25th March 2000 Archive
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$40 million for connector company Hon Hai?
Local Taiwanese sources said yesterday that chip firm Intel is set to take a $40 million share in a firm that makes connectors for Rambus inline memory modules (RIMMs). The reports suggest the money will be the first investment Intel has made in a components company. In the last 18 months, the Capital division of the Santa Clara firm has plunged billions of dollars into buying and investing in Internet infrastructure firms. Hon Hai Precision Industries signed a deal with Rambus Ink last June to provide connectors for RIMMs, as well as other components of the complex package, including the expensive heat spreading components. At its Developer Forum in February, both Intel and Rambus vowed to bring down the cost of RIMMs, which has been one factor in the slow acceptance of the reputedly faster memory technology. Hon Hai, which trades in the US as Foxconn International, is one of the top 10 supplier of connectors to the PC industry and has customers such as IBM, Compaq, HP and Intel itself as its customers. It makes connectors not just for RIMMs, but for the other essential components which go to make up a personal computer. Some 31 per cent of Hon Hai is already owned by investors outside of Taiwan. Its turnover is around $750 million. The deal it made with Rambus last June, made it the fourth firm to achieve compliance for RIMM connectors. ®
Business 25 08:04
Firm outlines strategies to American resellers
A reseller of AMD products has revealed information about aggressive pricing changes the firm will make on the 24th of April next, and has also included details of Spitfire pricing the firm will announce on the same date. AMD held a reseller seminar overview in Toronto last week, intended to update its major North American partners. Rob Guella a reseller whose site is RB Computing, and who also attended the seminar, has disclosed some of these details on his web site, and has also provided The Register with some additional information. His site also provides further pricing details, suggesting that after the major Q2 movements below, there will be price cuts on the 12th of June. According to Guella's site, a Spitfire 550MHz will cost $79, a 600MHz $99, a 650MHz $140, and a 700MHz $175. On the same date, the K6-2 will cost $50, and while there will be changes to the 533MHz and 550MHz K6-2s, no details of those have yet been disclosed. Athlon prices, as we have reported here in the past, will be aggressively pitched against Intel's offerings. The 1GHz will drop to $1071, the 950MHz will cost $722, the 900MHz will cost $589, the 850MHz will cost $429, the 800MHz will cost $323, the 750MHz will cost $242, the 700MHz will cost $187, the 650MHz will cost $163, and the 600MHz Athlon will also cost $163 as it is shuffled out of the equation. Guella says that motherboard support for the Socket A processors will be quite limited at launch, and now says that the K6-2+ for the desktop is confirmed as dead. He said indications were that the Thunderbird, at launch, would start shipping with 256K of level two cache on die, and 128K of level one cache. AMD suggested that it would spend more on both newspaper and television ads during the coming year, aimed at presenting the chip technology as targeting the productivity, and not just the games and consumer market. AMD has .15µ and .13µ micron processors under development. The firm also has a goal of 30 per cent market share by the end of the year, although it admits that nearly one third of large corporations surveyed will not, at present, accept AMD chips as a business platform, with Intel still preferred. Six per cent of the 30 per cent market share will be at the business market. At the end of this year, there will be new multimedia extensions called SIMB, which will handle double precision FP numbers, and beat the current floating point scores. AMD is working closely with Microsoft to produce compliant OS and application software for the 64-bit Sledgehammer platform, when it arrives. AMD is also introducing its own faster IO bus called Lightning Data Transport (LDT), moving data at around 1.6GBps. At the same time, AMD will shortly introduce a so-called "gold class" motherboard programme aiming at selecting around three third party companies to support a standard platform, which again will assist it in its aim of cracking the corporate platform. The AMD bandwagon, then, appears to roll on. Over at K7 Core, there's an analysis of motherboards and overclocking devices being used with the Athlon. And, meanwhile, in other Spitfire news, AMD Zone quotes a German hardware site, Hartware as saying the Spitfires will use 64K integrated cache, while AMD is still toying with releasing a K6-III+. ®
Business 25 08:49
Last-ditch flurry as the deadline looms
The Microsoft antitrust case appears to have moved closer to settlement. "Sources" - almost certainly lawyers from the states involved - have been leaking some information, although it is also possible that Microsoft has been looking after its own PR interests. Publicly, neither side is making any statements at the moment. What MS may give away Reports suggest that Microsoft is totally unwilling to give way on any form of breakup, but does accept that discriminatory pricing would have to end; exclusionary contracts would end; that Windows APIs would have to be disclosed; and that tying products to Window would also stop; Microsoft is now thought to be willing to break the tie between Windows 98 and Internet Explorer. If the DoJ has in fact agreed that it would not demand break-up, it can be assumed that rigorous controls to end the abuse of Microsoft's monopoly will be required. This is characterised as a conduct, rather than a structural, remedy. It is known that Judge Jackson is ready to issue his findings of law on Tuesday, and if he follows what he did in the case of the findings of fact, it would be after the stock exchange closes. It seems that Judge Jackson said this to lawyers from both sides on Tuesday when he held a private conference with them in Washington. Reports suggest that the judge would delay issuing his findings if both sides came to him and said they were near an agreement. The details are likely to take some time to work out - probably in the order of two weeks - since the DoJ will not wish to be caught in the same way as it was in 1994. No lawyers from either side have been seen travelling to Chicago to meet with Judge Posner, the mediator. Nor is it known at the moment whether the lawyers were planning to work at the weekend, but it would be surprising if this were not the case. Some reports suggest separate meetings would be held with Judge Posner this weekend, while other reports say there will be joint meetings. But no weekend talks had been scheduled by mid-afternoon Friday. No loopholes, this time? A detailed proposal from Microsoft was believed to have been sent to the DoJ on Friday. The most important details that do not yet appear to have been considered concern provisions for monitoring and accountability - something woefully absent from the 1994 consent decree, which was finally signed by Judge Jackson at the instruction of the court of appeals in 1995. When the previous consent decree was negotiated, there was considerable time pressure imposed by the then antitrust chief Ann Bingaman, which made it possible for Microsoft to slip in the ambiguity as to whether Microsoft had the right to produce "integrated products". This resulted indirectly in the current case, after the DoJ had filed suit to ask the court to stop Microsoft's alleged contempt of court for not following the terms of the consent decree. Judge Jackson agreed and issued a preliminary injunction, but he was reversed by the court of appeals in what many see as a flawed majority decision. In view of Microsoft's history in negotiating in something less than good faith, it is unlikely that Judge Jackson will allow negotiations to drag on for very long. Although the chances of settlement must now be more than 50 per cent, an agreement is far from certain. It does seem that Microsoft is concerned that the findings of law should not be issued, as this would give more strength to the many class action suits already filed. It has been reported that Microsoft has been in court in Salt Lake City arguing that documents from the Caldera settlement should not be available to the class-action lawyers. If agreement is reached, the next step would almost certainly be a consent decree. This would then have to be approved under the terms of the Tunney Act, which was introduced by Congress in an effort to stop sweet deals between the DoJ and antitrust miscreants. In the case of the previous consent decree, the Tunney Act proceeding was extended by Judge Stanley Sporkin following a last-minute intervention by the law firm of Wilson Sonsini, acting for a number of Microsoft's competitors. In the event, the court of appeals essentially ignored the Tunney Act and ruled against Judge Sporkin's opinion that the consent decree was inadequate. It is unlikely that the DoJ would be so meek this time, and if there's any attempt to ignore the Tunney Act, objections - of which there are likely to be very many indeed - would almost certainly cause the matter to end up in the supreme court. The court of appeals has shown itself to be partial to Microsoft in the past. The DoJ has the right to take the case directly to the supreme court if it desires. The way in which Microsoft's adherence to a consent decree would be monitored can only be guessed at, but it is likely that there would be a third-party involved, with a designated procedure to examine Microsoft's actions. Such a third party would also be able to receive complaints, examine them, and require disclosure of information by Microsoft under court rules. If Microsoft did not cooperate, it could find itself back in court facing a contempt motion that could result in its breakup. If a settlement is reached, it would be a judicial triumph for Judge Jackson and Judge Posner - always providing that the settlement works to break Microsoft's monopoly and restore competition to the industry. There is no possible monetary fine for Microsoft as a result of the present case, although the class-actions could result in a very large settlement after the cases are consolidated. Microsoft showed it did not welcome the almost certainly unpleasant outcome of the Caldera case, but it is a wily negotiator. The DoJ now has great responsibility for ensuring that this time it gets the right agreement. ®
Business 25 09:18
...if they can persuade the free software community to come up with the readies
A group of "concerned individuals" wants to save the soon-to-be-dismantled Iridium satellite by converting the system into an 'open source' network for public use. The group, operating under the name Save Our Sats (we'll ignore for the moment that the satellites aren't actually ours), wants open source supporters, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs to cough up donations, spend money on SoS merchandising, even sign up for a mooted SoS credit card - 'IridiumCard - never leave orbit without it' - in order to pay Iridium not to knock its satellites out of orbit. "Rather than watch Iridium receive a very large tax write off for destroying what could quite possibly be the greatest experiment in human engineering, we are working towards acquiring the Iridium Network through partnerships, merchandising and donations," says the SoS Web site. "This is a serious venture," it adds. "Your assistance is requested." Indeed it is. At this stage it's not known what the value of Iridium's satellite assets are, but it's likely to be significant. And that's before you take into account ancillary equipment like base stations. That said, Iridium's liquidators might well take almost anything for the network provided it's on a par with what Iridium might save through the aforementioned tax write off. It wouldn't surprise us if canny old Craig McCaw has figured this one out himself and may yet buy up Iridium's satellites without having to take over its debt too. Then there's the issue of how you open source a network. A publicly-owned network is another matter, and is, provided SoS can raise the phenomenal sums required, buy up the network, form a holding company to operate it and give donators shares in the holding company. But the use of the term 'open source' does seem either naive or used to tickle the interest of techies. Either way, it suggests that the offer might not be quite as "serious" as it suggests. For instance, when discussing the possible IridiumCard, the site says: "You sign up for a credit card at our website and the bank gives us like $25-$50 bucks. We already have a deal like that in place with the nice folks at Next Card." Indeed, they do - the site contains two NextCard ads. And even at, like, $50 bucks - hardly business-like language, this - a throw it's going to take a long time to build up sufficient funds to buy Iridium. Perhaps they could also try taking the five per cent Amazon.com commission offers for forwarded customers? It's not hard to imagine a bunch of guys sitting round and coming up with a scheme to mobilise the financial resources of the coding community to buy Iridium as a network all of their own. Indeed, we wish them luck - we just suspect their reach may not exceed their grasp on this one. And if it does, well, Steve Case will just shoot the satellites down... ® Related Stories ePublisher claims it can save Iridium, turn a profit So Farewell, Iridium, shot down in flames See Also Save Our Sats Web site
Business 25 15:24