11th > July > 2001 Archive

London still best place in UK to get rich

The streets of London town may not be paved with gold, but they're still the best place in the UK to find a top paying IT job. This 'revelation' comes from a survey of UK salaries, which shows that London-based IT directors can earn up to £202,000 per year. This hefty pay packet belongs to IT directors in the telecoms and new media sectors. Those working in London are likely to get paid up to 55 per cent more than the UK average for their position, according to a survey by TMP Worldwide. For example, the top salary for the same position in Ireland is £170,000, £147,000 in the Midlands, and £102,000 in Scotland. Similarly, Web designers can expect to earn up to £47,000 per year in London, or £45,000 in Ireland and £37,500 in the Midlands. Meanwhile, staff nurses in Britain earn an average of £18,310, with a £3,000 bonus if they work in London, according to figures from the Royal College of Nursing. Senior or consultant nurses can look forward to their salaries peaking at around £40,000. ® Related Link TMP Web site Related Stories Top IT execs suffer salary and benefit cuts Techie staff work longer but produce less
Linda Harrison, 11 Jul 2001

Thus posts improved numbers

Shares in Scottish telecoms and Internet outfit - Thus - rose a tad in early trading amid news of increased turnover and narrowing losses. Announcing Q1 results for the three months ended 30 June the telco said turnover was up 32.4 per cent year on year to £67 million. At the same time first quarter earnings reduced from negative £8.7 million in Q1 2000 to negative £2.4 million in Q1 2001. Part of the reasons behind Thus' improved figures is a change of focus from spending cash to build infrastructure in favour of actually flogging services and generating revenue from its corporate and SME customers. This revised approach realised a 56.4 per cent growth in core business services in Q1 to £51.3 million and Thus claims it has a strong order book for the rest of the year. Capital expenditure was lower than expected at £10.7 million. Full year capital expenditure is now not expected to exceed £100 million, the company said. In a statement, CE William Allan: "Though market conditions remain difficult in the sector, our focus on quality service is now reaping rewards resulting in improved revenue and EBITDA performance, compared to last year, and a stronger order book for the year ahead. "As we said at the time of our preliminary results, our concentration has moved from building infrastructure to exploiting the assets we have available through highly focussed sales and marketing activity. This approach is now producing results," he said. Shares in Thus rose 3 pence (9 per cent) to 36 pence by mid morning - a million miles from the dizzy heights of 844 pence last year. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Jul 2001

Durlacher burned by dotcoms and telecoms

New technology backer, Durlacher, is going to post a 'substantial trading loss' for the year ended 30 June, because the market hasn't been going well, and in fact 'worsened over the past few months.' And things aren't going to improve too quickly. In a statement the company said: "The current market environment [in the technology, media, telecoms sector] remains very challenging and in recognising that these conditions may continue for some time, the Group is concentrating resources on revenue generating activities." Last year the company announced pre tax profits of £12.2 million for the year to June 30 - an increase of 356 per cent on last year. Turnover was up from £13.2 million last year to £28.5 million and its market capitalisation increased to £320 million, up from £64 million. ® Related Stories Durlacher gets ology despite good dotcom results Durlacher falls on Net Imperative collapse
Robert Blincoe, 11 Jul 2001

Psion sacks 250; delays Bluetooth; runs from consumers

Psion announced today it will sack 250 staff in a shake-up of Psion Digital, after disappointing handheld and phone sales. It will also put back the Bluetooth products it said it would launch this year to next year, due to slow take-up. The mobile computer company will concentrate from now on on big business, next-gen digital appliances and Symbian products - running away from the competitive and difficult consumer market. More corporate changes are expected in the future. Psion Digital will continue to sell existing products and develop its netBook range of products. The staff that still have jobs "will focus on developing and exploiting Psion's IPR, expertise and experience to create innovative mobile networking products and solutions in high value markets". Answers on a postcard, please. Expected revenues for the first half of the year are expected to be halved from last year to £36 million. The division created from its merger with Teklogix (called, appropriately, Psion Teklogix) will focus on industrial and enterprise markets while Psion Digital will work the new product end. Psion put part of its troubles down to the US slowdown, as usual. Psion CEO David Levin said: "Trading in Psion Digital has been difficult. As a result of this we are taking major action to reduce our cost base while focusing on developing and exploiting our intellectual property and know-how to secure profitable new markets." "The IT industry is experiencing its worst downturn since 1985," he continued. "Against this background, it is essential that we take the hardest approach to costs, control and a return to profitability while avoiding exposure to oversupplied commodity markets." At the same time he announced there will be a range of new products for big business in September. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Jul 2001

Compaq warns of 4,000 more layoffs

Compaq is to axe another 4,000 staff due to the PC sales slump. The worldwide layoffs will take effect by the end of this year, and bring Compaq's proposed job cut total for the year to 8,500, or around 12 per cent of its workforce. Compaq said "worsening economic conditions in Europe" were to blame for the move, which will result in the company taking a one off charge of $490 million in the second quarter. "It is now clear that the economic slowdown is spreading overseas, and we will therefore move more swiftly and go even deeper in our structural cost reduction programs," said Compaq CEO Michael Capellas. The layoffs, which the company expects will save it $900 million per year, were announced after market close yesterday. Compaq also warned that second quarter sales would be down 17 per cent on the previous year at $8.4 billion. The Houston-based vendor is due to announce its Q2 results on 25 July. ® Related Link Compaq statement Related Stories HP prompts staff to take unpaid summer holidays Intel takes Alpha from Compaq's hands Compaq waves white flag in PC price war
Linda Harrison, 11 Jul 2001

Lucent to lay off 30% of senior managers

Beleaguered telecoms manufacturer Lucent has said it will lay off three in 10 of its top managers as part of a wide ranging restructuring program designed to cut its operating expenses. The firm plans to split into two main businesses - landline and wireless - both of which will focus on selling network infrastructure kit to service providers. Last year the firm had 11 divisions. The collapse of competitive carriers in the States, who had centres full of part-paid Cisco and Lucent kit plumbed in, has had a monstrous effect of those former darlings of Wall Street, while a slowdown in IT spending in general has piled on the misery. In May, Lucent abandoned plans to Merge with Alcatel and the fallout from the failure to conclude that deal has hardly helped matters either. Lucent recorded £3.69 billion in losses on declining sales during its second quarter. Earlier this year Lucent announced that it would shed 10,000 jobs in order to cut costs and reorganise itself in order to bring its business back on track. Lucent early retirement offer, which aimed to take a further 5,000 from the payroll, closed yesterday and the signs are the firm is preparing for more compulsory job losses throughout the firm. Touchy-feely memos from Lucent chairman Henry Schacht notwithstanding, morale at Lucent seems to be at rock bottom, and there are even reports that staffers who are losing their jobs are resorting to violence in order to express their grievances. Reuters reports that Lucent called in a police SWAT team to a Massachusetts plant after a member of staff reported that a former employee, dressed in a black trench coat and carrying a duffel bag, threatened his former colleagues. The incident isn't just a one off either. In April, a technician threatened to blow up Lucent's North Andover plant with a lorry loaded with a fertiliser bomb after Lucent announced layoffs at the Massachusetts facility. Lucent has an outstanding track record for innovation but a series of poor business decisions and a long string of damaging incidents have brought what was last year a thriving business to the brink of bankruptcy. Securities and Exchange Commission accounting probes and allegations that workers had sold hi-tech secrets to the Chinese have turned Lucent into a tragi-comedy figure. The success of Lucent's restructuring program and a resumption in networking investment by service providers will both be needed if the firm is to turn its business around. Divine intervention wouldn't go amiss either. ® Related Stories Lucent to restate sales and cut 10,000 (full-time) jobs SEC probes Lucent accounting practice Battered, bothered, bewildered - Nortel and Lucent shareholders Lucent jilts Alcatel at the Altar Lucent workers busted for inside tech swindle Lucent 'severely impacted' by Winstar bankruptcy Lucent denies bankruptcy rumours MemoWatch Lucent in fiscal clampdown MemoWatch Get touchy-feely with EMC and Lucent
John Leyden, 11 Jul 2001

Why ICANN's domain dispute rules are flawed: Part I

The Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) is an exceptionally important Internet process and stands to become all the more important in years to come. It is being adopted by new top-level domains; ICANN and WIPO are pushing it into the wider international arena and country-code TLDs; and the European Union plans to adopt it for the new .eu domain. On top of that, the draft proposals for the Free Trade Area of the America, recently revealed, include UDRP as the policy for domain disputes across all countries in North, South and Central America. What is UDRP? Basically, the set of rules that decides who or what has the right to a particular domain name. However, ever since the first domain disputes cases went through the ICANN system, we have consistently prefixed UDRP with the adjective "flawed". It is time, we figured, to spell out exactly why this set of rules threatens to damage the very fabric of the Internet. THE HISTORY OF UDRP It's important to note that the origin of UDRP was very different to how it has now turned out. ICANN asked WIPO to produce a report on how Internet domain disputes could be quickly, simply and cheaply settled to save the Internet from becoming a huge, litigious no-man's land. WIPO produced a report, with a range of recommendations, and submitted it to ICANN. There, it was widely discussed and eventually the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy was formed and approved on 24 October 1999. The most important aspect to note is that the policy was solely for trademark owners in dispute with non-trademark owners. UDRP specifically refused to rule on personal names, place names, names of pharmaceutical drugs and government organisations. Those names should follow their usual course through the law courts, it was decided, since law varies in different countries. The full policy was forced onto domain name registrars, which allowed for an effective and fast resolution process across large swathes of the Internet. Unfortunately, in trying to make the policy as simple and cheap as possible (so ordinary Net punters would not be disadvantaged), several important aspects were overlooked or mishandled. This, coupled with over-zealous arbitrators, has turned UDRP into a deeply flawed, corporate-friendly law that is precariously riding upon its own errors of judgement. So what the hell are UDRP's flaws? THE PROBLEMS WITH UDRP To our mind there are ten basic problems with the policy: It does not spell out who the burden of proof falls on It does not say what evidence is required to prove innocence or guilt It imposes impossible time limits A complainant does not need to contact a domain name owner before going to an arbitrator The complainant decides which arbitrator to go to There is no appeals process Arbitrators (WIPO in particular) have extended their rulings into areas of law they have no right to enter Arbitrators have ignored legitimate ownership of domains The "bad faith" defence is a nonsense No one is monitoring UDRP We'll cover the first five in greater depth here and the second five in a second part (save making this too long): It does not spell out who the burden of proof falls on In any civilised court, the decision lies with the accuser to prove that a person did what they say they did. Hence "reasonable doubt" in murder trials for example. This is a cornerstone in most law courts and as such is automatically presumed to be the case in arbitration decisions. It is, however, not explicitly stated and the last two years has seen a relaxation in what should be a hard and fast rule. [As several readers have rightly pointed out, this is for criminal courts only and civil courts work on a "balance of probabilities". Despite this, the point holds that UDRP does not provide an effective method for deciding guilt or innocence. Arbitrators are also guilty of ignoring the provisions that are in UDRP.] It does not say what evidence is required to prove innocence or guilt Again, a seemingly unimportant point but one of extraordinary import. Without a set approach to how the rules can be proven one way or the other, decisions made by judges are likely to vary hugely and so damage the creation of case law. It is also makes it far harder for a registrant to respond effectively to a challenge (see next point). It imposes impossible time limits The idea was that UDRP would be a fast mechanism for sorting out disputes. However, the 20-day reply period listed in the policy is ludicrously short. Worse than this, the 20-day countdown starts as soon as the arbitrator hears of the complaint - not the person that actually owns the domain. This means that if you aren't contacted by the complainant beforehand and then you don't check your email for a few days, you may only have a few days to: appoint a lawyer; write and submit your entire defence; and collect all the relevant evidence and documents you have (note no guidelines from above). On the other hand, the trademark owner will have had months to prepare. This puts all the pressure on the domain name owner. Also, in some hard-fought for cases, the arbitrator has refused further evidence from the defendant, despite it being extremely relevant, because the deadline had passed. Connected to this: A complainant does not need to contact a domain name owner before going to an arbitrator The first time someone may hear of a case is when the arbitrator email arrives in his inbox. Trademark holders have no need to contact a domain owner before going ahead. This is clearly daft and a court of law would take a dim view of someone going to court before attempting to sort out a dispute with someone in person - or even inform them of what they intended. Those that do contact domain name holders may also use it against the holder in a future case - there's a bit more of that in the point on bad faith (number nine). The complainant decides which arbitrator to go to This may seem fairly harmless since arbitration is mostly done over the Internet. However, due to the way the arbitration market has panned out, this simple choice has led to more inequality in domain dispute resolution than almost anything else. Arbitration has become big business. Thousands of cases are decided every year and money is taken for every one. Being the lead arbitrator for Internet domain names in a market of just four also provides a fair amount of power. Not to mention publicity when a high-profile case comes up. All of this has - and will continue to - give arbitrators a heavy incentive to rule in favour of complainants. The more decisions in favour, the more people will turn to you, the more money. This unchecked situation has resulted in some appalling decisions that have overriden not only UDRP but also international trademark laws. There was also recent evidence in which, due to a number of decisions made against AOL by WIPO, the massive Net conglomerate turned to alternative arbitrator NAF to rule on Aimster.com. NAF promptly amazed all and sundry by deciding for AOL on the ridiculous pretext that the word "aim" at the start of the domain stood for "America Online Instant Messenger" - and that no one would think any differently. On top of this, arbitrators can decide themselves what judges they assign to what cases. There have been many calls for transparency in this system but so far nothing has happened. It is a fact that certain judges have been handed over 200 cases and have consistently ruled in favour of trademark holders. Other judges - on the books for an equal time - that have ruled against complainants have been on as few as ten cases. Although not endorsed by him, special thanks goes to Michael Froomkin, who teaches at law in Miami and runs ICANNwatch, for his help and the supply of an as-yet unpublished document on UDRP. Related Stories Part II of the UDRP review is here AOL wins rights to Aimster domain name
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Jul 2001

Why ICANN's domain dispute rules are flawed: Part II

This is the second part of our in-depth rundown on why the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy - the rules used by ICANN and WIPO to decide who should own a particular domain - are flawed and why a fast and effective overhaul is essential before it is taken as the de facto policy on domain disputes. We covered the first five of the ten main points in the first part. Here are the remaining four and a short piece on the future of UDRP. To remind you, there are the ten main points: It does not spell out who the burden of proof falls on It does not say what evidence is required to prove innocence or guilt It imposes impossible time limits A complainant does not need to contact a domain name owner before going to an arbitrator The complainant decides which arbitrator to go to There is no appeals process Arbitrators (WIPO in particular) have extended their rulings into areas of law they have no right to enter Arbitrators have ignored legitimate ownership of domains The "bad faith" defence is a nonsense No one is monitoring UDRP In greater depth: It does not spell out who the burden of proof falls on It does not say what evidence is required to prove innocence or guilt It imposes impossible time limits A complainant does not need to contact a domain name owner before going to an arbitrator The complainant decides which arbitrator to go to There is no appeals process The idea of an appeals process was originally ruled out because companies worried that cybersquatters would simply postpone decisions by constantly filing spurious information. While removing any appeals process in a law-based system is hardly advisable, its absence has enabled arbitrators to chase business and extend their powers beyond what is acceptable without fear of retribution. In short, there is no safety mechanism or watchdog and the process has suffered because of it. Arbitrators (WIPO in particular) have extended their rulings into areas of law they have no right to enter As noted at the top, UDRP made special mention that large sections of trademark law should not be decided upon since national laws vary widely. Once this was decided, clauses covering these aspects were not included. Despite this, WIPO judges have repeatedly strayed into banned territory and then used the resulting decisions to base future decisions on. Such large errors have now been hard-wired into the process. The first example for a famous person concerned Jeanette Winterson, a writer, and the domain jeanettewinterson.com. WIPO should immediately have passed over the case and insisted upon a court of law deciding. Instead, it decided that a trademark does not have to actually exist for a right to a trademark to exist. Since Ms Winterson made her career on her name, she has a right to trademark her name. The judges decided to completely overlook the UDRP's policy rules that only "abusive" registrations should be considered and that "registrations that violate trade names, geographical indications or personality rights would not be considered to fall with the definition of abusive registration". They awarded the domain to Ms Winterson and sparked a flood of other famous applicants - all of which gave heavy publicity to the person, WIPO and the process. To our mind, only singer Sting has failed in his bid because he is really called Gordon Sumner and "sting" is a very common word. Note the term "geographical indications" in the above sentence. This area was also overrun by another set of WIPO judges for Barcelona.com. This time they decided that the people running a Barcelona tourist site on Barcelona.com did not have the right to it. Instead, Barcelona City Council did. Well, it had more of a right to it. This is despite of the fact that there are nearly one thousand companies with the name "barcelona" in their trademarks (11 of them in the US). By making this decision, rather than allowing the first-come, first-served approach in domain registration to stand, WIPO introduced the concept of some people having "better rights" to some domains. Fine, you may say, until you realise that no proper law court in their right mind would have made a decision that give someone subjective "better rights" to something. These two cases opened the gates to hundreds of other flawed decisions. The entire problem stemmed from ICANN's failure to define the term "trademark" in UDRP - and, of course, WIPO judges' selectively blindness. Arbitrators have ignored legitimate ownership of domains Arbitrators tend to be trademark lawyers and as such have a natural bias towards trademark arguments. There are three main aspects to UDRP that a trademark holder has to satisfy the judges have happened before a domain can be handed over. One of these is that the registrant "has no rights or legitimate interests" in the name. This can be down to using the site for "bona fide offering of goods and services", because he/she is know by that name or if they are using it for non-commercial or fair use. However, arbitrator bias has been shown in the numerous sucks.com cases, of the form [company]sucks.com. This, according to the rules, is a "fair use" of a domain. However, WIPO (again) decided that due to the criticism on such sites, it was therefore damaging the company and its trademark, so therefore it had a right to the domain. Which crazy doublethink George Orwell would be proud of. Trademark lawyers have also overlooked the centuries old defence of parody and criticism of those in public office or of large companies. This right has been used frequently over the years in both the UK and US (we don't know other countries well enough to be certain). Famously, this right (and of course the First Amendment) caused the US Supreme Court to rule in favour of the pornographer Larry Flynt. Possibly the most insane example ever comes into the next point: The "bad faith" defence is a nonsense A huge number of decisions have been made against the defendant on the basis that that person registered the domain "in bad faith". This term though is effectively redundant due to the set-up of UDRP and the way in which "bad faith" has been understood. The bad faith argument is the third element that an arbitrator needs to be convinced of before a domain came be handed over. The first is that the domain is "identical or confusingly similar to an existing trademark". The second that the owner "has no rights or legitimate interests" in the domain (see the point above). The first two points are fairly easily provable. However, the bad faith argument allows for a completely innocent domain registrant, who had no idea of conflicting trademarks when he bought the domain, to retain the domain. Or, as was the clause's original aim - to prevent two trademark holders from battling over the same domain. The wording for bad faith in UDRP makes this defence paper-thin however. First, it lists four situations in which bad faith can be found. Run as a list, with "or" after each point, it is clearly written to allow for other aspects to be tacked on the end as and when ICANN deems it necessary. The four currently are: An offer to sell the domain to the trademark owner or a competitor of the trademark owner An attempt to make money off the site by confusing it with the trademark holder's site or services Registering the domain in order to prevent a trademark holder from getting it, or if you are someone that has repeatedly registered domains that you don't have trademarks for (basically a clause for serial cybersquatters). Its registration was in order to disrupt the business of a competitor Unfortunately, WIPO views the bad faith section about "confusing the site with the trademark holder's" as the exact equivalent to the one of the other two main pieces of evidence: that it is "identical or confusingly similar to an existing trademark". As such, the bad faith element is made completely redundant. The most worrying aspect of this is that UDRP's limited rules are reduced further while its scope it increased. [Before this incredible piece of logic, many companies simply relied upon people accepting to sell their domain names to them. Then they would do them for bad faith. Note UDRP does not specify who has to contact whom first.] The finest and maddest example of this - possibly in the short history of domain disputes - was the case of www.bodacious-tatas.com. The Tata Sons company went to WIPO complaining that the site - which contained pornographic images of women - was running on top of its good name and was damaging its business. Now, put all the information listed above into a blender and you come up with WIPO's decision that, indeed, Bodacious-Tatas should be handed over to the Indian company. Despite the company name being just "Tata" with no "s", it was decided that seeing as the company has several interests, they are referred to as "Tatas". "Bodacious", although slang, has a similar meaning to "high quality" - which is, of course, what Mr Tata and his sons pride themselves on. The hyphen is irrelevant. Thus there could be no other ruling except that bodacious-tatas.com was using the company's name to try and sell porn. Of course, what completely eluded the entire "court" was that "tatas" is on an equal par of slang to "bodacious" and means "tits". And so "bodacious-tatas" to anyone except Mr Tata and WIPO means "great tits". And that is precisely what the site contained. No one is monitoring UDRP The uniform dispute resolution policy has been running for nearly two years. In that time it has brought nothing but scorn from independent observers. Even the EU is saying that it is hoping to go with a revised or updated approach to domain disputes - and they are possible the most bureaucratic politicians on the face of the Earth. UDRP is simply not being discussed. Why is there no mechanism in place to update the policy? It was thrust out into the Internet in far quieter days and of course some aspects would not be 100 per cent correct first time. So why no review? ICANN itself has consistently managed to get UDRP off the agenda at its meetings, despite the efforts of a few. It is very hard to imagine why this would the case unless ICANN and the arbitrators had something to gain from doing so. All the mistakes and errors in UDRP and made by arbitrators have, without exception, favoured trademark holders. And these holders are big corporations and famous people. If ICANN doesn't wish to be seen as little more than a front for big business, you'd think it would do something about the situation. The fact that the organisation is increasingly run on money donated by the very same big players doesn't help matters. In short, UDRP has been allowed to grow rotten. However, with pressure for it to be fed into all new TLDs and even existing ccTLDs, it has never been more important to review this policy. THE FUTURE OF UDRP Far from people openly discussing UDRP with the aim of improving it, the opposite appears to be happening. ICANN has consistently avoided debate on the topic. As has often been the case with the organisation running the Internet names, opinion is rarely sort and, if given, is rarely listened to. With UDRP becoming the de facto resolution policy, it is imperative that we get it right now and not later. A worse aspect is that WIPO is now growing close to producing a second version of UDRP that will include personal names, place names, names of pharmaceutical drugs and government organisations. The appalling irony that it has been the infringement into these areas of law by arbitrators that have caused many of the problems over the last two years. And with decisions already made under the previous UDRP regarding these names, will ICANN simply sweep away all the cases that disagree with the new policy or will the new policy take as a foundation decisions that should never have been made? Alternatively, seeing as arbitrators have clearly proved their inability to behave responsibly within the framework, we would very much like to see UDRP version two put on hold. An arbitrator watchdog with real powers should be appointed; UDRP reduced back to its original areas and cases wrongly decided upon should be run through the law courts (fortunately we are talking just hundreds rather than thousands or hundreds of thousands). If countries then decide a dispute policy would be more useful than law courts when dealing with Internet domain names, a wider policy should be written up through the main political network of the world, with ICANN and WIPO acting as advisers rather than decision makers. Then, perhaps, we might end up with a just system. The Internet is here to stay and it's about time we got it right first time. ® Although not endorsed by him, special thanks goes to Michael Froomkin, who teaches at law at the University of Miami and runs ICANNwatch, for his help and the supply of an as-yet unpublished document on UDRP Related Story Part I of the UDRP review
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Jul 2001

Intel pulls shipment of high-end server chip

Intel has suspended the shipment of a top of the range server processor after the discovery of a bug that could cause servers to crash. Deliveries of Intel's Pentium III Xeon 900MHz processor with 2MB of level 2 cache, which began shipping in March, have been on hold since April, but Intel has only just confirmed the problem this week. An Intel spokeswoman said that its customers are being offered a lower specification 700MHz processor as an alternative until a version of the chip free from the flaw becomes available in August. She said the bug, which has only been observed in a lab environment and is not believed to have affected end users, might result in a server falling over but does not cause data corruption or any more serious problem. The issue arises because of a "write failure to an internal processor task registry". No other Xeon processors are affected by the problem which reports suggest arises from a flaw in the manufacturing process Intel used to make the particular chip. 900MHz Xeons are designed for four and eight way servers and, with the prospects of an early release of Intel's Xeon Foster processors looking slim, the availability of the part of the market is important in Intel's strategy of providing customers with a credible alternative to Risc-based processors. ® Related Stories Intel rolls out 900MHz 4, 8-way PIII Xeon Dell intros Xeon box Intel puts back Pentium 4 Xeon launch Intel launches 1.7GHz Xeon
John Leyden, 11 Jul 2001

SGI takes a hit

Analysts Salomon Smith Barney downgraded SGI an 'underperform' yesterday, taking the stock below a dollar. Silicon Graphics said it would be reviewing its business plans, again, and predicted that revenues for the quarter ending June 30 would be between $430 and $440 million, resulting in a loss of between $70 and $80 million. SGI eliminated 1,000 jobs in the quarter, and says its cash pile is steady at $120 million. The company had appeared to be on its way to stemming its losses, but the warning this week that bookings were soft has prompted another, umpteenth business rethink in Mountain View. Two other analysts reiterated 'market perform' ratings for the SGI stock. President and CFO Hal Covert was stepping down for personal reasons, although he was was credited with implementing a new Enterprise Resource Planning system at SGI. ERP consultancy fees and related restructuring costs were listed in accounts for the previous quarter at $7.2 million. Jeff Zellmer takes the CFO seat, and Warren Pratt assumes Covert's other duties, such as dealing with invoices from ERP consultants. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2001
SGI logo hardware close-up

SlowCoMo recalls iMode phones again

For the third time this year, NTT DoCoMo is to recall iMode mobile handsets for repair. On this occassion 100,000 units of the Panasonic "Digital Mova P503i HYPER" iMode phone are being recalled, with stock in the channel suspended for ten days for a software fix. The phone will not receive incoming calls or emails intermittently, DoCoMo said in an advisory, which you can read here. Two months ago, DoCoMo recalled 420,000 Sony iMode phones, and in February 100,000 phones manufactured by Hitachi, Ericsson, Sony and Japan Radio were hauled back in for a fix. iMode contributed to 7 per cent of the giant Japanese telco's revenue in the past year, the company said in May. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2001

BT in digital TV deal

BT is to offer bundled digital TV services alongside its residential telephone service in a bid to compete with the UK's cable companies. The marketing tie-up of the newly-rebranded ITV Digital (formerly ONdigital) and Sky Digital will mean that BT can offer its punters telephone and Internet services plus a choice of digital TV providers. BT will spend £10 million promoting the new services which become available from August 11. The telco has promised more similar deals in the future reflecting what it describes as "the high customer demand for these services to be marketed and sold together". It also claims that research has suggested that customers are more likely to buy their services from a supplier which offers TV and Internet together with their telephone service. Angus Porter, MD of BT Consumer, said: "Our customers sometimes mistakenly believe they need to move their telephone line to a cable operator to get access to digital TV. "That's absolutely not the case and with these new deals we'll be taking that message right into our customers' living rooms as part of our joint marketing campaign," he said However, cableco NTL has rounded on BT accusing the monster telco of being chicken. Jerry Roest, MD of Marketing and Development at NTL, said: "BT is running scared. NTL offers millions of customers combined digital TV and a telephone line for just £14.99 a month. "The cheapest offer from BT and BSkyB costs £19.99 per month, has fewer digital TV channels included and costs £60 more a year than NTL. "Today's discount from BT of £30 per year on Sky Digital is a one-off payment so it doesn't come close to bridging the £60 gap. "Cable remains the very best value for all telephone and pay-TV customers," he said. No one from Telewest was available for comment by press time. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Jul 2001

The Internet is the root of all evil

It's a sad fact that in the modern world - well, the modern media - everything either has to be an evil, corrupting influence, destroyer of children and rapist of culture. Or it is the saviour, the Christ-figure that will makes our times the greatest in all humanity. Because the Internet is such a leap in communication, both geographically and in terms of speed, it gets the lucky moniker of being both at the same time. Unfortunately, because it is such a recent invention, the Internet - for all its potential - is repeatedly turned into Beelzebub's tool. No sooner was the UK's media running around slapping itself on the back because Oftel said on Monday that 10 million folk were now online, than it leapt into the equally partisan stance that the Internet is ruining our lives. Ignore for a second that Oftel figures are not to be trusted - what the hell is going on? The BBC posted a viewpoint piece on its Web site: Could you live without the Internet? No, I couldn't, you cry, it's taking over my life. I was never like this before. Kill all PCs. But far stronger than this, the Irish Independent did a piece on how a PC is destroying a family. "My husband's Net addiction is killing our marriage," it weeps. It's so bad they can't even use their real names! You see, John is spending more and more time on his computer. He would be sat watching the TV with Caroline and the kids and then would "suddenly get up, say he wanted to check something and leave us". Of course, no one noticed the irony of leaving the "social" TV set for the "anti-social" computer. But that's not all. She once found a pornographic image on the computer! And he has email conversations with people! It's ruining our marriage! Don't be ridiculous, woman. The fact is that marriages have suffered these problems from time immemorial. Jealousy of outside relationships, paranoia etc etc etc. The computer is simply a different medium - like the phone. But to blame a phone for a marriage breakdown would be ludicrous. So why are computers any different? Another example: The Mirror did a further piece on Monday on Net paedophiles. Fortunately it wasn't the hysterical Carol Vordermann this time. Instead, the paper spoke to a woman that actually works for the government in tracking illegal online behaviour. It's a step towards a more rational approach but was still littered with emotive and provocative language and you were left in no doubt about how sick and dangerous the Net is. The emotional button-pusher of paedophiles aside, what of the stories about these new Net criminals that will wipe out the entire National Grid or cut off water supplies by hacking into computer systems? Or the anarchists that threaten our very existence using the Internet to organise their evil deeds? Do you remember when, before the world+dog bought a mobile phone, that this new invention was being used for all kinds of illegal activity (football hooligans, bank robbers)? What about the scare that people could pick up mobile phone conversations so easily that strangers would know our most intimate secrets? What happened to that? This "new media hysteria" (our new phrase) also meant that Parliament was able to pass at least three extremely dodgy laws in the last term on a wave or worry and concern. It caused an unprecedented reduction in an individual's rights in the UK. But even worse than this paranoia over new technology, the media and politicians have actually failed to monitor the most destabilising aspects of Internet technology. Online banks for example. How many hundreds of people observe every subtle move in the financial markets every day? But how many paid any attention when companies started hoarding money on insecure infrastructures? And how many chased companies up when they replied with a mixture of technical garbage and blatant lies? Did the fact that hundreds of savers' financial details were made readily available to anyone in the world affect a company's share price as much as a rumoured argument in the boardroom would have? Then there are the people that try to fight the case for civil rights and against spyware. They are clearly branded loonies. But why on earth should we allow a company to effectively put a spycamera in our houses just because we bought a lamp from it six months ago? Or worse still, because we just popped into their store and picked up a leaflet. These are the problems with Internet technology that need to be sorted out. But then these aspects are not so sexy - they don't play on the instinctive dread that people have for new technology. They don't sell papers. The Internet will revolutionise our lives. But instead of the TV and the radio - the last two great leaps in communication - this one means anyone at all can interact with anyone else. That can only work towards human good and new levels of individual freedom. Don't expect this to make the establishment or the media very happy. And don't forget to ignore nearly all the negative stories in the future. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Jul 2001

Sony Clié PEG-S300/E

ReviewReview You've got to hand it to Sony – it knows how to make an attractive gadget. Its latest lovely-looking creation is dubbed Communication, Link, Information and Entertainment – or put simply, Clié. As with all Sony products, the Clié has been well marketed and hits the shelves amid plenty of promotion. But can it possibly live up to the hype? In a word – no. Remove the Sony-tinted spectacles for a moment and you’ll see that the Clié is just another Palm OS-based organiser, albeit with a chic design and a few interesting additions. The first of these is a Memory Stick slot, replete with an 8MB card to slide into it. There’s nothing fancy about Memory Stick – it’s just another card standard to compete with the clamouring hoards – but at least it provides a way of upgrading the Clié and allows it to store images and video clips. However, it is an added bonus as it beefs up the memory provided to 16MB when twinned with the built-in 8MB. Time for a reality check, though. Yes, the Clié can play mini-movies, but they’re projected on a highly reflective, monochrome screen – and at postage-stamp size. To us, this seems a pointless exercise. Much the same could be said of its image-viewing capability, which is fine in theory but ugly in implementation. The rest of what’s on offer is much like any other Palm-based device, meaning the Clié provides basic but effective contact management and scheduling applications, coupled with touch-screen operation and handwriting recognition to input data. A USB docking cradle serves as the Sony’s desktop computer interface and battery charger. The Clié is a fine palmtop PDA (personal digital assistant) cast from the Palm OS mould. The additional memory is a real bonus, but the extras it offers don’t justify the high price tag. Info Price: £214 Contact: 0845 601 4254 Web site: www.sony-europe.com/clieplaza Specifications Processor: 20MHz Dragonball EZ RAM: 8MB Memory Stick: 8MB Screen: 160x160-pixel resolution Battery: Lithium-ion Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
PC Advisor, 11 Jul 2001

NEC plans to be first with 0.10 micron chip

NEC has shown off the technology for 0.10 micron processors it plans to have in production by the start of 2003. The chips will be used in next gen consumer electronics devices, mobile phones, and Net servers. NEC has teamed up with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to jointly set the processor design rules, high-speed and standard transistor characteristics. Reuters quotes Osamu Kudo, an NEC general manager for device development, at a press conference saying: "If we can have it ready in the first quarter of 2003, I think we'll be in the top group globally." ® Related Link NEC release
Robert Blincoe, 11 Jul 2001

IRS tries to tax outer space

Tax officials in Los Angeles have come up with a great idea to swell their coffers - taxing companies for their goods in outer space. By goods, read satellites orbiting Earth. According to the leeches in Los Angeles County, eight satellites that belong to Hughes Electronics can be classed as "moveable property" and as such they should be taxed as if they were boats or construction equipment. Ridiculous as it may seem, if the tax office pulls the extra-terrestrial idea off, it stands to profit to the tune of several million pounds. Needless to say, Hughes is unimpressed and its lawyers have hit upon their own opinion of outer space's tax laws. The satellites are orbiting the Earth at a fixed point, above the equator, they say. Since they are launched in either Florida or French Guyana, they never cross California and as such cannot be in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles tax officials. After 10 or 15 years, they are then blasted into a dead zone in space. Get out of that one Mr Taxman. [Quick note to our American cousins: yes, we know that the IRS and county/state taxations are different systems. We used "IRS" in the headline for brevity. However, as one reader pointed out: "In my case, as soon as I read the headline I thought wtf? The IRS isn't responsible for taxing tangible property." We are impressed at your intricate understanding of the US tax system. But then we reckon it's something you all wish you didn't know :-). ] ®
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Jul 2001

42 million US workers log on in June

More than 15 per cent of Americans spend their time surfing the Net from the workplace. The number of employees accessing the Internet at the office grew to 42 million in June, up 23 per cent on the previous year, according to a survey by Nielsen/NetRatings. Last month US workers each logged onto the Net an average of 43 times - up from 39 sessions the previous year. Meanwhile, the average cyber-equipped employee visited 35 Web sites during the month, compared to 28 the previous year, and spent 22.5 hours online - two hours longer than in June 2000. A separate survey last week estimated that the online activities of 27 million office workers worldwide were under constant surveillance from their bosses. This figure, from the Denver-based Privacy Foundation, included around 14 million employees in the US. ® Related Stories 429 million people use the Net Bosses are snooping on 27 million workers worldwide Email is top cause of workplace stress - report 'Cyberslackers' are curse of workplace
Linda Harrison, 11 Jul 2001

Europe bottles spam ban

A European committee has blocked plans to outlaw unsolicited commercial email dealing a major blow to anti-spam supporters. An amendment tabled by UK Labour MEP and former Eastenders soap star, Michael Cashman, was adopted by the Citizens' Rights and Freedoms, Justice and Home Affairs Committee earlier today. It means that Commission-backed proposals to introduce Europe-wide legislation forcing e-marketeers to seek the permission of consumers before they send out commercial emails have been dropped. Although this change has still to be passed by a full meeting of the European parliament in September it's expected to be given the green light unchallenged. The news has come as bitter disappointment to Joe McNamee of the European Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA) who has lobbied for a ban on spam for the last two years. And he's warned that this decision could jeopardise other legislation that plans to limit the length of time ISPs hang on to data. In a separate initiative the Council of Ministers wants to impose on ISPs strict data retention laws in their fight to tackle online crime online, something the European Parliament is reportedly against. However, according to McNamee: "There is a grave danger that, by taking a weak stance on consumer protection regarding spam, there is a substantial danger that this will damage the Parliament's credibility regarding the Council of Minister's proposals on increased data retention." ® Related Story Europe holds key vote on spam tomorrow
Tim Richardson, 11 Jul 2001

DRAM nosedive continues

Prices for 128Mb memory chips continued to nosedive last month for both the spot and contract markets. The 30-day rolling average prices of 128Mb DRAMs for May 24 to June 22 for contract users fell to $3.57 in North America, $3.25 in Europe, and $3.57 in Asia, Nikkei Market Access reports, via Asiabiztech. This was a drop of 7.5 per cent, three per cent and three per cent respectively, according to figures from ICIS-LOR. Meanwhile, module prices on the spot market also continued to fall, with 128MB DIMMs (PC133) going for $19.38 in North America, $24.70 in Europe and $20.76 in Asia. This represents a fall of 8.5 per cent, 7.2 per cent and 6.2 per cent respectively. If DRAM prices continue to fall at this rate, rolling average contract prices could drop to under $3 in the space of a month, according to Nikkei Market Access. Similarly, spot prices could fall beneath the $2 mark. ® Related Link Nikkei Market Access Related Stories DRAM refuses to be tickled into submission in June DRAM production cuts unlikely - analyst World chip sales down 7% in May
Linda Harrison, 11 Jul 2001

Mobile operator HQs raided over price-fixing

The headquarters of all the four main mobile operators in the UK - BT Cellent, One2One, Orange and Vodafone - have been raided this afternoon by officers from the EU's Competition Directorate, escorted by members of the Office of Fair Trading. A further four offices in Germany were also raided. The officers are investigating price-fixing between different operators when people use their mobiles abroad. A Commission spokesman said such prices were not transparent and did not appear to be related to the costs of making the call. Anyone that has just got back from holiday and seen their mobile bill will tend to agree. The European competition commissioner Mario "Elliot Ness" Monti said earlier this year that roaming prices such as 86p a minute for calling the UK from Germany were "relatively high". But behind Mario's calm exterior lies a ruthless operator and no sooner did he click his figures than Competition Directorate storm troopers burst into the HQs of the mobile operators seeking the truth. All operators have confirmed that they were "visited" by members of the Directorate and OFT, although official statements are a lacklustre affair, ranging from: "We will co-operate fully with" etc etc or "It was a routine inspection" etc etc. None of the companies were expecting the raids and one eye-witness, insisting upon anonymity, said: "It was like something out of the Iranian siege - they came bursting in with smoke bombs and everything. We were made to lay face down on the floor while hooded.." [Enough of your SAS fantasies - Ed] The raids also hope to discover whether German operators have been illegally fixing the prices they charge to other operators. Companies that are found guilty of running a cartel can be fined as much as 10 per cent of their annual sales. Mario has recently been very vocal about price fixing. EU investigations are currently taking place regarding Microsoft, DVDs and Internet music companies. We look to see whether they are dealt the same treatment. ® Related Stories EU to investigate anti-trust Internet music companies EC investigates Euro DVD high pricing Monti: Europe pressing on with antitrust case against MS
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Jul 2001

Overhyped ThinkPad memory deal

IBM is making the most of the memory price crash by doubling up the SDRAM on some ThinkPad models and pretending the deal is a once in a life time opportunity. The special offer is running for just one week and ends on 16 July - so if you rush you can get a 700MHz Celeron ThinkPad I Series with 128MB SDRAM (up from 64MB) and a 10GB hard drive for £958. Or a 750MHz PIII model with 128MB SDRAM (up from 64MB) and 20GB hard drive for £1,227. Both prices include VAT and delivery. The breathless IBM advert states: Buy Now. Double your memory at no extra cost. Which is pretty close to the truth. A 64MB SDRAM module for either model costs around £24 - less than two per cent of the total price of the PIII machine. This is better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick, but not the deal of the century. If you buy online you get an extra five per cent off. Maybe IBM expects memory prices to rise shortly, which might explain the small window of opportunity for its incredible deal. ® Related Stories DRAM nosedive continues
Robert Blincoe, 11 Jul 2001

WinXP pricing leaks again? SA bids $286 for Pro

As reported here earlier, Amazon has pulled prices for Windows XP from its site; it has subsequently stopped taking pre-orders for XP - allegedly until Microsoft has set the prices for the product. Well, ahem. Are we expected to believe that Amazon had some kind of corporate brainstorm and just made up prices for XP? If Amazon did make up prices for XP, this reckless behaviour would seem to be catching. Our sources tell us that South African distributor Rectron lists Windows XP Pro in its June catalogue at $US286, which puts the South African imagination just a tad more optimistic than the amazon.com one, which pegged it at $299.99. Conspiracy theorists will be impressed by our inability to verify this. We checked out rectron.co.za to see if the price was online, but got no hits at all on a search for Microsoft or Windows, and found that Rectron's Microsoft section (so why no hits?) was "under construction." So the company's just getting into Microsoft software then? Not exactly. On 19th May 2000 Rectron Holdings received the Microsoft Systems Builder of the Year award from MS senior VP and former Dark Lord of MS OEM Joachim Kempin himself. This was in recognition of its having boosted Microsoft product sales by more than 1000 per cent in the previous year. Try as we might, it's difficult not to conspiracy theorise. Whatever, as is abundantly clear to anything from the slightly sentient mollusc upwards, Microsoft has set pricing for Windows XP already, and has briefed the relevant outlets. It is currently pretending it hasn't because it intends to use a pricing announcement as part of the market momentum-building exercise it will be engaging in as we get closer to the October launch date. Given that we've got two leaks already, it should now be worth scanning the public prints for further outlets who have - oh woops - accidentally blabbed early, and will be catching the rough edge of Redmond's tongue. ® Related Stories WinXP pricing data gets 'disappeared' by Amazon WinXP prices out - buy now while stocks get built
John Lettice, 11 Jul 2001

Netscape ruling a boost for online privacy

The case against online snooping by AOL through its SmartDownload software has had a further boost thanks to the decision by a federal judge that people are not bound by the company's online contract as they did not actively agree to it. The SmartDownload software comes packaged with Netscape Communications (AOL bought Netscape in 1998) and was found to log user downloads and send the data (including file name, file server and user IP address) to Netscape without informing the user. If you were signed up with Netscape it would also send your email address. Judge Alvin Hellerstein decided that since Netscape didn't require people to click a button to express their consent when downloading the software, they aren't bound to the licence agreement. The decision removes a main plank from AOL's defence. The judge said: "From the user's vantage point, SmartDownload could be analogised to a free neighbourhood newspaper, readily obtained from a sidewalk box or supermarket counter without any exchange with a seller or vendor. It is there for the taking." In the case brought originally by Christopher Specht and later by John Gibson, Michael Fagan and Sean Kelly, it was claimed that AOL (Netscape) has illegally monitored personal details and so broken federal interception laws. AOL's defence will now have to rely upon the fact that it did nothing intentionally wrong and that it acted in good faith when it removed SmartDownload in the next version of the Communicator software. Which way the case will go is anyone's guess but this decision is certainly a boost for online privacy with the judge effectively making any company liable for their software does if it doesn't specifically ask users to sign up to their contract. ® Related Stories Netscape SmartDownload opens up PCs to attack Netscape's SmartDownload court case hots up Netscape complainant speaks to The Reg So just how guilty is Netscape? AOL faces snooping court case
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Jul 2001

Adobe on Apple: It's a family thing

Adobe has refuted suggestions that it's cool about the current state of Mac OS X, telling us today that Illustrator and InDesign will be the first to appear on Mac OS X. If there are strains between the two giants, Susan Prescott, Adobe's Veep of marketing for cross platform publishing, was putting the best possible face on the relationship. "The relationship is almost familial in its intensity," she told us today. Ah, yes, quite, we wondered. Don't normal families spend a good amount of time bickering pointlessly? Aren't the most heated rows between kin? "I'm using the analogy loosely," she said. "The relationship will continue to last for a long time, there's a lot of mutual respect," said Prescott. So we returned to some of the areas of alleged contention. Did Adobe think Apple should be in the applications business? "We can't comment on what Apple's business strategy should be." Would Adobe promise to release applications at the same time for the Mac as Windows? "Absolutely. We aim for simultaneous parity releases ? unless there's a systemic issue," she said. And would that extend to simultaneous releases for the new Mac OS X as well as the venerable MacOS? "They'll be available simultaneously as the platform evolves," which you might want to translate as sure, when we're ready to extend that commitment to OS X, we'll extend that commitment to OS X. But 'not yet'. Prescott reiterated Apple's commitment to roll out Mac OS X versions of the major products along with major revisions. Adobe won't commit to defining what's a 'major product' for us, or when the major revisions will be due. So did Adobe agree with Jobs' WWDC keynote, where he put the frightener on laggard ISVs by suggesting many users would switch to alternative products if native OS X versions were available sooner? This got an intriguing answer. "Rushing is probably the wrong mindset for our community. Porting to any new OS is not a trivial task. We won't be sacrificing product quality for expediency." "We will take our time to get it right for all operating systems including OS X. Customers expect innovative software and we will deliver nothing less." Was Adobe happy with the support it was getting from Apple in terms of API support? Prescott didn't answer this directly, but replied thus:- "Within the context of what can be expected, yes. We feel in general Apple has been great at working with us at a peer-to-peer level and when issues come up Apple has done a great job" she said. Prescott wouldn't comment on the relationship between the two over Quartz, the PDF-based imaging component in OS X. Quartz's precursor was developed in conjunction with NeXT, and the latter paid Adobe a royalty fee. But Apple developed Quartz itself from public PDF specs, and Adobe doesn't get a fee. "Acrobat is the best tool for PDF generation - but for the OS Quartz is a great solution," said Prescott. "Talk to the hand." (Actually we made that last part up. What Susan really said was "Talk to Apple"). So with much talk of the Mac as a "strong vital platform", a "long-standing relationship that remains strong" and a "common customer base," we signed off. There's no new dirt here, says Prescott, which we don't doubt. But one veteran Mac watcher characterized the relationship most succinctly in an email last week, describing it as "a big fat chess game". "Adobe is telling Apple to leave the market alone and Adobe will get to OS X when it is good and ready," he wrote. As you were... ® Related Story Adobe freezing out Apple's Mac OS X?
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2001

Intel goes back to the future for memory

Intel is placing its bets on a technology it invented in 1970 for next generation memory. Ovonics Unified Memory (OUM) bears the imprimatur of Gordon Moore, and Intel highlighted a paper he co-authored more than thirty years ago on amorphous semiconductors*. "Why are we doing it again? I keep getting asked that, even by my managers," said Intel's Stefan Lai, co directory of Intel's California Technology and Manufacturing Group. Chipzilla said that memory technology has really only taken one major leap in the past ten years, with the invention of flash memory. Laying out the options for a "five to twelve year" framework, of the various technologies currently in the labs, Intel favored polymer memories for data storage and OUM for chip memory. Amorphous semiconductors are switched between a crystalline or conductive state, and a blobby or resistive state by an electrical current. It's a technique used by rewritable CD-RW discs today. Lai said breakthroughs in cell physics and more recent process improvements had made arrays of amorphous chips viable. Intel didn't claim OUM was perfect, but reckoned could be produced more cheaply than the alternatives MRAM favoured by IBM, Motorola and Infineon, and FeRAM, backed most of the old Dramurai (Matsushita, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Hitachi and others). "MRAM will always be three or four times as expensive," said Lai. "But we’re not saying MRAM is not useful." "The ease of integration is what attracts us the most. This memory works on less than 3 volts. Current flash memory mixes high voltage and low voltage on the same chip, which is difficult and expensive." ® * Over a crackly line, we were convinced he'd said "amphibious semiconductors" until we checked our notes. Now that would be something.
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jul 2001

MS surrenders! IE not integrated with WinXP after all

Microsoft hooked the rotting corpse of Netscape to a drip feed today by almost - shock, horror - agreeing with a court that said it had done Bad Things. The company statement simply repeats what the appeals court said rather than saying the appeals court was right, but a whole bunch of stuff it had previously insisted was non-negotiable and technically impossible is now going to roll with XP. And it'll apply to previous operating systems, not that previous operating systems will survive much beyond December, if Redmond has its way. Today's statement essentially (and cynically) splits Internet Explorer out from Windows again. Exquisitely, you'll recall, the very appeals court that Microsoft is now doing obeisance to is the one that ruled that Microsoft did have the right to integrate IE with Windows. If Microsoft hadn't insisted that it could do this very thing, the DoJ antitrust action might very well not have hit it with quite the enraged velocity it did. This is a very, very weird legal action, and it's getting weirder. In today's statement Microsoft says: " The appeals court ruled that certain provisions in Microsoft's licenses with PC manufacturers impaired the distribution of third-party Web browsers.[note total absence of agreement or disagreement - it's simply an acceptance that it's a fact the court said this] Microsoft will now provide PC manufacturers with the following new flexibility: "PC manufacturers will have the option to remove the Start menu entries and icons that provide end users with access to the Internet Explorer components of the operating system. Microsoft will include Internet Explorer in the Add/Remove programs feature in Windows XP. So the insistence that IE is part of the total Windows Experience, and that the desktop and OOBE (out of box experience) is copyright MS is gone. The ability to remove IE, which was added by 98lite.net as soon as MS subtracted it, demonstrates what 98lite.net demonstrated before, that it was all a matter of packaging. "PC manufacturers will have the option to remove the Start menu entries and icons that provide end users with access to Internet Explorer from previous versions of Windows, including Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows Me. PC manufacturers will retain the option of putting icons directly onto the Windows desktop. Based on extensive customer usability studies, Microsoft had designed Windows XP to ship with a clean desktop and improved Start menu, but PC manufacturers will now have the option of continuing to place icons on the Windows desktop if they want to. Consumers will be able to use the Add-Remove Programs feature in Windows XP to remove end-user access to the Internet Explorer components of the operating system. Microsoft has always made it easy for consumers to delete the icons for Internet Explorer, but will now offer consumers this additional option in Windows XP." As regards IE removal, it's more of the same. The ability to shove icons onto the desktop isn't necessarily a plus for consumers, because from the point of view of the OEMs these are, effectively, advertising. But weirdly, considering the "clean desktop" XP theory, Office XP automatically installs an icon on, er, the desktop. Note also that there is no suggestion that OEMs can ship systems with IE pre-removed (that's up to consumers), and that there's no mention of start menu priorities (as shipped in the beta, Microsoft products, IE included, are prominently displayed). So it's a negotiating bid, and there's less to it than meets the eye. But Ed Felten will no doubt be heartened to hear he was right, and the IE and Windows code can be disentangled after all. And if it had happened a couple of years ago, then all of this might not have happened, and Netscape might still be an independent company pitching for business around its browser. But today, for some reason, the drip feed doesn't seem to be reviving the corpse... ® As a public service, The Register feels it useful to shove the ludicrous supporting PR puff from notorious Microsoft narks below. Watch out for these guys, and be careful about buying their hardware: Puff slot begins: Computer industry leaders today underscored the importance of the launch of Windows XP to the PC industry and consumers. "We're very excited about the possibilities that Windows XP delivers to our customers," said Ted Waitt, co-founder and CEO of Gateway. "With this new flexibility, we're looking forward to taking Windows XP to the next level, tailoring technology to meet our customers' needs." "Windows XP is an incredible step forward for end users and partners, unlocking the possibilities of the digital world," said Jim Allchin, group vice president for platforms at Microsoft. "Windows XP provides new opportunities for companies throughout the hardware and software industries, especially PC manufacturers that have worked closely with us to create the best experience for customers." "We're excited about Windows XP and the positive impact it will have on our industry. As a strong partner for more than 15 years, Compaq has worked closely with Microsoft throughout the extensive development of Windows XP," said Mike Larson, senior vice president and general manager of the Access Business Group at Compaq. "We are setting a new standard for simple, dependable and efficient computing." "Dell is excited about delivering Windows XP later this year," said Jim Totton, vice president of software for the Consumer Products Group at Dell. "Dell is always interested in what's best for its customers, and the new levels of performance, ease of use and customization will combine for a great personal computing experience." (That's enough rentaquotes from stooges - Ed)
John Lettice, 11 Jul 2001