25th > April > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

US State Department shakeup over missing laptop

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ordered the Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security (note name) to assume responsibility for Department, em, security, from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research after reporting last week that a laptop computer containing sensitive information had gone missing from Department Headquarters in Washington three months ago. Albright characterised the incident as "intolerable". "Like several other recent lapses in security, this is inexcusable and intolerable," the Secretary said during a Monday press conference. "Such failures put our nation's secrets at risk." This is only the most recent in a series of Department security follies. Late last year, FBI agents observed a Russian spy seated in the courtyard outside Department Headquarters listening to conversations in a conference room via a bugging device. In 1998, an unknown man calmly strolled into the Executive Secretary's office and calmly strolled out with a ream of classified documents. And we don't even want to think about the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. "We're talking about extremely sensitive information here," State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters Monday. "The Department, in consultation with other agencies, is now engaged in an analysis of the implications of this potential loss." "Potential loss"? Two Department scapegoats have been temporarily transferred to "other duties" while the incident is under investigation, Rubin indicated. The Department still doesn't know whether the machine was stolen or misplaced. "The conclusion....that we have drawn is that the loss of this laptop is intolerable, even if it turns out to be just missing," Rubin said, echoing his boss's words. Albright plans to hold a Department conference on 3 May to discuss security issues. She said she will ask Congress to establish the new position of Undersecretary of State for security. Not surprisingly, Congress has decided to hold hearings to harangue State Department officials on security matters next month. Perhaps someone there will have the sense to point out that any information which doesn't absolutely need to be on a laptop absolutely shouldn't be on a laptop.... "Given the extreme nature of this information....obviously an intensive effort is being made to try to determine what happened," Rubin noted. Let's hope he comes up with a few answers before his boss's date with Congress, and, for her sake, that they won't require 'additional funds'. ® Related Coverage FBI admits loss of 'top secret' laptop Sneak thief steals state secrets in MI5 laptop Second spy loses laptop Third secret-packed official notebook nicked
The Register breaking news

Corel warns of cash-flow crises if Inprise merger fails

Corel admits it could run out of cash within 90 days. The company told the Canadian Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday that unless its planned merger with Inprise/Borland goes ahead, its financial results fail to improve or other sources of finance are not secured, "a cash deficiency may occur within the next three months". Corel's statement isn't likely to encourage investors, and with a major boost to its revenue not too probable either - Corel has already warned shareholders that it will post a loss this quarter, having done so last time, too - the company is clearly pinning its hopes on the Inprise merger going ahead. However, the key word in Corel's statement is 'may' - not, you'll note, 'will'. The company has set up a scenario - the Inprise merger is called off - and highlighted a possible outcome, but as the company' cautious language suggests, it's not the only possible outcome. That suggests there's some spin going on here. Cash-flow crises are not normally events companies want to discuss, but Corel seems to have been remarkably open about it. The problem for Corel is that a vociferous number of Inprise shareholders are radically opposed to the merger. Since the deal was announced - and largely thanks to Corel's poor financial performance - the value of Corel stock Inprise shareholders will get if the merger goes ahead have fallen dramatically. The merger was to have been worth around $1.1 billion, but now its less than half that figure. Inprise shareholders want the merger terms renegotiated. Corel isn't keen to do so. Corel stands to win not only Inprise's product line but a $197 million pot of cash if the merger goes ahead, and with its current financial committments - which include $5.19 million in payments to shareholders who sued the company over a previous share price fall back in 1997 - it certainly needs the money. Six months ago, the company was winning sales of $71.3 million, since then its sales have fallen 38 per cent to $44.1 million, and there's no real sign of a turnaround, not least since its key Linux products can be downloaded for nothing. Shareholders will vote on the merger this summer, assuming it gets that far. Last week, a former Inprise director and major shareholder asked a US court to block it. Of course, if the merger fails to complete, Corel could still come out a winner. The terms of agreement between the two companies allow for a $29.5 million penalty payment to Corel, if Inprise pulls out. That said, Corel will have to cough up $44.5 million if it terminates the agreement. ® Related Stories Inprise lawyers seek to block opposition to Corel merger Corel Q1 disappoints
The Register breaking news

Name Keeper names no IP names

"On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog," read the caption in the now-famous New Yorker cartoon depicting a dog sitting in front of a CRT. Closer to home and far more relevant is the fact that using dynamic IP address assignment - which guarantees that you’ll be assigned a different IP address each time you dial up your ISP - "on the Internet, nobody knows where you are." In a development that could be welcomed by Internet users who want to run their own webserver, chat server, or FTP site without paying for ISP hosting or for a domain name, longtime OpenVMS system software vendor Touch Technologies Inc. is now offering Name-Keeper, a free service that lets you choose your own hostname and establish a permanent presence on the Internet. We recently met TTI President Dan Esbensen to learn about the new service, how it works, and why anyone would be interested in using it. Name-Keeper resulted from TTI's work on IP-enabled web camera servers for security applications. In the process of developing IP-enabled "webcams," TTI discovered that each IP-addressed camera would have a constantly changing address. Despite the impermanent IP address, TTI required that each camera have a fixed host name in order that it could be accessed from the camera server. TTI accordingly figured out how to wed a fixed host name to a dynamic IP address. The firm has applied for US patents related to dynamic host name association using a web browser as the source of the association, and the use of this technology to direct traffic to a specific site. While the webcam app remains —for now, proprietary, the underlying dynamic host association capability is now freely available to Internet users. Thus far, Esbensen says, reception to the pilot project has been very positive. Using Name-Keeper, for example, you could build a Web page on a home PC, and dispense with online storage concerns altogether. For example, to serve content up to all and sundry, we would get on the Net, go to Name-Keeper, create a virtual domain name of our choice, and log in. As long as the connection was maintained, visitors aware of the virtual domain address could transparently access the content. The only constraint on SKC would be that we would have to revisit the Name-Keeper site every time we needed to re-establish contact with the Web. TTI maintains that it is offering this no-charge service to proliferate its technology and increase its market exposure. Significantly, the firm is not using Name-Keeper to acquire demographic info a la Double-Click. Initially, TTI looked at using an agent on end-user PCs, but opted instead for the more-benign browser approach. The only cookie Name-Keeper sets on a local PC is the selected domain name; this can be disabled but disabling will defeat the instant reconnect capability. ® Terry Shannon is editor of Compaq newsletter Shannon knows Compaq He can be contacted via email here.
The Register breaking news

Applix spins off ApplixWare Linux division

Loss-making Applix is to spin off its ApplixWare operation into a separate company to be called VistaSource. And it's opening - to a degree - the source code for its Linux-based office productivity software into the bargain. Applix's scheme here is to allow it to focus on its core e-business planning, customer management and help-desk applications. ApplixWare was always something of a minor adjunct to this much larger-scale operation, and spinning it off, along with a new name, should help it tackle the office suite market more effectively than it can as the bland Applix Linux Division. And since ApplixWare runs on other platforms than Linux, a new name is doubly necessary. According to VistaSource president Bernie Thompson, cited by CNet, Applix will pump $6 million into the spin-off, which will then have to go off and seek further finance itself. Thompson said it would IPO late 2000/early 2001. VistaSource's business model will focus more on Applix's AnyWhere technology than ApplixWare per se. AnyWhere allows ApplixWare modules to be served centrally, and that, it hopes, will allow it to tackle the emerging and, it hopes, highly lucrative Application Service Provider (ASP) market. It needs to. For the quarter ended 31 March, its first of fiscal 2000, Applix's Linux Division saw revenues fall from the $4.7 million it recorded in the same period last year to $3.1 million this time round. New business revenues for the division were $526,000 for quarter, an increase of 38 per cent over Q1 1999, showing that while it's winning customers few of the old ones are buying upgrades. On the other hand, Applix's e-business operation saw revenues grow 12.5 per cent from $8.2 million to $9.3 million. Overall, the company lost $797,000, compared to net income of $395,000 during the year-ago quarter. In these circumstances, you can see why it wants to get rid of ApplixWare and focus on the sector that's bringing the most money into the company. But can VistaSource turn itself around? By focusing on the Linux market, it's entering an arena where users expect - and usually get - software that's free. And this could be a problem. VistaSource hasn't quite gone down the open source route - it's still charging for ApplixWare, but at least buyers can now examine the source code, and it's released its SHELF rapid application development system under a limited version of the GPL. But that still leaves it competing with Sun's free StarOffice and the upcoming KDE Office. Hence the focus on ASPs. ®
The Register breaking news

Microsoft kicks Compaq's Alpha in teeth

Microsoft is advising corporate IT buyers that choosing the Alpha microprocessor as a future platform is a risky business. But, at the same time, some elements of Microsoft also appear to be blissfully unaware that Compaq kicked it in the teeth last year when it said that it would no longer support NT or Windows 2000 on the fast Alpha microprocessor. At a Microsoft Web page for IT managers considering which microprocessor should be adopted to support Windows 2000, the firm, quoting a book by Sean Deuby about Windows 2000 server, says that the MIPs platform and the PowerPC platform were the victim of market forces. The document claims that only leaves x86 chips and Alpha chips as platforms for NT and its variants. It advises: "The commercial point to consider when choosing a server architecture is Alpha's uncertain future. Since the merger of Compaq and Digital, strategic support of the Alpha hasn't been a sure thing by any means. Compaq has begun marketing Alpha machines under the Compaq brand, but a small market share translates into a smaller number of software vendors with applications that are Alpha-compatible and, more importantly, peripherals that have Alpha drivers beyond what's in the base OS media distributed by Microsoft." Last year, as exclusively revealed here, Compaq took the decision to dump both NT and Win64 for the Alpha platform, but the jury is still out as to the degree of the firm's commitment to the alternative microprocessor, given the conflicting messages it has expressed to the world. There does, indeed, appear to be something of a continuing tussle within Compaq over the Alpha platform, despite the fact that its Wildfire clustering platform is out next month. According to a recent edition of Shannon knows Compaq, the firm has failed to clock as high as was anticipated. Editor Terry Shannon said: "During a 12-month period that saw Alpha clock speeds increase by approximately 100 MHz, IA-32 speeds increased by around 400 MHz, or four times as much as Alpha." Shannon also points out that higher Alpha processor speeds from API, which were to have appeared by now, have still failed to make an appearance. Samsung, he claims, is concentrating on bringing CMOS 8-based EV68 Alpha parts to market, and that these will become available at 833MHz initially. Systems won't be available until much later this year. And 1GHz IBM Alphas using copper interconnects will not see the light of day until the middle of 2001, according to Shannon. We reported that until late last year, Microsoft was continuing to make builds of Win2000 for the Alpha platform internally, possibly as an in-house exercise. So we can't help feeling that the Microsoft document, which you can find here is not as out of date as you might think, but could represent some bitterness in Redmond at Compaq's decision to stick with flavours of Unix and OpenVMS for the poor old Alpha. ® See also this long litany An Omega for Alpha Big Q terribly coy about Alpha Risc vendors have Rubicon to cross Compaq's Cappellas thinks W2k key to future growth NT for Alpha still a goer Alpha NT could rise from the dead Big Q claims Alpha trashes Itanium-Merced Compaq avoids IA-64 question in Alpha push The inside story on Alpha and NT 500 Alpha NT jobs to go at Compaq Compaq responds to Register Alpha stories
The Register breaking news

SEAT touts ‘dot cool’ cars

Spanish carmaker, SEAT, (pronounced say-at, not seet) is launching special editions of its Ibiza and Cordoba motors called "dot cool". The cars cost £7,995 and £8,995 respectively, according to Auto Express, although once you have bought the Net-liveried motor expect the price to plummet. At the very least the performance of the "dot cool" will be volatile. And even though the car costs an arm and a leg expect it to lose money hand over fist. Access speeds will probably decelerate appreciably at peak times. And don't be fooled by all the dot cool talk -- or is that torque? -- it's likely to be nothing but hype. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel cuts prices on CuMine processors

As anticipated, and as sure as eggs is eggs and and as yesterday was a choccie chomping Bank Holiday in the UK, Intel duly made some price adjustments on a number of its Pentium III, Pentium III Xeon and Celerons. The last time Intel made similar cuts was on 26 March. Intel, which described the moves as part of its typical pricing activities, reduced prices by between four and 38 per cent, depending on the platform. All the reductions are on .18 micron processors, apart for one item, the 500MHz .25 micron Celeron. All prices are for quantities of 1000. The Xeon first. The 866/256K fell by four per cent to $794; the 800MHz to $612 (12 per cent), and the 733MHz now costs $425, a 16 per cent drop. Intel's price for its 1GHz Coppermine remains at $990. Other Slot One Pentium III Coppermines fell as follows. The 866MHz CuMine dropped four per cent to $744; the 850MHz to $733 (four per cent); the 800MHz to $562 (13 per cent); the 750MHz to $455 (14 per cent); the 733MHz too $337 (26 per cent); the 700MHz to $316 (24 per cent); the 666MHz to $251 (26 per cent); the 650MHz to $241 (24 per cent) and the 600MHz to $194 (20 per cent). Celeron price drops were as follows. The 600MHz fell to $138 (24 per cent); the 566MHz fell to $103 (38 per cent); the 533MHz to $93 (27 per cent) and the 500MHz .25 micron Celeron to $73, a drop of 22 per cent. Intel also revved up its mobile notebook line yesterday by introducing a SpeedStep 700MHz notebook chip, and a 550MHz Celeron notebook CPU, both of which, it said, are available in volume. These are $562 and $170 respectively, when bought in OEM quantities. Meanwhile, a UK PC manufacturer confirmed a dearth of Athlon microprocessors, as reported here, but said that quantities above 800MHz were still available in quantity. ® See Also Intel to adjust prices on 23 April, confirms Q3 availability
The Register breaking news

Transmeta targets Intel's mobile underbelly

While folk in Blighty were noshing away at their choccie Easter eggs yesterday, start-up Transmeta was busy announcing support for its range of x86 mobile processors to the tune of a $73 million investment from some heavyweight PC names. Transmeta also got additional dosh from some world class financial investors to the tune of $15 million, including the Deutsche Bank and Soros Fund Management, it said in a statement. The firm has received money from Compaq, Gateway, Sony, Samsung, AOL and Phoenix, it announced. Taiwanese firms Quanta, Compal and FIC also announced investments, and although these last three may not be household names, they are significant wins. All three have massive OEM deals with a number of the big names in computing, including Dell and IBM as well as some of the usual suspects mentioned in the previous paragraph. The firm's Crusoe microprocessors offer low power capabilities along with x86 capability, and the announcement is significant because of the virtual stranglehold Intel has held on the top end of the notebook chip market. Notebook PCs, far from being a commodity, like run-of-the-mill x86-based desktops, typically attract a high cost and Intel's margins on the processors are also typically robust. In some respects, that has allowed Intel to subsidise less profitable microprocessors, such as its cut-down Celeron microprocessor. Although AMD has made inroads into Intel's notebook market share, so far this has been very much at the retail end of the market, with large corporate buyers still going for the high-end x86 option. The arrival of major US PC firms, as well as major Taiwanese players, may well herald a sea-change in the existing market. And the fact that AOL has put its money into Transmeta suggests a more far reaching strategy than the world had previously suspected. That is likely to further concern senior management at Intel's HQ in Santa Clara. ®
The Register breaking news

ATI launches Radeon

ATI yesterday unveiled its newest graphics accelerator, formerly called Rage 6 but dubbed, as we predicted, the Radeon 256 - which sounds more like a washing powder than an Nvidia or 3dfx killer. But there you go. Washes pixels whiter, anyone? The spec is impressive. ATI has already announced the Radeon's Charisma Engine transform, lighting and 3D model animation system and its Pixel Tapestry Architecture rendering engine. and last week it 'leaked' to Reuters the new chip's basics: 0.18 micron interconnect technology, 30 million transistors on the die. 30 million is also the number of triangles ATI claims Charisma Engine can handle every second, twice that of Nvidia's GeForce 256. Pixel Tapestry can process three 32-bit textures simultaneously. It also provides hardware 3D shadowing, DirectX bump-mapping and pixel shading support, spherical dual-paraboloid and cubic environment mapping, and what ATI calls "comprehensive support for full scene, order-independent anti-aliasing". To that we can now add ATI's promise of 1.5 billion texels per second rendering, support for up to 128MB of double data-rate RAM - using ATI's HyperZ (the company seems very keen on silly names for technologies, all of a sudden) bus technology, which, it's claimed, improves memory performance by 20 per cent - and on-chip Video Immersion digital TV decoder, motion compensation, IDCT and MPEG decoding. Finally, the chip supports dual-processor operation, so we can expect to see a Radeon 256 MAXX board in the very near future. When exactly remains open to question. ATI chairman K Y Ho told Reuters last week that products based on the Radeon 256 will ship this summer - a broad schedule if there are ever was one. This is likely to put it behind both Nvidia's GeForce 2 and 3dfx's VSA100-based Voodoo 4 and 5 boards. Not that it matters too much to ATI, which will be looking to expand its OEM sales through the new chip, and these are less time-to-market sensitive than retail sales. Unless, of course, Nvidia can pull something much, much better out the hat with GeForce 2, the successor to last autumn's GeForce 256, due to be unveiled tonight. Nvidia's head-start on transform and lighting technology should allow it to come up with something comparable to ATI's Charisma Engine, if not better. We shall see. ATI said it will ship Radeon 256 drivers for Windows, MacOS and Linux, via DirectX and OpenGL. The drivers will be optimised for Intel's Screaming Sindy Extensions and AMD's 3D Now, but no mention was made of the PowerPC 7400 (aka G4)'s AltiVec engine. ® Related Stories ATI Rage 6 info 'leaked' ATI to unveil Rage 6 on 24 April ATI records 136 per cent profit hike
The Register breaking news

£22bn 3G mobile auction put on hold

The mega auction for the right to operate the UK's third generation mobile phone network - which has so far raised £22 billion for the UK Treasury - has hit a technical snag. On the weekend when millions of UK phone users were dazed and confused by the third set of major area code changes since 1995, the phone lines to the auction nerve centre at the Radiocommunications Agency went down. Bidders were notified by mobile phone that the auction, which ends when one of the remaining six bidders drops out, was halted pending repairs. ®
The Register breaking news

Employees wear the cyberslacks

Two-thirds of employees in the US are cyberslackers using the Internet for their own personal interests instead of work. Not only is this a waste of time, money and resource, it is also responsible for using up precious bandwidth at work and is a massive drain financially on employers. That's the conclusion of a study by US e-outfit, Greenfield Online, Inc, which interviewed a 1,000 people about their cyberslacking habits. It found:
The Register breaking news

USB-based micro Flash drive to ship 20 May

Japanese peripherals company Shin-Nichi Electronics (SNE) will ship an unusual take on Sony's Memory Stick solid-state floppy concept next month with a Stick-sized Flash card that plugs into any USB port. SNE's ThumbDrive isn't based on Memory Stick per se, but the influence clearly shows. Memory Stick is a slim, almost flat unit, whereas ThumbDrive as fatter, to accommodate the USB connector, which makes it more widely applicable than Sony's product, which uses its own, proprietary connector. The use USB here is rather canny, since it allows almost all modern PCs to use them, with drivers loading automatically through Plug'n'Play, along with any USB-equipped peripheral - just slide one into the side of your keyboard, for instance. Up to four ThumbDrives can be used simultaneously, using a standard USB hub. Each ThumbDrive can be write-protected and, in a nod towards the digital music market, encryption and other security features will be added later, SNE says. ThumbDrive will ship on 20 May in 16, 32, 64 and 128MB versions, and will be available direct from SNE's Web site. Pricing will be Y5980 ($57), Y9980 ($95), Y16,800 ($159) and Y32,800 ($310), respectively. That's not cheap, but expect prices to fall as SNE ramps up sales. Expect higher capacities too - SNE said it is preparing 256MB and 512MB ThumbDrives for release later this year, and a 1GB drive in 2001. SNE said ThumbDrive will only support Windows 98 at launch, but promised MacOS drivers around July. PalmOS and Linux software is set to ship later this year and early next, respectively. ®
The Register breaking news

HP eventually wakes up to Win2K

When Windows 2000 was launched back in February, a common complaint was a shortage of drivers, video cards in particular being badly served. The latest - and we're really talking late here - group of users to be hit are those using one of HP's popular OfficeJet printer/fax/scanner devices, who were originally promised that a Win2K driver for the OfficeJet 500, 600, 700 and T series would ship this month. Now the aptly named Customer Self-Service Centre is advising June as the earliest a full set of drivers will be available. In the meantime, a beta print-only driver is available, which, while functional, does not offer any of the friendly menu driven controls for such vital tasks as aligning and cleaning print cartridges or receiving faxes into the PC. And that user-friendliness must surely be one of the key reasons home and small office users bought the thing in the first place. Was HP unaware that a major new operating system was about to be launched? When did the company start working on the new drivers? How long should it take to write and test them? What planet was HP on for the last two years so that it didn't see any of the hype surrounding Win2Ks imminent arrival? "We are making every effort to expedite the release of the OfficeJet Windows 2000 software," bleats the HP website. Of course you are, chaps. But OfficeJet users should at least be grateful - if Win2K had shipped on time, they'd have had to wait 18 months for drivers, rather than a mere six. ® Related story HP punters shout online over missing W2K driver
The Register breaking news

Earth, Wind, Fire and Water hurled into laptop designs

What is it about the IT industry that attracts more crazies than an explosion in a sex toy factory? Linux geeks choose their favourite operating system partly because they like fiddling with it, but mainly because it isn't made by the Company Which Must Not Be Named. Mac users are just plain mad and the less said about WAP phone users, the better. And talking of oddball ideas... Toshiba launched a new notebook last week (hold the front page! - Ed) which features water cooling - a technology previously reserved for monstro mainframes. The Portege 3440CT incorporates a "super cooling heat pipe" which attaches directly to the processor and uses low-pressure water vapour to displace heat through the magnesium chassis of the computer. If our experience with water cooled mainframes is anything to go by, the question remains over where the bucket to catch the drips should be placed. And what better accessory for the new age laptop owner than solar power? No more sleepless nights worrying that your notebook is being charged using electricity from a nuclear power station. Just a few workless hours while you wait for the sun to come out "The Sun Catcher Pro has been brought to market to fulfil a need for a way to run or recharge battery operated devices while in the field, at the beach, at a weekend retreat, or in the Outback - anyplace where your access to power is limited," says the sales blub for the $395 device a href="http://www.powerexperts.com">here. Notice the telling word 'Outback'? Solar power may indeed be viable in sunnier climes, but Manchester is a different ball game entirely. Perhaps with a bit of cross fertilisation, the two concepts could be combined to produce a hydro-electric powered notebook suitable for more temperate regions. Almost a year ago, The Register ran a story about a combined clockwork/solar powered laptop- charging device with a target price of $50 being developed for Apple by Freeplay (of clockwork radio fame) and General Electric. A search of the Web today found no mention of it. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel: Willamette already sampling

Intel has already started sampling Willamette, its next generation IA-32 microprocessor, according to Intel senior VP Pat Gelsinger, as quoted by Nikkei Business Wire. Gelsinger also said that Intel will continue to up the frequency of Coppermine Pentium IIIs beyond the 1GHz it has already achieved, the Asian news service reports. Although Gelsinger would not give an exact date for volume production of the Willamette, according to Nikkei it could be between July or December. Those dates seem unnecessarily vague, if the chip is already sampling. Gelsinger, tipped by some to eventually head Intel, also said that it will take between three and eight quarters for the Willamette to begin to supplant the Pentium III family, the same reports added. If the reports are true, it suggests that Intel is on full steam ahead with the Willamette platform, probably in an attempt to cut AMD with its Athlon processor off at the gulch. Sources close to Intel confirmed that some Willamettes are indeed sampling, but so far only to development OEM accounts and to selected ISVs. Wider sampling has not yet commenced. If Intel is ahead of target on Willamette, which will start clocking at 1.4GHz, it is likely to be good news for Rambus. According to Intel, Rambus and Willamette go together like love and marriage. Others beg to differ on this. Gelsinger also said Intel is on target to intro its faster Celeron processors in Q2, despite reports in the US press last week. ® See also Willamette chip cores run at 3GHz Willamette won't launch at 1.5GHz this autumn Intel demos 1.5GHz Willamette Yu rips open Willamette kimono
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WAP is easy – but gadget geeks only need apply

These people know how to write a press release - make it short, make it punchy, and get your news point established in the first par. Even if it is trivial. In recognition of this fine piece of opportunism, we are publishing this in full, with a couple of minor changes, for style. PR companies take note...
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InterX confirms Ideal Hardware sale

California IT distributor Bell Microproducts has confirmed it is to buy InterX subsidiary Ideal Hardware. Bell Microproducts has signed a letter of intent to acquire the Surrey-based distributor, it said today. No price tag was put on the deal, which will mark Bell Micro's first step into the European storage market and give Ideal a listing on NASDAQ. Ideal recorded sales up 39 per cent at around $500 million for the year ending July 1999. InterX, which in November announced plans to spin off Ideal to develop its Internet business, has been rumoured to be in talks with the US giant for several weeks. "Ideal and Bell Micro are closely aligned in strategies and operating style," said Don Bell, Bell Micro president and CEO. "Bell Micro's own value-add initiatives are in perfect harmony with Ideal's strategy. Together, we will bring to the European market a unique and comprehensive offering in the fast growing storage industry," said Henri Richard, freshly appointed president of Bell Micro Computer Products group. Bell Micro recorded sales of $366.3 million and pre-tax profit of $3.2 million for its first quarter ended March 31 2000. This compared to $219.6 million and $1.9 million for the same period the previous year. ® Related stories InterX inches closes to Ideal Hardware sale InterX distie arm still up for sale Channel Flannel extra Ideal to split from parent group