6th > December > 2002 Archive

Viewsonic explains Pocket PC's missing memory

Viewsonic tells us that it will revise its marketing literature after users discovered that its new budget PocketPC has less memory than advertised. Users of the budget ViewSonic V35 Pocket PC have bought the machine in the expectation that it has 64MB of memory. The company claims it has a "whopping" of 32MB ROM and 64MB of RAM. In fact, users have discovered it only has 38 MB RAM, as this irate thread at PocketPC Thoughts community forum explains. " Regardless of whether you need 64MB or not, you should know what you are buying," notes site editor Ed Hansberry. "It was not our intention to mislead," director of PR for ViewSonic Duane Brozek told us this afternoon. "We were made aware of the situation by Pocket PC Thoughts. There is 64MB but because of the operating system image less is available to the user. We're using a new type of memory," he said. ViewSonic will amend its marketing material and Brozek says the second edition of the User Guide has already been revised. Brozek says it was "an inadvertent mistake". Both HP and Palm have run into similar issues, in each case the company claimed to be able to display more colors than it could deliver. Palm's m130 was the subject of a California lawsuit, and Palm has instituted a refund program here. Bootnote: has anyone who applied to this received their refund yet? ® Related Story MS, HP agree to drop 'deceptive' PocketPC ads
Andrew Orlowski, 06 Dec 2002

Bush signs Webcast Act

The third version of the notorious HR.5469 bill, the "Small Webcasters Settlement Act" has passed into law: after President Bush last night crayoned his distinctive 'X' onto the legislation. The first version was intended to be a two-paragraph delay to the crippling CARP publishing royalties set by the Library of Congress. The second version was the result of a small group of commercial webcasters cutting a closed-door deal with the RIAA, and set various rates into law. At the urging of religious broadcasters, a third version was created by Senator Jesse Helms' office. This doesn't specify specific rates, but gives the parties until December 15 to come up with an alternative to those CARP royalties. But it's as full of holes as a swiss cheese, say critics. And rather ominously, the SWSA is supported by the breakaway Voice of Webcasters and the RIAA. Obviously, the RIAA isn't going to vanish in a puff of righteous smoke overnight, so some form of negotiated settlement must be reached. But by who, and for whom? In an analysis on DIU, Brian Hurley writes:- "This bill mentions negotiations that are to take place by December 15. Who are the webcasters negotiating? Do they represent all classes of webcasters? How will they be chosen? There is no mention of this by the RIAA, Sound Exchange, or Senator Helms' office. "Will there even be an open process, or will they simply adopt the flawed agreement negotiated by the Voice of Webcasters and codified into version 2 of HR 5469? This RIAA press release strongly implies the latter. The clock is once again ticking… ® Related Stories Helms explains webcasting deal RIAA engineered webcast split - former exec Webcast relief defers Day of Judgement New Alliance for webcasters Civil disobedience promised after net radio royalty bill falls 'RIAA-written' Net radio bill served to Senate RIAA-backed webcast bill 'a disaster for the US' '96 pc of Net Radio' to close after backroom deal screws grassroots 'casters
Andrew Orlowski, 06 Dec 2002

Telenor claims CIX email sorted next week

Telenor Business Solutions - the ISP behind CIX, one of the UK's oldest ISPs - claims that its email service should be back to normal next week. According to some rather irate users the service hasn't been up to scratch for some weeks now with one describing the service as "crumbling". Users complain that they have been unable to connect to mail servers, that legitimate email is bouncing and, if the email does make it through, it takes hours to do so. The problem, it seems, is that CIX has been awash with spam that has clogged up its system. Last month the outfit noticed an increase in spam and even though Telenor has taken measures to combat the unwanted email, a spokeswoman for the company told The Register that they were still experiencing "very high levels of spam". In a statement to customers the ISP said: "Users will be aware that we have been experiencing problems in delivering email service over the past few weeks through mail.cix.co.uk. Mail is not lost: it is delivered but the delays have become excessive. Telenor Business Solutions would like to apologise for the delays that are taking place, and confirm that we are actively working to improve the situation." Telenor's "several thousand" punters in the UK should see a marked improvement next week. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Dec 2002

IBM, Intel, AT&T unveil US Wi-Fi JV

Three tech giants, backed by two venture capital firms, yesterday announced the launch of a joint venture, Cometa Networks Inc, which intends to pepper the US with 20,000 Wi-Fi hot spots starting next year. Cometa will be a wholesale-only wireless internet access provider, serving carriers, ISPs and enterprises. The New York and San Francisco-based firm is being backed by Intel Corp, IBM Corp and AT&T Corp, with funding from 3i and Apax Partners, Kevin Murphy writes. The company will start deploying wireless access points using the 802.11a and 802.11b protocols some time next year in nationally branded retail chains, hotels and universities. It will also seek to partner with companies that are already deploying Wi-Fi networks in locations such as airports, potentially including AT&T Wireless. Cometa CEO Lawrence Brilliant said in a conference call that the company, which started as a research project codenamed Project Rainbow, spent nine months interviewing potential buyers about what they would require from such a service. "[They wanted] an access point within five minutes walk of any employee in an urban setting and within five minutes drive in a rural setting," Brilliant said. He said that means about 20,000 hot spots will have to be deployed across the country, but that Cometa will initially focus on 50 major metropolitan areas. Technical details were not immediately available, but it is known that AT&T is providing the backbone, IBM is providing the hardware deployment and that Intel's forthcoming Banias mobile processor architecture is expected to play a role. Users will be able to access the services via their regular service providers. These carriers "will continue to own their own customers, but will not have to invest their own capital to build their own network to be able to offer this valuable service," Brilliant said. No changes will be needed for login, security or billing, Cometa said in a statement. Financial details of the venture were not disclosed. An Intel spokesperson said the cash invested by the chipmaker comes from the $150m it has earmarked for investments in Wi-Fi companies. Its technology commitment to the enterprise was not immediately clear. "When Intel launches its Banias products in the first half next year, Cometa will be coordinating its service offering with the new generation of mobile PCs," Cometa's Brilliant said in the conference call. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 06 Dec 2002

France Telecom fights ‘financial noose’

New France Telecom SA chief Thierry Breton has vowed to "loosen the financial noose" that hangs round the neck of the world's most debt-ridden company with an ambitious program of reforms designed to improve its financial performance. Breton said the expansion undertaken by his predecessor was an "acquisition frenzy" that left a "mountain of debt." However, there are already growls of dissent from the European Union over the plan, that will see the state give the company a short-term loan of €9bn ($9bn), which will eventually be turned into shares when French Telecom raises 15bn euros ($15bn) from a new equity issue. Even the French government now acknowledges that its ownership of a 55% stake in the company contributed to its current crisis, because 80% of the €100bn($100bn) that it spent on expansion was made in cash to avoid breaching the law that said the French government had to maintain a majority holding in the company. The French finance ministry said that "if the future strategic interest of the company demands it, the government would not object to the state holding less than the majority of the capital." Ironically, while the French government was promising this massive dollop of finance, European Union telecommunications ministers were also meeting and agreed not to use state aid as a means to bail out the telecoms industry. EU Telecoms Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said the European Commission would investigate if there is "a state-aid element" in the $9bn help that the government was giving France Telecom. The 15+15+15 plan laid out by Breton will see France Telecom raise 15bn in fresh equity, and save €15bn euros from improved operational performance and a further €15bn from refinancing group debt. As it stands, France Telecom must make debt repayments of €15.2bn in 2003, €15bn in 2004 and €20bn in 2005, a total of €50bn. Edging the company into the modern financial world, Breton has got finance chiefs to provide their interim figures under US GAAP that showed that the loss in the six months to June 30 was €30.9bn euros compared with €12.2bn under French GAAP. The difference was due to depreciation of goodwill for its Equant and Orange operations. Debt under US GAAP was €72bn. France Telecom warned that figures for the full year will include asset write-downs of between 5.5bn euros and €7bn, with the impairment of Equant's goodwill accounting for €3.5bn to 4.5bn of this figure. It said it is sticking to its forecast that revenue will increase between 8% and 9% this year, earnings at the EBITDA level will be €14.5bn and investments will be less than €8bn. With unions hostile to the changes, little was said about jobs cuts apart from the 20,000 already due to leave under early retirement packages. However, the cull of executives from the previous era has already begun, with the heads of Orange and internet unit Wanadoo due to leave, and CFO Jean-Louis Vinciguerra heading off to less stressful pastures. As expected, its Orange SA mobile unit is to delay its 3G rollout, apart from in the UK where competition makes this difficult. This will ensure that capital expenditure up to the end of 2005 will be €3bn less than expected, and with its stronger-than-anticipated revenue growth, Orange is expected to generate cash flow €5bn to 7bn more than expected. Chief executive Jean-Francois Pontal justified the delay of 3G by saying that its 2.5G platform is exceeding expectations and while 3G will substantially enhance this "the reality is that a stable 3G platform and mass availability of 2.5G/3G handsets at mass market price points continue to be later than expected." © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 06 Dec 2002

Telewest rings up 250k broadband punters

Not to be outdone by BT's recent announcement that it now has notched up 500,000 ADSL connections, Telewest has announced it's now connected its 250,000th cable broadband punter. Not that it's bragging, of course, but the cableco points out that one in ten of those punters has opted for its 1 Mb/s service which was launched across all of Telewest's franchise areas in June. In a deliberate dig at BT's ADSL record, Gavin Patterson, MD of Telewest Broadband, said: "ADSL connections have recently hit half a million, but this makes our achievements all the more impressive, when you consider that [BT's] figure represents the combined efforts of over 100 companies and includes both business and residential customers." ® Related Story BT hits 500k ADSL milestone
Tim Richardson, 06 Dec 2002

Job cuts loom at AOL – report

Workers at AOL Time Warner's Internet division are bracing themselves for a fresh round of job cuts. AOL is looking to trim around a $100m from its operation and, according to the Wall Street Journal, that means hundreds of job cuts. It seems the brunt of the cutbacks could be centred on AOL's HQ in the US although all locations could be hit. No department is expected to escape the cull, accoring to reports. Earlier this week AOL warned that revenues for 2003 are expected to remain flat and that the Internet division of AOL Time Warner is unlikely to deliver solid growth until 2004. It predicted that sales in advertising and ecommerce would slump by up to half but maintains this fall will be offset by an increase in subscription revenues. As part of this week's briefing it emerged that AOL Europe - made up primarily of the UK, France and Germany - is expected to generate around $1.2bn in revenues this year - almost double what it made two years ago. It was also reported that AOL UK has become the first standalone AOL service outside of the US to be EBITDA-positive generating revenues of around 500m (£320m). ® Related Stories AOL UK in profit AOL warns of tough times ahead
Tim Richardson, 06 Dec 2002

Get yer Hacker mugs at Cash'n'Carrion

A perceptible frisson of excitement swept through Santa's little helpers down at our Cash'n'Carrion warehouse this morning with the arrival the splendid all-new Hacker mug. Yes, if you've bought the shirt and the cap, it would be madness not to complete the set with this top-quality bone china offering. Featuring a black exterior, white interior and the "Hacker" logo wrapped right round the body, the mug soars to a capacious 9cm tall with a diameter of 8cm. Such purity of design can be yours for £7.66 (£9.00 inc VAT). There's still time for EU customers to order this or any other Cash'n'Carrion product for pre-Xmas delivery. The order deadlines are: EU: Midnight GMT on Wednesday 11th December UK: Midnight GMT on Friday 13th December .
Team Register, 06 Dec 2002

Nortel marries GPRS and Wi-Fi

Nortel Networks is to offer mobile operators a new technology that will seamlessly link their wide-area wireless networks with fast emerging Wi-Fi systems. The idea behind Nortel's new technology is that mobile operators can offer consumers and enterprises a single 'sign on' and seamless service between 2G/3G networks and Wi-Fi hotspots based on 802.11b. It will allow users to roam seamlessly between wireless 2G/3G and WLAN networks with uninterrupted access to the same Internet data services. The technology will also manage billing information across networks so that end users can receive a single bill from their wireless operator. "The WLAN strategy we are announcing today demonstrates our commitment to helping operators create a mobile environment that delivers users compelling content and data services from any location," said Dave Murashige, vice president of strategic marketing at Nortel Networks. "Our WLAN technology, coupled with our extensive experience in IP data networking, will position operators to increase revenue potential and reduce subscriber churn." The growth of WLAN technology is proving to be a major thorn in the side of mobile operators and their attempts to extract revenue from investments in GSM networks that have been upgraded to GPRS to facilitate faster data speeds. What's more, Wi-Fi WLANs could cut into the potential UMTS (3G), which will offer even faster data services. Public wireless LANs (local area networks) enable users to wirelessly access the Internet at speeds 25 to 30 times faster than a normal dial-up modem as long as they are within a 100-metre radius of a terminal and have the right equipment. It is certainly something that all mobile operators are taking seriously. WLAN services are based on the 802.11b industry standard, otherwise known as Wi-Fi, and are becoming increasingly popular with Irish businesses. According to research carried out by DIT and Enigma, there are nearly 400 wireless hotspots in Dublin. According to a spokeswoman for Nortel Networks, the linking technology was developed at its R&D centre in Paris. She said that the link to WLAN networks would prove to be a stepping-stone to 3G, enabling existing GPRS users to get a taste of what 3G technology could deliver. O2 Ireland announced recently that following four months of trials it will be making a number of WLAN "hotspots" available nationwide for customers and non-O2 customers alike early in 2003. The WLAN terminals will be placed in hotels, conference centres and train stations after O2 signed deals with Jurys Doyle Hotel Group, Bewleys Hotel Group, Lynch Hotel Group and CIE. The company declined to say exactly how many hotspots there will be. Along with O2, Eircom is set introduce public WLANs. Eircom has been testing its version of the service for some time and recently signed agreement with five major hotels that will see it made available by April 2003. A spokeswoman for Vodafone said that the company was considering investing in WLANs and was consulting with some of its group operators in other EU countries, but had yet to make a decision. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 06 Dec 2002

Nominet explains role in ebay.co.uk detagging slip

Remember the ebay.co.uk detagging fiasco earlier this week when the popular auction site was disrupted due to some administrative error? Two days ago we ran a statement from NetNames, eBay's UK Tag holder, explaining what went wrong. To close the circle, here's Nominet UK's take on the whole incident. Nominet UK would like to clarify its role in the reactivation of the ebay.co.uk domain name earlier this week. We would like to make it clear that we were not responsible for causing the web site to go off-line and that we took immediate and legitimate steps to get the domain name up and running as soon as possible. On Monday 2 December 2002, the domain name ebay.co.uk was detagged by the registration Agent Netnames (see http://www.nominet.org.uk/ref/detagged.html for an explanation of detagging). On Tuesday 3 December Nominet received an email request from Netnames stating that the domain name had been "detagged in error" and requesting Nominet to retag the domain name. All registration agents are able to request the retagging of a domain name that has been detagged in error within 30 days of the detag occurring. It is our standard practice to deal with these requests within 24 hours and, as a result, ebay.co.uk was retagged at around 11.00 hours on 3 December 2002. Once a domain name is retagged it is not automatically reactivated until the UK zone file has been rebuilt. Nominet currently undertakes zone file reloads daily. Under these circumstances, ebay.co.uk would not normally have been fully uploaded until the morning of 4 December 2002. As Nominet proactively seeks to resolve problems that create disruption to a large number of end users, it was decided to carry out an additional UK zone file rebuild at around 11.30 hours on Tuesday 3 December. Nominet took this action not only to alleviate the inconvenience that the incident created for a large number of end users, but also to reduce the additional workload placed upon us by a large numbers of public enquiries resulting from the situation. We currently handle 1,500 customer enquiries per day, of which 70% come directly from the public. Nominet believes it is legitimate to exercise its discretion in taking specific action in order to serve the best interests of the majority of internet users. We understand that our actions may, at times, lead to concern and we always try to seek operational improvements in light of the feedback that we receive. Nominet is reconsidering the frequency of the UK zone file rebuilds with a view to increasing their frequency in the future. Which is nice. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Dec 2002

Open Source in the EU – how one agency introduced it

Not a lot of people know that Europe has an equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration; but it has, it's based in London's docklands, and it's taking the Unix/Linux route to fulfil some pretty special and exacting networking requirements. The European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA) is one of the European Community's smaller agencies, but it's responsible for the evaluation, approval and monitoring of all drugs for sale in the EU, together with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It performs similar functions to the FDA, but its model is networked rather than centralised, using commercial Unix systems (currently Sun) together with Windows clients, and its first Linux systems are being deployed by Enterprise Management Consulting, as part of an-going two-year project. Hans-Georg Wagner, head of EMEA's communications and networking unit, is a self-confessed Linux fan, and hopes to be able to give Linux a bigger slice of the pie in the future, but is currently taking a hard-headed view of what Linux can and can't do for his organisation. EMEA requires 99.99 per cent uptime on its core systems, and in his view that pretty much dictates commercial Unix running on non-Intel platforms, because although Intel servers are attractive from the bangs per buck point of view, reliability can still be an issue, and Wagner can't afford to have his servers falling over. So for now, Unix does mission critical, while Linux comes in around the edges where uptime isn't quite such a necessity. He does however have high hopes for Linux on Intel: "In about three years time," he says, "I think Linux on Intel will be eating massively into the server market, and this will include datacentre applications." The current Linux deployment provides secure document exchange facilities at a saving of around 1m Euros compared to similar proprietary systems. Enterprise Management's system provides similar functionality at a fraction of the cost, and in addition has the potential to be expanded into related areas of EMEA's operations. This is obviously not the kind of infrastructure that can be organised overnight and when we spoke to Malcolm Macsween, the project manager, it was apparent that the alternatives had been carefully considered at every turn. "With the size and scale of something like this " Macsween said, "The design must be approved, the plans must be carefully considered and justified before the project gains acceptance. The reason this has gone ahead using Open Source is because all the options, including proprietary solutions, were evaluated and only when the Open Source solution had proved its merits, did the work commence". Because of its role and the way it executes it, EMEA has demanding document interchange requirements. Drug companies need to be able to provide submissions, the various national approval bodies have to exchange documentation, and that documentation has to be translated accurately into (currently) ten languages. All of this has to be done securely, and as Wagner points out, with the imminent addition of another ten languages, the cost of shipping people around Europe for meetings will become crippling. So he envisages the existing document interchange system extending into groupware and conferencing systems. EMEA's current operations could also be extended through the delivery of pharmaceutical information to a far wider audience. For example, says Wagner, there is currently no comprehensive central repository of up-to-the-minute information permitted for use in the European Union, which means, for example, that general practitioners don't always have the complete information they need at their fingertips when prescribing drugs. Giving them online access to EMEA's data would therefore be a logical step, and EMEA could also provide pharmaceutical information to the citizenry in general. Which would take the agency into e-business and e-commerce type applications. Linux, particularly if it grows up as Wagner anticipates, will at least be a candidate for providing some of these systems. And EMEA's own internal systems? What are those Windows clients doing in there? It is, says Wagner, European Commission policy to encourage the use of open source, and his view is that open source productivity applications are now sufficiently competent to replace Windows. The cost of switching, however, lies in the investment organisations have already made in MS Office templates and macros - if you need to throw all of these away and start again, then you'll clearly face problems. But he was deeply unimpressed by Licensing 6, and intends to hold out with Windows 2000 for now, making the decision on an upgrade or a switch by 2004. "Like many other organisation, we were not best pleased [by Microsoft's new licensing regime]. We are to some extent shielded from the costs by the Commission's special framework licence with Microsoft. But our objection isn't so much cost - it is that we are no longer masters of our own upgrade cycles." ®
John Lettice, 06 Dec 2002

Scott McNealy on: Sun's secret weapon and its biggest mistake (not you, Apple)

InterviewInterview Hard to imagine, in all the time we've been here the most we've gotten out of Scott is smalltalk about haircuts and parking. The following should help to put that right. On Monday we had an hour at Sun's HQ in Menlo Park, where the CEO and his executive team have relocated, Sun says, to be closer to their customer center. They haven't moved there for the view, that's for sure. On one side there's a salt flat wilderness that looks like the Russian steppes in winter, with the Dumbarton Bridge disappearing into the fog, while on the other is Silicon Valley's dirty little secret: deprived East Palo Alto, the murder capital of the peninsular. So you're only here if either - like me, you were born and brought up with such a view, or else if you got serious work to do. Barely a word in that hour deviated from McNealy's insistence that Sun's future is as a systems company, and that Big Systems are precious and are difficult things to do. The one-ness permeated every answer. Now that would be pretty, derr! obvious in saner times only now we've got a bunch of Wall Street smart alecs - asset-strippers, basically - who simply see the world sliced into horizontal segments they can bleed to each individual core. [As we lamented here] This leaves many, if not all computer companies who exist outside the Dell model having to justify their very existence, and high spending R&D companies like Sun have to justify it more than most. So for you, dear reader, that means hearing a ton of stuff about cars and webtone switches you've heard before. We've focused on the rest, which we hope has some value: observations on Sun's integrator strategy and company history that are bang up to date. I get the impression you're quite a Romantic in one sense and you like the purity and symmetry of things at Sun, like being able to say you have one SPARC platform that scales - The customers like that. Go ask them - they like the scalability. I'm not romantic about it - I'm romantic about making money. That's where I get romantic. I'm a capitalist. But so was Colonel Sanders. You're not in the fast food business and it's hard to think of KFC taking a pride in something like that, which is pretty rare By the way, we are in the business to make money. The advantage of being a technology company is that we have a much longer view of the discontinuities occurring in the market - so we focus more on the right thing as opposed to today's thing. SPARC is the best 64-bit processor on the market today and customer's have rewarded us with the lion's share of the 64-bit market. We care about doing the right thing because that's the best way to make money and keep customers over the long haul. Sun is a long-term play. Linux and Open Source So was it hard to be convinced you needed a Linux business - is that something you did with a heavy heart? Not really, I like the open source movement. The amount of Open Source participation and donation and collaborations we do is great and we don't go around bragging about it. We do our charitable giving anonymously. I think people who take a good hard look will see that. We've been a long time player in community based development from the NFS days and the Berkeley BSD days with Bill Joy. We've been there with open interfaces and a whole bunch of open implementations. It's not like a new deal for us. We're leveraging MySQL, and Ximian desktop, we're pretty excited about that. It wasn't such a big deal - people are looking for news. It's a piston ring, it's a disc brake; it's a component and it's free: and here are a lot of people out there making it better. There's a lot of free components. But there aren't a lot of free systems out there. The trouble is, and have you heard of companies employing their own "Directors of Linux Kernel Engineering"? It reminds me of a DEC story. Ken Olsen used to give a turkey every Christmas to every employee. And when the company got to 70,000 employees someone came to him and said, why don't we have a turkey farm? Why don't we vertically integrate it all? Well, a bank having a Director of Linux Kernel Engineering is like - I put that in the Turkey Farm folder. It's like me getting into the ATM branch banking business. What's up with that? So we hear you've set aggressive targets for success in the Linux business, but we don't know what they are. How will you judge success - volume, market share or something more intangible? It's kinda like a car you get in and you don't know if it's a long haul or a straight six or a v8 - except when you step on the gas, that might go faster. Well at recent Sun briefings you guys were saying that a third or half of the people buying LX50s were putting Solaris on Intel on them... Well, you know. I had a very interesting meeting with some Swiss company a year and half ago and they decided not to deploy StarOffice because it's free. They said: it scares us, there's no contract, no agreement. So we put a price tag on it and all of a sudden people are paying for it. You've seen more activity since we charged for it than you have the whole time it was free. It's a better product. And all of a sudden StarOffice is funding the R&D. Its own R&D? Yes, it's not a sinkhole any more. Now people know it's funding its R&D they go well, I'm willing to buy into it because they're not going to shut it down So we shut down Solaris on x86 at about the same time - and people went nuts on us. Same thing. Now you can download it. But how will you know when you've done well, or not in the Linux business? That's like asking Ford how well you've done with four cylinder or six cylinder machines. They don't care about that. They care abut revenue and earnings per share. It's like asking me about the camshaft. We sell systems. Like Legoland. I'm not so sure it is. We sell a system - and if you draw a picture of the datacenter there'll be a switch, a firewall, a loadbalancer, a whole load of edge servers that might be Netra or Wintel or 'Lintel' boxes, over here you might have some app servers, over here's the SAN, over here's the database servers… when you put it all together and metal wrap it it's a big webtone switch. I was just with a large new partner, a very large Australian telephone company and they don't want dialtone switches. You've seen the org.chart: for voice there are three procurement people, but for data there are ten thousand. Microsoft and the Law Are you going to be bothering the Microsoft compliance committee? You haven't commented on the judgement. The day we announced our private lawsuit, I said I'm not interested in talking about it. We will let an independent judge with a non-political attorney general and a non-political private company pressing the case decide, as opposed to it coming from a politically appointed attorney general . There are no governments involved here - just a judge looking at the laws So do we have a non-political Attorney General? Do we? I, uh - I know nothing. It was a reward not a remedy. When's the last time you spoke to Gates, when did you last have a conversation? I haven't talked to Gates recently. I talked to Ballmer - we played golf. I was one round behind him - but I didn't hit him. Management Changes Were you surprised by the comments on the management changes? It was noisy at the time but would it have been better to do it all at once - who knows? It all kinda happened naturally and was all part of a plan. I have an org chart with all the positions penciled in, a year to a year and half ago and I presented it to the board. I said I hope to have it done by July 1. Was the goal to have more people reporting to you? Well at Sun we've got down from 19 per cent managers to something like 12 per cent managers, and we've done it. Just to flatten the organization, reduce the overhead; so we've taken a couple of layers out. Because you weren't getting information fast enough? Everybody has the information, in fact, I've got more information at my table now than I did before. It's kinda nice to have Yen not reporting to Schumaker not reporting to Ed, to have him right at the table. I have a much better feel for things. We've all been at Sun more than ten years so we know each other, and we can all finish each other's sentences. And I don't think as you go around talking to people you feel like you're talking to people from different planets. The Biggest Mistake What's the best decision you've never made? One months or years later you're really glad you didn't do. In other words, what was the biggest mistake we avoided? Yes Well clearly there was a huge, huge war back in the early 90s and we were in Hawaii. It was one of our SunRise clubs for our sales people And it was an 11:1 vote, my staff against me about whether or not we should ship a Wintel computer. And I said no. And it was practically a mutiny. And I can remember being in this conference room - and I remember walking out to get my composure so I could go back in, thinking I don't get this. I don't understand. And along the same lines we had some interesting conversations with a fairly large PC company with potentially merging. And I remember saying to the board I'm happy to execute on my merger, but I'll immediately sell all of my stock. You can't be a PC reseller and a computer creator company in the same company. I think IBM's proven that; HP has proven that; DEC has proven that. The Asians have proven that. And the Europeans have proven that. Every company that went onto Wintel ultimately hollowed themselves out: it was a self-imposed lobotomy. They're no longer R&D companies and it was massively painful. They were shareholder disasters. But IBM and HP are still system companies Well HP's R&D budget is elsewhere and in fact two weeks ago IBM took $1 billion out of product and into services. So the biggest benefit is what, the focus? Or the freedom of not being a Windows licensee? Everybody knows we're committed to SPARC and Solaris. It's a lack of ambiguity around Sun -everybody knows SPARC, Solaris and Sun ONE is the priority it's where we're going to invest, and have the best product line. If you look at our x86 strategy it helps Solaris and Sun ONE; our LX50 helps Sun ONE. While reselling the Intel box or the AMD box is no harder for us than anyone else. Sun was interested in Apple more than once - would you classify that as a mistake avoided? We could have survived merging with Apple, I don't think we could have survived merging with, or adopting, the Wintel architecture. Men In Suits You've invested heavily in China. Can you take money out of the PRC? The government there provides tax incentives for foreign companies to re-invest their profits in China, but they also have regulations allowing repatriation of profits made by Wholly Foreign Owned Companies like Sun. We plan to expand our presence and do a lot of business there. Now you're recruiting more integrators - something you've left to the channel - how's that going to work without hollowing out their businesses? We'll definitely partner with them. We'll partner with whoever's competing with Microsoft. Microsoft wants to own all the Service Providers, and directories, they want to be in the subscriber management business, we don't. IBM wants to be in hosting and services, we don't . But you have to leave something for the partners to do… Which partners do you mean? I mean the Cap Geminis. Oh, there's tons for them to go do. Where the dialtone analogy falls down is that dialtone switches only have a few services: caller ID, voice messages, and that's about it. Think of all the webtone features - let's put a directory into GE, for example, and keep it going in real-time. That's not the business we're in, but that's where an Accenture or an EDS can come in and do the business process re-engineering. But that's a wonderful partnership. What they won't have to do is make sure that the app server talks to the portal which talks to the storage which talks to the clustering file system which talks to the microprocesser. We will take care of all of that. By the way, there are still third party pieces we don't have, or that will be customized for each market. We don't have all of the lego blocks. IBM wants to do it all. Now, when I was about so high, I remember asking what shares where, and part of the answer was that you got rewarded each year if the company was doing well with a dividend. Tech companies don't do this. Why don't you give your shareholders dividends? Why do you do buybacks? We buy Sun stock because we see it as a good investment. It's that simple. As for paying dividends, we'd only do that if we ran out of ideas and couldn't figure out how to reinvest the money in producing innovative new products and services that increase shareholder value. In other words: it's Not going to happen. Itanic vs Hammer I'm curious that Sun is still getting toasted for ignoring Itanic when its impact after all these years has been marginal and Hammer seems to be much more of a direct challenge to your SPARC business. Isn't Opteron more of a threat? Probably. I agree it's more of a potential threat. Is it a threat that's damaging at this point? No. And by the way, with Solaris running on AMD running the SunONE that's good for us. Hammer isn't going to fill out all these pieces anyway - there's going to be vertical scaling and horizontal scaling and bandwidth scaling machines and that's our secret weapon. But for a new chip to blow us out of the water, it's got to be already certified, already tested, already scaled and already branded - and for that you need a 2x price/performance advantage. The argument is we're already there - it isn't the chip that's expensive it's all the other R&D. Shane Robison [Compaq, now HP CTO] told me that what killed Alpha was the chipset expense for each iteration It's not the chipsets - they didn't have the ISVs. Car Trouble Business Week reckoned that SPARC and Solaris cost $200 million a year. Is that an accurate figure? We haven't broken out our R&D budget. I can't comment. So by way of introduction to some more car stuff - what car do you drive? It depends - we've got a Yuko, a PT Cruiser, and a Chrysler and a Mercedes. Shit, a PT Cruiser. I've been pretty mean about that...["weird pastiche" - "abominable" - grudging seasonal thanks] Why, for the nostalgic look? It's kinda retro. It's nice, I've got four boys, you've got two or three of them in the PT cruiser it's what you've got. The Mercedes is for when you don't have any of them, heh. The car point is this: when I first came to America in the early 80s, I was 16, and every car on the roads was an American-built car. Now half the cars are American. At some point the US car industry just forgot how to build cars Americans wanted. That's interesting. And a problem for all you systems companies is that people have enough already - there's so much overproduction. There's two things there: lack of demand and oversupply, so how is any systems company going to persuade people to buy your stuff? Well, I still think people don't want to have a nuclear power plant in their basement, they don't want to have a well in their backyard and they don't want to have a telephone switch in their closet. They want to get the utilities… they probably want out over the network and that's happening. Think back to when the browser came along. No, back to 1980. Then 100 per cent of the mips you consumed were owned by your company. If you were a working stiff like me, I worked at FMC and they had a big CAD computer and a big mainframe. And then along came the PC, and then 99per cent of the mips were owned directly by your company or your personal computer. Along came the browser - and now think about how many mips are generated at a networked company: at an eBay, or an AOL, or an SBC or The Register: I would say that when you take out mail, 98 per cent of the mips you consume are their mips. By definition in the browser you're using utility mips. That plays in our favor - not to the PC mainframe model . I think the market is coming to us. That's why the minicomputer makers are gone, that's why the PC makers are going; the growth is in the modern clients. We like our position.®
Andrew Orlowski, 06 Dec 2002

Orange plans SPV bugfixes, and developer info for Q1

In response to prodding from would-be smartphone developers Orange has issued a statement outlining its policy as regards application signing and bugfixes for the Orange SPV. The statement, published in full at MoDaCo.com, is guardedly vague in parts, and Register sources tell us there's more where that came from - but there's enough to be going on with. The final paragraph is the key one: "Orange is committed to working with third party developers, and understand that developers and their applications will be essential to the success of the SPV - without these applications, customers will not get the best out of their SPV. However, to protect it's customers from malicious or corrupt applications and to protect the value generated by application developers, Orange has opted to implement security measures on the SPV. Orange is working towards launching a website early in the New Year to assist SPV developers. The site will detail how a developer can get their application digitally signed, how to get an application published on the Orange download site and also explain how a developer can get an SPV for development purposes." This makes it clear that there will be no retreat on application signing, and that Orange will be calling the shots. It's also probably bad news for developers, because they'll have to mark time until whenever "early" is. They also presumably won't be able to get development hardware until then, and the reference to getting an application published makes it pretty clear that Orange has decided to position itself as both approver and publisher of apps. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, signing is becoming a serious issue on mobile phone platforms, and is going to be present in some shape or form in the offerings of other networks and manufacturers. And if the manufacturer does it there's no guarantee that the network won't superimpose its own procedures as well; there's every prospect for a series of rip-roaring turf wars over ownership of the development and publishing channels. One obvious get out for application developers is, of course, to produce sandboxed Java apps that aren't going to interfere with anybody's nice network - this is probably the easiest route for smaller developers who just want a quiet life, but is exquisitely ironic from the point of view of Microsoft Smartphone developers. It's also a difficult route for developers with existing PocketPC apps they'd like to move over to Smartphone. Register sources meanwhile say Orange has implemented its signing policy in response to demand from business customers, who view the ability to restrict the apps running on their handsets and networks as an absolute requirement. Slightly puzzlingly, our sources also say Orange is categorising the SPV as a business phone, and actually envisages something rather different for consumers, at some point in the future. To our recollection Orange hasn't made this entirely clear in public so far, and if it is a business phone it's a bit of a puzzle why Orange pushed it so hard at retail. This push however seems to have ceased, at least for now. The handsets were originally priced at a little under £200, but where they were in stock they were generally available for considerably less than that, shortage or no shortage. Orange's own site is currently "out of stock", and the SPV does not seem to have made it as far as Carphone Warehouse, which had intended to sell the phone. We're told that Orange ordered a production run of 200,000 of the SPV, so one begins to wonder where these could be, and whether they mightn't be waiting for a few software fixes before they hit the stores. As regards these fixes, Orange says it hopes to issue one round through Orange Update before the end of the year, and another before the end of Q2 next year. The timescale does kind of suggest the company hasn't entirely got its act together here - up to six months between fixes means the first one had better hit quite a lot of spots. But we very much doubt it'll turn out to be that leisurely a cycle. Related stories: Orange, not MS, is SPV smartphone app-breaker in chief
John Lettice, 06 Dec 2002

UK is a broadband slowcoach – Oftel

The UK is still miles behind other countries when it comes to the take-up of broadband and that's despite all the work carried out by regulator Oftel to promote competition for broadband. So says an official report from the telecoms regulator, which found that just over one per cent of the UK's population had broadband at the end of June. In comparison, France has more than 1.5 per cent and Germany more than 3 per cent. For the US the figure is almost at 6 per cent, while Sweden is pushing almost 7 per cent. Still, the UK's poor showing is not something that is going to deter Oftel from blowing its own trumpet about how well broadband is doing in the UK. Instead, Oftel would prefer us to focus on another part of the report that shows that the UK's appetite for broadband is outpacing a number of other countries. With 28,000 connections a week, UK consumers are taking up broadband services at a faster rate than users in France, Germany, Sweden and the US. It also seems that residential broadband prices in the UK are also roughly on a par with prices charged in the France, Germany and the US. Great. If you can get it. Oftel's International benchmarking study of Internet access (dial-up and broadband) can be found here. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Dec 2002

Symbian to make Psion's OPL dev language open source

You've quite possibly never heard of OPL, but once upon a time this wouldn't have been the case. Back before Palm was thought of, OPL was the easy to use development language for Psion EPOC devices, and until events (and indeed Palm) largely overwhelmed Psion, there was quite a thriving community of small developers and enthusiasts using OPL, and bitching about Psion in pretty much the same way as Apple fans bitch about Apple. And now, OPL is going Open Source - apparently on the say-so of Symbian. News of the move was broken on by All About Symbian by Ewan Spence of freEPOC.org, who says All About Symbian is going to be involved in the planning of turning OPL into an Open Source project. Symbian apparently intends to get OPL running on Series 60 and UIQ platforms, which at least in theory means that people who've developed for Psions in the past will be able to resume hostilities on Sony-Ericsson, Nokia and Nokia's friends' phones. The nature of the Open Source licence that will be used isn't yet clear, but Spence says there will be a Sourceforge-like system for distributing source code, and that "there will always be an 'official' Symbian version (similar to the way Linux is developed at the moment)." Quite our favourite piece of the announcement is the way it dances nimbly around unspecified obstructions: "Symbian... [has] had to take into account certain business considerations, which has held up development of OPL. "This barrier has now been removed, with interested parties to be given access to the source code; and with other experienced Tools Vendors and Partners offering to support OPL, it would be fair to say that OPL is shortly going to be the language that belongs to the community - which can only be of benefit." Um, what barrier could this possibly have been? The Register and Psion go way back, and many's the blazing row we've had with their High Command (which is currently not entirely unrelated to Symbian's High Command) about development and much else. Historically, open source or free software of any description was entirely anathema to Psion, which actually aimed to make most of its money out of software and add-ons. So even though OPL had effectively become a development language for a line of mass market consumer devices that have more or less ceased to exist, we reckon prying it out of Psion's grip must still have been a job and a half. We could of course be wrong, but well done anyway, chaps. ®
John Lettice, 06 Dec 2002

Online suicide poster resurrected

Online anyone can be Jesus. Posters to the Counter Strike forum at Blueyonder were not in awe however when it became clear that a former colleague had come back from the dead. Whitey - currently running under the name Ice Wind - caused some commotion last week when he disingenuously revealed that far from having committed suicide last summer, he had in fact been in the US and Czechoslovakia. Amid much head-scratching and some fury, it turns out that the extensive postings from his brother Dan in July 2001 informing friends he had killed himself - even posting a suicide note - were nothing more than a sick joke. In fact, we even covered the story alongside another tale of faked online death as the real thing. Now it seems Whitey's brother - charged by Whitey to keep everyone informed on where he was and how to keep in touch with him - had made the whole thing up because of some bitter sibling rivalry. At least that is what Whitey claims. Why has he taken a year-and-a-half to tell old friends he isn't dead? Because he has only just got back from his travels. Why didn't he check the forum at any point and realise what was going on? Because he was annoyed that no one had emailed him. Where's his brother now? Hmmm. Of course, a very similar thing happened just prior to Whitey's death on the Anandtech forum, when regular Dennilfloss admitted that he had killed his girlfriend and single mother Nowheremom. In a series of heart-rendering tales of woe, Dennilfloss went on about her death in a car crash and how upset he was. It sparked much grief and a tribute site. Except as it turned out, Dennilfoss had created the character of Nowheremom to see what it would be like to post as a woman. Freaked out by others friends' flirtation with his alter-ego, he started going out with himself. Then, after some exhausting months of playing two roles, he got tired of it and killed her off. Or what about Divi-Chan on the AnimeonDVD forum? That time her "sister" informed the world of her death, only for her to pop up later - after some significant prodding by other forum members - saying she'd made the whole thing up. Posting under a pseudonym on an online chatroom enables you to be whoever you want to be. Play acting is a human character - we even revere those who spend their professional lives being other people, feeding off the buzz of being a personality other than ourselves. We love drama and we love strong emotion - it makes life more exciting, more real. TV soaps are models of dysfunctional madness and we can't get enough of them. Is it any surprise then that faced with the prospect on anonymity and a free hand, some people don't take the realms of fantasy into the real world? Did Whitey pretend to be his brother to elicit some emotion from his online friends? To live out the common fantasy of being an observer at your own funeral? It seems all too probable. And after a year of keeping this to himself, had he grown so used to the idea that he was itching to tell someone the fun he had had? Is his first posting that sparked the whole thing off embarrassment or excitement? You decide: "It's been fun, but back in uk now, money was gettin low :-( However, my bro made up a story while i was gone apparently, i never got a chance to come on here before i left, i just sent an email hastily....have u guessed yet? i was many a clan, sat, ecsf,rag,les :-) ..god i cant remember any more!" Is his response to someone suggesting that he is actually his brother one of genuine frustration or something quite different? "Thats my last on the subject for the forums, i have better things to do with my weekend. People who matter and friends i have spoke to outside this forum, as stated in previous flaming thread." The problem with online forums is that they cut a fine line between reality and fantasy. It may be harmless fun creating situations and people but the emotions created in others not in on the joke are all too real. But perhaps those involved in chatrooms are only too aware of the fantasy role there are all playing. Incredible as it may seem, previous friends of Whitey have posted their eventual support - "it's great to have you back though" said one. Dennilfloss was soon forgiven. As was Divi-chan. It's fair to say that even for those on the receiving end of such untruths benefit from a heightened state of emotion that you rarely experience in the outside, real world. And doesn't that, just for one day, make life that little bit more exciting? ® Related links Whitey dies Whitey lives Whitey faces the music Whitey don't like the questions Related Stories More online deaths: one tragic, one faked Murderer confesses on Anandtech forum
Kieren McCarthy, 06 Dec 2002

Apple's ‘BluePod’ – promiscuous exchanges with strangers

LettersLetters An iPod that can play your music to strangers and create impromptu public concerts is the stuff of dreams. Frankly it’s the only product out of the four we floated last week that you think has much merit. But my - how you're keen. A "BluePod" we suggested, would be an iPod with built-in Bluetooth and Rendezvous. Think social! "'What am i listening to' is the best viral marketing idea for a long time," reckons Reg friend Bill Thompson [ICA-Monday]. "Apple should spend its time innovating this device, as they will never get far sulking over their older CPUs. Windows users lust for them. "I know this because I bought a Windows machine. If I bought an iPod, I'd use my dad's Mac anyway as it is easier to transfer files via firewire. So listen to me, e-mail Apple about this iPod idea. It sounds awesome," writes Chad Fodelberg. Juhani Tali from Estonia adds:- "The best part about Bluetooth iPod is that perhaps you can leave a significant part of the marketing to RIAA. If you play the cards right." Reader "sam.freak™" (real name supplied) really nails the social aspect of a BluePod:- "Just imagine thousands of people running around with personal radio stations in their pockets! Not only could you broadcast songs and the like, but other content as well -- from personal philosophy to revolutionary and subversive ideas... "...there might also be an option to disable caching of this content to satisfy the RIAA (though no doubt some smart hackers will find ways around that). Add some broadcast range increasing measures to that and elevate, and voila! instant revolution ;-) "Web radio broadcasters might switch if they have just local listeners, and who's gonna police those broadcasts? It's just about >>>>>> impossible... " Yep, that's the most compelling justification for a piconet I've heard. In response to your question "Bluetooth chips are now below $5. And think what you'd have then." How about "a really slow way of transferring MP3s?" notes Adrian Friis from Norway sarcastically. But as Kimba (Kim Granland) points out:- "I think people are still missunderstanding the point of Bluetooth. Bluetooth is not there to support mass data transfer. It's there to eliminate wires for all things that could be using irda, but aren't (for obvious reasons)". Kim has another excellent suggestion for integrating Bluetooth. A headset with a difference:- "Imagine, someone rings you, it shows up on your menubar, you click answer. It fades out the iTunes or your iPod, that is currently hijacking your headset… and switches over to the phonecall.. you hang up and the iPod (or iTunes) fades back in.. this notion can go on and on from there.. but essentially it combines three devices in super simple manne, in a manner that would be expected from Apple." That's beautiful. We've been pulled up sharp for mocking these headsets before [see use a Bluetooth headset and I'm no Nathan Barley, claims reader] but this could have a broad appeal. "A Rendezvous-iPod would be a welcome distraction! For that matter, why couldn't Apple also develop a new rev of their Airport transceiver with Bluetooth and analog audio out?" asks Martin Ferrini. "I want to send music from my Mac and/or iPod to my stereo wirelessly and I'm sure I'm not alone. from what I understand, those Dr. Bott FM transmitters won't cut it and in my opinion." "Apple needs something as a "convincer" for the savvy Mac consumers who want WiFi, but as of now will otherwise go with a cheaper (and/or more versatile) Netgear or Linksys router/transceiver. If they can build in the next gen wireless Firewire and can integrate MPEG4/Quicktime video into near future iPods then so much the better!" Now we're cooking. Niklaus Falk has a perfect description of the detachable Table concept:- "Imagine an iMac with a detachable Screen communicating over Bluetooth or Airport. That would be a product you could sell to premium homes. It would of course double as a media hub if you add speakers to the thin, light screen which you control with a pen from you sofa or wherever. Add remote control software to control you whole home from the screen. Make it foldable so it’s easier to carry. I could go on and on with usage of a nice remote screen which can take pen input. Viewsonic is on the right track but is too bulky." Bruce Hogland has an even more subversive twist on the detachable monitor concept, formatted as per the original article:- iBeheaded - essentially a headless iMac (G4) where the beautiful LCD & swivel arm (both expensive) are replaced by a tilt monitor swivel stand for a PC Switcher's old, but reluctant to throw away, CRT monitor. There would be as many iBeheadeds models as there are iMacs, with the possible exception of a graphics card that supports dual monitors and thus dual monitor ports. The pricing would be as aggressive as possible, so I think a ~$700 low end model is very possible. Most people don't care about Megahurtz, and for even fairly demanding video editing using iMovie, most people find the iMac fast enough. What is it? A cheap, but very capable workstation for a broad range of users (Alpha Geek to Grandma) Pros: cheap, very little R&D (design a tilt stand to replace LCD swivel arm); everything else exists Cons: cannibalizes iMac LCD sales, low margins, gives proof to decades of "I told you so's" when Mac sales skyrocket! Thanks Bruce - and thanks for so many interesting ideas, everyone. Now if you really want a BluePod, write to Apple. I have a hunch that even if Apple passes on it, some manufacturer, probably not Sony, will attempt to bring such a revolutionary device to market. It would be a pity if Apple passed up on the opportunity, as it has the nicest MP3 player and made all the running with NetConf, aka Rendezvous. ® Related Story A Bluetooth iPod (and three other Apple distractions)
Andrew Orlowski, 06 Dec 2002