28th > November > 2000 Archive
By a strange coincidence Microsoft's dire warnings against buying PCs without preinstalled operating systems (see MS: how PCs shipped without Windows will destroy your life) seem to have vanished from microsoft.com on the very day that Microsoft argued that it didn't have a monopoly of the OS market, and that "the market position of Windows was created by... consumer demand, not Microsoft's control of total output." Given Microsoft's apparent inability (of which more anon) to do something simple like control the output of all 'naked PC' advisory documents on the site, we very much doubt that there's a direct relationship, but an apparent draft version still on the site at time of writing* does have some unfortunate resonances in this context. As you'll recall from our previous piece, Microsoft published a 'naked PC' document on its site, urging its OEMs to protect users from themselves by 'politely declining' to sell them machines without operating systems preinstalled. Machines without operating systems don't work, it pithily observed, and by buying them like this users were laying themselves open to the perils of pirate software, viruses and tech support hell. You'll also recall that the delta between the 'old' and current (alas now both defunct) versions of the document made it horribly clear that Microsoft was thinking users were a bunch of scummy pirates who'd happily steal Windows if they could, but was striving to find a way of not quite saying this. From the look of the one we've got now, it's an even earlier version than the 'old' version - the language is significantly more brutal and less subtle, and there are fewer embellishments. There would, for example, seem to be absolutely no chance that a user might buy a machine without Windows on it for the entirely legitimate purpose of installing a different operating system: "Trouble is, if you act on your customers' willingness to buy Naked PCs - knowing full well they are at risk of acquiring pirated operating systems elsewhere... And even if your customer manages to illegally acquire and install operating systems elsewhere..." It's that "illegally", isn't it? It really does sound horribly like Microsoft thinks it's illegal to buy other operating systems. And we might at this juncture observe that once upon a time (not that long ago) it was relatively easy to buy full versions of operating systems that you could install on your new PC when you junked the old one. The first generation of PCs shipped without an operating system, and you bought this separately. Today, on the contrary, Microsoft prices full versions high, favours upgrade versions (where you obviously need to have bought an OS already), and more and more we're moving towards the point where you can only (with some difficulty, disaster recovery-wise) install the copy of Windows that shipped with the machine on that particular machine. Corporations that want to install another OS frequently find it cheaper and easier to buy preinstalled machines, vape the OS and install the one of their choice. Which is frequently another Microsoft OS, NT 4.0 being a common choice in these circumstances. The bottom line is that underneath Microsoft's vast and complex network of anti-piracy verbiage lies the (to all intents and purposes achieved) objective of taxing every single piece of tin that goes out the door $30-$50, or more, whilst choking off as many opportunities for potential rival OSes as possible. But back to our draft. The assumption that customers are pirates is reinforced by: "Warn customers that acquiring the PC 'naked' and subsequently pirating the software is never a good option." Which is par for the course, but we rather liked the sinister ring to the sign-off: "Otherwise, who knows what you're leaving your customers - and yourself - open to?" What on earth could that mean? What bad things could happen to PC OEMs if they sell machines without Windows on them? We vaguely recall this sort of stuff might have been touched on slightly in the trial... And you know, although it's deeply flattering that Microsoft has decided to eradicate just the two URLs we mentioned last time, rather than systematically pulling everything to do with the matter for a radical redesign, it puzzles us. A couple of years back when Win2k was still NT 5.0, we remember being told how the advanced new management features would make it a cinch to roll out upgrades, fixes and changes across the entire network. So now Win2k has shipped and bedded down, we're puzzled by how come Microsoft protests (as in the Dimitri case) that it takes time to get fixes and patches onto all its servers, and by how come - if, say, you wanted to amend or remove all versions of a document about, say, naked PCs - somebody can't just press a button and, poof, they're gone. But what do we know? ® * We know you're reading this, Microsoft Web morlocks, and no doubt you'll be wanting another couple of URLs to nuke. Well, the good news is, here they are: the Chinese version you forgot last time and the draft you shouldn't have had out in the open in the first place. The bad news is we've included the text of the latter below, just in case. ** Our last take on this story paid due credit to Jon Honeyball, who covers the territory in his column in the January issue of PC Pro. We didn't link to the Web version, on the grounds that PC Pro operates that dismal 'registered users only' policy. But we got a begging email from the relevant online editor saying: "May I suggest just linking to the homepage (http://www.pcpro.co.uk), where there are a number of direct links to Jon's column?" As far as we can see this is entirely untrue, as the reg page leaps out every time we try to go anywhere interesting. But further investigation reveals that this can be subverted (a job for PC Pro's Web morlocks here, we fear) so you can read Jon's column here, until they plug the holes. But careful whose cookies you eat. *** Finally [that's enough footnotes - Ed] here's the Microsoft text, which is labelled 'English, holding': WHAT IS A NAKED PC? Naked PCs are those sold without operating systems preinstalled. Machines are useless until customers install system software themselves. It's like selling a house without a roof. And, in the end, it leaves your customer just as exposed. SELL YOUR CUSTOMER A SOLUTION, NOT A PROBLEM? Your customers depend on you. Trouble is, if you act on your customers' willingness to buy Naked PCs - knowing full well they are at risk of acquiring pirated operating systems elsewhere - you expose them to legal risks, viruses, and frustrating technical troubles. Hardly the stuff of great business relationships, particularly when they come back to you for help. And even if your customer manages to illegally acquire and install operating systems elsewhere, it still costs them far more time and money than they bargained for. No matter how you look at them, Naked PCs are bad for your customers. Which means they are also bad for you. WHAT TO SAY. HOW TO COMPETE. Highlight the fact that the PC will not work without an operating system. Mention that preinstalling the operating system on the new PC saves considerable time, expense and trouble. After all, your expertise is valuable. You install system software day in, day out, so there is little question you're best equipped to do it well. Warn customers that acquiring the PC "naked" and subsequently pirating the software is never a good option. Explain the risks: technical troubles, upgrade problems, viruses and the law. Politely decline to expose your buyers or their businesses to such troubles. Point out the benefits of a legally licensed, preinstalled operating system. Customers have the original CD so they can reload the software. They also have a manual for everyday troubleshooting, and a Certificate of Authenticity that proves the software is legal. In short, protect your customer and your good name. Sell your PCs fully equipped with legally licensed operating systems preinstalled. Otherwise, who knows what you're leaving your customers - and yourself - open to?
Cult Finnish movie director Aki Kaurismaki will direct a lavish bio-pic of the life of Linus Torvalds, it was announced yesterday. Tentatively titled Leningrad Penguins go America, Torvalds' life will be portrayed in a tableaux of musical numbers including 'Tanenbaum, Tanenbaum - Your Faith In Microkernels Is Misplaced!', 'Maddog lends me an Alpha' and - apparently the showstopper - 'glibc, or not glibc?' OK, so we made it up. But Torvalds will at least provide some potential primary source material, in the form of an autobiography, publisher HarperCollins announced yesterday. The book will be entitled Just For Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary and is slated for publication next spring. "It's as much as about Linux as it is about Linus," promised a flack for the Murdoch-owned publishing house. The book is being co-written (the phrase normally deployed here is 'ghost-written', but we can safely assume that Linus will be speaking for himself) by former Wired reporter David Diamond. Diamond has a singular knack for teasing out the hidden personal particulars of his subject, if this lovely profile he penned for the San Jose Mercury earlier this year is anything to go by. HarperCollins' blurb promises us a tome free of forward-looking statements - so at least we'll be spared a retread of Bill Gates' 1995 visionary tome The Road Ahead, which failed to mention the Internet. ®
BT is still trying to extract megabucks from US ISPs following the telco's patent claim to hypertext links - and it's prepared to taken legal action if those fingered don't cough up. The telco also refuses to discuss the cases of others who believe they created hypertext before BT patented its version in 1976, despite film footage which many believe undermines BT's claim. News that BT owned the rights to hypertext became public knowledge in June after UK-based licensing company, Scipher, announced it was acting on behalf of BT to realise the financial potential of the BT's patent. In an announcement today Scipher confirms that it was still "actively carrying out this commission", scotching mischievous speculation that BT's claim was little more than a hoax. No one from Scipher was available by press time to explain exactly what progress had been made during the last six months. Scipher execs were, apparently, busy explaining to analysts why the company had made an operating loss of £5.8 million for the six months ended September 30. However, a spokesman for BT, said: "We remain in discussion with a number of US ISPs. Although we've made no legal threats yet - we still don't rule out litigation." Asked whether BT accepted that others might have a genuine claim to hypertext, he said that he was not prepared to comment about what other people thought about the validity of BT's claim. "We maintain that we have a good case," he said. With such stonewalling from both sides (The Reg would still like to hear from any US ISPs which have been collared by BT) it could be years before this matter is resolved. Then again, something might happen next week - we just don't know. However, until this matter is resolved the speculation and arguments will continue. BT claims that a patent filed in 1976 - and granted in 1989 - proves it owns the intellectual property rights to hyperlinks - those natty little devices that link Web content together. The patent was lodged following work on text-based online information systems Viewdata and Prestel by the General Post Office (GPO) before it was split into the Post Office and BT. The patent has expired everywhere except in the US, where it still has a few years left to run. ® Related Stories BT claims ownership of hyperlinks BT invented hyperlinks shock BT could face legal action over hyperlink claim Film evidence challenges BT's claim to hypertext patent
Taiwanese mobo vendors have begun slimming down production expansion plans on fears of a major slow-down in the PC market - and that, in turn, is hitting chip makers' stock. Or rather chip maker, singular. While Chipzilla stayed still yesterday, AMD's shares dropped 8.7 per cent, down $1.81 to $19, after Robertson Stephens analyst Eric Rothdeutsch said in a report that demand for fully fitted out motherboards was not "up in any meaningful way from sales in October". That's certainly how the Taiwanese mobo makers are beginning to see the situation. Taiwan business newspaper the Commercial Times reports that many second-tier vendors, like Shuttle, Soyo and Iwill, are scaling back or even hanging fire on their expansion plans. The paper notes that while market leaders Asustek, Giga-Byte and Micro-Star have yet to halt schemes to boost production capacity, their plans are sufficiently flexible to cope with unexpected dips in demand of the kind everyone else is now anticipating. Giga-Byte's new Chinese plant will churn out 350,000 mobos per month initially, rising soon to 850,000 units a month, the company said. Giga-Byte is already working on a second plant, also in China, and a third is in the early planning stage. Of course, the market leaders are to a degree insulated from dips in demand by the overall volume of orders - a ten per cent, say, fall in demand won't hurt them as much as it would hurt a second-tier player with a much smaller marketshare. So you'd expect lesser companies to start worrying sooner than the big guns. The real signs of a major slowdown will come when Asustek and co. put their expansion plans on stand-by. If that happens, Intel and AMD may be forced to cut prices to stimulate demand for new PCs - at least that's what Rothdeutsch reckons. And it's on the basis of lower prices leading to lower revenues and lower profits that's giving Wall Street the jitters. ®
The Data Protection Commissioner has come out the corner fighting in Round Two of the email snooping legal argument - caused by the introduction of the RIP Act. Despite heavy criticism by the government and CBI, Elizabeth France is standing by her proposed code of practice for monitoring employee email and phone conversations, reports the FT. The code contradicts the government's official line on email monitoring, stating that emails marked personal or private should be off-bounds to employers. She also says staff should be made aware when they are being watched. Any monitoring outside these two conditions should be carried out only in order to detect or prevent a crime. In contrast, the government says employers should have "routine access" to staff emails and phone conversations. In the red corner stands Ms France, the trade unions and civil rights groups. They claim the new laws - introduced with the much-derided RIP Act - are an infringement of an individual's freedom and go against the recently introduced Human Rights Act. In the blue corner is the government and big business, which claim that it would be impractical and even damaging to business if it became illegal to open emails - what if someone is on holiday, or ill? The situation is further confused by the failure of government departments to talk to each other, a number of different versions of the RIP Act itself (the House of Lords pushed for a large number of amendments before allowing the Bill through) and a still-to-be-seen government code of practice. In short, it's all once mighty cock-up. In one sense, Liz is adding to the confusion (there's also the issue of whether email systems will have to be changed so deleted personal emails can't be retrieved). But she is also helping to balance out the argument and pull back some privacy rights from the RIP Act. All this argy-bargy also goes to show what a poor piece of legislation the RIP Act really is. By using too broad a brush (some would say to hide true intentions), all sorts of other activities have become the subject of legal rethinks. Case law would surely have been a far better way of dealing with email and other such subjects. Lizzy is trying to sell her code of practice as a second hurdle that employers need to jump before infringing on employees' privacy - the first one being the government's rules. The DTI is having none of this - but then you'd be forgiven for thinking this is a bit rich when the DTI has still failed to produce a proper code of practice for RIP, even though it became law in July. The code is finally expected to appear in the middle of next year, but in the meantime, the law as it stands is wide open to abuse. ® Related Links DTI guidelines Home Office - draft codes of practices Home Office RIP information Related Stories TUC gets arsey about RIP email laws Bosses join email snooping scrum Employee email monitoring saga continues Bosses gain email snooping rights
Europe will spend E2.6 billion ($2.22 billion) online this Christmas - equal to all online retail sales in Europe for 1999. Despite the optimistic tone, it's still way off the predicted $10 billion (E11.7 billion) that punters in the US are expected to spend this season. The latest research from Forrester claims that German retailers will lead the European e-spending table with sales of E715 million ($609 million), followed by Britain with E664 million ($566 million). France trundles in third with just E292 million ($249 million). In all European countries, Christmas shopping will account for a major percentage of this year's total online sales - ranging from 23 per cent in Denmark to 39 per cent in Greece, said the research. Forrester analyst Abigail Leland said: "As the number of online shoppers grows over time - in the first six months of the year alone, the number nearly doubled - retailers have found more justification to migrate their offer to the Net. "In Europe's biggest Net economies like the UK, consumers have been online long enough for the effect to hit, and in countries like Spain and Italy, waves of free-ISP Internet initiates who first came online last Christmas will hit their first-year mark and make their first online purchases this holiday." Earlier this month AOL UK said that claims its unmetered Net access service now available in Britain could trigger a shopping boom making this Britain's "first true e-Christmas". ® Related Story AOL UK predicts bumper e-Xmas
Elpida, the chip maker formed from the merged semiconductor operations of NEC and Hitachi, has announced it will build a ¥180 billion fab to churn out 0.13 micron 256Mb DRAM chips. The company's plans emerged even as Korean chip vendors become increasingly worried that the chip market is slowing down. Elpida's new plant will be built on the site of NEC's Hiroshima facility next January. It is expected to begin volume production in the first half of 2002, when it will start punching out 300mm wafers. Maximum capacity is set to reach 20,000 wafers a month. The facility is being paid for by Elpida, NEC and Hitachi, with Elpida coughing up ¥160 billion and the others ¥10 billion apiece. Elpida will begin selling and marketing chips under its own name early 2001. Among its first offerings will be 0.13 micron 256Mb DRAM chips, set to sample early next year, the company has already promised. Even as Elpida was announcing its latest investment in plant, it emerged that South Korea's major DRAM companies are doing the opposite: scaling down their production expansion plans. According to Jay Kim, semiconductor analyst at ING Barings, Korean DRAM production is set to be cut by around ten per cent next year. A Samsung representative did admit to Reuters that the company sees "a possibility of reducing [its] planned investment for next year". Hyundai went further and said that it has already cut its 2001 investment reduced its 2001 investment plan from 2000's won two trillion ($1.68 billion) to won 1.5 trillion ($1.26 billion). Samsung's investment in plant next year will match what it spent this year, the company said. During 2000, it spent won seven trillion won ($5.90 billion). Kim believes Samsung will actually cut its investment by 13 per cent as the company takes a more cautious approach to capacity planning. "In the past we planned our investment on a yearly basis," said the Samsung spokesman. "But we've decided to make the term shorter and plan it on a quarterly basis." That, said Kim, should ensure "greater stability to emerge in the DRAM prices in the mid-to-long term timeframe" - essentially by cutting supply to match demand and thus allowing prices to stabilise. That assumes, of course, that demand doesn't continue to fall. Demand for DRAM is sliding as fewer customers buy new PCs, a factor that's causing uncertainty in both the motherboard business and the processor market. ® Related Stories AMD dips on mobo market slowdown fears Elpida Memory expects 0.13 micron samples by Jan 2001 Elpida licenses Rambus DDR SDRAM
BT will still launch its new unmetered voice and Net access tariffs on Friday as planned despite facing an investigation by winged watchdog Oftel. Oftel launched the investigation into alleged uncompetitive behaviour following a complaint. Oftel will not say who lodged the complaint. Details are still sketchy, and Oftel is reluctant to discuss the matter. However, it appears the investigation centres on the issue of cross-subsidy - something that is forbidden under BT's licence. The investigation focuses specifically on BT Surf Together and BT Talk & Surf Together, two unmetered offpeak packages that include unmetered Net access. Executives at BT claim they are "bemused" by the enquiry. In statement, BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield said: "We strongly resist the suggestion that we are acting anti-competitively: all we're trying to do is to give our customers excellent value for money. We will obviously cooperate with the Competition Act inquiry and fully expect to be given the all-clear." A spokeswoman for the winged watchdog said this was the first time it had investigated under the Competition Act. While Oftel welcomes lower prices for consumers, consumers' it believes interests are best served by effective competition. Oftel must ensure that these proposals from BT do not undermine effective competition, it said. ®
MS on TrialMS on Trial Microsoft's brief to the Court of Appeals yesterday has too many unconvincing dimples, and not enough real chad. Even if Microsoft were entirely innocent, it has not made a sufficient case in the light of the evidence, Judge Jackson's findings of fact, and his conclusions of law. The technical parts of Microsoft's brief will most likely be scanned by the appellate judges and largely ignored, but the legal part is likely to be examined more minutely as part of what many observers believe will be the court's desire not to break up Microsoft. It is worth recalling that this Court of Appeals has twice ruled against Microsoft - once when Microsoft tried to stop public and media attendance at depositions, and also when Microsoft tried to subpoena notes, and particularly interviews, from two academics who had written a book about Netscape's battle with Microsoft. However, on both occasions, these were of limited importance to Microsoft and the court's legal latitude was not very great. The bid for Trial II It becomes increasingly clear that Microsoft wants to turn the appeal into a new mini-trial and include arguments it foolishly omitted first time around, This is not what appeals are supposed to be about, and the DoJ - if not politically mugged - should make this abundantly clear in its response. Microsoft did not make much earlier of the substitutability of the Mac or a PC running Unix, because it knew that it would be hammered on the definition of the market. The fact that there is no substitutability between PC and Mac applications is of course the strongest argument for the separateness of these markets. Microsoft also claims to its new audience with a brave dash of black-is-whiteism that it "cannot control prices or exclude competition", that it "does not behave like a monopolist", that "market share is not determinative of monopoly power" and that there are no significant barriers to entry. Nor did Microsoft "engage in anticompetitive conduct". The DoJ has plenty of time to work up its brief, which is not due until 12 January, and will no doubt pick up on Microsoft's many unsustainable claims to have lowered the cost of browsing, or cutting off the air supply to Netscape, as Microsoft referred to Netscape's revenue from browser sales. Perhaps the appellate judges will ponder why Microsoft spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" to provide "Internet integration" when it is possible to load a stand-alone version of IE without integration and get the same benefits, according to Microsoft's hapless Jim Allchin. There's also the issue as to why IE is "free" and where the money comes from to pay the high costs of development. The DoJ should also prepare a table of Windows prices to show the increase over the years, when the price of everything else was falling - a sure sign of monopolisation. Microsoft moans that breaking it up would be an extreme remedy, but in that case it should have acted more prudently; Judge Jackson has indicated in his public remarks that it was Microsoft's unwillingness to admit it had done wrong that convinced him to order the structural remedy. Throughout the present brief, Microsoft protests its innocence with as much conviction as an old lag before a magistrate. Oppressive thumb? Moi? Microsoft asks how the US computer industry could be so strong and admired if it were "under the thumb of an oppressive monopoly". Well, quite easily actually, since monopoly is an efficient economic process, and there are other winners apart from Microsoft that win as well, as Intel, Compaq and Dell could testify. The losers are the users who have to put up with poor quality software because of the lack of effective competition. Microsoft claims to have a business model, which may be news to its executives, but the four basic elements that it describes can be otherwise characterised. The "operating system" becomes the bottleneck that Microsoft controls by ensuring there is no viable alternative in the same market. The "consistent user interface" is the way that Microsoft controls user applications by holding back significant information in order that its own developers can exploit the hidden capabilities. Microsoft "promotes the widespread use" of its operating systems by controlling OEMs through highly restrictive licences. Finally, Microsoft says it works closely with OEMs, ISVs and users, but this is done more to control them than to help them. Microsoft gives its own rather coloured versions of its relationships with some major vendors, and it will be for the DoJ to point out in detail where its highly selective brief is faulty. There are many cases where Microsoft uses self-serving value judgements (such as "the district court's failure to distinguish procompetitive from anticompetitive conduct") that cannot be substantiated. In a discussion of the relevant market, Microsoft makes no mention of its failure to propose even its own definition of a market. Microsoft says it "did not act with a 'specific intent' to monopolise, but rather sought to prevent Navigator from dominating the 'alleged' browser market". The tone throughout the brief is one of self-righteousness, with Microsoft unwilling to concede even the smallest indiscretion. "Windows is a single product", Microsoft claims, and congratulates the court for articulating the correct test for the non-separateness of Windows and IE, such as the integrated design, and the additional benefits. The problem for Microsoft however is that since the Court of Appeals made this judgement, evidence from Microsoft's emails and the cross-examination of Jim Allchin has indicated that the court made an erroneous determination. This time, the Supremes will be looking over the Court of Appeals' shoulder so it may not have been wise for Microsoft to press this claim. Microsoft keeps returning to the claim that the Windows-IE tie did not foreclose competition on merit in the browser market. Again, this argument cannot be sustained since there is abundant evidence that the most efficient distribution channel was closed as a result of Microsoft's OEM contract conditions, which made the cost of distributing the Netscape browser much higher. Judge Jackson erred in his decision about this, since the market was significantly foreclosed. Microsoft also claims that it "did not maintain a monopoly through anticompetitive conduct", and "does not even possess monopoly power in a properly defined product market". Microsoft's only economist witness refused to give a definition of a relevant market because it was not relevant, he said, despite the fact that in other cases where he had been a witness he had been only too keen to do this, and contradicted his sworn evidence in his writings. For the first time Microsoft tries to make the case that the DoJ's definition of the relevant product market as being "Intel-compatible PC operating systems" is "far too narrow", and tries of course to include the Mac OS as well as "the most serious competitive threats to Windows" which Microsoft says were Netscape and Java class libraries. Even worse, in the picture that Microsoft paints, "over time, middleware could extend 'downward' to the hardware, assuming more and more operating system functions and thereby rendering the operating system unnecessary". OEM licences quite nice really One of the more absurd claims is that "Microsoft's OEM licence agreements simply restate its rights under Federal Copyright Law", but if you read one of these licences - not something to be undertaken lightly - it's clear that the notion of copyright is not significant at all, and that one of Microsoft's main concerns is to prevent disclosure of the highly restrictive terms it contains. Another claim is that "Microsoft did not attempt to monopolise the alleged 'browser' market", but the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. Microsoft does speak the truth when it claims that there is "no dangerous probability of [browser market] monopolisation", but only because the threat has turned into reality. Microsoft then turns to the district court and claims its "extreme relief is unsustainable" for the procedural reason that there was no hearing about remedies. The weakness of Microsoft's argument is that it has not been able to cite any law that says this is required, nor find any precedent where a court has said it was needed. Microsoft is forced to fall back on "general equity principles" that a judgement should be "no more burdensome than necessary" and moan that the remedy "would interfere with the design of Microsoft's operating systems". The final kicking is reserved for Judge Jackson, for (allegedly) "relying on hearsay", making public comments (which Microsoft has been unable to show were prejudicial), and not being impartial. It seems that Microsoft can accept no criticism of its behaviour outside the courtroom, despite its own behaviour. The judge comes in for some considerable flack for commenting on the case to the media and at conferences after his judgement, and for granting interviews during the case - although they were given on the condition that the material not be used until after his judgement. This may have been unwise, but it would be unreasonable to reverse his decision for this reason. The role of Richard Urowsky of Microsoft's lawyers Sullivan and Cromwell in the case is now clear: his job was to prepare the appeal, but to leave the conduct of the case in the district court to John Warden. Urowsky previously popped up to castigate Judge Stanley Sporkin in an earlier case against Microsoft when the DoJ incompetently found itself on the same side as Microsoft arguing against the judge's refusal to agree to the consent decree because it was not in the public interest. Some of the same judges are hearing the present appeal, and the odds in favour of Microsoft getting its sentence reduced must be more than even - but on political grounds rather than the merits of this brief. ® Related Story MS appeal: judge 'whopped us upside the head'
We've seen various attempts to widen Linux's appeal among mainstream users by getting rid of as much of the open source's complex installation procedure as possible. The latest idea comes from French start-up Linbox and it essentially eliminates installation altogether. Linbox's DemoLinux distribution runs straight off an auto booting CD-ROM, creating a RAM disk in the host PC's memory and installing itself there. That's pretty much what most distributions do as part of their own installation process before going on to copy the open source OS onto the PC's hard disk. Unlike regular Linux releases DemoLinux doesn't dump anything on the hard disk, so anyone's Windows installation will remain intact, and no one need re-partition anything ever again. DemoLinux, just released as version 2.0, is based on Debian's Potato 2.2 release and includes the Gnome and KDE GUIs, StarOffice and a host of other apps. Of course, how practical DemoLinux's approach is for most users is open to question. User will need several gigabytes of RAM - for memory, storage and swap space - to make such a system work efficiently. So DemoLinux is far from the "high-performance office automation environment" its developer claims. That said, that isn't the point of DemoLinux. It's really a demonstration of Linbox's technology for converting PCs into thin clients. The company is targeting vertical markets, seeking out customers with whom it can work to create custom Linux distributions comprising OS and users' apps on CD. From what Linbox CEO Jean-Pierre Laisné appears to be saying - his translation into English is a tad garbled - the company's approach makes system management a doddle, since there's nothing to install. If you want to update your employees' software, you just issue a new CD to replace the old one. One reboot later, and the machine is upgraded. "We're just following one of the major trends that has emerged in industry over the past few decades, aiming to bring down IT ownership costs," says Laisné Linbox will also offer servers which will be used for data and application storage. ®
Bertelsmann has figured out how it's going to make Napster's MP3 sharing service not only legitimate but work to the benefit of the music industry, the company claimed yesterday. Interviewed by Reuters, Andreas Schmidt, head of Bertelsmann E-commerce Group (BEG) and the guy who brokered the deal with Napster, said his company has a business model and is now trying to sell it to the world's biggest record companies. All of whom are, of course, suing Napster. As was Bertelsmann's Music Group (BMG), until Schmidt's BEG side-stepped it to cut a deal with the MP3 sharing company. Napster agreed to build a subscription-based service in return for an end to Bertelsmann's involvement in the contributory copyright infringement suit brought against it. "It's all worked out. We have a model," said Schmidt. "We are bringing it forward now to the other parties... hearing their concerns, getting their input." The discussions will be interesting, to say the least. Universal, for one, has voiced its dissatisfaction with Bertelsmann's manoeuvrings, which it believes undermines the major labels' joint efforts to protect their business from mass music piracy made easy by Napster. Sony and Warner have been more cautious, and EMI particularly so since it's in exploratory merger talks with BMG. Whatever, Schmidt is convinced that they will all come around to his way of thinking eventually. "I am optimistic that in the end all of them will join," he said. Certainly, Bertelsmann needs most of them to join it if the commercial service is to work. To do that, it needs to have content users will be willing to pay a membership fee for, and that means getting EMI, Sony and co. on board. The acquisition of EMI is a key part of that plan to build critical mass behind a legitimised Napster. As we expect will Bertelsmann's option to take a stake in the MP3 company and its rumoured interest in MP3 tracking and copy-protecting specialist Liquid Audio. Schmidt clearly believes that the economic argument will win the day, and that that doesn't depend on winning over all of Napster's existing users. BEG reckons that Napster's subscription service will succeed even if only 30 per cent of the company's 40-odd million users pay up. ® Related Stories Bertelsmann eyeing up Liquid Audio? BMG attempting to merge with EMI BMG, Napster deal damned by Universal Napster makes sweet music with Bertelsmann Full coverage: The Napster Controversy
Online bank Egg has ditched its Internet-only strategy and is looking into establishing a High Street presence. The bank said it was about expanding its reach, but it is the latest in a slew of online companies that have had to acknowledge the importance of face-to-face contact with customers. Mike Harris, the bank's chief executive, told the Financial Times: "There are 12 million people in the UK who are happy to use a bank that has a presence on the Internet and on the phone, but what about the other 28 million?" What indeed. The company is looking at developing its partnership with Boots. The chemist has not ruled out the possibility of a franchise deal. Egg is also investigating the possibility of opening branches in shopping centres. Its parent company, Prudential, which still owns 80 per cent of the baby bank, has 300 shopping centres in its portfolio. In response to concerns about the bank's share price, which at 97 pence is the lowest since its IPO at 160 pence, Harris was bullish. He pointed out that a recent Mori poll had indicated a strong future demand for the bank's core products. The bank is planning a number of other expansion directions, including a mortgage "supermarket". It already runs an insurance panel where companies bid for customer's contracts and sells a range of investment funds from other companies. ®
Compaq has bolstered the availability of Linux on its Alpha platform with the launch of Red Hat Alpha Deluxe on its Unix servers. Alpha Deluxe will be available on Compaq's AlphaServer DS and ES series and all Compaq AlphaStations. In addition, Red Hat Linux 7 will come bundled and pre-loaded on selected Compaq ProLiant Servers and selected Compaq Deskpro models. Gary Kerrison, AlphaServer product marketing manager, said that, despite a notable lack of publicity, Alpha was the first Risc-based architecture on which Linux was available and that AlphaServers running Linux are widely deployed, particularly in high performance technical computing markets. This includes distributions including SuSe and TurboLinux, as well as Red Hat, he added. Kerrison added that users would deploy Linux on Alpha when they needed "every ounce of performance" from the operating system, or what he described as "extreme Linux". The availability of Red Hat Alpha Deluxe means it is qualified to run on specified AplhaServers, Kerrison added. In essence as Linux matures with features like increased scalability that will be delivered with the 2.4 kernel, Compaq wants improve its standing in the Linux marketplace both with its own users and software developers. Last year, Compaq and Red Hat agreed to develop interoperability between Compaq Tru64 Unix and Red Hat Linux; and Compaq recently added Linux driver support. This interoperability parallels the binary compatibility offered between Linux and AIX by IBM and has broadly the same aim - to persuade independent software vendors to write applications which can run on its platforms. Alpha has always been an excellent technical platform, in particular it's featured 64-bit technology for years while Intel's IA-64 processor has slipped further and further into the future. However, lack of packaged software has been a problem for Alpha, with software vendors always showing more enthusiasm for Windows, Solaris and now Linux development. Making Linux available on Alpha therefore makes sense because it will increase the range of applications available - however the sting in the tail here is that these may not be optimised to run on the platform. Alpha on Linux is only likely to be attractive to Compaq's installed base and may be affected by the same market factors that affected Compaq's decision to abandon development of Windows 2000 on Alpha last year. This decision was allegedly made in order to simplify its product offering but the suspicion that lack of enthusiasm for the platform from one very powerful software developer - Microsoft - lingers. ®
Sony is failing to meet its own PlayStation 2 delivery targets in the US, investment analysts have claimed. The issue for the analysts is the ability of games companies to make money selling PlayStation 2 titles. And the fewer consoles Sony ships, the harder it will be for the likes of Electronic Arts to cash in on the new machine. In reports sent to EA shareholding clients, analysts as Lehman Bros. and Sutro claimed Sony has shipped around 600,000 PlayStation 2s in the US. After cutting the initial launch allocation of units to 500,000, Sony said it would then ship 100,000 consoles a week up until the end of the year. By now, it should have pumped 900,000 PlayStation 2s into the US market, rather less than the analysts believe. Sony has yet to confirm or deny their allegation, although it has openly admitted it is having problems shipping as many consoles as it would like to. The Japanese giant blames global component shortages for its inability to ship as many PlayStation 2s as it originally intended. That said, the limited supply is creating enormous pent-up demand for machines among early adopters, though Sony claims that's not part of its plan. If the analysts are right, the news will surely disappoint UK gamers still waiting for their pre-ordered consoles to turn up - and those who are trying to find PlayStation 2s in the shops. ® Related Stories PlayStation 2 launch marred by DVD, fan issues Desperate Brits bid online for PlayStation 2s Sony backtracks on PlayStation 2 allocation pledge
Landis has bought Data Connectivity, the networking equipment arm of bust distie Datrontech from the receivers, Microscope reports.Quoting unnamed sources, it says Data Connectivity boss James Morgan and eight other employees will join Landis. This will form the basis of public networks division to target the telecommunications industry. Horizon Technology, the big Sun reseller, has bought Commerce Net Trading International, a London-based Net infrastructure player specialising in ecommerce transactions, for up to £18m. Only £3.4 million is payable in cash and loan notes up front, while £18m 13 million in shares is subject to performance over the next three years. The balance. £700k in cash, is subject to performance over the next 18 months Compel has settled wrongful dismissal claims by Info'products UK staff, who were made redundant when their company was taken over by the Welwyn Garden City- based reseller. Compel is said to be 'comfortable' with the out of court settlement, Microscope reports. Softline AG, a quoted German software retailer, has bought Rapid Group, a networking and Mac specialist reseller based in Surrey. Terms were undisclosed Rapid claims a turnover of 27 million euros. MMT Computing recently announced it was in talks to be bought by another company. No longer, yesterday it said it had terminated talks 'after serious consideration'. It didn't think the offer was high enough. Reed Exhibitions is launching a new show-cum- conference for the 'e-merging channel'. e-channel 2001 is aimed at traditional VARs, ASPs, e-service specialists and telecom integrators and runs from May 21-May 23, 2001 at ExCeL in London. The show is a joint event with RBI's Ch@nnel 2000 magazine, formerly called The Var, and which changes its name next year to Ch@nnel 2001. That's not magazine branding, that's a calendar. Compaq UK has appointed A2000 as a specialist mobile distributor, wholesaling, among other things the vendor's recently launched iPAQ Pocket PC.
The 27-year-old computer tycoon Joseph de Saram who reportedly fled to Sri Lanka after his computer business went bust has spoken to the Daily Mail at length over what has really happened. In words reminiscent of that other great entrepreneur Asil Nadir, Joseph proceeded to explain exactly why he had left the country. First of all though, he has plenty of money, so don't worry if you're one of the companies owed their share of the £1 million that his company Rhodium owes. Now, the real reason he has returned to his homeland of Sri Lanka is because of MI5 spooks. They are terrified of Joseph because he has designed some encryption software that will make it impossible for them to monitor any emails, thereby making a mockery of the RIP Act. That's why he has been under helicopter surveillance in the UK, has been followed by shadowy figures and cars with government number plates and sees people "talking into their sleeves" whenever he has a restaurant meal. It is also the reason that his company's cheques have been mysteriously bouncing at the bank. They are trying to bring him to his knees, see. And the fact that he is Asian doesn't help either. If true, this is disturbing and abusive behaviour by our secret services, and Joseph is quite right to demand an explanation before he returns to the UK. However, before you start shouting conspiracy, you ought to bear in mind a few things about Mr de Saram and his company Rhodium. First of all, the company's official site seems to be little more than a tribute to Mr de Saram genius and business nous. In fact, the introduction to the company has the file name "genius.htm" and begins "Joseph de Saram was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1972. His parents were eminent physicians in the country and immigrated to the United Kingdom soon afterwards. He spent his formative years in..." It isn't until the fourth paragraph that we learn anything about the company itself. In the sixth paragraph, the truth comes out: "He decided to restructure Rhodium in September 2000 after discovery of evidence implicating the British Government in a conspiracy to destroy Rhodium and his character because his encryption technology and commercial operations were 'not in the economic well-being' of the United Kingdom." If you wanted to learn anything more about Mr de Saram, you could do worse than click on one of the two photographs on the site - both of him. Or, failing that, the picture of his Centurion Card. Or the pic of his (blue) Ferrari 355 F1. What about the images of his mention in the Sunday Times richlist or Britain's Richest Asian 200? If you look close enough, you may even find some information about the company's products - it specialises in hardware and software for banks and financial organisations, particularly encryption and e-transactions. Rhodium is also not the company's real name. No, it's actually Rhodium PLC. It is a privately held company, with Joseph's Dad as CFO. Figures of 90 staff being out of jobs may well be true, but we have been able to confirm only seven permanent staff members. According to Joseph, Rhodium is worth "in excess of $200 million". A book value of £4.5 million has been given independently to the company, and this was largely based on a 58 per cent increase in profit last year to £419,000. Since Rhodium is a private company, it does not have to publicly release its financial details. Mr de Saram said there was nothing suspicious about catching a plane to Sri Lanka without notice as he always "just buys a ticket and gets on a plane". He headed over there to work on a project with sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke to build a version of the famous super-computer from 2001 - A Space Odyssey, HAL. Sir Arthur told the Daily Mail that the relationship would have to be put "on hold" until Joseph's problems in the UK were sorted out. Mr de Saram will come back to the UK and it will be under his own free will. ® Related Link Rhodium.com Related Story Software tycoon 'flees Tamil Tigers'
Register private dicks have been trying to find out who lodged an official complaint with Oftel about alleged anti-competitive behaviour by BT. In the current atmosphere of mistrust, heightened by the conflict over local loop unbundling, any of the telcos or ISPs could be in the frame for snitching on BT since they all have a motive. This is significant because Oftel can only investigate BT if someone lodges an official complaint first. A spokesman for BT said he didn't have a clue who was to blame. The winged watchdog was equally tight-lipped. Well, if it wasn't the butler in the library with a lead pipe... whodunit? No one has yet come forward and admitted that they fingered BT - but The Reg has it suspicions. Top of our list of suspects is AOL UK and WorldCom, which have campaigned tirelessly for BT to introduce unmetered access in Britain. It was these two who won the concessions on wholesale unmetered Net access (FRIACO). A spokeswoman for WorldCom said they weren't responsible and declined to comment further. However, a spokeswoman for AOL UK said she "welcomed the decision" by Oftel to investigate the matter. She admitted that AOL UK had had talks with Oftel on a number of issues, but would not say whether this was one of them. A spokesman for Freeserve also admitted speaking regularly with Oftel, but would not be any more specific than that. But to be honest, anyone who has been shafted by BT would have a motive - and that hardly narrows down the field. We shall have to see what happens. ® Related Story Oftel investigates 'anti-competitive' BT
Eidos, the UK's biggest computer games company, lost £60.2 million in its second quarter - compared with a £12.8 million loss for the same period last year. Turnover also dropped to £20.6 million from £27.3 million last year. Shares fell 11 per cent this morning, having already fallen 82 per cent from its peak this year. The heavy losses were due mostly to a hefty £54.1 million figure for exceptional items, and the board said it was happy with the company's underlying development. Of this figure, a significant proportion came in the form of three one-time write-offs: First, Eidos developed and produced a number of games that have failed to take off. This is part and parcel of its business and it tried to pin the blame on the late launch of Playstation 2 - a part-truth. However, this failure has caused it to write off £16.9 million in obsolete products. Second, Eidos has also been caught in the Net trap of paying far too much for an Internet company - Express.com in this case - and seeing its value vanish in front of its eyes. It bought a 12.6 per cent stake for $55 million. Goodness knows how much it's worth now it's worth now (Eidos wasn't keen on saying either). And thirdly, there was the £900,000 wasted on legal fees over talks with an "unnamed" company, but everyone knows it was Infogrames, that wanted to acquire it. Sales were also down 25 per cent - again explained away as a slump in the market due to the wait for PlayStation 2. Eidos saw some some of this coming. It didn't batten down the hatches but it did shut the windows by cutting down on marketing and investment in other companies. This did not help much. And of course let's not forget the departure of both the CEO and FD in the past two months. The company has a new CEO in the form of former COO Michael McGarvey, but has still to find a new FD. In fact, things look so nasty at the moment that the best the company could come up with was that the huge losses were "in line with expectations" - a classic piece of financial shorthand. Eidos has, naturally, pushed its six-month figures ahead of the Q2 results. These are them (last-year's six-month figure in brackets): Gross turnover before exceptionals, depreciation etc - £54.3 million (-£44.1m); Exceptional items £54.1 million (£0); Net loss - £75.3 million (£27.0m). Of course the million-dollar questions are: Is this just a temporarily blip? Will PlayStation 2 (plus Nintendo and M$ game boxes) boost the market again and send Eidos back to the heights again? Will the new Eidos team succeed where the others failed? Does it have any more Lara Crofts up its sleeve? Despite these appalling set of results, the general consensus seems to be that Eidos could still pull it off. It has written off a huge chunk of lost investment in one quarter. Something no doubt related to the new management team's wish to throw out some amazing percentage improvement figures with their first results next quarter. It is also being fairly realistic as to its position - profitability by fiscal 2002. However, even with the success of copycat games Who wants to be a millionaire? and Chicken Run, Eidos is going to need more smash successes soon if it is keep in line with its own expectations. ®
It's clear that the BBC and Microsoft don't have bigbollocks.com. We've receive a sack-full of email from readers who now say the well-endowed site is no longer linking to the BBC or M$ - but that it now points directly to Reg. Thanks for that. We're suitably swollen with pride - and that's without the aid of a knife and a drinking straw. ® Related Stories M$ now has bigbollocks.com BBC's got bigbollocks.com
Intel plans price cuts across its range in two weeks' time. Celeron, Pentium III and P4 parts are all affected, according to a posting on a hitherto secure Intel website. The posting reads as follows: "Boxed Processor Pricing Update - November 26, 2000. This is a notice to inform you of an upcoming price move for select Intel boxed processors. On December 10, 2000, Intel will reduce prices on select Intel Pentium 4 Processors, Intel Pentium III processors, and Intel Celeron processors through authorized distributors. "These processors are available at the new price points only while supplies last. With this price move, Intel is delivering higher performance and better value in the performance and value desktop market segment. Please contact your authorized Intel distributor, after December 10, for specific pricing and availability details." References to 'select' Pentium 4 processors don't leave much room for manoeuvre as there are still only two variants of the flagchip available. Details of pricing specifics remain to be seen, but a drop on the P4 less than three weeks after its launch smacks of either a cockup or panic - we wouldn't like to speculate which. ®
Hans Snook, the unique, leather-jacketed, enema-loving CEO of Orange is to leave the company that he steered to success and through two of the world's most powerful telecoms companies. Hans announced this morning that he will stand down from the board after the France Telecom/Orange group is floated on the Paris stock exchange early next year. Which is odd because precisely this scenario was categorically denied by Orange just a month ago. That's how fast things move these days. Unless, of course, Orange was fibbing - but then it would never do that would it? Anyway, we think it's a bloody shame. Once France Telecom had taken Orange over, its head, Michael Bon, announced his man would go in as CEO but report to Snook, now executive chairman. We hoped this would work out but it clearly hasn't. Whether this is because Snook - always an independent mind - couldn't cope with the new arrangement or Bon overplayed his hand is a matter of debate. Either way, France Telecom has lost an extremely talented and forward-looking executive. According to the company, he will remain a "special adviser" to Bon. It's possible we s'pose. Oh, and Bon has weedled his way into the Orange board as a non-executive chairman. This is what Snook said: "Since 1993, I have committed myself entirely to helping build Orange and create a unique wirefree business. I am as passionate today as I always have been about the wirefree future and the ability of Orange to lead this future. My decision to take an advisory role has nothing to do with any reduction in my enthusiasm for Orange and its future, and I should make plain that I was offered and considered carefully a variety of positions, including those of chief executive or of chairman. However, I have always had wide interests but I have never had enough time to focus on them." Monsieur Bon (literally, 'Mr Good') said: "We fully understand Hans' wish to hand over executive responsibilities and I welcome him as special advisor - focusing on brand and strategic issues." The City didn't like it and shares dropped three per cent, possibly out of depression that another IT character has been replaced by a suit. ® Related Stories Snook to quit Orange? Orange reshuffle brings in France Telecom exec
Kingston Communications is to cuddle up to other companies to create two new companies to help reduce the cost of its DSL roll-out. KitCo will manage its DSL infrastructure, while VisionCo will operate the retail service. The move could save the company £150 million over three years, the telco said today. Steve Maine, Kingston Communications CE, said: "...we plan to enter into substantial partnerships with other network operators, equipment vendors and content providers to help fund, manage and deliver both the infrastructure and service elements on a phased rollout basis. "The nature and extent of these partnership arrangements remains to be determined and we will make appropriate announcements in due course," he said. BT and AT&T today announced that Gary Weis, president and COO of Concert, has been appointed that company's acting CEO, reporting to BT's chairman, Sir Iain Vallance, who is also chairman of Concert. David Dorman, the former CEO, has been appointed president of AT&T. Concert is the global coporate JV of BT and AT&T. London’s General Trading Company and Germany’s Kauhof have signed up to be part of the Pres.net network of retailers, and the launch of an Interflora style gift delivery service. Users will be able to buy presents online from shops in the same country of the intended recipient, thus cutting down on postage costs. ® Check out Cash Reg - or the puppy gets it.
Oracle has enlisted the help of a former White House spin doctor to spruce up its press machine. Joe Lockhart, who was the White House press secretary during Bill Clinton's impeachment tussle, joins the software outfit in a top communications post today. He will get the official title of Oracle senior vice president, reporting directly to Larry Ellison. "Joe brings perspective and experience not commonly found in Silicon Valley companies," said Ellison in a statement. "Joe will help us clearly and broadly communicate the benefits of e-business and e-government." Lockhart will keep his Washington abode - where he lives with his wife and daughter - and spend one or two weeks per month in Silicon Valley. It's a hard life... He got the job of press secretary in October 1998, just as the House of Representatives started buzzing around following the Monica 'keep that dress' Lewinsky sex scandal. He also previously worked on several other US presidential campaigns, including the Dukakis/Bentsen campaign in 1998, and has served time at both Sky TV News and ABC Network News. But the spin-meister will not deal solely with issues relating to the software business. An unnamed source told the Wall Street Journal he will also be responsible for boosting his bachelor boss's profile regarding non-Oracle activities such as charitable events. ® Related Stories Ellison not dead and not leaving Oracle Ellison: The ego has landed Gore, Bush campaigns announce 440 IT groupies - each
Anand continues crystal ball gazing today. He's finished part two of the guide to 2001 where he looks at the plans of motherboard makers Gigabyte, Microstar, Shuttle and Transcend. Overall, Anand reckons it's going to be a good year for the buyer, with tough competition at both ends of the market. Then we have a review of the MSI K7T Pro2 motherboard over at Overclockers Online. It gets a general thumbs up, but they reckon it isn't the ultimate overclocking board. Still, could be worth a look if you want stability and a decent bundle, but don't have millions in the bank. Via Hardware has looked at the Transcend APM3 mobo, based on the VIA PM133. The review finds enough wrong with it to strike off one and a half of the five points available but that probably has more to do with its lack of overclocking friendliness than any inherent fault. Sharky says "I told you so" about memory prices. This week it shows a small rise, so the boys are sticking to the 'buy' rating they issued last week. Go here to watch them all gloat. Up next is the $40 Dual Power Gamepad from Firestorm. GA Hardware has a look at this one, and concludes that if you want to play Metal Gear Solid and its ilk on a PC, you'll probably want one. And finally, we think it must be nearly Christmas or something, because it is getting mighty silly out there. You'll see what I mean at GlideUnderground where they have reviewed a 200MHz Pentium from Intel. Well, why not? ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives
An internet businessman has been stripped of ownership of porn portal sex.com following a ruling by a Californian court. Ownership of the lucrative and lurid site, which gets as many as 25 million hits each day, was taken away from Stephen Cohen after a San Jose judge concluded he probably stole rights to the domain name from San Francisco entrepreneur Gary Kremen. The ruling follows two years of legal argument about who was the rightful owner of sex.com, which links to hundreds of XXX-rated sites. 'Captain' Kremen successfully argued that Cohen had obtained the site through fraud five years ago, since when he has been milking profits from it and associated businesses, which were said in court to run into ten of millions of dollars. Lawyers said the site could be worth as much as $100 million. Despite having the foresight to register sex.com in 1994, Kremen did little to develop the site which remained dormant until Cohen took it over. The case hinged on a claim by Kremen that Cohen forged a transfer of ownership document for sex.com and sent it to domain registrar Network Solutions. Cohen, who has served time in prison on a bankruptcy fraud conviction, said he obtained the sex.com domain lawfully, after paying $1000 to a firm called Online Classifieds, which held the site registration. Things looked bad for Kremen when US District Judge James Ware ruled that he had no claim against Network Solutions, and the charge against Cohen was reduced to one of fraud. But on this lesser charge Ware has ruled in favour of Kremen, opening the door to a multi-million dollar settlement but one that may still be subject to appeal. The preliminary ruling, which involves an order requiring Cohen to pay $25 million into court, was made far more quickly than expected because it was believed money was been siphoning into offshore bank accounts. Ware also ruled that Network Solutions, which registers domain names, must transfer ownership of sex.com to Kremen. Kremen has previously said he will reposition sex.com if he wins control of the site - which is nice. ®
AMD shipped 1.5 million Durons in Q3, despite the cheapo chip being hamstrung by the lack of an integrated chipset enabling system builders to produce value systems without the need for a separate graphics card. The new VIA ProSavage KM133 is based on the KT133 and uses the S3 Savage 4 3D graphics engine together with the shared memory architecture seen in Intel's 815 family. Like the 815E, the KM133 can also use an AGP 4X slot either for a separate graphics card or for additional texture cache using plug in memory modules. The KM133 supports all Socket A Athlons and Durons and will also be available in a slightly cheaper variant, the KL133, supporting AGP 4x but without the on-chip graphics. Together with the existing KT133A, all three chipsets support 200/266MHz FSB, PC100/133 SDRAM (100MHz only for the KT133A) and PowerNow 2.0. In OEM quantities, the KM133 is priced at around $40, with the graphics-free KL133 being a couple of bucks cheaper. S3 veep of corporate marketing Paul Ayscough says the chipset will enable manufacturers to produce value systems with the ability to be user upgraded by the addition of either additional video cache or a fully featured 3D graphics card. "The KT133 targets the high end PC market, the KM133 the end user who wants upgradeabilty and the KL133 is aimed at the sub-$500 market. "It could mean a ten per cent cut in the end user price of a Duron system," said Ayscough. "But we have little control over whether savings to OEMs will be passed on to users." Ayscough also claimed that the KM133 performs 25 to 33 per cent better than the Intel equivalent i815e containing the 752 graphics core. "3D Mark 2000 scores are around 21 per cent better than the 815e," he said. "But that's with beta drivers so we expect to see a significant improvement with production drivers. Quake 3 demo 2 shows almost 32 per cent better performance than the 815e." ®
Former graphics behemoth S3 is taking a sabbatical from the high end graphics arena and concentrating on the integrated graphics market instead. "We'll be resting on the discrete desktop graphics market for at least nine months," says corporate marketing veep Paul Ayscough. "But in 12 to 18 months we'll be back with something very cool." Ayscough described S3's Savage2000 accelerator in less than glowing terms, but added: "I'd be very upset if you quoted me as saying it was a disaster." So we won't. ®
Now how many times do I have to tell you - let's be careful out there? Ladies, it's terribly tempting to accept the offer of an evening out with your favourite local psycho, but you should bear in mind Dr Spinola's top ten tips. 1. If your hunky new boyfriend invites you to climb into an empty oil drum, just say 'no'. 2. Should your newly-acquired paramour ask you if you would mind holding a chainsaw by the sharp end with your knees, our advice would be to say 'no'. 3. If your date asks you to sharpen a number of large, carbon steel knives, make an excuse and leave. 4. Anyone demanding: "design me an i820 mobo, bitch", should be considered to be a very disturbed person. 5. No gentleman would ever ask a lady to take home a large bag of ironing (unless the lady in question is the mother of the gentleman in question.) 6. "How'd ya like this up ya?" Should not be regarded as a terribly positive opening gambit. 7. "I can get you on the radio" sounds quite attractive, but one should consider the possibility of having one's giblets draped across an ancient wireless alongside the potential of having a new broadcasting career opening up before one. 8. Never reply to an Internet lonely heart ad. 9. Never reply to a local newspaper lonely heart ad. 10. If you still crave male company, simply send a large quantity of money and a selection of personal close-ups to Dr Spinola at the usual address. ®
Topsoft, the token based security specialist, says that the general public is still scared of encryption, despite its ubiquity in the business world. The company has added a couple of new names to its management team. Tom Parker, formerly of ICL where he headed up the Pathway project has joined the company as a non-executive director and Ian Hale has taken over as MD. Both are keen to rid encryption of its bad image with Joe Public, saying that industry must take a hand holding approach to ease people into the technology. We met up with them in London today, and they were such nice chaps we had to give them a mention. Info on the company's products can be found here.
One of the three Internet experts that decided it was technically possible to prevent French users from accessing parts of Yahoo! US' auction site has posted an apology on his own Web site, saying that the solution is "half-assed and trivially avoidable". A week ago, French judge Gomez enforced the decision against Yahoo! US which stated that French Internet users should not be allowed to even see auctions where Nazi memorabilia were on offer. The decision was widely reported due to the emotive nature of the case and was billed as a landmark decision in Internet law. British expert Ben Laurie was sidelined in terms of coverage by Vint Cerf - papa to Internet protocols and now head of ICANN - but was obviously unimpressed with media coverage of the case and posted his own "apologia" on his Web site. In it, he justifies his role in the ultimate decision by saying he ignored the politics behind the case and concentrated purely on the technical feasibility of spotting and blocking Internet users from France. His conclusion was that around 80 per cent of French traffic could be blocked (90 per cent was quoted by the judge), although any control could be circumvented with a simple anonymiser program. AOL subscribers are another "huge exception". However, he then goes on to make his personal opinion of the case clear, even to the extent of involving himself into the draconian French laws regarding Nazi material. He accepts that the French government "has the right to assert its jurisdiction over its citizens", and Yahoo's case that it would be impractical to implement hundreds of different laws over its pages is a strong one. However, he points out that French law refers not only to purchasing but to looking at Nazi memorabilia. This is where he gets a bit tetchy: "What is being fought over is literally what people think. No one should be able to control what I know or what I think. Not the government. Not the Thought Police. Not my family. Not my friends. The Internet is pure information. The fact that I cast aside my libertarian leanings in order to answer the question for the court, and yet was still unable to help in any substantive way, I find encouraging. We know we've done the right thing when our own best efforts cannot thwart it." Uh-huh? He ends by saying "the Internet does not adapt well to the control of subject matter, not that governments will intervene and censor it successfully - people have been trying to do that since it started, and they've never got anywhere. This case is no exception". His arguments seem a little haphazard to us, taking in, as he does, just about every point of view without coming out in favour of any of them. One aspect he did miss, however - and one we raised last time, but was taken to its wonderful conclusion by a piece in the Observer at the weekend - was that Yahoo! was hiding behind a fashionable freedom of speech argument. For example, we didn't see Yahoo! raising this argument when it was discovered auctioning child porn on its Japanese site earlier in the week. We think John Naughton did a good job of tackling Yahoo's attitude in his Observer piece, so we'll let him speak: "In the court case last May, Yahoo!'s lawyers smiled indulgently and patiently explained to Judge Gomez in words of one syllable that the Internet was a borderless phenomenon, that the laws of France could not possibly apply to a US company based in California and that in any event it was technically impossible to block French users from accessing the offending Web sites. The judge, however, was neither intimidated nor impressed by this transatlantic guff. Nor, one suspects, did he take kindly to being patronised." And, of course, there is the issue that these geographically indefinable Internet firms are also international companies and have significant commercial interests in countries all over the world. Best not to upset people of a particular nationality with the arrogant assumption that your views are superior to theirs, especially if you want them to buy your goods. The truth of it is that a balance needs to be struck between freedom of information and the rights of all nationalities not to have others' views imposed upon them. ® Related Links Ben Laurie's apology Observer piece "Yahoo! for brave French courts" Related Stories Yahoo! legally obliged to ban the French? Yahoo! loses Nazi trinkets case Yahoo! Japan in child porn police raid
London-based EasyEverything opened the doors to its first cybercafé outside Europe today. Entrepreneur and EasyEverything head honcho Stelios Haji-Ioannou flew to New York to launch the Internet café, which has 800 computer terminals open 24/7, and to kick off his US e-empire. Suited and booted Hewlett-Packard chairwoman and CEO Carly Fiorina also dropped in to cut the orange ribbon to open the extravaganza. Meanwhile, representatives from the Guinness Book of Records were on hand to declare the venture the universe's biggest cybercafé. Rates at the 18,300sq ft building, located just off Times Square, will work along the same lines as the company's other Internet cafés in Europe - and vary depending on how full it is. Punters, who today queued outside for hours to grab the promotions on offer ($1 gets five hours of Net access for the first week), will get between 15 minutes and five hours for their dollar. The company aims to open a another café in New York next year (in Union Square), and then spread across the US to San Fransisco, Miami and Chicago. "The mission of EasyGroup is to make the cost of living cheaper," said a beaming media-savvy Stelios who, despite his celebrity status in the UK, is relatively unknown in the US. He reckons there are three main groups of customers that visit his 15 cybercafés in Europe - people who cannot afford Net access in their homes, people on the move, and punters who use the cybercafes as a "social hangout" and stay in the building virtually all night. The venture should give the city's cybercafés a run for their money. Despite Internet access being generally cheaper in the US than in Europe, most cybercafés in New York are relatively pricey - with one hour of Net access generally costing around $15. ® Related Stories Easy man Stelios to float cybercafés EasyJetgoes for EasyNet café life No time to loos at EasyEverything
TiVo rival ReplayTV is scrapping its digital video recorder and has axed its CEO and chairman Kim LeMasters along with over 100 staff. The company is changing its business model too, and will now focus on licensing its technology to manufacturers and cable operators. In short, it's pulling-out of direct competition with TiVo. ReplayTV's founder, Anthony Wood, resumes the posts of chairman and CEO. The company's Mark One (actually, Mark Two) business model relied on revenue from retail sales of the ReplayTV box, and from advertising adorning personalised "ReplayTV channels". The latter was a tricky proposition, as one of the attractions of digital TV recorders is that you can skip the advertisements. ReplayTV now faces the tough task of persuading consumer manufacturers to use its technology rather than their own in-house work. Sony and Philips are signed up as TiVo partners. The rewards are high though, and ReplayTV has the potential of being the default browser - the Netscape if you like, of TV (or at least recorded TV). Success hinges on whether it can give licensees cost and time-to-market advantages, with TiVo rapidly becoming as synonymous with recorded TV as Hoover is with vacuum cleaning. Also, ReplayTV depends upon the willingness of manufacturers to establish a common platform, and make the traditional vertical model a little more horizontal. This is not something that they have ever been really interested in before. ®