2nd > June > 2000 Archive

MS trial: no hanging yet, but Reno says Gates is robber baron

Just when influential analysts start saying everything's going quiet in the Microsoft trial, US attorney general Janet Reno describes Bill Gates as a "robber baron." Frankly, there's no alternative explanation to what she said, and the chances of the focus shifting off Microsoft as the trial moves into the appeals phase have decreased some more. And it's worse than that. Today Judge Jackson told the government to come up with a response to the response Microsoft filed yesterday, and Microsoft to come up with a response to the response to the response. The government files Monday, Microsoft Wednesday, so their ain't gonna be a hanging this week. One begins to suspect Judge Jackson has identified the soap cliffhanger possibilities of the case. Or that he has a fishing trip this weekend. The Reno matter on the other hand is more decisively silly season. At her weekly press conference she was asked why the DoJ buys shedloads of Windows computers when it could be encouraging competition by buying alternative gear. Obviously a quiet week as far as justice is concerned, so some reporter decided to bowl a googly and see if she'd come up with a screamer of a sound-bite. Result. Obviously she was able to reinforce the DoJ's case against Microsoft by describing it as the only game in town, so the DoJ is forced to buy Windows - that's what the DoJ says is the case for everybody, right? But then she waxed lyrical: "America was not made the industrial giant of the world by the robber barons alone. It was made the industrial giant of the world by competition, by encouraging new developments, by encouraging young entrepreneurs to break into the market. It's the best system I've seen so far." Don't you just want to burst into patriotic song, wiping that manly tear from the corner of your eye? ®
John Lettice, 02 Jun 2000

Boo.com – it lives!

Boo.com could soon be back in business after US e-tailer, fashionmall.com, bought the failed e-outfit for an undisclosed sum. Fashionmall.com intends to use boo.com to gain a foothold in the European marketplace. A notice on boo.com reads: "Fashionmall.com is very proud to announce our acquisition of boo.com. "We will be working diligently over the next few weeks to position Boo as the ultimate global fashion portal - to deliver all the great things you loved about Boo." Visitors are then catwalked to Fashionmall's site. Fashionmall.com's CE, Ben Narasin, told Reuters that the company had bought what was left of Boo.com lock, stock and barrel. That included the site, the boo brand, trademark - in fact, just about everything that was left after Bright Station coughed up 250,000 earlier this week for the technology assets of boo.com. Snag is, will it work? Can boo.com be refashioned to excite a new following? Who knows... but if flares, kipper ties and tank tops can make a comeback then I guess anything's possible. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 2000

We've found a good WAP idea!

We like Ed Dale and Pablo Campillos - director and European development bloke of mIQ respectively. Why? Because they have the same perspective of WAP as we do. Meeting up to discuss their sport-stats-on-WAP plan, the first few minutes was spent joyfully poking fun at the one million and one stupid ideas that have been spewed out in the name of WAP (fashion advice, coffee discounts etc etc and so on). Others things we agree upon: stay out of the consumer's face - provide a service and let the big boys sell it to average Joe; make some money - mIQ claims it's actually in the black (that means making more than you spend); don't make ill-informed comments about where an unpredictable market will go; work with companies rather than use them as excuses when your business plan goes down the toilet; don't lie. So what is it doing? mIQ set up a sports stats system in Australia five years ago to cover Aussie rules, football etc and now itsmoving it to wireless apps (your WAP, your Palm) for folk in the UK. The tag is that it'll be up and running for Euro 2000. How's it work? Four blokes sit and watch a match. For 30 a game, they call out and record everything that happens (by taping details into a homemade Palm application). This information is fed through a big ole database and a multitude of stats are pumped out the other end. Then either you and your WAP phone or an interested party (sport Web site, TV programme etc) picks up this info and gets all obsessive and figure-crazed. That's not it though - you can also click through to get current betting odds and have a flutter if you so wish. Talk me through it Okay, you register with mIQ either over the phone or through its Web site. You give them your credit card details if you plan to bet. They give you a pin number. Connect to their site (the PR has promised us the Euro 2000 address - we'll put it here when we get it). Select the sport. Select the match. Then you can select team stats or player stats (completed passes, possession, that sort of thing). If you want to bet, click the bet button. Enter amount, get told what you stand to gain/lose, click again, receive email with details on. Why not put bets on your phone bill, cutting out the credit card thing? The network operators don't want it (at the mo anyway). Not a problem if they change their mind, say the boys. You say they're making money? How? Content provision of course. Nice little addition to a site is a stats screen. Also advertising, sponsorship, charging for SMS tips on matches. There's even a decent idea for the positioning-based commerce stuff everyone is going on about. If you're standing at Trent Bridge, they'll know and so a shortcut to the game going on can be put right at the front of the menu. Nice. Anything else? Yeah - the system still has teething troubles. Ed's mobile would keep crashing at a certain point. Could be mIQ's gateway, could not. Also, while the Aussies and Yanks are stat crazy, is the same true for Britain? Probably - sports fans are sports fans. We can see when they cover the Premiership next year. We also like the poor-quality, cheesy PR photos of Ed and Pablo. Low in colour and resolution, high in genuine grins. And those other crappy WAP ideas you promised? Actually, only one, but it's a corker. Nokia plans to bring interactive games to WAP phones. Adventure games, quizzes, chess - all available on a tiny, rubbish screen for the cost of a phone call. That's right, you will "reach new levels of excitement", you will "be able to enjoy the thrilling, interactive entertainment of globally networked gaming wherever you are". Balls. You'll play a tedious game of Tetris and it'll cost you a fiver. Back to the drawing board. Other WAP-based announcements: CMP Media has launched a new mobile commerce expo in New York. It'll be in October and then next June and gives more idiots the chance to sell their daft ideas. They've been beaten to it though by an "l-commerce" (we thought it was "p-commerce") conference held last week in Washington. It was held in the Watergate Hotel. Nuff said. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Jun 2000

Compaq drives WAP deals with handheld subsidies

Compaq is clawing its way into the PDA market on the back of WAP. The company has stitched together cut-price hardware deals with mobile operators in Germany, and now looks set to roll out subsidised WAP/Compaq hardware bundles with operators in other European countries. Hewlett-Packard is ready to follow suit in the subsidised handheld game: HP in Germany confirmed to The Register that it is planning on bundling the Jornada 680 and 540 series along with products from Deutsche Telekom's T-Online and T-Mobile divisions. HP was unable to confirm if this will establish a trend for the rest of Europe. Mobile operators in Germany, such as e-Plus (four million subscribers) and D2 (ten million subscribers) were the first in Europe to negotiate with Compaq subsidies for handheld or Pocket PCs to drive the use of WAP services. The Register has discovered that Compaq is now negotiating similar deals with major mobile telephone operators in Norway and other European countries. "Compaq co-operated early with telecommunications network operators because it's important to us to build on a unique position we have with them. Eight out of ten telecoms operators in Europe are using a Compaq solution for customer billing and management," says Gerhot Radl, Compaq's Business Development Manager for Handhelds in Mnich. Euro subsidies The German subsidies reduce the cost of a bundled service and hardware package from DM GBP 477 to 318. A bundle includes a Siemens mobile phone that acts as the data modem, the Compaq Aero, a credit for air time, and a few software drivers. It is a clunky solution for mobile data, as it requires the user to connect the mobile phone to the handheld via a cable. A user needs to carry two devices. However, for usability and screen size, it may be superior to the current Psion/Ericsson or the Nokia 7110 solutions for accessing WAP services. Computer magazine Chip, evaluated all three solutions earlier this year, and gave the Compaq/Siemens solution highest marks. New bundles being developed will be based on Compaq newest handheld, the iPaq H3650 (which is not shipping yet - UK will get it first in mid-June, Germany and France in July). It is a handheld whose functionality can be extended by sliding it into an sleeve that acts as an expansion slot. There are two jackets announced now, one with a PC Card slot and one with Flash Card slot that supports Ethernet and Bluetooth cards. Compaq calls the sleeve a "jacket". Users can plug one of the new GSM modem PC Cards into the PC Card jacket, such as Option's FirstFone. It's one of those ones with the little aerial sticking out of it. Nokia also offers one of these GSM modem PC Cards, called the *CardPhone 2.0 but it is not shipping yet. Radl says Compaq is "working on the Nokia CardPhone compatibility issues with the iPaq". "These jackets are for early adopters of mobile data. Eventually, Bluetooth and GSM will be integrated in handhelds," says Radl. This idea of snapping on or slipping into accessories is a growing trend. Ericsson is doing it with accessories for mobile phones and Handspring with Palm devices in the US. Unusual Compaq's move is a bit of a surprise to market analysts. "Frankly, this is not the usual way the industry works. Subsidies are usually applied to products that have become a commodity," says IDC Research Analyst, Catherine Pennigton, who tracks the handheld market. Maybe the mobile operators realise that they will have to give subscribers a better solution for viewing WAP pages than the small screen phone. Or maybe mobile operators have realised they have a pretty lacklustre track record in marketing wireless data and mobile Internet services. That is where the computer vendors come in. "The mobile operators don't know much about data but we do," says Radl. "Compaq wants to deliver product from end-to-end to the mobile data market," says Radl. With the handheld, Compaq will have a foot (or hand-held, so to speak) in the door for the more lucrative back-end infrastructure, servers, and software, which is a market that it clearly wants. Even without the bonus of being able to sell more servers and systems, for the likes of HP and Compaq, the mobile data terminal market represents a huge opportunity, for Palm, Symbian, and Psion too. Analysts say that Notebook PCs are expected to dominate the wireless data market initially, but that handheld will also get a chunk of the market. Recent forecasts by Ovum show the value of cellular handheld terminals growing from GBP 254 million in 1999 to GBP 10 billion in 2004. According to Nokia, CardPhone supports up to 43.2 kbps. It is the only device right now that can be used to access the faster-than-GPRS-and-current GSM-but -much-more-expensive mobile service, known as HSCSD, which is to be offered by Orange in the UK later this summer and is already on offer in Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden. The HSCSD speeds available depend on how the network operator deploys the service. Since the speed depends on bundling more than one channels, if the throughput is twice or four times 14.4 then you will likely pay twice or four times as much, unless operators get creative about billing for HSCSD. Is your network operator known for creativity and encouraging network use? ®
Valerie Thompson, 02 Jun 2000

Thunderbirds are go!

The much-hyped AMD Thunderbird is to bare its teeth at Chipzilla at Computex next Monday. The souped-up Athlon will launch at 750MHz and feature 256KB of on-die cache, finally allowing Chimpzilla to compete on even terms with Intel's Coppermine Pentium IIIs. But the most significant change will be in manufacturing costs – without expensive off-die cache memory, Thunderbird will be considerably cheaper to make than Athlon in the same way that Coppermine slashed assembly costs for Satan Clara. Copper Thunderbirds will come from AMD's Dresden plant, while aluminium Thunderbirds will be produced in the US at its Austin fab. June looks set to be a busy month for AMD, with Thunderbird's baby brother, the Celeron-basher Duron, now slated for launch on 12 June. ®
Andrew Thomas, 02 Jun 2000

Compel urges shareholders to stay put

Computacenter has been labelled "opportunistic" by Compel after launching a hostile bid for the reseller. "The board of Compel regards Computacenter's current proposal as opportunistic and one which significantly undervalues the company," Compel said in a statement. "Consequently, the board of Compel advises shareholders to take no action with regard to their shareholding in Compel." From the message , it appears that Compel directors would not be too averse to the company being bought, more that the price is too cheap. Compel said it first received the 275p per share proposal from reseller giant Computacenter on May 22, but thought the offer was not high enough. The two met last Thursday, with Compel trying to persuade Computacenter it was worth more. But Computacenter refused to up its bid. "Consequently, discussions were terminated, although Compel made it clear that it was prepared to resume discussions if Computacenter increased its proposed offer significantly," Compel said. As for Specialist Computer Holdings camp, which bought 3.5 million shares in Compel two weeks ago, all was quiet. Directors were no doubt watching in glee as their investment closed up 55 pence at 267p yesterday, almost a third higher than they paid for them. ®
Linda Harrison, 02 Jun 2000

Click here for genuinely sexy geeks

That's right! It's not brand new or nuffin but it's the first we've heard of it - it's The Sexiest Geek Alive!. Here's the deal: You have to be a geek. You need to live in the States. Go to the site above and register yourself for the competition. There you will be thrown a few geek-type questions like who's the best Star Trek captain? What does PCMCIA stand for? What's an Osborne? Then: have you ever auctioned something on eBay? Have you ever turned off the phone and accepted only emails? And so on and so forth. Then say why you should be in the sexiest geek alive contest (unlimited words) and an esteemed board of judges will select a short list. If you're lucky, through to the big final you go to be voted on by your fellow geeks. If you win, the world is your oyster (well you may appear on Good Morning America and The Montel Williams Show - like this year's winner, Tony Northrup). What are you waiting for? You've only got 'til the first of next month to enter. Good luck! Check out the hall of fame here. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Jun 2000

Sony welcomes PlayStation 2 clones

Sony is planning to license its PlayStation 2 technology to third parties, if comments made by Ken Kutaragi, head of the company's video games division, are anything to go by. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kutaragi said: "The PlayStation 2 should be opened to the outside world. We hope that all of our partners will start thinking about using our technology." It's not hard to see what might have inspired the move: Sony's goal is to dominate the Net-connected home, and to a large extent that means beating Microsoft. The Beast of Redmond knows this, which is why it launched X-Box as a shot across Sony's bows. Sony's response is clearly to take a leaf from Palm's book and try to widen the PlayStation 2 platform's scope. As a PalmOS licensee itself, Sony can see clearly how it works. Instead of owning all of a small market, you license the technology to give you just a share of a much bigger market. 'PlayStation Ecomony' anyone? It's a canny plan that - if successful - generates not only revenue but critical mass, and could establish the PlayStation 2 as the de facto standard for Net appliances. To be honest, that's probably what it was always going to be, but both X-Box and Sony's apparent focus on the gaming aspect of the console - allowing Sega time to push Dreamcast as much as a Net access tool as a games machine - have obscured the issue. Sony's licensing plan could bring the console back into the information appliance fold, particularly if, like Palm, it seeks licensing partners more interested in taking the technology into new markets than taking on existing ones. Sony's timescale for licensing isn't clear, but it's unlikely to bear fruit until the company ramps up production of the PlayStation 2's Emotion Engine processor, a move it announced yesterday along with a Y125 billion investment plan. The fact that Sony has discussed the programme now suggests that it has already begun talking to possible partners and may even have signed licence contracts. Certainly Sony has been approached by third parties with regard to licensing PlayStation 2 - Kutaragi admitted as much himself. Sony's broader PlayStation 2 programme calls for the March 2001 - or thereabouts - availability of broadband Net connections and Internet-based media services to take advantage of them. Given the timing of the licensing announcement, that's probably also the proposed timeframe for the first clones, particularly if they're focused more on home Net access than gaming. ® Related Story Sony aims to quadruple PS2 output
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2000

Apple retail share rises

Apple appears to be moving back toward its former status as a 'top three' PC vendor, according to the latest sales figures from the US retail and mail order channels compiled by market research agency PC Data. However, the company's sales do appear to be slowing down, largely due to a tail-off of interest in the iMac, the very machine that has driven Apple's recovery over the past couple of years. According to PC Data's numbers, Apple's market share hit 9.6 per cent in April, putting it behind eMachines (13 per cent), Hewlett-Packard (32 per cent) and Compaq (34 per cent). That sounds great, but it's important not to get too optimistic here. For a start, the list misses some major names, most notably Dell, because PC Data doesn't count direct sales (which also means many of Apple's sales aren't counted too) or major corporate sales. Add in all these factors, and Apple's quickly falls back down the marketshare chart. Then there's that fact that Apple's sales volumes are way down on April 1999. According to PC Data, Apple's year-on-year growth is below the industry par. Whith the Power Mac, PowerBook and iBook lines continuing to sell well, that points to a big downturn in iMac sales which, given Apple's keen interest in the consumer sector as a motor for growth, is rather worrying. PC Data itself blames Apple's slowness in updating the iMac line, which was last refreshed in October 1999, eight months ago. Until now, Apple has managed to update the machine every six months - and even that's longer than the industry average of four months. Here in the UK, retail sources cited by MacWorld confirmed iMac sales appear to be "bottoming out" ®
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2000

Solano Mobo, more Macs, BX overview

Wouldn't you just know it? You wait ages for a decent Mac site to come along and then two arrive together. Joining MacSlash which we mentioned here yesterday, comes MacTechUK, an Apple site aimed at UK Macintosh users. If you are tired of Apple concentrating on the USA or generalising the UK as "Europe" then this is site is worth a peek. Our chums over at AnandTech have a pretty neat overview of Intel's venerable BX chipset and show you how to run a selection of BX mobos at 133MHz FSB – who need Rambus? And staying with mobos, BXBoards have what is almost certainly the worlds first review of a motherboard based on Intel's "Solano" i815 chipset, the Abit SE6. Solano supports DIMMs rather than RAMBUS, while still retaining the AGP 4x of Camino. Is this the chipset BX owners have been waiting for? We should have known better when we said this was the first i815 review - reader Jean-Christophe Dreyfus points us to an English language review on the excellent French site ActuMicro which appeared on 29 May. Meanwhile, at ArsTechnica, you should check out the review of the new 15,000 RPM Seagate Cheetah X15 hard disk – it's certainly fast. And Aces Hardware discovers what's happened to all those AMD K6-2 and 3 mobiles – they've all apparently gone into notebooks aimed at the Japanese market. ®
Andrew Thomas, 02 Jun 2000

Mirror claims credit for LibertySurf suspension

LibertySurf has suspended sales of its unmetered Net access software and canned its nation-wide ad campaign after the service was hit by major problems. Ever since it launched three weeks ago more and more customers have complained about the service. Their frustrations included difficulties signing up to the service, poor network performance and being unable to get any help. LibertySurf blamed the problems on "exceptionally high levels of demand", insisting the difficulties centred on demand for its free helpline service. In a statement issued yesterday, LibertySurf's Paul Myers, said: "We apologise unreservedly for the inconvenience and frustration this has caused to some of our customers." He blamed the problems fairly and squarely on the number of calls to the LibertySurf's technical support line and denied that the service suffered network problems. "The service has not degraded," he said. "We've got bundles of capacity... in fact, we're only using half of our IP capacity." In a bid to ease the problems LibertySurf has increased the number of staff on its technical support line and has removed its CDs from Comet and MVC, although these should be back on sale again within the next couple of weeks. Existing customers will receive an extra free month's subscription as compensation and if anyone really disenchanted with the service can bail out with a full refund. Mirror hack Matt Kelly is taking credit for the LibertySurf climbdown. He's devoted his whole column today to the sorry saga topped with the headline: "WE SINK LIBERTYSURF." Kelly told The Register: "It was our column that drove this issue completely," he said after printing a string of LibertySurf horror stories. "We were the only ones mentioning it... a lone voice in the wilderness," he said. A LibertySurf spokeswoman said The Mirror's campaign had no influence on LibertySurf's decision to suspend its the service." ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 2000

ICANN world whip-round comes a cropper

Internet body ICANN is having trouble persuading nations to cough up for this year's budget. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers aims to collect around $1.5 million from 250 countries by 30 June - the end of its financial year. Failure to do so may jeopardise its self-sufficiency – crucial to its proposed take-over of world Web decisions from the US government. South Africa is ICANN's biggest headache – the country has indicated it might not pay its Internet tax, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. New Zealand was also said to be moaning about its invoice. Charges are worked out according to how many registered Web sites each country has – ranging from $500 (Zimbabwe) to $500,000 (Germany). But it is claimed some poorer nations can't afford even the cheapest charges, and as ICANN has no teeth, it will be unable to force payment. "It is highly unlikely that payment will be made," Mike Lawrie, who helps run South Africa's "za" domain, told the WSJ. An unhappy Lawrie emailed Michael Roberts, ICANN CEO, saying South Africa couldn't afford to pay its $17,520 bill because it didn't charge users to register URLs. He also disputed there was any "clearly defined benefit" to paying, claiming the bill amounted to an "arbitrary tax". The $1.5 million fund was intended to make up 35 per cent of ICANN's $4.3 million budget – the rest comes from private companies that have registered domains ending in .com, .net or .org. "We need to get money," admitted Roberts, who warned that countries' failure to support the group could stop the US government loosening its control on the Web. ®
Linda Harrison, 02 Jun 2000

Lastminute flies high with Expedia UK

07 June 2000 Logistics company Christian Salvesen is looking to roll out its SHARPnet service which will let customers track consignment movements online. The food distribution company has also set aside 100 million for a three-year acquisition plan, which will target companies in France, Italy and the Benelux countries. Four technology companies pulled into the FTSE100 index three months ago (when dotcom floats were big news) have been booted out due to the recent drop in tech share prices. Baltimore, Psion, Kingston Communications and Thus are to be replaced by three style firms Hanson (brickmaker), Ocean (freight), Scottish & Newcastle (brewers), and Bookham Technology - a fibre optic designer. The chairman of London Clubs International has snubbed the Internet, saying the casino operator will not go online until there is adequate regulation. Alan Goodenough said he didn't want to run his business by "participating in precipitous fashion in a largely poor quality and potentially unregulated melee", reported the FI. He's in a strong position - at the same time, he announced a 15 per cent increase in pre-tax profits on last year. 06 June 2000 Lastminute has scored an exclusive deal to peddle last minute flights and to auction air tickets on travel site Expedia.co.uk. Lastminute will also flog restaurant bookings and hotel places, all with a shelf-life off 72 hours or less, on what many might consider to be a rival operation. It's certainly a good deal for Lastminute, and for Expedia, too. Might make the site more useful. It would be interesting to know how the revenue split works out, a detail which is not contained in the press release. The UK software team behind Web search engine AltaVista has won £5 million venture capital for its latest Internet company. Peramon, which develops software for the mobile Internet market, today announced £2.5 million cash from Royal Bank Development Capital – a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The funds will partly be used to up staff numbers to 50. Peramon was founded a year ago by 18 Digital Equipment employees, who were made redundant when from PC manufacturer when it was bought by Compaq. Names.co will today announce a reverse take-over of Aim-traded Goodwood in a £11.4 million stock deal. The domain name registrar, which made 150,000 pre-tax profit on 325,000 sales in the eight months to March, will get a flotation out of the deal. Independent News & Media is to float its iTouch mobile division by the end of this year. iTouch has bases in four countries - UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. The UK setup isn't operational yet but should be a couple of weeks, according to the company's chairman Tony O'Reilly. It has hired Merrill Lynch to advise and is expected to be worth over 250 million. Robert Madge has started a wireless subsidiary, Red-M, to his troubled Madge Networks. Red-M is to develop wireless servers using Bluetooth so mobiles etc can be connected to the Net through a main server rather than having to log on individually. The company's first products should be out by the end of the year. ®
Team Register, 02 Jun 2000

IBM donates SOAP to Apache XML project

There's a bit more to the IBM/Lotus donation of its Simple Object Access Protocol (6,000 downloads from IBM's alphaWorks site) to Apache's XML Project than meets the eye. As Robert Sutor, IBM's XML program director, put it yesterday, IBM does not want the Internet to become "a battleground of competing, vendor-specific 'control points'". IBM's SOAP4J is the first industry implementation of SOAP version 1.1, Microsoft having missed the expected delivery date for its toolkit. IBM/Lotus has previously given Apache a couple of XML parsers and Lotus XSL; and after some arm twisting, Sun donated its parser. Apache is analysing XML parsers with a view to creating a single product incorporating the best features of each. It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft, not known as an Apache supporter, manages to do better. SOAP is one of six XML sub-projects that Apache is working on, the others being Xerces (an XML parser in Java and C++, with PERL and COM); Xalan (XSL stylesheet processors in Java and C++); Cocoon (XML-based publishing); FOP (the world's first print formatter driven by XML - in Java); and Xang (for the rapid development of dynamic server pages in Java). SOAP itself came about because COM just didn't work with the non-Microsoft world, so when Microsoft raised its head above the parapet with something a bit better, it was an immediate challenge to both IBM and Java. IBM criticised the first version of SOAP, but Microsoft rather surprisingly agreed to change the spec to be less-favourable to Microsoft software. As a consequence, IBM threw its support behind SOAP and is now at least the co-driver. At the same time, SOAP must now present some challenges to Microsoft, since it has to interface to both COM and CORBA - Forrester found that the big guys preferred Java/CORBA to Microsoft's own recipes by a 2-to-1 margin. But will Sun jump off the fence so far as SOAP is concerned? With IBM's Java work for SOAP making this more acceptable, it would be well-advised to do so, especially as it has made a bit of a mess with its Java standardisation efforts and needs to be seen as a better team player. ®
Graham Lea, 02 Jun 2000

Hoojit maflips Shoppers Search engine

Parents: from today you could become the most popular mum and dad in the world if you register at search engine/shopping guide hoojit.com. The site is giving away complete sets of Pokemon cards as an enticement (or if you want to teach the little brats a lesson in humility you could go for the helicopter ride or webcam). We spoke to Darryl Bowman the site's marketing manager who went to great lengths to tell us why Hoojit is soon to be the best site on the Web. Set up by Telinco founder Chris Matthews (who has ploughed some 10 million of the 90 million he made from the sale of Telinco to World Online), Hoojit is a shopping portal with a "next-generation" site engine incorporated to get the traffic flowing. Sadly, we couldn't get much info about why the search engine (ready by the autumn apparently) is going to be so wonderful. "I don't want to talk too much about exactly how it works," said Darryl. Why not? Anyway, it promises to understand the semantics (meaning) of words in Web pages, so cutting out all the irrelevant sites that engines throw at you. It's got an "incredible" graphic interface which works on human-thought tangents. Where's the money you ask? Well, buy anything through Hoojit's shopping guide and it gets an average cut of between three to ten per cent. It has a pretty good approach too. As Darryl says: "People don't shop for shops, they shop for products." True. So input, say, socks into the guide search site and it goes through all affiliated firms' product list and spits them out at you. So what? Nothing really, but it is a lovely interface and the company has signed up some big boys such as Comet, Dixons and Index. Hoojit will help smaller companies put their inventory information (presumably for a fee) into its site, and once there the companies will be given access to their own inventory for automatic updating. It's a risky game, there's no doubt, but the rewards could well be worth the risk. Tacking on a book finder and hotel guide and with an impressive collection of minds, Hoojit is in with a good chance. Where'd the name come from? Even the marketing manager isn't too sure, but as he admitted, when the mainstream press start asking there will be a good answer ready for them. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Jun 2000

Bomb explodes at Microsoft SA

Police are investigating a bomb attack in the early hours of this morning on Microsoft's office in South Africa. The "unidentified device" went off at 4.55am this morning in the courtyard next to the Microsoft canteen in the Johannesburg building. Only four security staff were on site at the time and no-one was injured, ITWeb reported. Damage was restricted to shattered windows and wrecked tables and chairs. Details of the attack are still sketchy. Police Inspector Willem de Villiers said: "Forensic analysts and the bomb disposal unit are combing the scene for evidence. At this time we cannot speculate on the motive or the device used to cause the explosion." Microsoft SA insisted it was business as usual this morning. But staff were being advised to work remotely while police concluded their investigations of the site. "With modern technology, we were up and running without any problems this morning, those at home just dialled in, and every one else is out seeing customers," said Microsoft SA MD Mark Hill. No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the device. "It was a hell of a cowardly thing to do. I'm just glad that nobody was hurt," added Hill. Photos of the blast can be found at IT Web
Linda Harrison, 02 Jun 2000

Madonna single leaked via Napster

Pregnant pop star Madonna has found herself in the midst of a Net piracy wrangle after an unreleased single was leaked on the Web. The single, to be Madonna's next single and the title track of her new album, Music, was due for a September or October release. But the song was apparently stolen, and large chunks can now be found via Napster software or on several fan sites. Madonna, her manager and record label, Warner, are all said to be fuming, and threats against sites found offering the download were flying around yesterday. In a statement, Warner warned: "Warner Bros regards the copyright infringement of its artists' recordings, including the unauthorised use of such recordings on Internet sites, as an extremely serious matter. "Any site that posts or makes available our copyrighted material without our consent runs the risk of civil and criminal prosecution under existing federal law and state common law. We expect that the site owners who have included this material on their site will comply with our legitimate request that they cease permitting unauthorised downloads of this song." Meanwhile, Madonna's manager in the US, Caresse Norman, confirmed the music had been stolen. "[It] was not intended for release for several months. It is still a work in progress," he said. "Ultimately those sites that offered a download of Madonna's music are violating her rights as an artist." Madonna is not the only artist pulling her hair out over Napster – rock band Metallica and rapper Dr Dre have both set their legal eagles on the company. ®
Linda Harrison, 02 Jun 2000

Chip sales jumped 35.6 per cent in April

The world continues to want more chips and that intense demand generated a 35.6 per cent hike in semiconductor sales in April. According to the silicon industry's trade body, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), chip sales hit $15.2 billion, up from the $11.2 billion it recorded in April 1999. Driving that growth is the mobile comms business, which generated a 193 per cent increase in Flash memory sales during the first four months of this year alone. The SIA described sales of chips for PCs and consumer electronics kit as "strong", but it's clear where the real money is right now: chips for cellphones. Geographically, the Far East remains the world's biggest consumer of semiconductors, though that should surprise no one since so many of the world's electronics products are made there. April's sales to Asia-Pacific rose 46 per cent year on year. Japan saw 41.1 per cent growth, Europe 33.6 per cent and North America just 25.7 per cent. And the prospect for continued growth looks good, said the SIA. The expansion of e-commerce, and sales of ever more mobile phones and - soon - portable Net access systems, such as wireless PDAs, will drive chip sales onwards and upwards. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2000

AltaVista free everything ISP goes live

AltaVista will launch its much-hyped Net access service in Britain at the end of the month - some three weeks later than scheduled. The webco is to publish details about the service on Monday, breaking the veil of secrecy and silence that followed in the wake of the service's high-profile announcement in March. The new service will go live on June 30. It will be based on FRIACO (Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination) - the new unmetered wholesale product that has effectively ended BT's monopoly as "Internet gatekeeper" in Britain - as long as BT makes it available by then. The service will be free although punters will be asked to cough up a one-off charge of 51 plus VAT. A spokeswoman for AltaVista said it would offer a refund if the cost of FRIACO is lower than its published tariff. She said she didn't feel the cost of the service would be more than the published price. AltaVista says that it knew "several months ago" that FRIACO would be introduced and says it was invited by MCI WorldCom to help lobby Oftel, the winged watchdog. This is hotly disputed by one industry insider, who claims that AltaVista simply didn't have a clue what was going on. Indeed, when the service was announced, it had no model, telco or ISP in place to offer such a service. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 2000

Music biz changes tune on Net threat

A music industry executive has finally gone public and revealed what business' real attitude to the Internet and music piracy. "We've far more to fear from a surplus of CD manufacturing here in Asia, where in some markets 90 per cent of CDs are bootlegged, than from the Internet," EMI senior VP Jay Samit later told Reuters. Samit also spoke out at the MTV-Billboard Asian Music Conference, held today in Hong Kong. Again, what seems like more honesty: "As an industry we suck. As an industry the vast majority of the products we create don't make anyone any money... [but] the Internet has grown things more than ever. That extra sale, that extra distribution... all that is the difference between an artist continuing to create art or going and working in a bank." In other words, the Net is a good thing and the music biz needs to get behind it. Except, of course, it already is. Samit is simply repeating what the industry has known for some time - what looks like a change of heart has come along solely because the major labels are at last ready to turn digital music distribution to their advantage. EMI is launching just such a service next month. Sony won't be far behind and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) will follow them both this summer. All of which exposes the industry's previous complaints about how, thanks to rampant piracy, the Net is a major threat to music were just so many attempts to spread FUD. Still, the conference did raise some real issues. International Federation of the Phonographic Industry chairman Jason Berman pointed out that new, worldwide copyright laws will soon become essential. "We need an adequate legal framework,'' he said, according to Reuters. "What the Internet does is globalise your business, and the idea of having 50 or 60 different copyright regimes simply will not accommodate that kind of business.'' But that remains separate from the music industry's attempts to take control of online distribution - unifying such regimes will simply streamline the major labels' distribution efforts, not provide them with a basis for such operations. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2000

Compaq tunes into MP3

Compaq will hop onto the MP3 bandwagon later this year courtesy of CEO Michael "Groovin'" Capellas' pet project: the Big Q's consumer division. "We're coming out with MP3 players. The Internet will [demand] different types of devices to service different purposes," he told a gathering at Santa Clara, California's Churchill Club (whatever that is), according to CNet. That means kit like digital music players and Net access set-tops - both products Compaq's consumer division has been working on since its formation in July 1999, not long after Capellas joined the company. "It is time to take these beige boxes and transform them into interesting access devices," he added. It's also time to take a stand against the controversial MP3 sharing software, Napster, said Capellas: "It will ultimately be destructive if we don't take a stand." The Big Q Capo's concern here is the ease with which Napster can be used to distribute unauthorised copies of music and other intellectual property, as demonstrated by the open source Napster knock-off Gnutella, which he didn't appear to mention. Perhaps he hasn't heard of it. Capellas didn't go into much detail about either the MP3 player or Compaq's set-top box, so it will be interesting to see when - and if - the company does indeed make a foray into the consumer electronics space. Comdex launch in time for Christmas, anyone? After the speech, Churchill Club members boogied away the night in single-minded pursuit of the grove. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2000

BBC forces comedian to hand over bbc.uk.com

A British comedian has been forced to hand over his Web address after the British Broadcasting Corporation issued a writ against him in the High Court. Funnyman Barry Paskin [Who he? Comedy Ed] said he wanted his site bbc.uk.com to become a portal devoted to the best of British comedy. But the BBC took exception to Paskin's use of bbc.uk.com and demanded he hand over the domain or face being dragged through the courts. The BBC's lawyers accused him of trademark infringement, among other things. Paskin finally agreed to give it up this week after refusing to sign a gagging order, which would have prevented him from talking to the press about the legal action. He turned down 140 offered by the BBC to compensate him for the cost of the domain. "This isn't very funny," said Paskin. "I'm here to make people laugh - not go through court battles." Paskin's also riled because he claims the company that sold him the domain gave him assurances that bbc.uk.com would not breach trademark laws. He even set up a company with the same name. He is currently seeking legal redress against the e-outfit that flogged him the domain and as a result will not say which company was responsible. A notice on bbc.uk.com reads: "Due to the threat of legal action and enormous legal costs in the High Court of the United Kingdom we have been left with no alternative but to hand this domain name over to the British Broadcasting Corporation. "We wish to notify all visitors (even though we think it has always been obvious!!!) that Best of British Comedy has NEVER been a part of and has in no way ever been associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation. Nor did it ever want to be!!! Thankyou for visiting us in the past. We came, We saw, We got screwed over..." Paskin was supposed to have handed the domain over to the BBC by 11 May but this was delayed due to protracted negotiations with the Beeb. A spokesman for the BBC said he was aware of the case. He also denied reports at the weekend that the BBC has spent 1 million in legal fees trying to wrestle back domains containing the acronym 'BBC'. "That figure was nonsense," he scoffed. "We've only been involved in a handful of cases...and it's not complicated legislation. "The real cost is hardly five figures - let alone seven," he said. If you want to check out Paskin's comedic talents - he does a natty line in crank phone calls, don't you know - you can check him out at TheSerialCaller.com ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 2000

UK court slaps reseller for metatag squatting

A Tyneside reseller has become the first company to be roasted by a UK court over trademark infringement in HTML 'meta' tags. Mandata was ordered to pay 15,000 damages after including trademarks belonging to its rival Road Tech Computer Systems in its meta tags. It was also accused of writing the trademarks into the front page of the Mandata Web site 27 times in hidden text. The High Court ordered Mandata to pay damages plus costs for both sides; a total of 80,000. Meta tags are key words, invisible to the reader, that describe the content of Web pages to search engines. This is the first ruling of its kind on meta tags in the UK - although there have been several cases in the US. Dominic Bray, a solicitor with Nicholson Graham & Jones who acted for Road Tech, said he was "delighted" with the outcome. "I don't think anyone should be surprised by this outcome - it is a reflection of common sense and general trademark law," he said. "However, as the first decision in the English Court it provides clarification for everyone doing business on the Internet. "The High Court has given a clear warning to anyone contemplating appropriating a competitor's trade marks and goodwill to attract business, that such activity will not be tolerated and damages will be awarded," he said. According to Bray, Mandata used trademarks of Road Tech Computer Systems – from its Roadrunner software and Road Tech itself – for a minimum of four months last year. But although the summary judgement found the company had infringed on trademarks, there was insufficient evidence to prove that trade had been diverted from the Road Tech site. A Mandata representative said today: "A member of staff did something wrong, and we've corrected it," but refused to comment further. The company is claiming that at the time its site was constructed the trade marks were included "without the authority of any of the Mandata directors". ®
Linda Harrison, 02 Jun 2000

MS to relocate to hi-tech secret island to escape Feds

OK, we give in. When BBC news reported this morning that Microsoft might move to Canada in order to escape the hangman's noose, we thought: what a ludicrous story - there's no way we're reporting that. We carried on ignoring it, reasoning we could spare the hits, when Slashdot picked up on it, and as it dominoed its way through lesser news organisations. But then we saw the Dow Jones newswire headed "Microsoft up on Canada report." So we give in. If everybody else is going to chase after this one, and the markets really believe the stock should rise because there's a prospect of Microsoft escaping breakup by emigrating, then we'll cover it. But The Register's guide to saving your butt from the Feds involves a lot more than just a simple hop across the border. Read on. Shifting domicile If Microsoft wants to escape the long arm of the law, it not only has to put itself beyond jurisdiction, but its products and sales as well. So just a physical move of the HQ and company domicile wouldn't work. The US authorities have in the past been perfectly happy, eager indeed, to ignore international law and bust foreign companies for trading with other foreign companies, Cuban ones, for example. So even if the Canadian authorities were willing to have their mouths stuffed with gold, the US ones would keep on coming. And then there's the small matter of all those private antitrust suits lining up against Microsoft - are they going away because Bill's run off to Canada? We think not.If he stays legal, the law will catch up with him. We can rule out most other reputable alternative domiciles for similar reasons. Cambridge, which has done very well out of the charitable Mr Gates recently, has been mentioned as a possible bolt-hole. But although this is something our Mr Blair - who thinks Gates is a brilliant inventor, god help him - would dearly love, there are currently whole libraries being assembled in Brussels to throw at Microsoft. The EU is as unsafe as the US. International outlaw? By moving the reasoning on a couple of notches, we reach a scheme that has some merit. There are countries where the writ of international law doesn't entirely reach, and whose pariah status provides some defence against the DoJ. Particularly if it persists in buying lots of Windows PCs, but no strike aircraft. Practically no country is however entirely invulnerable to US pressure. You might mention Cuba, but Cuba wants relations to be normalised, so there are conditions in which a US request to "bring me the head of the consumer services division" would result in a hapless Dave Cole being airdropped into Florida. Well then, you say, what about up-country Colombia or Myanmar, places where even the local government doesn't go? Bill may have shares in an outfit that builds aircraft carriers, but even the local warlords and drug czars have a bigger attack capability than Microsoft. You dominate the world's desktops, yet you've got to jump for some local coke baron with an AK47 - nope, doesn't work. You need somewhere nobody will find you, somewhere nobody else can go - so... Billfeld's Island Given Bill's preference for hi-tech, semi-subterranean homes, this one will have attractions for him. Put in enough sliding roofs, weird concealed missile silos, mysterious death rays and geeky personal communications devices and it'd probably also be attractive to Microsoft's best, brightest and - oh yes - dysfunctional developers. The people who did Bill's house have a lot of experience in this kind of stuff, and maybe that was just version 1.0. Maybe Billfeld's Island 2000 is already under construction, with the Canadian story and the shouts of 'No Surrender!' emanating from Redmond being just a cover. Maybe they've finished it. Maybe Bill's there already. Maybe it was the badly-trained double who screwed up the video testimony... But although we might have figured out a way of getting Microsoft corporate out of the firing line for good, there's still the matter of maintaining the World Domination operations. When the Feds discover Bill's flown the coop, they'll be raiding subs all over the world, hauling Windows out of the distribution channel, forcing Dell to install Linux at gunpoint... We need a new business and distribution model to replace this. Applying the Cyberporn model to NGWS Scarey, isn't it? Microsoft has already said it wants to move away from a products-based model to a services one. Microsoft will run the servers, you'll get the services via your client machine, and you won't be able to stop, because you're locked in. If the servers are on super-secret Billfeld's Island, Microsoft can run this one despite being an international outlaw. Imagine the FBI raiding corporations suspected of running Office 2000, and MIS, hooked on proprietary formats, hiding it away. 'Another shot of DirectX, fast, for pity's sake...' And if Microsoft products were illegal substances, the added street cred would aid sales. Which of course could be conducted via tried and tested mechanisms used to distribute cyberporn. Microsoft's experience in 'fighting' piracy will also help. Maybe those activities were just a cover for figuring out how the channel works. What then? Well, Blofeld wasn't happy just hiding in a secret island armed to the teeth, and neither will Bill be. But what about Teledesic? That's supposed to be lots of little satellites, but what if this is just a cover too? Say, four to six big ones. The doors to the fake volcano on Billfeld's Island slide open, and the huge satellite dish rises out of it, sweeping the sky until it connects with TeleDeathray, way out in space. Bill strokes his cat absent-mindedly as a weapon with the power of the Sun focusses first on the Eastern United States, then narrows to Washington, then to Janet Reno... ®
John Lettice, 02 Jun 2000

SiS samples single chip Athlon chipset

Those awfully-clever SiS folks have developed a new $39 chipset for AMD's Athlon. Based on the SiS630, the SiS730S integrates the north bridge, south bridge, and a 128-bit 3D graphics accelerator (SiS300) into a single piece of silicon. It also features a 56kbps Modem, Fast Ethernet, 1/10Mb Home PNA and IDE ATA100, along with hardware DVD playback and 3D audio. Designed for PC133 SDRAM, the SiS730S can also support an AGP 4x slot to allow for graphics upgrades. The SiS730S will start sampling this month with mass production starting in August. The company claims practically all major OEMs and motherboard manufacturers have signed up for the chip and shipments are expected to start in Q3. We assume Intel is not included. ®
Andrew Thomas, 02 Jun 2000

3dfx and Nvidia's public flame war

We've said it before, but ain't it great when you're reminded that businesses are run by real people with real prejudices and flaws? This one's a treat and was played out on Glide Underground. Nvidia and 3dfx are getting increasingly uptight with each other. They were neck and neck once, but Nvidia is now storming ahead (nabbing M$'s X-box contract, for example). 3dfx is not a happy bunny. The announcement that it was to delay release of Voodoo5 because of field failure rates inspired a cocky email from Nvidia's Dianne Vanasse - cc'ed to a range of hardware sites. Senior PR man at 3dfx, Brian Burke (admittedly egged on by HardOCP), responded publicly. Just a daft spat you might think but there was much obviously a lot of paddling going on underwater since soon afterwards Voodoo 5 is suddenly fine and 3dfx had been "overly cautious" - it'll be shipped according to schedule. And hang on, but Nvidia's 5.22 drivers are suddenly non-beta. As our man John Davis from Glide Underground said: "This industry is something else." The emails are reproduced below: "From: Diane Vanasse Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2000 3:46 PM Subject: 3dfx Delays Voodoo5 Schedule Hence our argument about shipping product versus non-shipping products. I believe we were on the shelves on April 30th?" Kyle Bennett from HardOCP then asked Brian Burke (the man who wrote the original delay press release): "I have been thinking more and more about this 'shipping Vs. non-shipping' product and wondered what you thought about how it pertained to leaked drivers as well as product?" And in response: "From: Brian Burke Subject: RE: 3dfx Delays Voodoo5 Schedule Fair question, I'll bite. I think that as long as the comparison is representative of what customers will be using, then it is a fair comparison. We are proud of the products we give out and have no problem with them being scrutinized. If one FSAA method is technically superior to another, then the tests should reflect that. We think that their max FSAA setting is comparable to our 2X setting and can back it up scientifically. We think the tests results should reflect that. On the other hand, we have no on board T & L, so test our products that way and we will stand behind the results. Real world is the criteria that should be used and testing should be as apples-to-apples as possible. Words like "leaks" and "Beta" should not be used as a smoke screen to relieve accountability or dodge results. If we do not want you to test something, we do not give it to you to test. I'm a little confused by Diane's message: "Hence our argument about shipping product versus non-shipping products." -- Diane Vanasse from Nvidia. I was not privy to that argument. Has Nvidia discouraged the testing of the shipping GEforce 2 FSAA vs the non-shipping 3dfx FSAA? I am a little confused, the FSAA drivers from Nvidia are BETA and considered non-shipping, right? Even when they shipped in the ELSA box on the CD on April 30th they were BETA. The last official release on Nvidia's site is 3.68, with no FSAA, right? Well, on the WHQL site there is a 3.84 WHQL driver from Nvidia, but it has no FSAA either. So you are comparing two non shipping products when you compare the FSAA quality the two companies offer. True for now, correct? So what is the problem? Take it a step further. Maybe you should test as she asks. To support the request made by Diane (who is an official spokesperson for Nvidia), editors should only test shipping product vs. shipping product, non shipping vs. non shipping. Since no "shipping driver" from Nvidia supports FSAA, this lifts any level of support to customers and leaves them out in the cold. It also conveniently lifts accountability for the quality or lack of quality in the driver from Nvidia. Consider this, when the Voodoo5 ships, Nvidia will have no FSAA of any kind to compare to the Voodoo5 FSAA, per Diane's wishes in an official company communication to the top online editors as shown below. When the Voodoo5 is released, testing of all BETA drivers from Nvidia should stop immediately when making comparisons to the 3dfx FSAA. To support Nvidia's request, as soon as Nvidia officially releases a driver with FSAA, and signs on to support it, comparisons should begin again. Until that release, Nvidia will not have any FSAA to compare to 3dfx. I'm OK with that >:). Is there a release of a driver with FSAA support pending so customers can get the support they deserve and the functionality Nvidia has promised? Is the shipping "BETA" driver shipping or BETA or both? Also, will that pending "released" driver include Microsoft WHQL certification? If not, does Nvidia encourage the use of Non WHQL drivers to OEM customers? Will FSAA only apply to retail versions of Geforce2 products and not OEM versions? I think a company that cares about quality and compatibility would want Microsoft WHQL certification to help insure trouble free use for its customers. I think OEMs require it, too. I know 3dfx has WHQLed our Voodoo5 drivers. BB Senior PR Manager 3dfx, Inc." (That's 15 uses of the name Nvidia in case you're wondering.) ®
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Jun 2000