18th > October > 2000 Archive

Web anonymity under siege

A Florida appeals court ruled Friday that ISPs can be compelled by subpoena to identify people who post defamatory messages on Internet bulletin boards, even when the libellous nature of the statements has yet to be proved. In this case, Hvide Marine company former CEO Erik Hvide was seeking the identities of eight people who criticised both him and his company on a BBS. The subpoena had been temporarily blocked pending appeal, and the appellate court chose to let it proceed. In representing the defendants, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had asked the court to rule on whether Hvide had actually been libelled before identifying the defendants. The ACLU argued that if there had been no libel, then the critics had a right to remain anonymous. Typically in cases like this, a company finds itself bashed by what it suspects are disgruntled employees, and files a so-called "John Doe" suit against the unknown critic. But once the suit is filed, the plaintiff can use the evidence discovery process to learn the identity of the smartmouth. Indeed, a company may not bother to pursue an expensive, time-consuming libel suit at all. Once it learns who's been dishing the dirt, assuming the person is an employee, the company can retaliate easily, and cheaply, enough. "If someone charges libel, then the anonymity of a poster should be preserved until the libel is proved. Otherwise, the subpoena power can be used to silence anonymous, critical speech," Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) board-member Lawrence Lessig told the New York Times in comments regarding a similar case in Ohio which has yet to be decided. The potential for companies to use the courts merely to unmask a critic they have no real intention of suing is painfully obvious. One wonders what the Florida court can possibly have been thinking. ®
Thomas C Greene, 18 Oct 2000

Intel forecasts Q4 records

Intel saw profits rise 52 per cent for the third quarter, (compared with Q3, 1999) sneaking past Wall Street's reduced expectations. The Californian chip giant recorded net income before acquisition-related costs of $2.9 billion, on sales of $8.73 billion. This compared to $1.9 billion and $7.33 billion the previous year. Analysts had been bracing themselves for poorer figures following Intel's warning on September 21 that revenue would be less than expected for the quarter. Its share price took a hammering yesterday, plummeting 11.6 per cent. Andy Bryant, senior VP and CFO, said in a conference call the figures were "less than we'd hoped for," due to the expected growth from Europe not materialising. All markets outside Europe saw record sales for the quarter. The chip master has had a rough ride of it lately - what with delays in shipping the P4 and PIII recalls. To make matters worse, rival AMD today released its new 1.2GHz Athlon and 800MHz Duron. It said it expected Q4 sales to increase four to eight per cent on Q3, with gross margin for the next quarter anticipated at 63 per cent - down one per cent on Q3. This was due to Intel changing more fabs to making 0.18 micron chips. "We achieved record revenue with 19 per cent growth in the third quarter. It was a challenging quarter primarily because PC demand in Europe was not as strong as we expected entering the period," said Craig Barrett, Intel president and CEO. "Looking ahead, we anticipate record revenue in the fourth quarter, with growth across most of our product lines." "We are especially pleased with the rapid growth in our server business, our record flash business, and our networking silicon business which surpassed our expectations in the third quarter." Intel's share price rose $1.38 to $37.56 in after hours trading. ® Related Stories AMD price war hits Intel stock, MS falls to two-year low Intel plots P4 Xeon roadmap AMD beats forecasts with $219m profit Intel blames Europe for lower profits
Linda Harrison, 18 Oct 2000

DesktopX goes public

DesktopX - half of Stardock's attempt to recreate Microsoft's lost Cairo project - was publically unveiled today in alpha form for widespread download. Ever it since it was burned by the failure of the Bob project, Microsoft has been cautious about throwing new UI paradigms at the great unwashed. DesktopX not only does this - with a vengeance - but smuggles in the first end-user scriptable object framework we've seen since OpenDoc. It's very gracefully subversive, and has the potential to do for Windows what Hypercard did for the Mac in the eighties. What's slightly surprising since we last looked is the quantity of useful objects that are available. DesktopX objects don't just look purty, there's one that controls WinAmp, another that's a visual biff for checking your mail, and another that's a replacement drive icon that shows free disk space as a pie chart. Most of this has been achieved without programming - all the user has to do to create their own is to call up a template and start filling in the blanks from dialog boxes. A browser is not far behind, says Stardock CEO Brad Wardell. "That should be possible in a few hundred lines of code," he claims. It's still early days and the objects haven't really begun to interact with each other. So what doesn't it do? Well it doesn't fix any of Windows' underlying problems - terrible hardware latencies for multimedia, registry bloat, security ... we suspect you know these pretty well. But that would hardly be fair, as it doesn't claim to. It isn't cross platform either, and there are no plans to implement it on non-Windows operating systems. However it's a idea bigger than any one platform, and extremely well implemented, and so Stardock could benefit from tolerating the kind of benevolent reverse engineering that AOL and Napster demonstrated with ICQ and Napster the client. Of the many impressive ideas floating around Linux GUI land, none makes the break with the Mac/Windows metaphor, although as a development exercise, writing cross-platform DesktopX objects would be far from trivial. A few rough edges remain too, and on release could benefit from some wizards, and very clear "what do I do now?" signposts. Corporates will almost certainly want the ability to turn disable many of the add/modify object functionality - they're too damn easy to get to (which of course, is the point). As we noted when we first heard of the project, it could prove to have a major strategic influence on future Windows, as OEMs have been dying to take the "user experience" into their own hands for some time, and one of the proposed DOJ remedies put limits on Microsoft being able to prevent this. But as the Microsoft trial heads for the appelate court, with every prospect of a mini trial rerun stretching well into next year, that day won't come anytime soon. It's version 0.50, although Stardock.net subscribers have been treated to early previews. Windows 2000 users get a revamped task list, and alpha-blended objects. Wardell doesn't expect a release before the end of Q2 next year. Stardock plans to rewrite configuration files in XML, so if the Windows goalposts move, it'll be easier to move DesktopX with them. Related Link DesktopX Related Story Microsoft's Cairo reborn as killer eye candy
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Oct 2000

Mitac flogs European ops to Synnex

MiTAC has sold its European subsidiary lock, stock and barrel to Synnex, the computer manufacturer outsource people. Terms were undisclosed. This marks the end of MiTAC's presence in Europe as an OEM for big-name brands It also appears to bring to a close any lingering ambitions that the Taiwanese PC maker may once have had to establish itself as a brand name in the European market. Based in Telford,UK, MiTAC Europe is to be renamed Synnex Information Technologies (UK)Ltd. Synnex said it will add its own expertise in build to order techniques to the manufacturing thump of the Telford plant. It is taking on 200 MiTAC Europe employees. ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Oct 2000

IBM PC company in profit shocker

After what must seem like an eternity of heavy losses and layoffs, IBM's PC division turned a profit in the most recent quarter, showing an 11 per cent rise over the same quarter last year. "Personal systems" makes up just over a fifth of Big Blue's total revenue. Total revenues for the company edged up $3bn on the corresponding quarter last year to $21bn, although profit was down to $5.4bn from $5.6bn. CEO Gerstner said income was help back by being unable to supply components in sufficient quantities to meet demand, and by a slowdown in orders ahead of the revamped Freeway "System 390" mainframes. Although he probably meant to say "zSeries". Services makes up IBM biggest business, with $13 bn worth of deals signed in the quarter, although $8bn made it onto the statement. Software declined 3 per cent to $2.9bn. Hardware gross margins were up from 25.5 per cent to 27 per cent over last year's quarter, but are down 4 per cent on the year to date.
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Oct 2000

Fastest ever rollout? Intel bets jobs, ranch on Pentium 4

Intel is predicting one of the steepest ramps in its history for the Pentium 4, the new company flagchip due to be unleashed on November 20th. This may simply be another aspect of the company's marketing plan to focus attention on the new high price, low availability one and away from the travails of the Pentium III, but it might mean that Intel is getting its fabbing problems licked. If not, someone will likely swing for it. Speaking during an analysts call after the announcement of Intel's Q3s last night executive VP Paul Otellini said that P4s in the hundreds of thousands would be produced this quarter, and that the ramp for the processor will be steeper than that for the Pentium II. This to an extent clarifies the cunfusing signals about PIII versus P4 that came out of the Microprocessor Forum. The Pentium II is, from Intel's point of view, one of the company's greatest hits. Intel got volumes up fast, got them into the market fast, burned off the opposition, then spent several years being exceedingly prosperous while Chimpzilla plotted revenge. So Intel's intent with the P4 would appear to be to repeat this, saving its bacon via a process of goalpost moving combined with sheer manufacturing might. That means getting the chip size down, getting the yields up, getting new fabs online (Intel's margin expectations for Q4 are down slightly on Q3 because of start-up cost of new 0.18 micron fabs), and nothing going wrong. It's possibly a tall order, but in the midst of the GHz and price war with AMD it's easy to overlook one crucial factor that remains in Intel's favour. No matter how fast AMD chips are, no matter how flat-out AMD's fabs go, for quite some time to come Intel will be able to make substantially more chips than AMD, because it's got a lot more plant. So even if AMD can sell every chip it can make (which it says it can), there'll be plenty sales left for Intel, meaning that Chipzilla has a lot of time in which to bounce back. But that doesn't mean heads won't roll if the P4 doesn't start looking like a convincing saviour, fast. ® Related Stories: Intel forecasts Q4 records Intel to hype P4 over 1.13GHz PIII, and barely ship either?
John Lettice, 18 Oct 2000

ST hits first $2bn quarter

ST Microelectronics sailed through its first $2 billion quarter, on the back what it modestly claims was the successful execution of its "differentiated products" strategy. No we don't know what this means either - althought we think it's referring to embeds/ smart cards and the like designed for vertical or "end" markets. This represents more than 60 per cent of the company's turnover. We suppose the company is hinting that this emphasis on vertical sectors, shields it from the vagaries (some of them, anyway) of the mass, or undifferentiated, semiconductor market - CPUs, DRAM, flash memory and the like. Anyroads, the strategy is paying dividends for ST Microelectronics - the company produced net income of $415mn for the Q, up more than 200 per higher than the same period last year, and a hefty net income margin of 20.3 per cent. Sales were $2.04bn. ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Oct 2000

Europe extends deadline for MS' antitrust probe response

The European Commission has extended the deadline for Microsoft to file its response to charges that it's unfairly using its dominance in the PC market to achieve a similar position for Win2k in the server market. Microsoft now has until the middle of next month to come up with what we can expect to be a monstrously large pile of paperwork. Microsoft itself asked for the deadline extension, while Sun originally asked for the investigation. According to our calculations, Microsoft should actually have had its response in at the beginning of this month, but we presume the intervening weeks have been spent discussing the company's sick note. By the standards of the US trial, the six weeks or so slippage isn't massive, and as Europe still seems to be shadowing the US authorities to some extent, the Commission might well view it as politic to slow to a gentle stroll. The last sighting of a Commission target for a ruling was not before "early next year," but we might now be expecting action around March time, which is now the earliest ETA for the US appeal process to complete. Europe, however, is in the happy position of being able to pull the trigger more or less when it wants. As and when it does want to move, the Commission can move fairly fast, without having to engage the protracted legal looping that constitutes the US antitrust system. Microsoft (and indeed the Commission, let's be fair) can stall at the various filing stages, but we could easily be talking months rather than years for the European action, if the Commission wills it. Bad things could happen to Microsoft. It could get whacked for 10 per cent of its global annual revenues, and the Commission's inclination seems to be to view Windows as an essential facility, and therefore to force Microsoft to open it up. Competition Commissioner Mario Monti has also indicated that Microsoft might as well forget the copyright defence. This, he thinks, is a smokescreen Microsoft can't hide behind. ® Related Stories: MS wins more time in Euro antitrust case EU goes legal against MS - company should open up Windows MS tells EU it's always pushed standards, interoperability Blizzard of documents dumped on Europe MS probe EU keeps MS antitrust enquiry pot boiling
John Lettice, 18 Oct 2000

Micron buys out Japan JV

Micron is to assume full control of its Japanese DRAM plant, after buying out its JV partner Kobe Steel for $450 million ($125 million cash and $325 million assumption of debt). Following the transaction, Micron will become sole owner of KMT Semiconductor Ltd, a company in which it currently holds a 25 per cent stake. As of 30 September, KMT had $750 million in assets, with a "carrying value" of $530 million. There are 900 employees. KMT's plant currently implements Micron's 0.18 micron technology, and is prepping the conversion of its manufacturing process to 0.15 micron. ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Oct 2000

Bush & Gore on Napster: compromise but pay up?

The collective wisdom of candidates Bush and Gore has failed to shed significant light on the Napster controversy. Faced with a question on the subject at the Web White & Blue rolling election cyber-debate site, both sought - it's funny when you think about it - some kind of middle road. But close textual analysis suggests that it's actually The Great Inventor who inclines to a solution that takes a percentage from every song copied. Gore looks back to the arrival of radio, when the broadcast of songs apparently threatened artists' income, and says: "It's similar in some ways to the Napster phenomenon, and they came up with solutions. "Now, artists are compensated every time a song is played on the radio. It ought to be easier, over time, to come up with a way that has a little bit of compensation for artists." If he thinks most artists in the great days of radio got much more than a flat fee and instructions to get lost, he's clearly not looking back very hard. But skip that - his inclination seems to be to implement some kind of performing rights system equivalent for Napster-type systems. Add to that protection systems (Gore doesn't mention these, probably isn't on the case yet) that limit the use of digital music files, and you could figure music business nirvana - files you can listen to once after you've copied them, but that's that. Bush was vaguer. He ducks the Napster case claiming sub judice, and says: "However, I do believe we must find a way to apply our copyright laws to ensure that artists, writers, and creators can earn a profit from their creations, while at the same time, adapting to and utilizing new technologies to deliver media to consumers in an Information Age." In the same direction as Gore, but perhaps not quite so far. But both sound like people the music business could work with. Isn't it curious though how much concern there seems to be about the poor starving artists, and how seldom the bloated music industry corporations' cut is mentioned? Especially by the bloated music industry corporations... ® Related link: Web White & Blue 2000
John Lettice, 18 Oct 2000

DoCoMo shows Microsoft wireless gizmo

Almost a year to the day after Microsoft struck a deal with Japanese wireless giant NTT DoCoMo, the first fruits of the deal were displayed at World PC Expo in Tokyo yesterday. But it may well go unnoticed as the Japanese market swings to using Java-based gadgets. On show this week is a prototype Microsoft Pocket PC device, that's basically a mutated Casio E-700 CE device. It's capable of taking DoCoMo's Handyphone Type II CF card, and that's how it talks to a phone. The device was also demonstrated with a separate full-sized keyboard. Given its lofty, kingmaker role in the Japan wireless market - DoCoMo pretty much is the Japanese wireless market, being the main network operator with fingers in intellectual property ties in wideband-CDMA too - and it's struck deals promiscuously for a wide range of deals for devices. The usual suspects - Symbian, Palm and even Handspring have walked away with partnerships of some kind - but ominously for Microsoft, some time ago DoCoMo decided to base its next generation of i-Mode phones on Java. And these are just about ready to hit the market in December. Is that important? We'll see, because the big, and let's face it, the really big question is how capable phones will prove to be as hand-held terminals. Will manufacturers have to plan for a $250 device, or a $600 device? In truth, no one really knows just yet. Today's phones do messaging and novelty games pretty well right now, and they'll stream and save audio within a few months. Beyond that is unchartered water. So Japan is the hothouse for such experiments, and each and every one of the licensees is watching to see which of these device/service models will stick. Equally, what exactly is 'the platform' for these devices? On that front, the picture is clearer, and with Java as a standard the handset users can download novelty games and applications irrespective of network or phone. Sun appears to have won the platform war in Japan: if you've an idea, you code it in Java, and send it over the ether, without a second thought for reaching for the Win32 or Symbian programming manual. ® Related stories Symbian, NTT show broadband 'concept' device Sun, NTT to intro Java mobile games phone MS wireless deal with Symbian on the cards?
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Oct 2000

Mesh buys Carrera (Domain name, anyway)

Mesh is looking like hot favourite to buy Carrera, its stricken rival, judging from its confidence in buying the domain name: CarreraComputers.co.uk. This registered at easily.co.uk on October 17 WebConsultancy on behalf of Mesh Computers PLC. Carrera today confirmed that it was 'actively discussing' the sale of the company as a going concern, but named no names. However, trade speculation has centered around Evesham, Mesh, and Hi-Grade as prospective buyers. Creditors of Carrera successfully installed Pannell Kerr Forster as a joint administrator of the system builder, after applying to the High Court, on Friday, October 13. Carrera had wanted a single administrator of its own choosing. ® Related stories Rivals start sniffing around troubled Carrera Carrera seeks protection from creditors
Drew Cullen, 18 Oct 2000

Meghurtz™ wars hotting up, literally

It is a truth universally acknowledged that chipmongers form the last bastion of the old 'mine's bigger than yours' school, egged on by hardware geeks around the world. No sooner has Chimpzilla got its shiny new 1.2GHz Athlon out of the door than do we hear rumours of the impending arrival of a 1.33GHz part shipping in December (Story: 1.33GHz Athlon on streets by December?). AMD denies any such launch is scheduled but that cuts no ice with the geeks slavering over how much better the 1.2GHz Athlon is than anything Intel can offer. Intel is the company chip geeks love to hate and whenever AMD does something better (or is even rumoured to be about to do it), the bulletin boards are awash with illiterate rants along the lines of how AMD is really creaming Intel, hahaha, isn't it great? And it is indeed true that for the last few months, AMD has indeed had - and shipped - faster desktop CPUs than Intel. Chipzilla tried to play catch up and suffered the ignominy of recalling its flagchip 1.13GHz part because it, erm, didn't actually work. But at the end of next month, the Pentium 4 will launch at 1.4 and 1.5GHz with faster speeds coming early in Q1 2001. The chip behemoth has stated that the ramp for P4 will be the most aggressive in its history (story: Fastest ever rollout? Intel bets jobs, ranch on Pentium 4). So aggressive in fact that it doesn't really care about getting a revised, working 1.13GHz PIII out of the door until sometime next year. P4 will have the magic 1.5GHz label that means so much to so many. So in a month's time, Intel will have regained the clock speed lead and should be able to keep it for the foreseeable future. AMD has just revamped its thermal guidelines for Athlons and the temperatures and power consumption figures make pretty scary reading unless you're a heatsink manufacturer. The Socket A 1.1GHz Athlon is now rated at 60.3W, up from 55.1W. The 1.2GHz part goes up from 59.4W to 65.7W and runs at a die temperature just five degrees C below boiling point. When the 1.3GHz part finally arrives it will push out almost 71W of heat, and the 1.4GHz version will warm the cockles of your heart with a stonking heat output of 76.1W. Projected die temperatures remain a secret but you just know they're gonna be hot, hot, hot. By anyone's standards, this is an awful lot of heat to get rid of and AMD systems already have a reputation of being considerably noisier than the Intel equivalents due to the additional cooling required. Until Chimpzilla can move to a smaller process for Athlon and Duron, that heat problem can only get worse. ® Related stories Fastest ever rollout? Intel bets jobs, ranch on Pentium 4 This Megahertz madness must end Megahurtz, memory wars exercise in futility 1.33GHz Athlon on streets by December? 1.33GHz Athlon 'for sale' - in Sweden Intel to hype P4 over 1.13GHz PIII, and barely ship either? 1.4GHz P4 price slashed
Andrew Thomas, 18 Oct 2000

Body scanning for clothes

The much-talked about body scanners that will revolutionise online clothes shopping (no, really) have arrived. Or at least, plans for their installation in Lands End outlets in 50 American shopping malls have arrived. These machines, to be made by Image Twin, have been publicised so much over the last few years that anyone with a television will have heard of them. However, for those of you just back from a trip to Uranus, here is the deal. A person stands in the scanning booth, which then records the exact dimensions of your body. A truly terrifying prospect. Then, the data is stored on a secure site (Well, would you want anyone fiddling with your virtual cup size?) where it can be accessed to buy clothes from affiliated companies. According to a recent Forreste survey, 38 per cent of respondents cited sizing as the biggest deterrent to shopping for clothes online. Evie Black Dykema, a Forrester analyst, reckons commercialised body scanning should be a big plus for online shopping. "The inability to not be able to try on clothes or feel them is the biggest obstacle for consumers in buying apparel." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Oct 2000

BT's pay-as-you-go paedophile detection

BT is charging the police £130 a pop for searching information about suspected paedophiles using its services to access the Web. The phone giant says it is making the charge to recover "part of the costs" incurred in making the search and maintains that it makes no money on the deal. The charges were revealed on ITV's Tonight with Trevor McDonald programme, which outlined police procedures for identifying people involved in paedophilia on the net. When a suspect has been identified online, the officers contact BT to obtain their names and addresses, which BT will provide for £130. The parents of murdered schoolchild Sarah Payne, condemned BT for hindering the work of police officers. In a statement, they said: "We think this is absolutely disgusting. We are trying to protect our children, their safety shouldn't have a price attached to it - this service should be provided free of charge. BT makes enough profit as it is. How can it possibly justify charging the police for this critical information?" A police officer speaking on the programme noted BT's legal entitlement to re-coup any costs incurred, but said the company was on shaky moral ground. He said: "While BT have every right legally to recover the cost of carrying out searches, they must surely balance this out with the ethical questions involved here. Surely they would want to make sure that paedophiles are not operating on the Net just as we are striving to do." BT makes the charges to the police in its capacity as network operator - it says comparisons with other ISPs are not meaningful. A spokeswoman told us: "It is not a case of looking up the name and address in a database. It is actually a very complicated procedure." She compared it to the recent case of a man accused of blackmailing an executive at Thames Water who was eventually traced to a laptop in Turkey. "Every time a user dials in he or she is assigned an IP address. Unless the user has a dedicated line it will more often than not be a different IP address, which in turn could be assigned to hundreds of people in a day." Demon Internet, a leading ISP, says it makes no charge for this kind of information, but revealed plans afoot to introduce some stardard fees across the industry. The Internet Crime Forum, an organisation comprising ISPs and the police, is looking at working out a fair cost scale, a spokesman for Demon said. "The police recognise that tracking down this kind of information is not a simple matter." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Oct 2000

Pentium 4 mobos double in number

Visitors to the AOpen booth at World PC Expo 2000, which started yesterday in Tokyo, can check out one of the world's best two mobos for Intel's upcoming flagchip Pentium 4. The AX4T motherboard uses the 850 Tehama chipset, currently being revamped due to an erratumnotbug causing glitches with certain PCI graphics cards. (Story: P4 launch now set for end of November). As the revised version of Tehama isn't with us yet (manufacturing was scheduled to start this week), the AX4T board on show in Tokyo is fitted with the pre-revision chipset. This doesn't matter too much as there isn't actually a Pentium 4 on the board, but visitors are assured that it would work, were one to be fitted, honest. Details including the price of the motherboard and the date that it will go on sale remain a mystery. No other mobo makers are exhibiting Pentium 4 motherboards in public at the World PC Expo event, but some companies are reputedly running demos of their 1.5GHz Pentium 4 products in behind-the-scenes, private showrooms reserved for corporate bigwigs only. Almost all of these will be using Intel's own TTM (Time To Market) Garibaldi 850 mobo. Aopen's flaunting of its Pentium 4 mobo ahead of its competitors is obviously an attempt to show off its product development expertise, but it also says 'We're best pals with Intel' as well. ® Related stories P4 launch now set for end of November 850 chipset delays Pentium 4 launch
Andrew Thomas, 18 Oct 2000

Gore, Bush campaigns announce 440 IT groupies – each

US vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman yesterday announced "more than 440 technology and business" community endorsers for the Gore-Lieberman campaign. By a bizarre coincidence, the rival Bush-Cheney campaign also yesterday announced that "the number of high technology leaders now endorsing Governor Bush... is now up to 440." Now, children... There is absolutely no way The Register is going to count the Gore list to see if it really comes to 441, but credit where credit's due, the Gore list is readily available, while we don't seem to be able to readily lay hands on the full membership of Dubya's now bloated Information Technology Advisory Council. But we hope to find it soon, because the Gore roster is entertaining stuff. At the head of Bush's IT backers we have a fairly predictable list of running-dogs. Mchael Dell, John Chambers (Cisco), Gordon Moore and Craig Barrett (Intel), Ray Lane (ex-Oracle) and Scott McNealy of Sun. If this were a Microsoft election you might wonder about the latter two, but it's not, so you don't. Still, given that the 'save our Microsofties from Big Government' noises have been coming out of the Republican rather than the Democrat camp, the full Gore list is worth scrutiny. You can get the preferred big names elsewhere, so we won't trouble you with them here. But it includes around half a dozen (we're still not counting) Microsoft employees, the president of Teledesic, and the chairman of Qualcomm. Highest profile of the Gore-supporting Microsoft contingent is senior VP Jeff Raikes, with company wireless head honcho Ben Waldman the number two. Nostalgia fans will welcome John Roos of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, which you may recall as the law firm shouting monopoly way, way back. But it's still not a Microsoft election. It's arguably an Internet one though, and it seems to be getting dirty. At time of writing www.echampions.com - the Republican National Committee site with the unfortunate spam connections - seems to be seriously dead, and may well have been so since at least last night Pacific time. ® See also: Complete Gore IT chum list
John Lettice, 18 Oct 2000

Middle East unrest could threaten P4

Although the situation in the Middle East is mercifully slightly more stable today than it was last week, relations between Israel and the Palestinians are still a long way from what one might call cordial. It must be something of a worry to Intel, then, to be reminded that Fab 18 at Qiryat Gat is built on the site of the Palestinian village of Al Faluja. Al Faluja was destroyed in 1949 during the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Fab 18 is tasked with producing practically all the world's Pentium 4s and it would be something of a challenge, to use a good old Intel phrase, should the plant be involved in any local unpleasantness or were it to become a pawn in a territorial dispute. Intel refused to comment on contingency plans for shifting production from Qiryat Gat should the worst happen, beyond stating: "The safety of our employees is paramount. We continue to monitor developments in the region." ® Related stories Pentium 4 yields 'not impressive' Israel to make a million 1.7GHz Pentium 4s
Andrew Thomas, 18 Oct 2000

Intel cuts prices – not many told

Intel performed a stealth price cut on a handful (if you're a character in The Simpsons) of chips on Monday, reducing three Pentium III parts by up to $50. The 667 and 650MHz PIIIs drop from $193 to $163, while the 600MHz chip drops a tad more, from $193 to $143. All prices are for 1Ku. But German site PC Welt has a much longer list of price cuts, including the 1GHz PIII dropping some 30 per cent from $669 to $465 and the Celeron 700 moving by 36 per cent from $138 to $88. An Intel spokesperson denied that any such cuts had been made, saying that the 1GHz PIII is still priced at $669. Asked where he thought PC Welt had obtained its prices, the spokesman replied: "You'd better ask them." Of course, there will be price adjustments right across Chipzilla's range in about a month's time when the Pentium 4 finally arrives. And they'll be pretty much in the ballpark outlined by our German chums… ® Register factoid Should Salomon Smith Barney analyst Jonathan Joseph be reading (Story: AMD price cuts revisited), I've done the sums right this time, Jon, so it's safe to lift the story.
Andrew Thomas, 18 Oct 2000

Intel slams Rambus ‘toll collecting’ tactics

Intel CEO Craig Barrett says that his company made a mistake getting into bed with Rambus. In an interview published in The Financial Times, Barrett admitted: "We made a big bet on Rambus and it did not work out." He said that it had been a mistake to rely on another company for technology that "gates your performance". In the interview he also slams Rambus's policy of suing its competitors. "We hoped we were partners with a company that would concentrate on technology rather than seeking to collect a toll from other companies." However unhappy Intel may be with the situation it finds itself in, it is not one it can back out of easily. Chipzilla is contractually obliged to support Rambus with the P4 processor, due on the market (some would say over due) next month. ® You can find the full story in The Financial Times.
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Oct 2000

Cube size update

While lesser publications drone on about mainframes, Linux and other trivia, The Register reports on the one issue that really matters to our readers: cubicle sizes. While Aunty Carly's cost-saving plans for Hewlett-Packard centred around shrinking worker's cubes from eight feet by ten feet to eight by eight, spare a thought for the insiders at Intel's Hillsboro, Oregon plant. One rather cramped employee reports that his cubicle mysteriously shrunk over the weekend to a rather snug eight by five in order to squeeze in more bodies. And at another Intel plant in DuPont, Washington, they have an ergonomist who measures everyone for the right chair height and desk surface height (within their cube, of course). Built to hold some 7000 bodies, there are currently only 1500 or so working there, so there are entire floors of empty cubicles. Does that mean that current Inteloids can spread out and take over more space? Nope. ® Related stories HP's going down the cubes Incredible shrinking cubicles - the madness continues
Andrew Thomas, 18 Oct 2000

PC World flogs broadband

PC World is to start flogging broadband ADSL services from Freeserve directly to punters. From today, 48 PC World outlets throughout Britain will start touting FreeservePlus to home and business users. The broadband service costs £39.99 a month. According to Freeserve, this is the first widespread retail rollout of ADSL in the UK by an Internet service and retail chain. Indeed, the network of retailers should provide a decent shop window for the super fast technology. PC World and Freeserve are part of the part of the Dixons Stores Group. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Oct 2000

Whistler slipping to 2002?

Does Gartner hold an internal contest for the best 'look at me' news hooks to be used for its annual Florida Symposium? If so, competition must have been pretty intense this year. But we think Tom Bittman with his combo 'Whistler will slip to 2002, Microsoft is derailing .NET by not dealing with the DoJ, Microsoft should agree a split into two companies' pitch probably clinched it. Still, Steve Ballmer's reprise of 'I'm a good sport because I keep coming to these things and they kick the crap out of me' deserves an honourable mention. But Bittman first. He doesn't seem to have given his entire reasoning for predicting a delay to Whistler, but we're probably talking about the first analyst of spring here. The Whistler first beta has slipped back into November, and it does seem like Microsoft is having trouble getting the UI together properly. Even when it has started to get that under control, it's going to have compatibility problems with existing applications, some of them its own. So there's the breakware problem to deal with. In previous OS projects Microsoft has repeatedly junked the innovative UI in order to get the product out the door, but that'll be tricky with Whistler because the company has already made too much noise about it, and because without the UI people will start shouting 'service pack' again. So predicting slippage early seems like a reasonable bet for an analyst to make - good shooting, Bittman and you read it here second. Bittman figures it'll at least slip from Q3 to Q4, and will slide towards Q1 2002. That's a reasonable bet to make too, with little risk attached, as Q4 tends to fuzz into the next year anyway (cf Win2k). He starts to lose it on .NET and the DoJ though. By not settling, he argues, Microsoft has driven down the stock price and delayed .NET because the way .NET will be packaged will remain undefined while the appeals process is gone through. This reasoning, however, does not work. Elsewhere Steve Ballmer (in between kicks) said Microsoft hadn't done much to prepare for the possibility of breakup, but this is clearly untrue - as reported here, Microsoft has proceeded on the basis that it is not going to be broken up, and has even reorganised its reporting categories in a way that straddles the breakup fault-lines. As yet there's absolutely no reason why the legal matter should have delayed .NET development. Customers might be leery of buying into .NET while Microsoft's future is up in the air, but as they currently have very little in the way of .NET to buy, aside from a couple of swift repackages, that's not currently relevant. As far as the stock price is concerned the antitrust action might have some importance, but it's difficult to pin it down. MS stock took a dive when the settlement talks failed (just after poor Rick Sherlund said how well they were going), but the realisation that nothing bad is going to happen for some considerable time ought to have counteracted that by now, and the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the appeal, followed by the appeals court's relatively leisurely schedule, must surely have convinced the market not to worry. Not about that, anyway. It's legitimate for analysts to worry about Win2k uptake, sagging PC sales (blame the Europeans if you like), and even about the cute pieces of financial engineering that could result in the whole lot coming unpicked if the stock price doesn't start going up again soon. But Dell, Intel and IBM have all come unstuck and, doncha know, none of these has an outstanding antitrust case to answer. IBM got parole, Intel was entirely (surely improbably? - Ed) exonerated. So go figure over why Microsoft's shareholder value doesn't look so good. ® Related Story: Whistler public beta slips again - but say hello to Build 2281
John Lettice, 18 Oct 2000