8th > April > 2003 Archive

Sun overhauls low-end servers

Sun's "Enchilada" server has been written about many times at El Reg, but now the two processor system has arrived. Sort of. Starting May 20, the V210 and V240 servers - as they are now to be known - will go on sale. These servers are of particular note because they mark the appearance of the much-hyped, much-delayed UltraSPARC IIIi processor, code-named Jalapeno. The Enchilida servers also flag the beginning of a big revamp of both Sun's 64-bit SPARC and 32-bit Intel/AMD low end systems. The new servers also anchor a barrage of announcements from Sun ahead of a Tuesday conference here in San Francisco. The V210 is a 1U server starting at $2,995, while the larger V240 takes up 2U of rack space and starts at $3,495. Both systems have four gigabit Ethernet ports and have an optional SSL acceleration card available. Along with the new kit, Sun will start shipping its Sun Fire 280R server, Netra 20 server and Sun Blade workstation with 1.2GHz UltraSPARC IIIs. The overhaul of Sun's low end line should continue next quarter with the release of the 4 processor "Chalupa" server, which will also have the UltraSPARC IIIi chips. Around that time, Sun should be gearing up two processor Intel servers with Xeon chips. Sun executives admit they slipped up when the company entered the Intel server world with less than state of the art Pentium III-based systems. Sun, however, pledges that upcoming Intel kit along with the new UltraSPARC IIIi servers will give it a low end line that can attack IBM, HP and Dell on all fronts. For its midrange servers, Sun has added diagnostic tools that can find problems with a CPU or memory and isolate the faulty component. In Scott McNealy's dreams, all of these system health checks and alerts could be managed from Sun's N1 management console. However, this has not yet translated to reality and the N1 goodies will remain on Sun's blade servers for now. On the high end, Sun has started selling pre-packaged clusters of of the Sun Fire 6800, 12K and 15K. The only thing missing from a hardware revamp of this scale is the mandatory professional services announcement. So, here you go. Sun has started a new managed services program aimed at improving the efficiency of a network. Basically, Sun will offer up its expertise in keeping systems up and data routing smoothly for a fee. Sun has more announcements planned for its Tuesday event. The company is currently in phase II of a quarterly product launch scheme that it started earlier this year. This release schedule is meant to show customers every three months what $2 billion in research and development can buy. ® Related Stories Sun goes the whole Enchilada Sun peppers low-end with McKinley-killer Jalapeno Sun revamps workgroup servers Missing Sun chip found in abandoned taqueria Sun's Jalapeno almost cooked Sun discloses UltraSPARC VI and VII, shows IV silicon Power5 boasts quadruple performance gain
Ashlee Vance, 08 Apr 2003

Intel and VIA are friends again

Hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth of lawyers in five countries on three continents as Intel and VIA decided to stop suing each other over who owns what. The two companies have battled since September 2001 over the rights of VIA to use Intel-patents in P4 chipsets and mobos. VIA has in turn sued Intel over alleged patent infringements and anti-competitive behaviour. Having fought each other to an effective standstill, Intel and VIA are to settle all 27 patent infringement claims (and, we guess, the UK anti-competitive case) contained in 11 lawsuits. They have signed a 10-year cross patent licence with each other. Intel has also granted VIA rights to make X86 processors, so long as they are not pin or bus-compatible with its own C3 processors. Also, Intel will not assert patents on VIA bus or pin compatible microprocesors for a three year period. This hardly earth-shattering: the C3 barely registers a blip on Intel's radar screen, but for VIA, it's nice to dot the i's and cross the t's. What else? Ah yes, Intel and VIA have agreed royalty terms over VIA's chipsets for the Intel platform. This is much more significant agreement, as it covers a sector where the two companies slug it out toe to toe. In return, Intel has granted VIA a four year license to design and sell chipsets that are "compatible with the Intel microprocessor bus and agreed not to assert its patents on VIA or its customers or distributors on such chipsets for a fifth year". Phew! That's most of it, we think, except that S3, VIA's subsidiary, is not included in the agreement. Don't say we have to go through this again. Please. Both sides are paying their own legal fees. So who won? VIA may have won a moral victory, but Intel, we think, has won the war. By sending in the legal attack dogs on VIA, Intel has ensured that Taiwan's OEM sector will think very carefully before stepping out of line over royalties or disputed patents. VIA may have fought valiantly, but at the cost of falling sales in its core chipset business, as well as huge management time and legal expenses. In the long-term, this may be of no great import: the chipset business is getting more competitive, and VIA is beginning to exploit its technology portfolio with, for example, OEM products for audio devices, and embedded processors for the consumer electronics sector. This is where the future of the company lies. But chipsets have been a nice cash cow for VIA in the past, and it makes sense for the company, to milk it for as much and for as long as possible. ® Related stories Balloons burst in Intel-VIA trial Appeals Court overturns VIA-Intel antitrust ruling
Drew Cullen, 08 Apr 2003

Nvidia to debut NV35 at E3?

Thanks to Reg readers for pointing out this page on the E3 expo web site. Scroll down the page to Nvidia's entry and you'll see it sports a 'First Looks' logo. According to the site, that means "this exhibitor plans on debuting one or more products at their E3booth". A sign, we wonder, that the company plans to announce its NV35 chip, the follow-up to the NV30, aka GeForce FX 5800, at the show? E3 is the chief games industry shindig, and has played host to many graphics chip announcements before. However, glancing through the company's press release database, E3 releases are few and far between, and the only chip launches with similar dates to the show are for workstation-oriented Quadro parts. Quadro isn't a chip for entertainment systems, but it is of interest to an industry that uses graphics workstations in the games creation process. Could NV35 be a Quadro part? The GeForce FX 5800 was announced some time ago, but has only recently begun to ship. May might seem like too soon a refresh. But the current Quadro FX 1000 and 2000 only arrived in January. That also seems too short a time to warrant a refresh so soon. In any case, 'new product' in expo terms tends to be anything released in the last three months, so the E3 site could eaily be referring to a chip we've already seen. E3 will held on 14-16 May at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Nvidia will be exhibiting in the South Hall, on stand 1636. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 2003

QDI springs Springdale mobo

Mobo maker Legend QDI has announced a board based on Intel's Springdale chipset. The P4I865G will ship, says QDI, around the middle of this month, "at the same time Intel launches its new chipset". Intel is expected to launch Prescott, the CPU supporting the 800MHz FSB, at the same time. The QDI Springdale board supports the 800MHz quad-pumped frontside bus and a dual-channel 400MHz DDR SDRAM bus. It also supports AGP 8x and provide through Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 on the mobo. The board's Southbridge chip supports ATA-100 and Serial ATA. Up to eight USB 2.0 ports are provided, with 1394 as an optional extra. QDI also includes a "unique Hyper-Threading diagnostic light technology", which we assume is a set of LEDs that show HT in action, and "proprietary ProEasy technology delivers optimised Hyper-Threading performance". ®
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 2003

Roam from wireless LAN to phone network, on a single bill?

Normally, "strategic relationships" aren't worth much of a look; but a deal done between Transat and Gemplus could open up a new universal roaming system from phone to WLAN and back again, as users move around cities. As announced, the agreement is merely "to extend secure WLAN access to enterprise and home markets" - by using smartcard security. What it actually means, however, is that within a very short time, anybody who operates a wireless "hot spot" could find themselves earning a little extra money by connecting phone subscribers to the Internet. And the number of hotspots offered by phone operators could rocket. The two enterprises have focused on a user authentication system developed by Transat: it's called WAIN (Wireless Access Internet Node) by using Gemplus smart card technology. "This solution will address the security concerns of WLAN devices and enable wireless operators to use their existing infrastructure to offer WLAN access as part of their service portfolio," says the official press announcement. To understand why this is important, you only have to go back a couple of weeks, to the recent 3GSM Congress in Cannes where a company called t-net, developer of the WeRoam service, got together with Transat and Performance Technologies (PTIX) to demonstrate (you have to register) seamless roaming between WLAN and GSM networks at the exhibition. Working together, the three companies were able to unify WLAN networks with the GSM network community allowing subscribers to roam between networks and yet have a single identity and receive just one bill. Add smartcard authentication, and you have WLAN users able to roam freely between WLAN and GPRS networks, without having to sign onto a new Megabeam or OpenZone or Costa Coffee or Starbucks or hotel-based mini-LAN every time you go more than 30 feet away. "The use of the smart card allows enterprises, mobile, and fixed network operators to offer secure WLAN roaming to their customers over their existing infrastructure," said the release. "Residential WLANs also benefit from the trusted security model based on SIM functionality." It's hard to see any operators of WLAN hotspots resisting the lure of this. If you run a huge network of prime hotspot sites, it's still going to be a certainty that most of your users will go from your best hotspot to one that is outside your control, because even the biggest operator is still a minority player. Adding subscribers from other hotspot networks will be a juggling act, financially. It will be necessary to work out how much extra traffic you get (and the costs associated with this) against how much extra income you get from other service providers when their users log onto your network. What remains to be sorted, it seems, is a universal smartcard carrier - at the moment, the SIM card is the only possible authentication device, and it's by no means universal. Most smartcards are credit card sized, and almost no GSM phone now accepts SIM carriers of that size. Two quotes: "Transat is excited about the fast market potential that this cooperation can unlock in this developing market," said John Baker, Transat founder and CEO. "This partnership is important as it ties into Gemplus' unfolding strategy to investigate new markets," said Philippe Martineau, VP Business Development Group, Gemplus. "The aim is to help the operator leverage existing roaming agreements while providing a consistent and secure service over GPRS and WLAN. The integration of Transat's solution with Gemplus' smart card expertise offers a minimum investment solution with seamless network integration that will offer tangible value to the Mobile Network Operator." More information about Transat Technologies is available at http://www.transat-tech.com, and Gemplus at http://www.gemplus.com. © More great articles from NewsWireless.Net Free mobile phone video - carried over audio? Where were you last Thursday night? Microsoft puts Bluetooth and .Net in Smartphone 2003
Guy Kewney, 08 Apr 2003

How to turn your iBook into an iMac (sort of)

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Mobile Want an Apple iMac, but having to use an iBook instead? Want your bring your PC laptop into the Anglepoise Generation™? Then you need Lapvantage's Dome notebook stand. Apparently. As you can see from the piccy, the Dome is an iMac-esque hemispherical base with a clear perspex flat panel for your notebook where the iMac has its LCD screen. Chuck in a stylish Apple Pro Keyboard and Pro Mouse and you'd could almost imagine you too owned an glistening white iMac. Or a black one - Dome comes in black for all you ThinkPad fans out there. Actually, Dome isn't new - Lapvantage has been offering the standard model since last August, but we were so taken with it we thought we'd give it a mention. The $49.95 standard model's notebook stand is fixed at 5.5in, but there's a more expensive, $79.95 deluxe edition that features an adjustable stand, allowing you to position your portable between 4.75 and 6.5in above the desk. We jest a little about the Dome's looks - and its rather obvious source of inspiration. But like the Sherpaq Oyster, does try to address the ergonomic issues surrounding notebook usage by bringing the laptop's screen up to eye level, the better to eliminate neck and back strain. The Dome scores over the Oyster not only because it looks better, but it supports a much wider range of notebooks - though not Apple's 17in PowerBook. And with more notebooks being sold as desktop replacements, here's a product that allows you to use your portable PC that way. At present Lapvantage isn't shipping the Dome outside of the US and Canada. However, its reseller, Other World Computing, is carrying the and does ship abroad. PDA Toshiba has launched its Wi-Fi enabled e750 and budget e350 PocketPC PDAs in the UK. The £499 e750 features on-board 802.11b support and a 400MHz Intel XScale PXA255 processor. It has a 3.8in 240x320 16-bit colour screen. In addition to the 32MB Flash ROM and 64MB RAM, the e750 has an extra 32MB of Flash memory to preserve applications and data from hard resets and battery drains. SD card and CompactFlash slots allow for expansion. It is available today. The "super thin" e350 is a budget PDA that's only 12.4mm thick. It weighs under 150g. It's an upgrade to the existing e330. It too is based on the PXA255, but at 300MHz. Its display is a 3.5in 240x320 16-bit colour LCD. A built-in SD card slot is home to an optional Bluetooth card, and a variety of SD-based devices. The e350 will be available from 18 April for £249. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 2003

Windows CE to outship PCs in five years – researcher

In five years' time, more Windows CE devices will be shipping than Windows PCs. So reckons PC and PDA market researcher eTForecasts. So while 2002 saw 126 million PC shipments worldwide and nine million WinCE device shipments, come 2008 and 190-200 million PCs will ship compared to 200-220 million WinCE devices, according to eTForecasts' numbers. Driving this are some staggering growth rate predictions. While PC shipments will rise by around 7-9 per cent over the next few years, before rising to double figure growth around 2005, WinCE shipments will see a massive 250 per cent increase in shipments between 2004 and 2006. Growth never drops below 50 per cent between now and 2010, according to eTForecasts' figures. The company's argument is that as consumer electronics devices evolve they will become more like computers. "Computer hardware and software platforms have started to invade many electronics device categories and will become the preferred system architecture for an increasing portion of electronic devices," says eTForecasts. "Only the simplest devices with fixed functionality will avoid this trend." That, it believes, will favour the adoption of OSes like WinCE and embedded Linux. WinCE will come out tops, it reckons, because "most Windows CE platform competitors only compete in a single or a few product segments... software platforms using embedded Linux versions are competing across the board". We'd have thought that would have favoured Linux - surely that level of competition implies that Linux is being used in a much wider array of applications? Whatever, WinCE is going to have to get into a lot of "PDAs, smartphones, consumer electronics devices and other information appliances" if it's to achieve the kind of growth eTForecasts is predicting. There's certainly no sign that the PDA market will grow that fast, and we suspect the consumer electronics world will favour low-cost Linux. That leaves the smartphone arena as WinCE's best hope. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 2003

South Korea asks US to kill Hynix 57% import tariff

The South Korean government has sought the suspension of the punitive import tariffs the US Department of Commerce last week imposed on Hynix memory products. Semiconductors are South Korea's biggest export, and the government doesn't want the duty to harm either sales or confidence in the country's exporters. Chips generated $16.6 billion in South Korean exports last year, of which 35 per cent was contributed by memory exports. In return for waiving the 57 per cent import duty, the US will be offered a reduction in the number of chips shipped to the US and possibly the imposition of limits on the prices Hynix can charge. If the punitive duty is approved, it could come into force in August. It would effectively block Hynix DRAM imports into the US. Hynix has said it will continue to produce memory for the US market at its North American plant in Oregon. That factory's output is not affected by the tariff. The DoC has until 15 April to decide whether it wants to strike a deal with the South Koreans. If it does, the move is unlikely to please Micron, the US memory maker whose complaint to the DoC prompted the investigation that led to the imposition of the 57 per cent duty. Micron's argument was that since Hynix had received significant rescue funds from creditor banks owned or part-owned by the South Korean government, that capital amounted to government aid banned by the World Trade Organisation. In Europe, Infineon made a similar complaint, and the European Commission is currently pondering whether to levy import duties of 30-35 per cent on Hynix DRAM imports after it too ruled the memory maker had received illegal government aid. Hynix has been wobbling on the brink of collapse for the last couple of years at least, and has repeatedly been pulled back from the edge by its creditor banks. ® Related Stories US hits Hynix with 57% import duty Europe judges Hynix rescue funding illegal
Tony Smith, 08 Apr 2003

Corp Windows 2003 Server WPA key escapes

Microsoft has suffered another one of those embarrassing corporate Windows Product Activation key leaks, for Windows Server 2003 this time, almost three weeks ahead of the product's scheduled release. According to discussion at Neowin, this key is for three versions of 2003 Server, i.e. Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions; it does not however apply to the retail edition of the software, which is similar to the case of the fabled XP corporate key leak, which did not work with XP Home. This however won't necessarily make a lot of difference, as a conversion routine is circulating which allegedly allows an RTM Retail version to be turned into the corporate version. And a "Windows Server 2003 3-in-1 corporate" is reported to be available on Usenet, so it would appear Microsoft's best efforts to stop its software being copied have been defeated before the rollout again. Does it matter? Probably not greatly, because so long as Microsoft is prepared to issue 'magic' keys that set its software installations in motion without phoning home, those keys are going to leak. Microsoft is, effectively, subverting its own protection systems, and knows this. It is however difficult for it to stop doing so, at least in this rev of WPA, because its treasured business customers won't put up with the hassle of online activation. Microsoft tackled the XP key leaks by denying SP1 Windows Update service to invalid keys. Prior to this, however, WPA had been sufficiently disentangled and subverted for key generation routines to be produced. These chug out workable corporate keys for several Microsoft products, so the earlier leaked keys had been rendered obsolete in the warez community anyway. The impact of the Server 2003 leak will likely be rather less than the XP one (which itself doesn't seem to have had a totally visible impact in Microsoft's profit margins). Whereas swiped editions of XP Professional will tend to be run by individuals and therefore needn't be terribly obvious to Microsoft, anybody using a hot version of Server for what it's supposed to be for (i.e., running a business network) will be rather more likely to attract the gimlet eye of the antipiracy squad. And the further up the business network you go, the more likely you are to get hit by an audit. So small key leak, not many bucks lost by MS. But no doubt quantities of geeks who're no better than they should be will shortly be running 2003 Server, which they'd never have bought anyway, as a standalone system. ®
John Lettice, 08 Apr 2003

FAST recovers $14,000 for independent software developer

Piracy watchdogs at the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) are hailing their success as recovering $14,000 on behalf of independent software developer, Thomas Kelty, from a larger firm who attempted to rip him off. Kelty, who specialises in technology for medical devices, contacted FAST in November 2002 on discovering the software he had developed was being used and distributed by a unnamed company. Tut, tut. This company had previously contracted Kelty's services, during which time he had worked hard to increase the likelihood of future work. In March 2003, following various written communications, FAST agreed a settlement of $14,000. In addition, to protect Kelty's future, it assisted negotiation of terms to shield Kelty from further misuse of software. Kelty praised FAST's help: "Throughout the four months of negotiation, FAST was persistent in its efforts - and was successful in obtaining settlement that was fair and just. The professional assistance with which FAST provided me has safeguarded my entire software development and intellectual property investment in my specialist area of medical devices." Julian Heathcote Hobbins, Legal Counsel at FAST, added: "This is a classic case of a larger corporation attempting to steam-roller the smaller guy. Providing there is sufficient evidence, FAST will do everything to protect software developers, irrespective of their size." FAST said the case demonstrates that it takes care of "David as well as Goliath". Which is nice. ® Related Stories Cut software piracy and jumpstart 'stagnant' economies War on Warez Danish anti pirates continue to target copyright theft FAST hails copyright 'big stick' Mad antipiracy bot sics BSA on OpenOffice FTP site BSA piracy audit deadline looms for business Anti-Pirates slam EUCD proposals Anti-Pirates - now they're coming for your kids
John Leyden, 08 Apr 2003

e-Pharmacy sites offer risky prescription

A brace of studies released yesterday has raised concerns about the safety of buying drugs online. Almost half of e-pharmacies fail to give adequate information about drugs and medicines, according to Aussie magazine Quality and Safety in Health Care. It examined 104 Internet pharmacies , and diagnosed the failure of 41 sites to give any data about their products. Less than a third of the e-pharmacies in 13 countries, including the US and UK, analysed had any information about diseases. And where data was available it was often inadequate, the survey found. "Consumers cannot make an informed decision about purchasing a medicine using information provided by e-pharmacies because balanced information about the benefits and risks of taking medicines was largely not available or of poor quality," Dr Tracey Bessell, of Monash University in Victoria, Australia told Reuters. Only three of the 27 online outlets that sold St John's Wort (which is sometimes used to treat mild depression) warned of the risks of taking the drug alongside treatments epilepsy, heart disease the contraceptive pill. Online pharmacies are failing to uphold standards set by many Western governments, Bessell concludes. A separate study by New York-based price comparison site found that half the online pharmacies it investigated were unlicensed. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cautioned that consumers using unlicensed online pharmacies may receive poor quality or incorrectly dispensed medications. PharmacyChecker.com evaluates pharmacy sites based on five objective criteria: a verified pharmacy license, a Privacy policy which protects personal information (one third lack a policy); a verified postal address and phone number; secure online transactions (17 per cent are insecure); and a Requirement for an original prescription. Among the twelve sites already evaluated under these criteria, only five passed PharmacyChecker.com's tests. PharmacyChecker.com also maintains a continually updated, comparative database of drug prices from the pharmacy sites it evaluates. Among sites requiring a prescription, Canadian prices average 49 per cent lower than US prices for brand-name drugs. US sites that fail to ask for a prescription (i.e. unlicensed sites) often charge more, PharmacyChecker.com found. Mexican sites, which typically don't require a prescription, generally charge the same as licensed US sites, the survey found. Dr Tod Cooperman, president of PharmacyChecker.com said: "Americans are flocking to foreign online pharmacies to save money but often without knowledge of who these companies are, how they operate, and whether they offer the best prices." "PharmacyChecker.com's information will help consumers avoid unnecessary risks and maximize their savings," he added. Price comparisons on over 1,500 medications as well as pharmacy ratings and 40-item profiles are available at www.pharmacychecker.com on a subscription basis. Customer ratings of pharmacies will also be available shortly on PharmacyChecker.com's Web site. ® Related Stories OFT to clamp down on misleading online travel deals UK crack down on prescription drug ads on the Web Which? slates online quacks
John Leyden, 08 Apr 2003

MS Media Player tech gets InterVideo Linux port

The business-devouring GPL drew closer to Fort Redmond this week, with the news that InterVideo has been licensed to port the company's Windows Media Technologies to Linux. Which means if Microsoft's highly-imaginative past claims about open source are true (which they're not), the dreaded cancer will munch its way first through Windows Media Player, then by virtue of that product's integration in XP, through the Windows empire, then through the whole of Microsoft and before you know it, rats, there goes the whole world economy. Or something. Even Microsoft must be trying to downplay this sort of nonsense these days (which is why it's such fun to remind people), and business is business. The InterVideo deal itself indicates that Microsoft is more concerned about getting Windows Media technologies accepted as a standard than it is about trying to hobble Linux's multimedia capabilities, and it also places Microsoft's IP several decks away from La Peste. InterVideo currently produces LinDVD, a Linux version of its WinDVD DVD player. WinDVD is a consumer application, while LinDVD "is currently available only to manufacturers for evaluation and integration." It's based on MontaVista's embedded Linux, and is aimed at Linux-based consumer devices. LinDVD itself is not open source, and should billg care to buff-up on what his people have got him into this week, he could check out the licensing section of MontaVista's FAQ, which deals in some detail with Linux IP issues. InterVideo will now be able to add ports of Windows Media audio and video codecs, file container, streaming protocols and - yum - DRM support. As Microsoft's gameplan is to get Windows Media and its associated DRM as the standard distribution mechanism for music and video, we presume that the licensing terms ensure that the components are not entirely pick and mix, and that Microsoft envisages growing Linux-based portable players into Microsoft DRMed ones. Why, though, if you can buy a Windows DVD player direct from InterVideo's site, can't you buy a Linux one? Well, that does seem to be a puzzle. Back at Comdex 2000 LinDVD was 'available soon,' and InterVideo senior VP Joe Monastiero was promising a downloadable version from the Web site for $29.95 by Q1 2001. It's not immediately obvious why the wheels fell off this one, but as LinDVD wasn't actually introduced until November of last year, perhaps the whole show is just running two years late. ®
John Lettice, 08 Apr 2003

Affinity Internet Holdings goes titsup

Affinity Internet Holdings today went into administration. We understand that a massive hole has been discovered in the accounts of Affinity Internet Ltd, the virtual ISP business sold to CleverView Investments last month. Here in full is AIH's statement released to the London Stock Exchange. "Affinity Internet Holdings plc ('Affinity') today announces that Vivian Bairstow and Nick Hood of Begbies Traynor have been appointed as its administrators. Suspension of trading in the Company's shares was announced on 24 March 2003. Enquiries, please contact: Vivian Bairstow/Nick Hood Begbies Traynor 020 7242 6939 AIH has, or had, two main operating businesses, a mobile phone network resell operation and a Virtual ISP business. The group has unravelled fast since March 11, when it sold off the assets of Affinity Internet Ltd (AIL), its Virtual ISP business, to Cleverview Investments for £250k and the assumption of debt. On March 25, the company put its Affinity Wireless business into administration. Word on the street is that this purportedly profitable business owed millions of pounds to Vodafone, which pulled the plug on the service. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Apr 2003

NTT DoCoMo to trial mPayments

NTT DoCoMo is to trial a credit card linked mobile payment service in June. However, it may be found that the new payment system fails to present a strong enough business case. Conversely, there seems to be much more room for success in the micro-payments market. Yet even that niche will prove difficult to crack. Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo has announced that it is to trial a credit card payment service via mobile phones. The trial, conducted in conjunction with Visa, is to start in June and will enable users to pay for goods in shops using their mobile phone and have the transaction billed to their credit card. NTT DoCoMo has already developed successful micro-payment mobile services in Japan. The question is whether it will also enjoy such success with its credit card linked service. If anybody can make it work, then NTT DoCoMo can, but there is undoubtedly a long road ahead. On the one hand, linking a mobile payment service to an existing payment method is a good move as consumers are then still using a familiar payment system. Certainly, this is something that European players Mobipay and Vodafone count as strong points of their payment card linked mobile payment services. On the other hand, the question of whether there is really a space for such a payment service has yet to be answered definitively. Ultimately, there is little incentive for consumers to choose to pay with a credit card using their mobile, rather than just pay with their credit card alone. However, mPayments present a much more compelling proposition in the micro-payments market. In the offline world, there is surely room for mPayments to replace loose change at vending machines, while in the online world mobile linked solutions could be a viable payment mechanism for cheap online downloads, such as ring tones and music files. Yet even with the micro-payments offering, success is not guaranteed. Providers will need to be part of an open scheme and also attract large volumes of payments to be profitable. The mPayments market, it seems, is a tough one to crack for long-term success. © Datamonitor is offering Reg readers some of its technology research FOC. Check it out here
Datamonitor, 08 Apr 2003

War hits beleaguered networking sector

Economic uncertainty due to the war in Iraq is piling fresh misery on the already beleaguered networking equipment companies and their channel partners in the US, and more particularly, in Europe. A survey published by channel analysts Global Touch, tells a story of a sector marking down sales expectations and squinting into the distance for any sign of a spending recovery. Global Touch's latest quarterly Channel Tracker report, which covers the quarter ending March 31, 2003, includes predictions from channel firms in the US and Europe with cumulative revenues over $119.95bn. The report looks at key IT networking equipment vendors - 3Com, Cisco Systems, Enterasys Networks, Extreme Networks, Juniper Networks and Nortel Networks - from the perspective of their channel partners. In this way, the report provides a useful snap shot of the overall state of the networking market. The report concludes the European networking market is decelerating. In the US, resellers are struggling to cope with fierce discounting pressures. "It was another tough quarter. The quarter seemed to start well, but clearly fizzled in February, then plummeted with the start of the military conflict in Iraq," said Denise Sangster, president and chief executive of Global Touch. "The quarter, particularly in the US has seen significant tightening in budgets for networking equipment products, as well as increased product discounting during the quarter." More than half (52 per cent) of US respondents to the survey indicated that networking equipment sales were in-line with sales expectations. Against this, 54 per cent of European respondents indicated that the quarter was "below-to-extremely below" sales expectations. Looking ahead confidence has dropped even further. In early January (the time of the last study), 70 per cent of US respondents predicted higher revenues this year than last. Only 46 per cent now expect higher revenues this year, a marked decline. Confidence among European resellers remains low, with only a third (32 per cent) predicting higher revenues this year than 2002. "The networking equipment market continues to face lacklustre demand," Sangster commented. "The question is whether demand will snap back after the war or if the turbulent market conditions are signs of an emerging commoditisation of the entire network infrastructure." The majority of Channel Tracker respondents predict networking spending growth in 2003 of two per cent or less. "We do not expect to see any significant upturn in IT spending until 2004 or later, particularly in the networking equipment market," said Sangster, adding that the quarter may see key vendors buying into the security and storage markets in order to boost revenues through diversification. The complete Q1 2003 Networking Equipment edition of Channel Tracker report, including charts that reflect the key data, is available online at the Global Touch Web site. The full report contains all of the survey results for both the US and Europe including specific information on key industry vendors. Details of the survey's methodology and respondents are also included in the report. ® Related stories Networking equipment spend gets slumpier Channel mired in networking depression Networking vendors eat their babies Channel faces cash crisis
John Leyden, 08 Apr 2003

Sun revamps midrange storage

Like an innocent child running into a wall, Sun Microsystems has released new midrange storage products to make yet another attempt at gaining share in the storage market. It's always fun to hear Sun executives talk about storage. The company has tried again and again to make headway against the likes of EMC, IBM and HP. But try as it might, Sun has struggled to gain any meaningful market share. While some might get discouraged by past mistakes, Sun pushes on and has released new midrange arrays and a storage provisioning system that it hopes will improve its position against rivals. The StorEdge 6120 and 6320 are the newest members in Sun's midrange storage system line. Sun's older StorEdge T3 system could only fit 9 drives in 3U of rack space, so the new 14 drive systems that take up the same amount of space are a welcome change. As proof of its competitive mettle, Sun claims its new kit can beat out EMC CX400 and HP's EVA systems in both performance and price. The 6120 starts at $24,000 with 252G bytes of capacity, while the 6320 starts at $60,00 for 1T byte. Sun has also started a pilot program to sell the N1 Data Platform. Some of you might know this product in its former incarnation as an intelligent switch and data provisioning system made by Pirus Networks. Sun completed its acquisition of Pirus last year but is still taking its time bringing hardware to market. The N1 Data Platform was designed to look out over all of the storage hardware in a network -- servers, HBAs, switches -- and create something resembling one large disk out of all this kit. This product is Sun's answer in the heterogenous data center movement and one of the better indications that the company is serious about managing other vendors' gear. It starts at $112,600, although, as we mentioned, only select customers can get their hands on the system at this time. Sun has released new software for the storage systems as well, shipping Version 1.2 of the StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager and Version 7.0 of its StorEdge Back-up product. Neither its storage hardware or software currently ties into Sun's broader N1 management software at this time. The company assured El Reg that concerted efforts are underway to make progress here and help customers manage both their servers and storage systems from one console. Expect to see the first moves in this direction by year end. Last and possibly least, Sun has released what it calls an Infinite Mailbox that handles automatic e-mail archiving for Lotus Notes/Domino. This product helps sort out things such as duplicated attachments and creating archiving policies that make sure mail files are around and have not been tampered with when the Feds come knocking. Support for Microsoft Exchange, Sendmail and the Sun One Messaging Server is coming. ®
Ashlee Vance, 08 Apr 2003

UK workers should get IT skills ‘passports’

Workers in the UK could be given "skills passports" that would log their IT training and expertise. It's just one of the ideas put forward by industry group e-skills UK to help improve the skill level of workers in the UK and narrow the much talked-about IT skills gap. E-skills UK - which today received formal Government backing and finance to help develop IT skills in the UK - called on Government, employers and the education sector to sign to the "passport" programme making it available to the 21m people who currently use IT in their work. If adopted, the passport would enable workers to keep tabs on the IT training they'd done, while employers would be able to use it to devise targeted training schemes for their workforce. According to e-skills UK's own research, three in ten firms believe that when it comes to IT skills, their workforce simply isn't up to scratch. Said Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK: "In the UK, less than three quarters of the workforce possesses the necessary IT skills to perform their job; it's simply not good enough. "The skills gap impacts the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the UK as a whole and means the organisations affected simply cannot fulfil their potential," she said. Indeed, the whole ethos of the e-skills UK - which is backed by companies including IBM, Microsoft, BT and others - is about ensuring the UK's workforce has the right IT skills for the future. It's also about getting more young people into IT and casting off the image that IT is an unglamorous "geeky" profession. Other plans to tackle the skills shortage problem is a call for e-skills UK's Computer Clubs for Girls (CC4G) to be rolled out nationally. The scheme - aimed at getting more women into IT - has already been hailed a success among the 100 or so schools currently piloting the scheme. Other initiatives include more formal IT training for undergraduates of all disciplines so they can get a better understanding of how business and technology skills work together. Echoing many of the sentiments expressed by those attending today's event Secretary of Sate for Education and Skills, Charles Clark said: "It is vitally important for our country that we really focus on this skills agenda and improve our performance across the board. The future prosperity of all of us - the whole of our society - will depend on this," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Apr 2003

AOL Time Warner takes grip of net radio

An off-guard comment by an attorney for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) - revealed here for the first time - shows how sanguine the lobby group is about the destruction of diversity in the nascent Net radio scene. It's often overlooked - perhaps because it's hidden in plain sight - that AOL Time Warner owns lots of content for net radio, a vast potential distribution channel, and also the very tools that many netcasters depend on. Um, you do remember that Shoutcast and Winamp are owned by AOL Time Warner, too? Good. So there's much more to Thursday's sweetheart deal over net radio royalties than first appears. A proposal was agreed by RIAA members AOL-TW and...AOL-TW. Although this was a proposal, and the ultimate arbiter will be the Copyright Office at the US Library of Congress, AOL Time Warner was essentially agreeing the proposed rates with itself. The media behemoth owns Warner, and its nine record labels are RIAA members, as we reported here. If you're puzzled, here's some important context. A comment by the RIAA attorney Gary Greenstein at a recent meeting with the Webcaster Alliance - representing a range of netcasters, including the smaller 'casters and nonprofits - puts AOL's strategy into perspective. The meeting took place at the RIAA's office on January 29. According to two people present at the meeting, Greenstein explained that the RIAA didn't care if 25,000 webcasters in the US went out of business because AOL streams 200 channels of music, and the streaming media listener would then have to get their music from AOL. And AOL pays its bill to the RIAA. We were unable to contact Greenstein to discuss this chilling remark, which David LeGrand, Webcaster Alliance attorney, confirmed for us. We spoke to Ed Hahn, assistant to RIAA attorney Steven Marks, who was also at the meeting, and Hahn felt unable to comment. We'll bring you Marks' response as soon as we hear it. Some other pieces of context are very important here. Internet broadcasters are burdened with royalty payments that traditional radio stations don't need to make. That barrier is set pretty high, too. "In the United States we have a history of trying to make sure markets aren't monopolized," David LeGrand told us. "If you put the barrier to entry so high you're preventing people from developing the businesses, something's wrong." Even if a non-profit exemption is passed, and there's little hope for this in the near future, small commercial casters face serious disadvantages compared to their traditional counterparts. "It discourages people from growing their businesses," says LaGrand. "If you had made radio pay 12 per cent of its gross revenue, would radio be what it is today?" There appears to be little relief in sight. According to a report in the Washington Post John Simson, the executive director of SoundExchange, the principal royalty collector for the recording industry, downplayed the likelihood of continued negotiations with small webcasters. "I really feel like we have a deal through 2004," Simson said. "There's plenty of options that people now have" to pay royalties. Beethoven.com's Kevin Shively recently teamed up with other similar-sized stations including Boomer Radio, under the umbrella of the Internet Radio Marketing Group. The Group thinks it vital that the smaller commercial interests pool their advertising leverage, with AOL and Microsoft looming on the horizon. As we have discussed in recent stories - we need to have integrity in the tools we use. There may be alternatives, of course, and at the NAB Convention yesterday Microsoft announced that it will promote its audio tools to the streaming industry. AOL Time Warner owns Spinner.com, which it "merged with Nullsoft", but this is a ghost station. Its most recent most played list features a small number of AOL Time Warner artistes. Meanwhile - standby for the AOL Time Warner superportal! reg; Related Stories RIAA agrees webcasting rates... with non-webcasting AOL, Microsoft Net radio's treasure mulls CARP crunch Swarm radio - Swarm Radio - a cheaper, faster 'casting tech RIAA engineered the 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, 08 Apr 2003