11th > November > 2003 Archive

China doubles DIY 3G bounty

The People's Republic of China is to invest another 1.4 billion yuan in its homegrown, royalty-skipping 3G technology, TD-SCDMA this week. That's around $170 million, double the amount the MST, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, invested in August. China doesn't apportion the 3G licenses until the end of the year at the earliest, but is keen to see its own technology prosper. TC-SCDMA has been developed by Datung in conjunction with Siemens, and the PRC wants to stimulate indigenous manufacturers. But even more strategically, China doesn't want to depend on foreign IP. With Qualcomm holding 60 per cent of the patent portfolio and Nokia and Ericsson most of the rest, occidental 3G doesn't come cheap. The move parallels its work in developing its own microprocessor, Godson, and investments in Red Flag Linux. The government has already allocated two blocks of 55MHz bandwidth for TD-SCDMA, and the first, very limited trials have already begun. As Siemens' Peter Borger positioned TD-SCDMA as complementary to WCDMA and CDMA2000 last week, the results of the first technical phase of 3G evaluation were being published. The testers found that WCDMA has come along in leaps and bounds since the summer of 2001, although compatibility is an issue and 2G/3G roaming was considered "instable and immature". Testers reported that CDMA2000 terminals had "limited categories and didn't operate stably during test." And while TD-SCDMA equipment passed the basics, development needs to be speeded up, the report concluded. (More detail here). Most intriguing is the enthusiasm for exporting the technology. Japan has similar urban densities to China, and has much to gain from a "complementary" technology. ® Related Stories China sees export potential in home grown 3G Occidents will happen: China rips up the 3G rulebook
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Nov 2003

MS to carpet bomb channel with phones?

According to DigiTimes, Microsoft has doubled the minimum requirement for smartphone manufacturers from 50,000 to 100,000 units. With Mitac promising ten Smartphone 2003-based devices next year, we face the possibility of an abundance - perhaps an over-abundance - of phones in 2004. The requirement applies to contract manufacturers such as HTC, which produced the Orange SPV Smartphones, rather than OEMs such as Motorola. To date the problem hasn't been shifting units into the channel, but ensuring that once the phones are sold, they stay sold. DigiTimes also quotes an unnamed source who estimates that the Microsoft licensing fee is between $8.40 and $14.40 on a smartphone that costs the manufacturer $120. That's considerably higher than we've been led to expect. At its launch in 1998, Symbian promised to offer its smartphone licensees the OS at $5 per unit, and indications are that it's stuck to it. Making a like for like comparison is difficult, as licensees typically opt for the OS plus additional layers, as in Nokia's Symbian-based Series 60, and UIQ. But it does suggest that Microsoft isn't undercutting its main rival, although it can easily afford to. ® Related Story MS phone chief departs
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Nov 2003

Move your landline number to a mobile

The US telecoms regulator yesterday reminded local landline providers not to delay customers who want to switch their telephone number to a cellphone. Wireless carriers had been worried that the Baby Bells would force each carrier to make a peering arrangement. The FCC yesterday said the landline providers ought to be able to make the switch in two and a half hours - which is a target, but not mandatory - even if the departing customer hadn't settled the bill. US cellphones already use local area codes. But from November 24, US citizens will be able move between cellphone carriers keeping their number. It's expected to cause a huge amount of churn in the short-term, and carriers have reacted with a mixture of bribes and penalties. T-Mobile is offering some customers 'loyalty minutes' while AT&T Wireless is passing the 'cost' on to the customer in the form of a monthly surcharge. Which may be short-sighted - as the extra tax is there for all to see on the bill, and in itself reminds customers that they can quit. Some wrinkles need to be ironed out. Although a customer may have two phones, a landline and a mobile, with the share the same area code, each operator may regard 'local' calls differently. The FCC is requesting comments before advising further, particularly for customers who want to move a cellphone to a landline. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Nov 2003

BT flogs bluephones to the masses

BT has re-entered the consumer mobile market with a £5m advertising campaign for its BT Mobile Home service and plans to launch its ‘bluephone’ dual-mode fixed/wireless handset early next year. The company said it is negotiating with the five UK mobile operators and expects to sign up either one or two of them to carry the bluephone, which will offer customers a package of fixed and mobile lines with one handset, number and bill. The Sony Ericsson bluephones, which are currently being trialled, work with the cellular network when the user is on the move, but when close to a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth access point, the call will be routed via that connection to the landline network, cutting the costs. Although they will be part of the consumer wireless offering, they will perhaps be of even more interest to the enterprise as a way to reduce mobile call costs. BT’s move is sure to be watched closely by other telcos that spun off their cellular arms. Some US carriers have already said they will offer dual-mode handsets that work with the cellular network and with wireless Voice over IP, and Verizon is to provide integrated billing and converged phones for landline and mobile use. BT is backing BT Mobile Home Plan with its biggest high street advertising campaign. The plan targets families with several phone users and will be available through retail outlets such as Carphone Warehouse. The telco claims it will save the typical family £75 a month. BT offers its cellular services via an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) agreement with T-Mobile. BT will launch a Live!-style mobile data and entertainment service, BT Mobile World, next year, offering games and ringtone downloads. The telco is targeting £300m in mobile revenues by 2005. The strategy does beg the question of whether BT made a mistake by spinning off O2 when most of its European peers held on to their mobile arms. A presence in mobile is critical to it now, with the UK wireless market about equal in value to the landline sector at around £13bn a year, and set to overtake it decisively in 2004. But BT got a good price for O2 – it floated at 74 pence per share, and now trades around 52 pence. BT has put the nightmare of the 3G licensing auction behind it: although it took some of the cost of buying O2’s licenses at the time, at least it is not saddled with its former unit’s juggling act between writing down part of the asset and trying to make a return on the rest. © Copyright 2003 Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Wireless Watch, 11 Nov 2003

Intel to take P4, P4EE to 3.4GHz next quarter – report

Intel will take the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition - along with the regular version - to 3.4GHz during the first quarter of 2004, presumably in a buffer for the initial absence of high clock frequency versions of the next generation of the Pentium 4, the 90nm 'Prescott'. So claim sources close to Intel cited by Xbit Labs. Neither chip was present on the most last set of roadmaps we saw, from October. That document listed the 3.2GHz P4EE shipping in Q4 ahead of the 3.4GHz Prescott in Q1 2004. If the reports' sources are accurate in their description of the chip giant's latest roadmap, that suggests volume availability of the 3.2GHz and 3.4GHz Prescotts may now be edging toward the end of the quarter. Since the 3.2GHz P4EE was designed as much to fill a Prescott-shaped hole in the company's 2003 roadmap as to battle AMD's Athlon 64 FX chip, it's not unreasonably to assume that the 3.4GHz version is filling a similar gap in the early 2004 part of the roadmap. Intel has to ship some Prescotts this year, so make good its promise to generate revenue from the product. On the basis of past roadmaps it was assumed it would offer limited quantities of the high-end Prescotts, but Intel has made no public statements about what clock frequencies it will offer. Our gut feeling is that it will actually offer limited quantities of the 2.8GHz and 3GHz Prescotts, originally roadmapped to follow the release of the faster parts, but now likely to precede them. Certainly the above mentioned sources say Intel will release 2.8GHz and 3GHz Prescotts during Q1, as per roadmaps going back to August at least. Both those parts are thought to operate at a 533MHz effective bit rate frontside bus rather than the full 800MHz version supported by top-end 130nm P4s and 90nm Prescotts. Higher FSB versions of the low-end Prescotts are expected to follow later in the quarter. Said sources claim the various Prescotts will be priced to match their equivalently clocked 130nm P4s. They even suggest the 3.4GHz Prescott will cost $417 at launch, we seems unlikely to us as if breaks with the established Intel tradition of pricing new, top-end chips high, at $600 or more. That said, Intel recently cut the price of its top-of-the-range 3.2GHz P4 from $637 to $417, so maybe its setting the latter sum as its top desktop price. Given what it has spend developing Prescott, you'd have thought the company would want to maximise revenue right from the start, though. Meantime, the problem appears to be getting Prescott out the door. Once the line is available, Intel expects to ramp volumes and clock speeds rapidly going through the year, taking the chip to 4GHz by the end of 2004, and introducing its 775-pin Land Grid Array socket system at some point during the year. ® Related Story Intel Tejas delayed until 2005
Tony Smith, 11 Nov 2003

Wi-Fi chipmakers of the World unite!

Conexant and GlobespanVirata are to merge in a $969m all-stock deal that takes them head-to-head with Broadcom in the broadband digital home and Wi-Fi markets. The merger comes less than four months after GlobespanVirata acquired WLAN chipmaker Intersil for $365m and raises question marks over the future roadmap for the Wi-Fi range. Intersil is clinging on to its position in the top two Wi-Fi chip suppliers, under aggressive threat from Broadcom itself and from Intel as well as its traditional rival, Atheros. Being part of a larger group should make its development roadmap better funded and increase its competitiveness with its larger challengers – the combined entity will have virtually the same revenues as Broadcom and a parallel technology footprint. The deal values the merged company at $2.8bn with $1.2bn in annual revenues. Broadcom had revenues in its last fiscal of $1.08bn but its market value is far higher at $9.5bn. This is something Conexant and its new spouse will be keen to change, claiming their combined size and highly focused technology plans will make them more appealing to investors and customers. However, there are three critical questions for the Intersil range. How will its parents deal with overlaps with Conexant’s own Wi-Fi products? How prominent a role – and therefore how big a slice of the funds - will it command in a company heavily focused on broadband media chips? And will the merger affect the all-important relationship with Intersil’s chief customer, Cisco? Both the merging companies have been through serious refocusing in the past year, to target the booming broadband and narrowband home communications sectors, both wired and wireless. Conexant spun off three businesses that were not core to this business plan – wireless IC developer SkyWorks, networking IC company Mindspeed and foundry Jazz Semiconductor – while GlobespanVirata acquired Intersil in order to provide the “dream combination” of WLAN and DSL chipsets. However, while Wi-Fi and DSL may be growth markets, they are also overcrowded and facing shake-out. The partners realised that, in this space, big would be beautiful. “There is a stronger long term revenue growth then if we operated as two standalone operations," said Dwight Decker, current CEO of Conexant, who becomes chairman of the combined company. (GlobespanVirata’s CEO Armando Geday, who formerly worked at Conexant, becomes group CEO. While the merged entity will take the Conexant name, it will be based in GlobespanVirata’s headquarters in New Jersey). There is significant overlap between the two companies’ product lines. This is almost inevitable in a merger designed to create a powerful monolith in existing markets, rather than to spread across new markets, but it will probably entail a painful integration process that could give Broadcom a short term advantage with OEMs, already wary of shake-out and instability in the chip markets. Both companies offer DSL chips for the customer premises equipment sector and have an overlapping ADSL based in Asia. In Wi-Fi, GlobespanVirata is the stronger through the Intersil acquisition, but Conexant also has 802.11b and 802.11g products and recently launched a baseband processor for the low power Wi-Fi market. Based on market share, it would seem probable that its 802.11b and 802.11g chips, though the former have been successful, will make way for Intersil’s offerings, while Conexant will hang on to its most differentiated device, the CX85510 ‘g’ base-band/MAC chip. This is exceptional because, in an effort to distinguish it in an overcrowded WLAN market, it has been entirely reworked to support OFDM and quality of service, clearly with a view to the wireless digital media home – the chip can be directly connected to Conexant’s ADSL and cable modem chipsets. The device goes beyond almost all basebands on the market, with support for pre-standard 802.11i security, smart antennas and modem connection. This clear focus on the home market may mitigate against some of Intersil’s products and former staff – though no decisions have yet been announced regarding plans for layoffs. It will certainly force the unit, which has been one of the most enterprise-focused of the Wi-Fi chipmakers, to shift its centre of gravity or risk becoming a sideline in the new structure. The key interest will be in embedding Intersil’s WLAN technology into home networking and multimedia devices. This was foreshadowed last year when Conexant partnered with Intersil to develop a combined 802.11b/ADSL router chip. However, this raises the critical issue of Cisco. The networking giant uses Intersil chips in its enterprise WLAN product range, which has about 75 per cent market share. However, its consumer-oriented Wi-Fi division, Linksys, which it acquired earlier this year and which has market lead in the home market, uses Broadcom silicon. The Linksys acquisition has led to persistent fears that Intersil, whose over-dependence on Cisco was seen as one reason why it was not strong enough to remain independent, would lose the Cisco deal to Broadcom. These fears will be strengthened by the incorporation of Intersil into an organisation that is verwhelmingly consumer-focused. It will be less distinguishable from Broadcom, and therefore Cisco may see less reason to maintain two chip partnerships and could go for the economies of scale of having a single supplier. Of course, Conexant would be in a stronger position than before to compete for that huge contract too, but the uncertain situation highlights the difficulty of operating in a market where one customer is so dominant. The merger also highlights how the balance of funding and vendor interest is shifting to the digital home, leaving the enterprise, whose WLAN purchasing has been disappointing this year, somewhat sidelined. Most of the interesting work in chips optimised for corporate devices has been done in ‘souped-up Wi-Fi’ that operates over ranges and at speeds beyond those set by the 802.11x standards. Atheros has been very active in this arena, and stands to make great strides if its old enemy finds itself focusing on consumer markets. An early indicator of the overall focus of the combined roadmap will be the way that Conexant and GlobespanVirata merge their personnel, and which kills they are keenest to retain in the 2,400-strong workforce. Decker said one approach would be to “pick a team and let the other go” but he added that this was not likely, and that the company wanted to use greater resources to strengthen its position especially in engineering and R&D. However, given the overlaps, some redundancies seem almost inevitable. And the merger isn’t all about overlap – Conexant brings cable modems to the party, plus its HomePlug powerline networking technology, which is being revamped with a planned new superfast version of the HomePlug AV industry standard. In return, its new partner brings a central office DSL chipset. Under terms of the merger agreement, GlobespanVirata shareholders will receive 1.198 shares of Conexant common stock for each outstanding share of GlobespanVirata stock. Based on Friday's close, Conexant shareholders will own 62.75% and GlobespanVirata shareholders will own 37.25% of the combined company's stock. Based on Conexant's Friday closing of $5.84 a share, GlobespanVirata is valued at about $7 a share, a 14% premium to its Friday closing price. Both companies reported quarterly results last Thursday. For its fourth quarter, Conexant swung to a profit of $37.2 million, on revenue up 24% to $164.7 million. GlobespanVirata posted a slightly wider net loss of $31.3 million for its third quarter but its quarterly revenue doubled to $98.8 million. The WLAN chipset market has become crowded on the back of the Wi-Fi boom, and now numbers a dozen serious suppliers. Intersil is the leader, with Broadcom poised to take second place by the end of this year, overtaking Atheros. Between them, these two will control about half of the market. The other majors are Agere, Atmel, Marvell, RF Micro and Texas Instruments. Now Intel and AMD are throwing their hats in the ring, in Intel’s case with potentially highly disruptive effect. Also, in the ‘b’ sector, we see Taiwanese manufacturers such as Acer and SiS coming in with commodity products for an increasingly price-depressed market. © Copyright 2003 Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Wireless Watch, 11 Nov 2003

Watchdog bans Apple Power Mac G5 ads

Apple adverts that claimed its Power Mac G5 was "the world's fastest, most powerful personal computer" have been banned in the UK following complaints from eight AMD fans... er... viewers. The ban, which applies to the G5 campaign that feature a user being blasted through the walls of his house, was imposed by the Independent Television Commission (ITC), a watchdog that monitors broadcasters and advertisers on terrestrial television in the UK. The ITC considered that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim "world's fastest, most powerful personal computer'," the organisation's web site says. The ad was judged to be "misleading". According to the ITC, "viewers complained that the advertising was misleading because the main claim was based on the results of limited tests in which the specification of the computers used was configured to give Apple the best results". These complaints followed similar grumbles from the UK's Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC), the NGO used by the ITC to vet adverts before they are shown. The BACC's "independent IT expert" questioned Apple's claims, but Apple was able to satisfy the organisation's concerns, and consequently the G5 advert was approved for broadcast. "The advertiser [Apple] provided the ITC with evidence which it claimed showed that the tests, carried out by an independent third party, were 'fair and even'," the ITC's web site says. However, "due to the technical nature of the advertiser's response, the ITC asked the BACC to refer the complaints and the response to the BACC's expert. He found that the claim was not supported by independent reviews and that at best 'the G5 was generally as fast as the best Intel-based workstations currently available'," the organisation adds. The judgment is a blow to Apple, which by and large has rarely offended anyone with its advertising in the UK. According to advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), is has received only two complaints about the company's ads since January 1999, neither of which were upheld after review. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Nov 2003

Qwest to sell VoiP to Harry Homeowner

Dick Notebaert, CEO of US western states telco Qwest pulled a surprise as he addressed an industry c onference this week, announcing that Qwest will take Voice over IP services to the masses. Nearly all the US local loop suppliers offer varying levels of VoIP to businesses, but this is the first move by a US telco to take the offering to consumers. There are various, mostly cynical, reasons that might be given for the move and some commentators have speculated that it is entirely to escape connection fees to other US Telcos in what has come to be thought of as a regulation vacuum. Recent attempts by the FCC in the US to regulate discounted interconnection between carriers have been heavily criticized and have hit various legal obstacles and may take years to come into play. Companies that offer VoIP could avoid any connection fees for VoIP calls because at the moment they would come under data traffic regulations. Notebaert said it would likely offer VoIP, across its high-speed Internet service, or digital subscriber line (DSL). Could the move have anything to do with the 2.3 million people that are using VoIP over a standard broadband line already since the release of Skype 10 weeks ago? Well Skype wasn’t mentioned, and neither was a price for the service. It seems a little tough to actually charge anything, given that residents are already paying for unlimited usage at a given data rate on broadband. If voice travels as data, surely the data line monthly charge should be enough? plus a little extra charge for billing and gatewaying the traffic onto the postal services telephone network. Qwest may be simply using the service as a spur to shift broadband lines, as an ADSL line will be a minimum requirement. The other telcos look almost certain to follow, but it is unlikely that any of them can offer “free” calls over the internet like Peer-to-peer services such as Skype does. Notebaert said that no separate phone line would need to be in place for customers to have the service and that would mean that a $50 a month minimum charge might be in line with existing independent VoIP services, such as Vonage, a US specialist. Vonage charges $35 a month for unlimited local and long-distance calls. Many of the local telcos charge $50 a month for an unlimited plan on the regular phone network. The service will initially be offered in Minnesota and if successful, rolled out to neighboring states, said Qwest, but it gave no launch timing or price. The FCC has begun to tackle the thorny issue of regulating the Internet Protocol, and will hold a public forum on the subject in December and hope to bring in new regulations as soon as it can after that. The IP protocol is essentially not within the FFC’s remit at present and without that, there could be a huge shift towards it, with the FCC regulating interconnection over switched telephone traffic and yet having no say over IP carried traffic. © Copyright 2003 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here
Faultline, 11 Nov 2003

Now we are one. Freeview claims 2M couch potatoes

The UK’s digital TV experiment Freeview is just one year old but has just passed the 2 million homes mark that represents about an 8.3% market share in the UK Television market. The BBC’s shift to offer Freeview channels is probably the most important ingredient in this success, and in order to maintain its lead in digital TV it is off on another huge marketing campaign, just as other ervices such as Disney, get ready to launch their own services this winter. The BBC has issued predictions that Freeview will double its penetration in the coming 12 months and hit 2.5 million by the end of 2003. The only cost associated with the service is buying either a set-top that will convert signals for an existing TV set or to buy a new digital ready TV set. The prices of the new TV sets is slowly but surely coming down. The average price is now around £840 for a new digital set, with prices ranging from £350 to Sony’s top of the market £1,700 36 inch model. Freeview was set up as a replacement to the collapsed ITV Digital, which folded largely due to its single minded strategy of buying up football rights in the UK. The BBC, in conjunction with Crown Castle, launched Freeview to allow viewers access to digital channels without paying subscription fees. BBC offers a number of channels on the service and a new channel UK History has been launched for it. US shopping channel QVC, is live on it and there’s now around 30 channels in total. Channel 4 and Disney are preparing new channels for the system. However a report this week from Informa Group says that things are not all rosy in Freeview and that subscriber growth will slow dramatically in 2004 and continue to fall thereafter. (Mind you this is the same research company that says that film companies have nothing to fear from piracy). Informa expects Freeview to add just 678,000 homes in 2004 and in 2005, a further 357,000 homes and then settle back to 250,000 a year. This would mean a total of 4.7 million by 2010, contrasting with the BBC’s expectation of 4 million by the end of 2004. © Copyright 2003 Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here
Faultline, 11 Nov 2003

Sony unveils ‘video iPod’

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Portable video player Sony has launched a portable personal digital video player under its Vaio brand in Japan . The GigaPocket PCVA-HVP20 features a 20GB hard drive, enough to hold up to 31 hours of programming - if you're pretty frugal with image quality, natch. The GigaPocket is a compact 12 x 8.4 x 2.8cm (4.8 x 3.4 x 1.1in) and sports a 3.5in backlit TFT LCD screen. The unit supports the MPEG 1 and MPEG 2 video compression standards, and it's the former, running at a 1.41Mbps compression rate) that yields those 31 hours of programme storage. The 300g (10.6oz) device also supports (sort of) AVI (DV) and WMV format video, but these have to be sourced separately and transferred to the GigaPocket via its USB 2.0 connector. These two formats are converted to 4Mbps MPEG 2 - a little short of DVD quality - on the fly as they're sent over from a PC. Alas, the GigaPocket can only handle four hours of programming per file. And you need to add a separate TV tuner module to the device to allow it to operate without a PC as a content source. Built inside the HVP20 is a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery offering around four hours' playback time. The device also offers a TV out connector. It ships with a pair of stereo earphones. The HVP20 goes on sale in Japan on 22 November. Sony has yet to set a price, but it is expected to retail for around ¥50,000; ($460/£275). MP3 player Clearly inspired by Rio's Chiba portable music player, Creative has begun shipping its new Rhomba player. The Rhomba packs in 256MB of Flash memory. Like Creative's Nomad MuVo NX, Rhomba is essentially a Flash drive with a built in music playback facility. It connects to the host system via a USB cable, but mounts as a removable disk, which not only allows you to copy over files by drag and drop, but eliminates the need for jukebox software. The USB cable is also used to charge the player's built-in rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. At full capacity, the battery provides 14 hours' playback time, Creative claims. Like the Chiba, the 1.8oz Rhomba features one-hand controls, a number of equaliser pre-sets, a large-size display and a built-in FM tuner. Unlike the Chiba, the Creative player's equaliser can't be customised, though bass and treble controls are included. It also lacks Chiba's memory card slot. However, there is a voice recording facility, and radio shows can be saved, too. Rhomba is available with either 128MB or 256MB of memory, and retails in the US for $150 and $200, respectively. Not officially available in the UK, the 256MB is now available from Amazon.co.uk for £110. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Nov 2003

AMD names VIP first UK Associate Distributor

Warrington-based distributor VIP Computer Center has been granted Associate Distributor status by AMD - the first company gain such accreditation in the UK and one of only a four in Europe. An AMD Associate Distributor is essentially top-tier channel qualification, and will result in VIP working directly with the chip maker. Both companies will engage in joint channel-oriented marketing programmes, each promoting the other. VIP will focus on offering boxed processors. VIP joins a Santech in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden; Blue River Systems in France; and Astra Datentechnik in Germany. VIP was recently awarded the Computer Trade Shopper Award for Distributor of the Year 2003. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Nov 2003

Sony preps updated CD copy protection trial

Sony will test its latest CD copy protection mechanism in Germany next week that blocks ripping but allows tracks to be transferred to "authorised" portable music players. That's the carrot it's dangling in front of punters who may be put off buying discs that feature copy protection. Sony is essentially providing buyers with the freedom to copy the disc for personal use, but preventing them distributing copies via the Internet, Reuters reports. That's the theory, anyway. The technology uses the established method of offering two versions of the record on the same CD: one that can be played in regular players and another intended for computer use. The second version is held in a second session. Each disc is mastered to prevent the PC from seeing the session containing the CD Audio tracks. Sony has used a similar approach in a number of releases over the past few years, but in the past has not included 'PC friendly' files alongside the CD Audio tracks. The multi-session technique was also foiled a while back when it was discovered that blocking off the PC session band on the CD with a bit of Post-It note or a black market pen forced the computer to access the 'hidden' CD Audio session. Back then, of course, Sony wasn't offering computer users alternative tracks. The company accepts that copy protection mechanisms will almost certainly be cracked, but it hopes the majority of computer users will buy protected discs if they can still use them on their machines. Sony's latest system is not without restrictions, however. The tracks can only be copied to Sony portable music players, and played on a PC using Sony's own software - a problem for users of platforms not supported by Sony. The company promises to offer plug-ins for popular music apps early next year. Users will accept those limits, it hopes, because of the extra content web links built into the PC session provide. The first disc to use the new system will be New York R&B outfit Naturally Seven's album, What is it?, due to be released in Germany on Monday. Sony said the disc will ship with a 'this disc is copy protected'-style label. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Nov 2003

Revealed: US console installed base figures

The release of Activision's financial results yesterday brought with it a helpful breakdown of the installed bases of the various consoles in North America, including projections through to the end of financial year 2003/04. As you might expect, the PlayStation 2 dominates the proceedings, with a current installed base of 19.2 million units. That is expected to grow to 24 million units by the end of the Activision financial year - pretty impressive growth for a console which is thought to have reached its lifetime sales peak. The Xbox leads the GameCube slightly, with Microsoft's console boasting a six million-strong installed base as against 4.7 million for Nintendo's platform. These figures are expected to grow to eight million and six million, respectively, by the end of Activision's financial year, although it's not clear whether this takes into account Nintendo's recent resurgence following the GameCube price cut. Nintendo may be trailing in the North American race, but it's got the handheld market all to itself and has clearly been taking advantage of this dominance - with an installed base of some 15.7 million units, and growth to 18 million units on the cards by the end of financial year 2003/04. Copyright © 2003, GamesIndustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 11 Nov 2003

Mission impossible? Blunkett's big biometric ID adventure

Today UK home secretary David Blunkett rolled out his plans for national ID cards. They will cost "£35" over a ten year period for individuals, but will be free for "all those who do not want or need a driving licence or passport" (which means they're already compulsory for these two groups), and the add-on cost, based on the assumption that passport and driving licence will go biometric anyway, will only be £4. Blunkett claimed support of 80 per cent of the public for this £4 bargain, which will nevertheless look remarkably like an extra £35 on passports and driving licences. In his statement to parliament he also seemed to suggest that costs might be offset by "benefits in the commercial world". Which could be both a worry and a script for disaster, depending on what he means. But earlier Blunkett put his personal ID card stake in the ground. Biometric identifiers on ID "will make identity theft and multiple identity impossible, not nearly impossible, impossible." That one's tougher to stand up than you think, David, and we're going to hold you to it. Blunkett was speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, where we believe he has a camp bed, prior to making the statement to parliament on his ID card rollout plans. After what have been described as "brutal" meetings on the subject, Blunkett has secured cabinet approval in principle for a compulsory national ID card, but the final green light for this is contingent on a number of criteria being fulfilled (more details of these here). Blunkett's championship of biometric identifiers has become increasingly evident as discussion of ID cards has proceeded ('progressed' would we feel be the entirely wrong word), and this morning he has nailed his colours to the biometric mast even more emphatically. Which is appropriate, because successful implementation of biometric identifiers would prove his case, while on the other hand that very successful implementation is going to be hardest of the criteria to fulfill, by a long chalk. Will it be impossible? Read on, then you decide. Note also that Blunkett and the government (and indeed many other governments) are proceeding on the assumption that biometrics are going to be introduced for passport and driving licence anyway, so even if a national ID card scheme were abandoned forever, now, the challenges, and the costs of meeting those challenges, would still exist. And when the government's deciding a few years down the line, remember what he said: "not nearly impossible, impossible." 'Good enough', 'near enough' will not do. The first rollouts of biometrics for the general UK population will be in passports, then in driving licences. These are currently the two most reliable pieces of government-issued identity in the UK, but in both cases genuine documents exist which support false identities. It appears that it's even still possible to use the birth certificate loophole exposed by author Frederick Forsyth in the Day of the Jackal in 1972, and fake driving licences are readily available. These 'relatively reliable' documents are currently used to provide proof of identity in order to obtain one another; a driving licence helps you get a passport, a passport helps you get a driving licence, and once you've got both you're pretty nearly real. National insurance number? No, there's a very good reason why the Home Office is not mooting the use of the current generation of national insurance number as a reliable basis for a unique ID system. The point here is false identities on real documents are already in the system, and that for Blunkett to achieve his "impossible" goal these will have to be shaken out. If the next generation renewal turns out to be simply adding bearer's biometrics onto an existing ID, then it will merely strengthen existing false IDs. So far so easy, we're only talking about the UK, where the problems may be difficult, but not insuperable. We'll move out into the European Union as a whole now, and consider how you tackle multiple ID while we're about it. States within the EU need to be able to issue ID documents that use documents from other EU states, and the records of other EU states, for their verification. So Blunkett's confidence in the integrity of UK-issued documents can only be as high as his confidence in the reliability of the least reliable documents from any other EU state. No name-calling necessary here, obviously it varies, obviously the speed of implementation of relevant EU rules and directives varies, and obviously newer entrants to the EU will be less likely initially to be in the top ten. Overcoming difficulties of this sort is again not impossible, but quite clearly high levels of standardisation in documentation and the integrity of issuing authorities throughout the EU will be necessary to achieve "impossible." And, when you consider multiple identity, high levels of data sharing. How do you use biometric identifiers to make the issuing of multiple identity documents impossible? The biometric database, of course, which is why Blunkett is so keen on getting this set up. But you can only check that the individual in front of you is not in fact several other individuals as well if you do a look-up. At which point you arrive at an upward scale of hardness. For UK issued documents you can compare what you have locally (two pieces, mind, document and actual person have to match) with what you have on file. Determining that you do have something on file means the document is genuinely issued, determining that you (and the rest of Europe) don't have several different IDs with the same biometrics means you don't have multiple IDs present, at least at this level. Obvious questions dealing with how you do the matching and how reliable the matching can be arise. Obviously you don't do it all every time a document is presented, but the system does require that it's all done sufficiently frequently to catch frauds. Against what would effectively have to be the giant database of the biometric identifiers of everybody in Europe, with each single identifier absolutely verified, no mistakes or frauds in issue. And with all of this shared by every authority in Europe. The word "impossible" does start to spring to one's lips at this juncture, but not quite in the sense that Blunkett meant it. Do we need to move out into the rest of the world? Probably not. For the sake of argument we might as well presume that the US is capable of setting up systems that are just as effective as Europe's, and will participate in the biometrics data-sharing arrangements (N.B, 'for the sake of argument' is not the same as 'lay odds on'). And the rest of the world? How confident can you be that documents from anywhere in the world have not been issued fraudulently? How effectively can you match what purports to be a genuine document with a record which may (or may not) be held anywhere else in the world? How effectively can you ring-fence issuing authorities you don't have confidence in? How do you set the boundaries? How, indeed, do you achieve "not nearly impossible, impossible"? Mission impossible? Note also that all of these difficulties exist before you even consider whether or not it will be possible to forge the new class of ID document. Will this too be impossible? ®
John Lettice, 11 Nov 2003

Belkin disables router spamming feature

Belkin, the consumer networking and connectivity firm, has promised customers a firmware upgrade to disable a controversial 'spamming' feature built into its routers. As first reported on The Reg last week, the feature hijacks random HTTP requests every eight hours and redirects users to a page advertising Belkin's parental control software. There is an opt-out link but that failed to appease Net users who accused Belkin of creating a new mechanism for spam. In response the negative user feedback, Belkin is to give users the option of disabling the feature. In an announcement on its home page, Belkin said: "In response to a recent Usenet group posting stating that Belkin spams its customers through its routers, Belkin Corporation apologizes for the concern this has caused and is taking action to address the issue. "To allay customers’ worries, Belkin will offer a firmware upgrade that will be available via download from its website (www.belkin.com) on November 17, 2003. This upgrade will rid the redirect completely so that no additional browser windows will appear during the router’s installation process. Questions can be directed to our dedicated networking customer support line at 877-736-5771 or e-mailed to kannynmc@belkin.com," it added. While we might question Belkin's initial thinking, the company deserves credit for backing down gracefully in the face of widespread public criticism. ® Related Stories Help! my Belkin router is spamming me FTC gets injunction against 'pop-up spam scam' Microsoft shoots the Windows Messenger
John Leyden, 11 Nov 2003

Eudora users warned over ‘reply to all’ trick

A buffer overflow vulnerability in Eudora, the popular email client, creates a mechanism for crackers to compromise targeted PCs. The problem stems from a failure to properly verify the "From:" and "Reply-To:" when users of vulnerable versions of Eudora select "Reply-To-All". This shortcoming creates a means for hackers to spam users with a maliciously constructed email designed to trigger this buffer overflow condition. In practice it might be hard to trick users into selecting "Reply-To-All" in response to suspicious emails. But if they do then crackers would be able to run arbitrary code on vulnerable systems, so the problem is not to be sniffed at. The vulnerability was discovered in Eudora version 5.x by Japanese security researcher Hisayuki Shinmachi of Secure Net Services in January and announced yesterday. Users are advised to update to Eudora 5.1-Jr3 (Japanese) or Eudora 6.0 (English) in order to shore up their security defences, as explained in an advisory by Secunia here. Although Eudora security problems are not unprecedented, the package is far less afflicted with security issues than Microsoft's email client, known in these parts as Lookout. ® Related Stories IE bugs keep coming Eudora e-mail hole discovered External Links Eudora security problems
John Leyden, 11 Nov 2003

Retailers join zero-profit DRM ‘gold rush’

"The gold rush is finally beginning," an Insight researcher called Phil Leigh told the San Jose Mercury News this week, commenting on the decision of Comcast and Best Buy to begin commercial MP3 download services. Comcast will sell a version of Real's Rhapsody subscription service, and High Street chain Best Buy will promote a 99 cents per song download service, modeled on Apple's iTunes Music Store, in almost 600 shops. Of course, commercial MP3 downloads have been available for years from pioneers such as MP3.com, but these have failed to attract the back catalogs owned by the copyright cartel. For the past five years the technology industry and the entertainment pigopolists have been engaged in a stand-off. When the PC industry attempted to introduce measures that restricted computer users' freedom, they were shot down in a hail of fire. Compromises came and went, but the PC business wouldn't capitulate, and Silicon Valley's traditionally gubbment-phobic tech executives even threw their weight behind proposed fair use legislation. But it was Steve Jobs who gave Hollywood and the RIAA what they wanted: insidious copy protection, gift-wrapped in the sweetest smelling package he knew how to market. (When people come face to face with the consequences of DRM, they really don't like it very much.) The problem with this gold rush is, as Jobs himself reminded us last week, there's no money in it for the retailers themselves. The difference between Apple and the arrivistes (and, for that matter, the 800lb gorilla Sony, which will enter the business next year), is that Apple makes money from iPod sales. Sony will outflank Apple thanks to its huge vertical integration advantages: it owns the content and has a historic presence as a consumer manufacturer. But for the others, it's hard to see where the money comes from. The dot.com bubble was famously described as a 'gold rush', too. In a gift to headline writers across the world, it took place around San Francisco, a city founded on a real gold rush, that's been a boom-bust town ever since. Perhaps there's something in the water here, that attracts native sons such as Jobs to such short-lived opportunities. But in the gold rush, it was only the pick and shovel vendors who ever made any money. (Oracle spun this into their marketing literature, we remember, in 1999). While an EMI senior VP called Ted Cohen felt confident enough to tell the Merc that this gold rush "shows that we're approaching the normalization of the business", who really makes money here? The answer is in the question. The RIAA has achieved a home run. It's got a computer company to mass market share denial technology and all those 99 cents go back to the copyright cartel. No wonder they're looking pleased. 'Normalization' has been achieved. ® Related Stories Your 99c belong to the RIAA - Steve Jobs Penn State's pigopolist pork is not smelling sweet Apple will make RIAA 'beg for mercy' Music biz should shift to flat-fee, P2P model - exec
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Nov 2003

Net pedants quell Matrix Revolutions

Pity if you will the humble Hollywood film director, struggling to provide intellectually-challenging yet entertaining cinematic product on a mere $120 million while battling against studios, producers and heartless bean counters. Then, having invested all of himself, all of the cash and a hefty two billion hours of CGI server time into a celluloid labour of love, he has to endure the further agony of seeing the whole opus trashed and ridiculed by the pizza-fuelled net pedants at www.moviemistakes.com. Make no mistake, Movie Mistakes (mottos include: "Watch Films Differently" and "Hollywood's Big Brother") is merciless in identifying even the most microscopic error of continuity/audio/plot. Which is particularly bad news for Andy and Larry Wachowski, the men behind The Matrix Revolutions. Among the litany of sins committed by the hapless Wachowskis are the following outrages: In the scene where where Morpheus and Neo are hugging because Neo is about to leave, in the background the matrix code on the screens is falling normally, not messed up as it was earlier due to the matrix being near failure. In the scene where Neo sees the Oracle at her home, as the shots go back and forth during the dialog her cigarette pack goes from closed to slightly open several times. When Trinity is meeting with the Frenchman, the olive in his martini changes. In the first close-up shot, he only has one green olive on the cocktail stick. From then on he has two, until he eats one. Good Lord. So, if they weren't spent on continuity ladies, where exactly did all the greenbacks go? We can only conclude that the $10 left after the special effects boys had finished ended up in the pocket of the person dragged in off the street to write the screenplay. For shame. As for Movie Mistakes, while we imagine that everyone involved in the site looks like the comic book store owner in The Simpsons, we applaud their efforts in ensuring that film-makers who do play fast and easy with the laws of continuity are held up to public ridicule and shame. Keep up the good work. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Nov 2003

Oracle chokes on PeopleSoft's poison pill

Oracle may have to abandon its $7.3 billion hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft because of the enterprise software firm's licensing-fee refund program. In a filling to a Deleware Court, Oracle said PeopleSoft's promise to give its customers between two to five times their licensing fees back following a takeover could scupper its bid. "If the PeopleSoft board is permitted to continue to issue self-serving, entrenchment-motivated contracts under the revised money-back offer, Oracle may be forced to abandon its bid as it will no longer be economically viable," the filing said, according to The Wall Street Journal. PeopleSoft's revised refund program kicks in if the company is purchased within two years and support is reduced within four years. The potential liability under the new terms of its refund program stands at approximately $800 million, according to PeopleSoft. Oracle wants the Delaware court to put through an injunction against PeopleSoft's new refund program. How much of its threat to abandon its bid is legal posturing is therefore open to question. A minority of PeopleSoft shareholders are also asking the courts to block PeopleSoft's controversial program, however the besieged enterprise apps vendor is holding firm. A PeopleSoft spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that the plan is "good for customers, and ultimately good for shareholders." ® Related Stories PeopleSoft: tough integration targets ERP users in Europe want Oracle to back off Peoplesoft merger PeopleSoft: new obstacles for Oracle PeopleSoft brings J.D. Edwards on board
John Leyden, 11 Nov 2003

Linux on the desktop – the man from Armonk, he say yes!

Linux is now officially ready for the desktop, and you all have permission to stop buying Windows client systems and buy Linux ones instead. From, we presume, IBM and its friends, seeing it's IBM that has this week given its approval. IBM has previously been noted both for its readiness to sell Linux on its own very wonderful servers and its cautionary advice that Linux is not ready for the desktop. On Monday, however, Sam Docknevich of IBM Global Services said that Linux is ready to "blossom" on the desktop. The shock announcement was perhaps just the teensiest bit predictable, given that Docknevich was speaking at the first Desktop Linux Consortium Conference, and that his talk was entitled "The Time is Now for Linux on the Desktop." Not much likelihood of your getting tarred and feathered under those circumstances then, Sam. But you could note that Docknevich was perhaps not so much announcing the general readiness of Linux for the desktop as announcing IBM Global Services' imminent readiness for taking your money in order to support Linux on the desktop. But aside from that, Linux must obviously have matured in some way that has given it enhanced desktopability over the last year to 18 months. It obviously couldn't have been SuSE's desktop system, or Red Hat's, because we feel sure IBM would have said something at the time if that were the case. Sun coming over all ecstatic and threatening to invade Redmond, then? Nope, that was September, it's November already, IBM would surely have said something. We just can't put our fingers on it. But it's good to know Linux desktops are OK after all, and it's certainly comforting to buy them, secure in the knowledge that we can now be supported by IBM Global Services. ®
John Lettice, 11 Nov 2003

Penn State trustee and RIAA lawyer denies conflict of interests

Penn State University, the RIAA and Napster - the axis of spiel - continue to defy the laws of common sense and economics that our country once held dear. Penn State trustee and RIAA legal counsel Barry Robinson has denied having anything to do with the university's recent adoption of the Napster music service. Robinson told the school paper that there is no connection between his work at Penn State and the RIAA, saying he only deals with "day-to-day" legal matters for the RIAA, which include suing college students, children and senior citizens. He did not hear word of the agreement between Penn State and Napster until "36 hours" before it was officially announced last week, according to The Collegian. The key word here is "agreement" because it's a bit far-fetched to think Robinson had no idea of Penn State's plans. And here's why. Back in September, Penn State's President Graham Spanier told reporters about his ongoing efforts to build a "music fee" into students' tuitions. Spanier was ahead of his time to be sure, as Penn State now has students fronting part of the cost for the "free" Napster school service. Spanier also works side-by-side with RIAA President Cary Sherman on the Committee on Higher Education and the Entertainment Industry. So while Robinson may not have known about the exact timing on the Penn State/Napster "agreement," it seems a stretch to think neither Spanier or Sherman mentioned that such a scheme was well underway. What is even harder to believe is that Robinson did not help spur such a plan on given his uncomfortable role in both lobbing threats at Penn State while being a trustee. Penn State and Napster have billed their subsidized service as a possible model for universities around the country. Again, one has to wonder whether or not Sherman and Robinson were made aware of these aspirations. Wouldn't both Penn State and Napster want to check with the kind-hearted people at the RIAA about their plans to bill this as a "model" before rolling it out. Surely, Spanier and Sherman had a chat about the idea, and we would hope Sherman checked with his legal counsel on the concept. And, what if, the legal counsel and Penn State board member actually suggested the idea himself, making all of his cronies happy? Never. No, he only heard about it hours before the deal passed, which is months after Penn State's own students were told about and asked to test the program before launch. In May of this year, the RIAA sent a notice to Penn State, accusing it of copyright violations. The pigopolist trade group later apologized to the school for these actions. It turned out that a professor with the last name Usher had posted MP3s of his own singing efforts, which the RIAA lawsuit bot had confused with songs from the musician Usher. Since the incident happened to a Penn State professor, and the RIAA has such close friends at the school, it made the uncharacteristic move of sending an Usher CD and T-shirt to the professor. Needless to say, the RIAA did not offer a similar olive branch when it incorrectly lobbed a $300 million lawsuit against a pensioner. It seems Penn State is uniquely privileged when it comes to the RIAA and the music industry. The university says its paying for the $9.95 per month Napster service out of its IT budget. With 83,000 undergraduates and graduate students, this would theoretically take the monthly bill to $830,000. In addition, Penn State has announced plans to stretch the service to its hundreds of thousands of alumni. Now, we're into the millions. Other universities should pay attention to these figures when Napster comes knocking. Be sure to ask for a generous discount - something close to free for the service. Exactly how Napster plans to make money on its service is unclear. The total of 83,000 students pulling down millions of tethered downloads is sure to pump up bandwidth costs. This leaves Napster turning to the 99 cent per song charge students can pay for a permanent download. But, as Apple's Steve Jobs has pointed out, legal music downloading is a money losing proposition. Apple makes its money on iPods. Napster has no atrociously high margin hardware to sell. So once again, with Robinson's conflict of interests and denials aside, we're left thinking the axis of spiel pushed this deal out to make legal music downloading at colleges look feasible. Good for the legal Napster. Good for Penn State and its lobby group cronies. The best bet Penn State has at this point is to have Spanier cruise over the corporate governance and economics experts at the school for a second opinion. ® Related Stories Penn State's pigopolist pork is not smelling sweet Penn State students revolt against Napster, DRM invasion Your 99c belong to the RIAA - Steve Jobs
Ashlee Vance, 11 Nov 2003

WorldPay recovers from massive attack

AnalysisAnalysis WorldPay's systems are back running normally this week following the most serious and sustained Internet attack on a UK business to date. Operations at the Royal Bank of Scotland's Internet payment transaction outfit were blighted for three days last week as the result of a malicious DDoS attack by unidentified computer criminals. Although customer information was not disclosed by the attack, WorldPay's online payment and administration system were reduced to a crawl due to a flood of malicious traffic directed at its Web-based systems that began a week ago. WorldPay put in place a series of measures to mitigate the attack and by Friday its services were restored to near-normality. In a statement to its customers on Friday, WorldPay apologised to its customers for the inconvenience caused by the attack. Ron Kalifa, WorldPay's managing director, said: "Our service has been badly disrupted over the past three days. However, we have made significant progress and the corrective action we have taken is minimising the potential for further disruption." "As you may know the cause of the disruption has been a substantial and sustained Distributed Denial of Service attack. WorldPay's payment and administration systems have, in fact, worked safely and securely throughout this, but the networks around them have been systematically flooded with requests for our service on a massive computer-generated scale. Our ability to process payments has been far slower and at lower volumes than normal as a result of this." "The attack follows a familiar pattern to those seen against other major companies internationally and is regrettably extremely difficult to anticipate," he added. The company emphasised that the "integrity and security of [customer] data has not, in any way, been compromised" by the attack. WorldPay says the outage is nothing to do with a recent upgrade, during which its systems were moved from Cambridge to Edinburgh, that took place days before the assault began. Anatomy of an attack WorldPay's services allow online retailers to accept online payments via credit and debit cards and are thus integral to the operation of the many ecommerce sites that use its facilities. The assault has been a serious disruption to their businesses. The issue has not gone unnoticed by WorldPay's rivals, with Netbank among other attempting to poach WorldPay customers during the period of the attack by offering "emergency services" to allow e-tailers to continue to trade online. Meanwhile the source of the "massive and orchestrated attack" against WorldPay's systems last week remains unknown, however security experts agreed on the probable mechanism of the assault. David Williamson, director of sales for the UK and Ireland for security firm Ubizen, and an expert on computer forensics, said hackers probably used a network of compromised hosts to launch the assault. Trojan infiltration tools like Stacheldraht (German for "barbed wire") and Trin00 used in the infamous DDoS attacks against Yahoo, Excite and eBay three years ago are still potent attack weapons, according to Williamson. A network of zombie hosts in educational institutions, for example, would allow crackers to remotely launch the WorldPay assault, he speculated. Williamson said turning off the attack, which can hit a victim from many dozens or even hundreds of directions at once, can be difficult. "You can mitigate the attack at service provider level. Peering arrangements and clever network design can also minimise disruption but these kind of attacks remain difficult to defend against," Williamson told El Reg. Neil Barrett, technical director at security consultancy Information Risk Management (IRM), said that while a simple DDoS attack is relatively straightforward to block some tools allow hackers to launch 'mutating attacks' against targeted systems. "With a simple DDoS attack, systems can be reconfigured to reject that type of attack. But with a mutating attack the assault can be varied by a hacker. By running through a spectrum of attacks you can keep a site locked down for some time," said Barrett. WorldPay has approximately 28,000 clients worldwide, including major concerns such as Vodafone and Sony Music Entertainment and many smaller online retailers, such as CashnCarrion, The Register's online store. Worldpay claims 40 per cent of small and medium online retailers in Britain use its service. Around 70 per cent of its business is in the UK and Europe. ® Related Stories WorldPay fights 'massive, orchestrated' attack WorldPay floored by malicious attack Canadian Feds charge Mafiaboy in DDoS attacks Trojan turns victims into DDoS, spam zombies Second-generation DDoS tools now easily detected
John Leyden, 11 Nov 2003

Merriam-Webster explains disappearing McJob

Merriam-Webster is revising a web page for its Collegiate Dictionary after a McDonalds executive complained about the inclusion of the word 'McJob'. The publisher insisted that the two events are not related, and told us today that the word remained in the dictionary and would be restored online. An eagle eyed Swede noticed that following a AP report at the weekend, the 'New Words' page for the dictionary had been amended. The reference to McJob had been commented out, making it invisible to the casual web surfer. The HTML source code reveals that the reference has been encapsulated within the comment <--- Pulled 11/10/03 ? >. But that's not the dictionary entry, Merriam-Webster spokesman Arthur Bicknell told us today. "People were confusing the marketing web page with the dictionary," he said. "McJob has not been removed." It's not in the free dictionary but it in the Premium subscription edition which can be purchased separately, or which buyers of the printed edition receive. "We're revising the marketing page, beginning with McJob," Bicknell told us. "Eventually the whole page will be revised." In an open letter, McDonald's Corporation CEO Jim Cantalupo complained about the inclusion of the term, which is defined as "low paying and dead end work". He described it as "a slap in the face to the twelve million people in the restaurant industry (McDonald's insists on calling its outlets restaurants) and cited one thousand franchisees who had risen through the ranks from lowly dead-end burger flipping jobs to become dead-end managers. A spokesman told AP that McJOBS™ is a registered trade mark. Indeed it is, and one with an interesting history. McDonald's first registered the term on May 16 1984, as a name and image for "training handicapped persons as restaurant employees". But the trademarked lapsed in February 1992, and was declared 'Dead' by the United States Patent Office. Following the publication of Douglas Coupland's smash Generation X in paperback edition in October 1992 (the book first appeared in 1991), which popularized the term, McDonald's restored the trademark. "If there's a trademarks issue it's with the plural, not McJob," Bicknell told us. Which suggests that the threat of litigation still hangs in the air. All the more reason, we think for Ronald McDonald to start his own weblog. Can you help us help Ronald? ® Related Story Anti-war slogan coined, repurposed and Googlewashed... in 42 days
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Nov 2003

HP pulls together Windows, Linux, Unix and a lot more

HP's adaptive enterprise is, well, adapting. After enduring months of criticism for being vague at best and incomprehensible at worst over its adaptive enterprise vision, HP unveiled a series of partnerships, services and software to help people understand what it's talking about. The company has summed up the adaptive enterprise in one word. "The adaptive enterprise is an umbrella," said Peter Blackmore, executive vice president at HP, during a press conference held today in Germany. Okay, it's not an umbrella. It's an umbrella term that leads to adaptive management. Yep, call us dense, but we're still confused. Nonetheless, HP did roll out an impressive set of product on the day, and, vague as it, appears to be well ahead of competitors with the next-generation of data center management gear. Of most immediate interest to IT managers is HP's roll out of the new Systems Insight Manager product - code-named Nimbus. El Reg brought you the exclusive on the software way back in July. The software combines HP's Insight Manager 7, Top Tools and Service Control Manager products into a single management package. Users can now manage Windows, Linux and HP-UX servers from one console via a command line or with GUI help. "I think HP has a pretty good opportunity here," said James Governor, principal analyst at RedMonk."With the current consolidation in many data centers to standardized racks of Intel systems, you do want a single mechanism for managing Windows and Linux." HP plans to have other OpenView tools, ISV products and even management technology from rivals such as Sun Microsystems plug into the Systems Insight Manager product. The sum total is that admins can become familiar with a common interface no matter what type of system they are working on. In addition, the software fits in well with HP's Itanium server strategy. The company is pitching that it can run Windows, Linux and HP-UX on the Itanic servers and is now giving users a single management tool as well. The management product, however, is just the tip of the iceberg for all of the news pouring out of HP today. HP has signed an agreement to acquire Persist Technologies - a software maker that fits in the elusive information lifecycle management category. Persist has a speciality in data archiving software, which is in demand of late as companies rush to meet new regulatory requirements. Should the deal meet approvals and close by the end of year as expected, HP plans to use the software for archiving e-mail and Office documents. It will be sold with HP's Intel-based ProLiant servers and ProCurve switches. HP also announced that is has reached a "Memorandum of Understanding" with SAP. The two companies have agreed to create tighter links between their various software management packages and to go after helping larger enterprises together. Touching. HP has a boatload more software and services announcements here. Enter the world of marketing mayhem at your own peril. The most important message on the day, however, came from Nora Denzel, a senior vice president and head of the adaptive enterprise at HP. Denzel is a rising star at HP and eloquent - to say the least. "The more standardized you are the less costly it is to manage IT," she said, during the press conference. For all of HP's slogan slinging, this really is what the company is getting at and doing a nice job of providing. "IBM and Sun are still in separate domains," said RedMonk's Governor. "I think from their perspectives, they realize they have to change." HP has all the right pieces in place thus far. It has a single chip vendor strategy with Xeon and Itanium, the HP OpenView package as a leading management platform and technology such as Utility Data Center humming away in the labs for future use. If any vendor is getting close to the standard data center that Denzel describes, it's HP. Sun's N1 vision and IBM's on demand computing plans are thinner on detail and execution at this point. There is still plenty of time to see how the whole data center of the future idea plays out, but at the moment, you've got to give the nod to the Palo Alto crowd. We still have no idea about who or what is adapting, but the product is rolling out. And that's what is most important.®
Ashlee Vance, 11 Nov 2003