23rd > April > 2002 Archive

Gates pitches Armageddon scenario to court

If the Unsettling States have their way, Microsoft will either have to withdraw Windows or put out versions of the product that probably won't work, Bill Gates testified at the antitrust trial yesterday. Furthermore, if I Microsoft employee had an idea, they'd be in contempt of court if they didn't immediately pass it on to the major PC companies. Oh yes, and Microsoft would disintegrate. Bill, poised, sophisticated, in a dark suit with a light blue shirt (as the fashion correspondents tell us) was delivering the full-on Armageddon scenario, and not mumbling or being evasive once (outrageous, insufferably literal, yes). The pull out or ship broken product argument is fairly easy to follow, and has a kind of perverted merit. In his written testimony he said: ""Given the interdependencies among parts of Windows, and the complexity of the product, there is no clear dividing line between where a particular block ends and the operating system begins." This is no more than the truth, although as we all know Microsoft has engineered a fair bit of this deliberately in order to make it difficult for them to be disentangled. But questioned about the DoJ settlement Gates conceded that the company is working on identifying where the boundaries between operating system and applications lie. The States' attorney's point here was that if Microsoft could do this for the DoJ, why not the States? But actually, the fact that Microsoft has to put teams of coders on figuring out what's what is more telling. In many cases the company really does not know, because development has proceeded haphazardly with no clear records, no clear central control of who's doing what, and inadequate/incorrect documentation. Yesterday Bill appears to have been inadvertently confirming to us that he is a manufacturer of inadequately architected bloat, and that this is the way the greatest software company in the world proposes to continue to do business. In the interests of good software design and civilisation in general The Register feels strongly that Microsoft should be forced to disentangle it all anyway, no matter how hard its own incompetence and mendacity has made the task. We also feel it should be ordered to design proper software, but we accept this doesn't figure directly in the States' proposals. But back to Bill. He also had some interesting things to say on cloning Windows, arguing that the States proposals would allow rivals to clone Windows. He was then shown email dealing with Microsoft's efforts to clone aspects of Netscape Navigator. Bill accepted that Microsoft had engaged in cloning activities, but said this was OK provided you didn't have access to the source code. The notion of companies cloning Windows is however not obviously related to the States' proposals for OEMs to be allowed to do tailored versions of Windows, and for companies to have access to Microsoft source code. Microsoft's obsession with this, we reckon, must mean WABI really scared Bill all those years ago. The States' produced one incriminating Gates email, from 1998, which dealt with stopping non-Microsoft browsers being able to work well with Office: "Allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other people's browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company. This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destroy Windows." At this juncture, as we recall, Gates was still sort of favouring the screwy idea of using Microsoft proprietory file formats to dominate the Internet, so the email probably relates to stuff that's now largely abandoned. And that contempt of court stuff? The most interesting thing about it is that it was brought up in Gates' written testimony, so despite its being a clearly demented notion, this is something he and the legal team have put forward after some consideration, rather than a nutty notion that spilled out in a courtroom blurt. Microsoft employees having ideas would be in violation of the disclosure provisions if they didn't immediately tell the relevant people about that idea: "The minute it came into his brain, the guy's in criminal contempt," he said. Asked if the provisions didn't just mean they'd have to make the disclosures when they employed the code, Bill retorted that thinking was employing. So there you go. If this is how Microsoft is interpreting the disclosure provisions, and if the States actually succeed in making them stick, Compaq, Dell, Gateway, HP et al will be bombarded by idea disclosure alerts from Bill during his very next think week. Otherwise, he'd have to go to jail, right? ®
John Lettice, 23 Apr 2002
server room

Itanic: It's all academic now – Official

The name Itanic, coined here several years ago by Mike Magee, for Intel's IA-64 processor has been formally adopted by academia. Nick Weaver, a 28-year old graduate student and researcher, teaches computer science classes at the University of California's Berkeley school, and as you can see from his "special topics" class, week 16 next month will be devoted to the "Voyage of the Itanic". "Itanic describes the architecture very well," he tells us, explaining that the processor contains great ideas and "beautiful features" that ultimately were compromised by terrible subsequent design choices and "feature creep". We invited him to elaborate: "The first good idea was one they explored several years ago in a paper from HP. That explains that if you have 64 or 28 registers with 64 or 128 condition registers and every instruction is being conditionally executed, then to get to a statically-scheduled superscalar - you'd get benefits of VLIW- issue logic, which is very simple, without the upgrade problem that VLIW has." What upgrade problem? "VLIW doesn't scale because the compiler statically issues for the number of function units in the VLIW architecture . So for a new version of VLIW you have to recompile. Transmeta gets around this by always recompiling, and it's not a problem in the DSP community. But it is a problem if you want to do a 'general purpose' processor" Nick commends deferred exception handling and low-cost checkpointing as two "beautiful features" of the IA-64 architecture. "This also interacts well with the speculative techniques derived from the first part: You can speculatively execute both sides of a branch, allow cache misses to be errors which are deferred, and you only take the penalty if there is both a cache miss which is on the branch who's result you want. They make this very nice by propagating error conditions. Icebergs But then the trouble began. His lecture calls Itanic an "unquestionable disaster..."greatly increasing implementation complexity without really providing a benefit to either compiler writers or to performance". Like what? "The rotating register file, and the register window notion - they have a thousand registers in there, and the larger the register file the slower it is and the more it costs. "The rotating register file is there to make software pipelining easier - fills - but it's not actually a big win - and if you ask the compiler writers they go 'why do you this?'". The register window also incurs a performance penalty when doing garbage collection, he suggests. "The other issue is that combining both features requires that the processor be able to effectively arbitrarily remap a number of logical registers - 128 to the physical registers, which number arounda a thousand. This occurs in a traditional out-of-order machine, but the whole point of EPIC is was to enable lots of parallelism without introducing these complications." As for the future, he says it isn't completely hopeless. " Once you add a feature to the instruction set it's hard to take it away," he tells us. Itanic could be helped by a process shrink and wider issue width, by real vector (Cray-like) instructions, but most of all by compiler improvements. "The right compiler can theoretically allow Itanium to issue 6 instructions/cycle, but at the same time, if the compiler speculates too heavily, this wastes too much effort and performance suffers." "The MMX and SSD [Screaming Sindy] instruction sets were attempts to build a vector ISA, but they have a few issues, notably too small a vector. Vector machines have a bit of a bad reputation today, one that is, in my opinion unjustified. Yammer the Hammer No, he hasn't seen what he describes as "rumors" of Yamhill, Intel's own 64bit skunkworks project, but commends AMD's Hammer as a better approach. "I think AMD is on the right track," says Nick. "They've made the core simpler, and that makes it smaller, leaving room for much larger caches." "The Hammer approach is 'we know how to do a CISC to RISC, how to make that RISC very fast, we know what few changes in the instruction set architecture would make it lots better - 16 general purpose registers, 16 floating point registers instead of the 8 entry stack from the 386 days - so let's do that'. "This also gave them the ability to really concentrate on the interfaces. The memory interface is on the processor, and the traditional bus has been replaced by networks to communicate with the I/O. This allows glueless 4 way SMP setups, better I/O bandwidth, and better memory latency. It cuts out the chipset when going to memory, which saves 2 pin crossings and a bunch of traditionally slower chipset logic." "If you want backward compatibility and performance, go Hammer," he recommends. "If you want backward compatibility and performance isn't such an issue, buy Transmeta to translate that old code." Just my opinion, says Nick. Anyone beg to differ? ®
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Apr 2002

Yahoo! settles! yodel! case!

Wylie Gustafson - the yodelling cowboy responsible for the distinctive sound of Yahoo! - has settled his case with the Internet giant. Details of the settlement have not been disclosed but Mr Gustafson is reportedly delighted with what's on the table. Indeed, one report claims Mr Gustafson let out an ecstatic "ya-hoooooooo!" when he spoke to a journalist about Yahoo!'s decision to settle. Last week it emerged that Mr Gustafson was suing Yahoo! for $5 million claiming that the Internet company had used his yodel on its commercials without paying for it. Yahoo!'s decision to move swiftly will, no doubt, have come as a surprise to some folk. But that aside, the most lasting effect of this case will surely be the fact that Mr Gustafson has been introduced to a whole new audience. El Reg for one will be keeping its eye on his Web site just in case Mr Gustafson and his musical friends decide to tour the UK. ® Related Story Yahoo! sued! by! yodelling! cowboy!
Tim Richardson, 23 Apr 2002

Overture expands United Online deal

Overture Services Inc has expanded its relationship with United Online Inc, the budget consumer ISP, to allow access to millions of new subscribers, the companies said yesterday. Overture, which already provides its advertising/search engine to NetZero, will, from May, provide its pay-per-performance text ads to Juno, United's other brand. Juno and NetZero combines have 5.6 million subscribers, 1.45 million of which take billable services. But Overture declined to comment on ongoing talks aimed at renewing its contract with America Online Inc, one of its biggest customers. The companies have set a deadline of this Wednesday to come to an agreement on their revenue-sharing arrangement. Overture gets about 40% of its revenue from its portal partners, but faces new competition from companies such as Google Inc, which has won at least one customer from it recently. Losing AOL would have a noticeably financial impact on the firm, and has been the subject of much investor concern of late. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 23 Apr 2002

Japanese PC Sales fall 12th month in a row

Japan last month recorded its 12th straight decline in monthly PC sales, despite a 34.9% increase in unit shipments on March 2001. The month-on-month shipments data showed a 4.6% decline, and a 9.6% fall in sequential quarterly shipments. GfK Japan, which derives its monthly PC shipment data from a regular survey of 3,400 volume retailers of home electric appliances in Japan, noted that the final week in March retained its status as a peak Spring shopping period in Japan, but sales were still down on last year. The only growth GfK cold find in the market was in the notebook sector, where March sales grew year-on-year 5.3%, and 1.4% sequentially. Desktop sales, however, fell back 21.9% month-on-month. GfK also said that fewer consumers said they expect to buy new PCs in the coming year, suggesting that the downward trend may have at least another 12 months to run. © ComputerWire. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 23 Apr 2002

EDGE will happen

Mobile phone technologies used to be mapped out clearly. GSM, HSCSD, GPRS, EDGE and UMTS, but most networks are playing hop, skip and jump. They've skipped HSCSD, will they jump over EDGE? Simon Rockman, publisher of What Mobile, thinks this would be a mistake. Like most mobile phone acronyms EDGE is as meaningless spelt out as it is when presented in its compact form. Enhanced Data for GSM environments, so EDFG, but not as catchy. EDGE takes mobile phone data speeds and triples them. You need to be very careful with such things: memory capacities and processor speeds have grown at a rate which always astounds, but bandwidth, and particularly mobile bandwidth, consistently disappoints. Mobile data ran at 9600 bps in 1995 and today, for the vast majority of people, it still does. Every new technology which is presented with a high data rate ends up being much, much slower. GPRS was originally touted as being capable of 171kbps. We've seen a ceiling of 48kbps to receive and 24kbps to transmit. Third generation, originally touted at 2048kbs, is now being promoted at 384kbps best case 64kbps most of the time. Taking the 48kbps and tripling it to 144kbps suddenly starts to look very powerful. How will the world take to that power? It's a question I've been asking the major decision makers in the mobile phone industry for the last six months. Close to the Edge "Will EDGE happen?" - a question that seems to demand a binary answer and yet results in fuzzy logic. The most common answer from handset manufacturers is: "If our customers want it we will make it". But if their customers wanted a phone with bright pink spots they would make that too. A second answer is that the people who want EDGE are those who don't have a 3G licence. Which is to say France's Bouygues Telecom. My opinion is that EDGE will happen. The networks want 3G, but they can't have it. They have spent their billions on licences and need to use that to make the money back. They will develop the systems, technologies and services to generate extra revenue. Gambling, gaming and pornography. Watch the video streamed horse race and bet on it. Play backgammon with a bloke in Boston, or text message with a girl in Amsterdam. All from the back of the bus. But the networks won't have the infrastructure, there won't be the 3G systems to deliver these services and so they will resort to EDGE. It's expensive but better than waiting another five years to see the income streams they need. To a company with a 3G licence it is a brave decision. It's admitting to the banks and shareholders that the £6bn piece of paper isn't worth anything just yet. It's a statement O2 isn't prepared to make. The O2 line is that EDGE isn't necessary, 3G will be here soon enough to deliver the services. It's a fanciful view. History has shown that technology takes a long time to roll out. O2 announced GPRS in the summer of 2000 and started trials in November 2000. Today the consumer service is still only WAP access, unless you are a corporate customer you can't use it to pick up your email. Vodafone and Orange both have full GPRS. Vodafone has had press briefings but Orange deems it a soft launch, if you ask they will tell you that it is available, there is nothing aimed at selling it. GPRS is a year late. GPRS is quite a simple upgrade, just think how late 3G is going to be, a system which needs horribly expensive handsets, tens of thousands of new base stations, many of them in the face of anti-mobile campaigners and an untried business model. It's not a technology problem, it is a business case problem, as John Thode, vice president and general manager of 3G products of Motorola, points out. Traditionally, handset manufacturers make the running with technology, committing huge resources to get it working in the hope of making a sale. The leading company making the headway and helping the networks does this in the hope that the networks will commit to their handsets. And then they hope the networks won't switch when something else comes along. It's "The hen contributed to the breakfast, the pig was committed" school of business. In the future Motorola doesn't want to be the pig. It wants to see ongoing commitment from the network - otherwise it won't develop the handsets. Or at least it says it won't: the new Motorola A820 sounds pretty close to production. Whither 3G? Ask Chris Hall of Manx Telecom when the number of 3G subscribers he has will overtake the number of GSM ones and he has to think. Manx telecom is the best possible case for 3G. There was no licence fee to recover. Inhabitants of the Isle of Man pay a maximum of 18% tax which attracts many of the wealthiest people in the country. O2, NEC and Siemens are building the network to learn about the technology. It's got huge advantages over most of the world. Yet Chris Hall doesn't see a rapid take up of his third generation phones. When pushed, the bullish and enthusiastic man predicts it will take six years for number of 3G subscribers to match the number of GSM subscribers on the island. This does not bode well for the rest of the world where there are significant financial and logistical hurdles. If the leading 3G site in Europe reaches 3G mass market status only in 2008, the vast majority of the world is looking at well into the next decade. The protestations of those who have spent billions on third generation are starting to sound like the readers who write to car magazines when their new car has just had a bad review. The Orange view that we will look back at £5bn and think it cheap sounds hollow. I think that EDGE will happen at GSM frequencies and I think we will see GSM use the 2.4GHz spectrum of 3G. The networks, faced with the need to roll out their new services and the lack of 3G infrastructure or handsets, will look to see a return on their 3G expenditure. To call it an 'investment' is flattery. Mexican stand-off The networks will say to the government: "We can't sell all the services we need to pay for our licences in our 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum, can we use the 3G frequencies for GSM". And the Government will say: "No, that wasn't the terms of the licence." So Vodafone will point to 650 redundancies, O2 to 1900 redundancies and say: "OK, how many more cuts do you want us to make." And the government will say: "Oh, OK, we suppose that you have paid for that spectrum so you can do what you want with it." So will EDGE fill the gap? Keith Woolcock of Nomura looks to another technology. He thinks that wireless networks are the way forward, that 802.11 which gives a comfortable 2Mbs, if not the future, will fill the gap between 9.6kbps and 384kbps. But the CTO of Ericsson points out that to cover the area filled by one GSM cell you need 10,000 802.11 cells. Worse, hand-off isn't so well sorted and perhaps the final problem is that while 802.11 looks attractive as a technical solution there is no billing mechanism. Which means there's no relationship between the users and the customers. You can't look to the mobile phone networks to install 802.11 when they are committed to 3G. The best billing model is Starbucks - all the bytes you want as long as you buy our coffee. It's fine for them (and after all Wrigleys chewing gum turned into a business empire after being started as a free gift with flour). But no-one is going to drink that much coffee. Perhaps the most compelling argument that 3G will not be late and that EDGE will not fill the gap comes from Ed Moore, the CTO of Carphone Warehouse. He points out that the GSM networks are between six and eight years old. All technology starts to creak after time. They also have around 10 million customers paying around £20 a month. If you start to add new technology on top of these old foundations you stand a good chance of breaking the system, and then you start to imperil that revenue stream. If EDGE broke one network for just a day the cost would be far more than the cost of losing approaching a million pounds for that day's calls. Customers would deem it as unreliable and migrate to rivals. Market share would dive. So EDGE looks risky. It's a compelling argument, but the networks have been here before: they understand how to roll out new technologies and they don't have to imperil the whole network at once. What's more, networks are now multinational, they can try it in one territory and see if it works, and if it does, what that does to call revenue before trying elsewhere. The final views on why EDGE will happen come from Motorola and Nokia. Motorola once had the strategy of: "We build it and hope they will com." That is dead, yet Ron Garriques waved the unannounced T720 at me and revealed: "This is our first EDGE phone." He expects them to do more. Motorola is particularly good at this kind of technology, it is the leader in GPRS and is the only company which has the PBCCH technology which is necessary to charge for data by the type of packet, so horoscopes can be cheaper than stock prices. It's something the networks really want and are sacrificing because other handset manufacturers, especially Nokia, cannot do it. But Annsi Vanjoki of Nokia also believes in EDGE. And Not to the detriment of 3G. He presents a compelling argument irrespective of when 3G happens. The world wants more bandwidth. People playing games, playing with themselves or gambling don't care about the acronyms necessary for their pleasures: they want the services. Vanjoki believes that all the technologies will succeed in parallel. As we become a more wired, wireless world the need for bandwidth will be insatiable, we'll need EDGE not as a stepping stone to 3G but as a supplement, a way to make use of radio spectrum to deliver the revenue the networks need. Spectrum is usually portrayed as a finite resource, but it isn't. We've seen technology improve to cope with much higher and lower frequencies and to make more use of the space with faster processors and smarter programmers improving compression, EDGE is just another part of that picture. The people who say it is a stepping stone to 3G, and in particular a stepping stone we can jump over, are missing the point. Of course time will tell who is right, the US networks which are adopting GSM 1900 and 850 are ordering EDGE, but the US is a long way behind the rest of the world in mobile phones. It isn't really a matter of who is right and who is wrong, but of who is most right. By betting on all horses Nokia and Motorola know they will win and I would say that O2 has been most wrong. © What Mobile. All rights reserved.
Team Register, 23 Apr 2002

Microsoft accuses industry of Web services hype

Days after postponing its flagship .NET My Services, Microsoft Corp has blamed industry hype for unleashing a potential backlash from customers angry that web services have been oversold, Gavin Clarke writes. Charles Fitzgerald, general manager of Microsoft's .NET platform strategies, is reported to have said Microsoft's biggest fear is customers become bored of web services before they are delivered. Fitzgerald blamed hype for falsely raising expectations. Fitzgerald said some vendors lacked real technology to back-up web services. "There is a lot of bandwagon jumping going on, from people that are in no way grounded in this. Our concern is that those who are patently just along for the ride are setting some unreasonable expectations," Silicon.com reported. Sun was singled out for a web services campaign he characterized as "new name, same old rubbish". He claimed Sun's Open Net Environment (ONE) was part of an "utterly schizophrenic" software strategy, as the company first dismissed web services as "smoke and mirrors". Sun recently re-branded its entire applications and tools line under the ONE brand. Fitzgerald's comments come just days after Microsoft admitted it has pushed out delivery for the flagship .NET My Services, following hostile customer feedback. The company has conceded to demands that .NET My Services can be hosted by third parties such as ASPs, ISPs and ISVs, inside and enterprise firewall, and have the ability to add new services from third parties such as .NET My Travel. Microsoft's decision to postpone .NET My Services, due in the Fall of 2002, has pulled the rug from underneath customers and partners. Early adopters include Bank One Corp, Monster.com and partners such as McAffee.com who have committed to .NET My Alerts as a means to notify consumers of important information. .NET My Alerts is part of Microsoft's 14 .NET My Services. Bank One's $30m deal was to have seen customers notified of relevant financial information, such as account activity. Bank One called that deal " a little blue sky" but said it was a "down payument" on a strategy to deliver web-based financial tools to 60 million individual, businesses and investment customers. One company offering .NET My Alerts, who requested anonymity, said it was now unclear whether Microsoft would proceed with .NET My Alerts. The customer added Microsoft was partly responsible for the hype, and was now potentially fuelling the boredom and disillusionment that Fitzgerald spoke of. "We feel like we are guinea pig customers. This is an indication that commercial web services are not going to take off as much as Microsoft believed. Microsoft touted the network world, but they can't figure out the business model," the customer said. Microsoft is no stranger to hype. Windows 95 launched amid a media frenzy engineered by Microsoft among national publications and broadcasters. The company subsequently moved to quell this, claiming surprise at some reports and adding Windows 95 was " no cure for cancer. Jim Allchin, group vice president, last year confidentially predicted Windows XP would revive PC sales. Microsoft helped engender hype around web services with .NET My Services, since their launch in March 2001. Bob Muglia, Microsoft's former group vice president of the .NET services group and now group vice president of the enterprise storage services group, said at the launch: "This as a shift in business models for the Internet. "I've been at Microsoft for 13 years, and we're just talking about... and I can say this for an absolute certainty, that it's been a long time since we, those of us who have been putting this together, have had this kind of excitement about the potential for how this can transform the industry, and help people." Disillusionment with web services, though, was bound to set-in. Analysts earlier this year predicted the setback of the expected date for widespread delivery of web services until early 2003. GartnerGroup recently said that web services faces "serious challenges" in proving its immediate value. The analyst said the real value of web services would become apparent once the technology matures, once vendors' business models become robust and once users have a clear understanding of the applicability to their own needs. © ComputerWire. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 23 Apr 2002

WorldCom reduces revenue guidance

WorldCom Inc revised its guidance downwards for 2002, knocking $1bn off previously given estimates, and increasing doubts about the company's long-term prospects. The Clinton, Mississippi-based said its core unit, WorldCom Group, would make full year revenue of between $21bn and $21.5bn, compared to its previous forecast of between $22.2bn and $22.6bn. EBITDA expectations have also been lowered to between $7bn and $7.5bn. The company said it still expects to generate $1bn of free cash flow from operations during the year, and it has reduced its capital expenditure program to $4.5bn from $5.0bn to $5.5bn. The reduced forecast paints a gloomy picture for WorldCom's future. Although profitable, its debts of $29bn create interest charges that it looks incapable of continuing to pay in the long term without a complete restructuring. The profit warning, which was issued after hours on Friday, caused its Nasdaq-listed shares to sink 30% in early trading yesterday. © ComputerWire. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 23 Apr 2002

Sheffield gets the e-vote

People in Sheffield are to get the chance to vote electronically in the forthcoming city council elections in a move designed to combat voter apathy. Yesterday Sheffield City Council unveiled a new Web site, EvoteSheffield.com which it hopes will persuade young voters to vote online or via text message. The site is part of an e-voting pilot and also provides information about how people can vote without having to use a traditional ballot box. Although tailored for a youth audience, e-voting is open to all registered voters in three selected Sheffield City wards. Andrew Murphy of election.com, one of the site's developers, said: "If young people are going to participate in democracy it is vital that the information they receive is relevant to their lifestyle. "...EvoteSheffield.com [is] designed to communicate key facts about the voting process in a way young people are used to," he said. In the 2001 General election only 39 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds voted, raising concerns about voter apathy. A poll found that four out of ten people didn't vote because they said it was either inconvenient or they didn't have time. It's hoped that e-voting techniques will tackle this problem and encourage more people to take part in the democratic process. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Apr 2002

Feel My Pain! – mapping the mind of Chairman Bill

Herb Caen once wrote that the sprawling night fog that fills the San Francisco Bay could be precisely mapped in the mind of the listener from the sound of a dozen foghorns, each one of which was tuned to a different pitch. You can build up a similar picture of the mind of Bill Gates from his epic written deposition. For here, in no less than 43,000 words is Mappi Bill. Or 464 legal points, many of which are an anxious toot or blast each tuned to a slightly differing pitch of paranoia. Some you've heard before, and some you haven't - such as the threat to withdraw Windows from market within six months [par 183], or the reclassification of Embedded Windows XP as "a set of tools", not an operating system. Or the claim that Internet Explorer browser development costs Microsoft $100 million a year[par 234]. The latter we calculate as enough to employ over 1,000 engineers at current market salaries. Anyone who's watched IE innovation slow to a crawl since 1999 - since when we've had the addition of a print preview feature, and little else of note - may well ask what they're all doing. Much as we love the 'scrapbook' feature of IE for the Macintosh, it doesn't add up to three thousand man years' worth of innovation. But we digress. Perhaps the most extraordinary part of his written performance is its context. Remember: this is the plea for clemency from a convicted criminal. Microsoft was found guilty two years ago, and large parts of the conviction were upheld on appeal. The current hearings are being held to resolve the punishment. Now when murderers appeal for their sentences to be commuted, it's usually on the grounds of diminished responsibility. They don't argue that the sentence should be rejected because it deprives them of patronizing their favorite eateries. Perhaps our take on the Judaic-Christian tradition of justice is a little naive, but we've always kinda assumed that when you've been found to have done wrong, the punishment is supposed to hurt. Murderers - either civic or corporate - don't get to choose their own sentence. Although the inkies this morning paint Gates' testimony as a return to sanity and coherence, his regal, novella-length, deposition suggests otherwise. Those 43,000 words explain how badly the proposed remedy will harm the convicted company. Which rather misses the point, and suggests that his grasp on reality - and contempt for the judicial system - is just as shaky as it was in his video deposition first time round, when he quibbled over the meaning of the word "the", and, when challenged with authoring a particularly incriminating memo, bleated that "the computer wrote it!" In fact Gates inadvertently, and surely unconsciously, suggests a picture of thriving innovation in a post-settlement Windows world. One where OEMs, spurred by the freedom to differentiate their OS offerings, add their own innovations, the winners and losers determined by the Darwinian competition that free markets are supposed to stage. Of course Bill doesn't quite see it like that. He also admits - and again it's subliminal - that clones of Windows such as KDE's Desktop remove the incentive for Microsoft to profit from ubiquitous elements such as the "Start" button. Now imagine if a company, let's call it HighwayCorp., owned a monopoly on using the word "STOP' on signs at road intersections, forcing competitors to devise ingenious ways to portray the same message. We'd fairly soon decide that 'STOP' wasn't the sole property of any single company, and force HighwayCorp to ensure its signs compete on other merits, such as the reflectiveness of the paint, or their durability against attack by trigger-happy NRA members. (This metaphor isn't completely accidental, as attentive readers will know). Commodification has always been the enemy of Microsoft, and many of those four hundred legal points convey the same fear. Here's the most emblematic. Feel Bill's pain 217... if Microsoft were obligated to allow ISVs to clone all the functions of all the "Microsoft Middleware Products" in Windows, Microsoft's ability to improve Windows would be hampered because the interfaces between modules would necessarily be "frozen" so that third parties could write to them. Given the large number of "Microsoft Middleware Products" in Windows under Section 22.x, the effect would be to freeze large parts of Windows. As John Lettice points out in his summary of Bill's live testimony, Windows clones such as Sun's WABI truly did frighten the bejesus out of Microsoft. They always have: in 1993 Brad Silverberg explained to Andrew "Undocumented DOS" Schulman that Microsoft must keep changing the APIs to prevent Windows being cloned and commodified. But the argument falls down when you remember the noble software tradition of backward compatibility. Microsoft itself is as aware of this as anyone else, carrying the burden of years of legacy code: it's careful to extend API functions with extra parameters, ensuring that they fail gracefully if the most modern library isn't present underneath. Microsoft wisely prefers this approach to obsoleting whole regiments of API functions, and in fact hasn't carried out a serious purge since the move to Win32 almost a decade ago. Bill isn't finished, though. 272. Over the long-term, modifications to Windows by individual OEMs acting in their short-term self interest would present a classic tragedy of the commons problem. Just as a lake that is fished too heavily soon will support no one, the PC ecosystem as a whole will suffer if the stability and consistency of Windows is not maintained... Doublethink plus If you're looking for the most startling example of doublethink, look no further. It's a godsend, in that it confirms Gates innate fear of competition, and suspicion of free and open markets. For the Tragedy of the Commons is the classic knock-down-Ginger that trumps many classical libertarian approaches to supply and demand, as Hayek acknowledged. But what commons, and what ecosystem? Ask any venture capitalist who's been asked for funding for a PC software startup in the past decade. In the name of "integration", most opportunities for thriving utility markets have been extinguished by Microsoft's desire to have a piece of the pay. Usually at the expense of the "competition". The biggest overgrazer on these commons has been Microsoft itself. Which brings us to the nub of the case: the lofty, imperious tone of Gates' deposition - he really believes he single-handedly brought about a horizontal computer industry, saving the world in the process - and the contempt and fear in which Microsoft is held by almost everyone else in the business. This can be rationalized by entertaining the idea that while Microsoft is conceptually A Good Thing, the actual implementation is awful. Gary Kildall's Digital Research had the idea first, was once in pole position, and on the evidence of some rather arcane and very old technical documentation we saw recently, was very much planning for the 1990s at the moment Gates thought he was buying a clone (a clone, mark you) of DRI's CP/M operating system. Forget the whimsical folklore about flying planes, Digital Research was simply considered too powerful at the time to make star billing when IBM launched its PC, and was handed an effectively worthless bit-part as the expensive "third choice" when the PC launched in 1981. You could hardly buy it, for love nor money. But that's another story. Therapists typically base the nuttiness of a patient on the strength of their convictions, on which basis this 43,000 word opus alone stands as a kind of testament to Bill's madness. But in the context of an enforceable remedy, and in pointing out ambiguities in the prosecution's arguments, the Chairman actually makes a reasonable legal if not morally-justifiable case. The weakness of the "middleware" remedy we'll explore in our next instalment, dear readers. ® Related Stories Gates pitches Armageddon scenario to court
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Apr 2002

Telewest trials 1Mb broadband service

Telewest is to trial a 1Mb cable Internet service in Scotland. Some 1,500 Telewest punters in Scotland are to be offered the chance to take part in the four-week trial. If successful, the cableco intends to make the service available nationwide sometime in the summer, although no date has yet been set for the launch. Neither has Telewest said yet how much the service will cost. However, The Register understands that the cableco is hoping to undercut the £49.99 NTL charges for its recently-launched 1Mb service laucnhed in March. Telewest punters in Scotland interested in talking part in the trial should check out evenfaster.blueyonder.co.uk for further details. ® Related Story NTL to offer 1Mb broadband service
Tim Richardson, 23 Apr 2002

Siemens joins Symbian club

A new member is joining the Symbian software club and is paying EUR22.8m for the privilege. Step forward Siemens, which gets a five per cent stake in Symbian for its money. Symbian makes the software for high-end mobile phones and PDAs - but there's not too many of them around right now. And Microsoft is gunning hard for the same customers. Until the big royalties come, Symbian remains heavily lossmaking. Siemens is already a Symbian licensee and it now has a seat at top table, alongside Sony/Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Matsushita and, of course, Psion. ®
Drew Cullen, 23 Apr 2002

Carphone Warehouse resumes Nokia 8210 sales

Carphone Warehouse's PR machine has creaked into gear, furnishing us today with the following statement: The Carphone Warehouse has resumed selling Nokia 8210s with effect from Saturday 20th April 2002. The recent issue with the product has now been resolved. On April 19 we reported the retail chain had suspended sales of this handset, citing problems with faulty screens. ®
Drew Cullen, 23 Apr 2002

Police arrest 25 members of child porn ring

Police have arrested 25 members of a Net child porn ring in 10 countries. The haul includes proven real-life abusers as well as traffickers of pornography, which is very unusual, according to the Danish police who led the investigation. Thirty five children have also been identified, all of whom had been sexually abused. The case kicked off last November, when Danish police arrested a couple, after a tip-off from Swedish police who had found pictures of a man raping an 11-year old girl posted on a Web site. The man was wearing a shirt with the logo of a Danish company. Arrests were made in the US, with two people picked up in San Diego, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Switzerland and Germany. Arrests were also made in four other European countries, which the police declined to name. The full story can be found at Ananova. ®
Drew Cullen, 23 Apr 2002

Hynix union comes out fighting

South Korea's unions are possibly the most ferocious in the developed world, and the brothers at Hynix are no exception. They hate the Micron deal, struck yesterday, which will see Hynix become a Micron sub for $3.4bn in shares, and they're threatening to go on strike - not because of the terms, but because they don't want Micron, Full stop. Take a look at the sentiments expressed in this Reuters report. "What's the rush at a time when chip prices are rapidly rebounding? We are ready to sacrifice anything to block the sale," the Hynix union said in a statement. "A job guarantee after Micron takes over Hynix is not the main issue. We opposed the sale and we would stage a strike if creditors accept the MOU," said Huh Jung-woo, a leader of Hynix's union. Micron has guaranteed to retain at least 85 per cent of Hynix employees for two years after completion of the takeover. Doesn't look like that's enough: unfortunately, it can do little about the fact that it is American - the main bone of contention with its putative employees. If the Hynix union does call anything longer than a symbolic walk-out, then the Korean company could end up in really serious trouble. ®
Drew Cullen, 23 Apr 2002

For sale: bust computer breaker

UpdateUpdate Our attention was drawn today by an ad in today's FT offering three related scrap businesses, all in administration, but only one for sale as a going concern. Of particular note is NECP (Computers) Ltd, a prominent computer breaker firm, operating at the grubby end of computer recycling. It's "not going forward", unlike the tyre recycling business. Interested? Then call Gary Bell of Begbies Traynor on 0161 839 0900, You better be quick, though: word on the street is that there's a buyer for the tyre assets already lined up. This is Cleanaway, a major European waste management operator. According to NECP's entry in ICER's (The Industry Council of Electronic Recycling) directory, NECP "operates at three sites, each licensed by the Environment Agency to process electronic waste and 'special waste' intrinsic to equipment,". The company does its electronics waste 'granulation' at the main site in Ashton Under Lyne, near Manchester, while the other two sites concentrate on the tyre recycling. Three/four years ago, NECP was a thriving computer breaking business, according to Begbies Traynor. But the company got caught in a double whammy with volumes falling since then and metal prices - palladium, gold, lead etc. - dropping. There's quite a good market for recycled tyre materials, but there's little call for recycled electronics waste - yet. Until the WEEE Directive kicks in, electronic waste treatment prices are too low to sustain many profitable businesses. Companies and consumers don't like paying directly for waste - they don't mind when it's hidden in taxes, or overall prices. But until WEEE forces companies to change their behaviour over disposal and recycling, they will always take the cheaper, dirtier route. ®
Drew Cullen, 23 Apr 2002

BTo digs in for marketing push

BTopenworld has signed up six companies to help push its broadband service to the masses. Rymans, Toys 'R' Us, Nationwide, Iceland, mmO2 and Northern Electric have all agreed to help distribute more than a quarter of a million broadband registration CDs. Today's announcement builds on a distribution deal already in place with music chain HMV. BTo reckons these deals show that there is real demand for broadband. We shall see. At least you now know which businesses to avoid if you don't want to come face-to-face with BTo marketing stuff. Elsewhere, BT is to unveil details of its "no frills" broadband service tomorrow. BT Retail chief exec, Pierre Danon, is expected to flesh out plans for the service, which were first announced two weeks ago. Many ISPs have declined to comment on the new service until the full details have been released. Privately, though, some ISPs are concerned that this could be another attempt by BT to dominate the broadband landscape in the UK. A spokeswoman for telecoms regulator declined to comment on the new product until after its launch. ® Related Story BT to launch cheaper 'no frills' ADSL service
Tim Richardson, 23 Apr 2002

Gates testimony a PR jewel

I hope that if I should ever turn to a life of crime and am eventually prosecuted for my wrongdoing and found guilty, I'll be allowed to dictate my punishment to the federal government, just like Microsoft. I hope as well that I'll be permitted to reject state-imposed punishments based on some irrelevant set of purely speculative consequences. Now you're thinking, 'what rubbish -- punishment is adapted to suit the crime, not to accommodate the criminal.' But if you read Bill Gates' committee-written prepared testimony in answer to the nay-saying states, you'll see that this is precisely the treatment he expects. Microsoft must not be punished severely for its antitrust violations because it single-handedly liberated the entire computing industry from domination by a handful of malevolent corporate giants, Bill explains. It was MS that brought about a 'standard computing platform' and so rescued us from the sledgehammer-usury of IBM on the one hand, and the naive anarchy of the Homebrew Computer Club and the commercial chaos all that implied. Terrifying stuff to be sure; but the Great Leader wisely pioneered a safe route between the bondage of giants and the anarchy of consensus. A virtual Shackleton he was. "[MS] was not much of a business in its early years -- just Paul, me and a small group of developers we hired banging out code day and night in spartan offices in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But it was a labor of love," The Chairman says, borrowing liberally from his official hagiography. And so it came about that cheap but not free software and cheap but not free ISA hardware should beget an industry now crucial to the survival of the world's leading commercial powers. But all this self-promotion is mere preparation for the core hustle -- not, as we might expect, a review of past good works to negotiate leniency, but an appeal that the proposed remedy of de-linking Windows from its 'middleware' and opening its APIs is simply too inconvenient. Such punishment would damage irreparably the entire high-tech industry, we're told. The OEMs which MS has carefully pruned like bonsai trees into mere stunted mechanisms for the propagation of Windows would be free to indulge in all sorts of mischief, like customizing their offerings of OSs and applications -- like making outrageous demands on MS to develop versions of Windows which suit their needs. Of course we can't have this. "If the Windows platform were to fragment, the primary value it provides -- the ability to provide compatibility across a wide range of software and hardware -- would be lost." Forget that the de facto 'computing standard' was established not through consensus but through Microsoft's monopolistic behavior. The fruits of monopoly are good; thus the monopolist is, if not innocent, also good. Fragmentation will discourage developers, and that in turn will retard the evolution of Windows. Once that happens, the entire industry will stagnate and another Great Depression will occur. "Absent steady advances in operating systems and applications, consumers have little reason to buy new software products since software never wears out. That is why it is especially important in the software industry that new product releases provide consumers with new capabilities." This is why an operating system or an application can never be good enough. This is why Windows now has to be married to a particular machine. And this is why products and services no one wants must be integrated into Windows, and force-fed to consumers Passport-wise. Fragmentation is bad. The 'standard computing platform' developed by MS is the key to prosperity for the entire tech sector. We know this because Billg said so under oath. The states' proposed punishment can't be accepted -- not because MS deserves it or doesn't deserve it for the wrongdoing it's been convicted of, but because it will cause problems. We're expected to believe that punishments and corrective constraints must not cause problems. If the states should have their way, "Microsoft would be greatly devalued as a company. Microsoft's market capitalization is based on the market's well-founded belief that Microsoft is on a path to deliver a wide range of breakthrough technologies that will generate new sources of revenue," Gates warns the court. Gates comes as close to taking credit credit for today's 'computing ecosystem' as his perjury-conscious lawyers will allow. He doesn't quite say it, but we're clearly meant to credit MS rather than Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan with free-market Capitalism and the consequent freedom and prosperity the world is enjoying today. (You're enjoying all that freedom and prosperity, right?) But evil lurks. Gates characterizes the NSPR (the non-settling States' proposed remedies) as a Communist plot to annhilate the Capitalist free-market system. "With free access to Microsoft's technology, competitors could build a clone of Windows -- a product that mimics the key features of the operating system," much the way Windows mimics the key features of the Mac, The Chairman explained. "Providing Microsoft's technology to its competitors so they can build 'functional equivalents' of our products now, and match all our future innovations for ten years, is in fact one of the central objectives of the NSPR." We like that wording: 'central objectives'. It reminds us -- no doubt intentionally -- of 'central planning', which we now know kept us on the road to serfdom since the conclusion of the Second World War. We have another problem. "Many key aspects of the NSPR, particularly its definitions relating to 'middleware,' are vague and ambiguous, providing Microsoft with no clear statement of its obligations," Gates says. We're meant to forget that the same can be said of the DoJ's little gift. (The only difference is that in one case MS heartily approves of the ambiguities, whereas in the other case it doesn't.) But Billg's staff writers are careful not to mention the DoJ settlement anywhere in the testimony, lest the states' lawyers introduce it in court and draw such unsettling comparisons. In all, Gates' testimony is a long, tedious advertisement for Microsoft. It's not a defence; it's a justification. It repeatedly implies that we should all be grateful enough for the company's wise shepherding of the technology industry to overlook its criminal behavior. His handlers hope the judge will fail to notice that this has nothing to do with whether or not Microsoft violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and deserves to be, 1. punished, and 2. effectively constrianed from doing it again. When we see irrelevant screed proffered as a legal defence, we see as well how tragically out of touch with reality The Chairman has become. We're reminded of another famous defendant who lost his grip on the real world, and who hammered out an equally irrelevant, long and tedious justification for his own criminal acts. His name was Theodore Kaczynski, and fortunately in his case the judge wasn't fooled. ®
Thomas C Greene, 23 Apr 2002

Symbian plays the source code card

Symbian today announced it has broadened access to its source code, with the introduction of the Symbian Platinum Program. Platinum members will get the same access to Symbian source code as mobile phone manufacturers had previously; according to Symbian, this means "over 95 per cent" of the source. Platinum members also pay money for the privilege, but in general they seem eager to do so, and the point about the move worth noting is that Symbian seems to have correctly identified developer momentum (which is something Microsoft has been exceedingly good at building) as a key factor in establishing a platform. Hence, Platinum partners will get tech support, joint marketing opportunities, early access to development kits, and tools. This week's Symbian Developer Expo in London claimed over 1,000 developer registrations, and sported many of the same faces as the equivalent Microsoft London event the previous week. So far Symbian has been considerably more successful than Microsoft in that it has recruited most of the major mobile phone names, and Microsoft hasn't. In the coming generations, however, the mobile phone will be an applications platform, which means the company has to wage a war for the hearts and minds of developers. So loving them to death is the right first move, and we trust Symbian understands it's dealing with a redoubtable opponent in this department. The redoubtable opponent, by the way, was mounting only feeble resistance this morning. As The Register debarked from Customs House station a minion thrust a CD labelled "PocketPC 2002" at us. Regrettably, it turns out not to be SP1. Also in the counter-attack department, Symbian announced it was collaborating with TI on a hardware accelerator API, which ships in Symbian OS 7.0 and is implemented in TI's OMAP1510 processors. Intel is also at Symbian DevExpo, and we understand Chipzilla will be doing the fat lady thing tomorrow. TI and Intel, you'll recall, were co-opted as best buddies for The Beast's virtual marketing whitewash of Symbian at GSM World Congress. ®
John Lettice, 23 Apr 2002

ITV Digital for sale – on eBay

We don't do digital TV - much. But we love fake auctions on eBay - kidneys, virginity, the national debt etc. So how could we resist today's appearance of ITV Digital, the tarnished TV company, which went bust the other day, and which is staying bust, following its failure to get its major creditor, the Football League, to accept less than half of the £178.5m it owed. The administrators have put it up for sale, maybe even on eBay. Here's the description: Digital television provider, barely used, slightly faulty. Complete with all manuals, unsold set-top boxes, customers and debts. Quick sale wanted due to legging it away from all the people we owe money to. Winning bidder pays £178.5m owed to the Football League. Will accept cash only. The auction runs until May 2. The highest bidder so far is someone called pissed monkey, who's offered £10m for the "business". And now for the serious bit ITV Digital overpaid for second-rate sports rights, when all media companies were overpaying for sports rights. Owners Carlton and Granada, say they are not responsible for its debts - after all, that's what limited liability means. That's fair enough. Equally fair is The Football League's attempt to get Carlton and Granada to pay up. There's no need to drag Carlton and Granada's name into the mud - they're up to their necks in ordure, already. And their web sites are crap. All of them. ®
Drew Cullen, 23 Apr 2002

Judge betraying pro-MS bias?

Since Chairman Bill Gates began testifying in court Monday against the non-settling states, US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has made a number of rulings which appear to favor Microsoft. Most significant, in our humble opinion, is the decision to allow Gates and other MS witnesses to give presentations in court. The judge had ordered that all such testimony be submitted in writing; and the states have not been granted any waivers. But MS has, most notably with a demonstration Monday which The Chairman said shows that removing Internet Explorer will cause Windows to malfunction. Now we all know that such a demo can be rigged a hundred ways. The only hope of challenging it would be with a second demonstration by the states showing that removing IE can cause Windows to perform even better. (At least that's the case with 98lite, though it's possible that MS has deliberately rooted IE deeper into XP so that it will break the OS if it's yanked.) Next, according to the Associated Press, today's proceedings saw a surprising number of decisions in MS' favor, chiefly regarding lines of questioning and exhibits to be introduced. A Gates memo purportedly indicating retaliation against Intel for supporting a 'non-MS' operating system was rejected. Gates was also permitted to ignore a question from states' attorney Steven Kuney regarding a proposed remedy for MS' retaliatory tactics. "The judge gave Kuney little latitude during his questioning. She sustained almost every objection made by [MS attorney Dan] Webb, even appearing to contradict her earlier guidelines on what sort of testimony was allowed," the wire service says. The tea leaves There are two ways of reading this. One is to take it at face value and imagine that the judge has chosen sides and is deliberately making the states' case difficult to argue. The other is to say that she's being meticulous in her single most important responsibility as a judge, which is to ensure that the accused is given every possible opportunity to defend himself. This would be absolutely crucial if she's leaning in the states' direction. This is so partly for practical reasons -- if she's inclined towards the states she needs to give MS a generous chance to talk her out of it. It's also crucial for appearance's sake. Judge Jackson's incredible stuff-up was appearing to be (or actually being) biased against the defendant. If Judge Kollar-Kotelly intends to cut MS off at the knees, she has got to appear to have given the company every bit of slack that she reasonably can. I rather doubt that the judge's indulgence of MS indicates that she's been taken in. Indeed if I were in Billg's shoes, I'd wipe that inane, smug smile off my face, and cross my fingers instead. ®
Thomas C Greene, 23 Apr 2002