8th > September > 2003 Archive

Sony throws a party

At the Dream World exhibition in Paris this weekend Sony showcased its newest products, including the prototype biped robot QRIO, mock-ups of high definition cameras, the long awaited Blu-ray Disc recorder and a Network Media Receiver that conveniently streams digital content from a Vaio PC to a TV or hifi system. The Palais des Congrès in Paris was open to the general public this weekend after three days of demonstrations for European dealers and trade press. Here dance tunes were spun by famous French DJ's, while visitors create their own compilations on Net MD and Sony Ericsson mobile phones were transformed into navigation panels for remote control car racing. But hey, we were there to try the products. Perhaps the most significant product showcased was the new Sony PC-TV. The elegantly designed PCVW1, with its acrylic/aluminum finish, can be used in its PC position (with the keyboard showing), or in the TV position with the keyboard folded away. A third option transforms the device into an audio player. Will we ever watch TV on it? Not from a distance, anyway. Despite its ultra-bright 17 inch high resolution wide screen, it isn't an appropriate replacement for the LCD TV's. However, you can use the device to easily record TV programs and playback recorded shows. The new CLIÉ PEG-UX50 handheld, integrating Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies together with AV functionality, is a typical Japanese product: too small to be taken seriously, despite a nice scrollable Graphic User Interface (GUI). On the other hand, it has a couple of nice features. Its CPU automatically operates at a frequency that draws a minimum of power supply voltage by monitoring its operation speed constantly. When the device detects the battery level is extremely low, it automatically stores information on to a separate built-in non-volatile memory. Unfortunately the keyboard is awkwardly small, which makes us long for the return of the Psion 5 (with USB, Bluetooth and better screen, please!) The new Network Media Receiver is a single device that allows streaming of videos, photos and music from a Vaio PC. Stills and videos can be viewed on the TV in the living room and music stored on a PC needn't be enjoyed only via the computer. Philips already demonstrated similar possibilities earlier in the year. Sony still hasn't fallen out of love with robots. The new AIBO ERS-7 boasts enhanced communication skills and new levels of functionality. For the first time, the onboard memory enables AIBO to retain the personality that it will develop over its lifecycle. It is also the most connected AIBO yet, thanks to built-in Wireless LAN connectivity and a larger 32MB Memory Stick. Because of new electro-static sensors, a gentle stroke on AIBO's head or back will trigger a response without needing to push or click. The ERS-7's eyesight is three times better than previous models, Sony says. And the AIBO comes with a pink bone which the robot can, for the first time ever, pick up in its mouth. Quite impressive, really. ®
Jan Libbenga, 08 Sep 2003

Telewest raises remote dial-up charges

Telewest has increased the cost of connecting to its Blueyonder dial-up Internet service from non-Telewest lines, while falsely claiming that users will not incur extra charges from the change. Instead of using local phone numbers for its access points, the company is giving subscribers two numbers. The first is a shortcode for use from Telewest phone lines, and the second is an 0845 number for use from other phone lines. The change will particularly impact customers who use their mobile phones to connect while travelling, as many mobile tariffs only allow inclusive or free minutes to be used to call geographic numbers, and charge extra for calls to non-geographic numbers such as 0845. However, even fixed-line callers will see increased charges when using the 0845 number, as most tariffs now differentiate between those and real local calls. For example, even on Telewest's own residential tariff a ten-minute daytime geographic call costs 36p, but a ten-minute call to 0845 is 45.5p. This is despite the claim made on Telewest's Onenumber page, where in reply to the question, "Will this cost me any extra?", it answers, "Not at all. The only change on your phone bill will be the phone number that is dialled to access the Internet." * When queried about this claim and the extra costs the change would bring for mobile users, a Telewest spokeswoman refused to acknowledge there was a problem, adding that the 0845 number is meant for occasional use only. For the moment, the geographic numbers are still in service, and users posting to Blueyonder's support newsgroups are pushing for at least some of them to stay that way, as other ISPs taking the 0845 route have done in the past. ® *Update Shortly after this article was first published, Telewest amended its FAQ: It now reads: Will it cost me any extra to use the Internet using my mobile phone or when not using my Telewest phone line? In this scenario, you would have to use the 0845 number we supply. Call charges vary dependent on the network you are using.
Bryan Betts, 08 Sep 2003

Broadcom launches one-chip Wi-Fi adaptor

WLAN chip maker Broadcom today unveiled what it claims is the world's first product to combine on a single chip all the radio and networking components traditionally spread across multiple chips. The AirForce One BCM4317 integrates the broadband and MAC components customarily offered on one chip with the radio and power amplification units built into current WLAN adaptors on a second chip. A single-chip solution reduces the WLAN adaptor's power consumption - by up to 97 per cent, claims Broadcom - and is smaller than a multi-chip set-up. The company's design "eliminates more than 100 discrete components and makes the one-chip module 87 per cent smaller than traditional mini-PCI Wi-Fi solutions", it says. These size and power factors should make it easier - and less expensive - to integrate Wi-Fi into much smaller, battery-powered devices, such as cellphones, digicams, MP3 players and PDAs. Certainly, some such devices have Wi-Fi built in, or provided through add-on CompactFlash or SDIO cards. However, they tend to be at the pricier end of the market. They also hit PDA batteries hard. Broadcom believes its new chip will allow manufacturers to integrate Wi-Fi connectivity into a broader range of devices without the battery life penalty, and push the technology to more price-sensitive buyers. The chip keeps components powered down until they're needed, particularly useful when the host device is in standby mode. Broadcom reckons its chip can add "several days" to the typical battery life of a Wi-Fi equipped PDA. As yet, the Broadcom chips supports only 802.11b, but that's generally sufficient for most handhelds' data transfer requirements, such as multi-player gaming or PDA personal information synchronisation. It incorporates Broadcom's proprietary Xpress acceleration technology for networks comprising only compatible Broadcom-based WLAN adaptors and base-stations. The new chip also supports Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security and features hardware support for the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), set to be a part of the 802.11i security standard of which WPA is a sub-set. The AirForce One BCM4317 is shipping now to select Broadcom customers, the company said, along with "production-ready" reference systems based on the new chip. Broadcom did not say when the technology will go into volume production, or detail pricing. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 2003

Hitachi to use WLANs to pinpoint war drivers

Hitachi is to bring a WLAN-based positioning system to market in Japan next month. The rig uses Wi-Fi technology to triangulate the location of network clients to within one and three metres - accurate enough to detect whether a user is within the building the network serves. The system was developed for vertical applications within WLAN-enabled facilities, said Hitachi, according to a Nikkei Electronics Asia report. The company lists factory control, theme park visitor navigation systems and service location for mobile terminals as key applications. But we were more intrigued by a fourth option: detecting WLAN intruders. Essentially, the system can be used to pinpoint the physical location of network clients. If the triangulation process shows a user is situated outside a company's premises, there's a good chance that he or she is not authorised to access the network. Better WLAN security should keep out most network intruders, but those who have received accurate log on and access information will be able to bypass such measures. Hitachi's system provides one way to verify that the user is accessing the network from within the building. The system doesn't come cheap. Hitachi has yet to set pricing, but four access points and a positioning data server is expected to cost around ¥3 million ($25,684) Hitachi claims its set-up can accurately determine the location of a terminal to within one and three metres - rather better than the five to ten metres you can get from GPS these days. The system uses a grid of WLAN base-stations placed at 100-200m intervals. "The market requires a highly accurate positioning data system," the Nikkei Electronics Asia report cites a Hitachi spokesman as saying. "However, those using GPS can measure only to a poor accuracy of more than 10m, while it is difficult for Bluetooth and [RFID] tags to monitor large areas. On the contrary, wireless LAN can measure data in detail within a large scale of 100m-200m." ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 2003

Payphone deal to take Cloud's hotspot tally to 10,000

Pub-based Wi-Fi network The Cloud is to expand its chain of 1800-odd hotspots to as many as 10,000, thanks to deal signed with payphone company NWP Spectrum. The agreement will see The Cloud add Wi-Fi to many of NWP's 7000 payphone installations throughout the UK. That's in addition to the 3000 hotspots The Cloud plans to have in place by the end of the year. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Work will start fitting access points immediately, but the companies did not say when the roll-out process will be complete. According to a spokesman for The Cloud, implementation is being governed by demand, with the busiest sites being 'upgraded' first. NWP provides payphone services on the High Street, and through partners - it manages London Underground's payphone installations, for example, along with those in the UK's airports, Welcome Break and Hilton hotels. The company also operates around 3000 payphone sites in Germany. Both parties are touting the plan as a massive extension to the UK's Wi-Fi coverage, but there's still little evidence to show there are enough people out there willing to make use of all these extra hotspots - even less for the number of folk happy to pay for it. To date, The Cloud has only partnered with BT Openzone, allowing the latter's subscriber base to access its network in addition to BT's own. It hopes deals with other service providers will follow. Until then, users who aren't Openzone customers will have to seek out locations that offer The Cloud's £6 an hour pay-as-you-go facilities. BT charges £6 an hour or £15 for a 24-hour access pass, pre-pay, or provides a variety of complex, mobile phone-style monthly subscriptions. Either way, access isn't cheap. This wholesale approach has become the holy grail of UK public WLAN provision, with networks keen to allow broad access to their hotspots in return for a cut of the user's payment rather than build exclusive and direct relationships with customers. That's the only way to offer the level of coverage necessary to make public Wi-Fi a success, say companies like The Cloud and Broadreach Networks. The NWP deal will allow The Cloud to claim a very high percentage of the available hotspots in the UK. In turn, it hopes, that will persuade service providers - ISPs and mobile phone networks, for example - to sell its Wi-Fi access on to their own customer bases, crucially providing centralised billing to make access as easy as possible. Alas it's chicken and egg. Unlike, say, Orange or Freeserve provides Wi-Fi to their customers, few of those subscribers will want to go through the hassle - not to mention the expense - of signing up with an array of providers just to get ready access to the Net while they're on the move. Either way, we reckon they will prefer more secure locations in which to whip out their expensive notebook or PDA than a payphone kiosk or a busy shopping centre. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 2003

eBay to create 1000 jobs in Ireland?

Online auction giant eBay may be about to create as many as 1000 jobs in Dublin, according to a weekend report by the Sunday Business Post. The report claims the Internet giant has signed up for a humongous building on the Blanchardstown Corporate Park, a commercial estate to the north west of Dublin. Details at this stage are still sketchy, but according to the report, part of the new premises will be use to house eBay's online payment outfit, PayPal. No one at eBay was available to comment on news - or provide any further details - at the time of writing. If eBay does decide to settle in Ireland then it will come as a welcome boost to the local economy. For as eBay gets ready to move in, the paper reports that 3Com is expected to confirm 650 layoffs later this week as it decides to pack its bags and up sticks. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Sep 2003

E-shopping a ‘stress-filled chore’

Doing your food shop online is a waste of time and puts you under too much stress, those lifestyle gurus at Good Housekeeping have claimed. The magazine's latest survey found that visiting the local supermarket is actually quicker than shopping online, with researchers taking an average of 46 minutes to e-shop, while dashing into a local store and braving the check-out queues took just 37 minutes. In some cases in took up to two hours just to complete an order, not including calls to customer services. If that's not bad enough, the quality of service provided by the big supermarkets was sorely lacking - as were some of the orders. Not one of the orders placed contained all 26 items on the shopping list. Two deliveries didn’t turn up at all. The delivery from retailer Iceland included produce of a "poor quality", including a dead fly inside a sealed packet of mushrooms. Broadly speaking, Tesco got the thumbs up although it managed to miss some of the items from the list. ASDA did well, too - except for the time the groceries failed to turn up. And Sainsbury's web site was so slow it took two hours to place an order. The only outfit which performed well was Ocado, delivering Waitrose goods, the researchers found. "Internet shopping should be every woman’s dream with no queuing at the checkout, no carrying and no need to leave home," says Lindsay Nicholson, Editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping magazine. "Our disappointing results reveal that most supermarkets have failed to perfect online shopping from the customer’s point of view, despite the idea having been around for almost a decade. "A service which is based on convenience and speed should be catering more for consumers on all fronts - and not becoming a stress-filled chore which takes longer than a trip to the supermarket," she said. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Sep 2003

SiS licenses Pentium M

Chipset maker SiS today revealed that it has licensed Intel's Pentium M bus technology, allowing it to bring to market alternatives to Intel's own i855 chipset, the core of the chip giant's Centrino mobile platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and neither were specific details of SiS' plans for how it will use the licence. The agreement puts SiS alongside ATI, which licensed the Pentium M bus earlier this year. ATI's Mobility Radeon IGP 9100 chipset should be already shipping. SiS admitted in March that it was talking to Intel about licensing the Pentium M, so it's clearly taken some time for the chip giant to give it the go-ahead. ALi is believed to be pursuing a Pentium M licence too. Both were expected to announce Pentium M chipsets during the second half of the year, so presumably an ALi announcement won't be far off. ® Related Stories ATI ships Pentium M chipset ATI licenses Pentium M bus
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 2003

Scientologists loses copyright case

The Court of Appeal in The Hague last week rejected all of the Church of Scientology's claims its action against the Dutch ISP Xs4all, writer Karin Spaink and ten other internet providers for publishing copyrighted material on the web. As a result, Spaink's website which Scientologists had sought to remove, is entirely legal. The court also overturned two lower court rulings, one of which stated that linking to material that infringed a copyright was itself actionable. The victory for Xs4all represents a significant narrowing in the ability of copyright claimants to harass ISPs, observers believe. The case started about nine years ago, when former Scientologist Steven Fishman was brought to court because he had committed several crimes in order to get the money to pay for his courses. When Fishman in Time magazine blamed the Church of Scientology for his crimes, the sect sued him for slander. Fishman used several secret Scientology documents to support claims that he had been brainwashed by the Church. As a result, these documents became public material. The Fishman Affidavit has been travelling on the Net ever since. Karin Spaink was one of many to publish these secret scriptures as early as 1995. In September 1995 a bailiff raided the Amsterdam premises of provider Xs4all to seize materials of subscribers the Church of Scientology claimed to be in violation of its copyright. The sect also initiated exhaustive judicial proceedings, but each time the court decided in favor of Spaink. However, the decision of the Amsterdam District Court of June 1999 included a separate declaratory judgment stating that providers must take action if they are made aware of material on their servers that infringes upon a copyright if "the correctness of the notification of this fact cannot be reasonably doubted". This judgment was reason for Xs4all to initiate appeal proceedings of its own. In a press release Xs4all says that "Unless the criteria for removing information from a site are clearly delineated, commercial interests of providers may all too readily prevail over the protection of freedom of opinion". The decision of June 1999 also made reference to hyperlinks to copyrighted material. If a provider is aware of this, it must also take action against these hyperlinks. But Xs4all believed that the court went too far with this. After all, a hyperlink is merely a road marker on the Internet, and can never be unlawful. The Appellate Court has now set aside this judgment of the District Court in Amsterdam. ®
Jan Libbenga, 08 Sep 2003

Tiscali acquires npower phone business

Tiscali UK has bought the consumer telephony business of UK energy supplier, npower, for a price somewhere between £6 million and £7 million. Tiscali will gain access to around 200,000 npower customers and forecasts the new accounts could help generate more than £25 million a year for Tiscali. Tiscali UK already provides telephony services in the UK through its Smart Talk and SimplyDial telephony products Smart Talk provides discounted national and international calls to fixed and mobile numbers. It works with a customer's existing BT line and number, with calls automatically transferred through Tiscali's network without the need for prefixes or dialler boxes. Tiscali's Simply Dial product provides discounts on international calls without punters needing to register or provide payment details. Npower is one of the UK’s largest energy and utility suppliers. It is moving out of telecoms to focus on its core products of gas, electricity and related services, the company said in a statement. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Sep 2003

Police smash UK's biggest credit card fraud ring

Three men are facing long jail sentences after pleading guilty, Friday (Sept. 5) to running the UK's biggest ever credit card fraud at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court. The trio stole details of 847 cards of Heathrow Express rail passengers who had paid for their journey by credit cards. They passed on the infor a gang of forgers who cloned 8,790 credit cards for use in the UK and on the Continent. The cloners were able to use only 10 per cent of the numbers, pocketing £2m for the gang. Police estimate that the gang could have gained £20m if all the credit card numbers had been used. Mastermind was Sunil Mahtani, 26, a non-resident Indian national who worked in IT for Checkline Plc, the company that processed Heathrow Express's credit card transaction. Mahtani obtained the data simply by downloading it from the computer processing the transactions. His scam ran for three years, ending in September 2001, after a sting conducted by undercover police. The court heard that Mahtani stole the money to impress his girlfriend, a successful investment banker. As well as Mahtani and his two co-defendants, eight more people were arrested in connection with the case. The eight were released on bail. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Sep 2003

Phone4U brings ‘push to talk’ to UK

UK mobile phone retail chain Phones4U will begin offering a multimedia instant messaging service next month when it brings Fastmobile's Fastchat IM service to Europe. Fastchat integrates a variety of multimedia messaging formats, including photos, videos, e-mail and text, into a single application. IM communications can be held with any other handset equipped with the software, regardless of network, and with PCs via the Internet. The software also provides an IM-based 'walkie talkie' voice mode, which has proved highly popular in the US as an alternative to standard voice calls. Dedicated 'push to talk' handsets, like those offered with Nextel's iDen service, put users in touch instantly at the press of a special button on the phone. iDen uses non-standard mobile phone technology to deliver push-to-talk - Fastmobile's software delivers the same result using Internet-style Instant Messaging software and an 'always on' GPRS mobile data connection. Such services are offered to users who need to issue simple voice commands or requests that would be too laborious to text but too terse to warrant a dial-up phone call. Phones4U will initially offer the service on three Symbian-based handsets: Nokia's 3650 and 7650 phones, and Sony Ericsson's P800 smartphone. The software will be offered with other Symbian-based devices, including the Nokia N-Gage, Siemens SX-1 and Motorola A920 as and when they are released. The software will be offered to existing customers and new buyers as "a value added service", the company said. It did not reveal pricing. Fastmobile's web site, however, offers an unlimited monthly subscription of £6.99 per month. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 2003

Voda anoints Sanyo, Samsung for 3G gig

Vodafone has selected Sanyo and Samsung to make exclusive, own brand handsets for its 3G launch. According to the FT, which reports the news, the selection shows that "Vodafone... has begun working more closely with Asian handset makers as they have shown themselves more willing to tailor the experience of users of their mobiles to their operators' needs." In other words the deals are a kick in the teeth for Nokia, Europe's dominant handset maker, with 50 per cent market share in the region. That's not the way that Nokia will see it: right now it's not a player in the 3G arena. But does this matter? 3G is not exactly a mass market affair - with the possible exception of Japan and Korea. And the first 3G phones are cumbersome, unreliable affairs. No early adopter will switch brands on the basis of experience with their first 3G handset. So Nokia has some time to get its 3G act together - at least a year. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Sep 2003

Surf ‘N’ Earn offers discount for loyalty

UK ISP V Two One has created a new pay-as-you-go package which offers loyalty points for the amount of time spent online. The more time punters stay hooked to the Net, the more points they get. And when they've got enough points, they can trade them in for prizes such as digital cameras, CDs and toys. The minds behind Surf 'N' Earn reckon this is an "innovative new loyalty scheme" that enables users to "accumulate points every time they log on". In a statement Surf 'N' Earn MD Steve Kaye said: "Surf 'N' Earn is the first ISP to offer its users something in return for their loyalty. Working in a similar way to supermarket loyalty card schemes, Internet enthusiasts can save up points earned through time spent surfing the Web, then purchase their rewards from a wide selection of products available on the Surf 'N' Earn site." It's worth pointing out that despite the hype, there's nothing new in Surf 'N' Earn's approach. Etailer Jungle.com, swallowed by Great Universal Stores (GUS) for £37 million in September 2000, launched a similar discount loyalty scheme for its ISP way back in 1999, while other ISPs have offered money-off vouchers in return for punters racking up telephone minutes. For example, last year easynet introduced a voucher scheme to give free or subsidised high-speed Net access to schools. No one at Surf 'N' Earn was available to say how long you had to stay online to earn points. Apparently, though, a "standard Web user" should be able to accumulate enough points to purchase a "chart-topping CD every month". Whoopee-do. ® Related Stories easynet in broadband for schools voucher scheme Jungle customers earn discounts through free ISP
Tim Richardson, 08 Sep 2003

Novell ‘puts entire ecosystem behind Linux’

Novell fleshed out its commitment to open platform computing - and played down the significance of SCO's Linux lawsuit - at BrainShare in Barcelona today. Driving the adoption of Linux in the enterprise is central to its plans to return to profit while reaffirming its commitment to maintain support for its own NetWare operating system, the company says. Jack Messman, chairman and chief executive of Novell, (repeatedly) told delegates "we are not abandoning NetWare, we are adding Linux. It's all about choice for the customer." "We believe in heterogeneous systems because its too expensive to rip and replace," he added. At the conference, Novell executives pointed to the "traction of Linux in Europe" - particularly in the government and financial services markets - as reasons for optimism about a quick return to profitability. Last month Novell offloaded one in 10 workers after announcing disappointing Q3 revenues. Messman said that the job cuts would "not undermine Novell's ability to execute" and predicted a return to profitability in Q4 2004. He characterised the company's restructuring programme as a kind of blessing in disguise because itenable Novell to change its skills-set to better suit business objectives. Messman believes the growth of the Linux market is unlikely to be affected by SCO's controversial licensing claims, which he expects will ultimately fail. "The SCO lawsuit puts a little cloud on the horizon, but most companies are going ahead with Linux in any case," Messman told The Register. "There's a compelling economic argument for open source. There's cost benefits in reduced licensing fees even if they [SCO] win, which we doubt. "We don't believe it [SCO's lawsuit] will be successful," he added. Messman praised the open source development model which he said would ultimately lead to lower costs, whilst allowing firms like Novell to release commercial products that add value "higher up the stack". "We're putting our entire ecosystem behind Linux," said. Open source flora and fauna At Brainshare today, Novell put down some markers for its Linux development roadmap. Novell announced beta testing Novell Nterprise Linux Services, a bundle of file, print, messaging, directory and management services for Linux from the middle of next month. Nterprise Linux Services 1.0, due later this year, will include management services from Ximian Red Carpet, following Novell's recent acquisition of the open source developer. The company also announced the open beta availability in early October of Novell Nterprise Branch Office 2, which is designed to make it easier for organisations to roll out network services to their branch offices securely and inexpensively. With application developers in mind, Novell pointed towards the forthcoming beta (scheduled for early October) of its exteNd 5 Web services development environment. An updated version of the vendor's identity management technology - Novell Nsure SecureLogin 3.5 - is pencilled in for an October 17 launch. Nsure SecureLogin 3.5 allows single sign-on across multiple platforms and the Web, helping to ease password management headaches. "It's time to throw away the post-in notes," commented Chris Stone, Novell's vice chairman, referring to the insecure practice of workers writing hard-to-remember multiple passwords on notes affixed to their PCs. ® Related Stories Novell decimates workers, goes into the red Novell buys Ximian Novell ports network service to Linux SCO's Second Amendment rebuffs Novell Unix claim Novell embraces open source Novell goes a bundle on small biz networking Novell slashes Directory prices Web-based single sign-on sales shoot up
John Leyden, 08 Sep 2003

Apple updates iMac with 1.25GHz G4

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Apple updated its iMac consumer desktop line today, just ahead of next week's Apple Expo Paris. It also updated its iPod line. The new iMac contains a 1.25GHz PowerPC 7455 G4-class processor and adds 333MHz DDR SDRAM support. Two versions are on offer, one with a 15in LCD, the other with a 17in screen. Both displays are powered by Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra chips with 64MB of DDR VRAM. Both models ship with 256MB of memory and an 80GB hard drive. Both models are ready to support 802.11g wireless networking and Bluetooth wireless connectivity through optional add-in adaptors. A pricier version of the 17in model bundles both adaptors, and ups the memory and hard disk capacity to 512MB and 160GB, respectively. The 17in iMacs features Apple's DVD-R/CD-RW Superdrive; the 15in model contains a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo optical drive. It also ships with a 1GHz CPU. All three models now feature USB 2.0 ports, but no Firewire 800 connector. In the UK, the three models retail for around £999, £1449 and £1712.99, respectively. Prices include sales tax. In the US, the three cost $1299, $1799 and $2448, the latter shipping with 1GB of memory, rather than the UK system's 512MB. The new iPods feature 20GB and 40GB hard drives, respectively, and replace the previous 15GB and 30GB models. Price remain unchanged at $399/£299 and $499/£399. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 2003

e-Envoy prepares to log off

The e-Envoy Andrew Pinder is to quit next April, it was confirmed today. But in a sharp and final rebuff to critics, his Office - whose future is uncertain - is set to take on a influential new role at the centre of the Government's new media machine. Under sweeping reforms to government communications, responsibility for "ensuring effective e-communications" across government is to fall under a high-level 'Strategic Planning and Development function', reporting to a Permanent Secretary-rank civil servant, and in which the Office of the e-Envoy (OeE) will be intensively engaged prior to a new structure being put in place. The move begins to draw to a conclusion months of speculation over the future of the e-Envoy, with the Cabinet Office going officially on the record to deny that his Office is to be disbanded. Last week, Mr Pinder raised in the open for the first time his plans for a new strategic government IT executive, under the control of the Cabinet Office and Treasury, to take over his responsibilities after his departure next year. The shake-up has been precipitated by the major review of government communications, whose interim conclusions were released last week and which the Prime Minister is said to have accepted in full. The final report is due out later this year. Downing Street claimed that it was too early to say if there would be knock-on effects for the OeE from the re-organisation of responsibilities proposed in the report. "We are looking at how elements [of the report] shape out", said a spokesperson at Number 10. "The Office of the e-Envoy do a great job, and it will be for the new Permanent Secretary to work with them to find the structure." The Cabinet Office commented: "We will need to await the final report to get a full reflection of how it may affect the Office of the e-Envoy." Another issue for eGovernment is the report's recommendation to the Government for "increased resources for Government websites and for two-way communications". To promote better dialogue with the general public, it states that "Government must deploy the full range of communications channels now available - especially those with a so-called 'return path'." The interim report is available here: (89KB PDF) and the written evidence of the e-Envoy to the review, can be found here (605KB - PDF). ® © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
Ian Cuddy, 08 Sep 2003

Wireless backup for mobiles

The trauma of losing a mobile phone is usually not the handset but the phone numbers and saved text messages it contains. And while these can be backed up via Bluetooth or a £20 SIM reader, this is too complex for most people so it doesn't happen. The solution is for network operators to offer over-the-air backup services, says Ian van Reenen, technology director of software house Attix5, which has developed Backup Professional: Mobile Edition. Initially available for Symbian, PalmOS and Windows Mobile devices, the software can save data from both phone and SIM, either manually or on a schedule. Now Attix5 has inked a deal with SmartTrust which will allow ordinary phones to be backed up too, via software on the SIM. "We were tempted by the synchronisation route, but it's too complicated for the average user," van Reenen says. "We decided to go for pure backup - we say either you recover to your last backup, or look and see what you deleted and choose to recover that." He adds that the phone can be set to backup automatically when there is a change, or else the network can initiate backups. "We've learnt that the biggest problem in the backup schedule is the user - it doesn't work unless the user does it," he says. The Attix5-SmartTrust deal is limited by the fact that SIMs with the necessary plug-in are only just appearing, but van Reenen reckons it will eventually offer operators several routes to extra revenue. The obvious ones are extra GPRS traffic and subscriptions, with Attix5 pitching it as a volume-based £1 a month service, but van Reenen suggests others. "A network operator can see a 70% loss of call revenue over the next three months when a user loses their phone, because of the disruption it causes," he claims, "plus it should reduce churn because the user has less incentive to go elsewhere for a replacement phone." He adds, "The simplest sell is: 'Is there information on that phone you don't want to lose? Would you pay £1 a month to be able to get it back?'" ®
Bryan Betts, 08 Sep 2003

Bank of Ireland ends IT dispute

Bank of Ireland today said that it has finally ended a long-running dispute with workers over the outsourcing of IT functions to Hewlett-Packard. In a brief statement, Bank of Ireland said that the latest ballot of Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) members in Bank of Ireland's IT arm ITSIS on the bank's most recent outsourcing plan had resulted in a favourable vote. That plan included the recommendations of independent arbiter and chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey. The outsourcing programme can now move towards the latter stages of due diligence and contract signing, Bank of Ireland said in its statement. "The group welcomes this acceptance and are pleased that this matter has been resolved. We now look forward to resuming full engagement with all in-scope employees and with HP and Esat/BT as we progress to fully implement the terms of Mr Mulvey's recommendations." The news comes as no great shock after both IBOA leaders and Bank of Ireland officials indicated last month that they were close to a resolution. In July, the bank's IT staff staged a 24-hour strike in protest at the proposed outsourcing and said more strikes could come if an agreement could not be reached. At the heart of the dispute, which should see over 200 out of about 300 ITSIS workers transfer to HP under the outsourcing deal, is job security. Prior to the newest deal, staff were to be given a two-year guarantee on their jobs and €3,500, which union members said was insufficient. Although the length of the new guarantee is thought to be the same, workers are expected to be given €5,500 after they are transferred. The entire length of the contract between HP and Bank of Ireland is seven years, and the deal is valued at about €600 million. Other aspects of the agreement include an option for staff who face compulsory job loss in the third year of the contract to come back to work for Bank of Ireland. Importantly, this redeployment option will extend into years four and five for former bank workers who moved to Perot Systems under a previous IT contract. It is also thought that generous redundancy packages would be offered to other workers who are cut from HP's payroll in the later stages of the contract. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 08 Sep 2003

Forgive me my trespasses

How a recent federal appeals court decision makes virtually everyone a computer criminal, writes SecurityFocus columnist Mark Rasch. Last month, a federal appeals court in California dramatically and unwarrantedly expanded the scope of the federal criminal law prohibiting "unauthorized access" to computers and electronic mail. This ruling, reported on Security Focus, opens the door for civil lawyers and prosecutors alike to punish as computer "hacking" and "trespass" a whole host of activities that have virtually nothing to do with computer crime. You can now go to jail for computer crime even if you never touch a computer, and know nothing about computers (indeed, particularly if you know nothing about computers.) The ruling was an unwarranted expansion of federal computer crime powers -- one which will come back to haunt even the most zealous privacy proponents. The case arose out of an ordinary civil lawsuit between two parties. During the course of discovery (legal jargon for a fishing expedition to seek out virtually any kind of dirt about the other side) one of the parties to the lawsuit subpoenaed the other party's ISP for all of the e-mail the opposing party had ever sent or received. Now, you have to understand how a civil subpoena is actually issued in the United States. A lawyer with a pending lawsuit asks the clerk of the court for a stack of blank subpoenas. They have the seal of the clerk of the court, and they read something like, BY ORDER OF THE CLERK OF THE COURT... for whatever district, you are COMMANDED to produce ... whatever documents and records are listed on the subpoena. The lawyer and not the clerk or the judge, decides who to subpoena, when to subpoena, and what to ask for -- and they almost always ask for the kitchen sink. In practice, a subpoena is invariably not an order, but more an invitation to negotiate compliance -- sort of a modern day Arab Souk: you ask for everything, I give you nothing, and we eventually settle on something reasonable. But apparently, nobody told the ISP about this secret. The ISP never got a lawyer, but, in response to the subpoena, decided to give the lawyers a "Smorgasbord" of emails -- one from column A one from column B -- none of which had anything to do with the litigation, and some of which were privileged. When the law firm representing the company whose e-mails were subpoenaed found out, they went to court, got the subpoena quashed, and made the other party pay for the costs, because they had violated the rules about taking "reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or expense" to the ISP, and had demonstrated "at least gross negligence" in crafting the subpoena. There are lots of problems with what happened in this case. The law firm should have clearly identified what it was looking for, and not simply subpoenaed all e-mails. The ISP should have consulted with counsel, and sought to narrow the subpoena (even with a phone call to the lawyers). They clearly should have called their customer and let them know about the order. In fact, I am frightened at the thought that my ISP might turn over my information to anyone without telling me first. What happened next, though, is what gives me chills. A Felony a Day The lawyers for the ISP's customers went after the other lawyers and their client for accessing their emails "without authorization" in violation of U.S. computer crime laws. A lower court threw out the case, but last month the appeals court let them proceed under this theory. The federal court of appeals essentially treated the subpoena as a sham, and stated that, because the subpoena was overbroad and violated the rules about what can be subpoenaed, it must be treated as though it didn't exist. And if there was no subpoena, there was no authorization to get the e-mail. Therefore, the court reasoned, if there was no authorization, this must have been a "break in" or "trespass" to the ISP's computers -- a crime. This decision, while motivated by a legitimate desire to protect privacy and force lawyers to obey the rules, nevertheless dramatically expands the meaning and intent of the computer crime in a way that could permit hundreds of thousands of people to be prosecuted. Moreover, it represents a trend to use concepts as "trespass" and "unauthorized use" to criminalize things like sending e-mail to people who don't want it, viewing competitor's public information and Web pages, and even using a work computer for personal purposes. The laws were designed to prosecute people who hack into computers and steal information. Let's face it, virtually all of the information that might be sought by subpoena in civil or criminal cases is likely created on, stored on, processed in, or transmitted through a computer. Credit card bills, phone records, word processing documents, letters, correspondence, memos -- virtually anything but hand written notes require someone to access a computer to obtain them. The California decision makes any access to such information a crime, unless it is obtained with effective consent. Overbroad subpoenas, fraud, trickery or deceit all vitiate consent, and render the access to the information criminal. If we now call overbroad subpoenas an unauthorized access, then unwanted e-mail is a trespass. Linking to someone's website without permission is likewise a trespass. Reading personal e-mail on a corporate computer exceeds the scope of authorization to use the computer, and is therefore a crime. We have so expanded the scope of criminal law that it includes virtually anything we do on a computer. You can't go through a day in cyberspace without committing at least one felony and a host of misdemeanors. Let's get real. What the lawyers did was issue an overbroad subpoena. The Washington D.C. court in the Verizon/RIAA case held that the RIAA subpoenas were valid even though no lawsuit had been filed, because a subpoena is not a court order, and doesn't enforce itself. The recipient is essentially free to ignore it, and wait for the issuer to go to court to enforce it. The defendants in this case did not break into any computers -- and saying that they did is bad for those who value liberty and prosecutorial restraint. Copyright © 2003, SecurityFocus columnist Mark D. Rasch, J.D., is a former head of the Justice Department's computer crime unit, and now serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Security Counsel at Solutionary Inc.
Mark Rasch, 08 Sep 2003

EU rattles sabres over US use of airline passenger data

The wheels may be coming off the dubious deal cobbled together between the EU and the Department of Homeland Security to give US authorities access to airline data, in the shape of Passenger Name Records (PNRs). The US unilaterally announced that it would require this data on incoming flights earlier this year, and in response the European Commission agreed to supply it on a "transitional" basis. The transitional period would however now seem to be ending, and the two parties have begun singing from somewhat divergent hymnsheets. Last Tuesday (2nd September) the Commission lined up with Commissioners Frits Bolkestein and Chris Patten, agreeing that the US had failed to give binding commitments that the PNR data would not be used in ways that breached the EU's Data Protection Directive, and has refused to limit the use of the data to the combatting of terrorism. Europe's objections are contained in a letter sent by Bolkestein to head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge in June (Statewatch has a copy of this here) doubting the adequacy of draft undertakings that had been submitted by the US at that point. Clearly, in the Commission's view these remain inadequate now. Ridge's response, reported here by AP, is that European resistance is hampering anti-terrorism efforts, that we all "need to work together to develop international standards", (surely 'Act unilaterally to impose...'? - Ed), and that the US has already made concessions, including that the system would only be used for anti-terrorism purposes. The Commission clearly does not agree that US undertakings on the latter are sufficient. According to Bolkestein's letter "only a tightly worded undertaking both about the way that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will use the data and about the conditions under which the data may be shared with and used by other agencies is acceptable." Note that this does not altogether rule out the sharing of data, but it would certainly make it impossible to share the information across multiple US agencies as a matter of standard procedure. Bolkestein also objects to the failure of the US to filter out, pending the implemementation of filters by the airlines, non-required data such as religion and health information; raises the issue of advance passenger data (which seems not to have been discussed previously); and produces a potential showstopper in the shape of a binding legal framework and "an independent arbiter outside the US government." Bolkestein argues that, as US officials have said that individuals will be able to take grievances to court, binding legal force to the undertakings will be necessary. But "taking a matter to a Court in a country that is not your own is not a very assessable sort of justice". It's not entirely clear who he has in mind as independent arbiter, but the implication is surely some form of non-US body. The Advanced Passenger Information (API) requirement seems to be an extension of the system as first announced. PNR data is required 15 minutes in advance of a flight's departure, while API is a passenger and crew manifest. This is now also required, and according to the DHS' FAQ on the subject, the data "is checked against the combined federal law enforcement database, known as the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS). IBIS includes data from the databases of CBP and twenty-one other federal agencies. Names are also checked against the FBI's National Crime Information Center wanted persons database." One might observe that this sounds more like the system you'd expect than the one Ridge claims is only being used for anti-terrorism purposes. Whatever, it currently looks like we're heading for a collision. The Commission's transitional deal played badly in Europe, and even if the Commission wanted to extend it it almost certainly couldn't. In the event of failure to reach agreement the airlines would face fines from the EU if they continued to share data, and the ire of the US if they didn't. Under such circumstances they clearly couldn't take off if they had any EU citizens on board. ®
John Lettice, 08 Sep 2003

PeopleSoft: speed is of the essence

At a conference last week, PeopleSoft said that the aim of acquiring JD Edwards is to expand its software license, service and maintenance revenue streams. PeopleSoft needs to make progress in its integration plans quickly or risk investors becoming more interested in Oracle's takeover bid. At its eagerly awaited conference to outline its JD Edwards integration plans, PeopleSoft made much of its assertion that its aim in acquiring its mid-market rival was to achieve growth, not to consolidate product lines. The aim is to exploit the intellectual property and domain expertise of each company to "build superior products" and enable new business opportunities. Craig Conway, CEO of PeopleSoft, likened its plans to those of auto giants Ford with Jaguar and BMW with the Mini, where each used their acquisition to improve the existing products and facilitate a move into new markets. However, as well as integrating modules to strengthen each product line PeopleSoft is also committed to building new functionality, for example adding a compensation management module, which neither product currently has. The company will still be required to perform some juggling and careful management because as the intention is to expand rather than consolidate products, the integration plan is not geared toward the development of common components. Although this would be ideal, executive VP of products and technology Ram Gupta said, he recognizes that the reality is different. The need to support vertical industry sectors, for example, will mean there will be divergence within components even though the design aim will be to maintain as much commonality as possible. Unless it is carefully handled, this is one aspect that could have repercussions among the customer base when upgrading selected components. Given that it only completed the acquisition by mopping up the final JD Edwards shares within the last week, PeopleSoft is moving quickly to address the integration issue. This is a key factor as the company gave little indication of its intentions when it announced its acquisition plans in June, and if PeopleSoft can deliver working integrations in the fourth quarter, its credibility will soar. Speed is also essential in maintaining stockholder interest against the fading charms of the Oracle bid. The stock price soared above Oracle's $19.50 bid offer immediately following the unveiling of the PeopleSoft plans. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Recommended research: Datamonitor, "Oracle vs. PeopleSoft: Shakeup in CRM" (BFTC0862)
Datamonitor, 08 Sep 2003

RIAA sues 261 evil-doers

The RIAA has kicked off its new revenue generating suing practice in style, filing lawsuits against 261 file traders. The music label mob has methodically reached this point. After filing over a thousand subpoenas, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is now going after the worst of the bunch with good old fashioned lawsuits. The file traders could pay up to $150,000 per illegal song swap, if they are found guilty. It's no secret that the music labels blame file traders for a decline in sales. They don't point to their own failings such as a lack of subscriptions services, high CD prices or threats against their consumers as the problem. No, this is a righteous bunch doing what is required to protect their intellectual property. "Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation," RIAA president Cary Sherman said in a statement. "But when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action." This is quite a change of heart from when the labels "played the heavy" in the 1990s by price-fixing or so the FTC said. But the music industry big-whigs would rather not talk about that little fiasco. Instead, they would like to talk about the lost revenue. That is, after all, why they've launched this new lawsuit arm of their business. Along with announcing the lawsuits, the RIAA also put out new data for the last six months of sales. You'll find some interesting tidbits in these numbers. Overall, CD sales did decline at the start of 2003. Compared to the first six months of 2002, retail unit shipments fell 9.8 percent to 245.2 million and revenue dropped 9.1 percent to a paltry $4.25 billion. Don't shed too many tears just yet though. Over the same period, CD single sales surged by 162.4 percent in units and 173.5 percent in revenue. This raises an interesting question. Most file traders go after songs one at a time. They pick and choose the tunes they like. Could it be the case that consumers don't see a good value in buying an entire CD for $16.99 when all they want is a couple of songs? The hike in single sales backs up this trend. The recent success of Apple's iTunes service would also seem to confirm this. Users of iTunes can buy one song at a time for 99 cents. Apple conveniently put out a statement today, saying it has sold 10 million songs since its service started just four months ago. If the music labels had gotten their act together long ago and provided a decent online store or cut prices on their CDs, they might not find themselves in this predicament today. That would make too much sense. Instead, the RIAA hopes to sue thousands of users and recoup its losses one teenager or grandmother at a time. That's good business. Given the RIAA's bold stance here, we've taken the liberty of finding the perfect way for music executives to celebrate their hubris. Their balls are obviously too big to fit in their pants, so why not put them where it counts. ® Related Stories Universal's CD price cut comedy gets five stars RIAA to offer file sharers amnesty - report Webcasters slap RIAA with antitrust suit OSU Four PC hostage situation enters month three
Ashlee Vance, 08 Sep 2003

Tommy Lee Jones spoke to me in a dream and told me not to buy this CD

LettersLetters re: Universal's CD price cut comedy gets five stars Reg readers are apparently more in tune with the current state of CD prices than the mainstream media. Unlike those outlets that gave Universal a nice pat on the back for some price cuts, actual consumers sense something is not quite right about the situation. Universal appears to be doing too little, too late for many of you. Essentially a CD is a CD is a CD. Which ever way you look at it and no matter what you put on it, it is still a circular piece of plastic with words or a picture on one side and shiny on the other. We are still being asked to part with $10 for the same piece of shiny plastic that AOL sends you in the mail for free. Why, because a CD costs pennies to make. The professional music pirate (and by this I mean the person who makes knock off CDs by the thousand, so good you can not tell the difference between theirs and the real thing) worked this out a long time ago and that is why they have been flooding the CD market with knock off copies for years. That is why some estimates recon that 2 out of every 5 CDs sold are illegal. Now let's do some maths. 40% of their revenue is being hijacked by organised crime and professional pirates. The RIAA recons that revenues from album sales has dropped 15% in the last year and best of all, this is due to teenagers downloading the odd track off the net. It is so obvious that knocking $2 of the price of a CD is going to make us stop downloading or buying the cut price knock offs. Better still, two WHOLE dollars is going to make those professional pirates pack up shop and give it in before they all go broke from such fierce competition. Sorry, I just fell off my chair laughing Paul C. Hartley In South Africa we buy our music in ZA Rands and the current exchange rate is about ZAR 7,50 per $1.00. That said, of course, the major labels all have a local subsidiary here. BUT, we are expected to pay R130.00 to R200.00 for a CD which may be manufactured locally or imported – you never know which. On the exchange rate this price should be about R75.00 but in buying power about R25.00. The thing that amazes me is not that so much file swapping goes on – but that people actually spend any money at all. So, next time you USA guys get upset about costs over there, understand that the reason for our outrage in the rest of the world is reflected above. I would love to compare our experience with Russia, Thailand etc Cheers Jean Barnard Well put sir! You hit the nail on the head alright. When I heard the story last week about the price cut I thought to myself "about time too". I don't listen to downloaded music from any source, legal or illegal (I'm one of those sad audiophiles who's not keen on the quality loss of mp3 et al), but I also haven't seriously bought new CDs for several years now, quite simply because: a) they're way too expensive, and b) the industry simply doesn't really put out much of anything I like any more That's not illegal file trading hitting the industry, that's true capitalism. Produce overpriced crap, and less people will want to buy it. David Cornes Oxford, UK RIAA: Who are the Pirates? It seems to me that every few days there is yet another article on the web about the recording companies attempts to bring rampant pirates to justice. I think the RIAA's idea of justice might be a little one sided and a double standard. Fact is, the recording companies have been flying the Jolly Roger since day one. They have been perpetrating an injustice on all consumers of their products for decades and I see no indication they are going to correct it. There is a scene in the original movie "Men in Black" where Tommy Lee Jones and Will smith are at the alien receiving center, in the alien technologies room. Tommy Lee Jones is showing Will Smith these new technologies and he picks up what looks like a one inch in diameter CDROM for playing music and says "I guess I'll have to buy the Beatles White Album again". Using this example, why is Tommy Lee Jones saying "I guess I'll have to buy the Beatles White Album again" ? He obviously already owns it, the word "again" indicates that. What he is really saying is "I already have a full license to listen to and enjoy the music that is on the Beatles White Album that I now have on CD. But things being what they are with the greedy, pirate recording companies, in order to get the Beatles White Album on this new one inch disk medium, I'll have to buy another license as well. Come to think of it, being as old as I am, I paid for a full licence for the original 12" vinyl LP, the Eight Track Tape, the cassette and the CD. No, wait ! I just remembered. I bought the eight track twice and the cassette three times. We have to get out of the mind set that we are buying disks or tapes. We are purchasing licenses. The physical media that it is on is just a way of conveying it to you the purchaser. When you purchase dowloadable music online, you never see a cdrom because it is conveyed to you the purchaser by electronic media. Even Microsoft doesn't make you buy a new license for windows because of unusable media. They are only interested in COA's and Product Keys. The recording companies like it just fine that we buy the same licenses over and over again. They are absolute zealots at trying to stop us from making backups of the media we purchase on flimsy, unprotected, easily damaged disks but have never once offered a remedy for the reason we need to make backups. Zeek Greko Ashlee I have just come across your article and was shocked by what I read. I am afraid that your article is very unfair to the music industry. Such sarcasm! I mean, if the prices come down how are all those undeserving pop stars and executives going to afford those personal jets and lavish lifestyles? (Oh, and the drugs without mugging old ladies.) Just think, they might have to start turning out quality music day after day for the same sort of wage the ordinary hard-working Jo gets. Wot, no talent? Go bust then - now that wouldn't do, would it? I await your full retraction and sincerest apology in the post. Thankyou. Mike (England)
Ashlee Vance, 08 Sep 2003
DVD it in many colours

Riding injury doesn't stop Dell from bashing Vendorix

Michael Dell did not let a mere leg wound stop him from attacking competitors during a Monday keynote at the OracleWorld conference. The Dell CEO hobbled onto stage with the aid of crutches after injuring an ankle in a recent horse riding accident. As always, Dell used simple terms to give the gory details of the incident. "I was riding a horse, and the horse slipped and fell, and, of course, if you are on a horse, and the horse falls, you usually fall," Dell told the OracleWorld attendees in San Francisco. "The horse fell on my leg, and it didn't feel too good, but I will be alright." It's easy for Dell to be brave. His company has weathered the downturn in IT spending with style. While larger players such as HP, Sun Microsystems and IBM struggle to keep their hardware businesses in the black, Dell has marched forward, stealing share and generating plenty of revenue. Dell was quick to point this out to the OracleWorld crowd. "Contrary to how I am looking today, we have never been on more solid footing as a company," he said. Dell dove into one of his usual rants about the need for industry standards. It's all about two and four processor servers, clusters, Windows, Linux, Oracle, Intel and EMC. The world is simple in the land of Dull, and he wants everyone to know it. Key to Dell's theory is the notion that all users will abandon Unix in favor of Linux and never need anything larger than a four processor server. "We see the whole world, as least the Unix world, going to Linux," he said. "I think for Unix customers Linux is where it's at." There is some sound reasoning backing this statement up. Intel servers do get more and more powerful as the years go by, and Linux is maturing. Why not link together a few small servers and replace that clunky SMP? The problem, however, with Dell's logic is that all of this is supposed to happen in the next two to three years. We hope the doctors checked for head wounds after the fall. Dell pays himself to be bullish in public, so his enthusiasm is understood, but the reality of the situation is that any mass migration off of Unix is going to take a long time. As proof that Dell's argument may not hold up quite as well as he hoped, we offer these questionable statements about the Unix vendors. "We like to think of them as dinosaurs," Dell said. "They can eat big truck loads of raw meat everyday, but this is not the answer." Huh? "There isn't really Unix," he said. "There is Vendorix. We don't see any traction with the proprietary Uni or Vendorix." Somebody call for help. He's rattled. The situation did not improve when one of the OracleWorld groupies asked Dell why his company doesn't sell 64bit machines. Dell does, of course, sell a system based on Intel's third generation Itanium processor. "Those are shipping now, and we would be happy to sell you as many as you like," he said. This reply really brought the chuckles out of the audience. It was, however, hard to tell if they were laughing at the questioner for being unaware of the systems or at Dell because his gig was up. It's a bit hard to beat the industry standard drum for forty minutes only to have some Oracle user bring up a product that almost no one in the industry has purchased. For the record, IDC shows Dell shipping a grand total of 14 Itanium-based servers in the first two quarters of this year. Add this to the tepid 9i RAC on Dell sales, and the cluster over SMP house of cards comes crashing down. After all, the big customer win video Dell showed for 9i RAC was the state of Louisiana that purchased a two-node cluster. Since when did a two-node cluster become something to brag about? The low-end push might be fine for a lot of customers out there, but rest assured there is a hell of a lot of demand for systems that require engineering know how. There is reason the Unix SMP market still generates billions. These systems have been proven to handle databases well for years and years. Try managing a cluster and then report back. Dell talks a good game, but sometimes it's only that - talk. Just because he sees some cowboys hop on a horse down in Texas doesn't mean Dell knows how to ride. ® Related Stories Itanium fends off Opteron for slowest selling chip crown Life support kicks in for server makers in Q2 Dell's big R&D bet - Solar Power
Ashlee Vance, 08 Sep 2003