20th > December > 2001 Archive

Sun revs Jini

What with the holidays, there isn't much of December left. But Sun promises us that a new version of Jini, 1.2, will be released before the year's out. It's a characteristically discreet drop, for the Jini team seems to prefer working away from the spotlight - even when it's being goaded by Microsoft, which declared "victory" over Jini a couple of weeks ago. When we caught up with Franc Romano, the group marketing honcho last week, he didn't want to return the low blows. Not the typical Sun response, at all. This softly-softly approach contrasts with the media overkill of the Jini launch three years ago, which saw Bill Joy straddling a globe, wearing that Bill Joy I've-really-done-it-this-time expression, for the cover of Wired magazine. At the time, Jini was almost universally acclaimed as the right architectural approach to solving the right problem - getting dumb devices to discover each other and engage in basic transactional relationships - but nagging voices wondered how Sun could steamroller the embedded world into adopting its baby. It couldn't, it discovered fairly shortly, and the steamroller turned out to be exactly the wrong kind of vehicle. So what's new? Actually if you're up to speed with the web chat that Jim Waldo gave in August, it's going to sound very familiar. Jini Version 1.2, codenamed Alewife will address performance, and run multiple service son a VM, Romano told us. The new security model codenamed Davis is still receiving input, and should be finalised early next year. The emphasis now is on adaptive networking. It wants Jini-based intelligent networks to be the norm in eight years. In contrast to the initial pronouncements, there's little emphasis on pushing Jini into kettles, toasters, or consumer white goods. (That drum is being thumped by the OSGI, the Open Services Gateway Initiative, which is technology agnostic, and seems to be a testing ground for all those home automation demos we've seen at past CeBIT expos from Ericsson and Philips). Jini's licensing has got a lot more flexible. There's no logo requirement, licenses are free and evergreen - the last for the lifetime of the licensee - and like Java, Sun only requires that they pass certification. But this being self-certification, is a lot less onerous than the Java requirement. Romano makes much of Jini's join capabilities, which he reckons no other rival can do, and its protocol independence. That contrasts with discovery services such as UDDI, which underpins web services, and rival technologies such as UpnP, Universal Plug and Play, from Microsoft. (HAVi gets mentioned as a Jini rival, we're baffled why as it seems to usto be a cabling solution that's as happy with Jini as it is with UPnP.) Back in August, Waldo told the JavaLive session, "I would not foresee (and will fight to the death) a move to make Jini HTTP-centric. That said, there is no reason why a set of Jini lookup services couldn't advertise in a UDDI directory to allow themselves to be accessed over the world wide web. That's just an implementation detail." He predicted that the HTTP-based web services architects would be finding the same problems in a couple of years that Jini has been grappling with since inception. Romano reckons Jini has 80,000 developers, 50,000 more than claimed a year ago, and 70 commercial licensees, which is considerably more than we'd been expecting. Most of these are in defence, industrial vertical markets such as telcoms and automation, and healthcare. Romano puts the number of Jini devices in use in the hundreds of thousands. No, he wasn't miffed at Jini's low profile in Sun's recent Sun.ONE web services marketitecture. He sounds like he'll be happy to see Jini creep into the routers and edge infrastructure over time. ® Related Stories Sun sneaks into enemy UPnP camp Symbian cellular allies and Palm back Sun's Jini Sun signs Sony, Philips to bring Jini into the home No Joy from P2P vets for Sun's Jxta
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Dec 2001

Qualcomm bungs Handspring a $10m bonus

Cellular headbangers Qualcomm today made a $10 million investment in PDA manufacturer Handspring. Handspring hinted that the money may also be used to make "complementary" acquisitions. Handspring has long seen the converged device as the future, and has adopted the "communicator" description introduced by Nokia five years ago for its first 9000 series device. Qualcomm is the CDMA intellectual property powerhouse, and perfected an uber-aggressive, patent-it-and-sue approach to exploiting its R&D long before anyone had heard of RAMBUS, Inc. But Handspring's devices to date have been based on the global GSM standard, rather than the CDMA air interface used in the US and Korea. So although the Visorphone and the Treo can be used anywhere in the world, and have the huge bonus of being interoperable with the wireless world's killer app, SMS text messaging, Stateside users only get a choice of one carrier per region if they plump for the Treo. So by adding CDMA to its handhelds Handspring should get access to more carrier customers, and Handspring mavens get more choice of carrier. Handspring already licenses CDMA, executives said today, but the investment makes a CDMA-enabled device likely sooner rather than later. Two PalmOS-based smartphones using CDMA are on the market from Samsung and Kyocera, and Sprint uses Handspring's Blazer minibrowser on these handsets. A joint venture between Palm and Nokia to produce a TDMA smartphone was canned earlier this year, but this week Palm said it license Texas Instruments' OMAP platform which Handspring used in its Treo, and which includes GSM and GPRS stacks in the bundle. Handspring also announced that it was raising new capital by creating additional stock worth $38.5 million. Merger symmetry Could Handspring's acquisition list include Palm? Both Palm and Handspring stock has had palpatations on the back of rumours suggesting Handspring could merge with the former mothership.0 The $48.5 million of new capital is some way short of the $1.8 billion market cap for Palm, Inc. But by a weird coincidence, the result of this week's respective wireless deals sees Palm adopting the same wireless platform as Handspring, and a complementary CDMA alliance neither party had before. For the record, we can'tsee why Handspring would want to acquire Palm's problems. While Palm has fallen far behind in the technology race, and is obliged to play catch-up, Handspring has proven nimble enough to cut its own deals. However, when Nokia and Motorola begin to introduce ship their 2.5G smartphones late next year, the two could decide they'd be better off as one. Until then tongues will continue to wag. ® Related Stories Palm revs wireless plans with TI deal Steve Wozniak's smartphone adventure
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Dec 2001

Worst year ever for semiconductors

This was the worst year ever for the semiconductor industry, with all top 10 players registering big revenues falls. In total semi sales will come in at $152bn in 2001, 33 per cent down on 2000. The size of the downturn means that it will be difficult for some companies to recover in 2002. Mary Olsson, chief analyst for Gartner Dataquest's worldwide semiconductor group, predicts further industry consolidation, as a consequence of the "tremendous destabilization" the industry has suffered this year. Intel remains top of the tree, even though its sales fell 22.4 per cent to $23.49bn (2000: $30.3bn), according to preliminary industry stats compiled by Gartner Dataquest. This percentage drop in sales was the second smallest of all the top 10, behind only STMicroelectronics, reflecting the company's lack of exposure to the torched DRAM business. Worst hit of all was NEC, currently mothballing its plant in Livingston, Scotland which saw sales plummet 49 per cent in 2001 to $5,389bn (2000: $10.643bn). Some of the sales fall are bookkeeping, as NEC transferred its DRAM business into Elpida, a JV with Hitachi. You can get more results at Gartner. ®
Drew Cullen, 20 Dec 2001

VIA goes faster with C3

VIA has launched a 933MHz version of the VIA C3, the fastest version yet of its low-cost, low-power CPU. The 933MHz is the third speed grade of VIA's so-called Ezra core. It's produced on a 0.13micron assembly line and has the smallest die size of any PC CPU, VIA claims. The C3 is aimed at the value-end of the market - it's positioned on price and performance well below Pentium 4 and Athlon lines, and somewhat below the Duron and Celerons. The Taiwanese chipmaker has yet to make serious inroads in the West, but it claims a growing fan club among "small footprint, highly integrated PC OEMs and enthusiasts". Richard Brown, VIA's marketing director, popped up yesterday in India, where he estimated the company's market share in the country at 10 per cent. VIA says that pricing details are available on request, but we know that in India the retail price for the 933MHz is 3,500 rupees. ®
Drew Cullen, 20 Dec 2001

Finnish city closer to switch from Windows to Linux

The Finnish city of Turku has moved closer to switching to Linux, following a preliminarystudy of the platform's suitability. Turku kicked off the investigation earlier this year in response to Microsoft's new licensing terms and conditions, which Turku estimated would cost it €1-€2 million. Turku has now completed the first part of its investigation, and will now be looking into functionality and effects of a switch over a longer timescale. It will also be taking into consideration likely success of OpenOffice and Linux deployments elsewhere in Europe. The switch itself isn't likely to disrupt Redmond's coffers overly, but the Turku investigation has attracted widespread interest from other authorities and agencies in Finland, and elsewhere in Europe. The Finnish Finance Ministry is conducting its own investigation. If Turku goes ahead, it will be introducing OpenOffice, and will be switching over from Windows to Linux gradually, over several years. Turku expects the deployment to cover 3,500-5,000 machines. Show-offs can read what we are assured is the press release in Finnish here, while super show-offs can even read the entire report in Finnish here. Thanks to the show-offs who did just that and put us straight when we got the story slightly wrong earlier. ®
John Lettice, 20 Dec 2001

Palm bleeds gently with $54.2m loss

Palm has turned in Q2 results that are slightly less horrible than expected. Analysts had called it as a loss of 7 cents a share on $280 million revenues, whereas it turned out to be 6 cents on $290 million. This still adds up to a loss of $54.2 million in a quarter that includes holiday sales, and still leaves Palm with an unpleasantly large pile of unsold stuff. In the same period last year Palm's revenues were $522 million. The company says sales picked up in November, so it can be hopeful that this will have continued through December, but it's still talking about a reduced inventory level of just under six weeks, and that isn't likely to go down much in calendar Q1. Rationally, Palm isn't likely to see much daylight through the first half of next year. In the longer term the company is now betting on wireless, new corporate products and a new ARM-based platform, but the lateness of its conversion to the latter leaves it with something of a missile gap. Palm chairman and interim CEO Eric Benhamou says there will be a beta version of Palm OS for ARM by the end of May, which gives us a pretty good idea about how far off the next generation is. ® Related stories: Palm revs wireless plans with TI deal Palm to buy corporate wireless software op
John Lettice, 20 Dec 2001

Woman seeks husband by auction – again

Kay Hammonds's at it again. The 24-year-old blonde "Internet entrepreneur" from Birmingham has put herself up for auction in a bid to find herself a husband. Undeterred at being given the elbow on moral grounds earlier this week by eBay, the petite Miss Hammond (34, 28, 34) is now selling herself on QXL. Explaining why she is auctioning herself off to the highest bidder she says: "Marriage is the one ambition I have yet to achieve. "So often I have commented to my friends, family and colleagues that I never have the time to meet any men. I have been working on my business, www.tamba.co.uk, ever since I was 17. I work a twelve hour day, seven days a week, so I've been pretty busy over the last 6 years! "I thought that by creating an online auction I would be able to reach as many men as possible and hopefully prove that the Internet is not full of cyber-geeks, there are normal people out there, and I'm looking for one as a husband!" she chirps. Aaaaaaaaahhhhh. Of course, if Mr Right is out there, he'll have to have deep pockets. The minimum price Miss Hammond puts on true love is £250,000, which is nothing compared to her aborted attempt on eBay, which reportedly climbed as high as £10 million before it was pulled. If money is no object and Mr Right still wants to pursue his quest for her hand in marriage, he should bear one more thing in mind - Miss Hammond cites Richard Branson and Bill Gates as the people she admires the most and who have given her inspiration to succeed. The auction is due to end on Christmas Eve and Miss Hammond promises she will marry the highest bidder. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Dec 2001

B1 OFH number plate for sale

Stuck for a Yuletide gift for that special BOFH in your life? Well, if your Bastard Operator From Hell also cherishes his motor, then a personalised number plate might just prove to be the right pressie to light up his face on Christmas morning. The DVLA - the Government agency that sells personalised registrations - is flogging B1 OFH for £999. Registrations B2 OFH to B20 OFH are also available for £399 each. Just what you always wanted, no? ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Dec 2001

MS-friendly Comcast buys AT&T Cable

Comcast will buy AT&T cable for $47 billion in stock and $25 billion in liabilities, creating a cable behemoth twice the size of AOL Time Warner, it was confirmed late Wednesday. Cox Communications and AOL-TW had also entertained hopes during the months-long bidding competition, but fell shy of the mark. Good news for Microsoft, which backed Comcast in hopes of seeing a Redmond-friendly custodian of all that wire and fiber, which will reach 22 million US residences and businesses. The joint custody arrangement has been worked out with AT&T's Michael Armstrong as Chairman of the new entity, and Comcast's Brian Roberts as its CEO. Armstrong, we may recall, allowed himself to be mesmerized by the New Economy hype and was given to giddy bouts of optimistic techno-patois in which he predicted many great things for AT&T Cable, few of which ever materialized. While Wall Street never quite approved of the IBM salesman turned corporate chairman, we reckon he's since learned that consumers can't, in fact, be forced to buy absolutely anything so long as it's marketed as 'technological'. He promised too much and delivered too little, like any consummate salesman. And like any master of that particular art form, his biggest dupe was often himself. So he paid $110 billion for AT&T Cable, and is now selling it for just over $70. The world didn't beat a path to AT&T's door, obviously because cable isn't a better mousetrap. It's good content and fast, cheap Internet access and well-maintained lines and competent customer service -- fundamentals where Comcast is at least good, and sometimes very good. This could end up some comfort to AT&T's @Home customers who have been switched and subsequently frustrated by Ma Cable's inadequate customer support and technical assistance. And as for Microsoft, it shares Armstrong's bizarre vision of shifting the locus of the Internet from the computer to the more comforting television, and has now got a giant provider with which it can do business. This too is unlikely to become a better mousetrap -- especially when consumers noodle out (or discover the hard way) what the near-future of digital rights management really means to their entertainment budgets -- but Hell, ya gotta dream. ®
Thomas C Greene, 20 Dec 2001

PayPal spoof site sought credit details

A rather poor spam memo urging PayPal users to log into a spoof site and claim a five-dollar credit by 'updating their records' (i.e., giving up their credit-card details) appears not to have fooled many people. As a discussion on one of eBay's forums indicates, the spam message contained far too many errors to be convincing. The hints included awkward syntax, bad punctuation, failure to include the PayPal logo in the message body and a link to a non-SSL Web page at the novel 'paypal-secure.com', which was promptly removed by its host as soon as PayPal learned of the scam. Nevertheless it's inevitable that at least some sleepy Netizens followed the link and cooperated with the tricksters. PayPal says they've not received any complaints from the duped; but we reckoned it worth contacting paypal-secure's host to see if their logs showed any evidence that the scam had worked. The spoof site was hosted by the EasyHosting division of Canadian outfit Look Communications. A good fifteen minutes of attempting without success to negotiate their telephone answering apparatus (fully automated for our convenience) discouraged us from this effort. We gave up, and offer our condolences to their customers. So we don't know if anyone was in fact taken in by this ruse, but if the following spam memo seems familiar to anyone, they should contact their credit card issuer immediately. Season's Greetings Valued PayPal Customer; As the New Year approaches and as we all get ready to move a year ahead, PayPal would like to give you a $5 credit to your account! All you have to do to claim your $5 gift from us is update your information on our secure Pay Pal site by January 1st, 2002. A year brings a lot of changes, by updating your information with us you will allow for us to continue providing you and our valued customer service with excellent service and in the meantime, keep our records straight! To update your information now and to receive $5 in your PayPal account instantly, click this link: http://www.paypal-secure.com/cgi-bin/webscr.pl?em=youremail@yourprovider.com Thank you for using PayPal.com and helping us grow to be the largest of our kind! Sincerely wishing you a very "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," PayPal Team One shudders to think how well this scam might have worked if our tricksters had only mastered that ubiquitous English dialect known as commercialese. ®
Thomas C Greene, 20 Dec 2001