (DDoS) fire from Net users eager to find out more about its new unmetered Net access package. Users trying to access the site are faced with the message: "HTTP/1.1 Server Too Busy." Now the site is working again, one Reg reader tried to sign up for the service. "Finally got through to www.ntl.co.uk and started to complete their new free unmetered access questionnaire on their other Web site, www.askntl.co.uk, but finally, after more than ten minutes of waiting whilst going through page after page of one line answers, we were finally confronted on the last page with... 'HTTP Error 403 403.9 Access Forbidden: Too many users are connected 'This error can be caused if the Web server is busy and cannot process your request due to heavy traffic. Please try to connect again later. 'Please contact the Web server's administrator if the problem persists.'" And this from the company that says it will overtake Freeserve within the year. ® Related Stories Freeserve in NTL's sights Blair hails NTL Free Everything ISP plans It's first come, first served: AltaVista Telewest to offer unlimited Net access
Tim Richardson, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Blair the e-vangelist gives boost to wired Britain

Britain's E-Prime Minister, Tone-e e-Blair, wants everyone in Britain connected to the Net within the next five years. In a speech today he said: "Today I want to announce a new goal. I want Britain to aim for universal access to the Internet by 2005. "Making sure everyone has access to the Internet will both improve our competitiveness and reduce social exclusion," he said. But the speech will be remembered for Mr e-Blair's grasp of the whole issue of unmetered Net access in Britain. "Gordon Brown has challenged the industry to get Internet access prices down," he said. "Ministers have been working with Oftel and the telecommunications industry to overcome that barrier. "And we're seeing change. New proposals for unmetered access have been announced by two major companies - BT and Telewest. As we've seen this week, Altavista is now offering Internet access on the basis of relatively low subscriptions. "I'm pleased to see this progress. Our goal must be to see prices comparable with anywhere in the world - including the USA. "And today there is a new and further step forward. Another major cable company, NTL, is announcing a new offer -- the chance for their customers to use the Internet entirely for free. "I'm sure that others, including BT, are now ready to break new ground themselves. "Obviously, I am not endorsing any of these companies' products. Different products will suit different customers. But the key point is that we are pursuing policies to get prices down. Giving people a choice. Putting consumers first. "And I'm delighted to say this. The Americans have been predicting entirely free Internet access for a while. But Britain has got there first," he said. No doubt The Register's US readers will have a view on that. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Top MS analyst upbeat on deal with DoJ

Clear signs that Microsoft is edging closer to a settlement with the Department of Justice emerged today, via comments by influential Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund. Fresh from a meeting with Microsoft CFO John Connors, Sherlund said that the company management "appears very focused on settling the lawsuit." It remains possible that there's more than a little Microsoft spin to this, but even Redmond is likely to be cautious about spinning to somebody quite as weighty as Sherlund. Microsoft stock price kicked upwards immediately after his comments, made in a note to investors. Sherlund also suggested that a settlement would be a relief to investors, and would possibly be "a catalyst that could drive the stock up ten points." So maybe a picture is starting to emerge. The new management team under Ballmer is briefing analysts that it wants to settle, while from the other end there's pressure building from investors. And of course there's that dangled carrot of the potential stock price kick if the skies suddenly cleared. Bill might still be agin it, and the price might still be too high, but an unholy pro-settlement alliance may be emerging. ®
John Lettice, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Freeserve shares tumble

The share price of Britain's favourite monster ISP, Freeserve, plummeted almost 20 per cent today. Before trading closed Freeserve stock was down 170.50p to 709.00p, wiping loadsamoney off the value of the company. BT's share price fell almost ten per cent, down 118.00p, during the day's trading. Today, NTL announced it was to provide flat-fee unmetered access to the Net. The performance of Freeserve's and BT's shares may have had something to do with that. Possibly. ® Related Stories Blair the e-vangelist gives boost to wired Britain Freeserve in NTL's sights Freeserve strikes back with unmetered service Friendly DDoS takes out NTL site It's first come, first served: AltaVista
Tim Richardson, 07 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Chipzilla Cartoon Number 2

Tamlin Magee, 07 Mar 2000