23rd March 2000 Archive
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Just wait in turn for the candy, OK?
Ever since the official 'launch' of Pentium III Coppermines back on 25 Octoberh, Intel's distributors, dealers and smaller system builders have been the first to suffer from shortages of the processor. But now, to add insult to injury, the same people have been told that when the 1GHz chip-candy is being handed out, they will be the last in line. Intel is instead focusing its attempts to supply just about everyone else before disties and dealers get their mitts on the 1GHz Coppermine Pentium III it introduced at the beginning of this month. The chip giant recently circulated its distributor and dealer channel with the following note: "Intel® Boxed Processor Availability Update "Intel Confidential Information Disclosed under Non Disclosure Agreement "This is a notice to inform you of the current availability outlook for the Intel boxed processors sold through authorized distribution channels. This outlook statement is based on current expectations - it is forward looking and actual results may differ. We recommend that system integrators contact their authorized distributors for specific availability and pricing information. "Intel® Pentium® III Processor 1GHz "On March 8, 2000 Intel announced the introduction of the Intel® Pentium® IIIl processor 1GHz. Intel is initially working with customers that can provide the biggest impact in the consumer enthusiast segment at launch. Broader quantities of Pentium III processors 1GHz will be available in Q3 '00. Shipment of Boxed Intel Pentium III processors 1GHz are expected to begin at that time." So it will be the third quarter before there will be boxed Intel 1GHz processors. There's no word yet to the channel on when they can expect to receive boxed 866MHz and boxed 850MHz processors. But if the above is anything to go by, they'd better not promise their customers too much. On the other hand, perhaps it is yet another cunning way Intel has found to drive formerly loyal customers into the arms of its smaller competitor, AMD. ®
Business 23 08:10
Useful quadruped gets visit from m'learned friends
The owner of a Web site which features a quadruped useful in many ways to human beings has received a letter from m'learned friends representing BAA, the airport operator, threatening legal action. The Register reader, who owns the baa.com domain name, says that his site displays pictures and information about sheep but the BAA feels that such a site infringes its rights. Owner Tom Bourke, who says the site has been ill for the last four weeks (scrapie, we wonder?), said: "The site displays pictures and information about, yes, you've guessed it, sheep. Small white furry animals with nice ears, wool and four legs. "I received a call late Wednesday afternoon (your time) from the previous owner of the domain (Michael Lawrie) who had been served with a writ by BAA Plc. The process server had arrived at 10:00 AM and had to wait ten hours. Poor lamb! "The writ mentions a number of things. I'm waiting to see what it says, as they, err, haven't bothered to deliver it yet to myself, the company I am associated with, nor my UK lawyer. I guess that's not too surprising as I'm in New Jersey, as is the company's registered address! "Apart from a few shall we say inaccuracies like:- BAA Plc claiming we approached a 'Ms Panting' of their employ (we didn't, A Mr. Tom Voice of BAA Plc approached Michael on Jan 8th, 1999) BAA Plc claiming we are 'passing off'. The web site may have claimed to be many things, but a site for a property company that has airplanes landing on it? I think not." BAA Plc also claimed that it was losing revenue because it didn't possess the domain name, Bourke said. "I did talk with BAA Plc about selling the domain last year, but due to their solicitors attempting to change the rules and breadth of the arrangement, as well as months when no progress took place, negotiations stopped. "The autumn and winter arrived with a request for BAA Plc for where we were. It was pointed out that a number of 'interesting' domain sales had taken place since our negotiations had ended (bbc.com comes to mind), and any new price would have to bear that in mind. "Naturally I couldn't let them down, so two creative quotes were made up and sent on for negotiation. For some reason they were unhappy with what they received and nothing was heard from them until today." A representative of BAA said: "We have issued the writ against the appropriate defendants. baa.com infringes on our name and we're looking to collect appropriate damages. We tried to reach an amicable agreement but in the end were forced to take this action." Formerly known as the British Airports Authority, BAA is the world's biggest commercial operator of airports. It also owns heaps of property and is a big name in duty-free retailing. ®
Business 23 08:29
It's the way they refuse to talk about the talks...
DoJ antitrust chief Joel Klein commented yesterday on the Microsoft trial that the "remedies ought to be commensurate" with Judge Jackson's findings of fact, which had revealed "a serious pattern of anti-competitive conduct". It was a neutral kind of statement, but since it is known that the DoJ has hired Greenhill & Co, a New York firm specialising in mergers and acquisitions, to advise it, the probability must be that the DoJ is looking at a full range of options for breaking up Microsoft. Klein was speaking at a Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing on antitrust and merger activity, and was questioned by Senator Herbert Kohl (Democrat, Wisconsin). Bill Gates repeated a few days ago that Microsoft would not be broken up, but Gates is not now the chief executive officer of Microsoft. Klein made it clear that he and his department favoured a settlement over litigation, noting that "We're in the middle of the mediation process", and that he wasn't going to talk about what was going on. It has been suggested that if there is any progress reported to Judge Jackson, he might delay issuing his findings of law, which are expected next month. This could increase the pressure on Microsoft to agree to a settlement, in order to avoid the almost-certainly damaging findings of law being made public. Jackson saw both teams of lawyers earlier this week, in all probability in order to impress on them the urgency of the situation. It is also unlikely that Judge Posner would waste his time if he thought the mediation was stalled, so a settlement should not be ruled out at the moment. ®
Business 23 08:48
Dateline: Richardson, TX, Wednesday
A visit by the CEO of Via, Wen-chi Chen, has failed to stem the flow of engineers from the old headquarters of Cyrix in Richardson, Texas. Insiders said that Chen arrived at the HQ yesterday, and addressed the troops for around 30 minutes. "He said that nothing is really going to change, even in the wake of [Tuesday's] mass exodus," our inside source said. By noon yesterday, four additional designers had resigned from Cyrix-Via, and the source added that nearly all contract layout staff at the site were released later in the afternoon. The M3/Jalapeno project was also officially cancelled yesterday, the source added. Now five design engineers and four design automation engineers remain in Richardson. There are six design engineers at the Arlington, Texas, site, but none of them are actively working on CPU designs, according to The Register's mole. However, silicon validation and the manufacturing and test teams remain largely intact, although key members of this group have left over the course of the last two weeks. Further organisational changes are likely to happen in around two weeks. Ironically, version 3.1 of the Joshua chip taped out yesterday morning en route to mass production. Yesterday, a representative from Via insisted that departures from the Richardson site would make no difference to the firm's plans for its CPUs. ® Related Stories Cyrix folk walk out after Via revelation
Business 23 08:57
Retail Price Index to include ecommerce sales
The Government is to include e-commerce sales in the shopping basket of goods and services that is used to work out the Retail Price Index (RPI). The sale of books and toys online will account for 0.05 per cent of the RPI as part of trial conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). A spokesman for the ONS said it was too early to say when e-commerce sales would be introduced in the full index, or how it might affect the RPI. Elsewhere, PC printers and some exam-related educatinal CD ROM's were included in the index at the expense of luncheon meat, custard powder and women's leggings. The RPI is supposed to mirror consumer spending and is used to measure inflation. ®
Business 23 09:00
Down, up, down, up... craziness continues
Those magnificent men with their Rambus machine saw their share price soar by over 83 bucks yesterday after an endorsement by investment broker Morgan Stanley. The firm raised its price target for Rambus (ticker: RMBS) to $500 a share, prompting further buying of the shares, which had slumped the previous day by over $50 to close at $266.58. The surge in buying saw the share price rise by $83.80, to close at $350.38. Completely coincidentally, Morgan Stanley, helped Rambus to IPO. ®
Business 23 09:24
Speak softly and carry a Big Foot
T'was just over a month ago that Compaq and Microsoft touted a "record-breaking" benchmark of 227,079.15 tpmC obtained on an aggregation of a dozen eight-way ProLiant servers running Windows 2000 and SQL Server 2000. Bill Gates capitalised on the benchmark results at the Windows 2000 rollout-cum-dog-and-pony show, but the fact of the matter is that Team Redmond had little to do with the actual TPC run. Au contraire, the deed - code-named Big Foot - was done by Compaq ISSD and SPD performance mavens in the Q's supersecret lab on the eighth floor of Building CCA15 in Houston, Texas. Until the beginning of February, 200k tpmC remained an elusive goal. At the eleventh hour, the SPD folk came out with a SmartArray driver on steroids that goosed performance by 16 per cent on the first run. With a little more tweaking, the Big Q was able to wring 227k tpmC out of the hardware, thereby garnering TPC bragging rights. As every good benchmarketeer knows, your mileage may vary. ®
Business 23 11:06
Trials and tribulations
Britain's march towards broadband services is gathering pace. Up and down the country different service providers and their guinea pigs are trialling Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) technology before rolling out the services commercially later this year. ADSL provides super fast Net access that's always on and charged at a fixed price. Many Net users assume that, with speeds 20 times faster than conventional modems, ADSL will bring an end to the world wide wait - and herald a new age of amazing multimedia services. But, so far, trials have been delayed due to "technical glitches" and some installations have been put on hold. What's more, there's continued scepticism among some ISPs that contention ratios are too high, which could slow services down to a crawl. And although few will admit it publicly, the relationship between BT and some of the service providers has not always been wholly amicable. That aside, by the end of March 2000, BT will - it says - have installed ADSL kit in 400 of its exchanges across Britain and kitted out a further 100 by summer 2000. Combined, this investment in ADSL technology will cover 35 per cent of Britain's population, enabling 8.5 million homes and businesses to join the broadband revolution. The exchanges upgraded to handle ADSL include: Aylesbury, Birmingham, Belfast, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Newcastle, although many more are earmarked to be upgraded. During summer 2000 BT plans to provide additional exchanges up and down the country. So what's on offer? BT, the monster telco, is providing ADSL as a wholesale service from its own exchanges - well, at least until the local loop is unbundled in July 2001. Until then it is up to service providers to offer the service to consumers and businesses using BT's ADSL services. Final pricings for these services have yet to be released. The four core products on offer are: BT DataStream Aimed at service providers and other operators who want to develop their own IP transport services over BT's core ATM network. It is suitable for ISPs with at least 150 users. BT IPStream Aimed at service providers who want to provide access to their content and applications. Unlike BT DataStream, it includes the IP layer. It carries no end user restrictions. BT Highway Essentially the same as BT IPStream, but allows organisations to connect remote workers or satellite offices to the Corporate Intranet. BT VideoStream Aimed at service providers who want to deliver high volume, mass-market video-based interactive applications on demand to the TV. Although some 30 service providers are currently trialling ADSL - or have signalled their interest to trial the technology - two thirds of them have asked not to be named. Listed below are just some of those currently experimenting with ADSL. The list isn't comprehensive or complete, but it does give an indication about what's happening among providers. If you represent a service provider and fancy being included in the list - or would like to update your entry - please send the details to Tim Richardson, here at The Register. The ADSL players -- well, some of them at least AOL UK Trialling ADSL among employees but hoping to extend this to customers "imminently". Had hoped to offer ADSL services sooner but claims the timetable has slipped somewhat. Most likely to offer DataStream product. Hopes to launch full service late summer/early autumn 2000. Looking to engage in partnerships with other content providers, but to be honest, content is one thing AOL isn't short of. No pricing information available yet. BT Plans to offer business ADSL services by the end of June 2000 swiftly followed by a retail option. The business service will be more fully featured with different speeds to the home service, which is initially fixed at 512Kbps. The business service will be available at speeds of up to 2Mbps, which is up to 40 times faster than current modems. No price announcements as yet. Concentric Has 50 places available on its business trial and 25 on its domestic trial. The trials are free to users, although the company expects prices for the product to start form £50 a month once it becomes available commercially. Plans to offer service from 1 July 2000. Claims its parent company's expertise in DSL (Concentric has 20 per cent of DSL SME market in the US) puts it at an advantage. Currently working on a number of content deals. Demon Internet Servicing 500 users as part of BT's ADSL trials although not all are up and running yet. The trial is extensive and taking place in 13 towns and cites throughout the UK. Demon is offering IPStream for home users or Datastream for business users. The trial is being offered at 2Mbps downstream and 256Kbps upstream. The trial reportedly started January 2000 and was expected to go on until March 2000, although it seems this now well behind schedule. Triallists pay £35 a month (plus VAT) during the trial. Demon said that upon completion of the trial, it will offer participants three months service free of charge. Freeserve Officially launched its ADSL trial in February 2000 - three months later than scheduled. 150 people taking part in Manchester and London. Full service to be rolled out in summer 2000. Content providers include ITN, Virgin Records and @Jakarta, although others are in the pipeline. Trial price is £49.99 for 512Kbps access. Madasafish This Scottish-based youth/lifestyle-oriented service has already received 800 applications even though there are only 100 places available on its trial. The company hopes to finalise the names of those taking part by the end of March 2000. Those who aren't picked may receive a blessing in disguise - the company is looking to charge £120-150 per month for the service, although a spokesman did say the fee was "open to negotiation". Nildram Buckinghamshire-based service provider starts taking online orders for ADSL from 1 April 2000, and telephone orders from 1 May, for installation during June 2000. No pricing information available. Telewest Better known as a cableco, currently involved in an ADSL trial in the Croydon area for businesses and consumers. The trial was launched in February 2000 and the cableco is looking at ADSL as a way to expand its customer base outside its franchise areas. UUNet Trialling BT's Datastream product, looking specifically to target the business sector. Trial will continue during Q2 and Q3 2000. Aiming to roll out product for business users Q4 2000. No pricing information available as yet. Videonetwork With a fully commercial offering already in operation, VideoNetworks is in a unique position in that it is not trialling the ADSL service. Instead, it will be one of the few service providers to offer ADSL once the kit is installed and ready to go. The reason for its apparent keenness is that it's been working on the technology and service for the last eight years. Prices for its video-on-demand service range between £5.99 and £12.99. Internet access costs have yet to be released. Installation costs £40 but the set top box is free. ® Related Story The Register Guide to Flat Fee ISPs
Business 23 11:11
Pub Web cam let's you chat up drunken foreigners from the safety of your home
Ever felt like going to the pub but can't be arsed to drag yourself off the couch and into the local? No problemo - the wonders of the Internet are here to help, courtesy of beer.com and its StellaCam. Belgian beer monster Stella Artois has set up a network of Web cams (there's only three) in bars across the world (North America and Europe) and by pointing your browser at beer.com you can "watch, listen and have an online 'chat' with patrons sitting in those great bars". But it's so much more than just being able to watch other people having fun while you're sat in front of your computer. If you spot someone you like the look of you can buy them a drink - you can even have an online chat with them. What a fantastic idea - no more being consumed by embarrassment and the fear of rejection; spot a likely squeeze, buy 'em beer, give 'em your best chat up line and no matter if it crashes to earth 'cause no one can see your face. It's every shy nerd's dream, surely? There are some conditions though. For example, the punter - sat in the StellaCam chair - might not want your drink, so why were they sitting there? Or it might get delivered to the wrong person (why do I always get stuck with the fat one?). And it's your hard luck if that happens. Similarly, punters can only receive a maximum of three geek-beers a night, so if someone gets to the object of your desires before you, you could be going home on the late-night cyberbus with nothing but a bag of pork scratchings to keep you company. The bars are situated in New York, Vancouver and Belgium. Hmm, which are you going to choose? If you'd like to buy someone a beer, but you can't get on the StellaCam site, or they've already had one too many, you could always buy a beer for a Register hack. You'll usually find us in one of three pubs too, and we don't have a three-drink limit. ® Fancy a jar? Check out beer.com
Business 23 11:21
Failure to agree means no change, probably...
It looks as though there will be no US e-commerce tax, at least for a few years. The last of four meetings of the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce, which is advising Congress, concluded in Dallas this week without publicly reaching overall agreement as to what recommendations to make. ACEC was established by the Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 to allow a moratorium on taxes for Internet sales and access. Uniquely, Congress did not vote ACEC any money, so it had to function on "gift authority", which meant that the state of Virginia coughed up initially, and Virginia Governor James Gilmore was made chairman. President Clinton agreed last November to a slender $1.4 million funding for fiscal 2000, with the consequence that ACEC lunches and dinners have to be sponsored. Thirteen votes of ACEC were needed to get agreement, but in the event the voting in Dallas was only 11 to 1, with seven abstentions by federal, state and local officials. Those voting for the proposal were of course mostly the representatives of e-commerce-related industries, the self-styled Business Caucus: AOL, AT&T, Charles Schwab, Gateway, MCI WorldCom, and Time Warner. The lone vote against was by Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, who described the Caucus' suggestions as "a huge money grab". Although it is still possible that there will be last-minute agreement, provision was made for ACEC commissioners to make individual submissions to Congress. There, the matter will be dealt with by the House Commerce Committee, but not with Republican Tom Bililey of Virginia as chairman, since he is retiring. Bililey was however responsible for the electronic signatures bill, although this has currently been delayed by House Democrats. The US Sales Tax entanglement At present, as a result of the moratorium (and a similar moratorium agreed by the World Trade Organisation), Internet purchases do not attract sales tax. Retailers on main street complain that this is grossly unfair, since in 45 states (and DC) they must pay state sales taxes, with many cities also adding their own additional taxes. A third category of sales - through catalogues for example - generally avoid sales tax if the purchaser and vendor are not in the same state. This is clearly an absurd situation, with many potential purchasers getting information and examining goods in a local store, but buying at a lower price via the Internet. The magnitude of the problem needs to be put in context: last quarter, US Internet sales amounted to a little over $5 billion, according to the US Department of Commerce, compared with more than $800 billion in retail sales - around 1.5 per cent. It is generally expected that this will increase up to tenfold in the next ten years. One of the excuses used by the Business Caucus was that there are 7000 to 8000 different tax regimes in the US, so that calculating Internet tax would be difficult. Of course this is not really true, since a small database could easily be set up and the tax rules included. It would be unpopular, but the technical issues have been naturally been exaggerated. Many of the questions that the ACEC is confronting are political: whether all commercial transactions should be taxed equally or not, and whether electronic commerce transactions merit favourable treatment. Of course, e-commerce vendors want to continue the status quo of the moratorium. In the local retailer's favour is the fact that Internet access, shipping costs and delivery delays can be sufficiently daunting to remove some of the advantages of Internet shopping. ACEC has tried to address international issues, but has found the situation too complex for the time allowed, recognising that more information is needed. Despite the setbacks that the US has received with its WTO relationship, the Business Caucus still favours working through the WTO and extending the moratorium - as well as working with the OECD. The inclusion of the OECD looked rather like a fall-back position in case WTO negotiations do not work out. Five more years? All factions at ACEC appear to accept that fundamental federal, state and local tax reform is needed, but are acutely aware that the hurdles to achieve this are very high - not least the length of time it would take. The Business Caucus recommends that Congress extends the current moratorium for a further five years, and encourages the drafting of a Uniform Sales and Use Tax Act by October 2004 for tax simplification, overseen by a new Advisory Commission - a reinvention of itself, it seems. An alternative minority proposal by state and local interests is in effect rather similar: they suggest that the moratorium be extended long enough to allow sales taxes be simplified. A difference was their concern to eliminate the digital divide between the have- and have-nots, so far as Internet access is concerned, and to get more data about the effect of e-commerce on the national economy. There was a sufficient majority supporting the elimination of the three per cent telecommunication excise tax; this was first introduced as a luxury tax in 1898 to raise money for the Spanish-American war. The war of course came to an end in August 1898 with the surrender of Manila, although another war between the Philippines and the US broke out a few months later. The tax continued in force for the world wars, as well as Korea and Vietnam, despite attempts to remove it, until it became permanent in 1990 at 3 per cent. As part of the Revenue Conciliation Act, it now raises more than $5 billion/year. Governor Gilmore is of course very aware of the presence of AOL and NSI on his Virginia patch, so it's no surprise that AOL President Robert Pittman is one of the 19 commissioners. Gilmore introduced his own resolution against the telecommunication tax, as well as his own variant on the Business Caucus proposal. He suggested that there be no sales taxes on business-to-consumer Internet sales, but that business-to-business transactions be taxed. ACEC's final report to Congress is likely to finalised around the end of the month: the deadline imposed by Congress is 21 April. There is still uncertainty about the final outcome, because ACEC members went into private session for most of their time in Dallas. The thrust of the Internet Tax Freedom Act was that Congress thought "the President should seek bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements to remove barriers to global electronic commerce" and that electronic commerce should be free from "tariff and non-tariff barriers; burdensome and discriminatory regulation and standards; and discriminatory taxation". Objections are likely to come from states that are more dependent on sales taxes. ®
Business 23 12:04
Lawsuit parallels RIAA's anti-'virtual CD player' suit
Two music publishers have launched a joint lawsuit against MP3.com alleging that the digital music e-tailer's MyMP3.com service infringes their copyrights. The case, brought by music rights agancy Harry Fox on behalf of publishers MPL Communications and Peer International (operating as Peermusic), is the second copyright violation suit fired off at MP3.com since it launched MyMP3.com back in January. The latest case, like the Recording Industry Association of America's suite before it, centres on MP3.com's admission that it has copied over 80,000 CDs onto its servers to form the basis for the MyMP3.com 'virtual CD player' service. MPL and Peermusic claim that MP3.com did not seek permission to do so from either company, but has nevertheless included works by artists for whom they hold the copyright. The suit further alleges that MP3.com is using that database to "make unauthorised digital phonorecord deliveries... Despite written notice that its actions constitute copyright infringement, defendant has continued to make unauthorised copies of copyrighted musical works at the astonishing rate of 1500 additional CDs per day". So, in essence, there are two charges here, that MP3.com copied material without permission to do so and, second, that it then distributed those unauthorised copies illegally. MPL and Peermusic wants the court to force MP3.com to admit that it wilfully infringed the two companies' copyrights, to remove the copies from its servers and to cough up damages plus any money the company made out of offering their music through MyMP3.com. The suit describes statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each plaintiff. MP3.com has yet to respond directly to the suit, but it's unlikely to offer a different defence than that which it offered to the RIAA: that MyMP3.com doesn't infringe copyrights since it's simply providing a convenient way for users to listen to music they already own. And that's the crux of the matter: if party A makes a copy of CD B for party C, when C has a legal copy of B, does that still count as copyright infringement? Certainly, there's nothing to stop C copying the disc themseleves, posting the on a secure Web site so they can listen to it from any location - duplication of a copyrighted work for personal use is permitted under US copyright law. But that doesn't necessarily grant a third party, A, the right to maintain the online copies. ® Related Stories MP3.com countersues music industry trade body US music industry sues MP3.com over 'virtual CD player' See Also You can read the full text of the suit against MP3.com here
Business 23 12:13
BT and Futuremedia-owned portal launches
UK company Futuremedia has teamed up with BT to launch an online training portal. Futuremedia has signed up ten partners to offer courses in IT, business and finance through easycando.com. The venture uses Solstra software, developed jointly with BT. The portal offers 1500 courses in topics such as Web design and Microsoft accreditation - its Microsoft MSE course costs £500. It also offers a chill-out room for students to discuss course problems with other students, as well as online tutor services. Training companies will pay £5000 per year to join the portal, with Futuremedia taking a percentage of fees from courses sold. It will also offer an affiliate programme, where companies can put a link to easycando on their Web site. This facility is free, with affiliates taking a 12 per cent cut of course fees sold via their sites. Alternatively, companies can pay £5,000 per year to have a direct link to the site and get between 20 and 30 per cent of course fees. Mats Johansson, MD for future media at easycando.com, said the company was about to sign a partner deal with an IT publisher. According to Johansson, the online training sector was worth $200 million in 1999, with a compound growth rate of 100 per cent per year. ® Related Stories Belgian buy boosts Azlan training arm Azlan plays e-commerce card Poor Luddites to get computer training
Business 23 12:38
Shareholder wants independent chair as Sanders gets $2m bonus
An attempt by an AMD shareholder to have an independent chair appointed by the board at the company's annual meeting next month is being resisted by the firm. In the latest SEC filing, which outlines changes to be discussed at the meeting on 27 April, AMD says that the proposal, which is similar to one made two years back and then rejected, should be rejected by shareholders now, too. The proposal wants to amend company bylaws so that the chair is someone who has not worked for the firm within the last five years amd is not affiliated to any company that advises AMD, orr with big customers or suppliers, or with family members. The board said they recommended voting against the proposal for a number of reasons, including the fact that toppling Jerry Sanders would cause AMD to breach a five-year 1996 employment agreement. It adds that the interests of AMD "are best served by the experience and consistent direction and stategic vision afforded by a single full-time individual serving as chairman and CEO". The SEC filing also reveals that Jerry Sanders received a $2,000,000 bonus from AMD, after its then chief operating officer, Atiq Raza, abruptly left the firm in July. Other AMD execs also received hefty bonuses for their performance in 1999, including bringing the Athlon successfully to market and striking deals with Motorola. ®
Business 23 12:51
Beats Richard Branson
Jeff Taylor, CEO of online recruitment outfit Monster.com, water-skied 3.3 miles behind the Monster.com blimp to break the current 1.5 mile record set by Virgin CEO Richard Branson. The dotcom e-ntrepreneur's aquatic Webbed feat behind Monsters.com's airship, Trump was one of only five blimp water-skiing stunts ever performed. Apparently. In 1994, Branson successfully water-skied behind the Virgin blimp while filming an episode of Baywatch. Coo, what some people will do for publicity. According to Weblore, Branson issued a written challenge to Taylor to see if he had the bottle to water-ski behind a blimp. Taylor, "known for his adventurous streak and thirst for competition", according to a Monster.com statement, took up the challenge. "Water-skiing behind Trump was exhilarating, and having Branson's record to break made it even more so," said a damp Taylor. Branson has already congratulated Taylor and challenged him to a "blimp-to-blimp" race in June. Taylor has accepted the challenge. Fearless Taylor runs one of the few e-commerce outfits to make any money, according to Monster's PR. Last year global turnover was $151.6 million and profit in Q4 1999 was $7.7 million. So perhaps Taylor should issue the ultimate challenge to the heads of the world's dotcoms: to see if any of them can make any money...or would that be just too difficult. ® There are pictures of Taylor water-skiing behind his trumping blimp. You can check it our here.
Business 23 12:58
Four formats supported - MP3 not one of them
NTT Communications, part of Japan's biggest telco, will begin a trial run for its upcoming Arcstar digital music delivery service on 19 April, the company said yesterday. The public test programme is due to run until 31 July, with the full commercial service, available only to Japanese consumers, kicking into action early August. Partnering with NTT are nine Japanese recording companies, including Time Warner's local operation. NTT will host the entire system, but users will visit and download music from each company's own, individual Web site. The tracks the recording companies provide will ship in any of four formats: Liquid Audio, Microsoft's MS Audio, MuSIC from MBeat.com and NTT's own SolidAudio. Just to make things tricky, each format requires its own back-end rights management and copyright protection mechanisms, but the trial is likely to focus on ways of integrating them to simplify the system before its commercial launch in the summer. NTT Communications plan parallels that of fellow NTT off-shoot, mobile phone operator DoCoMo, which is developing a service to offer MP3 music tracks via cellphones. That scheme is being rolled out in conjunction with music giants Universal and BMG, and consumer electronics biggie Matsushita. ® Related Stories NTT DoCoMo to offer digital music via cellphone Samsung demos MP3 cellphone German firm registers MP3 as trademark Toshiba eyes March for delayed digital music player launch
Business 23 13:08
Redundancy targets must be met
Staff who fled from DEC to shelter under the wing of the large services organisation Compaq created in its takeover wake are next in line for the chop, sources close to the firm told The Register today. Mike Capellas, CEO of the revamped organisation, has appointed a team to slim down the larger services organisation that emerged from the coalition of Compaq, Digital and Tandem. A source told The Register early today that some ex-DEC staff had called in favours and the services organisation, so far, had escaped any redundancies. But that is about to change, we are given to understand, with Compaq "lifting every stone around" to see if there's anyone who might crawl out of the organisation. As far as we are aware, Compaq is still talking to French and German trade unions about redundancies. But the process takes longer in continental Europe than it does here in the UK and in other countries. Capellas is committed to cost cutting as he seeks to turn the company's fortunes round during the course of this year. No one from Compaq was available for comment at press time. ® * Compaq is set to drop the big letter Q as its dominant logo, we understand. The move is part of a re-branding effort initiated by Capellas and the others. ®
Business 23 15:20
From our City Slickers Dept.
Viglen has ended its quest for an "unrewarded Internet entrepreneur" to head its e-commerce business. The PC builder announced today it had appointed Rajiv Bhatia as MD of VigEcom, Viglen's Web and e-commerce investment company. Bhatia joins from Virgin Group, where he was previously group projects director "with particular focus on developing new business", the company stated. Viglen has been hunting for someone to lead the Net investment subsidiary since December – when it was found advertising in the jobs section of the Financial Times. The advert said Viglen wanted an "unrewarded Internet entrepreneur" to put into action expansion plans involving "embracing the fast growing Internet sector with a series of new subsidiaries entirely focused on e-business". According to the ad, Bhatia will get "impressive rewards [including] a share of the equity". Bhatia was not available to comment to The Register without Viglen spin-doctor approval this afternoon. VigEcom made its first purchase without him last month, buying 26 per cent in Intelligent Network Technology for £2.5 million. ® Related Stories Viglen dips toe in net investments Viglen unveils e-biz division Sugar advertises for 'unrewarded Internet Entrepreneur'
Business 23 15:56
When it's good it's very, very good...
Demon's trial of BT's ADSL service is suffering severe delays due to cancelled installations and faulty services, The Register has learned. Sources close to the trial claim that of the 500 people supposed to be hooked up to the trial, only ten per cent have so far been connected. Of the 50 kits installed, 17 don't work. It's understood that at least one user has lost the use of his BT phone line completely - and standard BT engineers won't touch it because it's an ADSL line. Last Friday BT cancelled all but one of the 30-something installations that were due for last Monday. Such a last minute change to scheduled installations appears to be a less-than-isolated incident. Demon is reported to be holding back on arranging further BT installation appointments until it gets assurances from BT that it has the capacity to do so without cancelling them at the last minute. A spokeswoman for Demon said the company did not comment on rumour or speculation. A BT spokesman said he wasn't aware of any problems. "We've received no customer complaints and are not aware of any problems," he said. The Register understands that the service is fab, when it does work. ® Check out The Register's guide to ADSL in the UK
Business 23 16:00
Screen glare: get used to it
People like to do it in bed and it really thrills some people to turn the lights off while doing it. Doing it on an airplane during long flights is also popular. I'm talking about reading books and newspapers using new, lightweight, high-definition, backlit tablets. Using the Internet as a distribution medium for digital versions of books is an idea that seems to be gaining acceptance among publishers and consumers alike. Recent mass media attention and the huge consumer interest in Stephen King's short story Riding the Bullet, published as an ebook - a book that could only be read on PCs, PDAs or ebook devices - is a sign that the world might be ready for digital books. The furore over the title pushed Stephen King onto The Lycos top 50 List for the first time ever. Apparently, 400,000 Internet users downloaded the book in the first 24 hours. The enthusiasm of reviewers (buyers' reviews, that is) at Amazon.com and insider information-sharing among users of ebook devices in online forums is reminiscent of the early days of of Compuserve and newsgroups on the Internet. There is even a corporate application for the ebook: Fatbrain.com's Information Exchange and Print on Demand service. Today, the ebook device market is dominated by US vendors NuvoMedia and Softbook Press, both recently acquired by Gemstar International Group, a company whose claim to fame is making it easier for TV viewers to program their VCRs. Thomson, the consumer electronics giant, just agreed a contract with Gemstar to produce the hardware devices in volume starting this year. "We noticed a change in publishers' attitudes between the 1998 and 1999 Frankfurt Book Fairs, from contempt to desire," says Gerd Ribbek, spokesperson for NuvoMedia in Hamburg. That change in attitude had a lot to do with the realisation that e-commerce is real and that the Internet is a distribution channel and not necessarily the nail in the coffin of the publishers of this world. The cost saving potential of ebook publishing is also convincing. "Benefits to publishers show up when you think that more than 40 per cents of their costs are paper, printing, distribution, costs virtually non-existent in the ebook world," says Faten Bizzari, an analyst at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in London, who has researched the ebook market. In Germany, the Financial Times Deutschland is available for free to ebook device owners, but these individuals number only in the "hundreds", according to Ribbek. The ebook is officially not available in Germany until June. German speakers are downloading German 'skins' for the user interface of US-sourced devices. At least eight other vendors will start to market ebook devices this year, including French startup Cytale and Swiss startup Monec. "Several players might argue that the need for a dedicated reading device is already dead. It could be that improving Palm Pilots are all you need. There may be a huge market for ebooks (already witnessed in the encyclopaedia world) but whether it follows that the market exists for the dedicated devices is not so certain," says Bizzari. Software and ebook standards have been developed by Open eBook Forum, which is supported by more than 200 companies, including Microsoft. Without standards, digital-only publishers such as France's Zero Hour (whose company writes its name like this: 00h00.com) have had to make titles available in a range of formats, including PDF, Palm Pilot, Rocket eBook and MS Reader. The MS vision for ebooks, while popular with ebook fans and ebook industry players, is not too popular with publishers, according to Geoff Ebbs, an Australian journalist specializing on ebooks. "In contrast to Adobe, Microsoft does not have a warm and fuzzy relationship with the design and publishing community," he writes in a recent column. Nevertheless, in the past six months, MS has managed to co-opt support of its MS Reader software from the major publishers including Havas in France and Mondadori in Italy. In France, this year's Salon du Livre in Paris marked the debut of ebooks in that country. Adobe (Palm Computing recently announced support of Adobe's PDF) and Zero Hour sponsored a special ebook exhibition. "I think the increased interest has a lot to do with the Year 2000. People realise that even books will change," says Zero Hour's Marjorie Marlein. ® Related Story Stephen King publishes novella on Net only
Business 23 16:06
Horizon Technical Services has sold its Microsoft and Novell training business via an MBO. Simon Derry headed the buyout for newly formed company Knowledge Matters on March 8. He is MD of the Milton-Keynes-based business, which will trade as training-bridge.com. Derry said the move provided a "fantastic opportunity" for him, and had the full support of Horizon, which wanted to offload the business to concentrate on its Internet ventures. Training-bridge.com has ten staff, also shareholders in the venture, and it also offers courses from other vendors, including HP and Cisco. Horizon Technical Services is left with just its Cisco-training business. Derry previously led the business when it was Ingram Micro's Education division. It was sold to Horizon in August 1998.®
Business 23 16:08
Stunt bids start at a quid
Dell has launched a computer auction site in the UK. Through dellauction.co.uk, punters are able to sell their old computers, regardless of brand. They can also to bid for second-hand or refurbished systems. The venture is a UK version of Dell's existing site in the US, and is partnered by the same auction softwarecompany --Fairmarket. Dell has been dangling cheap computers as a carrot to get punters onto the site – with bids for PCs and notebooks starting at £1. As well as desktops, it is offering printers, monitors, notebooks and servers through the online auction.® Related stories Pfeiffer opens online auction for business Michael Dells nets $232m in share sale
Business 23 17:26
Spoilsports slams door well and truly shut
NetPliance has disabled its $99 i-Opener appliance, to prevent new models being pumped up into a fully-functioning PC. The Texan-based company aims to sell Net access subscriptions for $21.95 per month, on the back of the i-Opener's (tagline - All the fun of the Internet without the computer) pared-down email and Internet functionality. But hackers have been buying i-Opener units, often in multiples from Circuit City, Netpliance's sole retailer, without any intention of using Netpliance's net service. Details of how to convert the device into a PC spread through the Linux and FreeBSD communities last week - and reached the wider world through the New York Times. NetPliance also sells i-Opener direct. On its Web site, it says the $99 price tag for i-Opener is an introductory offer -- or rather it says the regular price is $199. Here is Netpliance's press statement, issued today, in full. In response to recent reports of the unauthorized reconfiguration of its i-opener Internet appliance, Netpliance, Inc. (NPLI) announced that it has implemented hardware changes to prevent reconfigurations of i-opener Internet appliances produced after March 20, 2000. The changes implemented by the Company will be immaterial to the production cost of the i-opener Internet appliance. The Company believes the reported unauthorized reconfiguration of the i-opener Internet appliance has not had a material impact on its operating results or general product availability. See also Circuit City shuts doors on i-Opener $99 PC hack http://www.linux-hacker.net/iopener For details of how the hack was done.
Business 23 17:30
Education establishments' ban forces code change
Napster, developer of the controversial Internet-based music locating software also called Napster, has bowed to pressure from US universities and tweaked the program's code to prevent it from logjamming the academics' networks. Over the last couple of months several hundred US educational establishments have banned students from using Napster as the massed searches for and subsequent downloads of MP3 files from around the Net have slowed the institutions' LANs to a crawl. Indiana University, one of the first establishments to ban Napster, told the Wall Street Journal that Napster-sourced traffic was accounting for up to 60 per cent of all communications between the University's network and the Internet just before it was banned. The code change was implemented with the help of Indiana University. The software now searches local proxy servers for the desired music file, and only heads out onto the wider Internet if it can't find the file there. Napster expects other universities to rescind their bans on its software, now the change has been made. That will also allow it to concentrate its attention on the legal action brought against it by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which seeks a wider ban on the software. The RIAA claims Napster makes it even easier for pirates to distribute illegal digital copies of its members' products. ® Related Stories Music biz sues Napster Music publishers allege MP3.com copyright infringement US music industry sues MP3.com over 'virtual CD player'
Business 23 17:33
According to a victim of the 'successful pilot,' not entirely...
The introduction of compulsory registration for Microsoft Office 2000 might raise spectres of Big Brother Redmond, but eye-witness accounts from the countries who're already on the receiving end of the system suggest Microsoft has a way to go before it ends up knowing everything about everybody. Australia, New Zealand and Brazil have been running with compulsory registration since O2k first shipped, but rather than being worrying, the process seems more clunky and humorous. The basic process is that you contact Microsoft with a 16 character code and some information when you're installing, and Microsoft then gives you an eight character unlock code. This can be done via Internet, fax, voice phone, or mail. A New Zealand Register reader chose voice, and at that point things started to get weird. About this information Microsoft wants - what is it? "'As little or as much information as you wish,' they said. 'What information do you want to know?' I enquired. 'Anything you want to tell us,' they said." You can imagine this kind of conversation going around and around forever, which is perhaps why Microsoft is now stressing that the only information it wants is the 16 character code and the country you're in. But the apparent nervousnessness of the New Zealand call centre jockeys makes it crystal clear that last year's storm over unique identification numbers in Windows 98 made a deep impression on Microsoft, and that at least for the moment the company really is concentrating on registration as an anti-priacy measure, rather than an exercise in information gathering. But there were more complications in our informant's experience. He was running a dual boot Win2k and Win98 machine, so needed to install Office 2000 on both partitions. Each install generates a unique 16 character code, which should match unique eight character keys supplied by Microsoft. So he has to do it twice, right? But thinking about it, he oughtn't to be able to do it twice without a posse showing up on his doorstep - if he's told Microsoft where his doorstep is, of course. None of this however seems exactly true. "I decided to keep the original key which MS gave me, and when I got a new install code generated on screen in Win98, decided to be a bit tricky and enter the same key as was given to me for Win2k." But although O2k is supposed to generate a different key for each install, it accepted the older one "but then automatically changed that key as soon as I typed it in." He phoned Microsoft again, pretended he hadn't entered the key, told them he was installing on Windows 98 and was given a new key. Which turned out to be exactly the same as the key Office 2000 was changing the old key to. This is of course impossible, as the key is supposed to be generated at the Microsoft call centre, not at the local machine - or is it? Whatever, we reckon Big Brotherdom won't be upon us until certain software companies get their systems under control. ® Related stories: Office 2k SR-1 makes registration with MS compulsory
Business 23 17:49
"Curbing the wave of hysteria"
Those appalled by Aureate Media's advertising tactics may now download a small utility programme which will automatically eliminate every trace of it from their Windows registry. The utility is called "Opt Out" by its creator Steve Gibson, who has posted it on a Web site of that name here. The utility is small and runs very quickly; in a test, it scanned our registry in roughly ten seconds, and found nothing. As we reported in earlier coverage, the Aureate Spyware is not malicious, nor does it send detailed user information back to the company, as the privacy hysterics claimed when the story first broke. Perhaps the name "Spyware", which Gibson appears to have coined when he first became concerned about the software, added fuel to the flames. "My use of the term "Spyware" does not reflect my knowledge that any data is being sent from a machine -- in the case of Aureate, I have no knowledge that any ever has -- and I never said, nor meant to imply, that any was," Gibson says. The software does, however, collect non-identifiable user information, and it does install its advertising features in the background. The background installation certainly is a questionable practice; but personally-identifiable information has never been collected by any Aureate products, which are free to users because they are supported by advertising, just as free ISPs are. "The Aureate system does record and 'phone home' about the user's use of Aureate's ad-enabled applications, but I have no knowledge of it doing anything more," Gibson says. And Gibson approves of advertising supported software. His chief objection -- and we agree it is a fair one -- is that Aureate did a very poor job of notifying users. "I like the idea of advertising-supported software," Gibson says. "I believe that it fills a need in the industry alongside free eMail, Web, and Internet access. It 'makes sense' to me. So I would NOT want to see Aureate/Radiate, any other company, or the whole idea becoming needlessly damaged because people presumed the worst." But of course, assuming the worst is precisely what the majority of Internet trolls live for, and we find it hard to believe that someone as Net-savvy as Gibson would fail to anticipate the overblown flap which his original inquiries initiated. Aureate has since changed its name to "Radiate", perhaps in an effort to shed its negative image. Its Web site is located here. ®
Business 23 18:17
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