8th > November > 2001 Archive

Top BT beancounter to quit

UpdateUpdate BT's highly respected finance director, Philip Hampton, is to quit the monster telco after just a year in the job. The news - widely trailed in weekend newspaper reports - comes hard on the heels of last week's announcement that chief exec, Sir Peter Bonfield, is to step down at the end of January. The result is that BT now has to find two key replacements to help turn the company around and restore shareholder confidence in the business. Speculation as to Mr Hampton's early departure appear to focus on friction between him and new(ish) chairman, Sir Christopher Bland. In a statement, the chairman said: "The contract of Philip Hampton, Group Finance Director, will not be extended beyond November 2002 because he wishes to seek new challenges once the demerger of mmO2 [BT's mobile division] and the restructuring of BT are complete. He will leave BT on a date to be agreed with me." Unfortunately, even Mr Hampton's early departure has failed to provide enough distraction from other concerns at the telco. Publishing its second quarter results to September 30, BT reported that group turnover rose to £5.3 billion - up from £5 billion in the corresponding quarter last year. But pre-tax losses hit a whopping £1.4 billion compared to a profit of £471 million in Q2 last year. Part of this quarter's loss is reflected in the cost of scrapping the failed Concert joint venture. Putting a brave face on things the chairman said: "Although the general economic outlook for the second half of the financial year is uncertain following the events in the US on September 11, most of BT's businesses have strong market positions and have so far proved to be relatively resilient." The company also announced that it is to shelve plans to split BT's retail and wholesale businesses drawing a veil over the company's ambitious restructuring plans. Elsewhere, the company reported that it had reduced its debt burden over the three month to September by £1 billion cutting it £16.5 billion. BT has also said it has identified a number of "productivity improvements and cost savings" and claims it is on track to reduce costs by around £575 million in the current financial year. And in another slap in the face for investors the company confirmed that it would not be paying an interim dividend in the current financial year. However, it hopes to pay a final dividend for the year and to resume regular dividend payments, although these are likely to be "substantially lower" than before. By mid-morning shares were down 9.5p (2.8 per cent) to 328.5p recovering slightly after early falls. ® Related Story BT's Bonfield quits
Tim Richardson, 08 Nov 2001

Chip biz to shrink 5.5% next year

The world semiconductor business will shrink by 5.5 per cent next year, market watcher Future Horizons has forecast. "Q4 will be flat on Q3's already lacklustre performance," the company said. "This will delay the market recovery by at least two to three quarters, and negative dollar growth in 2002 is inevitable." That's in contrast to Gartner Dataquest's recently issued prediction that the market will grow a mere three per cent in 2002. Both figures should probably be taken as a maximum and minimum change on 2001's sales. But given this year's dire market conditions - with sales down 33.2 per cent on 2000's total, according to Future Horizons - even a mere three per cent increase through 2002 would give the chip industry an important psychological boost. That's particularly the case given Future Horizons' other prognosis proves correct: that the industry isn't going to match last year's record sales before 2004. That's in accord with Gartner Dataquest's numbers - growth with will hit 30 per cent in 2003, taking total annual chip sales to $197.6 billion, just under 2000's $200 billion. Future Horizons had previously forecast, like Gartner Dataquest, slight growth next year, but the events of 11 September, the economic downturn, maturing PC and mobile markets, and far, far more fab capacity than is required have all combined to zap demand and prices. ® Related Stories No chip sales boom 'til 2003, says market researcher World chip sales down 32% during 2001
Tony Smith, 08 Nov 2001

Opera tolerating MSN.co.uk goes live

Microsoft's UK-targeted portal, MSN.co.uk, is now live with the XP colours, nearly two weeks after MS's 25 October Win XP launch and MSN's global look and feel relaunch. What's more, the site seems to be accepting browsers other than those created by MS. Although not widely tested yet, a cursory attempt with Opera 5.0 and 5.12 (identifying itself either as Opera or Mozilla 5.0) worked with no major issues. Of course, page layout isn't quite as slick and smooth as when viewed in IE 6.0, but referrals to MS upgrade servers aren't found, which is encouraging. However, it seems not all the world's MSN portals are ready though, the folks down under have yet to enter the fold. A visit to MSN.com worked fine in Opera, although popping along to South America's MSN.com.br returned another familiar message: Microsoft VBScript runtime error '800a000d' Type mismatch: '[string: "."]' /include/browser.asp, line 45 IE, of course, had no problem. Sharp Opera Opera signed up Sharp as a new customer this week. Sharp will use the Linux-based Opera 5 browser in its Zaurus SL-5000D handheld computer. The device runs on an embedded Linux operating system and uses a Java application environment. Lineo, Trolltech and Insignia Solutions provide the remaining software for the gadget. It uses 206MHz Intel StrongARM system-on-chip processor and features a built-in keyboard available underneath a sliding panel. ® Related Stories The Browser Wars are back: Opera smacks MSN Berners-Lee slams 'blatant' MS browser tactics Opera and Mozilla get MSN support New look MSN turns away non-MS lovers Related Links Sharp's Zaurus Developer Site
James Watson, 08 Nov 2001

Eurolinux goes ballistic over Euro patent ‘coup’

The Eurolinux Alliance has called for the sacking of the board of the European Patent Office, following what it describes as a "juridical coup" mounted by the Munich-based outfit. The "coup" takes the form of a new EPO examination directive which effectively extends patents "to software, business methods and mathematics... and for the first time officially sanctions direct patent claims to 'computer program products' and 'computer programs'." The amendments were made, according to the EPO, "to bring the Guidelines into line with EPO board of appeal case law concerning the patentability of business methods and computer-related inventions and with current EPO practice on examining such subject-matter." But according to Eurolinux they effectively pre-empt an EU decision on the patentability of software. They cover computer programs as "computer-implementable inventions" and allow programs to be patented where they have a "further technical effect". And how many programs do not? The EPO was never going to be flavour of the week at Eurolinux anyway, but this little piece of manoeuvring has triggered a full-scale explosion. It "constitutes an assault on democracy in Europe and a provocation against European governments, which... had decided to preserve the exclusion of computer programs from patentability." It is "a violation of article 22 of the European Patent Convention." The EPO "has extended the realm of patentability through decisions of low-level appeal courts. The European Patent Office has tried to circumvent the democratic control of European Governments through adventurous [nice turn of phrase] administrative processes. The European Patent Office ignores its ruling authorities... The European Patent Office scorns the 80% of software companies who are against software patents..." So... Eurolinux demands that the EPO be made to act in "a controllable and sensible way." But as "control and common sense do not seem to be appropriate terms for the current behaviour of the European Patent Office," governments should make it clear that the EPO's granting of patents on computer programs and "immaterial innovations" is legally questionable, and "does not correspond to governmental public policy goals." Governments should sack the current board and appoint a war crimes tribunal (we made that bit up) "to investigate its responsibility for repeated violations of the European Patent Convention, contempt for the legislative process and public interest." Tumbrils all round... ® Related Links: Federation for a Free Information Infrastructure Eurolinux Alliance Enigmatic but significant EPO press release
John Lettice, 08 Nov 2001

BTopenworld tops 60,000 broadband punters

BTopenworld announced today that it has 62,000 broadband subscribers, more than doubling its customer base in the three months to September. However, BT's mass market Internet division is still losing money giving rise to unkind quips that the business should be renamed "BTopenwound". According to the latest figures, at the end of September BTopenworld had 52,336 business and home users for its DSL products - up from 25,026 in June. However, that figure has increased by almost 10,000 in the last six weeks or so prompting the ISP to claim that its cut-price promotions and advertising promotions are beginning to pay-off. Together, this has helped boost broadband revenues for the business to £9 million in the three months to September - an increase of 49 per cent from June 2001. Said Ben Andradi president and COO of BTopenworld: "The increase in people signing up for broadband shows that we are continuing to drive forward in this market. "We have put a lot of effort into marketing to both consumers and businesses and are delighted to see growth in both markets. This underlines our success in delivering services to both groups," he said. BTopenworld has also attracted 868,000 unmetered dial-up customers all paying a regular monthly subscription, which has helped drive narrowband revenues to £28 million in Q2 - an increase of 19 per cent on the three months to June. Together, BTopenworld now boasts some 1.5 million dial-up and broadband customers. However, the business still racked up an operating loss of £36 million on revenue of £57 million in the quarter. It's predicted that BTopenworld's narrowband operation will make a profit at the end of 2002, with its broadband business making money the following year. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Nov 2001

mmO2 readies itself for flotation

BT's mobile arm, mmO2, today announced a 3G-sharing deal with Telfort Mobiel in the Netherlands to tie-in with BT's second-quarter results. The deal will mean substantial cost savings and adds to its sharing agreement with Deutsche Telekom in the UK and Germany, so all its 3G bases are now covered. It has also announced a new Pocket PC device, called the O2xda. mmo2 will float on 19 November and as such investors have been poring over the results today to size it up. So how does mmO2 look? Well, not bad. It is benefiting enormously from its parent company's generosity in landing it with just £500 million debts rather than the several billion paid for 3G licences plus other assorted debts, giving it a headstart over other mobile operators. According to today's results, it has a quarterly revenue of just over £1 billion. It is still making a loss of £94 million though - and that's without goodwill or the catch-all "exceptional items". It has a £3.5 billion overdraft it can eat into and was valued in its entirety at £7 billion by Goldman Sachs (down from £8 billion, down from £10 billion, down from £15 billion). The most important aspect is the revenue and profit trends in the various mobile companies held under the mmO2 umbrella and BT has gone to great lengths to persuade us that these are all positive. But, sadly, BT Cellnet is not doing so well. It has seen customer numbers flatten out and is still seeing a 36 per cent churn rate - dropping, it says, but still too high. Revenue increased by just 12 million from this time last year to £675 million. The good news is that it is making positive earnings (before interest, tax etc) of £161 million. Some serious cost-cutting is afoot and the company says it's hoping to save more by buying in bulk as mmO2. It has spent more this quarter on its network and this upward trend will continue as it prepares for next-generation mobile services. Viag Interkom, mmO2's German mobile company saw revenues up 32 per cent to £221 million. It's still making a loss though, although it has fallen from £108 million to £48 million. Again, it's not grabbing many new customers and so is looking to the high-end of the market to suck more revenue out of people. Again, cost-cutting, hopes of saving money thanks to bulk buying. Then there's the Netherlands company Telfort. Revenues have nearly doubled to £49 million but losses have increased from £20 million to £37 million as it chases new customers. And then there's Digifone, it's Irish company. It's doing well with revenue up 27 per cent, customers up, earnings doubled to £31 million. But, of course, there has yet to be a 3G licence auction and network upgrade. And lastly, of course, Genie the WAP arm. It's brought in £28 million but lost £22 million in total. Genie is "reducing the geographic scope of its activities, so that it is now focusing mainly on the mmO2 footprint", which basically means that mmO2 has realised it's just wasting time and money trying to push into other markets when WAP has been given the official thumbs down by society. WAP page impressions have reached 150 million a month it says, although it doesn't say what percentage of these are people having to go back and forward through menus to find what they want. mmo2's chief exec Peter Erskine said of the whole matter: "During the second quarter we continued to re-focus our businesses - on improving operational performance, on greater integration across the group, and on developing our new mobile data products and services. This has resulted in real progress being made during the quarter, with a significant reduction in operating losses, an acceleration in performance at the EBITDA level and an ongoing increase in the quality of our customer base. "Data now represents 10.7 per cent of our service revenues and, with the recent launch of new devices and services, we are well placed to take advantage of this important growth market. "This has been an exciting quarter for mmO2 as we move towards our future as an independent entity. We have achieved a number of definitive milestones and believe mmO2 has the platform to deliver improved revenue and EBITDA growth. We continue to focus on achieving these goals and delivering improved shareholder value." Only time will tell how much "improved revenue", but mmO2 at least has a good foundation to work from. Oh, nearly forgot - the O2 xba. It's not very exciting to be honest. Basically, mmO2 has done a deal with Microsoft where it sells a branded version of the Pocket PC. mmO2 gets to say it has a PDA offering, Microsoft gets some high-profile entry into the market. If you want to know more, go here. ® Related Stories BT Wireless - aka mmO2 - still a bit shaky Top BT beancounter to quit
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Nov 2001

WinXP system builder blues

Windows XP is causing UK system builders a great deal of misery. Pre-loading the software is a pain, and Microsoft has not managed to resolve compatibility issues between the OS and the WorksSuite Money 2001 module, which means that Money does not work. The MD of one major UK system builder, who asked not to be named, said: "From an OEM perspective it's been a f*****g disaster." He cited recovery and compatibility problems as well as the Money issue. Every time the manufacturer changes the make of hard drive he's putting in his systems, he needs to create a fresh recovery disk for the PC, because of driver issues with WinXP. This was something that was never a problem with Windows 98 or ME. And changing the make of the hard drive also means the system builder has to create a new universal cloning module - the master version of the software to be pre-installed on all the PCs. "We've received so many updates for it [WinXP]," said the MD. Meanwhile the WorksSuite Money 2001 issue drags on. Microsoft knew about it before the launch of Windows XP. Its solution was to ship a disk for customers to upgrade their WorksSuite Money 2001 to WorksSuite Money 2002. Evesham.com has not yet received the upgrade disk. According to company spokeswoman Carolyn Worth, it is shipping its PCs with a letter telling customers that "regrettably the product does not work with Windows XP" and that they'd receive an upgrade when one became available. "At the moment we don't have a definite delivery date," she said. ® Related Story Win XP doesn't work with WorksSuite Money 2001
Robert Blincoe, 08 Nov 2001

Toffs expelled for making Ecstasy from Net recipe

Four pupils at £16,000-a-year private school Glenalmond College have been expelled after making the dance drug Ecstasy from instructions found on the Internet. The boys, all aged 17, produced the drug MDMA using the school's equipment but were then caught by staff having taken their finished product, The Times reports. Their behaviour was said to be unusual. They were taken to Perth Royal Infirmary, where they were held overnight, but it would seem that despite the obvious dangers of home producing a powerful drug from some recipe found on the Internet, they managed not to permanently damage themselves. The boys have not commented on the experience. The registrar for the school, Jeremy Poulter, told The Times: "Teenage boys will be tempted to experiment and it is a cause of grave concern that such information should be peddled on the Net... We have a clear policy on the taking of drugs and none of the boys will be returning." It's not hard to find a recipe for making Ecstasy on the Net, and it's not illegal to post it either. But you would have to be a foolish 17-year-old boy to trust it. The Times also quotes a spokesman for Scotland Against Drugs as saying he was "amazed" the pupils managed to get hold of some amphetamine aka speed, needed to make the esctasy. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Nov 2001

UK Net use continues to surge

Home Net use in the UK continues to grow apace with more than one million new users hooking up between June and September. According to Net number crunchers, NetValue, there are now more that 15 million home Net users in the UK - a 53 per cent increase during the last year. Furthermore, there appears to be little evidence that this growth is showing any signs of slowing down. This is at odds with research published earlier this week by Oftel which found that the number of UK homes connected to the Net had actually fallen in the three months to August. Elsewhere, NetValue found that people are spending more time online. Curiously, though, the number of domains visited has fallen from an average of 58 to 44. The boffins at NetValue reckon this is a sign that Net users are becoming more loyal to a select number of sites. Bless. ® Related Story UK home Net use flat
Tim Richardson, 08 Nov 2001

Government cocks up another computer project

The government has added to its litany of computer system cock-ups with a £300 million system at the Ministry of Defence which has had to be overhauled. The system is supposed to handle to pay, pension and HR services for all staff in the armed forces and was contracted out to EDS on a 12-year contract by the then newly formed Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency. However, the grand plan to merge the three different systems for the army, navy and air force has proved too tricky and EDS has been asked to "reconstruct" its contract. As ever, it is one-man public sector IT watchdog Tony Collins from Computer Weekly that has dragged comments out the government. The whole scheme "was not as successful" as it could have been, said deputy chief of defence staff, Sir Malcolm Pledger. Government shorthand for "a complete disaster". "There was particular naivety on the transfer of risk," Malcolm told the magazine. "The MoD wanted improved services within the original contract price but EDS needed further funding to deliver the improved information systems. The result is contractual stalemate." The situation is now sorted out but apparently at one point it looked as though all wages were going to be delayed. What makes the IT mess all the more ridiculous is that the pay system for the Royal Navy was itself a complete failure - it came in at 217 per cent over budget and was abandoned after just one year at a cost of £8.7 million. This cock-up is just the latest in an exhausting list of government IT-project disasters. And it looks as though EDS has now overtaken Siemens in the contractor stakes. Let's try to recall them all (apologies if we omit any). Er, eight of the 11 Home Office IT projects in recent years are either "severely delayed or severely over budget". Then there was the Passport Agency (Siemens), Immigration (Siemens), tax self-assessment (EDS), the Post Office (ICL), National Insurance (Andersen) and the Prison Service. It'll all be alright though. Because the government has promised us that all government services will be online by 2005. ® A (hopefully) complete list of government IT cock-ups Home Office computer system slammed by report Govt scraps £80m computer system Govt to run all IT projects through Treasury watchdog Yet another government IT cock-up Inland Revenue's pathetic Net effort gets worse Inland Revenue joins Internet hall of shame Gov't tries to make IT projects run on time IT failures not all our fault, says Blair govt MOD blows £30m on junk projects Computer delays student loan payouts
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Nov 2001

Sony's next gen Aibo dogs hit market

Sony has showed off its third generation Aibo robotic dog. Canine V3 features more sensors for interaction, more LEDs for a wider emotional range, new behavioural patterns and upgraded control software. Looking distinctly more robotic and a little less shiny than its second generation brothers, the ERS-220 is supposed to fill the gap in the market for adult users who want a more robotic looking and controllable toy, rather than a more doglike, um, dog. (See this site for some images, although not much content is available yet.) The ERS-220 will sell for about £1,100. Sony is accepting pre-orders from Monday, although actual product will only ship in early December. It boasts 21 LEDs to express itself better, a retractable headlight, many more sensors and a greater degree of body movement. In terms of new features, its photo-taking capability has been improved, as has its wireless networking support and vocabulary (now 75 words). There are also new software versions: Aibo Life 2; Aibo Navigator 2; and Aibo Explorer. Down boy Sony was hit with controversy last month after a programmer, calling himself AiboPet, was told to remove certain popular programs from his site that added new functionality or behaviour to the dogs. This is much like a developer making an application for, say, a Palm handheld. Sony insists that his code infringes the company's copyright. At today's launch, Sony spokespeople were reluctant to discuss the incident, although they insisted that third party software developers are encouraged to code programs for the platform. However, developers must contact the company and gain its approval about what they wish to code. The company sells a programming language called Rcode, shipping on a Sony Memory Stick for $34, that users can buy and use to develop unique Aibo actions. This is what AiboPet used to code his "hacks", which cross over the copyright border by taking advantage of original Sony code - even though his software is free and requires all original Sony software in order to work. This dispute has many Aibo owners up in arms (see here and here), as many feel that the software merely makes the toy more exciting and doesn't advocate cheating Sony in any way. There is a petition site to get AiboPet's software back online. Here kitty kitty Japanese company Omron recently announced a feline version of Aibo: NeCoRo, which ships with acrylic fur, making it look startlingly realistic. This toy doesn't come cheap either, RoboCat will sell for about $1500, according to an article from InfoSync. ® Related Links AiboPet's ShutDown AiboHack Site Aibo's Official European Site The New Aibo ERS-220 Related Stories Sony, Honda prep people-like robots
James Watson, 08 Nov 2001

US Net penetration hits plateau

Internet penetration has levelled off in the US with an increase of just one per cent in the last year, according to the results of the Harris Poll. The results from the global market research and consulting firm, Harris Interactive, found that 64 per cent of adults in the US currently access the Net - up a smidgen from 2000. This one per cent increase over the last year has been described as "not statistically significant" by the survey's authors and has got boffins thinking about what will happen to Net growth. Up until now penetration has risen sharply with the increasing popularity of the Net. In 1995 just nine per cent of adults went online. By 1997, that figure had risen to 30 per cent before jumping to 56 per cent a year later. At the end of 2000 63 per cent of adults in the US were online. With around 127 million adult Net users it seems it's too soon to call whether penetration has hit a ceiling or whether there is still room for growth. "What is remarkable about these results is that this is the first time since the rapid growth of Internet use began in 1994 that we have not seen sizeable increases in Internet penetration over a twelve month period," those compiling the report said. "Only history will tell us if the failure of the Internet to increase its penetration over the last 12 months is merely a pause, to be followed by more growth, or a plateau beyond which it will not increase much for some time," they said. In a bid to explain the lack of growth it's been suggested that the weakening economy could be responsible for inhibiting growth. It was also noted that that the flattening out of the curve appears to have coincided with the dotcom crash on NASDAQ. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Nov 2001

Trium Eclipse: fab colour, power guzzler

ReviewReview At 110g and 118x49x25mm, the Trium Eclipse mobile phone is a little chunky by today's standards. This is explained by the fact that it has a fantastic colour screen which guzzles power. On top of that, it's got GPRS and a loudspeaker function. The model I reviewed was a late prototype, lacking GPRS. It may well ship without it at first. Trium will then have to offer customers a software upgrade, probably to Class 8 GPRS initially and later to Class 10. Class 8 is one slot to send and four to receive, while Class 10 is two slots to send and four to receive. Either option puts it way ahead of the game, making it a great choice for anyone who wants to communicate with a PDA via infra red. The Trium engineers have obviously enjoyed themselves with the Trium screen, which has a 120x143 resolution and 256 bright colours. The main screen shows the logo of the network to which you are connected, rather than just the name. The only other phone I've seen that does this was the Vtech, which we reviewed in August 2001, but it didn't have colour. Flower power The logo shows up against a bright colour background picture, any one of five choice supplied on the phone as standard. One or two of the colour pics use cute tricks to show the battery and signal meters. One is a daisy with up to five petals to show the signal strength-the more petals the stronger the signal. A ladybird occupies an adjacent stalk, the higher the insect the stronger the battery. Another picture has a couple of small forests with number of trees representing signal and battery meters. Once called, Trium has the hallmark butterfly; another is Urban where the scene changes at 7am and 7pm, then there's Lindbergh which shows the world clock. Trium promises that the wallpapers will be downloadable via GPRS, although there was no sign of anything on the Trium web site last time I looked. When you've missed a call or have a text message waiting, the network logo is replaced with the name of the network and icons to show what information is waiting for you. The controls are excellent, with two function keys that are clearly labelled and a four-way direction key. The menu shows five of the eight available options at any time, and as you scroll through the highlighted option is supplemented with an excellent cartoon. One of the things which really makes the most of the screen is text messaging. You can fit a whole 160-character text message on the screen with room to spare. It's also bright and clear. There is a particularly good implementation of the AOL Mobile T9 software. You can't add words to the dictionary but it is very easy to toggle in and out of T9 using the down arrow on the cursor key. Handling messages is good with options to reply with the original message attached, forward the messages to up to five friends or store or call numbers from within the message. You can define a set of ten messages with standard texts. Phonebook features are similarly comprehensive. The Eclipse uses Microsoft vCard format so you can infra red contacts from most pocket devices, not just Microsoft ones. There are 100 memories and you can define first and last names, company name, job title, up to four numbers, email address, real address, text, an icon and a ring tone. Numbers can also be filed in groups. The last ten missed, called and received numbers are all stored in the phone. There is voice dialling, which will work with contacts in both phone and SIM memory, and a voice recorder. This stores up to 120 seconds. The ringer is great - very loud and supplemented with a vibrate. Sound quality is also excellent, with a three-voice polyphonic speaker, so the supplied ringtones sound great. You can download more, it's Nokia-compatible, and the big speaker on the Eclipse means they sound better than they do on Nokia phones. There is no ringtone composer in the phone. In common with many newer phones the Eclipse has a diary calendar and alarm clock. With a great screen it works very well. You can set an alarm for diary events and use any supplied ring tone. The weekly display can show conflicts and when you enter a new appointment you are told if there is a conflict. There is no easy PC sync, so you can't get your whole address book or diary into the phone easily, but you can send individual appointments and a to-do list by infra red. There is a currency converter and a calculator but no email client or text message chat. Trium claims a talk time of three hours and a standby of 150 hours from the 900mAh lithium ion battery. In use we got a couple of days which included some quite heavy WAP browsing on some occasions, and a couple of sessions of failing to master bowling. It's unlikely to be that good when GPRS is available, particularly since Class 10 will be very battery hungry. Still, the recharge time of 90 minutes is good. We're Game One of the things you can do very well with a colour screen is play games. Trium has gone about this in exactly the right way. Its phones are designed in France and in recent years French computer game companies have grown to dominate the world market. Trium went to Ubisoft and commissioned two games using the Rayman character. Unfortunately that's as good as it gets. The actual execution is disappointing. The two games, Bowling and Garden, don't play that well. They sound even worse if you try to describe them, something which is shown by the badly-translated instructions. Bowling is graphically great but ultimately boring. Garden is a little like an 80s Spectrum game called Hover Bover, except you run around the garden killing monsters, not cutting grass. Help is at hand because in time you should be able to download new games - if Trium pulls its finger out to do something about its web site. A great screen and fast GPRS are an ideal platform for WAP. With these two things WAP starts to deliver. The Eclipse rises to the challenge with a WAP 1.2.1 browser. This has all the things you expect-it tells the server what the specs of the device are and will accept incoming 'push' WAP messages. So if you have a WAP mail service you can be alerted of new incoming messages. One area of the WAP 1.2 specification which is vague is the support for colour. Officially 1.2.1 does not have colour, but there are some tags which can be used. Looking at a page that uses those tags does not give colour on the Eclipse. Links, however, do use colour, but really it's the screen's clarity which makes WAP so good. There is the standard collection of options, bookmarks, and up to ten profiles. Navigation is excellent with the left soft key following a link, right key says 'action' and the four way cursor takes you up and down the page or forward and back. The action tends only to be 'back'. To get to the menu which lets you add a new URL you have to press the green handset. You can customise the display for screen size, font and to turn automatic downloads off. Trium's programmers have really got the hang of WAP, so it's a shame I couldn't test the GPRS side. The Trium Eclipse isn't the first colour phone I've seen; that was the Siemens S10. But the colour on that screen wasn't good and didn't add anything. The next colour phone we expect to see is the Ericsson T68, a much sexier phone-smaller, lighter and triple band with Bluetooth to link to a PDA. You can see a preview in the December 2001 Christmas issue. Simon Rockman is the publisher of What Mobile, the UK's best mobile phone magazine. © Blah Publishing. All rights reserved.
Simon Rockman, 08 Nov 2001

DRAM sales to grow 16% next year

Market research companies may have a negative to cautiously positive outlook on next year's worldwide chip sales, but the business' own Semiconductor Industry Association has a more optimistic forecast. Sales will rise six per cent next year and 21 per cent the year after, the organisation forecast yesterday. That compares with Gartner Dataquest's recent prediction of three per cent growth through 2002, and Future Horizons' more pessimistic prediction of a further 5.5 per cent contraction next year. All three reckon the market will really turn around in 2003, with Gartner Dataquest anticipating 30 per cent growth during that year. Essentially it reckons the upswing will be as sharp as this year's downturn. The SIA, as an industry sponsored operation, has a reason to talk up a more rapid recovery. It reckons the upturn will happen this quarter and continue on a shallow upward curve through 2002. The microprocessor market is a leading sector, growing seven per cent next year to $25 billion, the SIA believes. Beyond 2002, growth with rise to 16 per cent in 2003 and ten per cent in 2004, for annual sales of $29 billion and $31 billion, respectively. So come 2004, the processor market will finally get back to where it was last year. The DRAM market - surprise, surprise - will prove even more volatile, recovering from this year's 60 per cent decline to grow 16 per cent next year, 44 per cent in 2003 and 54 per cent in 2004. The market will be worth around $13 billion, $19 billion and $29 billion in 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively. ® Related Stories Chip biz to shrink 5.5% next year No chip sales boom 'til 2003, says market researcher
Tony Smith, 08 Nov 2001

Those new-look tougher MS judgment terms in full

At some considerable risk of serious psychological damage The Register has over the past couple of days constructed a line-by-line before and after picture of Microsoft's proposed sentence.* Before, as you will recall, we had a spineless cave-in on the part of the DoJ which essentially left Microsoft to pillage the world with impunity. But after further tough negotiations serious improvements were made to the text, sufficient to allow nine US States to sign up for it, leaving only nine sadly misguided attorneys general who were of the opinion that the whole thing was a bucket of putrescent dingoes' kidneys. Our diligent investigations reveal serious alteration to the terms of the document. Right on page one, for example, we find the term "proposed Final Judgment" has been beefed up to "revised proposed Final Judgment." And in the new look tougher version this actually becomes page two, owing to the tough insertion of nine States' names in the preamble. The document itself is shot through with rigorous stiffening of terms, and this speaks volumes as to the determination with which the nine States have argued their case. Where previously the term "United States" was used, now in every instance it is "plaintiffs" or similar, making it absolutely clear that the nine States are agreeing with everything after all, from a position of toughness and strength. We have noted a claim that the document itself has been massively toughened by the insertion of the word "Internet." We accept that this word does indeed appear in the document in several places, both before and after, but have so far failed to nail down where it might be in the after where it was not in the before. This is no doubt our fault. Aside from these major revisions, the new document is as a whole rather more concise, running to 18 pages rather than 21. This, after a careful tallying process involving both hands and both feet and one matchstick, we note as being achieved via a skilled re-use of components whereby the numbering in version two recommences at one after the first four pages of "Stipulation." Onwards, though, to the more detailed changes. On page four (or six, depending) we have something of a twiddle of the bit covering communications protocols. It's not entirely clear whether this has been changed because it was unintelligible, or whether this is indeed a toughening of terms. However, where it said "(ii) used to interoperate natively... with Windows 2000 Server or products marketed as its successor installed on a server computer" it now says "used to interoperate natively... with a Microsoft server operating system product." Not clear enough for you yet? Well, right up at the back in the definitions section, under Communications Protocol the sentence "Communications Protocol shall not include protocols used to remotely administer Windows 2000 Server and products marketed as its successors" has been deleted. Well OK, that does look like a genuine improvement. It then goes quiet for a while, but on page seven (or 10) we have even more progress. The section The Register previously and erroneously described as the security-piracy get out of jail free clause previously said "would compromise the security of anti-piracy, anti-virus, software licensing, digital rights management, encryption or authentication systems, including without limitation, keys, authorization tokens or enforcement criteria." Now it says "would compromise the security of a particular installation or group of installations of...[etc etc]" So that's all right then - no more blanket get-outs, case-by-case ones. The pace cracks up on page eight, where a substantial insertion details how the nine States will be able to run their own toothless supervision operation alongside that of the US Government. They have bravely insisted that this will take place "without in any way limiting the sovereign enforcement authority of each of the plaintiff States," so we're not talking surrender here, oh no. Back in the definitions section we find that an ISV is now "an entity other than Microsoft that is engaged in the development or marketing of software products". This constitutes a significant concession to the world beyond Windows, as version one suggested that ISVs were only ISVs if their products were also "designed to run on a Windows Operating System Product." More? You want more? Sorry, but there isn't any. ® * Subsequently the DoJ has rubbed salt into our ruined eyeballs by publishing something it calls the redlined version here. Thanks. Related stories: All you ever wanted to know about the DoJ's Windows cave in
John Lettice, 08 Nov 2001

nForce PCs a go-go

PCs built using Nvidia's nForce integrated chipsets are thicker on the ground than first thought. Though US manufacturer MicronPC is claiming it is first to get a machine out, Germany's 4MBO was there ahead of it. It announced a WinXP, Athlon XP nForce box, called the e-Force, to coincide with the launch of Windows XP on 25 October. It employs the 420D version of the nForce. 4MBO sells through the discount food supermarket chain Plus. Alain Tiquet, Nvidia's director of marketing for Europe, said Plus shifted 15,000 PCs in the first weekend it became available. Tiquet says that a couple of home grown PC manufacturers in Germany, France, Italy and the UK will have nForce machines on sale in time for Christmas. Brand named include Vobis, Fujitsu Siemens, and Humano. The UK end is taken care of by Time Computers and Mesh, which is already selling its £999 Matrix XP 1600 NF. ® Related Link 4MBO nForce PC Related Story Nvidia nForce gets first PC gig
Robert Blincoe, 08 Nov 2001

Proxim favours Mac OS X over 9

Wireless networking specialist Proxim has favoured Mac OS X over Classic for its upcoming IEEE 802.11a 108Mbps LAN system. Yes, we were surprised too. Most vendors' software roll-out plans centre on targeting Mac OS 9 first and Apple's next-generation operating system second - sometimes a distant second. Not so Proxim. Drivers to support its Harmony Fast Wireless network adaptor PC Card will ship for OS X by the end of the year, with OS 9 drivers following "some months" after that in the first quarter of 2002, the director of Proxim's commercial networks division, Lynn Chroust, said. The Harmony Fast Wireless system comprises the $249 PC card adaptor for laptops and a $695 base-station, and both are available in the US now. An as-yet-unpriced PCI card for desktop systems is expected to ship (no release date yet) Stateside. It too will be supported with Mac OS X drivers. European availability remains an open question. The Fast Wireless system is based on the 802.11a wireless LAN standard. IEEE 802.11a operates between 5.15GHz and 5.35GHz - collectively known as the '5GHz band'. The European Union has yet to ratify the use of 802.11a in the 5GHz band, having previously decided to support a rival standard, HyperLAN. With almost no HyperLAN kit out there, the EU has reconsidered its decision, the upshot being that Europe is lagging up to six months behind the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and other nations which have authorised 802.11a. Proxim hopes to jump the queue, as it were, by seeking certification for its kit in individual European member states, with UK availability expected early 2002, according to Chroust. In addition to the corporate-oriented Harmony line, Proxim is planning to offer 802.11a versions of its Skyline home and small business wireless LAN family. ® Related Story Proxim doubles 802.11a wirefree bandwidth to 108Mbps
Tony Smith, 08 Nov 2001

Proxim doubles 802.11a wirefree bandwidth to 108Mbps

Proxim has launched wireless networking technology which doubles the next-generation 802.11a standard's maximum bandwidth from 54Mbps to 108Mbps. Notebooks integrating the technology could hit the market as early as Q2 2002, the company said. The corporate-oriented Harmony Fast Wireless system operates in the 5GHz band - squeezing eight data channels between 5.15GHz and 5.35GHz - out of range of interference from other wireless products and noise-emitting hardware. The 802.11a spec. provides for a maximum throughput of 54Mbps, though in practice it delivers around 23Mbps. Proxim's proprietary extension to the standard extends the maximum to 108Mbps, though with most of the bandwidth consumer by control and error-correction data, actual throughput comes in at around 34Mbps - 11Mbps more than vanilla 802.11a. Of course, Proxim's '2x mode' will only work between Proxim products - connections to other 802.11a units defaults to the standard speed. Proxim is offering the technology through its newly launched Harmony Fast Wireless line, which comprises a $249 PC Card notebook adaptor and a $695 base station - both are shipping in the US now. A PCI card for desktop systems is in the works too. Unlike Proxim's previous desktop-based wireless LAN adaptors, the 802.11a version isn't simply a carrier for the PC Card - it's a complete adaptor in its own right and as such should be somewhat more cost effective than its predecessors. Prices are around 25 per cent more than Proxim's 802.11b products, which offer around half the throughput of the new line. A mini-PCI module aimed at notebook OEMs keen to build the technology into their laptops is now sampling, with volume production scheduled to begin during Q1 next year. Notebook vendors could offer machines integrating 802.11a by the second quarter, said Lynn Chroust, Proxim's commercial networks division. The European Union has yet to ratify the use of 802.11a in the 5GHz band, having previously decided to support a rival standard, HyperLAN. With almost no HyperLAN kit out there, the EU has been forced to reconsider its decision, the upshot being that Europe is lagging up to six months behind the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and other nations that have authorised 802.11a. Proxim hopes to jump the queue, as it were, by seeking certification for its kit in individual European member states, with UK availability expected early 2002, according to Chroust. IEEE 802.11a offers around the same range as 802.11b, but its throughput within that zone is considerably higher, said Chroust. And where 802.11b offers three separate channels - essentially allowing three separate networks to co-exist in the same space - 802.11b supports up to eight channels. Proxim's 802.11a parts are based on Atheros' AR500 chipset. ® Related Story Proxim favours Mac OS X over 9
Tony Smith, 08 Nov 2001

Philips CD-RWs climb Mount Rainier

Philips says all its CD-RW drives shipped from early 2002 will include its EasyWrite technology, which is essentially native Mount Rainier format support. The announcement is not surprising as Philips is one of core proponents of the format, alongside Compaq, Sony and Microsoft. Recently, open source developers were granted royalty-free access to the format following months of closed-door negotiations. The purpose of the format is to make CD-RW drives (and, in the future, recordable DVD drives) easier to use, primarily by allowing drag and drop functionality. This would let users treat the drive as a floppy drive or hard drive, making it an easier to use storage medium. While packet-writing applications are already available from various third parties that allow this kind of functionality, the Mount Rainier initiative hopes to include this functionality seamlessly into the operating system, making it invisible to the user. Formatting delays are also eliminated. This will happen as a background operation, allowing users to drag and drop immediately to their discs. Some of the many contributors to the format include Dell, Hitachi, Roxio, Matsushita, LG, Acer and Gateway. ® Related Stories Linux wins access to next-generation CDs Multi-format DVD writer arrives Related Link Mount Rainier Information Site
James Watson, 08 Nov 2001

US judge's Nazi Net ruling turns worldwide law on its head

US federal judge Jeremy Fogel has decided that Yahoo! can't be bound to pay a fine imposed by a French court over the sale of Nazi memorabilia on Yahoo's US Web site. By deciding to consider whether law courts could determine what Web sites based in other countries can host, he had already created a dangerous precedent. By ruling that the company can't be held to account, he risks provoking years of in-fighting between different countries' legal systems. This time last year, a French judge ruled that Yahoo! must prevent any French citizens from viewing any Nazi goods that were up for sale, even if the goods were on a US Web site and would not be shipped to France. It is illegal under French law to display or sell anything which incites racism. The French judge said the company would be fined $13,000 per day for every day over a 90-day deadline if people living in France could still view the items. Despite expert opinion that it was technically possible to restrict viewing for French citizens, Yahoo! wisely decided just to pull all Nazi memorabilia. The French judge could have ruled that as long as the site was not hosted in France, the goods were not sold in France and that none of the goods would be sold or shipped to France, then it was not illegal. Instead, he decided to attempt to extend his power over the Internet - and hence the world. As Yahoo! decided to pull the goods in question, there was no problem. It did however apply to its own courts to decide whether the French court had the right to make that decision. It found a judge willing to hear its appeal in Judge Jeremy Fogel, who has been making a name for himself for attempting to pull Internet implications into existing law. Perhaps it was inevitable that judges in different countries would clash at some point, not thinking of the wider implications of their decisions but their own parochial concerns. "We are extremely happy about this," said one of Yahoo!'s lawyers, Mary Catherine Worth, no doubt because the decision will keep the legal profession busy for the next decade. "This has very broad implications for everyone, not only companies but also for individuals who operate Web pages here in the United States." This is a battle not for justice but between judicial systems. It has been a disaster waiting to happen ever since the three experts - once of which was the current head of ICANN Vint Cerf - told the judge that a total blocking ban of Internet users from one particular country was possible. A week after the judge's decision, one of the three - Ben Laurie - wrote an "apologia" saying that he hadn't considered the political implications and was thinking only of technical feasibility. ® Related Stories US judge to rule on the Internet Yahoo! auction revamp: racism out, charges in Yahoo! flies to US court over Nazi memorabilia row Yahoo! Nazi tech expert backtracks Yahoo! loses Nazi trinkets case Yahoo! legally obliged to ban the French? Anti-rascists sue Yahoo! over Nazi auction
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Nov 2001

I say Petabyte, You say Pebibyte…

It turns out that we right first time with our assertion here that 144,115,188,075,855,872 bytes equals 144 Petabytes. A large number of you wrote to tell us that it's actually 128 Petabytes. But as correspondent Philip Skov Knudsen points out "Just because hundreds of people claim something to be true, that doesn't necessarily make it so." "Actually, what you did by accident, drive manufacturers have been doing for quite some time. I.e. reporting drive capacities in powers of ten rather than powers of two. So most drive manufacturers really would have marketed it as 144 petabytes," writes Brinton Sherwood. According to the SI - not the Situationist International unfortunately, but the International System of Units best known for looking after the metric system - recognized a standard set of names for binary multiples in December 1998. These had originally been devised by the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC. So 144,115,188,075,855,872 bytes equals 144.115118 Petabytes (PB). Or thereabouts, and it's actually 128 Pebibytes (PiB). The SI's list follows, and with the correct abbreviations:- One kibibit (1 Kibit) is 2^10, or 1024 bits One kilobit (1 kbit) is 10^3, or 1000 bits One mebibyte (1 MiB) is 2^20, or 1,048,576 bytes One megabyte (1 MB) is 10^6, or a round million bytes One gibibyte (1 GiB) is 2^30, or 1,073,741,824 bytes One gigabyte (1 GB) is 10^9 or a round billion (thousand million - that battle's over, we guess) bytes. You can read more here. Muddy waters Unfortunately the drive industry looks likely to continue marketing the decimal rather than the binary definition. After all, they probably feel that they got there first. As the SI note explains:- "... storage devices were not constructed on binary trees, which meant that, for many practical purposes, binary arithmetic was less convenient than decimal arithmetic." There are actually three definitions of a Megabyte, one decimal, one binary, and one that refers specifically to 1.44MB floppoes. "The sloppy use of kilo-, mega-, giga-, tera, and peta- wouldn't normally complain about it," writes correspondent John W Kennedy, "but if people like your correspondents are actually going to turn snarky on the subject, then I feel obliged to point out that it's flat wrong." "It makes for a great pitch, but it is frustrating dealing with customers who want refunds or replacements for their drives because they were 'ripped off', adds Brinton. So be forewarned when you're shopping. ® Related Story Linux breaks 100-Petabyte ceiling
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Nov 2001

Logica slashes jobs

Logica has surprised no one by announcing that it will cut between four and five per cent of its staff in response to the "worsening economic environment". We revealed last month how Logica had sent an internal email which effectively cancelled Christmas for all its staff to cut costs. The company declined to comment on possible job cuts. Two weeks later, it banned stamps. However, despite the fact that the company posted a 60 per cent rise in profits at the start of September and that its chief exec, Martin Read, is the UK's highest paid director, earning a staggering £27.3 million last year, the company non-exec chairman Sir Frank Barlow said at its agm that it "expects to reduce group staff numbers by about 4 to 5 per cent over the next few months". It's not all bad news though. Sir Frank said: "Overall, in the first quarter, we achieved order intake growth well in excess of 20 per cent with continuing good operating margins. Our mobile networks business grew revenues by 37 per cent with improving margins. Our expectation is that we will be able to deliver profits in the first half consistent with the normal seasonal pattern. As we look forward, our order intake, current prospect pipeline and strong operational controls give the board confidence that we are on track to deliver strong financial performance as outlined in our preliminary announcement." ® Related Stories Now Logica bans stamps Christmas cancelled for Logica staff
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Nov 2001

McNealy takes on The Mob

Sun boss Scott McNealy gave the DoJ his lengthiest harangue at the company's AGM for stockholders yesterday. "I finally got my PR team to let me unleash on this," said McNealy, who didn't waste the opportunity, describing the settlement as "disgraceful and unconscionable and beyond belief." McNealy ran through a list of proposed mergers that had been blocked by the Department of Justice on Antitrust grounds: "SunGard wanted to buy Comdisco - a bankrupt company, one in Chapter 11 - and they were not allowed to merge. Like there's not a million trillion datacentres out there now?" That case is actually far from done: Hewlett Packard has agreed to buy Comdisco, but SunGard is still negotiating with the DoJ to be allowed to up its bid. "Staples was not allowed to merge with Office Depot. Did you all wonder, where are we going to buy our paper now? Was that so dangerous that we did not allow them to merge?" "And we left a 7 to nothing monopolist get off: they didn't even pay court fees," he said. "The fix is in, and done." "Get hold of your State's Attorney General, send a note to The President - he oughta to be outraged," said McNealy. "It's not [the Attorney General's] job to say 'I don't like those laws, I'm not going to enforce them'". McNealy devoted much of his hour talking about Sun, but had a few predictable barbs for the competitors. HP/Compaq? "I'm really worried about that merger … not going through". But then it doesn't matter, because "both companies have left the computer business." As has Dell: "they're a grocery store who understands the only value you add to a banana is a bruise." The Sun boss declared himself "too patriotic" to wonder if $8 million in campaign contributions could have let Microsoft off the hook. And left the allegation hanging there. Sun has not been short of lobbying itself on the subject, but he's surely mistaken in raising the suspicion that campaign contributions bought Microsoft a refuge from justice. As we said here, it's much deeper than that, it's ideological. It's going to take much more than $8m of soft money to change the prevailing view that government needs to get out of the way of business, no matter how it breaks the law. ® Related Stories  All you ever wanted to know about the DoJ's Windows cave-in MS snags crucial authentication, DRM opt-outs in DoJ settlement Those new-look tougher MS judgment terms in full DoJ brown-noses MS further in revised settlement
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Nov 2001