8th > October > 2001 Archive

UK will miss 2005 broadband goal

Britain's broadband strategy lies in tatters today after Government-backed research found it will fail to meet its goal to make the UK the most competitive and extensive broadband market in the G7 by 2005. The damning report, currently in its final draft, concludes that even if the Government adopts all the recommendations contained in the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) report published last month, Britain will still be a middle-ranking broadband nation only by 2005. The unpublished report, seen by The Register and compiled by Analysys on behalf of the Office of the e-Envoy, shows that Britain is one of the most expensive countries for broadband. It also scores badly on availability and choice of services on offer. The research found that Britain is lagging in ninth place, ahead of Italy and Ireland in an international league table of countries. But it predicts that even if all the recommendations of the BSG are carried out, including subsidies and tax incentives, then Britain will advance judst three positions to sixth place by 2005. According to the research, Britain will still trail South Korea, Sweden, Canada, Japan and the US. The report is currently with e-envoy, Andrew Pinder. It's not known if the Government has any plans to publish the document. The Broadband Market Index attempts to compare the UK's performance against different international broadband markets. Reflecting on the current standing of the broadband market the report says: "The UK appears to be slightly under-performing in terms of weighted average price and performance (measurement of availability and choice), however, it does outperform countries such as Italy in terms of price (no cheap cable offering), and France in terms of performance (greater choice between DSL and cable). It continues: "One of the major issues facing the UK at the moment is a lack of demand. Whilst the UK is towards the bottom of the pack in terms of 'attractiveness' of the broadband market (combination of price, availability and choice) this difference does not seem to be in itself enough to justify the very low penetration figures. "For example Italy has no cheap cable modem offer, so is on average more expensive than the UK, with less customer choice/competition and yet has a higher penetration, Australia has significantly higher penetration than the UK with only a marginally more attractive market," it says. These assessments by Government-backed researchers cast doubt over the Government's handling and strategy towards making the UK the "most extensive and competitive broadband market in the G7 by 2005". Last week NetValue reported that Britain trailed its broadband league table, only managing to beat Italy. ® Related Stories UK leads Italy in broadband stakes DSL should be £20 a month, says report E-minister calls for lower broadband prices
Tim Richardson, 08 Oct 2001

EB buys its way into France

Electronics Boutique, the UK's biggest games retailer, has jumped into France through the acquisition of Scoregames, a leading French indie. The company is paying FFr80m upfront and up to FFr 120m on performance for Scoregames, a mostly Paris-based chain of 37 computer and video games outlets. The acquisition will take Electronics Boutique's continental Europe retail outlets to 141 - four months ago, it had only four. At some point, EBUK will surely meet up with EB US, a different company, which this year also started buying retail outlets in Europe. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Oct 2001

'We're not killing off floppy drives' – Intel

Intel Technology RoadmapIntel Technology Roadmap Intel has denied it is trying to kill off the floppy disk drive, despite suggestions made in documents sent to PC makers and seen by The Register that it would like to see them phased out by the second half of next year. "Intel's position is not to request wholesale the removal of floppy drives from PCs - or indeed any other legacy peripherals," a company spokesman told us. "What we have done is work with Microsoft on the OS, and [developed] our own chip-set solutions to enable OEMs to provide legacy-free PCs based on the OEMs' own choices." Intel's desktop platform roadmap for the consumer market - as we saw, scribbled down and reported on last week - lists PS/2 and serial ports, and floppies in the section entitled 'Legacy Removal', part of the section headed 'Universal Mainstream Platform Technologies'. The dateline is second-half, 2002 ("2H02"). In a section headed 'Upcoming', the parallel port is listed under 'Legacy Removal'. For corporate-oriented PCs, the floppy drive appears alongside the parallel port under upcoming legacy removal. The Intel spokesman denied there was any schedule for legacy removal in place. "We are enabling customers to do this," he said, "but certainly not going out and saying when we think they should do this by." However, the broad timetables offer to OEMs in the roadmap to remove such devices, albeit on a voluntary basis, suggests that the chip giant is indeed "saying when we think they should do this by". Fortunately for Intel there's some small print at the bottom on the roadmap that effectively says that any part of the schedule can be changed at the drop of a hat, and if it seems that dropping the floppy fails to find favour, Intel can just change its mind on the matter. ® Related Story Intel to kill floppy drives, serial ports next year
Tony Smith, 08 Oct 2001

CMP Said to Lay Off Nearly 200

CMP Media is in the process of chopping nearly 200 jobs in a cost-cutting measure made necessary by an historic free-fall in the tech economy, insiders have told SWMS. Although corporate staff was affected, the layoffs were weighted toward CMP's Specialized Technologies Group (STG) and Business Technology Group (BTG), one source reported. STG publishes many of CMP's vertical-market and industrial magazines; BTG publishes IT titles including InformationWeek, InternetWeek and Network Computing. All the layoffs will be announced internally over the course of the next couple of weeks, the source said. "There's a lot of people that are freaked out," the source said. "There's a lot of good people that are just going to walk away." Three sources confirmed that among those laid off was Patricia Schnaidt, a CMP vice-president and publisher of InternetWeek; one source said that two senior sales executives from InformationWeek, Alan Bergstein and John Murphy, also lost their jobs. Another source said that BTG president Adam Marder will assume the duties of InternetWeek publisher. An article published Oct. 3 by Newsday quoted CMP spokeswoman Alix Raine as saying that the cuts were "not significant." SWMS was unable to reach Raine for comment. "You have to remember that United Business Media paid $920 million for CMP, and it's clear now that it overpaid," a source said. "That sort of valuation was based on being able to build out the web businesses, and now they are all dried up." © Media Survey.com. All rights reserved. United Business Media, CMP's Parent, Doesn't Hide the Bad News Republished from the United Business Media web site. Advertising page volumes in August showed further deterioration for both the market and CMP Media. The business-to-business information technology market as a whole decreased by 38.6 percent in advertising page volumes in the month of August, compared to which CMP Media's High Tech publications recorded a 32.1 percent decrease. The strengthening of CMP's market share — up again in August '01 to 27.5% from 24.9% in August '00 — is firm evidence of the strength and quality of CMP's market leading brands. CMP Media recorded an 18.4 percent decrease in advertising page volumes in the year to August 2001, compared to a 29.5 percent decrease for the whole market including a 54.5 percent decrease for the General Business/New Economy sub-sector. CMP Media's share of the market was 28.6 percent compared with 24.7 percent for the year to August 2000. The General Business/New Economy sub-sector declined from a 20.1 percent share of the market to a 13.0 percent share. UBM published these otherwise damning figures because CMP gained market share during the periods.
Sam Whitmore, 08 Oct 2001

Arise Sir BOFH

Episode 26Episode 26 Episode 26 "It sounds bad," The Boss comments, as we trundle off to meet the HR types. "A matter of some concern, they said." No doubt it's something crucial like the colour of their fileshare server or the background image on the wallpaper on their desktops... . . . As it happens, I was completely wrong. The matter of some concern is in fact a matter of some concern! "It's his Resume, Ron," the HR Droid says, indicating a stack of fiction worthy of the Bard himself. "As a matter of policy we perform background checks on all contractors who join the company." That's news to me, but given the recent history of the non-recoverability of some files of the HR Droid concerned, I'm sure he made a special effort on my part. Which was good of him. "Ah... Yes - but that was a fair amount of time ago now..." I respond. "Quite. Only we were unable to verify many of your details because the referees you mentioned were unavailable - being out of the country in tax exile, in a coma, or deceased." "Ah Yes, poor old Richard Nixon - or Dick as we called him. A good man despite everything you know." "Nyes..." The HR droid comments doubtfully. "However, as it happens the personnel officer of the large international computing company you mentioned in your resume'made an amazing recovery the other day, so we were able to verify your claims to being the chief behind-the-scenes advisor in their major product lines.." "Good, that's a relief." "He says he's never heard of you!" "Really? Well, head trauma is a funny one - one moment you're with it, the next you can't remember your own..." "Neither do any of his staff." "Well it WAS quite hush-hush. Still, I'm a little hurt he's forgotten me. Maybe that's why I never got those royalties payments? Still, forgive and forget, that's what I say!" I respond magnanimously. "Yes, speaking of ROYAL ties, this lack of character witnesses does cast a little doubt on some of the other claims in your Resume," the HR drone snivels. "Like what for instance?" I ask, Perry Masoning away. "Your Knighthood?" "You've got a KNIGHTHOOD?!?" The Boss gasps disbelievingly "Of course." "I've looked - he's lying", the HR Drone blurts unkindly. "Really? You checked on www.bofhknighthood.com?" I respond, not to be put off. "bofhknighthood dot com?" The Boss asks. "Yes, home of the bastard knighthood!" "Bastard knighthoods don't count!" the HR geek snaps, not a happy man. "Of course they do!" The PFY cries, entering the office from his loiter-holding pattern outside. "I'm Sir Steven of the Daisy Wheel Printer!" "This is ridiculous!" "No it's not!" I cry, not wanting to be negative, but being forced into it. "It is - there's no societial precedent!" "There is now!" "There's no ceremony!" "Yes there is! I was knighted with the silver ball peen hammer in front of an audience of my peers!" The PFY adds. "Peers?" "Of The Kerberos Realm!" "It's ridiculous!" the HR bloke shouts, not liking this tangent one little bit. "Steven's obviously in cahoots with him!" SIR Steven," I correct. "So what's your knighthood then?" The Boss asks, muddying the water a little by humouring me. "I'm actually a Knight of the ergonomic table - It's like the round table, only more comfortable to sit at." "I see. And you went to a ceremony?" "I was unable to attend - due to work commitments. So they posted notification to me." "I see. And what authority confers these titles?" "That would be the King of Bastards." "You, perhaps?" The Boss enquires drily.. "As it happens, Yes!" "Right! Well, I don't really see that this is worth pursuing," The Boss comments decisively as he trundles out of the office. . . . "You still can't do that!" The HR type snivels seconds later. "Of course I can! I'm the King!" "I'm afraid we don't accept your credentials," The HR type interjects. "Which, as you lied in your application, puts your position at risk." "Isn't that HIGH TREASON!?" The PFY asks, having waited for this moment for over a minute. "No no, High Treason is only during a state of War." I say, motioning The PFY to put the hammer down. "This is just normal treason.." "Ah!" "But this helpful HR chappy has a point! It might be construed that the information in my application might be misleading. And as such I feel compelled to submit my resignation to my employer. . . . ." . . . "And?" the HR Droid asks after 10 seconds of silence. "Well I did, and he didn't accept it." "He?" "Yes, me. As Director of the private company that contracts to you. I feel my employee should possibly have clarified his credentials further, and am disappointed in his actions. Obviously, I will be docking his pay to teach him a lesson. I may even award myself a bonus in my Director's fees for my quick and professional manner in which I resolved the situation. A professionalism which will of course be reflected in the hourly rate I will be requiring next contract renegotiation time. Which just leaves the matter of Treason..." . .One Hour Later... "Obviously we don't want to make a big production out of it," the Boss burbles to the head of HR sadly, indicating the PFY's swollen cheek. "But when it comes to common assault.." "Indeed" the Director of HR agrees. "And he just hit him? No provocation?" "None" the PFY, Boss and I respond in unison. "Well, I suppose I'll have to have a word with him. And you don't want to pursue this... legally?" "Well, I think it's only the Company that would suffer," The PFY replies. "Yes, I suppose you're right." he sighs, "Very well." . . . "I have to admit that I didn't think Ron would go for it - just to save a quid or so on your hourly rate." the PFY comments, as we break for the CCTV monitor to watch the "firing squad" first hand. "SirRon, I think you mean." "Ah," The PFY blurts (penny dropping) "of the....?" "..of the OS2 install media." "An appropriately weighty title indeed.. " "Yes, I thought so." ® BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 08 Oct 2001

Bidders for BT local loop put heads together

The two companies that have put in bids for BT's local loop are planning a summit meeting with a view to working together, the Sunday Times reported yesterday. The meeting between Earthlease, which offered BT £8 billion in July for its local loop, and West LB, which offered £18 billion for BT's entire landline business a week later, is scheduled to take place this week. BT has ruled out any sale in public but a new corporate outlook that is taking shape in the monster telco suggests several senior managers are giving the matter serious consideration. It all depends on which way BT decides to go once it spins off its wireless business - now called mmO2 - next month. BT is attempting to move away from milking its backbone and turn itself into a services company. If it also agrees that the loss of control of the telecoms infrastructure is inevitable (especially when new super-regulator Ofcom is formed and turns its eyes on the company), then it makes sense to sell it off for a chunk of money. This money would then cut its debt and provide extensive funds for expansion. A renewed bid from the companies is expected after mmO2's float. ® Related Stories West LB still sniffing round BT's network Earthlease still sniffing around BT's local loop BT offered £18bn for phone network BT dismisses £8 billion bid for local loop
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Oct 2001

Time to start downloading software in-store

Time Computers will test an in-store downloading and burning software replication system in three stores over the next three months. Following the trial period, the company will decide whether to roll it out to its entire retail network. The SoftWide distribution system, from Tribeka Ltd, provides a catalogue of "thousands of different software titles," which customers can browse and choose. The selection is then pressed onto CD while the manual and CD cover are printed. Time believes the whole process will take less than 10 minutes. Time says this will avoid the regular hassles of distribution, purchasing and planning; and give its customers a cost-saving as well as a wider range of software to choose from. Should the system prove to be successful, especially through the peak Christmas period, the retailer will start a countrywide rollout early next year. Time is also mulling a change in its post-sales support, in which the bulk of the head office support operation would be moved back to an in-store operation, especially for front line support (installation and software issues), which apparently form the bulk of support issues. Should the new structure be decided upon, the rollout will happen within the next few weeks. Last week the company also restructured its retail sales management, reducing its geographical retail region split from seven to four. The new areas are simply: London, North, Midlands and South. Time insists that no redundancies were created from any of the changes. The retail area managers that no longer have areas to manage are being offered other roles within the company. ® Related Story Time claims 1GB RAM PC breakthrough
James Watson, 08 Oct 2001

John Lewis back in e-business

John Lewis Partnership has relaunched its Website with six-times more product lines than first time around. At the same time it's ducked the famous 'never knowingly undersold' marketing commitment for its ecommerce venture. The souped-up site went live today. TAlthough the range of lines has increased, the number of computer products isn't vast - there are Psion Revos, Handspring Visor Edges and Deluxes, and Sony Cliés. There are no PCs, but you can choose from a selection of computer desks. The department store chain decided to remove the 'never knowingly undersold' tag for the Internet because it couldn't be never knowingly undersold. Merchandise director Nigel Wreford-Brown told the Daily Telegraph, that: "Anybody who does make that claim is being very brave indeed." John Lewis entered the online market with the JohnLewisNow venture, now defunct, which offered just 800 lines. This February it bought the UK business of the US e-tailer Buy.com for $4m (£2.9m), and is relaunching as JohnLewis.com on the back of that. It is offering 5,000 lines at the start. JohnLewis.com is concentrating on home lines, and is leaving PCs and other product ranges to Buy.com. This is bound to change as John Lewis is a far better known and more trusted name than Buy. In his chat with the Telegraph, Wreford-Brown said he thought the "suicidal internet pricing" model was disappearing, and that John Lewis had been caught out in the past but wasn't going to let it happen again. John Lewis will be investing in excess of £30 million over the next 4 years to bring the site to profitability. As for being 'never knowingly undersold' JohnLewis.com is offering Handspring Visor Edges, in various colours, for £269 plus delivery. You can get it for £248.75 (inc P&P) from Grouptrade, £272.75 (inc P&P) from Nomitica , and £299.61 (inc P&P) from Simply.co.uk. Standard 3 - 5 days delivery from JohnLewis.com costs £2.95 per delivery address. Orders over £200, to one address, are free. ® Related Link Telegraph story www.johnlewis.com
Robert Blincoe, 08 Oct 2001

Music biz wants tougher DMCA, CPRM 2 to protect copyright

Update Our source may not be all he or she claimed to be, and serious doubts have been cast on the veracity of the comments attributed to the RIAA's Rosen and co. For a full update click here. The music industry and its hired muscle, the Recording Industry Ass. of America, plans to step up its war against MP3 file sharing and CD ripping with campaigns targeting legal, technological and Internet access fronts, The Register has learned. Last week, the RIAA hosted a secret meeting in Washington DC with the heads of major record labels and technology companies, plus leaders of other trade bodies and even members of the US senate. Present, we are told by sources close to the RIAA, were Intel's Andy Grove; IBM's Lou Gerstner; Disney's Michael Eisner; Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Ass. of America; International Federation of the Phonographic Industry chief Jay Berman; Vivendi Universal's Edgar Bronfman; AOL Time-Warner's Gerald Levin; EMI's Ken Berry; and from Bertelsmann, Strauss Zelnick. Also present were the CEOs of Matsushita and Toshiba, and senators Fritz Hollings and Ted Stevens. The meeting's keynote was made by RIAA head Hillary Rosen. The drop in CD sales can be directly attributed to "the new generation of file sapping services", she said, and promised that her organisation would pursue the companies behind them vigorously. What does that entail? According to Rosen, there are a number of tactics the RIAA will employ. First, she says, "we are working with sound card manufacturers to implement technology that will block the recording of watermarked content in both digital and analogue form". That will nobble attempts to rip and distribute encoded material, but what about existing files and CDs? Step forward PC manufacturers, whose help the RIAA hopes to recruit to "find ways to block the spread of legacy content". Register readers will recall the RIAA's attempts to prevent content distribution directly at the hard drive level through its Copyright Protection for Removable Media (CPRM) initiative, brought to light by The Register late last year. Such was the level of (entirely justifiable) anger at the prospect of the music industry saying what users can and can't store on their own hard drives, that the plan was dropped, seemingly for good. But not so. "The failure of the CPRM specification to be applied to computer hard drives was a giant step back for the publishing, music and entertainment industry," said Rosen, and promised to "develop a new specification that accomplishes what CPRM would have done." In the meantime, the RIAA will be lobbying "our friends in Washington" for tougher laws that target "the hackers and file-sharers themselves", so clearly if you thought the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was harsh enough already, think again. Indeed, the RIAA wants legislators to block any loophole in that law which can allow file-sharers to continue to distribute copyright material. For example, Rosen wants the protection granted by the DMCA to ISPs from the infringing actions of their subscribers to be removed. If the RIAA gets its way, ISPs will be as guilty of copyright violation as their subscribers. "Because of the magnitude of the problem, ISPs can no longer be shielded from the wrath of the law," shrieked Rosen righteously. Of course, Internet companies will have an even harder job of policing copyright infringement than the music industry has, undoubtedly leading to mass blocking of file-sharing software, preventing those applications' legitimate usage as much as their illegal usage. Worryingly, legislation designed to protect computer users' privacy are likely to be tackled too. Disney chief Michael Eisner pointed out after Rosen's keynote that "privacy laws are our biggest impediment to us obtaining our objectives". So too is the ongoing ease with which music recorded on today's CDs can be ripped onto listeners' hard drives. Rosen pointed out that trials of anti-rip technologies, such as Midbar's Cactus and Macrovision's SafeAudio have been "extremely successful", though we're not as confident as she is of the claim that "no one has been able to circumvent them". The big labels are certainly keen on them. Vivendi Universal will be using anti-rip technology on all the discs it ships from Q2 next year. AOL Time-Warner will do the same in Q3 2002, following private and public trials with SafeAudio and Cactus between now and then. All this points to a move by the major music labels - and undoubtedly the movie companies too - to do anything they can to halt the transfer and even the storage of copyright material without their explicit say-so, primarily by limiting content at source and using the law to block whatever material gets through the net. And if anyone's rights get in the way, well that's just too bad. ® Related Stories Son of CPRM fails ATA committee vote MS plans 'Secure PC' that won't copy pirated audio files The open PC is dead - start praying, says HD guru Everything you ever wanted to know about CPRM, but ZDNet wouldn't tell you... CNet suckered by CPRM spin EFF's Gilmore calls for CPRM hardware boycott CPRM on hard drives - IBM takes a spin Stealth plan puts copy protection into every hard drive
Tony Smith, 08 Oct 2001

Microsoft pulls stealth release of Java for .NET

UpdatedUpdated Microsoft has pulled a download that added Java language support to .NET. Microsoft silently made it available on Sunday, less than 48 hours after we first broke the news of the project. A release note, curiously dated October 11 - this coming Thursday - describes it as a beta of "Visual JSharp .NET Version 7.0." From reports we received last week, it had the erstwhile codename "Java.NET". The 7MB file wasn't listed on any of Microsoft's download pages. But reviewers fast enough to hit the URL have delivered their first impressions. O'Reilly's Brian Jepson has a write-up with screenshots here, and Chris Maunder of The Code Project has an overview here. Maunder notes that J# support doesn't compile .class bytecode, or support Sun's RMI or JNI. (Thanks to Brian and Simon Steele for the links). "Microsoft Visual J# .NET is a development tool that developers who are familiar with the java-language syntax can use to build applications and services on the .NET Framework. It integrates the java-language syntax into the Visual Studio .NET shell," according to the release note. Microsoft stresses that J# won't create applications that run on Java Virtual Machines, but only on the .NET common language runtime, adding the following disclaimer:- "Visual J# .NET has been independently developed by Microsoft. It is not endorsed or approved by Sun Microsystems, Inc." Sun may well surmise that there are more elegant ways of blowing bubbles than by farting in the bathtub: we're not at all convinced that Microsoft's disclaimer will be enough to dissuade Sun from further legals. By ducking VM support, Microsoft forgoes the requirement to submit to Sun's compatibility test suites, which it needs to pass to call its implementation Java™ -compatible. Sun has tolerated Java clones, which avoid mention of the 'J' word, such as HP's Chai project. Microsoft too avoids the 'J' word, deploying instead new write once, run anywhere term, "java-language syntax" (note the attention to case, there) suggesting that Java is now so generic it doesn't need the approval of Sun. This tactic is entirely consistent with Redmond's browser-war era strategy of divorcing Java the language from Java the platform. But it gives Sun the chance to respond with the jibe that Microsoft has two java-ish languages (J# and C#), neither of which is The Real Thing. Delphi lead Anders Heljsberg, hired from Borland to work on Visual J++, later co-authored the very Java-like C# language specification. If that sounds confusing, we half suspect it's because it's supposed to be. ® Related Story Microsoft plans Java counterpunch for .NET
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Oct 2001

BT admits to bandwidth restrictions for file-sharing sites

BT Openworld has been forced to admit it is restricting the bandwidth for certain Web sites after furious customers starting compiling evidence of interference. Previously BT had categorically denied any such restrictions. An email - sent out in response to an increasing number of complaints - reads: "In the short term we have had to impose traffic controls on particular applications & ports to ensure that our customers retain their great Internet experience." The applications and ports are all connected with peer-to-peer applications such as Gnutella, eDonkey and Kazaa which allow users to swap files with one another. BT said: "A small percentage of customers using P2P applications use up a very large percentage of the available bandwidth". Which is no doubt true but doesn't explain why BT has previously denied all suggestions that it is restricting the service. The admission comes just days after Web site ADSL Guide posted evidence of "port throttling" - restricting the download speed from applications that use a specific port on a computer. A software engineer measured traffic through the ports used by well-known peer-to-peer networks. In each case, the download speed dropped dramatically from a constant 58.1Kbps to between 1.5 and 3.75Kbps. Interestingly, the most famous file-sharing network of all - Napster - remains unaffected, even though you can't download anything from it at the moment. Does this have anything to do with Napster's ownership by German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, which would sue Openworld if it caught it restricting download speeds from its site. In the email, BT also mentions setting up a new service: "In the near future we will be launching a new service with a network configuration more suitable for particular bandwidth-hungry activities such as peer-to-peer communications, at a price that fairly reflects their usage of the network." Which is basically saying that BT will charge people on the amount of data they download - something that goes against the very concept of unmetered telecoms and is a sad return to past form for the telecoms behemoth. A fortnight ago, TV show Watchdog accused BT of running a two-tier service for its dial-up service, BT Anytime. Heavy users - put on a different phone number - claimed the service had got worse. BT denied it. We understand that Watchdog has done a follow-up that will be broadcast this week. Perhaps in this sudden burst of enforced honesty, BT Openworld will admit to this as well. ® Related Stories BT Openworld bounces back email complaints BTopenworld accused of providing two-tier Net access service
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Oct 2001

Solectron buys Stream

Stream International, once one of the world's biggest resellers of software, has a new owner. Step forward, Solectron, the contract manufacturer for outsourcing companies, which is acquiring privately-held Stream for an undisclosed sum. Operating in nine countries, and headquartered in Massachusetts, Stream handles support and logistics for tech companies, especially software firms. It has 10,000 customer support agents. The company is backed by Bain Capital and reports revenues of $323m for FY2000. Stream was set up in 1995, through the merger of Corporate Software & Technology, a significant reseller name at the time, and the Global Software Division of RR Donnelly, a printing and packaging specialist. At the time, the merger looked peculiar, but hindsight shows that Corporate Software would struggled to survive on its own. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Oct 2001

Govt tries to sell fixed wireless licences for fourth time

The government is trying for the fourth time to get people interested in the licences that offer fixed wireless access. Let's hope it's a bit more successful this time. The people behind the licence sale, the Radiocommunications Agency, got together last month for a seminar over broadband fixed wireless access (BFWA) and plucked up enough courage to have another stab at it. New legislation will kick in next week that will see them go up for sale again. The original auction for the 15-year 28GHz licences was held in November 2000, having already been delayed for six months. It was a complete shambles. Only eight bidders entered the auction and only 16 of the 42 licences were actually sold. Only a minority of these received more than one bid. The net result was that the government made the grand total of £38.2 million, when it had originally expected £2 billion. The e-minister at the time, Patricia Hewitt (now trade secretary), went to ground but reappeared in February to try to persuade people to buy them. Nothing happened. The elusive new e-minister Douglas Alexander tried again in July this year. The problem was that the DTi refused to change its model for selling the licences, most likely out of pride. It did behave less arrogantly towards potential bidders but that still wasn't enough to get people to actually buy them. Now, however, the government will give companies 12 months to buy any of the licences. There remains a minimum bid of £1 million or £2 million, depending on the region, but it has ditched the auction approach. If a company puts in a bid now, and no one else enters the fray within 20 days, their bid will be accepted. It's a far cry from the government that was still rolling around in the proceeds from the 3G auction when they first launched the wireless auction. The prospects for the licences look good though. You own them for 15 years for one thing so even if it doesn't make financial sense at the moment, it will at some point. Plus ADSL roll-out will remain painfully slow for the next few years so there's an opportunity there. We wish them all the best. If you want to know more, go here. ® Related Links Big rundown on the auctions Spectrum Auctions.gov.uk Related Stories E-minister flogs dead wireless licence horse E-minister has another stab at selling wireless licences E-minister puts brave face on auction farce Fixed wireless auction a complete shambles Fixed wireless auction is go! go! go! Roll-up! Roll-up! Second money-burning Internet auction on way
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Oct 2001

BT targets SMEs with new services

BT Retail went on the offensive today in a bid to generate an extra £500 million revenue over the next five years from small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The customer-facing division of the monster telco has teamed up with a clutch of IT heavyweights including BT Cellnet, Cisco, Dell and Microsoft to offer a string of new ebusiness products specifically for SMEs. Central to BT's strategy is its desire to tap into the 1.2 million SMEs who are expected to spend £16.2 billion by 2004 on ebusiness services such as dial-up and broadband Net connections, email, Web hosting and ecommerce services. It's range of "Digital Office" products means that SMEs can get a PC, Net access and associated services all for a monthly fee. BT will spend £6.6 million on advertising its new "Digital Business" range of services. Ads plugging the new all-in-one products have already appeared in the press. The decision by BT to enter what is perceived to be a lucrative market was hinted at earlier this year in an interview with BT Retail chief exec, Pierre Danon. He told The Register that he wanted BT Retail to become a communication services company and not just a telco. Said Monsieur Danon: "I distribute traditional voice products, but actually I want to become a distributor of communication services. I want to do more and more business with my customers in the area of communications. "We have a vision of being a customer centric distribution organisation within the communication services areas," he said. ® Related Story BT Retail chief 'fiercely opposed' to sale of local loop
Tim Richardson, 08 Oct 2001

E-envoy plugs BT

BT laid on an impressive show of force this morning as it launched its new range of ebusiness services for SMEs. E-envoy, Andrew Pinder, was an honoured guest and spent some of his valuable time giving his endorsement to the initiative saying that it was a "great package" and hoping BT "would do well". Not wishing to seem too partisan he then added that he hoped other competitors would follow suit and offer a range of similar products and services. Which is nice. As soon as his finished his plug he grabbed his bag and left...perhaps to record a voice-over for nappies or a car commercial. Perhaps. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Oct 2001

Profit warning – Arrow's turn

Arrow Electronics, the world's biggest electronics components distie, is the latest tech firm to issue a profits warning. The company says that Q3 sales will be approx. $2.2bn, 13 per cent down on Q3, and 35 per cent down on the same period last year. The company will record a net loss of between $.15 and $.20 per share. It says it will restate the value of holdings in certain Internet properties to reflect current business conditions. With lower sales, Arrow's working capital requirements are also reduced - down by $450m in Q3. Net debt has been cut by $1.1bn this year. So that's good news. Avnet, Arrow's arch-rival, announced a profits warning last week. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Oct 2001

Intel takes bumps off packaging

The boffins at Intel have developed a new means of casing the guts of a processor. The technology, called “Bumpless Build-Up Layer” (BBUL), will only start to be used in the somewhat distant future to build processors, but will pave the way to deliver the “performance of billion-transistor processors”. Currently, the case (or package) of the processor is bonded to its innards via tiny balls of solder called bumps, making the electrical and mechanical connection between the package and chip. This creates various technical problems as the clock frequency ramps exponentially up in the future, hence the introduction of this new technology: BBUL, which eliminates usage of these bumps completely. Essentially, instead of taking a processor and soldering a case onto it, this technique “grows” the package around the chip. Intel’s press release doesn’t go into any more detail as to what exactly it means by this. The company plans to start using this technology around 2006/2007. ® Related Story Intel's Desktop Roadmap Intel Researchers Disclose Packaging Technology Breakthrough To Enable Billion-Transistor Processors
James Watson, 08 Oct 2001

NTL unveils hi-speed unmetered Net access

NTL has unleashed an unmetered, always-on high-speed Net access service which, it claims, will go head-to-head with existing ISDN and flat-fee dial-up services. Running at speeds of up to 128kbps over NTL's cable network, the new service provides a stepping stone between dial-up and broadband services. Costing £14.99 a month, the new service is priced similarly to existing unmetered dial-up services. The cableco has even managed to win the endorsement of E-minister Douglas Alexander, who said: "The UK Government welcomes the announcement of this competitively priced new service from NTL. "We are committed to ensuring that more UK consumers should have the opportunity to benefit from fast, always-on, Internet access and this is another step towards that goal." Bless 'im. NTL maintains that this is a broadband product and overlooks the fact this is only 128kbps. It claims the fact that it's always on and unmetered proves it is worthy of the broadband handle. We're not so sure, but there you go. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Oct 2001

Another step towards cheaper TFT-LCD monitors

Samsung is kicking its 15-inch TFT-LCD XGA-resolution display panel into mass production. The sample price of the LTM150XH is $350, which includes built-in video-input, but isn't going to set the world alight. However, the mass production move should mark another step in the price fall of TFT-LCD monitors. The panel is a smart display, which according to Pete Gamby, editor of trade news letter Display Monitor, means "a five year old kid in a garage could stick it in a case, add a power supply and cable" to make a monitor. Smart display panels come with all the built in electronics and controllers you could want, but give the monitor manufacturers less opportunity to add their own value or differentiate their product. Display panels come in two other forms: integrated panels which come without video controllers; and the plane glass crystal displays which require manufacturers to source everything else. Because Samsung is a major player, and it's kicking into mass production with these smart panels, it "should mean LCD panels should come cheaper," says Gamby. Though $350 isn't cheap for a monitor, let alone a display, it isn't representative of what the pricing of TFT-LCD monitors could become. It's a sample price, and once economies of volume manufacturing hit, and monitor manufacturers can add nothing but a small margin for their case work, the price should fall. The average price for a TFT-LCD panel is between $180 and $200 according to Display Monitor. The Samsung tech specs say the LTM150XH offers: a response time of 25 ms; contrast ratio of 300:1; enhanced brightness of 330 nits; wide viewing angle of 120 degrees horizontal:100 degrees vertical; and XGA resolution of 1024 x 768. The display's 8-bit colour enables it to reproduce true colour images displaying 16.7 million colours. ® Related Links Samsung release Display Monitor Related Story Flat panel price hunt uncovers £235 display
Robert Blincoe, 08 Oct 2001

Western Digital bumps EIDE drive buffer to 8MB

Western Digital (WD) has released its latest Caviar hard drive, the WD-1000BB-SE, a 100GB EIDE hard drive. The thing that separates it from the pack is its 8MB buffer, which the company claims is the largest available in this class of drive. A hard drive's buffer is used to hold the results of recent reads from the disk, as well as storing information that is likely to be requested in the near future. Much like a cache, the buffer is a data area between the requests being sent to the hard disk, and the data stored on the disk itself. The industry standard for desktop hard drives has been between 1MB and 4MB for the past few years. An 8MB cache has typically been the domain of higher-end SCSI drives, which also spin at 10,000RPM, rather than this drive's 7,200RPM. A benchmark performed by StorageReview.com shows a marked performance increase, especially on a WinMark test, over its 2MB buffer twin brother, the WD-1000BB. See the full results here. The special edition drive is available from WD's online store for $379, or from its distribution channel. ® Related Links StorageReview.com Western Digital's Online Store
James Watson, 08 Oct 2001

First Athlon XP reports

A few tests have started popping up on the Web in anticipation of tomorrow's Athlon XP launch from AMD. Ace's Hardware has a posting summarising some benchmarking results published in c't magazine. It shows a 1.53GHz Athlon XP scoring 597 on a SPECint_base2000 test, which put it just one point ahead of a 1.8GHz Pentium 4. It outran the older 1.4GHz Athlon by just over 100 points, while the 2GHz Pentium 4 led the pack at 626 points. Details of how accurately these tests were performed are, sadly, not available, but it does provide an early idea of what to expect. The site also has a scanned image of an advert running in Germany that shows just how confusing AMD's new processor naming system is. The advert is for a Fujitsu-Siemens running an "AMD Athlon XP 1.7 GHz Prozessor". If it is actually referring to the new 1700+ Athlon XP processor, then this is actually a 1.47GHz processor. Any benchmarks done using SYSmark 2001 will not be completely accurate. This is due to the Windows Media Encoder 7.0 component not recognising the chip’s SSE capability unless a patch has been applied. Currently, it is only able to pick up 3DNow! optimisations. AMDZone has a full explanation of the issue. Related Stories AMD Athlon XP speeds, pricing seep onto Web AMD confirms QuantiSpeed marchitecture slogan Related Links Ace's Hardware Athlon XP SPEC CPU2000 Results by c't German Fujitsu-Siemens Athlon XP Advert AMDZone Sysmark2001 Media Encoder Paly Patch
James Watson, 08 Oct 2001

The recession is good news. For IBM anyway

The current recession is music to the ears of IBM's Web services marketing manager, Siva Darivemula. "The recession could help our e-services because companies are looking at cost-cutting," he told us in a flying visit to the UK. Siva reckons that for everyone dollar you spend on Web services kit (from IBM of course), you can expect to save $1.50. The advantages are the same as ever: greater integration of services and databases, improving efficiency, increased flexibility. A case study is rolled out to illustrate the point. We'd be told of other companies at some point but be sure that IBM is working with everyone who's anyone. IBM's the best choice for e-business of course. It works behind standards and works with the leaders in each market although "not all our efforts are going to be open source". IBM does have two advantages over Microsoft's .Net vision though: IBM covers the whole kit and caboodle - from servers to middleware to software and it works with a big number of other people's applications. Not that IBM is going to be nice about it. The latest version of its WebSphere application server has many new functions, Siva tells us by way of explaining how the market is still evolving. One of them, however, is its closer integration with IBM's Domino server. And then there's the fact WebSphere is also bundled with the new i-server for small businesses. IBM has clearly picked up a few tricks from its former pupil Microsoft. No one can accuse Siva of being a visionary though. Repeated questions over the future of Web services and the role of IBM products in that eventually yielded two answers: greater security and greater speed. The market will be worth £15.4 billion by 2003, says Gartner, and IBM wants a good chunk of that, Siva tells us. Although not how much IBM expects to make from it. Sometimes companies call up IBM and other times IBM approaches companies. The whole company's resources are behind the Web services arm. Integrating the Internet will give a company flexibility. Many companies are doing that internally anyway. You need the flexibility to make integration easier. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Oct 2001

Sun lures IIS defectors with iPlanet price cuts

Sun is doing it best to make hay from the Gartner Group's recommendation to ditch Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS). It's announced a 37 per cent price cut for iPlanet Web Server, and again touted its migration services that let Microsoft defectors run their ASP code unmodified. The new offer brings the list price of iPlanet down to under $1,000 per CPU, and lasts until the end of March 2002. Full details are at the iPlanet site, here. Gartner named iPlanet as one of the most likely migration candidates to IIS in its report last month that roasted Microsoft for failing to cope with security concerns. It wasn't that IIS had suddenly got worse, but Gartner analyst John Pescatore had lost faith with Microsoft's ability to keep the system secure. ® Related Stories Ditch Microsoft IIS now, says Gartner MS vows rewritten IIS, more patches MS targets Linux, Mac rivals with IIS astroturf Experts demolish MS anti-Apache FUD
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Oct 2001

The Times misquoted me – crypto expert

International cryptography expert Professor Ross Anderson has demanded a correction from the The Times for being misquoted on the subject of terrorists' use of email. Last month Phil Zimmermann complained of being seriously misrepresented by the Washington Post, which described Zimmermann as being "overwhelmed with feelings of guilt" for devising PGP encryption. (Zimmermann attached no blame to the Post reporter, who most emphatically did not "manufacture" quotes, and later clarified that he believed it to be "an honest misunderstanding"). By contrast, Anderson says the Times journalist "was determined - or had been instructed - to write the story anyway". Anderson lambasts The Times for unquestioningly peddling the idea that terrorists communicate using information hidden in pornographic content. Since the Times' stablemates the Sun and the News of the World have allegedly been hiding news in pornographic content for several years, (although we've never found any news in either paper to substantiate that meme), the allegation doesn't surprise us. "It is unclear what national interest is served by security agencies propagating this lurid urban myth. Perhaps the goal is to manufacture an excuse for the failure to anticipate the events of September 11th. Perhaps it is preparing the ground for an attempt at bureaucratic empire-building via Internet regulation, as a diversionary activity from the much harder and less pleasant task of going after al-Qaida. "Perhaps the vision of bin Laden as cryptic pornographer is being spun to create a subconscious link, in the public mind, with the scare stories about child pornography that were used before September 11th to justify government plans for greater Internet regulation," writes Anderson. Anderson suggests the articles "should be read as a deliberate plant by MI5". You can read more here and here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Oct 2001