21st > April > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Kizoom WAP site promises ‘joined-up travel’

The launch today of a personalised travel information service from UK-based Kizoom threatens to bring something that is actually useful to your WAP handset. Even more unusual is that it is up and running now and has been tested for all makes of phone and browser. Aimed at the traveller out and about, the service lets you interrogate rail timetables over the phone. And an incident alert service will be added in a month's time so that you'll be sent an SMS message telling you that the 14:15 to Bristol Temple Meads you just looked up is running an hour late. The service is currently limited to UK train information, but by the end of the year nationwide coach and local London bus services will have been added. Kizoom's ultimate goal is to bring you what it calls a "joined-up travel" international service whereby feeds from different modes of travel will be integrated and you will be able to buy tickets over the phone. The company plans to partner with an existing traffic information service for road information. Kizoom is aware of your location by virtue of the fact that you've bothered to enter it into the calendar along with personal place-markers such as 'home' or 'pub'. It will eventually take account of travel preferences (such as price). Automatic location detection will be added as mobile services mature. All of which means that you won't be using bad public transport as an excuse for being late again. ®
The Register breaking news

SGI loss widens beyond expectations

SGI saw its loss widen and sales fall during its third fiscal quarter, the troubled hardware vendor admitted yesterday. Revenues for the quarter totalled $563.7 million, down nine per cent on the figure of $619.2 million SGI recorded for the same period last year. Q3 2000 also saw SGI's loss reach $18.1 million. That's significantly better than the year-ago quarter's loss of $40 million, which shows at least that the company's recovery plan is making a difference. The trouble is, Wall Street expected that plan to have made more of an impact than it actually has. First Call's round up of analysts' earnings estimates put SGI's loss a seven cents a share - yesterday's announcement saw the loss hit ten cents a share. SGI CEO Bob Bishop blamed the sales shortfall - and resulting increase in the company's loss - on the delayed introduction of MIPS' 400MHz R12000 processor. The fact that SGI has managed to more than halve its losses over the last 12 months does, however, offer cause for optimism. SGI has at last rid itself of its supercomputer operation, Cray (which brought a $21 million addition to the quarter's loss, though SGI expects it to eventually result in a $15 million gain), and the various sales and shutdowns since its summer 1999 reorganisation should, result in a leaner company better focused on the server market. ® Related Stories SGI finally sells off Cray SGI misses break-even by $1 million
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Metallica lets second uni off the hook after Napster ban

Indiana University yesterday followed the example of Yale to re-impose a ban on controversial 'seek, locate, download' MP3 music software Napster. Like Yale, Indiana's move was made in response to the legal action launched last week by metal band Metallica. On Wednesday, Metallica said it would remove Yale from its lawsuit, which primarily targets Napster itself but also named five US universities the band alleged were aiding and abetting Napster's encouragement of music piracy. Metallica said yesterday it would now drop Indiana from the suit, too. Like Yale, Indiana University denies any liability toward Metallica. "We now believe, however, that our faculty, staff and students could incur legal exposure if they use this technology. Until those unresolved legal issues are clarified, it seems prudent to block the site," said a university spokesman. In addition to Metallica's suit, Napster, the company behind the software of the same name, is defending itself against similar action taken by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). And rap performer Dr. Dre asked the company this week to remove any and all of his songs from the software's growing database of MP3 tracks. ® Related Stories Metallica drops Yale from anti-Napster suit Pro-Napster hackers hit Metallica Metallica sues Napster
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

UK government to investigate ‘thief’ IBM

Following an impassioned plea in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Patrick Nicolls, the DTI has launched an inquiry into alleged patent infringement by IBM and speech recognition company Dragon Systems. Nicolls championed the case of AllVoice, a Devon-based company which claims IBM pinched its technology while feigning interest in a licensing deal. The patented advances are currently used by IBM and Dragon Systems without any payment to AllVoice. AllVoice has lodged a complaint with the European Commission and started an infringement case in the US. Nicolls complained of the slow progress of the US case, taken out over a year ago, which has still gone no further than a preliminary hearing. Most initial hearings take only a few days. Trade minister Patricia Hewitt refused to be drawn on the exact details of the case but did say she had requested the DTI investigate whether the US was complying with international agreements on intellectual property. The voice recognition market is expected to explode in the future and is estimated to be worth over £2 billion a year already. Bill Gates has been quoted as saying it is the future of computing. Sadly, though, even with the government pressurising the US legal system, AllVoice must know it is on to a loser. If the case does get to court, compared to the might of IBM, AllVoice almost certainly can't afford to get to the end of it. It's not fair, we know, but if you pick a fight with the big boys, you're gonna get hurt. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 21 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Apple shareholders OK two-for-one stock split

Apple's shareholders yesterday sided with the company' board and approved its much-anticipated two-for-one stock-split. Such a split has been expected for some time, ever since Apple's share price, propelled by its consistent profit and revenue growth over the last year or so, and Wall Street's broader keenness on hi-tech stocks, shot past the $100 line last year. The number of Apple common shares will be increased from 320,000 to 900,000. Last month, AAPL shares have hit an all-time high of $150. However, the collapse of hi-tech stocks since then has seen it fall, though not as precipitously as many others. Yesterday, Apple's stock closed at $118.875 after trading peaked at $124.75, though that's broadly in line with Nasdaq as a whole. On Wednesday, Apple reported that its revenues rose 27 per cent to $1.94 billion from $1.53 billion, while profits hit $233 million. According to Reuters, those results prompted analysts to raise their expectations of Apple's future earnings and share-price. Bear Stearns analyst William Bean upped his pre-split 12-month target price range from $125-130 to $155-160. Banc America analyst Kurt King raised his 12-month price target from $145 to $150, and Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette analyst Kevin McCarthy raised his price target from $150 to $175. Bean increased his estimates for Apple's annual earnings ten cents to $3.60 per share in 2000 and $3.85 per share in 2001. Shareholders also approved the creation of two million new shares earmarked for Apple's senior executives. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Microsoft Q3 profits up ahead of Street expectations

Microsoft yesterday beat Wall Street expectations by two cents a share, thanks to a 23 per cent rise in third quarter profits. Net profits for the quarter reached $2.39 billion, up from $1.91 billion for the same period last year. Those figures translate into earnings of 43 cents a share and 35 cents a share, respectively. Mind you, just under a third of that - $885 million - came from the sale of Microsoft investments, hardly a core activity for a software company. Discount such padding and the company's profit comes to $1.505 billion, or 27 cents a share. Microsoft's investment portfolio stood at $21.3 billion at the end of the quarter - its cash reserves totalled $21.2 billion. Q3 2000 revenues totalled $5.66 billion, and increase of 23 per cent on the $4.6 billion Microsoft recorded for the year-ago quarter. That overall increase is significantly higher than the growth it saw in its OEM OS sales, which rose just 4.8 per cent to $1.67 billion. Standalone sales of Windows grew 14 per cent. Microsoft blames - even now - Y2K concerns and a slowdown in the business PC market, partially due to Intel's notorious Coppermine supply problems. The company doesn't appear to have mentioned the L-word, and while Microsoft's share of the OS market vastly outweighs Linux's share, it can't have failed to have some impact, albeit a small one. Microsoft was, however, pleased with its strength in the application business, highlighting Office as a major contributor to its overall revenue growth. That growth is expected to rise further next quarter, said CFO John Connors, but the earnings per share figure will only see a single-digit rise. According to Reuters, the consensus of Wall Street analysts is for 43 cents a share earnings in Q4, up from the 40 cents a share it recorded for Q4 1999. That quarter should see the impact of Windows 2000, which despite the sale of 1.5 million units, has yet to make much of a difference to Microsoft's bottom line, according to Connors. Wall Street reacted to Microsoft's announcement and Connors' caution by knocking $3.188 off the company's hard-hit share price, taking to $75.75 at close of play. The Street may have positive expectations of Microsoft's earnings for Q4, but it's going to be interesting whether it's a confident in the company when Judge Jackson's anti-trust sentence is announced next month. Earnings expectations may not be badly hit, but we'd be very surprised if the share price isn't in for a further beating. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel to adjust prices on 23 April, confirms Q3 availability

Boxed motherboards from Intel are hard to get, we know, but the ones system builders can get will be reduced in price from 23 April. That will go some way towards fighting smaller competitor AMD, which is to take an axe to its prices next Monday, as reported here earlier. Earlier this month, Intel told its system builders that it will reduce prices on "select" boxed Pentium IIIs, some boxed Celeron processors, and Pentium III Xeon chips sold through its authorised distributor channel. Yesterday, Cnet reported that because of supply problems, Intel would delay its 633MHz and 666MHz Celerons for two months. At the same time Intel told its system builders about the boxed processor price cuts, it also delivered a matrix for availability of the CPUs which must make depressing reading for dealers that have Intel-only customers. The PIII 1.0B-GHz, which will come in both SECC2 and FC-PGA (flip chip) packaging, will not arrive until Q3 this year. It will be validated for the i840, i820 and i810e chipset. There then follows a long list of other boxed microprocessors and general box availability is also listed for Q3. These include the PIII 1GHz (different from the PIII 1.0B GHz, apparently, but what is the difference?), the PIII 933, the PIII 866, the PIII 850, the PIII 800, the PIII 750, the PIII 733 -- oh, the list goes on and on. The boxed Intel muvvaboards™ Intel supplies as of 10 April are the VC820, the CC820, the CA810E, the OR840, the SE440BX-2, the SR440BX, the RC440BX, the N440BX, the T440BX, and the L440GX+. Later, we will publish more details from the matrix we saw, as well as how some other interesting snippets. ® Related Stories AMD takes axe to Athlon prices Intel confirms major chip shortages Disaster hits Intel Coppermine supplies Intel CuMine supply problems a twisted, complex tale
Mike Magee, 21 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

NeoMagic quits notebook graphics market

Notebook PC graphics specialist NeoMagic is pulling out of the business that made its name, beaten off by the major 3D graphics chip companies. Instead, it's going to focus on wireless networking. NeoMagic has pretty much controlled the notebook graphics market for the last couple of years, but as market analysts cited in an Electronic Buyers' news (EBN) report point out, it's not exactly been known for its expertise in 3D. That has allowed the likes of ATI and, more recently, Nvidia and S3, to move in to the marketplace by offering powerful 3D acceleration with solid 2D performance into the bargain. ATI's Rage Mobility, for instance, has won some major design wins, and that chip, and has left NeoMagic with a diminishing share of the market. That said, according to Mercury Research, NeoMagic's products were the second most popular with notebook designers during Q4 1999, behind ATI and ahead of Trident. NeoMagic shipped some 2.1 million chips from its MagicMedia and MagicGraph families. But with weaker feature sets and performance than its rivals, as figures for this year emerge, NeoMagic's share will almost certainly fall considerably from Q4 1999's 29 per cent. "NeoMagic's 2D products were a runaway success," Mercury Research analyst Dean McCarron told EBN. "When it came time to transition to 3D products, however, it was late to market. And at the time it came to market, it was offering first-generation capabilities, when competitors were offering second- or third-generation capabilities." NeoMagic said it will honour existing supply contracts for MagicMedia 256 chips, but it will take on no further contracts so it's customers will have to look elsewhere. Wireless communications won't be neo-NeoMagic's only focus - it's also shifting toward MPEG-4 and Net-oriented system-on-a-chip products. All that suggests the company is really attempting to target the Net appliance market, but whether that's with real products or IP licences is difficult to say. NeoMagic isn't exactly moving into an empty market, and while set-top box technology is much in demand and the market has no clear leader, NeoMagic isn't in for an easy ride. Not least because the very companies that forced it out of the notebook graphics market, ATI in particular, are aggressively targeting this arena too. Still, NeoMagic will have more room for manoeuvre here, if only for the short to medium term. The consolidation that's taking place in the desktop 3D market - ATI buying ArtX, 3dfx buying Gigapixel, etc. - will soon take place in the notebook market; Trident and Silicon Motion are obvious acquisition targets. Indeed, NeoMagic's exit suggests it already has. And it's hard to imagine similar moves not being made in the set-top device space. Incidentally, it's not yet clear where NeoMagic's move leaves its patent infringement case against Trident. ® Related Stories Via buys S3 chip biz for $323m-plus 3DLabs buys Intense 3D as ATI, Nvidia breathe down neck 3dfx to grab Gigapixel for $186m NeoMagic sues Trident
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2000