14th > June > 2000 Archive

UK minister claims cheapest access in world

WCIT 2000WCIT 2000 The minister for small business and e-commerce, Patricia Hewitt, took the podium here in Taipei today, to outline New Labour's stance on e-commerce. She kicked off by congratulating the Taiwanese on the event, and said that UK folk enjoyed the cheapest of all Internet access in Western Europe. Hey, you and I know the truth of that, but that's what she said. Hewitt said that the UK had the most ambitious programme of any country related to the Internet, but quipped: "Of course, it's under construction." She compared the 40s to the 90s. Blair had decided last year it was high time he had decided to learn about the Intranet, so had joined up with a local library in Geordieland. Blair realised one of his constituents looked a little uncomfortable, and turned to the Geordie asking him whether he was uncomfortable sitting next to the PM. "Wae no," said the Geordie, "it's just that I've watched you for the last time and I've been doing my exercises, but I've noticed you haven't." This is a New Labour joke. Hewitt said she was confident that the UK would be well ahead of the pack in the digital phone market, and would also be well ahead on Web TV. By 2005, all government services will be online. Mind you, that's what the last government (Old Tory) said would happen by next year. We are now the cheapest place in the world for Internet access, claimed Hewitt, rather wildly, in our humble experience. The UK government has set a target of 1.5 billion sterling using the power of the Wibbly Wobbly Web. The UK has the first on-line Web Inland Revenue system in the world, she thought. Funny that, we thought EDS in the US had all of our tax information... ®
Mike Magee, 14 Jun 2000

Appellate court will hear MS whinge

MS on TrialMS on Trial Tuesday was an incredibly busy day in Washington for Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DoJ). First, US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson accommodated the DoJ, as expected, by withholding judgment on a stay of his remedies which had been requested by Microsoft, until after the company filed its long-promised notice of appeal. This, of course, surprised no one, as the DoJ, which favours suing the appeal directly before the US Supreme Court, could not file its motion to expedite until Microsoft filed its notice of appeal, a situation which clearly worked to the company's advantage. Jackson favours the expedited appeal too; and has shown some evidence lately of taking personal pleasure in pissing off the Redmond brass. So on Tuesday it came down. "Consideration of a stay pending appeal is premature in that no notice of appeal has yet been filed," Jackson wrote in a terse statement, as if anyone needed to be told. Microsoft has been playing for time against further action, while simultaneously mounting a colossal PR campaign appealing to pity over its shocking deprivation of due process. Judge Jackson's decision, which keeps the clock running on his 90-day buffer before remedies commence, was clearly meant to force Microsoft to put up or shut up. And put up it did. Microsoft filed not only notice, but a full brief, with the US Court of Appeals Tuesday afternoon, citing "an array of serious substantive and procedural errors that infected virtually every aspect of the proceedings" in Judge Jackson's courtroom. Almost immediately after receiving the brief, the full appellate court agreed to hear the case "in view of its exceptional importance." In normal circumstances, an appeal would be heard by a three-judge panel, then move up to the full court. Thus the appellate court is exhibiting its eagerness to 'expedite' the case in its own way, most likely to keep the Supreme Court at bay so it gets the chance to put its own mark on one of the most popular trials in recent history. The court's first order of business will be ruling on Microsoft's request for a stay delaying the implementation of Judge Jackson's unthinkable remedies. Meanwhile, the DoJ, having finally got what it needs, filed its motion Tuesday evening under the Expediting Act to bring the case directly to the Supreme Court. Judge Jackson must first certify the request, and few imagine he will decline. By filing its notice of appeal, Microsoft left the door open for the DoJ to apply directly to the Supreme Court, which can upstage the appellate court if it so chooses. Whether it will do so is another question. The Court has shown considerable reluctance to interrupt the normal flow of judicial process, an observation upon which Microsoft is no doubt banking. The DoJ has cried foul. Microsoft's filing with the appellate court was "an ill-conceived attempt to end-run the Expediting Act," the DoJ whinged on Tuesday evening, perhaps forgetting that their own plans were contingent on MS taking the plunge and filing. But when it comes to whingeing, MS earns the laurel wreath. "Microsoft's stay motion has been pending for nearly a week, and the district court has failed to afford the relief requested," the company's brief alleged. Of course MS relied, for extra time to buff its appeals brief and pursue its PR onslaught, upon the fact that Judge Jackson wouldn't grant a stay until or unless the company filed it -- a nice example of MS crying over something they used to their own advantage. We expect to see a good deal more of the same as the appeals process commences, and fervently hope the courtroom will be stocked with an adequate supply of tissues. ®
Thomas C Greene, 14 Jun 2000

Napalm charged 3dfx card hits town

The Voodoo5 5500, the meatiest graphics card available from 3dfx until the 6000 model comes along, goes on sale in the UK this week. The Voodoo5 5500 is the first of 3dfx's boards to be based on the VSA-100 processor, previously known as the Napalm chip. The board has both Full-Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) and T-Buffer technololgy. While the FSAA technology is compatible with all games on the market, the T-Buffer technology - which will deal with film style effects such as motion blur, reflections, depth of field and so on - is not yet widely supported. The board also features texture compression using both DirectX and 3dfx's own FXT1 compression. Because the chips are programmable, they can be allocated individually to process explicit parts of the screen which means one can handle a particularly graphics intensive area while the other can continue to run the rest of the screen. With the chips working together, this card can cope with 667 megapixels/second, in full 32-bit colour. The package is pitched at serious gamers at the high end of the market, according to the manufacturers. The board has two VSA-100 chips on board and 64MB of memory and is retailing at £249, including VAT. The board comes with a games sampler CD-ROM supplied by Gameplay.com. As well as the games, the CD will also contain a WinDVD demo from Intervideo. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2000

The cuckoos in the Net incubator nest

Internet incubators could find themselves at the wrong end of legal action, according to the Financial Times. The companies offer consultation services and sometimes investment in return for stakes in hatchling net businesses. Many new incubators have failed to ask for authorisation under the Financial Services Act, because they thought it did not apply to them. But if they do not qualify for one of the exemptions or exclusions in the act, they may be breaking the law. "There is a real risk people believe there isn't a problem because they think they are just running parties or are just investing their own money," said Margaret Chamberlain, a partner at law firm Travers Smith Braithwaite. "To carry out investment business without authorisation is a criminal offence." The part of the act that is causing the trouble concerns the concept of arranging investments. A person who runs any kind of infrastructure allowing people to make deals may be subject to the requirements of the act. Companies could also find themselves in trouble if they were considered to be "advising" investors or "dealing" as an agent or principal. The Financial Services Authority says there has been a recent, small, increase in applications for authorisation from incubators.®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2000

Adobe lashes out at Mac rumour site

Graphics software specialist Adobe has launched an all-out legal offensive against Mac News Network (MacNN) after the Apple-watching Web site's AppleInsider page posted a sneak preview of the next version of Adobe's flagship title, Photoshop. Not to be satisfied with a mere 'pull the story or we sue your ass off' - the usual approach taken by the computer industry in such cases - Adobe has gone the whole nine yards and filed a lawsuit alleging MacNN "willfully and maliciously misappropriated... confidential and proprietary information" in violation of California's Trade Secrets Act. The upshot, Adobe claims, is that the company's business has been irreparably harmed - presumably it believes no one is now going to buy the current Photoshop release - and wants significant punitive and actual damages from MacNN. Adobe has "tens of millions of dollars" in mind, which probably explains why it's asking for a jury trial. The suit also calls for temporary and permanent injunctions against MacNN and AppleInsider from doing anything similar ever again. The suit, however, has wider implications. Adobe's claim is that AppleInsider's request for inside information from companies working in the Mac market is unlawful since it encourages the distribution of protected trade secrets, again in violation of the California Civil Code. If successful, Adobe would be setting a precedent against numerous Web-based rumour sites, not only in the Mac arena but those covering the wider IT market. Adobe does have a case here. Its pre-release material is confidential (and almost certainly clearly marked as such) and it has a right to ensure that it remains so. It's questionable whether releasing such material - details of a new version that everyone knows is coming anyway - without permission is in the public interest. That said, Adobe does seem to have been rather heavy handed in this case. Previous leaks, such as a German Web site's reproduction of Apple photos of the then unreleased iMac DV, are usually pulled after a stern request from the aggrieved company's lawyers. We can only assume Adobe asked first, and MacNN told it where it could stick its threat. Which is likely to prove a decision MacNN will regret, assuming there's no out-of-court settlement (though we suspect there will be). Incidentally, Apple Insider looks like a pretty good source for beta software leaks. The site also features "An Inside Look at Office 2001: Microsoft Word 2001". Dated 13 June, 2000, the piece kicks off: "For some time now, the Macintosh Business Unit over at Microsoft has been hard at work on the successor to..." - and then: "Article Remove 9PM EST By the Demand of Microsoft Corp, Inc." ®
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2000

Feds home in on AOL instant messaging

The Feds have stepped in to investigate AOL's dominance of the instant messaging business. The company operates the AIM and ICQ networks and has so far successfully fought off challenges from both Microsoft and open source messaging protocols. But how much longer this good cop/bad cop tactic can hold out now looks questionable. The Wall Street Journal reports that FTC has requested information, prompted by the Time Warner merger rolling towards completion. Yup, you're hearing right - that tie-up was announced six months ago, and the legal beagles are only just getting round to considering the effects for consumers and business rivals. AOL has 150 million users for its instant messaging software, all of whom must be registered with the company. The company has responded with a threefold approach – by physically blocking predatory rivals such as Microsoft and Yahoo! (arguing that it compromises the users' passwords); by doing deals with smaller rivals such as Novell and Earthlink, and by making half-hearted gestures towards punting IM, or ICQ, or whatever you want as some kind of industry standard, OK, so will you all now go away please? On the upside, it has to be said, AOL has done little to discourage cloners: ICQ clients exist for almost every platform – with varying degrees of functionality – and many of these include the ability to register with the network. So presumably, AOL reckons that the killer feature in its 'real' ICQ is the that audio feedback of the sound of typewriter keys as you clatter out a message. But that's by the by... We read this as more of a warning shot that Time Warner and AOL shouldn’t take their merger for granted. It certainly makes for a tricky potential prosecution for the FTC. Since AOL isn't preventing anyone else from doing business, the Feds would have to argue that its messaging communities generate the same kind of network effect that a long-standing, well established OS platform has. In other words, that you can start your own IRC+ messaging service, but it won’t be worth it, as the pervs/Bjork fans/trainspotters [delete where applicable] are already too deeply hooked into AOL communities that they won’t bail out. Um, we’d like to see them try that one, but we’re not holding our breath. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Jun 2000

IBM previews latest PowerPCs

IBM yesterday previewed its upcoming gigahertz-targeted PowerPC CPUs: the PPC 750CX and PPC 750CXe. Both chips are extend the PowerPC Generation 3 architecture (aka G3) which marks the final point at which Motorola's and IBM's PowerPC development efforts coincided. Since the split, some two years back, Motorola has forged ahead with the PowerPC 7400 (aka G4), while IBM has focused on evolving the PowerPC 750. And evolving it to the stage where it could outperform the Motorola chip. When IBM announced the two new G3 CPUs earlier this month, it said the 750CXe will hit 700MHz. With the current G4 still sitting at an increasingly mediocre-looking 500MHz, but equivalent to an existing G3-based chip operating at 600MHz, both the architectural enhancements of the 750CXe and the higher clock speed could easily put the IBM chip in the lead. The G4 isn't due to hit 700MHz or more until Motorola begins shipping the so-called G4 Plus, announced last October but with no ship date. Based on a ground-up redesign of the G4 architecture, the Plus should provide a significant performance improvement, but it's going to take some time to do. We don't expect it to sample, let alone ship in volume until later this year. The key architectural improvement over existing G3-class CPUs is the inclusion of 256KB on-die L2 cache. The 750CX and 750CXe are fundamentally the same chip, but the latter will be fabbed at 0.18 micron to allow it to attain the high clock speeds, which IBM insiders have claimed could hit 1GHz later next year. At 0.18 micron, the 750CXe takes up 42 square millimetres, IBM Senior PowerPC Processor Architect, Peter Sandon, told the Embedded Processor Forum audience, yesterday. By contrast, the original, cacheless G3 took up 40 square millimetres. Sandon also discussed the chips' use of a copper layer on top of the processor to help it lose heat more efficiently. The chips also sport better FPU performance and wider L1 cache buses, Sandon said. The 750CX is due to ship later this year, with the 750CXe following early 2001. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2000

Politics and the courts – will MS get an easier appeal ride?

MS on TrialMS on Trial Harry Edwards, the chief judge of the DC Circuit, went on the record last October in the Legal Times to express his disdain that a judge's politics should influence a ruling. He lashed the Washington Post for suggesting that "Microsoft's fate could hinge on which judges hear appeal" and characterising "the impending appellate decision as a matter of dumb luck', judicial lotto', and blue-bucket bingo'. This clearly implied that partisan leanings would outweigh any other considerations - such as, say, the facts of the case and the governing law - in the court's ruling". Judge Edwards found the WP article "distressing, and truly offensive". He continued: "If I had Microsoft to decide tomorrow, I haven't the faintest idea how I would vote, because I have yet to examine the record, consider the trial court's findings, or research the law." Well, if even for a brief period, he has the case. The Court of Appeals Order yesterday was a very strange one, and issued with uncharacteristic speed. It is clear that there was a desire by the court to hear the case "of exceptional importance" en banc (all of them), but there were problems with this. Three judges had to recuse themselves (Silberman, Henderson and Garland), most likely because they held Microsoft stock or had some other disqualifying impediment. Judge Wald, who had partly dissented from the Windows/IE integration appeal, retired last November, leaving the court down to ten judges instead of its authorised complement of 12 (the Senate has not yet considered confirming a 12th judge). The consequence was that the Court ordered sua sponte (off its own bat, without any consideration of evidence) that the remaining seven judges would make up the court sitting en banc. The Court of Appeals did not rule on the stay request, but seemed intent on staking its claim to review the case. This may influence the Supreme Court, although it could also be that the Supremes would like to have a stab at it first. They certainly have the power to do so, despite the action of the DC Circuit. Microsoft has shown cocky faith in getting a favourable outcome in the Court of Appeals, so Chief Judge Edwards' statement about judicial independence is reassuring. With this en banc sitting, there is less possibility of a bizarre decision from a panel, as happened previously to criticism by Judge Jackson in his conclusions of law. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft's perhaps over-confident statements about what the Court of Appeals would do have also distressed the court, as had media assumptions about its partiality. If the Supremes leave some or all of the appeal to the Court of Appeals, its every move in the case will receive more media scrutiny than it has ever previously experienced. Nonetheless, whatever the court decides, there is sure to be a subsequent appeal to the Supremes, and Microsoft would have been able to delay any evil day. The key issue for the moment is whether Microsoft will get a stay on the conduct remedies: if it does, there will be more losers than winners. ®
Graham Lea, 14 Jun 2000

Sun takes the high ground against EMC

Sun's latest J-word comes out of the closet today as it unveils its masterplan for network attached storage. Jiro is Sun's management framework for looking after the boxes of disks that will be littering data centres - and probably homes too - pretty shortly. It's the culmination of a slew of alliances that Sun has been building up with disk vendors and - we hesitate here, as older hands correctly identify the acronym 'SAN' with system area networks rather than storage area networks [get on with it - ed] - SAN vendors. This new SAN business is made possible by a combination of very fast network links (Gigabit Ethernet) and commodity-style switching (Infinband). These enable the storage to be linked to the CPU as quickly (or, as near as dammit) as yer old internal parallel bus. So you no longer have to have your disks in the box, but somewhere on the network. Which for computer manufacturers means that a lucrative slice of the pie - adding disks - flies right out of the sales equation, and for disk manufacturers, a tempting and equally lucrative opportunity flies right in: which is as they put it, the business of (cough) "strategically enhancing the topology of the data center". Ie, adding disks... So, cooking up an industry standard and letting it float towards some friendly disk vendors is a very Sun thing to do. And normally it would make a whole lot of sense. The wildcard - actually, there are two - boils down to this. If you stack a load of disks - and let's face it folks, that's all it is - that anyone on your network can talk to, then you're really talking about a cluster. A real old school, shared-everything cluster in the VAXish sense of the word. Where's the magic in that? Well, as our Sun friends are the first to admit, it's only in the software. Or rather, getting one software standard at the meta level, or at the file system level, that everyone else can get along with. And that's the inflexion point at which those hugely expensive EMC boxes suddenly become apparent for what they are - piles of hard disks you could get cheaper and quicker from the likes of Dell. And this tantalising prospect has been exercising both open source idealists and hard-boiled disk vendors ever since DEC clustered two disks together, and sent you the invoice. The open source folk are thinking cluster file systems, and the disk vendors are thinking smarter, object based devices. There's an obvious tie-up here, but they've never gone so far as to tie the knot. Maybe, until now that is. We'll report back later today on how extensive the support for a Jiro-centric SAN is with these folk, and how much traction Jiro - with its reviled community process license - appears to be getting. But the SAN war isn't over - it hasn't even begun. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Jun 2000

Sega to license Dreamcast, form chip JV

Sega is attempting to court third-parties to license its Dreamcast 128-bit games console technology, sources close to the videogame company have claimed. In other words, if it's good enough for Sony, it's clearly good enough for Sega. Sony announced a similar scheme this month. The Japanese electronics-to-entertainment giant will offer PlayStation 2 technology - its Emotion Engine CPU, in particular - to companies keen to take that technology into new markets and broaden the platform's scope. Sony's plan itself apes the 'Palm Economy' programme put in place by Palm. Sega's take on the strategy is remarkably similar to Sony's. Again the plan centres on building revenues by selling chips to licensees. Sega sources told ZDNet US that the company has placed a CPU production joint venture on the tables of several global semiconductor companies. The resulting operation would sell chips to Sega's Dreamcast licensees, much as the Sony-Toshiba JV hopes to do with the Emotion Engine. Sony is investing a further Y125 billion yen ($1.17 billion) in the project to boost production. According to the Asian Wall Street Journal, the possible partners are NEC, Hitachi, Philips Electronics, STMicroelectronics and UK multimedia operation Imagination Technologies. Of course, while modelled on Palm, Sony's scheme is more about beating Microsoft, and the potential threat of X-Box has clearly been a major motivator for Sega too. Both Japanese companis hope that by making their platforms more widely available, they will become de facto standards for console, Net accessand, home networking hardware. "The future game box will be an all-in-one, set-top box," Sega Vice Chairman Shoichiro Irimajiri told ZDNet. "In that case, Sega's role is one part of many functions, so we cannot do it alone. We need very good alliances or a joint venture." Curiously, unlike its rivals, Sega sees strength in focusing on narrowband Net connections based on analogue modems. Sega's vision, as described by Irimajiri, has the kind of broadband content services Sony is keen on providing through PlayStation 2 not becoming widely available until way past 2005 - with modem connections dominating until then. "If our intuition is right... Sega will be the dominant force in the narrowband Internet world," Irimajiri said. Sega's focus on ISP services and 'free consoles for Net access subscriptions' deals certainly point that way, but it assumes Sony specifically ignores that sector and that such services are really what console owners - who you'd expect to be more interested in the games - want. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2000

Thieves nick 300 Axion monitors

Bedfordshire Police have launched an investigation into the theft of more than 300 PC monitors. The kit disappeared at 4am on Thursday June 8 near the UK premises of Taiwan-based monitor manufacturer Axion Technology. The items were in a lorry belonging to haulage firm News Transport in Flitwick, Bedfordshire, and were waiting in the depot for shipment. There were no witnesses to the theft. The stolen monitor stash includes around 200 17 inch Axion CRT screens (CL-1770), 120 15 inch CRTs (CA-1570) and 20 LCDs (LA-1560u). Anyone approached with the monitors, or with any relevant information, can contact Axion on 01582 868888 or email Team Register. ®
Linda Harrison, 14 Jun 2000

Gerstner slams clueless CEOs

Lou Gerstner believes the new economy is forcing companies to "act in some very unbusiness-like ways" and that many CEOs have an "air of desperation about them". The IBM chief says companies are being blinded by "dot-com alchemy" and that some could be on "dangerous ground" if they fail to grasp the fundamentals involved. This startling -- and somewhat derisory -- assessment of those forging the new economy was contained in an internal memo written by Gerstner and obtained by The Register. In it he confides how he has spoken to some of the top people in business and how they seemingly have no idea about how to deal with the dotcom revolution. "I was recently with the highly regarded chief executive of a major US multinational who admitted to me that he has told his executive committee: 'Do something with the Internet -- anything,'" waxed Gerstner. " The CEO of a well-known Asian company -- call it Acme Inc -- just confided to one of my colleagues that he was thinking of creating an Internet spin-off, Acme.com. When asked what he would put into it and what would remain in the parent company, he had no idea. "Another CEO -- this one at a large Japanese company -- said recently that he had agreed to sign up with an online exchange because he thought his company would look dumb if it did nothing. But he confessed that he wasn't really sure what he had joined." With the growing number of dotcom failures piling up, investor volatility and seemingly endless strategies to devise new e-strategies, few can challenge Gerstner's assessment. The fact that he said within earshot, so to speak, might raise a few eyebrows, though. No one from IBM was prepared to comment. ® Related link That Gerstner memo
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2000

Oops, Britney Spears is ebusiness babe

Britney Spears, the 18-year-old pop star, has agreed to be paid in shares for becoming the face of teen Web site YOUtopia.com. Spears, who is already worth a cool £10 million, will be an online hostess for the site, which is due to be launched this month. Canadian venture YOUtopia.com will offer online cafes, virtual parties and music and fashion shopping. Anywhereyougo.com, the wireless application development company, has netted a $4 million investment deal. The cash came from Brience and Internet.com Venture Partners III, and will be used to develop online resources for wireless developers. The company also aims to expand its London and Dallas offices, as well as open new offices in Stockholm and Tokyo by the end of the year. The Bank of Scotland has come out as the frontrunner to partner EasyJet founder, Stelios Haji-Ionnou, in his bid to create an e-financial services company, EasyMoney.com. The Scottish bank is reported to be providing financial backing for the venture. Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Witter have joined forces to create BondBook, an online system for trading bonds, according to the FT. Pets.com has bought rival online pet supplier Petstore.com. The company has wasted no time setting up a redirect from the vanquished Petstore.com to its own site. Shareholders in Petstore.com will receive common and preferred stock in Pets.com in return for a $3 million cash injection. News of the deal had no discernible effect on the company's share price. Kingfisher, the retail group that encompasses Woolworths and B&Q, has announced its plans to go online. The company predicts the business will be profitable within three years. As well as an initial health and beauty portal to be run in conjunction with Freeserve, the group has registered several domain names for future use, including DIY.com, DIY.co.uk and trade.co.uk. Shares rose 3.5p on the back of the news. Analyst Nick Bubb told The Independent: "How much impact it makes on profits remains to be seen, but it was a coherent approach and the best we have seen of its type so far."®
Linda Harrison, 14 Jun 2000

Lou Gerstner Memo

To: XXXXXXX cc: From: XXXXXXX Subject: Lou Gerstner: Guest Commentary: Blinded by Dot-Com Alchemy I was recently with the highly regarded chief executive of a major U.S. multinational who admitted to me that he has told his executive committee: "Do something with the Internet--anything." The CEO of a well-known Asian company -- call it Acme Inc. -- just confided to one of my colleagues that he was thinking of creating an Internet spin-off, Acme.com. When asked what he would put into it and what would remain in the parent company, he had no idea. Another CEO -- this one at a large Japanese company -- said recently that he had agreed to sign up with an online exchange because he thought his company would look dumb if it did nothing. But he confessed that he wasn't really sure what he had joined. Something strange is happening here. Major businesses all over the world are starting to act in some very unbusinesslike ways. And many CEOs have an air of desperation about them. PRESSURE. When you look at their businesses--which, like the overall economy, are often doing quite well -- it's hard to understand why. Until you look at the stock market. These execs are watching financial markets that have suspended -- temporarily, at least --traditional methods of investment evaluation. As a result, each of these business leaders is under enormous investor pressure to do things like spin off a piece of the business, take the supply chain public, and drive up market value through some kind of quick strike -- demonstrating to investors that Company X is participating in the New Economy. I sympathize with their plight, but I think they're on dangerous ground. I would urge my fellow CEOs to take a deep breath and think hard about the long-term impact of their plans. Don't get me wrong. I'm convinced that e-business really is changing the entire basis of the global economy. At IBM (IBM), we've staked our future on it. But the point is, the real impact of the Internet is very different from what has been happening in stock markets around the world. These are two very distinct phenomena that are being treated by some as if they were one. They are not. The first phenomenon -- which has been building up over several years now -- is this extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented, selectivity in investment. Some technology companies are increasing in value at incredible rates, while everything else is in a bear market. According to one mutual-fund manager, in 1999, the stocks of companies with no earnings were up an average of 52%, while stocks with real earnings were down. As a result, many CEOs of traditional companies are wondering what to do to give their stock price a boost. The second phenomenon is, of course, e-business. It really does present CEOs with an extraordinary opportunity to transform their companies' competitiveness, to change the industries in which they operate, to fuel innovation, to open up alternate distribution channels, and to create entirely new cost structures. It is a fundamental change, one that occurs at the molecular level of business, making possible a transformation of the basic building blocks of economics, markets, and work. FOCUS. What's fascinating about the past several months is that some companies seem to be, against all reason, intermixing these two phenomena. They are confusing doing something -- anything -- about the Internet with the real work of transforming their businesses. In fact, the evidence suggests that even today's overheated stock market is smarter than that. By and large, it's not giving increased valuations to traditional companies that spin off their supply chains or launch e-commerce sites -- even while the stocks of their technology partners (many of them barely past their initial public offerings) go through the roof. Yes, the market may well continue to bet extravagantly on tech companies, and Net-related companies in particular. How long it will continue, or why it is so often unreasoned, I wouldn't venture to say. But I'm certain that is not the game for most CEOs -- whether their companies are smokestacks or dot-coms. For us, the game is to do the hard work of accelerating the transformation of our fundamentals -- to understand that the Net isn't really about short-term stock performance but long-term stock and business performance. Of course, not all companies have been seduced by the lure of the magic market-cap wand. Many are hard at work creating alternate distribution channels, reinventing--not just spinning off -- their supply chains, and more. This is a period of extraordinary change, with extraordinary opportunities. But we can't seize them through dot-com alchemy. By Louis V. Gerstner Jr., CHAIRMAN & CEO, IBM
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2000

Win2K driver saga: HP staff not happy bunnies

A number of HP insiders have kindly responded to our questions earlier this week about the continuing lack of Windows 2000 drivers HP Win2K OfficeJet drivers slip again. Some point to mysterious gaps in the San Diego parking lot once occupied by the vehicles of the folks who had been working on the older 500, 600 and 700 series OfficeJet all-in-ones, while others suggest these engineers have been reassigned to work on the newer T, R and G ranges which "marketing really like as they are far superior to their predecessors in every way but price." Motivation is reputed to be "really low" at the San Diego office. With one insider going as far as to suggest that a number of employees believe that "Bill and Dave's lifeless bodies would be more inspiring than the current leadership."* To be fair to HP, the OfficeJet 500, 600 and 700 series were originally intended for the home office, which the Lew Platt regime didn't expect to be a hotbed of NT and W2K usage at the time. And we are now informed that nobody at the San Diego office even likes using the things because the W95/W98 drivers were "Packed with undocumented features, aka bugs". While you're on the subject… A number of readers have written in with their Win2K driver sob stories, and it's not just HP taking the flak, although the first honourable mention does indeed go to the Great Stan of Printers. The Register has mentioned the shortage of Win2K drivers for HP CD writers previously (see links below). So we were not entirely surprised to hear that the HP 8100 burner was still causing aggravation to Win2K users. Angry users bombarded the HP support website complaining about the $25.00 plus shipping cost, lack of on-line ordering and the fact that upgrade packages are "sold out" and will be at least a month in arriving. HP seems to have on-line forums for all of their products, but the forum for their CD writers is reported to have mysteriously disappeared - under a barrage of flames? As reader Torrey Hoffman says: "HP has certainly lost me as a customer - a move that will cost them far more than the $25 dollars they are extracting from me now. What are they thinking?" Other companies accused by readers of being slow off the mark with Win2K support include Logitech with its QuickCams. Reader Barry Dorrans reports that its support page first promised them of the end of April, when the date changed to the end of May, and last week it changed to have no dates at all. "They do say that two of the cams are supported as native drivers under Win2K, but these are the cheaper end of the line, which isn't the one I have *sigh* "Go on, give them a poke, I'll bet HP would be relieved that someone else is getting mocked." Other honourable(?) mentions go to Matrox for the Millennium G400 Max, for which users have been promised WHQL drivers for the past few months, but nothing has shipped and Intel for the i740 graphics chip which still only has wobbly beta drivers, plus the Create & Share and ProShare video cameras which have absolutely no support and none on the horizon. Compaq sticks up for HP But what's this? Galloping to HP's defence comes - gasp - Compaq. "As a former Windows 2K driver writer for Compaq, I can tell you that it is very difficult to rewrite drivers for Windows 2k. In fact, you pretty much had to start from scratch again for most products. This has partly to do with the new rigid features of Win2k and partly to do with the changes to the driver manager. "HP was probably caught off guard thinking they would be easy and putting it off until it was too late." ® *Doctor Spinola adds: In fact, Hewlett is 87 and still very much alive. Related Stories HP Win2K OfficeJet drivers slip again HP Win2K drama continues HP eventually wakes up to Win2K Michael Dell takes The Register out to lunch
Andrew Thomas, 14 Jun 2000

Doctor Spinola's PC Clinic

Dear Dr Spinola, I am a small computer user and I'm very concerned at the breakup of Microsoft. What do you advise? Dr Spinola replies: You shouldn't be overly concerned. Many users are shorter than average and my usual advice is to sit on a cushion so you can reach the desk in comfort. Dear Dr Spinola, I too am a small computer user, although considerable taller than your previous interlocutor. All the software I use comes from Microsoft and I would like to know what effect the breakup will have on support and future software development. Dr Spinola replies: Interlocutor, eh? You are obviously a cut above the usual run-of-the-mill deadbeats I have to put up with. As an educated person you should be able to figure out the answer to your question without any help from me. Kindly go away. Dear Dr Spinola, I am a single mother with few educational qualifications and I would appreciate your advice. [That's more like it, Doc.] To make a little extra cash I type up people's letters and CVs and I am wondering what effect the Microsoft breakup will have on the development of an improved version of Word 3 for DOS. Dr Spinola replies: I asked Bill Gates this very question only a few days ago and you can rest assured that the breakup will have absolutely no effect on the development of enhanced MSDOS applications. Dear Dr Spinola, I have always wondered why a software company such as Microsoft makes an awful lot of hardware in the form of mice, keyboards, sound systems, joysticks and so on. Any ideas? Dr Spinola replies: Many people and organisations diversify from their original core competencies - Elvis Presley moved into acting; Intel designed the i820 chipset; the US Government thought it could run the software industry better than the people who actually work in it; and Britney Spears took up singing. Dear Dr Spinola, I have a friend who owns a large software company, could you advise him on what the best plan of action would be should a major government order its breakup to improve consumer choice? He is too shy to ask in person. Dr Spinola replies, I assume your friend and his fellow directors are quite well off. My advice would be to sack all the staff and close down the whole company immediately. Users would then be faced with a wide choice of software from any of the many thousands of other companies building sophisticated operating systems and office applications. For technical support queries users would naturally turn to a reputable 3rd party support organisation such as Spinola International (Cayman Islands) plc. ®
Andrew Thomas, 14 Jun 2000

Another day, another DoubleClick privacy PR disaster

DoubleClick has been caught mucking around with personal privacy - again. The world's biggest online ad sales house has been caught gleaning email addresses and other personal information from Web site customers - without the knowledge of Web sites. DoubleClick says the transmission of personal data from the unwitting Web sites was "inadvertent". And no, it's not using the info to target consumers. "We don't save it, or keep it at all," Jules Polonetsky, DoubleClick's privacy officer (is this a joke job title, or what?), told AP. "It won't ever be involved in how we deliver ads." But what could other less reputable concerns do with such data captured inadvertently from unwitting Web sites? DoubleClick's inadvertent data capture from unwitting Web sites was unmasked by Richard Smith, a computer security and privacy consultant of Massachusetts. While surfing Drkoop.com, the health Web sitefor information about diabetes, he discovered that information he entered, including "his e-mail address and the disease he was researching - was transmitted without his permission to an advertising company". Digging deeper, Smith checked out a variety of unwitting Web sites, among them AltaVista, RealNetworks and Travelocity, which also coughed up personally identifying information to DoubleClick. This inadvertent data 'spillage' is pinpointed to form-filling on Web sites. According to AP, this may be "automatically sent to various outside parties - often companies like DoubleClick that place Internet ads and track how many people see them". Using what AP describes as specialised tracking software, Smith reproduced his findings yesterday (June 13, 2000) for the US Senate Commerce committee. "It's almost like they have put hidden microphones in our homes and our offices and they are listening to what we do all day long," AP reports him saying. The six senators at the hearing appear to agree: they all say Web privacy legislation is required. Apparently new versions of Web forms do not pass on this information. So it is up to the Web sites to update their software. DoubleClick says it is educating Web sites to change their forms. DoubleClick shoots itself in the foot. Again This is getting tiresome. And it's where we have to declare an interest. Again. The Register uses DoubleClick DART ad-serving software. We use a third party ad server, because that's what advertisers require. DoubleClick does not represent The Register for ad media sales. We flog our own ads. We have a Web form on our site - it's the search engine box - however, no search engine pages are DART- tagged. This is changing soon, but we'll make damn sure that any Web form we use will ensure there is no data 'spillage'. We pass on no information to DoubleClick or to other third parties. DART reports supplies us with demographics information - the reports can tell us how many people are coming onto our site, and to a reasonably accurate extent what country they come from. We also know how many ads we've served, and how many people have clicked on them. But the reports cannot tell us who are. This information is gathered through the use of cookies - which can be switched off by turning off this feature at DoubleClick's own Web site. DoubleClick DART tells us that the information gathered through these reports belong to us - and that it does not aggregate this information with other Web sites, behind our backs. ® Related story AP: Web sites unknowingly send data to advertisers, consultant charges
Drew Cullen, 14 Jun 2000

MS begs court for longer sentences

MS on TrialMS on Trial Microsoft's stay appeal is not at the moment in a form acceptable to the Court of Appeals because it is too long. Microsoft knows this, because it has submitted a separate "Motion for Leave to Submit an Overlength Motion for Stay Pending Appeal" to the court asking it to accept its longer motion for a stay. The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure require that a "A motion or a response to a motion must not exceed 20 pages... unless the court permits or directs otherwise" - and Microsoft's stay Motion runs to 39 pages. Microsoft asked both the DoJ and the Plaintiff States to agree to a longer brief, as required by the DC Circuit's rules on consultation, and to say whether it was intended that they would file an opposition or other response. The Plaintiff States refused to agree to the overlength stay motion, but evidently did not say whether an opposition would be filed. For its part, the DoJ appears not to have stated a view on either. Now here's a very interesting little titbit: the overlength motion was first served on the DoJ on "13_8" June, according to Microsoft's Website, with an initial reference to a 39-page motion, and later in the same motion, a statement that an identical "36-page stay motion" was being filed in the States' case. Microsoft then goes on to ask the court to agree to accept a "396-page" stay motion. The text is also duplicated. However, the Plaintiff States were apparently served on 8 June (the day after the Final Judgement) with a request that the States agreed to Microsoft filing a 36-page motion (not 39 pages). What we're probably seeing are some editorial botches and early drafts, but they show us that Microsoft had been considering filing its appeal last Thursday; for tactical reasons it did not do so. It's not surprising that Microsoft made the brief three pages longer, but the 396-page reference must be an another editing mistake. These errors may not be in the Court of Appeals version (and no doubt will very shortly disappear from Microsoft's Website, but not our cache). There are other problems for Microsoft. The DC Circuit is not a bit keen on overlength briefs, and says in its own rule 27(h)(3): "Pleadings in Excess of Page Limits. The court disfavors motions to exceed page limits; such motions will be granted only for extraordinarily compelling reasons." DC Circuit Chief Judge Harry Edwards stressed this is in an interview last year: "Probably the worst problem that the court faces, from both good and not-so-good advocates, is overly long briefs! Almost every attorney writes to the page limits and most cases do not require briefs as long as the page limits allow. It is truly amazing that attorneys fail to understand that a tight argument is both easier to read and much more impressive than a verbose offering." Maybe Microsoft's thinking is that there's obfuscation in verbosity, and that a short brief might expose a barren argument. There's also a potential problem about the consolidation of the cases - at least the DoJ sees it as a problem. Microsoft has been treating the case as two cases again, and it's unclear if it thinks this is the correct procedure, or if it hopes to play the DoJ' and States' cases differently. The Court of Appeals, if it does get the case, would almost certainly consolidate them, as it has done previously. The DoJ, in a footnote to its Motion for Certification of Direct Appeal to the Supreme Court, notes that it is that a rule of the Supreme Court requires that once a direct appeal has been certified under the Expediting Act (and this most likely will happen today), the consolidated case would be certified for direct appeal. So should the Supreme Court decide to send the case back to the Court of Appeals, it would arrive as a consolidated case. With the media spotlight on every move by the Court of Appeals, it is unlikely that Microsoft will be allowed to get away with any procedural mistakes. There are certainly more than a few signs of panic in the legal department at Fort Redmond - starting with Bill Neukom's title: in his Verification "under penalty of perjury" to the Court of Appeals for the stay motion, he describes himself as "Senior Vice President, Law and Corporate Affairs". In a press release today, and since earlier in the year, he's been describing himself as "Executive Vice President". The problem seems to be that there has been no official press release announcing his promotion - and it's said when he was made Senior VP, he had to write his own press release. Presumably he's too busy to do this again. ®
Graham Lea, 14 Jun 2000

Dotcom hacks found working for free

A gaggle of US dotcom journalists have taken the unlikely step of working for free. More than 100 journalists and marketing staff have volunteered to keep showing up at the offices of APBnews.com, even though the company cannot pay them. Investors are saying that APBnews.com, an online crime news and information site, must find a media partner to support it. A mixture of venture capitalists have already poured $27 million (£18 million) into the service, which is not earmarked to make a profit until 2002 four years after it launched. The Guardian reports staff have been working without wages for a week now, supporting APBnews.com chairman Marshall Davidson while he tries to save the company. Register staff are questioning what all the fuss is about. We've been working for the love of the job, along with a little beer money, for years.®
Linda Harrison, 14 Jun 2000

Consumers' Association in spamfest

The Consumers' Association (CA) has responded to criticisms that it is failing to champion the cause of Net users against spam. In a short response to the 20 people who emailed their views to the CA following a Register investigation, the consumer watchdog said: "The Consumers' Association is currently reviewing the policy on this issue and your views will be taken into account as part of that review." But if you think this is a sign that the CA has grasped the issue - think again. In a clear breach of Netiquette, it spammed all twenty with the same reply and failed to blank the identity of the recipients. As one of those who received the CA email explained: "An interesting point to note is that CA clearly understand so much about email that they see no problem with addressing their reply in the clear to a whole bunch of recipients at once." Quite. ® Related Stories Consumer watchdogs fail the Spam Test
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2000

Opto-tech boffins large it up on Govt. grants

Government and industry are to invest matching funds to develop optical Internet technology, Science Minister Lord Sainsbury said today. The British Government will cough up £6 million for the research backed by a further £5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). But since the EPSRC is publicly funded by Government from its Science budget, in fact, it's the British taxpayer who's forking out for the whole lot. Spin aside, the "Optical Systems for the Digital Age" programme should make advances in everything from high-bandwidth multimedia services to new generation computer systems and flat panel displays. Lord Sainsbury said: "The UK has a world class reputation in optical technologies - our achievements include the invention of the optical fibre amplifier and light-emitting polymers. UK businesses have also succeeded gaining a substantial share in the £30 billion world market for optical communications. "In the last year alone, over 6,000 new jobs in research and development and manufacturing have been announced in the optical systems and components industry." The programme is designed to promote partnership in "pre-competitive research between industry and the research base". It aims to "stimulate innovation, wealth creation and improve the quality of life". ...Improve the quality of life? Come off it, who are these people trying to kid? ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2000

M'Soft anti-theft evening ends in robbery

It seems Microsoft failed to ram home the evils of theft to UK journalists last night. The software giant tried its best with the assembled hacks at its anti-piracy evening at the Limelight Nightclub in London. It even enlisted the help of TV celeb Graham Norton to get its message across. Norton hosted a game in which tables were given a treasure chest of high-street goods, and participants had to decide which were real and which were fake. Unfortunately for Microsoft, its spinmasters made the mistake of presenting cash-strapped journalists with genuine Levi and Gucci merchandise. The temptation was just too great. Not only did the £50 jeans go walk-about, but one of the chests - an attractive Pirate design - also disappeared. Not a bad haul for an anti-theft evening. ®
Linda Harrison, 14 Jun 2000