15th > March > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Spot-the-ball in the Net with Littlewoods gambling site

Spot-the-ball and the pools has come to cyberspace via Littlewoods's £10 million online betting site. Bet247.co.uk kicked off yesterday, offering an online lottery and a weekly pools jackpot of £2 million. Hi-tech gamblers will be able to access the service via WAP phones, their PC or digital TV. Littlewoods has launched the site to regain sales stolen by the National Lottery and wants to catch three million new customers in three years. Punters will also have the chance to blow their cash on a new game called Prizebuster, based on the Saturday National Lottery draw. A £1 bet allows players to pick up to four numbers. If these numbers are in the winning draw, they win up to £400 for three numbers or £5,000 for four. "Only around one in five of our existing players has access to the net. This is all about winning new business from younger players and that will far outweigh the number who might just switch to playing online," Littlewoods boss Roger Withers told the Daily Mirror.® Related stories Silicon couple win £270K from Net gambling William Hill sets up overseas gambling joint
Linda Harrison, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

What do Rolex, Brad Pitt and Llanwrthwl have in common?

A Glaswegian entrepreneur last week netted £25,000 for the sale of one gambling domain name. Mark Dale ditched his Mini Metro for a Porsche after the URL was snapped up by an Internet bookie. The 26-year-old had bought the domain www.bettingservice.com for £70 the previous year. Dale's story is one of many littering the press amid the cyber frenzy. People are paying big bucks for everyday dot-com addresses that could pull Internet traffic. Dale owns 150 such URLs which he hopes to sell at a profit -- and presumably collect a whole fleet of sports cars along the way. And he may be in luck, as silly season is upon us. Last month a Leeds playboy coughed up $700,000 for cinema.com, which he hopes to turn into an online movie site. And in November A Texan entrepreneur sold business.com for $7.5 million, netting him a cool 5,000 per cent profit. But efforts to pre-buy the Web can also backfire. Individuals using company trademarks and names in URLs have recently found themselves in hot water. "Cybersquatters" have become the scourge of the Web for celebrities and multinationals alike. Just because your name is on a birth certificate doesn't mean you own the URL. Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Michael Schumacher and Jeremy Paxman have all discovered domains registered with their names but without their knowledge. Megastar Brad Pitt is reported to be suing the individual responsible for registering bradpitt.com And just because you live in a village or city doesn't mean you have any rights to the URL belonging to it. The name london.com is owned by a New York company. And residents of Llanwrthwl, a village in mid-Wales, were mortified when they went to register llanwrthwl.co.uk and found a company had beaten them to it. They saw the move as a "hijacking of a precious part of our identity". The BBC last week went as far as the High Court to block a British man's attempts to sell BBC1.com and BBC2.com. It said the action was taken on the basis of "trademark infringement, passing off and breach of contract". The Staffordshire man, Stephen Taylor, wasn't trying to blackmail the Beeb – he didn't mind who bought the sites. But he was seen as a cybersquatter and forced to hand over the domains. Rough Trademarks Companies are very protective about their brand names. Darling of the City Lastminute.com has forced companies wanting to call themselves lastminute.com plc and lastminute.co.uk limited to change their names. The cyber-world has developed so fast that the normal rules of trademark conduct have been twisted. After all, the French have been throwing merde in the direction of anyone trying to call fizzy wine "champagne" for years. The latest dispute in the UK is Rolex, which is currently threatening a Lancashire jeweller with legal action over a domain name fracas. Brittons of Nelson – which specialises in second-hand watches - owns several URLs covering makes such as Omega and Cartier, but Rolex is getting heavy. A representative of Clifford Chance, Rolex's law firm, said: "It objects to third parties registering domain names which include the Rolex trade mark as part of the name." In an interview with The Guardian Brittons say it has received legal advice that it would win any case in court. However, it says it could be bankrupted by fighting Rolex. That's easy then: all it has to do is hand over the domain names to Rolex, and then it can get back to its business of selling jewellery. Meanwhile, Network Solutions reckons that more than nine million domain names have been registered in the world to date. Registrations with the company averaged one every five seconds for the fourth quarter of 1999. ® Related stories Full coverage Cyber Squatting London police in URL ownership row Porno cybersquatters target Intel
Linda Harrison, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Novell unleashes NDS for Linux

Novell has released NDS eDirectory for Linux, and NDS Corporate Edition for Linux - the latter allows the management of Linux users and groups, as well as standard NDS eDirectory functionality. NDS eDirectory licences are $2 each, while Corporate Edition licences are $26 per user. It is possible to integrate Unix, NetWare, Linux, Windows 2000 and Windows NT servers and clients in a single directory structure. Linux vendors expressing support include Bowstreet, Caldera, Evergreen, Red Hat, Sendmail, and TurboLinux. This comes at time when, according to Evans Marketing, Linux deployments increased up to 95 percent in the latter half of last year. It's apparently hot stuff for Caldera Systems: CEO Ransom Love poetically noted that "the adoption of Linux is like a prairie fire, and Novell just poured more gasoline on the blaze". Evergreen plans to use its Java e-Commerce to improve security and manageability, while Red Hat intends to use the capability to link Internet, intranet and extranet applications. TurboLinux was keen on the administrative and security features. It's a step forward for Linux, and in a sense a step back for Novell, since the company used to own Unix. ®
Graham Lea, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Euro businesses slow to adopt Windows 2000

Survey The latest survey from market research company IDC covering the European, Middle Eastern and African (Emea) markets has revealed that sales of PCs were slow in the first quarter. But IDC also forecasts that the market will bounce back, growing by over 16 per cent, later in the year, despite intense competition and cost cutting. IDC said that growth will largely be driven by continued consumer interest in the Internet while Microsoft Windows 2000 is unlikely to help the corporate market for PCs until the second half of the year. Nearly 39 million PCs are expected to ship in the European, Middle East and Africa region, IDC forecasts, although relentless competition and a slump in prices on all components are likely to mean the value, rather than the volume, of the market will be affected. PC vendors, according to IDC, will have to improve their individual business models, become ever more efficient and also develop sales unconnected to systems to continue to turn in good profits. Large corporations are adopting a wait and see attitude to Microsoft W2k, and that will lead to limited growth in Q1, which IDC estimates at 10 per cent. The small to medium sized sectors will, however, slightly offset this low growth. It will be the second half of the year before W2k will be deployed by big businesses, and that will stimulate upgrades in the sector. The move to so-called free PCs coupled with increased interest in the Net will mean European countries including the UK, France and Germany can expect to see consumer sales grow by 21 per cent. Notebook sales will also show strong growth, partly fuelled by increased competition and also by price/performance. The server market is also likely to show "solid growth" during the year, although IDC warns of sharp price declines which will affect margins and sales throughout the marketplace. IDCs top five vendors for the Emea territories show that Compaq continues to dominate the market, followed by Fujitsu Siemens, Dell, IBM and HP. However, their market shares are somewhat dwarfed by the Others Corporation, which held over 50 per cent of sales in 1999, and include the myriad of system builders and smaller PC companies which give the top five so much competition. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel buys Giga AS for $1.25 billion

Further signs that Intel is deadly serious about being the future building block company for the Internet has emerged after the company said it has bought Danish company Giga AS for $1.25 billion in cash. Intel is putting together a massive Internet construct, using takeovers to help it create additional building blocks, which like Lego bricks will all fit together. That puts it further on course for attacking the market share of firms like Nortel, which yesterday made a similar acquisition. Giga, a subsidiary of NKT, makes high performance network chips for fibre optic communications. In particular, Giga makes 2.5 Gbps (OC-48) and 10Gbps (OC-192) products aimed at both telcos and large data comms customers. The optical networking products will tie in with Intel's Level One products, and are also components used in the xDSL and cable markets. Intel claimed that Giga is one of the leading suppliers of silicon for communications, shipping high frequency and mixed signal products to the market. When the acquisition is approved, Giga will become a wholly owned Intel subsidiary, in the embrace of its Level One business. Yesterday Nortel spent $3.25 billion using shares to buy optical networking company Xros, which also supplies OC-192 products. Last December, it spent a similar amount of cash on a startup company, Qtera. Cisco and Lucent too have spent money acquiring companies in the arena. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel broadsides Broadcom for poaching secrets

Silicon giant Intel has confirmed it has taken legal action against Broadcom for allegedly acquiring its trade secrets by stealth. The firm yesterday filed a lawsuit against Broadcom, which makes silicon for digital cable set top boxes, alleging that the firm had wooed away three staff who possess inner secrets of Intel's Ethernet products. According to an Intel representative, Broadcom had engaged on "a systematic programme of targeting specific employees and placing them within roles which would inevitably lead to them divulging confidential information." Intel added that while it had no objection to other companies hiring its staff in principle, this was a case where its trade secrets would be in jeopardy. The company confirmed that Intel employees were bound by contracts which prevented them from divulging information when they got new jobs. And here's where our sense of irony begins to kick in. On the 12th of March last year, we reported on Motorola which was very, very cross and decided to sue Intel over an alleged poaching of Motorola staff who worked at the Somerset Power PC hothouse in Austin. Cough. Broadcom has not yet publicly commented on the pending case. ® See Also Motorola legals Intel
Mike Magee, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

NEC wins huge share prize from Rambus

In mid-January we reported that Rambus (ticker: RMBS) had hit on a wizard wheeze to encourage memory manufacturers (the Seven Dramurai) to make more of its chips during this year. At the time that story was written, the Rambus share price stood at around $90 or so. These were the terms that Hyundai and a couple of other memory manufacturers including NEC, were offered by the firm. If these Dramurai stepped up production of Rambus chips, they would be offered a large number of shares at the rather inexpensive price of $10 apiece. Hyundai, for example, was offered 30,000 shares, in addition to the 25,000 options it already held. As we pointed out at the time, this was clearly a tough decision for firms like Hyundai to take. We're unclear whether this particular firm took the bait, but a release from Rambus yesterday showed NEC had. Because the Japanese firm reached its milestone of shipping as many Rambus chips as it promised, it now wins a prize of 30,000 shares at "below market price". Yesterday, the RMBS share price closed on Wall Street at $413.359375, losing a total of $31 and a bit during the day, although at one point it reach $471. NEC is now the proud owner of a huge number of shares worth $12,400,781.25 at closing prices and all for making chips which it can sell at a profit. (We don't know whether NEC has any other Rambus options). This is some of what NEC said in its release: ""NEC has achieved the goal of shipping validated Rambus DRAM devices and RIMM modules in production quantities to leading OEMs," said Avo Kanadjian, vice president, worldwide marketing at Rambus Inc. "NEC is helping to alleviate the current shortage of Rambus devices and modules and is enabling OEMs to meet the high demand for Rambus-based desktop PCs and workstations." NEC is the third and final recipient of Phase 1 of the Rambus DRAM incentive program initiated last year. And this is what Rambus Ink said: ""NEC has achieved the goal of shipping validated Rambus DRAM devices and RIMM modules in production quantities to leading OEMs," said Avo Kanadjian, vice president, worldwide marketing at Rambus Inc. "NEC is helping to alleviate the current shortage of Rambus devices and modules and is enabling OEMs to meet the high demand for Rambus-based desktop PCs and workstations." Funny old business, the memory business. ® See also Rambus offers Hyundai cheapo shares to make more chips
Mike Magee, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

MS claims Win2k sells million in first month

Microsoft says it has sold a million copies of Windows 2000 in the month after its launch, the total consisting of retail and OEM copies of all versions of the OS. Depending on how you look at it this could be anything from bad to good progress, but hey - it's a nice round figure for marketing purposes. As The Register tediously observes every time Microsoft starts boasting about its post-ship sales, it's neither difficult nor clever for the company to make an operating system into a success. It may have a bit of foot-dragging on the part of PC OEMs and major enterprise customers to overcome, but where else are they going to go? And as the bulk of the industry remains locked into the Windows Road Ahead, they'll have to switch sooner or later. But in the interests of balance we're willing to accept that Win2k does largely seem to be the smart upgrade route, so long as you're a Windows shop. That million figure doesn't include licences from enterprise agreements, nor does it break down the numbers so we can gauge retail performance. But it's on a par with, possibly slightly less than, the initial sales of Windows 98, so maybe we can try a couple of assumptions. Win98 was a fairly quiet launch, and although switching over from Win95 was in princple a no-brainer for OEMs, Microsoft messed them around then on drivers and the hardware testing period (remember the days when we were getting the integrated OS out the door fast, before the DoJ pulled the trigger?), so they didn't flip the switch instantly. Retail sales for 98 were meanwhile pretty much what you'd expect for an OS that wasn't heavily promoted in that channel. Microsoft had flung a lot of money at this at the time of the Win95 launch, and basically it didn't work. People do not buy operating systems like they buy records or games, end of story. More successfully, Microsoft also did a lot of OEM strong-arming (hello, IBM) prior to Win95, so the fact that neither 98 nor Win2k matched 95's initial sales performance isn't particularly significant. Win2k not matching Win98 may however be significant. On the one hand, as it's being pitched as a business OS, you'd expect initial sales to be lower. But on the other, given pent-up demand and severe hyping, you'd also expect an initial surge. The picture will become a little clearer once independent numbers are in, but in the meanwhile we'd all do well to avoid falling for early Redmond attempts to spin it into a raging success. ®
John Lettice, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Microsoft licenses media player to RealNetworks

Spin was well to the fore when Microsoft announced it had licensed its Windows Media Player technology, free of charge, to its rival RealNetworks, but although Microsoft itself is trying to present the move positively, it's arguably more of a surrender than a victory. Despite what RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser was claiming last year as Microsoft's determined efforts to break it, RealNetwork's RealPlayer is the industry leader. If you don't count MP3, that is. At an unfortunate time in the antitrust spat (but is there ever a fortunate one?) Glaser accused Microsoft of breaking his software, unfairly channeling users to its own software, and trying to do shady, behind the scenes deals. The usual stuff, basically, and it's a testimony to Rob's lack of diplomatic and tactical skills that his complaints were so inexpertly presented that they bounced off. Whatever, now RealNetworks has the Media Player licence it will be able to have its player deal with Microsoft's format as well as the others it can handle, whereas Microsoft's player does not at the moment handle RealPlayer format. This is not necessarily positive for Microsoft, unless it's winning the format wars. The company has cited Media Metrix stats indicating that Windows Media Player was the most widely-used multimedia player in US households in December, but this is of course not the same as saying Microsoft's format was the most widely-used. And that's the crux of the matter. It's the format and associated deals with media companies that are important to Microsoft, and under the circumstances it probably isn't smart to use the usual (allegedly...) methods to leverage it into the market. And in this context you could maybe view Glaser's loud whistle-blowing as a smart move after all. So leverage the format itself instead, and make life easier for yourself by making it possible for RealNetworks to handle it? It's maybe good anti-antitrust propaganda too, albeit a little late. But there's still that MP3 problem... ®
John Lettice, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Blair, Clinton gut the NASDAQ

US President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair initiated a sell-off among biotech stocks by announcing Tuesday that the human genome "should be made freely available to scientists everywhere." The tech-heavy NASDAQ, which fuels IT and dot-com growth, relies heavily on the biotech sector for much of its dazzling performance. The NASDAQ composite closed Tuesday at 4,706.63, down 200.61 points or nearly four percent, and marking its second-largest point loss on the news. Some US genomics companies, which hope to make a killing off the genome project by using it to develop new drugs and medical treatments, fell by as much as twenty percent. In Europe, Cambridge Antibody fell 22 percent, and Proteome slid 8.18 percent. French outfit Transgene fell 57 percent on the Nouveau Marche. "We're taking some of the air out of the speculative nature of some of these stocks," Salomon Smith Barney analyst Marshall Acuff noted. But the announcement has been anticipated for a decade; and regardless of the genome's public nature, individual genes can still be patented, Acuff pointed out. Broader indexes, predictably, followed the trend. The S&P slipped 24.47 points to 1,359.15 for a 1.8 percent drop; and the Dow fell 135.89 points to 9,811.24 for a 1.4 percent loss. An international consortium led by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Wellcome Trust of London, has been posting its findings on the Web. This is only marginally antagonistic to US genomics outfit Celera, a major genome stakeholder, which plans to operate a private database, charging fees for use of the programs that search for and analyze its information. The question now is whether the NASDAQ's IT sector can take up the slack and stand on its own legs, so to speak, now that the index's biotech backbone is showing weakness. One glimmer of hope came from Oracle, which posted better-than-expected gains after the close of trading yesterday, handily beating the Street in spite of closing marginally down. Hopeful eyes will focus on IT today; but tech, media and telecoms shares were sagging in Europe this morning, with "new economy" Titan Nokia sliding 4.5 percent, leaving US investors with further disappointments to ponder as they prepare for Wednesday's opening. ®
Thomas C Greene, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Lastminute: What the Papers Say

Ian King, Business Editor, The Sun The value the market has put on lastminute.com is absolutely ridiculous. It is now worth more than the combined values of retailers Somerfield, Courts, and House of Fraser and Aston Villa. For a firm which, by its own admission, is unlikely to make a profit for "the forseeable future" and whose prospectus contains TEN pages of risk warnings, this is terrifying. The Sun is a big fan of technology and the Internet - subjects regularly covered on our City page. But the real winners in this sector will be firms with innovative technology or which provide a unique product or service and lastminute.com has none of these
Team Register, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Inside-IT Hogs limelight with auction launch

Funny thing deja vu - as we shall see. Making Markets, the channel sales initiative run by one time Datrontech sales supremo George Evans, has set up a trade-only auction Web site for the UK channel through its Inside-IT.com portal. The idea is a simple one - as are most of the best business ideas. Working on the principle that one man's meat is another man's murder, it provides a platform for resellers, system builders, distributors and manufacturers to buy and sell surplus inventory. There are 28 product categories in the auction site and successful bidders will receive email notification of their purchases, their details then get forwarded to the seller and they do the business. Details of the auction site were first revealed at trade show CTS 2000 in January of this year. Back then, The Register's Linda Harrison said of the impending auction launch: "Apparently, the launch is gimmick-free, so there's no chance of riding off into the sunset on Evans’ Harley Davidson like last year (or not, as the case may be)." So, imagine our surprise when we read the following on the Inside-IT auction announcement: "Bidding has already started on an introductory auction of a weekend for two in Paris while a Harley Davidson will also go under the hammer in two weeks time courtesy of MakingMarkets.com Managing Director George Evans." There's more to this than meets the eye (isn't there always with you - Ed). We started to get the feeling we'd been here before. Evans, like a lot of channel fellas, likes fast cars and motor bikes, and the Great Harley Davidson Giveaway has figured before in the history of Making Markets. Back in November 1998, Evans announced he was going to put up his Hog (that's a Harley Davidson, if you didn't know) as the star prize in a scratch card competition. The limited edition Heritage Springer had been a gift from his girlfriend, but a sanguine Evans said at the time: "My girlfriend wants me to be successful. Anyway, I'll probably buy another one next year." But no one won the Hog. Back in May 1999, The Register revealed that the winning scratch card was never presented. So the prize went unclaimed. Now Evans is sharing the limelight with the Hog once again. This time it's up for auction though, so perhaps there will be a different outcome. Or perhaps not, the Hog will be withdrawn from the sale at midnight on 31 March. Bidding starts at £8,000. So get bidding - eight measly grand for a Harley Davidson? The man's practically giving the thing away. "It's a great bike and someone will have a lot of fun this summer," said Evans. "Auctions are a really important part of creating an e-marketplace for the channel. Vendors and distributors are now driving the channel to use the Web more to source products. Our Trade-IT auction site will be the perfect vehicle to help facilitate this trend." You'll find the auction facility under the Trade-IT banner on the Inside-IT.com site, which is here. ® Related stories: Inside-IT opens channel portal Hog tied at Making Markets over Harley competition Ex-Datrontech top salesman to flog girlfriend gift
Sean Fleming, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Telewest leaks broadband service – by mistake

Telewest has shot itself in the foot by publishing details of its broadband service on its Web site ahead of next week's official launch. Details of the hush-hush service were supposed to be kept under wraps until then although a source within Telewest had suggested earlier this month that an announcement was imminent. The only thing that appears not to be known is the new brand name for the service. Telewest's Hi-Speed Internet (HSI) service will cost £50 per month for unmetered access, including the rental of the modem. There's no line rental, no call charges and no ISP subscription on top. The cableco will charge a one-off installation fee of £50 and punters will also need to buy a Network Interface Card, which should cost between £45 and £95, depending on NIC card (Ethernet Card) specifications. Telewest's HSI service will offer optimum download speeds of up to 512Kbps and upload speeds of up to 128Kbps. In February Telewest began offering unlimited narrowband access to the Net for just £10 a month. Due to the problems that has plagued the service Telewest is offering £10 refunds to its SurfUnlimited users. Related Stories Telewest marches to broadband beat Refunds for SurfVeryLimited customers To find out the details from the horses mouth go here.
Tim Richardson, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Share punters should hi-tail into hi-tech

It seems there's almost a unanimous scream now from financial pundits on a pile of well known broadsheets about the dangers of investing in dot.com ventures, many of which appear to be wildly overvalued. But while many of these bubble.coms may float to the surface of public perception and then go pop, there's little likelihood that tech stocks will suffer and are likely to gain from the Internet explosion. While the bubble.dot companies are surfing on the huge waves of the Internet explosion and may crash on some pebble-strewn beaches, there are a number of large and well established technology firms which cannot lose, however badly the more public bubble.coms do. These firms, amongst which we can number at the infrastructure end Cisco, Nortel, Intel are quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) preparing themselves for the growth in Internet business. Unlike some of the bubble.coms, these people have real businesses and real products and services, and are akin to the plumbers, the carpenters, and the grocers that we all need for a well organised life. In a similar way, suppliers of server products and services, including firms like IBM, Compaq, HP and Dell are all going to do well out of the Internet, whatever the fate of the bubble.coms. The creation of large server farms all around the world is intended to support the level of business to business and other transactions that will take place over the Web. These firms, in turn, are supplied by a large base of component manufacturers who make the hard drives, graphics cards, monitors, memory firms and the rest, all of which are necessities for the Internet revolution. And there's also a myriad of other companies, including semiconductor companies like Intel (again), AMD, National Semiconductors and a host of others who will also do well out of the Web explosion simply because all of the above won't run without those bits of pieces. Big business seems worried by the bubble.coms, simply because of the large amount of money, albeit much of it on paper, to leverage other firms in what's become a crazy paperchase of the global stock market. Although no one is entirely clear which of the bubble.coms don't burst and which business models will and won't work, it's certain that a percentage, even if it's only a small percentage, will do very well. And the companies that underpin those are clearly going to rake in the Net benefits. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Raise your glasses to Compaq on St Patrick's Day

With St Patrick's Day coming up at the end of the week, Guinness drinkers the world over will be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that Compaq has been charged with the job of keeping the black stuff flowing. The Big Q's customer services division has won a £1.6 million contract to take over the running of Guinness' data centre in London, which is described by Compaq as a Unix environment running SAP. The five-year deal will focus on keeping the supply of Guinness running smoothly to the world's pubs and bars. Thank you Compaq. ®
Sean Fleming, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

It's Big, it's Irish, it's online.ie

online.ie, Ireland's "answer to to major international sites such as Yahoo! or AOL," has opened for business. The site aims to be the "largest gathering place for Irish people", and it is packed with news, information, classified ads and shopping facilities. online.ie is kicking off with a series of news feeds from AP, The Examiner, The Guardian, The Irish Times and, among others, The Register. online.ie is backed to the tune of "over IR£5 million", with Cross Atlantic Technology Fund and Crucible Corporation on its investors' roster. It says it has pre-sold over IR£500,000 in advertising, sponsorship and eCommerce revenue on the site prior to launch. The company currently has 40 staffers and plans to hire 60 more over the coming year. ®
Drew Cullen, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

GraphOn sues Citrix and Insignia

Thin clients are going generate fat legal fees, judging from this press release that landed in our in-box today "GraphOn Inc., a leading developer of thin, server-based softwares, today filed a lawsuit against Citrix Systems, Inc. and Insignia Solutions plc. for trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract. The lawsuit, filed in California state court, stems from the confidential disclosure of its proprietary technology to Insignia in late 1996, Citrix’s acquisition of certain Insignia technology in February 1998, and Citrix’s integration of that technology into its products." There's more, but it's much too dull to print. Needless to say, GraphOn is not commenting any further. ®
Drew Cullen, 15 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Over and out for CUT unmetered lobby group?

Unmetered Net access has finally arrived in Britain. Time will only tell if this "revolution" is sustainable and delivers the quality of service necessary to help increase usage levels among Net users in the country. In fact, what happened over the last ten days or so could be described as a coup d'etat -- a new order imposing itself on the old, established regime. Few coups, though, are bloodless. Ludicrously high phone bills and having to constantly watch the clock every time you're online are two of the casualties of this revolution, but few people will mourn their exit. But there is another possible casualty that people should consider before skipping off to become high fliers of the Web set. The Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) has lobbied, fought, petitioned, cajoled, argued, demonstrated, and picketed for the Net access clock to be switched off. It has won the backing of major companies including AOL UK and Intel. It has taken its campaign to the very heart of Government meeting with the e-commerce minister, Patricia Hewitt, to make its case heart above the interests of near-monopolistic telcos. Staff at Oftel claim CUT has influenced policy-making at the winged watchdog. The activities of CUT was referred to during a debate on the cost of Net access in Parliament last summer, and its submission to a select committee was quoted at some length in a parliamentary report. In short, CUT has been a major driving force behind the adoption of unmetered access in Britain. But there is a concern that the organisation may soon dissolve. After all, it's achieved what it's set out to do. The eight people or so who have given up their spare time to run CUT could be forgiven for walking away in the knowledge of a job well done. And who could blame them? Except CUT now stands for much more than simply a one-issue group. Notwithstanding the fact that unmetered access has yet to work harmoniously in Britain; set aside all the problems of introducing broadband access; what CUT stands for is a vocal, intelligent and savvy group that represents the interests of all Net users in Britain. Well, it could. It has the contacts, influence and clout to be a powerful voice in shaping the development of the Net in Britain by representing the interests of grassroots users. That, though, would take even greater commitment from a group of people who originally set up CUT because of a dispute over cableco tariffs. Either that, or some of CUT's 400 or so members will have to come forward and take over the reins from CUT's founders. I'm aware it would be a massive undertaking. I just hope this tribute to CUT, in recognition of all its achieved, doesn't turn out to be its eulogy. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Mar 2000
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German Net access price war heats up

With as many variables in their price structures as a discount holiday package, Germany's flat rate Internet Service Providers (ISP) have begun to compete for Internet users. At the same time, the "free" ISP movement is rapidly gaining subscribers, putting a downward pressure on the cost of Internet access for everyone. But the competition has not reached UK levels. Consumers who want to take advantage of flat rates need to be well armed with information about their Internet usage patterns. Factors such as time of dial-up session, length of session, day of the week, physical location, telephone service provider i.e. carrier pre-select, network type (is it ISDN, DSL, or PSTN) and total number of hours per month all influence the choice of flat rate ISP. At least seven web sites and dozens of articles exist just to help consumers understand various Internet flat rate fee structures. (A sign of rampant liberalisation is the large number of German Web sites which provide telecommunications tariff information, compare charges for mobile services, fixed networks, broadband services, call-by-call providers and so on.) The trend is clear. German consumers and business users are seeing the cost of telecommunications drop from a European high to one of the lowest. Its Swiss and Austrian neighbours look over the border with fee envy. The flat rate Internet access prices are between £31 and £79 per month. There is no extra charge for the phone call to the local POP (point of presence). Most of the flat rate ISP have a one time only "registration" fee of between £47 and £94. Some ISP, such as Surf1, charge a relatively low monthly fee but then charge a steeper sign-up fee. Others, such as Mannesmann Arcor, do not have a sign-up fee but charge steeper monthly fees, plus subscribers have to be pre-select customers of Arcor to get the cheapest rate. In February, Deutsche Telekom's T-Online announced a nation-wide flat rate of £31 to be launched in May. But that tariff is still to be approved by regulators. T-Online says that its flat rate make it more competitive with "free" Internet access providers, that is, those that charge no monthly and no sign-up fees but do charge for telephone calls. Telekom's major competitors, AOL Europe and Germany.net are not competing head to head on flat rates yet. (See table for a ranking of top German ISP by subscribers.) In fact, AOL has not announced any fee changes at all in the past few months, but it is giving away thousands of PCs to schools to drive interest in and subscriber numbers to its service. The third largest ISP, Germany.net, is going for the "free" access model, charging a couple pfennig per minute online to cover per minute telephone network fees it has to pay Deutsche Telekom. There are six (and counting) other flat rate providers: Canalleto, Digital Transfers, Surf1, inWestnet, Internet-Professional, and Medien-Info-Center GmbH. Many of these offer a flat rate but restricted to certain regions of the country. Like the UK and other parts of Europe, a number of free ISP have launched services in the past twelve months. They usually have a low per minute charge, hovering between .01 pence and .02 pence, plus a per session fee of around 1.5 pence. It costs between £13 and £19 per month for about 20 hours (based on 30 sessions), depending on the ISP. A rule of thumb, based on current free Internet tariffs in Germany (in the few hours since I started the research for this article, at least two new tariffs were announced by competing ISPs), is that users who spend more than 35 hours a month online would be wise to look at a flat rate ISP. Otherwise, the free ISP model looks good. Germany's Largest Internet Service Providers Name of ISP Subscribers (in millions) Parent T-Online 4.2 Deutsche Telekom AOL.de 1.5 AOL/Bertelsmann Freenet.de .85 Mobilcom Germany.net .75 Arcor Group
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Storm over MS bid to bounce MSCEs into Win2k

Microsoft's current treatment of its MCSEs (certified systems engineers) shows just how fundamental are the problems faced by the company with Windows 2000. Microsoft is trying to pressure MCSEs who have taken the NT4 exam to take a combined Windows 2000 exam, code-numbered 70-240, before they might otherwise choose to do so. Keith Weiskamp, CEO of exam-crammers Coriolis, wrote an open letter to Bill Gates and Microsoft in which he says: "MCSEs serve as an adjunct sales force and technical support arm for Microsoft" and castigates Microsoft for the cavalier disregard it has shown towards its loyal followers. More than 2,000 people on coriolis.com have added their comments to his petition, and in the whole saga, their comments eloquently express their frustration. The reasons for Microsoft's behaviour are pretty transparent: very few enterprises - and most independent industry analysts like Gartner support this - are prepared to risk their business by adopting Windows 2000 to soon. Memories of what happened to some prominent businesses that were early adopters of Windows NT are still sharp enough: NatWest, which had disastrous experiences with NT in its insurance business integration as well as its retail banking, has been gobbled up by the Royal Bank of Scotland - a prominent IBM account. Somerfield, the UK supermarket chain, was another NT advocate, has fallen on very hard times and has been let down by its IT. The situation is therefore one in which Microsoft needs revenue from Windows 2000, but many of its potential customers are deferring any decision on purchasing it for two or three years. Microsoft clearly had the idea that if it could get its MCSEs with NT4 to upgrade themselves, they would want to put pressure on their employers to upgrade. The trick that Microsoft has used is to make examination 70-240 free, but only to allow people to try it once. The reason is transparently clear: 70-240 combines four examinations, and if a candidate fails just once, it will be necessary to take all four examinations, and to pay for taking each of them. This naturally has the effect of making candidates for 70-240 prepare more thoroughly, and if they pass, they are likely to get a job where Windows 2000 is being used. Furthermore, in order to dry up the supply of NT4 MCSEs, Microsoft is withdrawing the exams, without having given adequate notice to those doing them. As Weiskamp pointed out, Microsoft's exams should "not simply provide a leverage point to push people into upgrading software and systems as soon as possible, or before their employers are ready to adopt the latest version of Windows software". Donna Senko, Microsoft's director of certifications and skills assessment, was forced to respond, only to announce that Microsoft would not budge an inch. It is unfortunate that companies have such power over career paths. Concern has been expressed about Microsoft examinations being used in schools and at universities, and the consequent blurring between education and training. Perhaps the ultimate failing rests, at least in the UK, with the British Computer Society for not achieving better penetration with its own professional examinations, as well as with successive governments for having such digitally-incompetent politicians in charge of education. Microsoft thought that in its MCSE system it had the perfect way of making MCSEs into indentured servants: making them pay handsomely to keep up-to-date. But there's a refreshing amount of independence in the comments they have made on coriolis.com, and it seems possible that quite a few will leave the rat race and be looking to Novell, Unix and of course Linux, in the future. ®
Graham Lea, 15 Mar 2000
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AMD gets unjustified kicking in share goolies

The failure of AMD, or perhaps the success of Intel, in winning the contract to power X-Box futurology dented the shares of the Athlon manufacturer yesterday, but many analysts are reporting that Jerry Sanders' firm will make a big profit next year. The next financial quarter AMD will report will be the second consecutive quarter in a row where the firm made a clear profit and that will make its yearly estimate on Wall Street positive, rather than negative, for as many years as there are letters in the word yonks. Respected business journal The Wall Street Journal does a weekly summary of company share prices and according to its latest take, AMD is performing rather strongly, with many predicting much higher dividends for the next financial year. However, analysts on Wall Street yesterday all shook their heads glumly as they raked over the fact that AMD had lost the battle for the X-Box to its much bigger rival Intel, even though any product coming out of Redmond is quite a fair way off. Pension holders in AMD's stocks and shares have complained in the past because of its poor performance of yore. And if you think AMD is competing against Intel, have another think. Intel's microprocessors are obviously far less of a priority than it being a building block company, as witnessed by the amount of money it has spent in becoming that over the last eighteen months. (See Intel Capital). Although AMD's share price fell to $48, a drop of $3.5 on the day but opened up $2 when trading started. Its 52 week high was $60 on March 9th last, and the lowest was $14.5625 on April 14th last year. Even though most by then had realised its Athlon microprocessor was in with a fighting chance with Intel's processor technology, AMD's share price bumbled around at $16 for months. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Mar 2000
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Nineteen charged in $8.4m AOL chatroom insider-trading scam

Nineteen people have been charged with using an AOL chatroom to make $8.4 million through an insider-trading scam. The scheme was masterminded by a part-time computer graphics employee, hired to work nights at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse in New York. After the rest of the office had gone home, John Freeman would rifle through litter bins and workers' desks to gain top secret information. It is also alleged he used his word-processing work to access non-public information on merger and acquisition plans. The 34-year-old pleaded guilty to stealing information on 23 deals and passing tips to investors through the AOL online chat-room. He also shared tips with his wife and a neighbour, as well as ex-workmates at Manhattan bistro, Les Halles, where he previously worked as a waiter. The profiteering scheme is alleged to have been used by a total of 19 people over a period of two years. They include a teacher, film producer, actor, accountant, waiter and a dentist. Two of the defendants were obviously impressed with the glamour of the stock market. They took to trading information in accounts under the name of "Blue Horseshoe Investments" – after the code name for insider trader used by Michael Douglas in Hollywood blockbuster Wall Street. Others had bizarre payment schemes for Freeman - who ironically made the least cash from the scheme, between $70,000 and $110,000. Some sent cash enclosed in unsigned birthday cards, while another showed his thanks via a couple of cases of wine. "I breached my duties to Goldman Sachs and CS First Boston [by] passing along this confidential information," Freeman told Judge Barbara Jones yesterday. "I expected to receive a percentage of the profits." Manhattan US Attorney Mary Jo While described the case, the first where the Internet was used for in-trading on non-public tips, as "insider trading millennium-style". In addition to yesterday's criminal charges, the defendants face civil fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission.® Related stories Compaq sued over insider-trading allegations Corel chief charged with insider dealing Mirror editor in Viglen share-deal row/a>
Linda Harrison, 15 Mar 2000
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Will X-Box win (X) Windows Everywhere for MS?

Analysis US reports earlier this week claimed that Microsoft has been busily stripping LAN features from its forthcoming consumer operating system, Windows Millennium Edition (WME), thus forcing corporate users to migrate to Win2k instead. But we shouldn't be surprised - in reality, the move simply illustrates that Microsoft's OS strategy is still in a state of flux. The major problem lies on the extremely blurred borders between business and consumer software, and the appearance of X-Box on the horizon has muddied the waters further. One clear element of Microsoft's current policy is that Win2k is the 'official' business OS, so there's clearly no long-term place for a Win9x-derived operating system (i.e., WME) in business, and the wonderful world of Active Directory will consequently exclude WME. This will cause problems for companies whose employees do some telecommuting, using their own Win9x home machines or company portables to access the company network. In these cases they'll just have to upgrade, the company will foot the bill, and more money will roll into Microsoft's coffers, right? Possibly - but the cost could well be viewed as too great this time around, and the logic of presenting business as a Win2k-only world collapses horribly when you consider what else Microsoft is doing in the field. Essentially, the Win2k-only concept and WME are both leftovers from previous MS strategies. The company is busily trying to get mobile phones and CE devices accepted as natural ways to connect to the company network, and via Terminal Server and the good offices of Citrix it's perfectly feasible to be connecting non-Microsoft platforms too. So by making it hard for WME to connect, Microsoft is effectively saying that WME is a Win9x holdover that it wishes would go away as fast as possible. And this is where X-Box comes in, complicating matters some more (potentially, a lot more). So far X-Box has been pitched as a great games machine, but the spec, target market and expected price range make it clear it's something else as well - if Microsoft has its way, it'll be a ubiquitous home games and connectivity appliance. It won't be running Win9x derivatives either, so it can also be seen as another way of Microsoft saying it wishes WME would go away, but that's by the by. From a software perspective the salient points of X-Box are DirectX and what Microsoft describes as the Win2k kernel stripped right down to the minimum. We'd interpret that as meaning a largely new kernel (last year Bill Gates said a new kernel would follow the Win2k launch), and a largely new operating system as well. Aside from the games capability it will need Web browsing, and various bits of productivity. It is after all intended as an Internet-capable broadband device, and people are therefore going to want to do more with it than just play games. So you could look at it this way - X-Box is a route that allows Microsoft to build a new, efficient (we use the term optimistically) operating system that abandons the old compatibility baggage that's been holding up development for so many years. And as Microsoft controls the hardware and the software, it can integrate the whole shebang while it's about it. Bets, please, on how long it takes the DoJ to notice this. X-Box ought to be a lot easier to build than the on-off converging operating systems of the past, and it ought also to be attractive, compelling and cheap. But if you can get a cheap games-playing box that gives you broadband Internet access, what do you want as well? (apart from a portable one, that is - you read it here first) Microsoft should be able to differentiate between business Win2k machines and X-Box type games appliances, but it'll likely have trouble sustaining a separate home/games PC platform, even if it attempts to pursue one. By trying to rev Win9x further after WME it would be to some extent duplicating X-Box efforts, and it has already been going vague on future consumer versions of Win2k, describing the next rev, Whistler, as being aimed at the "professional" market. So maybe X-Box is it - the Microsoft-owned device in every home, every hotel room? X-Windows Everywhere? Neat - unfortunately we believe somebody has that one already. But if X-Box works, and that happens, it'll make it even more obvious that the old-style Windows-only approach being pursued via Win2k doesn't work. We all knew that already, of course. ® Related stories: X-Box unleashed Intel snatches X-Box victory MS roadmaps Blackcomb, plans beta of Win2k rev
John Lettice, 15 Mar 2000
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Tubbie Terror game strikes The Web

BBC bosses are said to be outraged at a Teletubby PC game where players gun down and murder the cuddly characters. Tubbie Terror shows Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po as you've never seen them before. Players can download the game from the Web for free and spend time flouncing around Tellytubby land looking for Po and blasting her with a sub-machine gun. When Po is hit, Tinky Winky is seen muttering expletives and saying "You killed my brother". Which is odd because, as every Teletubby fan knows, Po is a girl-tubby. One site with the downloadable game shows the fluffy creations being squashed by a plunger, being burnt and their bones crumbling, or with their heads exploding. Tubby blood seems to be a big factor in these online antics. The game is going down especially well with the Germans and Dutch for some reason. So well in fact that a sequel, Laa Laa Strikes Back, has also been put on the Net. The BBC is fuming at the rip offs. "As well as being inappropriate, this is a clear infringement of BBC copyright. We will be taking action against those responsible," a BBC representative told today's Metro. All you sickos out there can download Tubbie Terror here. ® Related stories Say Eh-Oh to PlayStation Warner threatens Harry Potter fan sites
Linda Harrison, 15 Mar 2000
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PlayStation 2 can play US DVDs – apparently

Gaming boffins claim to have found a way to play American DVDs on PlayStation 2 consoles. Three codes have surfaced which make it possible to play Region 1 (North America) DVDs on the PlayStation 2 -- a Region 2 (Europe, Japan and Asia) DVD player. Like console video games, DVDs are usually fixed by vendors so they can only operate within specific world markets. It was previously believed the PlayStation 2, launched solely in Japan, could play only Region 2 DVDs. But the Gaming Intelligence Agency's Web site this week claimed to have found the codes needed to overcome this inconvenience. These codes do not work every time -- a hitch believed to be linked to how hard the Dual Shock 2' buttons are pressed. "All three codes should be entered when the PlayStation 2 DVD bootup sequence begins fading to black... If you get a region failed message, don't despair; just try again. The same disc will work some times and not others," it reports. "While these codes certainly leave room for improvement, the advent of any region bypass is good news for system importers and DVD fans," thegia.com adds. Sony Computer Entertainment in the UK chose not to comment.® The Register would welcome any readers' comments on whether these codes work. Related stories Sony plugs US PS2 DVD grey market Tesco slams 'unnecessary' DVD zoning How to hack Tesco's DVD player
Linda Harrison, 15 Mar 2000
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Clinton aids Intel in Bangladeshi oil push

Second sources revealed to the The Register today that Bill Clinton, current president of the United States, will seal oil deals with Bangladesh on the 20th of March next, as he helps Intel introduce technology into the country to aid local conditions. Clinton will visit one of the poorest countries in the Indian sub-continent as part of a whistle stop tour which involves the US acquiring massive oil rights as part of an aid programme it already has in place. In February, we revealed that Intel and a startup had attempted an endeavour in Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan, but were baffled by the local terms of doing business. India helped liberate East Pakistan from its situation back in the early seventies, aided and abetted by former Beatle George Harrison. The oil wealth in Bangladesh is wholly out of proportion to the gross domestic product the small country produces. Sources very close to Intel told us in an unusually drenched Palm Springs last month that a deal of this kind was on the cards. According to our second sources, President Bill Clinton will steam in on the 20th of March and attempt, on behalf of a whole tranche of US companies, to clinch several deals -- although the oil deal is his primary aim. No one from Intel, or the US or Bangladesh governments was available at press time to comment on the story. ® See Also Intel readies move into Bangladesh
Mike Magee, 15 Mar 2000