13th > December > 2004 Archive

server room

NCD to 'cease operations'

ExclusiveExclusive One of the older thin client vendors appears to be closing shop, The Register has learned. Network Computing Devices (NCD) will stop all operations by year end, according to a company memo. Calls to NCD's CEO and CFO were not returned, and a spokeswoman said the company has no comment at this time. "NCD is currently in the process of ceasing operations," the company said in a memo to workers obtained by The Register. "The company will close operations on December 31, 2004." The US company seems to have a skeleton staff at the moment. Calls placed to NCD's main line, technical support line and customer service line were all greeted by answering machines. In February of this year, NCD worked to consolidate its European operations as a cost-cutting measure. NCD started way back in 1988. Some of its earliest products were thin client terminals designed for Unix users. Later, NCD developed a Windows-based client running Microsoft's Windows CE operating system. It currently makes a variety of hardware and software products in its ThinPATH line and has offices in the US and Europe. The thin client remains one of those great computing ideas that never really took off. Unlike PCs, thin clients typically ship with a minimum set of innards. They simply connect back to a server. This means the client on a user's desk is typically smaller, cooler and more quiet than a regular PC. Advocates of the thin client also argue that it's cheaper and more secure to manage clients from a server as opposed to rolling out software updates to myriad individual PCs. Sun Microsystems is the last of the big vendors really pushing the thin client idea. A number of others, however, do now offer clients that connect back into a blade server that functions as a PC, which is a similar attack. Sun has recently been talking about possibly having service providers give away its thin clients to users for free in exchange for ongoing software subscription services. This model is similar to phone companies that give away or subsidize the cost of mobile handsets. NCD enjoyed a large amount of press back in 1998 when thin client hype was particularly high. It shared product development with the likes of Intel and IBM and secured strong endorsements from Microsoft. Its X Terminal products were particularly popular for a time, but the firm steadily lost market share. Most of NCD's current hardware sales go to Europe with it focusing on software in North America. Competitor Wyse Technology estimates that NCD sold less than 900 thin clients in Europe last quarter. "They were playing a very small role," said Jeff McNaught, vice president of communications at Wyse. Wyse remains optimistic about the thin client market despite NCD's apparent problems. IDC predicts the thin client segment will grow much faster than the PC market in the coming years. Close to 400,000 thin clients were sold worldwide in the third quarter of this year. ® Related stories What the hell is a thin client? NCD raids Wyse for UK operations NCD scores thin client deal with EDS NCD and Intel to leanly dally The post-PC era is upon us ClearCube puts bells and whistles on blade PC Thin client thrives in Web services era Transmeta powers brace of HP thin clients
Ashlee Vance, 13 Dec 2004

UK public sector unready for Freedom of Information Act

Public bodies are unready for the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), according to an MPs report from the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) Select Committee. With less than a month to go before the act becomes law, compliance among the 100,000 or so public sector organisations affected by the act is patchy at best. The report concludes that the DCA has failed to provide leadership and guidance, particularly on implementing technology to ensure compliance. The FoIA comes fully into force on 1 January 2005. It establishes a general right of access to information. It obliges all public bodies, including government departments, councils, police, health and prison services, to disclose information within 20 working days of a request, providing there is no specific exemption. Paper-based files, notes, documents and records are included in the disclosure requirements. A government survey revealed that only 17 per cent of UK public bodies are currently compliant, and have the software, and measures in place to welcome the arrival of the FOIA. Alan Beith, chairman of the DCA select committee, said: "The DCA has had four years to prepare for freedom of information but with less than a month to go it appears that some bodies may not be well enough prepared." Nick Kalisperas, head of public sector campaigns at IT trade body Intellect, agrees: "This has been a slow burner of an issue. People have been aware of it as a long term project. I think it has slowly crept upon people" "Some [Intellect] members have raised contract confidentiality as an issue. If the confidentiality of suppliers is not respected, it could have a big impact on how business is done with the government." Ian Quanstrom, managing director of ZyLAB UK, argues that organisations worried they won't meet the deadline, need to look to out of the box technology solutions. ZyLAB has developed systems that are FoIA compliant for several public sector organisations including the Police IT Organisation and the University Hospital of Wales, and says its product can deal with the paper-based documentation: "By definition, document imaging and paper filing software used in public sector environments must be able to digitally file and manage millions of pages of paper and electronic documents while offering high-quality search and retrieval features to a large number of users in multi-locations," Quanstrom said. However, Kalisperas cautions that a technology-only approach will not suffice. "Getting the technology sorted is just the first step. IT is an aid in this case, not a panacea. Managers need to sit down with their teams and work out how the act will affect their organisation." Beith concludes: "Every effort must be taken in these last few weeks to iron out any remaining hurdles. Freedom of Information is not an optional extra that public bodies can sign up to if they want to; it is a legal obligation that they must be ready for." ® Related stories BCS certifies Freedom of Information FSB FUD over FOI, you cry Your query will destroy our database - DoJ
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Dec 2004
hands waving dollar bills in the air

IBM, AMD, Sony boost chip speeds by 24%

IBM and AMD have found a way to improve transistor performance by up to 24 per cent - without increasing the power draw - using a tweaked implementation of Big Blue's 'strained silicon' process. The process is not only going to be applied to upcoming AMD64 and PowerPC chips, but is likely to underpin the production of Sony's 'Cell' CPU and future Macintosh computers. The new technique is called 'dual stress liner' (DSL) and works by not only stretching the silicon lattice in n-type transistors, the usual target of the strained silicon process, but by compressing the lattice in p-type transistors. The latter transport positive charges called 'holes'; n-type transistors operate by moving negatively charged electrons. Straining the lattice makes it easier for electrons to flow. Essentially it's like running through an evenly planted forest - the further apart the trees (the lattice) are, the less likely you (the electron) are to run into one. Bizarrely, pushing the lattice closer together, while hindering electrons, nevertheless makes its easier for holes to move. Holes are the spaces electrons may occupy, but they can essentially be considered as positively charged particles. In an electric field, they drift along like electrons do, but in the opposite direction. Restricting electron flow, increases the number of places in which they could be located, which is to all intents and purposes the same thing as increasing positive particle flow. HOT gets hotter Building on IBM's Strained Silicon Directly on Insulator (SSDOI) technology, DSL likewise uses Germanium to stretch the silicon lattice then removes it before actual chip production takes place, ensuring that its fabrication process doesn't need to be modified to take into account the properties of the straining material. That contrasts with Intel's strained silicon system, in which the Germanium atoms are retained in the chip. It also makes Intel's approach more expensive to do than IBM's. When IBM announced SSDOI, it also announced a process called Hybrid Orientation Technique (HOT), which improves the mobility of positive charges, or 'holes', in the other direction by combining two substrates on the same wafer, each with different surface orientations. Together SSDOI and HOT sound an awful lot like DSL. When IBM announced its SSDOI and HOT, in September 2003, it claimed a 40-65 per cent improvement to transistors performance over chips fabbed using a vanilla CMOS process. At this stage, it's not clear whether the 24 per cent gain IBM and AMD are claiming today is in addition to whatever boost SSDOI and HOT ultimately yielded or includes that benefit. AMD's current 90nm processor line-up already incorporate strained silicon technology, believed to have been supplied by IBM through the two chip makers' January 2003 R&D alliance, although that's primarily centred on developing a joint 65nm process. AMD originally used an alternative approach, from AmberWave, but ultimately rejected it in favour of Big Blue's technology. DSL is clearly a development of the basic work put in by IBM. Interestingly, it's not only AMD that has had some input into the new process, but Sony and Toshiba too. So DSL will almost certainly have a role to play in the production of 'Cell', the multi-processing oriented CPU being developed by Sony, IBM and Toshiba. For its part, AMD said it intends to roll out 90nm processors using the new technique during H1 2005, bringing the technique to the production of all its 90nm parts over time. Its future dual-core chips will utilise DSL, it said. IBM will ship a variety of 90nm Power and PowerPC chips using the technique in the H1 2005 timeframe, too. That may prove good news for Mac users keen to see not only faster G5-class desktops but PowerBook notebooks based on the 64-bit chip. DSL will be discussed in detail at the 2004 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco this week. ® Related stories 90nm Opterons, Athlons to use strained silicon AMD to offer strained silicon chips IBM boffins boost chip performance by 65% AMD 'super' SOI to boost chip speeds by 30% AMD dismisses Intel high-k transistor tech Intel talks up 65nm process with SRAM cell demo Intel to cut Prescott leakage by 75% at 65nm AMD and Intel scientists outline future chip tech
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2004

ID checks could have stopped cockler deaths, says Blunkett

A claim by David Blunkett that he could have saved the lives of the 21 cockle pickers who died in Morecambe Bay last February provides further evidence of his intention to force employers to operate immigration controls for him. Speaking to Stephen Pollard, the author of his biography, Blunkett said: "Take the gangmasters. We were working on it months before the cockle pickers died. We tried to get agreement to put something in the asylum bill, but it was blocked by the DTI" (Sunday Times news report) Somewhat imprudently, given his current beleaguered state, Blunkett had told Pollard how useless he thought practically everybody in the Government was, excepting himself. In this case the victim is Patricia ('doesn't think strategically', says pot) Hewitt of the Department of Trade & Industry. It's particularly impressive that Blunkett views this tragedy as having been the DTI's fault, considering that when it happened it was generally held to be the fault of his department, the Home Office. So how does he make that out? It is of course about identity. The measures Blunkett wished to put in the asylum bill that the DTI would be likely to object to govern the employer's obligation to check the immigration status of their workers. Once the identity card scheme is operational Blunkett intends to prosecute employers who do not make adequate checks, but (as we explained in our earlier piece), employers, and hence the DTI, will object to an obligation that is both costly and difficult to carry out. Blunkett must therefore have been talking about tightening this procedure up early to make it easier for the Home Office to prosecute gangmasters using illegal immigrants in their labour force, and hence making it much less likely that these immigrants would have drowned in Morecambe Bay. Prior to the tragedy, however, Blunkett's department had been aware for months that illegal immigrants were working at slave rates in dangerous conditions in Morecambe Bay, and during this period it was perfectly capable of doing something itself - but it did not. It will not have escaped your attention that David Blunkett's Home Office is extremely keen on apprehending illegal immigrants and ushering them out of the country, so as it was aware of the presence of numbers of illegal immigrants among the cockle pickers of Morecambe Bay, it could have detained them. Local MP Geraldine Smith had warned the Home Office the previous June, but was told that there were "resource issues," and that there was little point in the immigration service intervening. In a Parliamentary question after the tragedy, Smith suggested that "when Chinese people are picked up and identified as illegal immigrants, they are simply documented and released back into community, where they are once again vulnerable to exploitation." Immigration Minister Des Browne responded: "She identifies a significant problem—returning illegal immigrants to China is difficult, as those immigrants tend not to co-operate with the Chinese Government's redocumentation procedures", effectively confirming Smith's claim. Note that Browne's perception of the problem appears not to be that these people are being exploited, but that they're very difficult to bag up and ship out of the country. New Labour, New Moral Compass. The immigration service doesn't do anything about illegal immigrant Chinese cocklers because it can't think of anything to do, and they are therefore left out there. The immigration service doesn't have problem mounting stop and search operations on London's transport network, because there it stands a good chance of improving its returns targets. When ID cards have been introduced and the Home Office is better equipped to force employers to check immigration status, the situation will change. As it will be much harder for gangmasters to employ illegal labour, the Home Office will be able to deem the Morecambe Bay problem 'solved'. But presumably it still won't be able to think of anything to do with Chinese illegal immigrants, so it still won't do anything, leaving them to find work at even worse terms if they can, or starve. Does this not cast a slightly different light on the self-proclaimed saviour of Morecambe Bay? Blunkettwatch: Blunkett's personal immigration issue took a small, largely unnoticed turn for the worse yesterday, with a claim that he produced a letter from the immigration service to his lover's nanny in a meeting with Home Office officials. This, if true, would be significant first because it would establish that the letter was passed to Blunkett, and second because it would suggest that Blunkett had intervened not once, but twice. Blunkett has previously said that he checked that the application was in good order, and that he had asked two civil servants to read it for him in order to do this. Here he must of necessity be talking about the nanny's original application for leave to stay. Prior to yesterday's claim the delay letter was known to have been given to Blunkett's lover by the nanny for 24 hours, but the nanny herself did not know what happened to it during that period. According to the Sunday Times, however, Blunkett called a meeting with Home Office officials to discuss speeding up processing of applications, and when they claimed the situation was under control, produced the letter to prove them wrong. Says the Times "The insider said the Casalme letter was taken by an official. 'A phone call was then made to the casework team at Croydon [headquarters of the immigration department] to pull the file with the instruction to get this sorted.'" A Home Office spokesman however today insisted that Blunkett's only involvement with the application was the checking of the original form. He had "no contact with the letter at all, at any stage." ® Related stories Need a job? Get a card - arresting ID pitch to business ID cards will hit business, watchdog warns Visa 'fast track' row threatens to engulf Blunkett ID scheme, IT the key to Blunkett's new terror laws Related link Fight New Labour's Poll Identity Tax - More campaigning apparel from No2ID
John Lettice, 13 Dec 2004

Siemens to sell mobile phone biz to China - report

Is Germany's Siemens about to do an IBM and flog off a loss-making hardware division to the Chinese? German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung think so, yesterday reporting on allegations from unnamed company sources that Siemens is pushing through the sale of its mobile phone business. It has already lined up Chinese phone company Ningbo Bird, which distributes Siemens handsets in China, as a potential buyer, the paper claimed. Siemens' mobile phone operation lost €141m ($187m) in the three months to 30 September 2004, the fourth quarter of the company's 2004 fiscal year. Phone sales totalled €1.25bn ($1.65bn), the same as the year-ago quarter, which then yielded a €14m ($18.5m) profit. Siemens as a whole saw Q4 sales rise five per cent year on year to €20.83bn ($27.52bn). Net income for the quarter was €654m ($864.1m). A company spokesman said that no decision had been made on the mobile phone division's sale, but admitted that the company was "looking at all the options". Last week, IBM announced it was selling its PC division to Chinese computer company Lenovo for $1.25bn. ® Related stories IBM sells PC biz to China IBM CEO's memo clarifies PC biz sell-off Samsung phones outsell Motorola's Americas lead booming mobile phone biz Chinese 3G may follow Europe Samsung creeps up on Motorola World mobile phone shipments up 25%
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2004

OFT checks out online grocers over price gouging claims

Online grocery shopping is under the spotlight today over allegations that customers are being overcharged by some of the UK's top supermarkets. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is understood to be sniffing around Asda, Sainbury's and Tesco amid concerns that shoppers are getting a rough deal. According to The Sunday Times, shoppers are also concerned that out-of-stock items are replaced by cheaper substitutes at the same price, while some items aren't delivered at all. There are also concerns that some of the items picked for shoppers are close to their sell-by date, giving way to concerns that some supermarkets are offloading food with a limited shelf life, the newspaper reports. A spokeswoman for the OFT declined to confirm which supermarkets it had contacted said they weren't under formal investigation. "I can confirm the OFT is discussion with some supermarkets but we have nothing else to add," she told The Register. Last year a report by Good Housekeeping found the quality of service provided by the big supermarkets was sorely lacking. Not one of the test orders placed with the e-supermarkets contained all 26 items on the shopping list, while two deliveries didn't turn up at all. The fresh groceries from one supermarket were described as "poor quality" - including a dead fly inside a sealed packet of mushrooms. In September, consumer magazine Which? reported that online grocery shopping had improved markedly compared to three years ago. ® Related stories Grocery shopping online getting better Tesco.com bags £500m in online sales E-shopping a stress-filled chore
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2004

HTC revenues break record - again

Smart phone and PDA manufacturer High Tech Computer (HTC), which lists T-Mobile, Orange, Audiovox, Vodafone, O2, i-mate and others among its customers, said November was its third consecutive month of record-breaking revenues. The company, which also believed to build devices for PalmOne, including the new Treo 650 smart phone, saw sales top TWD5.42bn ($166.8m) during November 2004, up 102.5 per cent year on year and 34.8 per cent on October's total, TWD4.02bn ($123.8m). September 2004 was also a record month for the company, with revenues reaching almost TWD3bn ($92.4m). HTC has build something of a reputation for itself over the last year or so for developing feature-packed Windows Mobile-based smart phones, such as the Orange SPV c500, and the O2 XDA IIs PocketPC phone. ® Related stories O2 unveils compact PocketPC phone HTC 'begins Treo 650 volume shipments' to PalmOne Orange to ship Wi-Fi Pocket 'in October' Vodafone launches Wi-Fi Pocket PC T-Mobile: UK will get Windows Mobile smart phone O2 unveils XDA IIs, IIi Wi-Fi Pocket PCs T-Mobile unveils Wi-Fi PDA-phone Related review HTC 'Blue Angel' Wi-Fi PocketPC phone
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2004

SyChip to add Wi-Fi to Windows smart phones

Windows Mobile 2003 smart phones that support IO-capable SD card slots are set to get Wi-Fi add-in support early next year, WLAN device maker SyChip has revealed. The company is currently working on drivers for a new Wi-Fi card developed especially for these handsets. SyChip expects to have them done and dusted by the end of January, InfoSyncWorld reports. The drivers may have limited take-up, however. According to SyChip, the card will only work with SIM-free phones since only these handsets are able to take additional drivers - network-locked devices tend not to support third-party driver installation. Then there's a phone firmware issue, though this can be fixed with an update - provided, of course, handset manufacturers choose to offer it. SyChip currently produces Wi-Fi cards which are rebadged by SanDisk and Socket. At this stage it hasn't been confirmed that either will take SyChip Windows Mobile smart phone-oriented product. SanDisk, for one, today offers Wi-Fi SD cards for PocketPC devices and PalmOne's Zire 71. PalmOne, meanwhile, offers a similar product for the Zire 72, the Tungsten T3 and now the Tungsten T5. Indeed, getting Wi-Fi cards into Palm OS-based devices has proved almost as tricky as getting them into Windows Mobile smart phones, thanks to the way many older devices provide SD IO support, SanDisk said a year ago, after delaying its own Palm-oriented release. Ditto their slow CPU speeds. Since then SyChip has joined PalmSource's PalmOS Ready programme in a bid to improve the situation going forward. ® Related stories SyChip gains Palm OK for Wi-Fi modules PalmOne offers Wi-Fi card... SanDisk blames PalmSource, PDA vendors for Wi-Fi card delays PalmSource to build Palm OS on Linux
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2004

Dutch 'anti-social' net reality show cancelled

An experiment with a Dutch internet Big Brother reality show, which was to unveil the unorthodox lifestyle of an Amsterdam low income family, has ended after just two weeks. Not enough advertisers were prepared to sponsor the controversial show, which was produced by Dutch portal Ilse. The Tokkies became unlikely reality TV celebrities in the Netherlands after a violent row with neighbours in a poor area of Amsterdam was featured in the media. Family members on both sides fought each other with baseball bats and at one point one of the flats was set on fire. Housing Corporation Het Oosten eventually had the family evicted. Since then, the Tokkies stayed with friends, in hostels and sometimes on the street. Prying TV cameras were nearby most of the time, creating yet another media frenzy. Eventually The Tokkies were offered a house in the town of Zeewolde, where they would be under constant surveillance by a profusion of cameras and microphones and to be seen by millions of internet viewers. Unfortunately, the Tokkies TV show didn't pull the big crowds the producers had hoped for, and last week the show was cancelled, leaving Ilse and the production company with a reported debt of €200,000. The Tokkies, however, remain hugely popular. Websites devoted to the family have sprung up almost everywhere and the clan can still be booked for parties. ® Related stories 'Pukka celeb' to front Madasafish ad Europeans ditch TV for PC 3G must embrace TV
Jan Libbenga, 13 Dec 2004

BT debuts sound and light interface

Boffins at BT's Research Labs have developed a futuristic interface that uses ambient light sequences and sound alerts to notify users of personalised news and information. The technology, described by BT as a "Teletext for the 21st Century", is touted as a way of piping news and other information into home environments rather than having to go online. Incoming data such as emails or weather reports generates animated light patterns and sounds from the device. Users can then wave their hand over the front of the interface, prompting it to provide more detailed data using Laureate, BT's text-to-speech software, to read out the information. One experimental 'ambient interface' has a fluid, oval design and clear front where the light sequences appear. It is designed to integrates easily into any environment, sitting neatly on a coffee table or kitchen worktop, for example. The device communicates with an 'ambient service portal' using a WiFi Lan access point connected to broadband Internet. Users can choose what information the ambient service portal monitors and customise how that information is displayed on their device. For example, information could include an alert when children are on their way home or the status of bids on eBay. The device can also listen for keyword commands such as 'weather', translating your request using speech recognition software and delivering back the relevant information. Adam Oliver, head of access to information, BT Group, said the device opens up information technology to more people, such as older people or the disabled, because users do not need keyboard skills or the ability to use complicated software to get information. "This ambient device really shows the benefits of having an 'always-on' link to information. We set out to find a way of creating a knowledge source in an integrated but unobtrusive way, bringing everybody easy, relevant and up-to-the-minute information. We expect to see this type of device in the market place within the next 18 months," he added. ® Related stories The post-PC era is upon us Europeans ditch TV for PC BT develops talking SMS for the blind Flashing Xmas lights down DSL connection
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2004

SavaJe wins LG mobile OS gig

SavaJe, the start-up mobile OS maker heavily backed by the cellcos, has won its first major handset supporter, LG, an alliance that fits well with the Korean manufacturer's strategy of keeping close to the large operators to win western markets. This would have been more serious for Nokia two years ago than it is now - the Finnish giant is increasingly looking to dominance of the user interface and the higher software layers, rather than the base OS, for its power, appealing to developers on the same level as Microsoft. The same thought has occurred to PalmSource, which aims to preserve its life by bringing the advantages of its software environment to the Linux platform. SavaJe, the Java-based mobile operating system heavily backed by major cellcos, has gained its first partner from the top five handset makers, LG Electronics. Like most developments concerning SavaJe, politics will have played a greater role in the decision than technological considerations. LG's move emphasizes its bid to acquire major market share in the west by positioning itself as the operators' friend, and taking advantage, as a relative newcomer, of the deep seated tensions between the large carriers and the handset giants, particularly Nokia. Nokia itself believes the war will be won on the strengths of the user interface environment rather than the raw OS, and so is focusing increasingly strongly on establishing Series 60 as a de facto standard - an area where the cellcos lack tame technology. PalmSource sees the wisdom of this approach, and this week made plans to fill the gaping hole in mobile Linux, a strong user interface, with its own technology. SavaJe's significance The SavaJe operating system has significant support from the major European cellcos, which favor it for three reasons - since it comes from a start-up, which they help to fund, they can control it; it offers a highly customizable user interface, vital to the operators' branding and content delivery strategies; and it is a useful stick with which to beat Nokia and the other handset makers. All these factors were highlighted by the formation of the Open Mobile Terminal Platform Alliance (OMTA) in June by Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo and most major European cellcos. The group will specify a design framework and programming interfaces for cellphones and will issue a compliance test. The implication is that non-compliant devices will be excluded from the buying plans of the operators responsible for a huge proportion of phone purchasing outside the Americas - putting massive pressure on the handset makers to comply. This effectively shifts the balance away from the traditional and much resented relationship between phonemaker and operator, in which the former dictated design and had the key branding. Now the cellcos want to establish their own brands and to drive design to their own agenda - boosting average revenue per user by delivering rapidly changing content services through a highly distinctive user interface; in so doing, increasing customer loyalty and attracting more of the user's mobile spending to the operator-delivered content, and less to the handset itself, which the cellco has to subsidize. SavaJe, despite some technological shortcomings, does support the operators' desire for more individual user environments on the phone through its native Java architecture. It is malleable, being dependent on the operators' support for survival, and being 26 per cent owned by Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile. And it represents a scarcely veiled threat to Nokia and the others - fall into line, or SavaJe will become the preferred platform, ahead of Symbian OS, Windows Mobile and other vendor-driven solutions. LG's support Against this backdrop, it is unsurprising that the first handset maker to break ranks and support SavaJe is LG. It has moved into the top five global handset makers, and the number one spot in 3G phones, by playing the cellcos' game - something it is well accustomed to doing in its native Korea, where the operators have the upper hand in driving and specifying handset features. This has made LG, like some second tier Asian manufacturers such as Sharp, highly attractive to the western operators. They have greater creativity and R&D resources than the pure white label phonemakers, but still give the carriers significant input into the design process. SavaJe itself remains unproven, but both Texas Instruments and Intel have optimized their cellphone platforms for it, in anticipation that the backing of the major carriers would soon persuade some major handset companies to give in and include it in their portfolios. It badly needs to be tried out in the real world, and should appear in several LG GPRS and 3G handsets in the early part of next year. So far, LG's operating system-neutral stance (it will also deploy Symbian/Series 60 phones next year) and carrier friendliness has given it an early headstart in the fledgling European 3G market. As Vodafone and Nokia bickered over what the 3G handset should look like, LG was creating usable designs. Although only three per cent of mobile phones sold in the EMEA region in the third quarter were 3G compatible, according to Canalys, LG took a 55 per cent market share. The upper layers While operator backing will ensure some market share for SavaJe, it represents less of a threat to Nokia than it would have done a few years ago. This is not just because it is still immature and has technical shortcomings compared to Symbian - such as a large footprint - but because the sphere of influence is moving from the OS to the upper layers. Java itself is now far more important than the individual OS in differentiating handsets, and attempts to set de facto standards are revolving around user interfaces and development platforms - Nokia's Series 60 being a prime example. If Nokia can make Series 60 sufficiently dominant among phonemakers and developers, it will be hard for operators to ignore - and at that stage, the Finnish giant might consider porting it to other OSs, even SavaJe itself. That would have been inconceivable a few years ago, when the battle to dominate the emerging smartphone platform was firmly focused on the capabilities of the OS. The point is emphasized by another software house defocusing on its operating system, in this case PalmSource, which is to create a Linux version of its software platform. PalmSource goes Linux In the short term, this move - unthinkable when the software house was still part of Palm - is designed to gain market share in China, the most enthusiastic country about mobile Linux. To this end, PalmSource is to acquire developer China MobileSoft, which has been developing a mobile version of Linux for smartphones as an alternative to the dominant variant in this market, MontaVista Linux. This is not just about China however. The PalmOS, though still strong in market share on enterprise focused PDAs, clearly has limited shelf life in the smartphone arena. Its largest customer, PalmOne, recently indicated that it would develop devices for other operating systems and there are few other licensees, following Sony's decision to withdraw the PalmOS-based Clie handheld outside Japan. PalmSource, then, needs to defocus on the OS and apply its technological strengths to more mainstream platforms. Palm achieved its initial success in the PDA sector by building a strong developer community with attractive tools and user interfaces, and these advantages can be applied to Linux, which lacks such benefits in the mobile world. The move is a clever one that mirrors Nokia's efforts to gain influence on the broader community through Series 60. The main problem for Linux on phones is its lack of a strong user interface environment. This means that creating an attractive handset for users and operators requires far more development effort than is typical for the higher level OSs such as Symbian OS with Series 60, or Windows Mobile. By deploying the Palm OS upper layers on top of Linux, the problem is solved and PalmSource has a whole new base in which to sell its software and potentially create a de facto standard. "It may not be clear to everyone just how great a potential is being unveiled today," said Bruce Perens, co-founder of the Open Source Initiative. "Much of our existing desktop and server software can be moved to the mobile platform just by typing 'make' and waiting for the sources to compile. That brings a power to the platform that lacks only a good user interface, PalmSource's forte." Drawing on China MobileSoft's technology, PalmSource will create a hybrid that has the look and feel and developer strengths of PalmOS, but on a Linux kernel. CEO David Nagel said: "We believe the combination of PalmSource, CMS and Linux gives us the technological and market critical mass to compete with even the biggest proprietary operating system companies." For the time being, PalmSource will continue to offer its own two operating systems, PalmOS version 5.x or Garnet, and version 6.x or Cobalt. Copyright © 2004, 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. Related stories Mobile operators push next gen services Mobile giants deny cartel slur Orange, Voda invest in phone OS
Wireless Watch, 13 Dec 2004

German police to take 16,000 warez buyers to court

German police have exposed the names of thousands of users of an illegal Internet piracy site, in a crackdown on swapping illegal copies of movies, games, music and computer software. Three months ago German police arrested a 46 year-old lawyer who, along with two brothers from Thuringia, offered bootleg software, games and movies through the high speed download service Ftpwelt.com for over a year. Among the releases offered were movies shot in cinemas with digital camcorders. According to the police the men, who are still in custody, grossed over € 1m. At the time the German society for the pursuit of copyright infringements said it had a list of 45,000 customers who knowingly paid for illegal content. Estimates are that the police now have the names of at least 16.000 copyright violators who could face heavy fines or even prison terms, although it is still unclear when charges will be pressed. ® Related stories 'Warez lawyer' had double agenda - claim German lawyer arrested in piracy crackdown Three Brits arrested in global warez raids German police bust massive movie piracy ring
Jan Libbenga, 13 Dec 2004

PeopleSoft says 'Yes' to $10bn Oracle offer

PeopleSoft has at last accepted Oracle's offer to buy the company in a deal that values it at about $10.3bn. At $26.50 per share, the offer was noticeably higher that the "best and final offer" of $24 per share that Peoplesoft rejected in November. Oracle says the sale has been approved by both companies' boards of directors. Oracle boss Larry Ellison expects the deal to close in January. Legal wranglings between the two firms have also been put on hold, PeopleSoft said, and will be dismissed once the deal is finalised. When PeopleSoft rid itself of CEO Craig Conway, it was widely expected that the company would accept an offer from Oracle. In rejecting the $24 per share offer, new CEO David Duffield said the deal undervalued his company, but added that he was taking the bid seriously. In a statement issued this morning, Peoplesoft's chairman George Battle described the battle for his company as "long and emotional". He said: "After careful consideration, we believe this revised offer provides good value for PeopleSoft stockholders and represents a substantial increase in value from October." Ellison said the deal would add about one cent per share to its Q4 results, and around two cents per quarter in its 2006 financial year. ® The PeopleSoft vs. Oracle clash: a Register history Related stories PeopleSoft customers learning to love Oracle Oracle plots PeopleSoft board takeover Oracle must wait for poison pill decision PeopleSoft holds firm It's War! - PeopleSoft investors side with Oracle
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Dec 2004

Wi-Fi extensions should breathe new life into 802.11a

One reason for the relatively slow uptake of 5GHz 802.11a Wi-Fi, compared to its 2.4GHz cousin 802.11g, has been the complexity of licensing regulations affecting the 5GHz band - also an issue for WiMAX in the unlicensed spectrum. Two extensions to the 802.11 standard are easing the situation and should boost the adoption of the 'a' variant. One is the 802.11j specification, ratified last week, which supports the Japanese opening of the 4.9GHz band for Wi-Fi; the other is 802.11h, already finalized but mandatory in many areas from the start of 2005, which defines mechanisms to prevent WLans interfering with radar. The 802.11j extension has gained new importance since the US regulator relaxed the rules on devices allowed in the 4.9GHz band, which in the US is reserved for public safety. The new FCC rules mean that standard 802.11a products can be easily adapted for this lucrative market and 802.11j, which allows equipment to adapt between the 4.9GHz and 5GHz frequencies, will be equally applicable to this sector as to Japan. The new 802.11j will pave the way to the development of products that shift intelligently between 4.9GHz and 5GHz frequencies, allowing travellers to and from Japan to use their equipment seamlessly. To this end, important components of 802.11j include the ability to change channel widths and dynamically modify radio capabilities. According to the IEEE, the new spec "allows 802.11 networks to communicate and move to any new frequency, change the spectrum footprint to improve performance or user capacity, and communicate new rules and operating parameters to support both indoor and outdoor modes. Depending on the manufacturer, IEEE 802.11 products may be upgraded to use IEEE 802.11j features to take advantage of these new capabilities." Japan The ratification of 802.11j is expected to increase Japanese enterprise interest in Wi-Fi and give companies more confidence to adopt 802.11a. Some emergency services departments in the US are already trialling products using 802.11j, which will also be relevant to the US public safety band. Atheros, which was one of the developers of 802.11j, was the first to announce supporting products, though Intel already offers pre-standard support in its chipsets. Japan has always adopted a different approach to 5GHz from other countries. As well as its 4.9GHz decision, it is the only country to open bands for WLan at the lowest end of the 5GHz band (5.03-5.09GHz) but in 2003 had opened nothing above 5.25GHz. The Japanese agency MPHPT is, however, keen to boost usage of wireless communications in unlicensed space. Last year it laid down policy to stimulate uptake of WLans and, in particular, fixed wireless. These include a new spectrum refarming policy, allowing for streamlined reallocation of frequencies to broadband wireless and WLan, with compensation for former holders. It is also planning a simplified registration scheme for WLan operators. In 2003, Japan agreed to open up the 5.25-5.35GHz frequencies but is still considering whether to come into line with international guidelines above 5.47GHz. It expects to open up the 5.47-5.725GHz bands progressively over the 2005-2008 period but has no plans for the so-called Upper Band above 5.725GHz. Japan allocates spectrum specifically for broadband fixed wireless at 5GHz, unlike the US, and also aims to finalize rules on coexistence of WLan and fixed wireless in the middle bands by the end of 2005. For instance, WLans may be restricted, in the 5.25-5.35GHz band, to indoor use to leave the outdoor applications to fixed wireless. 802.11h products appear Another important Wi-Fi extension, 802.11h, is already in place to comply with European regulations regarding 5GHz and, in particular, to prevent Wi-Fi devices interfering with the incumbent users of the band, military and other radar. This will become mandatory in Europe and the US at the start of next year and a rush of new products is likely to appear soon. Early into the fray is Austria-based intellectual property company NewLogic, which has announced an implementation that it claims enhances on the base 802.11h specification and should appeal to US authorities, which have yet to set guidelines on radar avoidance (though they will mandate 802.11h as a base from 2005). NewLogic, a supplier of reference designs and cores for WLan chips, says its latest platform combines all three Wi-Fi variants, modems, radio and an enhanced radar detection algorithm in one Cmos chipset. The algorithm is compliant with 802.11h but improves on its basic functionality, claims the company, which also supports the 802.11i and 802.11e extensions in its design. It says that it is difficult to detect radar pulses in the way necessary to support 802.11h. "The biggest issue is not to detect radar but to avoid false detections," the company explains. This is important since, once a detection is made, the channel must be blocked to WLan transmissions for at last half an hour. If the false alarm rate is high, performance will be severely degraded. NewLogic claims an exceptionally low false alarm rate, while detecting radar pulses with 99% probability, by using additional processing concepts in addition to the standard method of measuring energy levels of received pulses to determine the proximity of radar. Marketing manager Mana Coste said that low false alarm rates are "a performance parameter that system vendors must not underestimate in the selection of a WLan solution, at the risk of finding themselves with a compliant solution, but with unhappy customers and a high return rate of their equipment." Regulator approaches Support for 802.11h will be required in all 802.11a-compliant systems by the beginning of 2005 in Europe and will also be applicable to the US in order to avoid interference with military radar, even in the absence of formal regulation. The 802.11h standard defines mechanisms that allow 802.11a devices to comply with the ITU Recommendation M.165 on interference avoidance. Both specifications are based on two agile radio techniques for reducing interference, Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) and Transmit Power Control (TPC). The main significance of 802.11h is that it enables vendors to create a 'world mode' 802.11a product that addresses interference rules in all major markets. Similar mechanisms will be devised for 802.16. While the main objective is to avoid conflict with incumbent users such as the military, the 802.11h standard and its 802.16 equivalent will also help reduce interference between all unlicensed and/or secondary use equipment. Some countries, such as the UK and Hong Kong, and probably Japan, allow interim arrangements for avoiding interference until full DFS/802.11h is implemented, in order not to stall the market, but products incorporating 802.11h will be fundamental to global unification of 802.11a. Some products supporting 802.11h are already available and they will be mainstream in early 2005. DFS and TCP support are mandatory in Europe and North America and most other countries are bringing in similar rules following WRC 2003. DFS detects other devices using the same radio channel and switches WLan operation to another channel if necessary. It handles interference avoidance with other devices, such as radar or other WLans, and uniform usage of channels. A Wi-Fi access point (AP) specifies that it uses DFS in the frames used by WLan devices to find APs. When the device associates with that AP, a list of channels that it can support is provided, and the AP uses this data to determine the best current channel. The list is drawn from the APs measuring channel activity to see whether there is other radio traffic in its channels. TPC reduces interference by reducing the radio transmit power that WLan devices use. TPC can also be used to manage power consumption of wireless devices and the range of access points. Maximum power limits are set within the access point and are imposed on any device that associates with it. The AP controls the maximum power limit for its whole segment by tracking the transmit power capability of each connected station. Radio power in the segment can be adjusted to reduce interference while maintaining adequate WLan link margins. As a by-product, DFS and TCP should stimulate interest in 802.11a because both mechanisms can make the management and operation of WLans more efficient. International 5GHz spectrum policy There are still anomalies and inconsistencies in 5GHz policy round the world that are deterrents to 802.11a vendors and adopters. For vendors, there is a need for more flexible radios - on the lines of 802.11j - to enable them to develop a single product that can adapt to variations of licensing law in different countries. Otherwise they are denied the economies of scale that come from creating one product for all markets - economies that are important in the price sensitive world of Wi-Fi. International spectrum policy for 5GHz was not harmonized until the World Radio Congress of 2003 (WRC-03), which established international guidelines, but not all countries have yet adopted these, and others, including Japan, have retained their own variations. WRC-03 allocated the 5.47-5.725GHz band for WLans, following European precedents for HiperLan, in addition to the 5.15-5.35GHz frequencies, a total of 455MHz of new global spectrum for WLans. This established a common set of rules that mean most countries, which have all opened different sections of this swathe of spectrum, will unify policy and open the whole range by 2007. Some countries will also have further bands, notably Japan in 4.9-5.0GHz, and the US, which has reserved 75MHz of spectrum in 5.85-5.925GHz for its Dedicated Short Range Communications Service, aimed at roadside and vehicular communications and to be based on 802.11a. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance may not certify 5GHz devices below 5.15GHz or above 5.85GHz, at least until after 2005. The chief remaining area of confusion for Wi-Fi and WiMAX is in the so-called Upper Band, at 5.725-5.85GHz. This is allocated by the International Telecommunications Union to ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) but is also open in many countries for WLans, though not officially part of the ITU allocation for WLan. This Upper Band is not uniformly available across Europe or in Japan and European nations will roll it out at very different and often unspecified paces, while Japan has not made a final decision on opening it up at all. This upper band is mainly relevant to outdoor 802.11a systems delivering hotzone or broadband wireless access services, and to 802.16. The Wi-Fi vendors are also likely to stay clear of the Upper Band because of its overlap with 802.16, unless they are specifically creating long distance, outdoor base stations. This Upper Band has a higher 4W EIRP, which has not been verified in all countries (for instance, India, parts of Europe, Korea). This band is allocated to fixed wireless as the primary service in India, Korea, Australia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam and so is likely to be dominated by WiMAX rather than Wi-Fi. Higher powered, point-to-multipoint devices, notably those conforming to the 802.16 standard (WiMAX), will mainly be allowed to operate in unlicensed 5GHz space in the ISM band (5.725-5.850GHz). Here it can coexist with 802.11a. In some countries where the lower parts of the 5GHz band are open too, 802.11a may be kept out of the ISM band. Copyright © 2004, 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. Related stories SyChip to add Wi-Fi to Windows smart phones WiMAX to steal 3G and DSL market share Singapore Airlines plans in-flight live TV via Wi-Fi
Wireless Watch, 13 Dec 2004

Galileo launches will go ahead

The European Council has at last given the green light to the Galileo satellite constellation. Ministers on Friday finalised the technical specifications of the system, and approved the construction and launch of the satellites. The decision means the first satellites should go up in 2006. Galileo will provide an EU-controlled alternative to the US GPS satellite navigation system, designed for civilian use, and will offer more detailed resolution that its US counterpart. The project will cost an estimated €3.7bn, of which €2.1bn will go on deployment. Two thirds of this investment will come from industry. The final exploitation costs are likely to run to €220m per year. The public sector will make an exceptional contribution of €500m, the European Commission said, but from then on, the costs will be covered entirely by the private sector. Jacques Barrot, vice-president of the Commission, said Galileo demonstrated what could be accomplished when Europeans worked together. "GALILEO is without a doubt the most wonderful European technological project," he said. "It will be as much of a technological revolution as mobile telephony." The project has been subject to delays while the US and Europe battled over the specification of the new network. The US argued that if the Galileo constellation worked on the same frequencies as the GPS network, there could be interference between the two systems. It also voiced concern about the third party countries that might be allowed access to the navigation system, particularly during a war. The network could, in theory, be used to locate the US' troops, it said. However, in February it emerged that jamming the frequency proposed for the Galileo data would interfere with communications on still-to-be-introduced US military channels. The US insistence on separate channels prompted speculation that the military effectively wanted an "off switch" for the competing network. This notion was not dispelled when the US Air Force refused to rule out shooting down neutral satellites, if they were being used by unfriendly nations during a conflict. ® Related stories USAF plans space wars, world's space hardware gets nervous US and EU kiss and make up over Galileo GPS research money up for grabs Galileo satellite project under threat? US to disrupt GPS, satellite comms in Gulf?
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Dec 2004

Mobile operators put the squeeze on retailers - report

Life could be about to get tougher for independent mobile phone resellers following reports that the big operators are cutting back the commissions they offer for sales. According to the Mail on Sunday, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone want to flog more of their phones and airtime packages through their own network of retail outlets instead of paying commission to resellers. In particular, it seems that the big boys are keen to keep their new 3G phone services in-house and are supplying their own stores at the expense of independent retailers. But a spokesman for Phones4U - which has around 350 stores - said he was unaware of the business being affected in any way by the big four cutting back on payments. "In our experience, that's not the case," he said. He also argued that while flogging phones via their own network of stores might be good business for the phone companies, it might not be what consumers want. Because Phones4U - and rivals The Carphone Warehouse and The Link, among others - are not tied to the cellcos, they can offer mpartial advice to steer punters through the maze of different handsets, services and tariffs on offer. Elsewhere, the MoS also reports that handset maker NEC has hired top lawfirm Freshfields to take on dodgy phone disties, who snap up heavily subsidised 3G phones, illegally "unblock" them and then flog them abroad at much higher prices. ® Related stories EU regulators probe mobile roaming charges SMS shorthand is annoying: official Don't waste money on 3G - Which? Mobile fingers UK's thickest armed robber easyMobile set for March launch
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2004

Yahoo! halves! domain! prices!

Yahoo! has halved its domain name charges from $9.95 to $4.98 a year up until the end of the 2004. The offer is limited to one domain per customer. Netcraft reports that Yahoo's price offer undercuts previous budget leader 1&1 Internet by nearly a dollar. 1&1 Internet operates its own ICANN-accredited registry, but Yahoo! is only a reseller for Australian domain name registry Melbourne IT. Netcraft reckons Yahoo! is selling the domain at a loss of at least $1.50 per domain in order to expand its share of the shared-hosting market. Last month, Interland gained 132,000 small business domains after dropping its domain name pricing to $7.95 a year. Netcraft reckons Yahoo!'s aggressive price promo is a response to Interland's offer and a continuation of a pricing war between hosting companies. ® Related stories Yahoo! offers! small! biz! hosting! Interland climbs into embed with PayPal Interland buysTrellix UK.biz urged to get online
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

iPass aggregates BT Openzone hotspots

Corporate remote access provider iPass is to add the "1500" Wi-Fi hotspots owned and maintained by UK WISP BT Openzone to the list of access points open to its customers worldwide. BT Openzone's UK and Ireland sites take in a number of key business locations, including British Airways airport lounges, UK airport concourses, Hilton, Ramada Jarvis and Corus hotels, quite a few UK high streets, many major UK railway stations, and... er... McDonalds eateries. They won't all be available to iPass users immediately, however. Today's deal is simply the first stage in bringing the hotspots online via iPass' Connect client software. The company will first have to certify that each base-station will operate in conjunction with iPass' back-end security and authentication code, not to mention third-party VPN and other access mechanisms routed through iPass' servers. The final tally may prove less than the claimed 1500, in any case. BT Openzone's own listing, which you can download here, contains just 1330 UK and Irish hotspots, with perhaps 14 more in other countries. We spotted a fair few examples of 'location inflation', with venues being counted more than once courtesy of sites that are both a restaurant and a shop, say. Such duplication is something iPass has always been keen to avoid in its own listing, so it will be interesting to see what the final tally of added Openzone hotspots comes to. iPass currently claims to offer connectivity via with 17,400 broadband access points worldwide, according to the company's latest list, though a proportion of those are sites offering wired Ethernet connectors. It also offers dial-up access in most countries. ® Related stories BT broadens £1-a-month Wi-Fi trial Major telcos tout Wi-Fi roaming pact BT chops cost of UK Wi-Fi access iPass to link phones, PDAs to corporate LANs iPass extends Wi-Fi coverage to stratosphere iPass touts network access policy devolution Report raps Wi-Fi providers for 'location inflation' iPass aggregates T-Mobile US hotspots iPass aggregates Swisscom hotspots
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2004

Vodafone to offer in-flight Wi-Fi

Vodafone has agreed to allow its mobile data customers to use Boeing's Connexion in-flight Wi-Fi service, the mobile phone network said last week. The deal is essentially a classic roaming arrangement, with Connexion's airborne access points operating like any terrestrial hotspot to connect a Wi-Fi enabled notebook to the Internet. Vodafone offers a line of Mobile Connect data card products that provide 3G, WLAN and GPRS connectivity, along with its Wi-Fi equipped VPA III PocketPC phone. Connexion access charges will be billed directly to the customers' Vodafone invoice. It isn't cheap: Connexion will charge $29.95 for long-haul flights - typically those taking six hours or more - $19.95 for 3-6 hour journeys and $14.95 for short hops. These flat-rate options provided unlimited access for the duration of the flight. For travellers requiring shorter periods online - which is pretty much anyone without one of those ridiculously expensive aircraft power adaptors - Connexion will offer a metered service costing $9.95 for the first 30 minutes and 25 cents a minute thereafter. The network will offer Connexion connectivity on a trial basis later this month, but the two companies said they will enter into a "full agreement... following successful completion of [the] trials". They didn't, however, say when they envisage that will take place, or what criteria will be used to judge the success of the trial. Vodafone did indicate, however, that the trial will focus on Lufthansa's long-haul flights from Europe that have Connexion on board. The German airline will this month add Munich-Miami to the WLAN route-list, joining Munich-Los Angeles, Frankfurt-Denver, Munich-Charlotte, Munich-Tehran, Munich-San Francisco and Munich-Tokyo. Japan Airlines (JAL) will begin offering the service on its London-Tokyo run this month. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) will offer Wi-Fi on a number of Copenhagen-based flights. Singapore Airlines will add in-flight Wi-Fi to its Singapore-London route during Q1 2005. ® Related stories EU regulators probe mobile roaming charges Vodafone launches Wi-Fi Pocket PC Singapore Airlines plans in-flight live TV via Wi-Fi Korean Air gives nod to Boeing's in-flight broadband Boeing prices up in-flight Wi-Fi Boeing to offer roaming via in-flight WLANs
Tony Smith, 13 Dec 2004

iTunes now accepts PayPal

Apple and PayPal announced on Friday that the iTunes Music Store in the US now accepts payment via PayPal's Virtual Wallet. "We are thrilled that PayPal users can now buy their music on the world's number one online music store," said Todd Pearson, general manager of PayPal's Merchant Services. PayPal allows customers to pay using a credit card, bank account or stored account balance. The first 500,000 customers to open a new iTunes account in the US using PayPal as their form of payment before March 31, 2005, will receive five free songs, the company says. Paypal, which has more than 56m registered users in 45 different countries, makes money by taking a cut from each transaction it processes. About 70 per cent of its deals involve eBay, but the company is seeking new markets. PayPal sales made $166m from July to September, a 56 per cent increase on the same moths last year. The iTunes Music Store features more than a million songs from major music companies and 600 independent labels. ® Related stories Apple threatens iTunes.co.uk owner UK govt takes iTunes gripe to Europe Apple iTunes adds Band Aid 20 - for 79p
Robin Lettice, 13 Dec 2004

ATI Radeon Xpress 200G reference board

ReviewReview ATI is something of an underdog in the chipset market and some of its early products had, shall we say, low appeal. However, with the introduction of the Radeon 9100 Pro IGP, ATI gained a lot of ground in the mobile market, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
Trusted Reviews, 13 Dec 2004

Easynet squares up to BT with wholesale broadband

Easynet is to go head-to-head with BT by providing wholesale broadband to telcos and ISPs at prices it claims are 30-35 per cent cheaper than its rival's. Using its own kit installed in BT exchanges, Easynet is offering operators the chance to provide unbundled services direct to end users via its new LLUStream product. Although the operator is looking to provide business-oriented broadband services, it is also in discussions with consumer ISPs, although the company declined to name any of those involved in negotiations. So far, however, the local loop unbundling (LLU) operator has unbundled 240 of BT's local exchanges covering 700,000 businesses and some 4.4m homes. Said David Rowe, CEO of Easynet, in a stock exchange announcement: "The market is at an inflection point with the imminent launch of new services across the copper network. This makes it the right time to open our network to other providers in competition with BT's [wholesale] IPStream and DataStream products. "We are able to offer differentiated services, significant cost reductions and speeds of up to 8Mbps, rising to 18Mpbs when ADSL2+ becomes available following regulatory action. This is a great example of recent regulatory changes enabling genuine competition at the infrastructure level. "The ultimate winners are consumers and businesses. They will get lower prices, faster speeds, better quality and access to the next generation of broadband services," he said. ® Related stories LLU dogged by 'significant operational problems' UK Online unveils unbundled 8Mb broadband LLU is 'uneconomic', says Energis BT cuts LLU costs Easynet trims losses
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2004

Ethical fair trade - you knew it made sense until MS embraced it

British consumers have double standards when it comes to ethical purchasing, claims Microsoft. According to YouGov research commissioned by the company, 89 per cent of the population believe themselves to be ethically-driven consumers, buying fair trade coffee and organic produce for example, but nevertheless 43 per cent own goods or material they know to be counterfeit, and 23 per cent have knowingly bought pirate software. Er, so? We at The Register have been asked to believe some remarkable things by Microsoft in our time, but this one's outstanding. One buys, say, fair trade Nicaraguan coffee because one is concerned about ethics and wishes to support local growers rather than give money to multinational megacorporations, while one buys genuine Microsoft software in order to... Quite. Even if Microsoft did not have a well-documented history as an ethically-challenged company, it's quite a stretch to view Bill Gates and his merry men as poor, oppressed peasant farmers. Microsoft's error here is particularly exquisite, because it is claiming that the "double standard" exists in relation "to the ownership of ideas [Intellectual Property]". As the application of Western IP law in developing countries leads to interesting effects such as HIV treatment being prohibitively expensive, so people die, just by making the comparison Microsoft is tagging itself as an international megacorporation with a scant grasp of ethics and development issues. But if the company's spin doctors might care to make a belated start, they could begin their researches here, at Make Trade Fair. Uphill work though, as Microsoft supports TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights). Shall we stop kicking? No, let's not. Microsoft's 'contradictions' announcement goes on to point out that most of the people who owned pirate software felt that UK public services were under funded, and cites a independent research (actually carried out on behalf of the Business Software Alliance by IDC in 2003 - "independent?" ) claiming that a 10 per cent reduction in software piracy in the UK would provide an extra £2.5 billion in government revenue. This could be used, it is claimed, to build nine new hospitals, recruit 113,000 more police or 132,000 more nurses, or it could be thrown away on a brain-dead Government IT project (OK, they don't claim that last one really). That's as may be, but dimly remembering that there's something a little sharp about Microsoft's European tax affairs, we called the luckless PR people. How much tax does Microsoft pay in the UK? Microsoft does not disclose this. Is it still the case that Microsoft ships the bulk of its European software via its European Operations Centre in Ireland? Yes, Microsoft UK is mainly a marketing operation. So, if the UK population stopped buying pirate Microsoft software and bought the real thing instead, it would be making some small contribution to the er, Irish economy. But not a vast one, because the tax advantages are why Microsoft operates out of Ireland in the first place. At this point the spokesman protests that the Value Added Tax paid on the software would be contributing to the UK economy. Which it would, up to a point. VAT-registered customers (i.e. most businesses) would however claim the VAT back, and in quite a lot of cases people buying pirate software will also be paying VAT on it. Still, at least there's something about the Microsoft announcement we can agree with. According to Microsoft Ltd (isn't that the one that's the marketing operation?) anti-piracy manager Alex Hilton, the impact "is profound and not only economic but also social." Quite. ® Related stories One in five Brits 'buy software from spam' Small.biz loves illegal software (true) UK's youth boards pirate ship to bootleg island Software pirates cost $9.7bn in Europe - BSA
John Lettice, 13 Dec 2004

The PeopleSoft vs. Oracle clash

A Register HistoryA Register History The tale of Oracle's attempt to buy Peoplesoft is a story of Larry Ellison's relentless pursuit of his target in the face of implacable hostility from the PeopleSoft board. The slanging matches between then-PeopleSoft-CEO Craig Conway and Oracle's Ellison were often spectacular. Conway once described Oracle as a "sociopathic company", later having to deny that this meant he'd called Ellison a sociopath. A fine point, perhaps, but indicative of just how bitter and personal this fight became. Certainly here at The Register we mourn the passing of the greatest clashes of modern corporate times. Timeline It all kicked off on 6 June 2003, when Oracle ambushed PeopleSoft with a hostile takeover bid. The $5.1bn offer came just days after PeopleSoft agreed a $1.7bn deal with JD Edwards. By 18 June, Oracle had upped this to $19.50 per share. PeopleSoft responded by sweetening its all-share deal with JD Edwards to include cash, in the hopes of closing more quickly. Along with JD Edwards, the company began legal action against Oracle, alleging Ellison and co. were deliberately disrupting the merger. As part of its defence against being acquired, PeopleSoft pledged to give its customers between two to five times their license fees back, following a takeover. Things started looking even better for Conway when, as June came to an end, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) started an investigation to determine whether Oracle should be allowed to buy PeopleSoft. On 18 July, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards completed their merger. By November, however, Oracle had gone on the offensive again. It initiated legal action in Delaware to get the so-called poison pill removed. Antitrust The antitrust case pitted Oracle against the DoJ. The Department finally filed a suit to block the deal (by this time worth a cool $9.4bn) in February 2004. It described the deal as "anti competitive, pure and simple". The European Commission agreed, and made its objections known in March 2004. In April 2004, PeopleSoft reported lower than expected results, and by mid-May Oracle had dropped its offer from a high of $26 to $21 per share. PeopleSoft still wasn't interested. Microsoft unexpectedly came to Larry Ellison's aid, when it emerged that the company had been seriously considering an acquisition of SAP. Oracle said this proved it was going to face tougher competition in the future, and that it should therefore be allowed to buy PeopleSoft. In his evidence, Ellison said that if the acquisition was blocked, it would have been a waste of a "tremendous amount of time and energy". As the trial rumbled on, PeopleSoft announced another poor quarter on 7 July. It laid the blame for its falling sales squarely with Oracle. Six weeks after hearing closing arguments in the antitrust trial, on 10 September, Judge Vaughn Walker handed Oracle a stunning victory. He ruled that the merger of Oracle and PeopleSoft would not be anti-competitive. PeopleSoft responded by giving its staff bigger and better severance packages, making itself an even more expensive proposition. Europe says OK In late September, rumours begin to circulate that the Eurocrats was preparing to green-light the merger. The Financial Times reported that competition commissioner Mario Monti would give the deal the go-ahead, before stepping down from his role. Then, on 1 October, in a move that surprised everyone, the PeopleSoft board fired Conway. It has lost confidence in his leadership. The board later claimed Conway had misled analysts about the impact Oracle's bid would have on PeopleSoft's performance. This effectively sounded the death knell for PeopleSoft's battle to remain un-Oracled, and any remaining doubters were silenced when, on 26 October, Commissioner Monti officially approved the merger. However, PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield proved no pushover. Despite a majority of shareholders voicing support for the offer, he rejected Oracle's "best and final" bid of $24 per share, saying it undervalued the company. On the steps of the courthouse On 25 November, Judge Leo Strine of the Delaware court said he needed to hear more evidence before ruling on the poison pills, specifically why PeopleSoft's board turned down the offer of $24 per share. He said the hearing would take place on 13 or 14 December. Meanwhile, Oracle maintained the legal pressure on its prey to drop the poison pills it had installed. It also pledged to "oversupport" PeopleSoft's customer base, dismissing suggestions that it would drop JD Edwards product lines. It promised to provide full support for PeopleSoft products until 2013. But as the day of the new hearing dawned, the companies announced that they had come to terms, and the deal was done. Oracle eventually agreed to pay $26.50 per share for PeopleSoft. This values PeopleSoft at about $10.3bn: a ten per cent premium on the company's closing value. In a statement issued this morning, the appropriately named PeopleSoft chairman, George Battle, described the fight for his company as "long and emotional". He said: "After careful consideration, we believe this revised offer provides good value for PeopleSoft stockholders and represents a substantial increase in value from October." Both lawsuits have been suspended, and will be dropped when the merger is finalised, the companies said. Ellison said he expected the deal to close in January, adding that it would add about one cent per share to Oracle's Q4 results, and around two cents per quarter in its 2006 financial year. ® The Oracle press release in full The PeopleSoft press release Related stories PeopleSoft says 'Yes' to $10bn Oracle offer
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Dec 2004

Wanadoo UK begins major broadband drive

France Telecom has begun making a "substantial and significant" investment in the UK's telecoms industry to provide broadband services direct to users of its UK ISP, Wanadoo. The move could see thousands of Wanadoo UK broadband punters whipped off BT's network and provided with services via local loop unbundling (LLU). Although Wanadoo UK is reluctant to disclose too much at this stage, it could mean cheaper broadband or, more likely, innovative and speedier services such as internet telephony (VoIP) and video on demand. Wanadoo UK has made no secret of the fact that it sees LLU as the way forward for providing broadband. As part of an enquiry into broadband by MPs earlier this year, the ISP said it "would be prepared to invest in LLU provided access costs significantly decrease in line with the rest of Europe". Since then, the cost of LLU in the UK has fallen substantially, and the industry has made great strides to turn LLU into a workable alternative to BT's wholesale ADSL. However, it was understood that any investment Wanadoo UK in LLU would not be made until next year. But a spokeswoman for Wanadoo UK told The Register today that the ISP has already placed LLU orders with BT. She declined to say where the investment would be made or when the unbundled broadband services would come online, citing "commercial reasons". However, it's understood that the investment will be confined to "major urban areas". "We are making substantial and significant investments in LLU in the UK," she said. Earlier today, UK LLU leader Easynet announced plans to offer an unbundled wholesale broadband to operators and ISPs ® Related stories Easynet squares up to BT with wholesale broadband LLU dogged by 'significant operational problems' France crowned Europe's LLU Prince BT cuts LLU costs Freeserve committed to unbundling local loop
Tim Richardson, 13 Dec 2004

Sun shows pleb-ready thin client

At long last, Sun Microsystems has delivered a new set of thin client technology that could well push the slim computing devices into the hands of the average consumer. Sun today released a new version - 3.0 - of its Sun Ray Server Software which will make it more practical to use thin clients from the home. The software ships with updated bandwidth management and data compression packages that allow Sun's thin clients to run smoothly over standard DSL or cable connections. Thin clients are more typically relegated to offices with very fat pipes that connect back to a company's servers. Sun has been working on this technology - once named WAN Ray - for a long, long time. What took it so long to deliver the good remains a mystery. Sun is still targeting schools, large companies and government bodies with its thin clients, saying the products are cheaper, quieter, easier to manage and more secure than standard PCs. Now, however, Sun will also be looking to convince service providers to consider thin clients as options for their customers. The basic idea is that AOL, for example, could give consumers a thin client for free and then charge monthly fees for its "computing" service. AOL would be able to manage consumers' software from its servers and provide a secure, simple package for people that really just want to surf the internet, check e-mail, message and do a bit of word processing. Consumers would receive a sleek device that runs quiet, and they wouldn't have to worry about hardware upgrades or their legs catching on fire. The WAN Ray technology is the key piece to making this dream come true. Ah, isn't dreaming wonderful? In reality, Sun will likely struggle to convince grandma about the thin client wonder anytime soon. The thin client is as tough a sell as ever, as is evidenced by thin client pioneer NCD's apparent closure. Still, IDC and others reckon there is growth to be had in the thin client market, and kudos to Sun for keeping hope alive. Along with its fresh software, Sun has rolled out a real purdy new box. The Ultra-Thin Client 170 has a 17-inch flat panel display and a smart card reader. ® Related stories NCD to 'cease operations' The post-PC era is upon us Sun forgets about Novell, remembers products ClearCube puts bells and whistles on blade PC
Ashlee Vance, 13 Dec 2004

3Com buys TippingPoint

3Com is to acquire TippingPoint Technologies, a publicly held supplier of intrusion prevention systems, for $430m cash. It says teh acquisition "further demonstrates its commitment to delivering secure, converged networks". TippingPoint is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and employs 125 people. Post-acquisition it will be a division of 3Com. Last month, the company reported Q3 2005 revenues of $9.7m (up 44 per cent from $6.7m in Q2 2005) and a net loss of $1.8m for the three months up to October 31. TippingPoint also has $29.6m in the bank, and it operates in aa high-growth market. Even so, 3Com is paying a hefty premium to buy into a market already staked out by Cisco and Juniper, its principal competitors, which have both bought intrusion prevention suppliers in recent months. Firewalls alone are not enough to thwart today's more sophisticated range of attacks, while Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) detect and record attacks, but do not block them. Vendors are coming up with a variety of approaches to deliver all-encompassing security. Firms such as Arbor Networks are designing products that reconfigure switches and routers in response to network-based denial of service attacks. Tipping Point has developed dedicated intrusion prevention appliances to provide in-line protection against a range of internet attacks against IP-based voice and data networks. TippingPoint's UnityOne Intrusion Prevention Systems offer automated protection against cyber attack, with technology that can scale to gigabit speeds. UnityOne protects routers, switches, DNS (Domain Name Servers) and other critical infrastructure from targeted attacks and traffic anomalies. It enables users to throttle bandwidth-throttling applications, such as Kazaa, to free resources for more important applications. ® Related stories TippingPoint launches European offensive Cisco buys anti-DDoS firm Juniper security push Enterprise security spend to hit $6bn 3Com issues profit warning
John Leyden, 13 Dec 2004

Customers pay billions for storage software in Q3

The storage software market continues to thrive with customers spending $1.9bn on applications during the third quarter, according to market researcher IDC. The storage software makers enjoyed a 19 per cent year-over-year revenue surge. That kind of double-digit growth has become the norm in the storage industry with customers looking to pick up all kinds of sophisticated management packages. Customers are now spending $36 on software for every $100 they spend on storage hardware, IDC said. The hottest part of the data protection racket continues to be SRM (storage resource management) software. SRM sales jumped 27 per cent, while the more traditional back-up and archive segment rose 17 per cent year-over-year. The replication and file system markets jumped 14 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively. EMC - with Legato's help - is the dominant storage software vendor. It brought in $608m during the third quarter and holds 32 percent of the market. Veritas owns the second spot with $415m in sales and 22 percent of the market. CA is third with $169m in sales and 9 percent of the market, HP follows with $146m in sales and 8 percent of the market, and IBM rounds out the top five with $136m in sales and 7 percent of the market. During the third quarter, HP and CA showed the strongest growth rates. ® Related stories NetApp's storage virtualisation evolves HP laughs off Tru64 promises, welcomes Veritas HP replaces part of UDC with acquired OpenView package Sun's finishing of the year with a storage run
Ashlee Vance, 13 Dec 2004

IBM's storage software owns all of EMC kit

IBM has infiltrated deeper into EMC's storage line with a new version of its SAN (storage area network) Volume Controller software. A number of organs mangled the news around IBM's fifth release of this software, saying this is the first time IBM's code has been able to manage EMC's hardware. Not true. In April, IBM released version 1.2 of the SAN Volume Controller product and was able to tap into all of EMC's Symmetrix boxes but only some of its CLARiiON systems. With the latest software, IBM can now cover the entire CLARiiON line as well, including EMC's relatively new CX700, CX500 and CX300 boxes. IBM has been quite proud of its ability to manage systems from both EMC and Hitachi. It's a real leader in the heterogeneous storage market, don't ya know. "IBM's Virtualization Engine Suite for Storage truly disrupts the storage industry by freeing technology and purchasing managers to leverage a multi-vendor disk hardware strategy without suffering many of the traditional management costs associated with heterogeneous storage," said Jens Tiedemann, a GM in IBM's storage software group. "With this announcement, IBM's SAN Volume Controller takes its place as the killer application in the storage industry and as the leading virtualization solution whether measured by performance, scalability or device interoperability." The SAN Volume Controller software runs either on a low-end Intel-based server or on a Cisco switch. It gives customer a way to manage hardware from various vendors with a single software package and is aimed primarily at block-level tasks. IBM's SAN File System - code-named Storage Tank - performs similar functions for file-level tasks. The SAN Volume Controller package starts at $60,000. ® Related stories Customers pay billions for storage software in Q3 IBM moves the database goalposts NetApp's storage virtualisation evolves ADIC pools disk and tape
Ashlee Vance, 13 Dec 2004