14th > November > 2000 Archive
Azlan, the networking equipment distie to IT training firm, more than doubled its profits to £3.74m (1999: £1.67m) for the six months to September 30. Sales climbed 35 per cent to £261.7m. Ian Boyle is poised to buy-out Datrontech, the stricken distie, he co-founded with Steve King, according to Microscope. It cites 'several sources' who say Boyle is the favoured option of receiver Touche Deloitte, because he has offered to buy the entire operation. However, there is also a second 'unknown party' prepared to buy the entire operation, the paper reports. Receivers Touche Deloitte advertised the company for sale in the FT last week, in which it revealed that turnover was £110m a year, a far cry from its peak when the company hit £110m. Touche Deloitte advertised three continuing businesses - the components distribution arm for system builders; Portable Add-ons and the Data Connectivity networking equipment distribution arm. Microscope: The long lingering death of Datrontech Specialist Computer Holdings (SCH) is merging two of its distribution businesses, Qudis and Elite. The new entity, to be called Interchange Distribution, will target the SME market. ETC, SCH's main distribution business, will focus on bigger resellers and VARs. Torex has bought Pennine Medical Systems, a supplier of computer systems to GPs, for £1.1m in cash and shares. Based in Halifax, Pennine recorded sales of £1.1m for the year ended March 31, 2000. ®
Is Bertelsmann out to acquire Liquid Audio? That was the key rumour doing the rounds at the Webnoize 2000 conference yesterday. The German media giant, whose Bertelsmann Music Group subsidiary is one of the world's 'big five' recording companies, is already known to be keen on buying fellow major label EMI - a Liquid Audio partner, incidentally - and wants to take a majority stake in controversial music sharing software company Napster. In the circumstances, a bid of Liquid Audio, one of the digital music market's pioneers, isn't entirely surprising. Liquid Audio's technology wraps rights management and copy protection around the MP3 audio format, making it an ideal partner to provide the technology Napster needs to go legitimate. And since Bertelsmann, under the guise of its e-commerce group, is driving Napster's attempt to get on the side of the music industry, that has to put Liquid Audio on the German company's radar screen. Liquid Audio CEO Gerry Kearby wouldn't comment on the rumour, but he did tell Reuters that "everybody is talking to everybody", signalling upcoming mergers between the digital music business' smaller players, perhaps inevitable now the majors are starting to take the market seriously. He also pointed out that his company is not seeking a sale - but that's clearly not the same thing as being targeted for acquisition. ® Related Stories BMG attempting to merge with EMI BMG alliance may hinder Napster cloners BMG, Napster deal damned by Universal Napster makes sweet music with Bertelsmann
Transmeta's code morphing technology may be terribly elegant, and LongRun power management may be more sophisticated than either Intel's SpeedStep or AMD's PowerNow, but the sad fact is that elegance and sophistication do not a world-beating product make. Elegance, schmelegance A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, this writer had occasion to review a piece of software called BatteryWatch Pro (obviously an upgrade from BatteryWatch Amateur). BWP aimed to measure laptop battery consumption accurately before anyone had ever heard of ACPI. It performed this task admirably and elegantly. It was hard to fault the design or implementation of the product. But tragically, what was possible to fault was the fact that the package cost about the same as a second battery pack. Why have an elegant piece of software that could warn you that your laptop was about to die, when for the same money you could make the little devil work for twice as long? Nice product, nice implementation, but barking up entirely the wrong cellulose-based lifeform. So what's wrong with the tree that Crusoe's woofing at? While Transmeta's mobile chip is undoubtedly more efficient in terms of conserving battery power than anything on offer from the two market leaders, it does rather ignore two significant facts of mobile life: 1. The processor accounts for much less than 30 per cent of the total power budget of a laptop. 2. Most laptops spend over 75 per cent of their lives plugged into the mains supply. Let's look at the first point. Hard disks can be made to be extremely energy efficient and can spin down whenever they're not needed. But whilst rotating at 5,400 rpm they use quite a lot of juice. When the heads move, even more amps and volts are sucked out of the battery. In a typical notebook, the hard disk uses just under a Watt - the same as a low voltage mobile PIII. The chipset needs about the same and 64Mb of memory needs a tenth of a Watt. The graphics processor soaks up another half a Watt. An LCD display can run in dim mode, when it uses just under three Watts but this is typically only readable on an airplane with the lights out or on an English summer's day. At all other times, the bright setting is de rigueur, using over six Watts. Even the power regulation system uses three quarters of a Watt, the same as a modem, and the CPU fan takes around half a Watt. The processor is a very small part of the overall power budget, a low power one only accounting for a tenth of the total power of a typical 10 Watt notebook. Intel reckons that if a laptop mobo uses a total of around nine Watts, a mobile PIII accounts for just two of them. Even with low-voltage processors, memory will still need 1.35V, making it difficult to translate the theoretical power saving provided by the CPU into significantly-extended battery life. So even if the processor is in deep sleep (as in reality it is most of the time), a considerable amount of electricity is still required. Who cares whether the CPU is a Crusoe, K6 or Pentium III? Well, actually, people do care - what they want is the most powerful processor they (or more likely their company) can afford. At the moment that means an 850MHz Pentium III, not an energy-efficient wotchamacallit. MegaHurtz ™ rules. They want big, bright screens, they want DVD drives, they want fast, big disks. Who cares about battery life? It'll spend nearly all its life plugged into a wall socket. Even on an airplane it can suck electrical nourishment from a socket on the armrest. Come to think about it, most laptops don't actually need a battery at all... Let's be honest. What everyone actually needs here is a more efficient mobile power source, whether it be cold fusion, lithium air or a matter/antimatter reactor. To try to maximise effective laptop life by throwing all your resources at improving just one small part of the equation is wasted effort. Time and money would be better spent helping battery makers produce power packs capable of powering a notebook for a week or so on a single charge. Listen to the music But it isn't all bad news for Transmeta - Crusoe does show promise for applications such as playing MP3 audio. Transmeta's own figures claim a 500MHz PIII needs around five and a half Watts, while code morphing means Crusoe needs just 1.15W. As the display can be blanked and only minimal use of the hard disk is required, this means it should be possible to play something like 24 hours of music on a single charge. Intel has reacted to Crusoe by bringing forward the launch of an ultra-low power mobile Pentium III. AMD has mobile Athlons and Durons on the way using the excellent PowerNow technology. It can only a matter of time before Crusoe (and Transmeta) are consigned to the 'Where are they now?' file, along with flared trousers, Microsoft's Bob, ICL's OPD, BT opening up the local loop, the IBM PC Junior, Betamax VCRs and eight track cartridge players? (Note to pedants: only one of these can claim to be an elegant and sophisticated technology - did you spot which one it was?) ®
AMD has an Athlon running at 1.5GHz at Comdex, but the company still says production Palomino chips will only hit this speed sometime in Q2 next year, by which time Intel's P4 will be running at over 2GHz. You can check out a picture of this week's World's Fastest Processor over at German hardware site TecChannel. And if 1.7GHz is still the best AMD hopes to achieve next year, the company had better start looking for an alternative sales pitch to raw speed. ® Related Stories Intel 'going for AMD's balls' AMD's Mustang is dog food P4 set to bust 2GHz barrier in Q2 next year Pentium 4 to ship bundled with Rambus P4 launch now set for end of November Fastest ever rollout? Intel bets jobs, ranch on Pentium 4
BT has started its £10 billion disposal programme with the sale of a minority share in Swiss telecoms company Sunrise for £460 million. Unfortunately, this had the knock-on effect of pulling Sunrise out of the auction for Swiss 3G licences - just 10 minutes after it started. There are now four bidders left for four licences and the Swiss government is not happy at having lost out on a few billion pounds. In fact, in an eerie echo of the Italian 3G auction, the Swiss government has launched an investigation into BT. Oh dear. We wonder if it will cost BT £1.2 billion this time round. Magazine publisher Emap has halved its intended Net-based investment after releasing disappointing interim results. Originally expecting to spend £250 million in the next three years on expanding its brands online, Emap will now spend just £120 million and concentrate on eight "key markets", which include Q, FHM and Motorcycle News. Pre-tax profits remain the same at £92 million but on a 3 per cent larger revenue (£567 million). Emap has been criticised for heavy and unsuccessful investment in the US over the last year. If you want more of a thrash around the world of Net cash visit our Cash Register.
The HQ of World Online was raided today over allegations of insider trading at the Dutch ISP. The Prosecutor of the Justice Department in Amsterdam sent investigators into the Rotterdam-based offices this morning. The company is "fully co-operating" with the investigation, according to a statement on its Website. The allegations revolve around insider trading at the time of the company's ill-fated IPO on 17 March. "World Online welcomes the opportunity to end the rumours and allegations which have been circulating with respect to the company after the above mentioned IPO. "The company will provide the authorities with all the help and information it can in order to allow a full and speedy investigation to take place," it stated. It is not known if World Online founder and ex-chairwoman Nina Brink, who made around $60 million after flogging most of her stake in the ISP prior to the flotation, is being investigated. Her house has not, apparently, been raided. Brink quit her job in April after World Online staff and investors became peeved at the handling of the IPO. ® Related Stories World Online staff get Nina Brink back in their face World Online punters vent fury at Brinkmanship World Online flat fee is Screaming by any other name
The launch of Seagate's Barracuda 180 has pushed back the finish line again in the race to have the largest hard drive on the planet. Anyone wanting to hold the title must now produce a drive with more than 180GB of space. As well as being the biggest, it is also the quietest for its size - with an acoustic rating of 3.7 decibels. Idle power consumption is low too, at less than 10.3W. At an RRP of $2195 this is not destined for the average home user, but is expected to sell well in data warehousing, e-commerce , data mining and A/V work. The actual pricing on the high street will determined by Seagate resellers. The drive spins at 7,200 RPM, the data transfer rate tops out at 47 MBps, and will be available in the industry-standard Ultra160 SCSI interface. For Audio/Visual specific work, a 16 MB V-code cache option will be offered. ® Bizarre storage statistic: For those of you having trouble visualising 180GB of data, Seagate tells us it is a stack of text documents three times the height of the Empire State Building. They didn't say what font size, so we don't know whether that is as impressive as it sounds. ® Related Stories Fujitsu punts out 30GB 2.5in drives for mobiles Seagate lands bigger Barracuda Seagate hit by component famine
Palm looks certain to go it alone in the smartphone derby after delivering a bitter attack on potential parter Symbian to The Register. We doorstepped Palm's Chief Techology Officer, Bill Maggs, who said Symbian's "3000 man years" of effort wasn't what Palm needed, and criticised the consortium's "one core solution". That's wildly incorrect but, hey - he said it, and we wrote it down. Maggs began by denying that PalmOS would need to be drastically rewritten to cope with real time demands. "We don't have to completely rearchitect it- the architecture's ready to be expanded. It's basically a good data network OS", he said. Palm developers had misgivings about how PalmOS' crude memory management for telephony applications. Doesn't bother us, said Maggs: "Memory management is one way to solve a problem. There are other ways. You don't need some single thing to run on one core. With multiple cores you don't have those problems." So this confirms that Palm is ditching the AMX kernel - Palm licenses its base OS kernel under strict conditions - no multithreading - from Kadar although the Palm documentation has been sanitised to remove any reference to this since we raised it a year ago. "We have a kernel to do one thing," said Maggs. "We can enhance that with new features. But we don't need to run a big MMU, we don't need to spend 3000 man years of effort trying to run a good application enironment, as Symbian has done, without much success it seems to me." Palm has a three stage roadmap with Step Two being strap-on "Sleds" to existing Palm units, and Step Three - what Palm insists on calling integrated devices, expected at the end of 2002, although analyst Nomura says it's most likely a 2003 product. But integrated Symbian phone/PDAs will be hitting the market in volume next summer, heavily subsidised by the network operators, and with an eighteen month lead time over the soap on a rope make-do envisaged by Palm. If there was any nervousness at the prospect of Palm becoming roadkill at the hands of the cellular handset manufacturers, it didn't appear to be reflected by the audience of analysts and press yesterday. Having heard of a new Palm portal, and a $39 software wireless adaptor, the press conference ended with warm applause from the assembled journalists, who then headed for the buffet: crab cakes, roast beef and roast turkey. ®
Skirting around recent corporate setbacks - IBM and Compaq (?) - Transmeta says it will bump up both hardware and software for its Crusoe processors next year. A morphing upgrade to the current Crusoes will offer 20 per cent performance or efficiency improvements - OEMs can choose either, and it's a flashable software upgrade. Transmeta will build 128 VLIW Crusoes next year and 256 bit successors in 2002, marketing Veep Ed McKernan told us. The Transmeta PCs on show at Comdex confirmed that the Japanese are leading with designs that optimise around battery life, in contrast to the more conservative Asian assemblers. Hitachi's thin Flora uses a li-poly battery in the lid, rather the base of the unit, an approach mirrored by Casio. The latter offers a choice of two removable batteries, with the ten hour option protruding by about an inch. With the battery in the screen half of the PC, the base can be reduced to less than an inch thickness, and the designers have moved the ports from the rear to the side of the units. Performance wise, there's a slight stickiness when some apps are run for the first time, but it's almost negligible. So, ten hours for 3lbs? if you're outside Japan, not immediately. Only Casio said it would definitely launch such a device into North America, aiming for Q1 next year. Both Hitachi and NEC told us they regarded the Japanese models as market test products, and wouldn't commit to a US launch. ®
Intel has released version 5.0 of its C++ and Fortran compilers with extensions to utilise the new features available in the upcoming 32-bit Pentium 4, due for launch next Monday. There's also a pre-release version for the 64-bit Itanium which can be used on systems based on Intel 32-bit Pentium processors to create 64-bit executables. Intel has added support for new features such as autovectorisation and OpenMP from Kuck and Associates (KAI), which it bought in April. OpenMP makes it easier to develop applications for multiprocessor computers and uses high-level directives rather than a low-level operating system interface. The compilers also have enhanced optimisation features from earlier releases, including interprocedural optimisation, vectorisation, and profile-guided optimisation. They also come with enhanced intrinsics and class libraries that add the Pentium 4 processor to the list of supported processors. The intrinsics and the class library remove the need to program directly in assembly language. Both compilers plug into Microsoft's Visual Studio development environment and the 32-bit C++ Compiler is source and object code compatible with Microsoft Visual C++. This allows application modules generated with either compiler to be linked together into larger executables, and developers can use the Intel compiler on processor specific modules without having to recompile the entire application. The Fortran Compiler is 'substantially source-code compatible' with Compaq Visual Fortran. The C/C++ Compiler lists at $399 if downloaded from the Web and $499 on CD, while the Fortran Compiler is $449 downloaded and $599 on CD. ®
Bloody hell. The hyped auction for broadband fixed wireless access (acronymised to BFWA) has fallen flat on its face just days after it kicked off, with more than half of the UK yet to even receive a bid. Two of the original ten bidders have already dropped out - US group FirstMark Communications and Unica Communications - and none of those remaining seem all that bothered about competing with one another. So far, after six rounds, a measly £36.5 million has been put forward, destroying any hopes of the £1 billion that the government had been rubbing its sweaty hands over. Not much of that sum has come from raised bids either - we suspect, for example, that Energis is annoyed at having started with a bid of £1 million for one of the three licences in Scotland. Particularly because no one else at all has bid against it or for one of the other licences. This isn't the exception either. There isn't one bid for any of the licences in Wales; Hants, Berks, Oxon & Isle of Wight; Essex, Herts & Bucks; Suffolk, Norfolk, Beds, Cambs & Northants; Derby, Lincs, Leics, Notts & Rutland; Kent, Surrey, E Sussex & W Sussex; Tyne & Wear, Durham, Northumb, Cumbria & Lancs; and Bristol, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, Wilts & Glos. Considering this is supposed to be an auction, there are actually only two out of 14 regions that actually have any competition whatsoever. The first is, unsurprisingly, London, and the second, Northern Ireland. There is a slight discrepancy in bidding level though - £4.24 million for the cheapest in London, £110,000 for the cheapest in Northern Ireland. It's quite hard to find an adequate way to describe the auction success but "abject failure" is a good start. There will have to be some serious questions, raised very soon, on how this auction has been planned and set up. And all this after a six-month delay too. Bloody hell. ® Related Stories Fixed wireless auction is go! go! go! Roll-up! Roll-up! Second money-burning Internet auction on way It's a fixed wireless auction thing
Japan's NTT DoCoMo has said revenues form data transmissions over its i-mode service have leaped 20-fold in the last six months to ¥117.2 billion ($1.1 billion). The i-mode service connects mobile phone callers to the Net and its success has helped boost DoCoMo's six month sales by 26 per cent to ¥2.2 trillion ($20.38 billion). The company is signing up three quarters of Japan's new cell phone customers. Group net income for the six months to 30 September rose to ¥217.5 billion ($2 billion). The company has raised its full year earnings forecast 12 per cent to ¥347 billion ($3.22 billion). It expects 20 million i-mode subscriptions by March. Vodafone is expecting profit to grow faster in the second half of its fiscal year by adding subscribers and getting more of them to text message each other. The company made a loss of £4.7 billion for the period ended 30 September, largely on acquisition costs. Sales rose 32 per cent to £10.2 billion from £7.7 billion for the period a year earlier. ® For another turn round the mobile money-go-round visit Cash Register.
Veteran science fiction author and Byte columnist Jerry Pournelle launched an astonishing verbal assault in a Las Vegas eaterie yesterday which left a disabled local journalist in tears. Returning with two companions to his four-place table at a local Convention Centre restaurant, Pournelle found wheel chair Joy Lynd Chamberlain occupying the fourth spot. Pournelle raged at the encroachment, demanded she leave and yelled "you've got no class!" to the disabled diner. An outraged Washington Post reporter - who'd been dining at the table and was on his way out - chivarously offered to accompany Pournelle outside to settle his differences with someone more able bodied. The manager was summoned and Pournelle was eventually heard to apologise, blaming lack of sleep and coffee. Pournelle is best known for immensely long, solipsistic accounts of not quite getting his home network to work. But those quasi-fascist Ayn Rand novels Pournelle has been reading (he's a libertarian nut) for so long have obviously taken their toll too.. Very classy stuff, Jerry.. ®.
UK ISP Freeserve has gone one step further in alienating its customers by sending out hundreds of thousands of emails demanding payment within seven days or risk being cut off Freeserve Time altogether. An estimated 250,000 people received an email beginning: "According to our records, the following amount is outstanding on your account: £xx.xx. If the amount shown above remains outstanding, you should note that under the terms of your agreement with us you are required to pay by direct debit and if we are unable to collect the amounts due by direct debit, the debt will be forwarded to an external agency for manual collection and may result in the Service being suspended or cancelled." Except a number of readers have contacted us to tell us that they actually set up direct debit accounts with Freeserve and so would like to know why they are being threatened with bailiffs for less than £20. A number of them contacted Freeserve and were informed that Freeserve Time's billing system had fallen over and had been unable to access direct debit accounts for at least three months. This was confirmed with reference to readers' bank statements. It would appear there has been a complete breakdown and so a mass (hysterical) email has been sent out to claim all outstanding debts. One reader, on calling Freeserve for information, was told to send a copy of his bank statement proving what he had paid (to a different address) as the company had no record of who had paid what when. People are, unsurprisingly, not very happy about the situation. We gave Freeserve a call and outlined the main problems. It confirmed an email demanding money had been sent out but insisted it had not been sent out by Freeserve, rather network supplier Energis Communications. A statement is apparently "being prepared" and confirmation was needed for all other points. Yesterday, Freeserve annoyed hundreds more customers by cutting them off for "abusing" the service. We received an email from one of the 700 original people pulled off last month. In it, he claimed that in response to a letter sent by him to the Freeserve board, he was informed that anyone using the service for more than 340 hours in August had been pulled off. As he points out, this equates to 11 hours per day, and not the 17 hours per day that Freeserve was claiming. A Freeserve spokeswoman told us that those pulled off had been the subject of "careful investigations" but she would look into the situation. All this looks extremely bad for Freeserve. It also begs the question of how much cash and liquid assets Freeserve has at its disposal. Is Energis dragging out what it can? Can Freeserve not afford to run at a loss any longer? Has funding dried up? We'll wait and see. ® Related Stories Freeserve to cut off hundreds more customers Freeserve gets mad with 'abnormal' users
Be yesterday introduced a suite of server-side software tools that will allow BeIA-based Net appliance providers to manage their installed base of machines. Be's launch perhaps doesn't sound much - it certainly appears to have been largely ignored by the IT media - but it's actually a canny development in an unregarded but essential area of the Net appliance market pundits are still waiting to take off. The suite of tools goes by the BeIA Management and Administration Platform (MAP) and contains back-end functionality to maintain and administer a 'fleet' of BeIA-based boxes out in the field. The suite comprises device management, admin, software mastering, data import, authentication and application delivery servers. The idea is that ISPs, for example, take charge of users' appliances, not the users themselves. Techies will hate the idea of course - they're the ones who should be maintaining their systems - installing upgrades, adding new applications and features - not the provider. But the target market for Net appliances doesn't comprise the more technologically minded of us. Heck, many PC users never bother to upgrade their system software, and appliance users certainly aren't going to want to. "People don't know what makes their telephone work, but are confident that they will hear a dial tone when they pick up the receiver. Device and service providers want to offer consumers the same experience with Internet appliances," is how Be puts it. Essentially, Be's MAP provides a new (ish) model for the appliance market, one that's service-oriented rather than, as is usually the case, a product-oriented approach. Amazon.com, for example, may decide to offer free Net access via a really cheap box to its customers, with the idea that this will encourage them to buy more product from the supplier online. Amazon hasn't made such an announcement - we're using its name solely for illustrative purposes - but this is the great concept of the giveaway PC or, as now seems more likely, the freebie appliance. With a product model, once Amazon ships the box, that's it, it's fixed, unless the user explicitly downloads and installs an update. If Amazon adds a new feature, it can only do so via its Web service. The idea behind MAP is that as Amazon changes, so too can the box - the two become fully integrated. The point is, the box becomes part of the service, not simply the mechanism by which the service is delivered. Equally, the system can be administered as if it were just a PC on a corporate network, allowing ISPs to perform remote diagnostics or install updates (perhaps at night when the appliance isn't otherwise being used). As we say, this isn't an entirely new approach. Canadian developer Espial has for some time been working on a Java-based system that runs along similar lines, allowing ISPs to integrate the full spectrum of appliances and mobile devices into their own service offerings. Espial's system is more advanced than Be's, providing e-commerce and micropayment facilities and content management tools. And using Java means it runs on anything with a JVM installed. MAP and Espial are also both inheritors of the role foreseen Marimba's Castanet technology, which started out as an Internet push technology - remember them? - but later morphed into a corporate desktop PC remote admin and management technology. Still, Be's MAP is a step in the right direction, and acknowledges that there's more to the appliance market than flogging a box with a built-in OS and Web browser. MAP is due to ship Q1 2001, Be said yesterday. Pricing, says Be, will be customer-specific, based on the number of users and level of services the ISP wants to offer. Again, that shows Be thinking that the real money in the Net appliance market is going to be made off the back of the service providers, not the users of the boxes or the companies that make them. ®
Palm has launched its Mobile Internet Kit, which allows Palm III, V and m100 PDAs hook up to the Net via a cellphone connection. And the company has finally announced the release of the anticipated update to the PalmOS, version 3.5. The $39.95 kit essentially brings to those machines the same kind of Net access that the currently Palm VII and VIIx offer. It bundles POP/IMAP email, Web, SMS and WAP browsing apps. The PalmOS already has dial-up Net access, but doesn't contain any applications that can make use of it, though third-party apps are available. You'll still need to get one of those if you want to access the Web in full - Palm's Kit only supports the company's Web clipping technology, designed to cut down on the amount of data needed to be sent across a wireless link. Once installed, the Mobile Internet Kit allows Palm PDAs to be connected to the Net via a cellphone - it links up with a cable or infra-red link - provided it contains a built-in modem. Other handsets will presumably be supported through plug-in modems, such as Palm's own or Psion's Travel Modem. As ever, the cable you need comes with the dreaded 'sold separately' tag. The Mobile Internet Kit requires PalmOS 3.5, which is currently shipping with the IIIc and IIIxe, and the new m100 PDA, but has at last shipped as an upgrade for older models. The Kit's price includes PalmOS 3.5, but the upgrade is also available for download or on CD-ROM. Like the Kit's phone cable, the standalone 3.5 upgrade isn't free - the download costs $14.95; the CD version $19.95. PalmOS 3.5's new features include an agenda view, tappable menus, a shortcut command bar, improved privacy, quick duplication of Address Book entries, faster HotSync operation, infrared (IR) HotSync operation, Euro symbol support and a "snooze" button. ®
Around 6.3 million American shoppers are expected to spend the majority of their Christmas budget online this season. This figure is up around 300 per cent on 1999, when 1.6 million punters in the US spent more than half their festive dollars on the Net. An estimated 35 million e-Santas will buy online this season, spending $11.6 billion, according to Media Metrix. This compares to last year's 20 million and $7 billion. More surfers are already shopping online - in August 75 per cent of Net users visited e-tailers, already higher than last year's peak month of December. Media Metrix has also stuck its neck on the line with predictions of what Americans will buy online - providing they can drag themselves away from the current election fiasco. It reckons a "surprisingly high number" of surfers will buy clothes or shoes online, though books, music and toys will remain the top purchases. "While online shoppers are price-conscious, they will primarily be driven by the need to save time and avoid crowds this holiday season," said Ken Cassar, Jupiter Research senior analyst, who warned against e-tailers offering too many freebies. "Merchants must balance consumers' desire for promotions and discounts while keeping an eye on their bottom line," he added. Almost 80 per cent of e-shoppers are expected to spend at least ten per cent of their holiday funds online, while 18 per cent will get e-Chrimbo madness and blow more than 50 per cent. The most successful sites are expected to be those with traditional brick-and-mortar origins. ® Related Stories Dell and Dixons give dire e-service Online shopping is big Buy a PC for Christmas and Yule be sorry Santa's gonna surf down yer chimney
Playboy Enterprises has pulled Playboy.com out of its IPO before it could make any kind of splash. Market conditions just aren't firm enough. Maybe the site could be stickier? Playboy promises to be back when there's more excitement in the market for dotcoms. We wouldn't want it to go titsup.com. For the nine months to 30 September Playboy.com made a loss of $18 million on sales of $18.8 million. ® Related Story AltaVista pimps for pornmonger
Vodafone and the data protection commissioner have joined forces in an attempt to shut down a mobile spam company, Webcom International. The two of them claim that the company is abusing the SMS service and breaking data protection rules. Not so, says Webcom - which sends out four million spam text messages a week - we dial numbers randomly and so no rules have been broken. Vodafone is unswayed and wants the company shut down. Following one conversation with the data commissioner, Webcom agreed to make it clear that the message was an advertisement. Claims that it originally sent out messages starting "Please call, urgent" were denied by Webcom. It also, amazingly, reckons that 30 per cent of people that receive the junk message respond to it. It didn't have figures for how many of them were angry. ®
Chimpzilla now says it won't have a 2GHz processor on the market until the 64-bit ClawHammer arrives some time in the first half of 2002 - a full year after Intel's P4 hits the same speed. The four and eight-way server variant, SledgeHammer, will sample in Q1 2002 and go into production in Q2. The company showed an Athlon running at 1.5GHz at Comdex earlier today, but until the end of this year, a 1200/266 Athlon will still be top of the AMD heap. This should increase to 1333MHz in Q1, 1.5GHz in Q2, 1.7 sometime in the second half of the year, finally reaching 2GHz or more in 2002. Duron will develop from 850MHz in Q1 to 900MHz in Q2, 1GHz in the second half of 2001 and 1.1GHz the next year. Palomino and Morgan, respectively the performance and value notebook offerings, will ship in the first half of 2001 and will be replaced a year later by the 0.13 micron Thoroughbred and Appaloosa. So it looks as if Intel will have things pretty much to itself at the high end for all of next year. Where AMD has an opportunity is in the gap between the top Pentium III and the low end of the P4 range. We doubt that the ill-fated PIII 1.13GHz will ever resurface, although it still shows up on Intel roadmaps (see Recalled PIII will never resurface) With PIII maxing out at 1GHz and the 1.4GHz entry-level P4 being phased out in Q2 next year, that effectively gives AMD the entire market between 1GHz and 1.5GHz. It's a niche market, sure. But it's a pretty damned big niche market. ® Related Stories AMD demos 1.5GHz Athlon Intel 'going for AMD's balls' AMD's Mustang is dog food P4 set to bust 2GHz barrier in Q2 next year
The greens have a new ally in keeping the planet clean, at least in the US, as IBM has announced that it has signed up to a new initiative to help people recycle unwanted computer hardware. The initiative is aiming specifically at individuals and small sized businesses, and in exchange for $29.99, IBM will accept obsolete equipment and send it off to be recycled. The fee includes 'shipping costs', so all users have to do is box up the old hardware and send it to Envirocycle, a US recycling firm. However, in Europe, the EC has proposed that industry should be responsible for the collection and disposal of electronic waste in a directive called 'Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment' or WEEE for short. Under the terms of the directive the manufacturers would also have to find a way to fund it. Passing the costs on to the consumer in such a direct way may only deter people from signing up. As far as we know there is no equivalent in the US. But it is clear that something needs to be done. A recent study by the National Safety Council's Environmental Health Centre estimated that in 1998 only 11 per cent of the 20.6 million obsolete PCs were recycled. Moreover, the NSC estimates that 315 million additional computers will become outdated by 2004. Until now the industry in general has dealt with the problem by shipping old equipment to countries with weaker environmental laws for cheap but more hazardous disposal. So, this new scheme is certainly to be applauded in principle But does it go far enough and will people actually pay IBM to take away their old machines? Environmental organisation, Friends of the Earth, says that it is imperative that old electrical equipment be recycled. According to a spokeswoman for the organisation there are two main issues. Firstly the question of resource efficiency: continued mining for the component metals is just not sustainable. Secondly, there are very dangerous substances used in the manufacture of computers and peripherals. While the casings can be kept and recycled fairly easily, there is concern that more and more of the parts, which contain mercury, cadmium and lead, will end up in landfill site or illegal dumps. Incineration merely pumps loads of dioxins into the environment - a by product of the burning plastics. Wayne Balta, IBM's director of corporate environmental affairs said that the service will allow the equipment to either be recycled "in an environmentally responsible way," or donated to a worthy cause if the equipment still works. ® Related Link Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive
Samsung has begun mass production of 0.17 micron Rambus DRAMs. The company says the new technology is being used to produce RDRAMs with densities of 128, 144, and 288Mb. The new process not only shrinks the die size thereby reducing manufacturing costs but will also improve speeds by more than 30 per cent, says the company. This could mean 1GHz RDRAM in the not too distant future. The company says that Rambus now accounts for more than 20 per cent of its DRAM output and that it expects to ship over half the world's Rambus DRAMs this year, estimating that its RDRAM revenues will reach $900 million in 2000. The company also claims that worldwide sales of Rambus DRAMs will grow 132 per cent annually from $1.7 billion in 2000 to around $9.2 billion by 2002. The total DRAM market is expected to reach $31 billion in 2000 and grow to $43 billion by 2002, according to a new forecast released by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). ® Related Stories Rambus to take 40 per cent of DRAM biz Taiwan DRAM gang ditches Rambus Gartner jumps on 'RDRAM dead' bandwagon Pentium 4 to ship bundled with Rambus
A suggested amendment to the Freedom of Information Act, put forward by Lord Falconer, aims to automatically exempt all cases of Tribunals concerning the RIP Act from disclosure. The amendment (number 34, clause 22) reads "By the Lord Falconer Thoroton, Page 14, line 1, at end insert - ('( ) the Tribunal established under section 65 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000,')." The Tribunal element of the RIP Act concerns any complaints made regarding the wide-ranging powers given to the government and security services to investigate UK residents. The RIP Act has been widely criticised as overriding human rights as defined by the Human Rights Act, and the Tribunal will be an important aspect in deciding how far the law can be pushed. Those involved in the Tribunal system will be: the intelligence services, armed forces, police, National Criminal Intelligence Service; crime squad and Customs & Excise. If the tabled amendment were to go through, this aspect of RIP would effectively become top secret. The implications are obvious and are a further worry for civil liberties groups. It is also another indication that the Freedom of Information Act - a mainstay of Labour party policy for as long as we can remember - has become drastically watered down, relying as it does on politicians deciding what is and is not in the public interest. ® Related Links The suggested amendment The Regulation of Investigory Powers Act The RIP section referring to the Tribunal
Network Solutions has dodged a lawsuit over its refusal to register domain names containing naughty words. The saga started when Company Island Online wanted to register several obscene URLs, includiing: "f***me.com;" f***you.com" and "c***s***.com". But clean-living execs at NSI took the moral high-ground and refused. Meanwhile, Company Online claims it lost the rights to the names - and their high commercial value - as others snapped them up through different registrars while it was scrapping with NSI. It tried to sue NSI and the National Science Foundation, the federal government agency that gave NSI domain name registration powers in 1993, for civil rights violations. But US District Judge David G. Trager pointed out that the domain name registration field was no longer a monopoly. There are around 35 domain name registrars that Company Online could have approached, so it was not deprived of its right to free speech. Judge Trager also said other people had approached NSI to register the same dirty domains before Company Island. So if the plaintiff was allowed to sue, a whole flock of lawsuits from the others would no doubt follow," the New York Law Journal reported. "NSI would potentially have to pay a theoretically endless series of judgments to every plaintiff to emerge out of the woodwork for an injury that only a single party could have actually sustained," he said. ® Related Stories Register domains with Korean, Japanese or Chinese characters The easy way to beat the URL bully AltaVista shames cybersquatter ICANN steps over the mark - again
Hewlett-Packard and Intel are taking Apple's Power Mac G4 Cube head on with their own highly compact PC design, codenamed Deep Forest. Well, sort of. Deep Forest turns out to be part of Chipzilla's Concept PC... er.. concept. In other words, it's a 'this is what we could do... if we wanted to... but we don't' model. The prototype design isn't quite as cubic as the Cube - it measures 10in x 13in x 4in, "about the size of a lunch box", says the developer duo. Crammed inside are a Pentium 4 CPU, 10/100 Ethernet, seven USB ports and a slimline AGP 4x graphics card. We assume - though neither company said so - there's a hard drive and some memory in there too, and presumably a DVD drive. The casing is sealed, so don't expect to upgrade your Deep Forest, were you ever to be able to get your hands on one. We're not sure whether it too suffers from Cube Cracks™ - or mould lines, or whatever Apple is calling them these days - but its front-to-back airflow cooling system seems to mirror the Cube's bottom-to-top airflow cooling system. "Deep Forest is a collaborative effort to address a new category of desktop computing that is powerful, easy, small, legacy-reduced, and network-optimised," says Pat 'Kicking' Gelsinger, VP and CTO of Intel's Architecture Group. Again, that sounds like the USB and FireWire enable, floppy disk-less Cube. As we say, HP and Intel stress that Deep Forest is "a technology demonstration and not a product for sale". And why not? Presumably because, like Apple's own advanced PC design, which is on sale, no one's going to buy it. Ahem. ® Register Factoid Chipzilla and HP's new machine is named in tribute to Star Treki 's very own 'Bones' McCoy, Deep Forest Kelley. Apparently.
There is apparently no end to ICANN's God-like arrogance. Not content with turning the Internet into more and more of a gentlemen's club, it is now attempting to do the old dictator's trick of rewriting history to eliminate its enemies. ICANN is planning to overwrite its own bylaws to give itself more power over who is elected to the board, pulling power directly away from the Internet community. Anyone with an Internet connection could have voted for the recently elected "at-large" ICANN representatives, making it perhaps the only true form of democracy the world has ever seen. However, those sitting on ICANN's board have already restricted the influence of the "at-large" representatives. It was also an indication of the anger levelled at ICANN that those chosen as the "at-large" representatives were among the most ferocious critics of ICANN's past behaviour. Now, however, ICANN - despite publicly stated pledges to the opposite - intends to reduce the number of directly elected representatives from nine to five and even remove the public from a right to vote in future elections. We don't wish to get into ICANN's very legality here, but the disdain with which this secretive organisation has treated the rules produced during its inception is extremely worrying. The board has already changed the bylaws relating to its makeup - giving directors longer terms. Currently, those elected by the Internet community stand for two years and are automatically replaced. Directors on the other hand stand for three and remain in the job until elections are called. The unelected directors have already extended their own terms three times. The fear is that during an upcoming "clean-slate review", the board will vote to exclude publicly voted representatives in the future. It apparently has the right to do so. ® Related Stories ICANN locks elected reps out of AGM Original ICANN board members won't quit as promised Anarchist hacker voted onto ICANN board
The number of people using the Net has jumped by 40 per cent in the past year, from 7.8 million to 11 million in the UK. There are more women online than before, more children and more over 35s. This is all according to market researcher MMXI and it's first year-long look at online demographics. As proof that the consumer is catching on to the idea of being online, Mai Kim Coleman, the UK MD of MMXI, points to the increase in the duration of surfing session on last year. In November 1999, the typical consumer web surf lasted 24 minutes. Now it has risen to just over 40 minutes. "Consumers are busy people," Coleman says. "They wouldn't be committing that amount of time if it wasn't worth it." Significantly, the range of incomes online is now broader than ever. Over half of those connecting to the net regularly had household incomes below £25,000 - indicating that the net is not a playground for the rich. There are also more women online, although they have a different profile from the typical male user. While men surfing the web are typically between 25 and 44, women are usually older, staring at 35 on average. The typical man would live with one other person, but the typical woman online lives with at least three other people and is massively more likely to have children. As the number of women online has grown, so has the under 18 population and the UK has the largest online population under 17 in Europe. This group uses the web in a totally different way, the researchers found. "It is a different world out there," Coleman said. The top sites for kids were Another.com, Breathe.com [very modern urbanist] and Worlds.net. For those who are old enough to vote, the top performers were MSN.com, Yahoo.com and Freeserve.com. The only site in the top ten with original content was BBC.co.uk. ® Related Stories Guess what? The net is getting bigger Americans stuff $11.6bn into Xmas e-tail stocking
Dan of Dansdata has got some benchmarks for the P4. Dan said, [rather smugly we think but we are also forgiving, so that's OK] that he decided it would be easier to sit and wait for Intel to send him one than it would be to traipse over to Comdex. Handily ignoring any warnings not to open various boxes, he managed to get a few tests done. Go here for the results. Update Well, there were P4 benchmarks here, but it seems the story got pulled. Looks like the Aussies have some respect for embargoes after all. Cheeky bunch. Don't ever tell any of this lot a secret. The Overclockers site in Australia has posted a picture of the Titan Majesty Twin Cooler. A review is on the way, but they just couldn't resist. Click here if you can't wait either. Wondering what Comdex is doing to CPU prices? Well, so did Tech-Review and they decided to share their findings with everyone else, as is their weekly habit. Its Tech Review's weekly CPU price roundup, is what I'm saying. Here. Pop quiz hotshot.You have an 800MHZ Duron and the new 766MHz Celeron. What do you do? What do you do? Oh, c'mon, it should be fairly obvious...you put them head to head and see who survives. At least you do if you write for Tom's Hardware. Check out the results of the battle here. OCTools has chronicled a solitary adventure in overclocking on a budget. Called "One Mans Saga" this is the first in the series, and it is expected to go downhill from here. In a good way. So. Click on this link if you feel like a bed time story. ® More hardware? Good grief, you lot are insatiable. Well, you can dig it up for yourselves in our archives.
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) attacked online auction sites as the devil's spawn today. The anti-piracy group tracked bootleg software advertised on sites such as eBay, QXL and Yahoo as part of an operation to unearth online scams. The allegedly dodgy software was traced to vendors in the UK, Germany in the US, and today the BSA issued a string of lawsuits. The 13 accused in the US face damages of $150,000 for each program sold - the BSA says they sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of hooky kit. It reckons 90 per cent of software sold through online auctions is illegal. "Many of the people who once sold pirated software programs at flea markets have now moved to Internet auction sites in the hopes of reaching online consumers," said Bob Kruger, BSA VP of enforcement. The American lawsuits, filed at the US District Court for the Northern District of California, were brought after the BSA spent around $1,600 on software that retails at $60,000. The most bare-faced cheek involved one copy of Adobe FontFolio - it costs $8,000 in the high street, but was auctioned for just $50. Products from Adobe, Autodesk, Corel, Macromedia, Microsoft, Network Associates and Symantec were also bought by the BSA squad. ® Related Stories BSA deploys imaginary pirate software detector vans BSA offers £10k bounty to catch software thieves WHSmith fined for software theft Pirates named and shamed on Web
Semiconductor sales will hit a slump in 2002, Gartner warned today. Global sales are forecast to grow 27 per cent next year, 10 per cent down on 2000. DRAM chips will see worldwide growth of 66 per cent from 2000-2001, compared to 56 per cent the previous year. But the long-predicted dip will come in Q2 of 2002 - when oversupply of memory chips kicks in. The memory chip market is expected to shrink by 30 per cent in 2003, prompting the entire semiconductor to contract by six per cent. ® Related Stories Taiwan DRAM gang ditches Rambus Armed DRAM robbers caught after police chase
MP3.com is to cough up $53.4 million to settle its copyright infringement case with Universal Music Group. Record label giant Universal was upset because it claimed MP3.com had infringed 6,700 of its copyrighted CDs. Today's settlement, though fierce, is still better than feared - the San-Diego-based company faced up to $167.5 million in damages. And at one point Universal was after $450 million from the online music-sharing service. The trial to decide the number of infringements was due to start in New York this afternoon. In September, Judge Jed Rakoff ordered MP3.com to pay $25,000 for every copyright infringement on CDs sold by Universal. MP3.com has already settled out of court with music industry majors EMI, Sony, BMG and Warner. ® Related Stories MP3.com losses down two-thirds MP3.com settles with Paul McCartney, NMPA MP3.com launches email war on Congress MP3.com bans hacker song MP3.com seeks to placate Universal