Michael Dell is no fool, which makes his remarks in an interview with InfoWorld published this week a puzzling read. Dell is asked about one of the great mysteries of our time: why the No.1 PC company made strategic investments in Linux on the consumer desktop, only to axe them rather dramatically, after only a few weeks. All credit to Ashlee Vance for doggedly pursuing this mystery. Vance it was who discovered that Dell had, contrary to its public statements, disappeared the Linux option from its range of offerings. At the time, Dell insisted that "our customers did not seem to want it though; the numbers didn't add up." But confusingly, Michael Dell still insists that the company does offer the option:- "We continue to offer Linux on the desktop and there is nothing else to say," he tells Vance. Back in December 2000, Dell announced a Linux desktop strategy involving GNOME and Eazel. It agreed a distribution deal for Eazel's Nautilus and backed the company with equity from its Dell Ventures investment arm. Dell announced 5,000 redundancies "mostly in administrative, marketing and product support", the wires reported early in 2001. But that wave of redundancies eliminated the company's Linux business unit: removing its head, and reallocating the remaining staff to other functions, we know now from the dissenting States' hearings. Shortly after that, Eazel declared bankruptcy. In other words, Dell's desktop Linux initiative was killed almost as soon as it had started. "The beauty that we do" For Dell's new found affection for Linux had not gone unnoticed at Redmond. In the spring of 2000, Microsoft's chief klaxon Ballmer rang the alarm about Dell's dalliance, saying that it was "untenable that a Windows Premier Partner would be promoting Linux." Later that summer, Microsoft's OEM enforcer Joachin Kempin had promised Ballmer he would be "hitting the OEMs harder than in the past with anti-Linux ... they should do a delicate dance." The details were strangely under-reported and remain so. By last spring, the endless appeals had bored most editors to distraction, and in contrast to the opening days of the Jackson case when the courtroom was packed with star reporters and book authors, few reporters were asked to cover the States' appeals. Which is a shame, as tantalizingly, it's here - in the depositions last Spring - that the answers to this puzzle may lie. Alas, many pages of Ballmer deposition which broach on the subject of OEMs selling competing products to Windows, have been redacted. On February 8 last year, after a long preamble about marketing and development funds that Microsoft gives to OEMs, Ballmer was asked if he dealt personally with OEMs. "I try to convince them of the beauty that we do," replied Saintly Steve. The States' Attorney then turned to the Dell relationship. Twenty two pages of blank testimony follow. After a break to change the tape, we get ten more blank pages - and the discussion continues about Linux, and how much leeway OEMs have in their agreements with Redmond. Microsoft persuaded the court that the details of specific OEM agreements were commercially sensitive, and could be discussed but not released to the public. The truth is in there. Meanwhile, America's 11th richest man (not No.1 of course) maintains that his company does sell consumer desktop Linux systems. Only if you look on the Dell store, it's extremely hard to find. Asked about the antitrust testimony by InfoWorld, Michael Dell weighs the complex legal and economic intricacies of his historic relationship with Microsoft, before offering this response:- "Whoo!" (Twirls finger). What can that mean? ® Related Links InfoWorld's Dell interview - a must-read "The beauty of what we do" - Ballmer testimony Related Stories Microsoft 'killed Dell Linux' - States Dell ends great Linux desktop adventure
Intel Corp has dramatically rerouted its Itanium 2 roadmap, delaying the transition of the 64 bit architecture to 90 nanometer technology but pulling forward its plans for a dual core version of the product, writes Joe Fay. The vendor had originally planned to follow this summer's launch of the second generation Itanium 2, which has been dubbed Madison and which is built on a 0.13 micron process, with a 90 nanometer version of Itanium 2, code-named Montecito, next year. Instead, it will deliver an enhanced version of Madison next year. Montecito will now launch in 2005. However, instead of being a single core chip, as originally envisaged, it will instead feature two cores. Jason Waxman, marketing manager for enterprise processors at Intel, told ComputerWire yesterday that the vendor was on track with its plans to expand the Itanium family. He said Madison will feature 6MB of level three cache and a clock speed of 1.5GHz. Deerfield, a density optimized version of Madison, will appear shortly after. Deerfield is expected to have a slower clock speed than Madison, and a lower cache complement. Waxman said the enhanced Madison due in 2004 will also be built on 0.13 micron technology, but will feature 9MB of cache, with the clock speed cranked higher still. Waxman would not say how fast the chip would be, but said it was not likely to show as great a jump as between the original Itanium and Itanium 2. Intel had earlier said it would launch a dual core Itanium somewhere around the middle of the decade. Waxman said yesterday that the company had made the decision to pull forward its rollout of dual core technology, wrapping it into the Montecito product and announcing a firm 2005 ship date. He said the company had changed tack because it recognized that this would be one of the most significant ways to meet customer demands for increased performance. He said the dual core chip would use the same packaging and socket technology as Itanium 2. "I'm not necessarily saying it will be drop-in compatible," he said. "But it will have the same basic socket and thermals." A spokeswoman for Intel added that the delay in the shift to 90 nanometer technology did not reflect any problems getting Itanium onto the smaller process. Rather she said it resulted from the decision to bring forward the launch of the dual core product. The performance boost offered by the enhanced Madison due next year would be in the same ballpark as that expected from the original single core Montecito, she said. Despite speeding up its dual core rollout, Intel will still be entering the market much later than its rivals. IBM already has a dual core Power4 on the market, and Sun expects to launch its dual core Ultrasparc-IV processor this year. Waxman insisted Intel was not concerned it had already missed the boat. He said that the company was already offering industry-leading performance with the Itanium, and was boosting performance faster than its rivals. Shifting to dual core would offer a substantial jump, he said. More significantly perhaps, Intel hopes to leverage its manufacturing muscle to offer a much cheaper dual core option, compared to IBM or Sun. Customers wanting dual core technology from IBM were facing paying "hundreds of thousands of dollars" Waxman claimed. © ComputerWire
The World Wide Web (W3C) consortium has begun work drafting a specification for a Web Services Choreography language, minus input from Microsoft Corp and IBM, writes Gavin Clarke. The Internet standards body has formally created a Web Services Choreography Working Group, whose existence in draft form was revealed by ComputerWire last month. The group's goal is to create a specification that enables web services to better interact. Missing, though, is input from W3C members Microsoft Corp and IBM. The companies' own proposed Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS) specification has not yet been made available to W3C members, so has not yet been factored into the group's work. BEA Systems Inc - also a co-author - is represented in the working group's efforts elsewhere. Omission raises the worrying prospect that at least two rival web services choreography specifications could be drafted, ratified and eventually implemented in vendors' products. Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle, co-chairing the group, has warned such an eventuality would confuse the market. "BPEL4WS has not yet been made available to the W3C. When it is, I'm sure the working group will take a look," a W3C spokesperson said yesterday. "If [Microsoft, IBM and BEA] make BPEL4WS available to the public without licensing encumbrance, that will help." The working group has, instead, factored-in Web Services Architecture and Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI) 1.0, authored by Sun Microsystems Inc, SAP AG, BEA and San Mateo, California-based Intalio Inc. W3C said its work shall consider "as a minimum" these proposed specifications. The sticking point is believed to be licensing. While IBM and San Jose, California-based BEA Systems Inc pledged making BPEL4WS available on a royalty free basis, co-author Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has remained steadfastly silent on this issue. "The three authors have to come to a mutual agreement," to submit BPEL4WS the W3C spokesperson said. BEA would appear to back that stance. In a previously released statement, the company said: "If IBM and Microsoft also come on board agreeing with that position [Royalty Free] then we will of course continue to advocate it be submitted as a royalty-free standard." The W3C spokesperson said it was possible IBM and Microsoft could participate in the working group, as longstanding W3C members, without submitting BPEL4WS. The working group's designated lifespan is two years, with a recommended specification scheduled for July 2004. © ComputerWire
The dark art of Java programming could be demystified in the next enterprise edition, as Sun Microsystems Inc and community members introduce features to help the platform gain wider acceptance, writes Gavin Clarke. Sun and the Java Community Process (JCP) members preparing the delayed Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.4, scheduled for release this quarter, hope to reduce the number of APIs programmers must use when building applications and web services. Solutions adopted include updating JavaServer Pages (JSPs) with version 2.0 and support for generic types used when building with the J2EE platform and Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs). Santa Clara, California-based Sun and the JCP hope their changes will ensure J2EE becomes more accessible to developers who are not focussed on the enterprise and those who lack sophisticated programming skills currently required by the platform. "We want to take the platform in the direction that makes it easier for [non enterprise] developers to use. The EJBs are a little bit easier to use," J2EE 1.4 platform product manager George Grigoryev told ComputerWire. Java has long-been criticized as difficult to use. Vendors such as San Francisco, California-based Macromedia Inc have sought to remedy this by bringing their own easy-to-use development environments to the platform. San Jose, California-based BEA Systems Inc, meanwhile, launched WebLogic Workshop for Java web services that automatically glues together many of J2EE 1.3 and EJB 2.0 APIs used to build a web service. "We want to reduce the amount of APIs that developers must use [with J2EE 1.4]," Sun distinguished engineer and J2EE lead architect Mark Hapner said. Programming in JSP 2.0 will be simplified by adding the ability to use Simple Expression Language with the Tag Library. Simple Expression Language lets developers script logical expressions directly into JSP, rather than writing them in the Java language, making server pages a more effective scripting facility. Generics, meanwhile, are types that contain data such as lists and are not defined to operate over a specific type of data. Instead, they operate over a homogeneous set, where the set type is defined at declaration. Generics provide flexibility of dynamic binding, compiler-detected errors are less expensive to repair than those detected at runtime, code review is simpler, and fewer casts are required making code cleaner.
Register.com Inc has received an unsolicited offer of almost $200m to buy the company outright, but has yet to make a public decision on whether shareholders should accept the offer, it emerged yesterday. RCM Acquisition Co LLC, a consortium of several Register shareholders set up specifically to launch the bid and apparently led by Barington Companies Equity Partners, said it presented the board of directors with a cash offer of $4.95 per share. The consortium, which said it controls 4.2% of Register, said the offer represents an 8.3% premium on Tuesday's closing share price and a 24.9% premium on the average closing price over the last 90 days. The wannabe buyer also wants to replace the entire board of directors with seven people of its own choosing at the company's annual general meeting, it said. James Mitarotonda, CEO of the General Partner of Barington said: "It is our opinion that Register.com is an undervalued and underperforming company. We believe that, among other things, this all-cash transaction will provide the company's shareholders with immediate liquidity at a premium to the current market price." Spokespeople for Register.com could not reached for comment, and the firm made no statement yesterday as to whether it supports the offer or not. However, the firm introduced a shareholder rights plan in October specifically to better negotiate such an unsolicited offer. The poison pill plan calls for new shares to be issued if an unsolicited takeover is attempted and the buyer has 15% of the outstanding shares.
The financial confusion at e-business software developer Ariba Inc has deepened following the announcement that it will now have to restate its fiscal 2000 figures and 10 quarters of results. This follows an earlier announcement that it would have to restate its fiscal 2001 figures. The troubled started when an internal review began on December 21, and identified a transaction of $10m made in March 2001 between two officers of the company - chairman and co-founder Keith Krach and the then president and chief operating officer Larry Mueller. Ariba's accounting had originally regarded the payment as a personal transaction (largely on the basis that it involved personal funds of Krach, rather than company funds). But it now deems that the payment should be booked as a capital contribution to Ariba. This discovery forced Ariba to announce in early January that it would have to restate its fiscal 2001 figures. Now it seems that the Sunnyvale, California-based company also failed to record as costs $1.2m worth of chartered-airplane services provided by Krach to Mueller. Ariba didn't record the payments as expenses, and the company declined to give details on the flights or their purpose. It is irregular for a chairman, and not the company, to cover these expenses, as Securities and Exchange Commission rules state that payments by a principal shareholder (in this case Krach) to executives (in this case Mueller) must be treated as expenses paid on behalf of the company. This is to prevent lower costs being used to improve a company's results, and hence bolster its share price. Additionally, Ariba has discovered that certain stock options issued to a small number of individuals by companies acquired by Ariba during fiscal 2000, should be accounted for as stock-based compensation expense to Ariba, rather than amortized as goodwill. This will mean an increase in non-cash stock-based compensation expense, and a reduction of goodwill amortization expense will be reflected in Ariba's restated results for 2000, 2001, and 2002. Ariba also announced that it has missed the December 30 deadline for filing its fiscal 2002 statements (10-K annual report) with the SEC, and will not do so until the completion of the review. As such, the company faces a possible delisting from Nasdaq. However, given that Ariba has a market capitalization of $855m, it seems likely that Nasdaq may bend the rules for a company this big. Shares in Ariba fell 30 cents, or 8.6%, to $3.20 as of 5pm GMT on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
On Monday, we revealed that Mandrakesoft was close to seeking bankruptcy protection under French law. Yesterday, the firm filed for the French equivalent of Chapter 11. Here is the company's statement. The move is designed to give it breathing space from creditors, while it re-organises its affairs. Question is: how many firms come out of the other end alive and thriving? We ask this, only because Chapter 11-style rescues do not necessarily work well outside the US. In the UK, for instance, we have something called a Creditor's Voluntary Arrangement. More often than not, this is staging post to an early grave. ® Related story MandrakeSoft mulls Chapter 11 style escape, says email
A quarterly poll of 100 European CIOs by investment bank Merrill Lynch sounds a muted outlook for the year ahead with average IT budget growth of just 0.8% against 2002 levels, although IT spending plans look more certain than in surveys carried out in previous quarters. A majority 43% slice of respondents anticipated that spending on software in 2003 will remain flat relative to 2002, with 36% of all respondents saying that new hardware would be where they would increase their spending first. Pricing pressure in IT services appears to be abating with only 41% of respondents having extracted price reductions from their IT services vendors in the last six months, compared to 58% in the bank's last quarterly survey. However, some 46% of respondents believe that they will be able to obtain discounts on their software maintenance contracts in 2003. That pricing pressure appears most acute among IT services companies in the UK, where 59% of respondents had achieved price reductions in the last six months with 41% winning price reductions of more than 10%. Overall, a substantial 41% of the average outsourcing service contract was found to comprise discretionary top-up work which could be cancelled at short notice. This was particularly pronounced in the UK and Germany where figures rose to around 55%. Some 42% of all CIOs said that they had no plans to outsource major operations - evidence, the bank suggests, of a discernible trend for CIOs to increase the amount of IT services work done in-house. Certainly, there was only limited evidence of companies planning to buy more integration and implementation services from their software vendors. This was something that was particularly pronounced in France, where 85% of respondents said that they had no such plans. Merrill's European CIO survey is based on a panel of 100 companies that were interviewed in November and December 2002 by ComputerWire. © Computerwire Related stories IT spending dropped in Q4 2002- can 2003 be that gloomy? Goldman Sachs issues gloomy IT spending outlook
Goldman Sach's survey of major US Corporations' IT spend in Q4 2002 showed a surprising drop in Corporate IT spending. It surprised everyone, not least Goldman Sachs itself, writes Bob McDowall. Leaving aside the fact that the lower IT spend will reflect flat or lower revenues for some of the major technology companies for 4th qtr 2002 / 1st qtr 2003, the IT market is now forecast to decline by 1% rather than grow by a modest 2.3%. Psychologically, this is depressing for an industry where it was hoped that IT spending would end its decline in 2002 and stage very modest growth in 2003. This is reinforced by the fact that these major US Corporations suggested that there were more likely to be budget cuts in IT spending in 2003 rather than modest budget increases. While in the longer term, the next three years, IT spending is forecast to increase by 5%, this is still very modest by 1990's standards. Is it all down to economic conditions? Is the concept of Return on IT Investment, the concept that every dollar spent had better yield its like in return or the technology project in question, making its mark? Is the fear that an investment will not produce the desired result stopping firms from embracing technology? They all make a minor contribution. There is no pent-up demand for technology. More importantly there is no ground breaking technology coming onto the market which will have a major impact across the universe of technology users. Very specific advances are being made in areas such as security and surveillance systems. Technology initiatives driven by development of industry business standards, legislation or insurance requirements have given a strong lease of life to matters like business continuity planning, monitoring and maintaining e-mail correspondence in sectors like financial services. Any other growth is probably of a maintenance nature. Upgrading of PCs should theoretically provide a kick-start for the PC producers, good solid but low margin business. Perhaps, the IT industry is evolving into a solid, measured and relatively unexciting business? © IT-Analysis.com Related story Goldman Sachs issues gloomy IT spending outlook
In a decision marked by much internal dissent - bordering on outright cattiness - the United States' Supreme Court voted 7-2 to uphold the decision to give copyright holders a 20 year rights extension. It doesn't quite merit up there as a crime alongside book-burning, but it does isolate the public from a vast body of literature, art and information we could otherwise freely enjoy and appears to point the intellectual thermostat in the United States to "permafrost". The original copyright law provided works of the "sciences and useful arts" with a protection for 14 years. Congress "may" extend this protection if a justification to the arts could be proved. The Supremes ruling yesterday confirmed that Congress can and damn well should extend it as long as it sees fit. The challenge to the Sonny Bono Copyright Act - the most recent in a succession of extensions to US copyright legislation which brings the term up to 70 years - was brought by an Internet book publisher, Eric Eldred of Eldrich Press, who challenged the right of Congress to extend the legislation willy-nilly. But why is this so surprising? A partisan high court composed of Judges that could readily discard lifelong convictions when the time came to install a President (as they did in December 2000, in arguing that halting the Florida ballot recount would be unnecessary interference in States' rights) would surely lose little sleep over defending "property owners". While the decision robs Internet users of the works of F.Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, and Sherwood Anderson, not to mention America's greatest composers - Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong and George Gershwin - it preserved the Disney Corporations claim to the market the Mouse™. And while the heavens wept, the Judges fought it out. As dissenting Judges Breyer and Stevens drew on history, a sneery majority opinion from Judge Ginsberg (check the footnotes) declaimed "wishful thinking". Somehow, you get the impression that the battle lines had been drawn from the start, and reason had little part to play in the final decision. The decision is a defeat for Stanford's Lawrence Lessig, who had devoted much of his time (which could have otherwise been profitably spent defending pigopolists such as Disney) to the case, while he mobilized a brilliant popular campaign against the ludicrous Bono act. "If there is any good that might come from my loss, let it be the anger and passion that now gets to swell against the unchecked power that the Supreme Court has said Congress has," wrote Lessig, in his online journal. "When the Free Software Foundation, Intel, Phillis Schlafly, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Kenneth Arrow, Brewster Kahle, and hundreds of creators and innovators all stand on one side saying, 'this makes no sense,' then it makes no sense. Let that be enough to move people to do something about it. Our courts will not." Much less quoted on the boards tonight was Lessig's conclusion: "What the Framers of our constitution did is not enough. We must do more." Indeed. The constitution may be a thing of great beauty - but it hasn't saved America from becoming a tyranny. A place that votes to preserve Mickey Mouse instead of Gershwin, Fitzgerald and Satchmo - three artists to take to any planet - clearly isn't looking after its own. The cause needs to reclaim the word "property" from the ludicrous formulation "intellectual property", and it needs to assert a common culture over corporate wisdom. Coming up soon before the Supremes is an even more significant case that could reshape America for the benefit of Americans, only the odds are stacked heavily against it succeeding. This cause doesn't have Flash animations or Slashdot, or the blogosphere on its side. In fact, the forces mobilized against this range from Microsoft to the New York Times and the TV networks. The Supremes will soon vote on whether corporations - like your friendly Disney - ought to enjoy the same free speech rights as you or I. In other words, can these artificial creations - which have few responsibilities - deny the common will by claiming First Amendment privileges? This underfunded and forlorn challenge seeks only to put American business inline with the responsibilities of businesses everywhere else in the world, but a victory could allow - if only we take the opportunity - to assert the power we (remember, the people?) have by right. A right we have tended to forget to use. The details are here, in a beautifully written piece by Thom Hartmann that will serve as America's epitaph if sit on our hands, and don't assert what Lessig did. Which is but a simple thing: we are bigger than they are. ®
A quite bizarre CNET report reveals that Microsoft's Security Response Center began investigations into the circumvention of security on the SPV smartphone on Tuesday, searching - so says CNET, anyway - for reports of rogue programs on the network and damaged phones. Furthermore, says an anonymous source "familiar with the situation," unlocking an SPV "is a difficult process that sometimes involves taking the phone apart." Oh really? One hazards a guess that this particular source is familiar with the situation as they would like it to be, and as it no doubt will be by version 2.0 or 3.0 - security hard-wired into the silicon, and the client irretrievably controlled/owned by somebody out there, not you. The difficult process sometimes involving taking the phone apart has now been FAQed by MoDaCo, and you can find a backup explanation here. We've also been contacted by one UK user who claimed the French method, which is even simpler, worked for him, so it's possibly worth giving that a shot first. But rewind to CNET and the MS pitch on the subject. The circumvention instructions had been around for a little while before El Reg got to them on Tuesday, and we're told they've even appeared in one of Microsoft's own smartphone newsgroups. So if you were cynical you'd maybe reckon that some people regard security as an issue when enough people know about the breach, rather than when they first hear about it. And although the press bears some responsibility for pushing its quest for the first mobile phone-based network hack (NB, we're no better than we should be, we'll be right there salivating with them when it happens), it is extremely convenient for Microsoft and the networks if the security 'issue' obscures the reality. Will they find any broken phones? Nope, the best they'll be able to come up with is the odd dope who brings his phone in because he nuked his settings and therefore needs a grown up to reset it for him. Will they find evil hackers unlocking their handsets in order to unleash devil's spawn on the network? That is a more complex question. Today, the answer is probably not, not yet. There aren't that many SPV users, only a proportion (but likely a higher proportion than usual for handsets) are techies, and a vanishingly small proportion of them are going to be twistedly malicious. But when you've got hundreds of millions of clients out there and people developing DiY malware kits for mobile phones, then yes, if you're relying on compromised client security you most certainly are going to find the devil's spawn. So long term, it's an issue, and long term, if they rely on "security" as transparent as this, they're toast. They will not however find anything today, presuming that's what they're looking for, so they will shortly be in a position to make a complacent announcement to that effect. What, though, is it that's there, that they're not looking for, but that they should be? Well, this search wouldn't be particularly hard, because it's the communities who came up with the circumvention routines in the first place. They consist of developers and enthusiasts who'd like to produce and use software for the SPV, and who really would like the phone to succeed. They are not evil malicious hackers, although stupid laws in an increasingly number of countries might now deem them to be lawbreakers. They want to unlock their phones because they've been on hold since Orange switched on certification, and now they're happy because they don't need to wait for Orange to come up with some kind of 'official' route. But if you were cynical, you might say their big mistake is they don't have money. The 'certified app only' route allows whoever owns the distribution channel to tithe the developers, and they're probably more interested in the 'few developers, big bucks' model from the games console industry than in small and solo developers who often will make very little, or even - horror - give the stuff away. Playing the security card therefore comes in handy if you see dealing with these guys as unprofitable, more trouble than it's worth, and if you're using the PC industry as an example of what you definitely don't want the mobile phone industry to become, well, you're maybe going to see unfettered development on an open platform as a bad thing in itself, aren't you? And you're unlikely to listen to people who tell you that's one of the reasons the PC industry was a success. ® Related stories: Orange SPV MS smartphone cert security cracked
Yahoo! Inc's decision to cut costs and introduce new ways to generate money, such as charging for email, appears to be paying off. Revenue at the world's most visited portal network jumped 51 per cent to $285.8m in Q4 2002, up from $188.9 million in the same period in 2001. This increase helped deliver positive numbers for Yahoo! posting a net income for the three months to the end of December of $46.2m, compared with a net loss of $8.7 in Q4 2001. Net revenues for the year landed at $953.1m, up 33 per cent compared to the $717.4 m reported in 2001. There was also an improvement in the outfit's EBITDA with earnings before interest etc for the year at $206m compared with an EBITDA loss of $18.6 million in 2001. Terry Semel, chairman and chief exec of Yahoo!, said that major changes at the company had taken Yahoo! "from a company with tremendous potential to one with multiple strong businesses" which can build a "sustainable long-term future". Looking ahead, Yahoo! anticipates revenues for Q1 2003 to be between $255m and $275m, with EBITDA coming in somewhere between $60 and $70 million for the quarter. For the full year, Yahoo! expects to generate revenues of between $1.145bn $1.215bn, with EBITDA between $295m and $330 million. ®
Down in Intel's Frankenstein laboratories, the scientists are coming up with ever more surreal methods to disguise the comatose Itanium processor project as a living breathing thing. Drawing their inspiration from those weird genetic scientists who graft ears onto mice, the processor geniuses have come up with a cunning wheeze. Thanks to process improvements, we hear, the next Itanium2 will feature a hitherto unheard-of cache of 9MB. British readers of the adult Viz comic, will not have to reach further than their trousers for a simile: because the brothers Chris and Jim Donald created a precursor in the strip "Buster Gonads". For American readers, Buster Gonads was a character blessed with "unfeasibly large testicles", which he was obliged to carry around in a wheelbarrow. Buster's nuts were enlarged by "cosmic rays" which enlarged them to an "unfeasible size". Leading to all sorts of unforeseen comic situations... Now for experienced microprocessor designers, this attempt to overcompensate might seem ridiculous. But, on the other hand, it might be an opportunity to graft increasingly surreal "mitigating circumstances" onto underperforming chips. A 9MB cache sounds pretty impressive, to the trade press, don't you think? So how about a processor with, say, 65,000 pin-outs, arranged as a kind of silicon porcupine? The limits of your imagination are bounded only by your budgets, so think creative. Artistic prototypes are particularly welcome. ® Related stranger-than-fiction Itanicide Do not feed, poke or disturb the Itanic user Miracle cures Berkeley man of Itanic wickedness
A 15-year-old girl suffered second-degree burns to her hands and thighs after the laptop she was using exploded. Nikita Sooklal, the daughter of a foreign affairs official based in Pretoria, South Africa, is now in hospital being treated for her injuries. According to South Africa's Independent Online, there's still no news concerning the cause of the blast, although police are still investigating the incident. Nikita had borrowed her father's laptop during her lunch break to access the Net - but five minutes later the computer exploded. Her mother told the newspaper that she heard a "big bang" and immediately rushed downstairs. Nikita was screaming, said her mum, and "her top was burning and the skin around her hands was hanging loose, clearly burned." The full story can be read here. ®
Workers at Time Computers are threatening to go on strike regarding ongoing concerns over pay and conditions. The "'Independent' Time Employee Forum" (ITEF) claims management has failed to budge on a number of issues. The ITEF claims talks between management and workers yesterday failed produce any progress. As a result, the ITEF has called for a strike on February 3. However, workers at Time's call centre are not affiliated to any trade union. And the TUC has warned that any unofficial strike would be illegal and could lead to the dismissal of those taking part. Instead, the TUC advised employees to join a union - preferably the same one - and let the union fight for their cause. A spokesman for Time said he was aware of the strike threat but said he believed it would not go ahead. And he maintained that the ITEF did not represent the views if the vast majority of workers at Time's call centre, and that this "hard-nosed" group was made up of just two or three people. Sources inside the company dispute this and claim that there are around 150 people who share the concerns expressed by the ITEF. ® Related Story Workers revolt at Time
The PC market in Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) recorded modest growth during the fourth quarter of 2002, of around six percent. Preliminary results from Gartner Dataquest suggest an estimated 13.1 million PCs were sold in the EMEA region last quarter, up 6.3 per cent from 12.277 million units in Q4 2001. The analysts reckon consumer demand for laptops and notepads was behind the modest upturn. Corporate sales were slow, so most vendors concentrated on sales to smaller businesses. Brian Gammage, principal analyst at Gartner Dataquest, said: "We don't expect corporate PC demand to be bolstered by a strong replacement cycle during 2003. Most commercial organisations will continue to sweat their PC assets, replacing existing units on a needs basis only." For the year 2002 as a whole, PC shipments in EMEA grew three percent compared to 2001. That means we're back to figures last seen during 2000. Gartner Dataquest expect growth figures to remain at about six or seven per cent throughout this year. Looking at figures for individual vendors reveals underlying shifts in the market. Acer continued to record the region's highest growth rates, overtaking IBM to reach the fourth ranked position in the market. Gartner Dataquest estimates it sold 683,000 units in Q2 2002, up 29 per cent on the 530,000 PCs it sold in Q4 2002, to claim a 5.2 per cent stake in the overall market. Gartner Dataquest believes "Acer's gains were driven by its low-cost pricing strategy and the ongoing expansion of its distribution network." Dell also outgrew the market (with sales up 12.9 per cent to 1.197 million units for Q4 2002) but continued to miss out on the strong growth in consumer PC demand outside the UK. Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, saw shipments decline during the fourth quarter, as "product roadmap transitions and rationalisation of its distribution network impacted its performance". HP sold an estimated 2,253 units down 12.7 per cent on the 2,581 PCs it (and Compaq combined) sold in Q4 2001. Small comfort, then, that it's still the leading vendor in EMEA with a market share of 17.3 per cent. ®
Fewer people in the US are accessing the Net using a narrowband connection, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Its latest figures show that 77.4m people in the US used a dial-up connection from home in December - down 10 per cent on the previous year. By comparison, 33.6m - an annual increase of almost 60 per cent - used a broadband connection from home to access the Net. "2002 marked an entire year of decline for narrowband usage at home," said Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings. "As the broadband infrastructure continues to expand across the US, we expect to see the mainstream online population convert to higher speeds," he said. The research also found that broadband users do more online than their narrowband counterparts. Which is nice. ®
Dot-com survivor Yahoo! said this week that it beat expectations for the fourth quarter, as it raised estimates for 2003. For the last three months of 2002, the Internet giant said that revenue jumped 51 per cent from the same time a year ago, reaching $285.8m, at the high end of its previously stated guidance. This figure was also comfortably ahead of the $278.6m estimate that analysts on Wall Street were calling for. Omitting sales from HotJobs, which was purchased by Yahoo in early 2002, revenues jumped a whopping 39 per cent year-on-year. The company said that fourth quarter earnings amounted to $46.2m, or $0.08 per share, compared to a year-ago $0.02 loss. Analysts had forecast a $0.06 profit, which Yahoo came in well ahead of. "Over the last twelve months we have executed against a business plan which has taken Yahoo from a company with tremendous potential to one with multiple strong businesses, from which we believe we can continue to build a sustainable long-term future," said Terry Semel, chairman and chief executive officer of Yahoo. "We experienced growth in both our existing businesses and newer areas." The company said that its all-important advertising revenue, which amounted to 62 per cent of sales, grew mainly through Yahoo's sponsored search business. Semel also said that traditional advertising sales grew, on a sequential basis, in every quarter in 2002. Fees and listings, which account for about 32 per cent of Yahoo's revenue, skyrocketed by 65 per cent, thanks mainly to the HotJobs acquisition and more paying customers for the company's existing services in the category. Such services include Yahoo Personals and the ISP service that the company sells in conjunction with SBC Communications. Importantly, the company said that it would raise its guidance for 2003, with revenues expected to come in at between $1.145bn to $1.215bn. Previously the company predicted revenues of $1.075bn to $1.175bn. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBDITA) were increased from a range of $250m to $300m to a range of $295m to $330m. "As we move into 2003, we continue to focus on maximising long-term free cash flow per share," said Susan Decker, chief financial officer of Yahoo! "Our long-term financial strategy of attracting significantly more revenue from our growing user base without commensurately increasing our expense appears to be gaining traction. In 2003, we expect strong growth in revenue, profitability and free cash flow, even as we continue to invest in areas that we expect will drive long-term growth." Yahoo stock fell by $0.80 on Wednesday, before results were released. Over the last four months, however, the value of Yahoo shares has doubled to $18.78. © ENN
One in twelve text messages, originated by email, are either tardy or lost on their way to US mobile subscribers. That's the surprising findings from a survey by Web performance monitoring outfit Keynote Systems which found 7.5 per cent of the messages sent during its tests were not received within 120 seconds during its two-week study of the SMS systems of major US carriers last month. These lost messages represent significant lost revenues for carriers as well as been a pain in the neck for users, Keynote points out. The company says its study "indicates the urgent need for monitoring and diagnostic services that help expose performance problems", such as its Wireless Perspective Carrier Edition Service. Each test measurement consists of a single short message originated via email (our emphasis) and received by a mobile handset connected to a Keynote Wireless Perspective Agent. The tests were conducted in a variety in Seattle and New York over a variety of networks (CDMA, GSM etc.) run by AT&T, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon and Voicestream. Keynote's methodology is explained here. A breakdown of the figures shows delivery failures were higher for messages sent between networks, dropping as low at 81.6 per cent in the case of messages sent between T-Mobile and Nextel's networks. We wonder whether the email leg of the journey is causing the problems here, since we've never had trouble sending SMS messages in the UK. Perhaps US readers can help us decide if Keynote has fingered a genuine problem. ®