29th > December > 2004 Archive

Apple preps sub-$500 iMac - report

Apple is said to be preparing a return to the 'pizza box' casings last seen in its classic LC and Performa Macs in the mid-1990s, but at this stage it's not entirely clear who the machine will be aimed at. According to Think Secret's scoop, which cites "highly reliable sources", Apple will use Macworld Expo to launch the box, based on a 1.25GHz G4-class processor. The unit will retail for $499, the site claims. It describes the box as a "bare bones" system, a term usually used to indicate a system unit without graphics, hard drive, memory and often even processor. However, the unit appears only to lack a display. The machine, codenamed Q88, is said to contain 256MB of memory, offer USB 2.0 and Firewire 400 ports, and provide 10/100Mbps Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless and 56Kbps modem connectivity. Packed into its small, 1.73in thick box, the machine, codenamed Q88, is said to sport iMac branding and will be pitched at Windows users looking for a second computer, though it would presumably also appeal to Mac owners in a similar situation. Apple's interest, however, is clearly the budget PC market, an arena it has thus far skirted around but never entered. Sources are reported to have said that the machine arose as a way of appealing to Windows users whose purchase of an iPod has brought them closer to considering a Mac purchase but are put off by the price. However, with a number of reports suggesting the PC market is going to get rather tougher in the coming years, Apple may well be moving to widen its product line to ensure it's a player in a part of the market that is going to be increasingly become the business' key segment. The risk, of course, is cannibalising sales of its pricier iMacs and eMacs, but given their sales pattern to date Apple should be confident that there are sufficient buyers out there willing to spend a little more for a better-looking box. The new machine may well attract folks with the same attitude but a lower pricing threshold. One other thought occurs to us. While the reports of the new machine are pitching the box as a low-end personal computer, we recall recent Wall Street analyst suggestions that Apple is well placed to capitalise on the emerging 'living room PC' market. A Mac sold without a display would make a good candidate for connection to a TV, particularly if it comes in a slim, DVD player-style casing. Apple is expected to promote the new machine more for its software and functionality than performance. What if it's got media streaming via Wi-Fi and TiVo-like PVR features? All for half the price of a Media Center PC - and with Apple's stylish, more living room-friendly looks... Maybe it's time to put our project to case-mod an ancient Mac LC III box into a high capacity media PC on hold for a while... ® Related stories Merrill Lynch looks to 'killer' Apple home media server Apple talks up mid-range Motorola 'iPod phone' Is IBM PC sell off preparation for a Power chip attack? Apple 'readies' 5GB iPod Mini Apple Canada cuts iPod prices Apple sues unnamed whistleblower
Tony Smith, 29 Dec 2004

PalmSource beats Street with pint-sized profit

Palm OS developer PalmSource made a modest profit during its most recently completed fiscal quarter, the company said this week, beating analyst expectations into the bargain. PalmSource reported a net income for the Q2 FY2005 of $2.1m (14 cents a share), well ahead of the four cents a share Wall Street average. Revenues for the period reached $19.2m, up 14.3 per cent on the year-ago quarter's $16.8m and 5.5 per cent above Q1 FY2005's $18.2m sales. Q2's revenues included $2.1m from the settlement of a dispute with Acer. The rest came from licence sales and device royalties. Some 1.2m Palm OS-based handhelds shipped during the quarter, down from 1.3m in the year-ago period - largely, PalmSource claimed, from Sony's departure from the US and European PDA markets. Sony still sells Palm OS-based PDAs in Japan. However, showing clearly where the market is going, PalmSource said smart phones based in its operating system accounted for 30 per cent of device shipments in Q2 FY2005, up from six per cent in Q2 FY2004. Looking ahead, PalmSource said it expects Q3 FY2005 to yield revenues of $17.1-18.9m, down on the latest quarter's total. The decline will wipe out the company's profit, pushing it to break-even or at worse an 11 cents a share loss. ® Related stories PalmSource to build Palm OS on Linux PalmOne Q2 sales soar PalmOne offers Treo 650 users a free 128MB card Group Sense ships Palm slider-phone Global smart phone sales soar RIM rises as PalmOne slides in Euro device market
Tony Smith, 29 Dec 2004

Symbian worm source code slips out

Cabir, the Symbian OS and Series 60 UI-targeting malware, is expected to spread significantly in the coming months after the source code was posted on the Internet this week. Anti-virus software companies has believed that the worm, which was first detected in June 2004, was the work of a tightly-knit virus-writing cabal. However, the code appears to have slipped out and been brought to a wider audience. A number of the more recent versions of Cabir appear to be straightforward recompilations rather than code-tweaks, suggesting that the source code has leaked. The upshot, they say, will be the arrival of a greater number of Cabir variants going forward. To date, some seven distinct sub-species of the worm have been discovered. Most recently, the worm was found within a version of the Skulls Trojan. Cabir spreads between mobile phones using a special Symbian operating system file. When the infected file is launched, the mobile phone's screen displays the word "Caribe" and the worm modifies the Symbian operating system so that Cabir starts each time the phone is turned on. Cabir scans the airwaves and sends copies of itself to the first vulnerable phone it finds using Bluetooth technology. Cabir causes more irritantion than harm. Not directly dangerous to date, the worm nonetheless keeps a handset's Bluetooth radio active, running down the battery more quickly than might otherwise be the case. Some more recent versions of the worm are able to spread more quickly, having apparently fixed a glitch that limited its ability to disseminate itself. Instead of targeting one phone between handset reboots, the worm will now try to send to other phones, should the first move out of Bluetooth range. ® Related stories 'Metal Gear' Trojan targets Symbian phones Botnets, phishing and spyware Cabir added to payload of Symbian mobile Trojan Skulls Trojan keelhauls Symbian phones Mosquitos smartphone 'Trojan' there by design First PocketPC virus found Virus attacks mobiles via Bluetooth
Tony Smith, 29 Dec 2004

Tulip offloads Commodore brand

PC maker Tulip is to sell the Commodore brandname to US company Yeahronimo Media Ventures for €24m ($33m), the Dutch company revealed this week. Ironically, Tulip has only just begun shipping its most recent Commodore product, the C64 Direct-to-TV. The unit is one of those compact, joystick-styled devices that comprises a CBM64 emulator and a rack of games. When the unit was announced, in May 2004, Tulip promised the C64 Direct-to-TV would be be "the first of a whole series of entertainment products... using the Commodore name and label". Maybe it still will, but not will Tulip's input. Tulip bought Commodore in September 1997, primarily to acquire a well-known consumer computer brandname for its own push into the games marketplace. Soon after it sold the Amiga name and platform to Gateway. Tulip went on to release a series of Wintel PCs under the Commodore label, but the line never really achieved the levels of success of the machines that made Commodore's name in the first place. Tulip most recently tried to cash in on the 6m loyal Commodore users and enthusiasts around the world with an official Commodore 64 web-portal. In the past there were roughly 300 commercial websites that used the name Commodore or Commodore 64 without a licence. As soon as Tulip began to realise that running a website could hardly be considered a core business, the company decided to sell. However, Yeahronimo doesn't have to cough up the €24m straight away. According to the Letter of Intent, the company will pay Tulip in installments until the year 2010. ® Tony Smith contributed to this report. Related stories Commodore challenges Apple digital music dominance Tulip to revive CBM 64 as games console Profit puts spring in Tulip's step Commodore wannabe don't want to be Commodore no more Amiga developer in talks to buy Commodore name
Jan Libbenga, 29 Dec 2004

DSL in Germany gets cheap and dirty

Internet users in Germany can now have a DSL line for as little as €3.99 per month. Germany's biggest ISP, T-Online, has launched its no-frills DSL brand Congster in a fight back against low-cost rivals, Reuters reports. But there is a catch: Congster is a stripped-down Internet access service, without an email address or SMTP access. Tech-savvy subscribers should run their own mail server, or stick to webmail services such as Hotmail. Additional services such as premium content and anti-virus software are also not available. More importantly, there is a monthly usage limit: for €3.99 per month you can get 2000 MB, or about 700 Mp3s. Heavy downloaders can buy 8000 MB for € 12.99 per month. If you exceed the limit you pay 1.39c per megabyte. And the prices do not include the DSL connection as such. This will still cost you € 16.99 a month for 1 mbit/s. T-Online's biggest competitor is Freenet, which currently charges €5.90 for 2000 MB. ® Related stories T-Online spends, spends, spends to win customers France crowned Europe's LLU Prince DSL-to-go arrives in Berlin
Jan Libbenga, 29 Dec 2004

Oracle completes regime change at PeopleSoft

Oracle has boldly claimed that it now has full control of PeopleSoft, although its takeover is actually not quite done. Oracle on Tuesday revealed that close to 75 per cent of PeopleSoft shares had been tendered by investors. Having obtained a controlling stake in PeopleSoft, Oracle appointed four people to serve on the company's board. The new board members replace PeopleSoft board members - including CEO David Duffield - who have resigned from their posts. Two PeopleSoft board members will stay on until Oracle completes its purchase of the software maker. Oracle now holds 299m PeopleSoft shares but needs to acquire 90 percent of the 400m outstanding shares to finish off its purchase. So, Oracle has extended the tender deadline to Jan 4. If it can secure 90 percent of PeopleSoft shares by that date, Oracle can avoid holding a special shareholder meeting to vote on the acquisition. The PeopleSoft buy, however, will almost certainly go through eventually, as Oracle holds a majority of shares and now controls PeopleSoft's board. If Oracle doesn't reach the 90 percent mark, its purchase of PeopleSoft will likely be delayed by about a month. ® Related stories PeopleSoft CEO abandons ship Bay area message board costs papers millions The PeopleSoft vs. Oracle clash
Ashlee Vance, 29 Dec 2004

Hitachi lobs lawsuit at Chinese disk drive maker

Hitachi's disk drive business has sued a young Chinese disk drive maker, charging the Chinese rival with patent infringement. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (GST) - the joint venture of Hitachi and IBM - announced the lawsuit on Tuesday, saying it had been filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. GS Magicstor Inc. - the Chinese disk drive maker - its parent company GS Magic and research affiliate Riospring were all named in the lawsuit. Hitachi claims the companies violated several of its patents. It is seeking monetary damages and a permanent injunction barring GS Magic and its affiliates from making, importing or selling products in the US. “Hitachi GST’s ability to compete in the hard disk drive industry is based on a history of deep investment in research and development, particularly in the advancement of innovative small-form-factor hard drives,” said Robert Holleran, general manager of Hitachi GST’s Hard Disk Drive Group. “We have a responsibility to protect our investment and the intellectual property of our company against those who are competing unfairly in our industry.” GS Magicstor has not issued a comment to the press about the lawsuit at this time. The Chinese company states on its website that it was incorporated in 2002 as the "first small form factor manufacturer with its own intellectual property rights." It makes small disk drives for PDAs, cameras and cell phones. It's good to see the legal staff at Hitachi GST stay busy during the holidays. The company ordered most of its workers to take vacations from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31. ® Related stories IBM's storage software owns all of EMC kit Hitachi disk drive biz closed for the holidays Creative Zen Micro 5GB music player 8GB Flash for a grand
Ashlee Vance, 29 Dec 2004

Appeals court tells state to keep hands off VoIP

A Minnesota agency has again been blocked from regulating VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services by a federal appeals court. The Eight US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri this week upheld a lower court ruling barring the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission from trying to regulate VoIP providers as if they were traditional phone companies. The lower court ruling said that Vonage - a major VoIP player - provided more of an information service than a telecommunications service and should not be governed like a phone company. This recent legal victory adds to the Federal Communication Commission's decision last month that also said VoIP providers should not be regulated or taxed via the same provisions as telephone service providers. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission asked the Appeals Court to decide whether the FCC's ruling pre-empted the lower court's decision, but the Appeals Court simply stated that the FCC's decision backed the earlier rulings. While the FCC has sided with VoIP providers thus far, it has also warned that some tough decisions around the technology must be made. VoIP companies will need to provide consistent service levels and solid access to emergency services. A number of states are still in favor of regulating VoIP services just as they would traditional phone services. This position, however, will be even tougher to maintain given the appeals' court ruling this week. Some states will no doubt look to take the matter to the Supreme Court in the hopes of taxing VoIP services down the road. ® Related stories 2005: huge turbulence in IT market Skype ties up with C&W Rosy future for Sprint-Nextel marriage Wanadoo.fr staff strike over 'buggy' VoIP service IBM wins £500m Lloyds TSB VoIP gig
Ashlee Vance, 29 Dec 2004