Dell has finally jumped into preinstalled Linux sales, and has backed the move up with an investment in Red Hat. The PC company will initially be selling PowerEdge servers and Precision workstations off the Web with Red Hat preinstalled, and intends to add Linux OptiPlex in the second quarter. Calendar specialists will note that it already is the second quarter, so we can expect Dell to be mounting a full-scale Linux push any day now. No word as yet on portables or international sales, however - as yet, the Linux operation would appear to be US only. Dell has historically supplied selected corporate customers with machines running Linux, but hasn't shouted about it. The policy has been widely viewed as Dell not wishing to get too involved, but being willing to co-operate if somebody big enough shouted loud enough and/or threatened to take their business elsewhere. The latest initiative is several hops beyond that. The Red Hat investment means far closer co-operation in getting Linux to run easily on Dell systems, Dell itself is shouting about it, and the company is also ready to sell Linux systems to any customers who want to buy them. It's obviously a big breakthrough for Linux in the PC market. Dell itself is somewhat humorously still trying to talk it down, however. It also announced a sizeable deal with US clothing retailer Burlington Coat Factory, for 1,250 Linux systems to be installed in 264 Burlington sites. This is not, says Dell, a blow against Microsoft and Windows, because the Burlington deal in particular and its Linux initiative in general are aimed at expanding Dell sales in the Unix market. Considering what Microsoft wants to do with the Unix market and with this class of customer, this isn't much of a fig leaf for Dell if it wants to stay pals with Redmond. Unix systems have a serious presence in retail that Microsoft wants to win for NT, and it expects 'allies' like Dell to back it up here. 'Allies' like Dell selling preconfigured Linux systems off the Web to all and sundry also strikes at Microsoft's borad-range Windows business. Not a challenge to Microsoft? Oh no sir... ®
Here we go again? Back in the run-up to the Windows 95 launch Microsoft realised its browser development was going nowhere fast and licensed Mosaic from Spyglass as the basis for what would become Internet Explorer. Now Microsoft is paying $20 million to Spyglass over three years in order to develop CE products. But what kind of products? Since leaving the desktop browser wars to other parties Spyglass has been busy elsewhere, with slimmed-down software for set-top boxes and low resource appliances. One might hazard a guess that Microsoft, which has been trying to develop appliance-type devices using CE, may have decided it has a footprint problem, and is calling in the rescue squad again. Under the deal Spyglass is to set up a technology centre in Silicon Valley to help device manufacturers implement CE, and will also license technology to Microsoft. To get an idea of what kind of devices this will cover, check out a technology demonstration Spyglass and Lucent mounted last December. This was of a concept product that sported a phone browser combining telephony, speech recognition and text-to-speech technology. It was intended to allow users to navigate the Web using a phone handset, and to work with Spyglass' Prism server-based content delivery platform. This extracts and repackages Web content into a format suitable for phones and similar footprint devices. So actually the Spyglass-MS deal could cover server technology as well. Aha... ®
Leading ISP FreeServe is still charging £1 a minute for its telephone support service despite announcing in February that it had halved the cost. Net users who call FreeServe's original helpline number, 0906 553 5600, which was printed on tens of thousands of CD covers, are still being charged £1 a minute for technical support. Other subscription-free ISPs charge as little as 25p a minute for telephone support. Although callers are being told of the £1 a minute service charge at the beginning of the call, they are not informed that they can halve the cost of the call simply by phoning another number. Nor is their call re-routed automatically to the new cheaper-rate number. Instead, FreeServe customers who don't know could run up a bill for as much as £20 every time they call the helpline. A spokeswoman for FreeServe refused to say how many people were still calling the 0906 number or how much money FreeServe was making as a result of not telling their customers of the cheaper service. However, she did say that few and fewer people were using it. She added that the original number had been maintained for reasons of continuity and that callers to the helpline were told of the new 50p-a-minute number, 0839 517 517, but only in the first week. A spokesman for the premium telephone number watchdog, ICSTIS, confirmed that FreeServe could not simply have altered the tariff charges on the original 0906 number even though this appears to be the most logical and simple solution to the problem. But this does not explain why FreeServe continues to operate a £1-a-minute service when it made such a song and dance earlier this year saying that it had cut its charges. Asked if FreeServe had notified existing users of the new number one FreeServe customer told The Register: "No, they have never been in touch about the new number or the lower tariff." What's more, the new 50p-a-minute 0839 number will become obsolete in July when new telephone codes are introduced. Premium rate numbers will start with the 09 prefix, the same as FreeServe's existing £1-a-minute number. The worry for FreeServe's million or so customers is whether the monster ISP will revert back to the £1-a-minute charge or introduce yet another telephone number. This latest hiccup is yet further embarrassment for the ISP after The Register revealed last month that FreeServe is passing on confidential customer information to its sister company PC World (see earlier story). Although invited to make further comment FreeServe failed to contact The Register before press time. ®
Sun has finally admitted that Windows NT exists by introducing PC NetLink (codename Project Cascade) to enable Solaris servers to provide native Windows NT network services. Sun's added value is, it says, that fewer servers will be needed by NetLink users. It will be shipped this month. The pricing lure is that there is an unlimited client license, "unheard of in the PC space", with NetLink listing at $1495 unbundled, but included with new one-to-eight CPU Sun Enterprise servers. NetLink will be incorporated into the Solaris server for Sparc and Intel platforms. The product makes it possible for Solaris servers to plug into an NT environment and provide native naming, authentication, file and print sharing. Sun claims this would increase the uptime of NT networks and consolidate multiple NT services with Unix into fewer systems. Sun incorporated AT&T's Advanced Server for Unix technology in NetLink. For Novell this is both good and bad news: it legitimises alternatives to NT, but competes in an number of respects with NetWare. It is likely, however, that the net effect will be a greater probability that alternatives to NT will be considered, especially on the network management side, with NT remaining as an application server. It also squeezes Microsoft's not inconsiderable pricing structure for NT. Sun also announced a SunPCi co-processor card with NT support (listing at $495) so that Ultra workstations can run Solaris and NT applications at native speed on a single desktop. Sun has at last detailed its new software reseller programme following its reorganisation and the AOL-Netscape alliance. Sun had separate strategies and sales forces for its business units, and needed to drop some older products. The new programme has three levels, starting with Software Reseller for desktop tools, the Java Web server, compilers and utilities: this level requires no formal authorisation from Sun. The second level is the Authorised Software Partner, which requires training and allows resellers to offer Solaris. The third level is the Authorised Software Enterprise Partner for all Sun products and of course requires a higher level of training. Sun is putting into place what it calls a grandfathering scheme to help existing channel partners to evolve to the new setup. Sun has not yet announced details of how the Netscape Solution Expert programme will be incorporated, except to say the new channel programme will it will come into effect this summer, with the unification of the Netscape programme "shortly thereafter". A key date is probably Sun's new financial year, which begins on 1 July. Sun intends to recruit Sun hardware resellers into the software programme, as well as recruit more VARs with the capability of selling cross-platform. It will be interesting how Microsoft responds to what would appear to be a significant challenge. All-in-all it seems to be good move for Sun, with probably enough time before the release of the long-promised Cairo, which seems to have become lost in the desert. Sun should be able to deliver a version 2 of NetLink before Microsoft can ready its first bug fix for Windows 2000. ®
3Com's battalion of lawyers has forced a Web site featuring a parody of the latest ad campaign from the company's Palm subsidiary. The site featured a piss-take of a series of ads for the new Palm IIIx and V. 3Com's campaign features naked women and has already drawn fire from ordinary Palm users as well as the politically correct. Instead of 3Com's 'Simply Palm' tagline, the parody was headlined 'Simply Porn' and showed a semi-naked woman retaining her dignity (just) with a Palm V. However, 3Com's legal team didn't see the joke and forced the parody site's creator, Jason Kottke, to remove the image or face a trademark infringement suit. Fortunately, he lists a series of sites that are continuing to display the spoof ad. The list is here. Curiously, 3Com took a far less dim view of other parody Palm ads, including the Napalm Pilot, so clearly there's been a bit of a sense of humour breakdown this time. However, Kottke admitted that his ad used a more traditional porn image rather than the 'classical' pose used in the 3Com ad. ®
Apple is set to appoint ex-Volkwagen US sales and marketing boss Steve Whilhite as its own head of marketing, according to a report in Advertising Age. Whilhite will become Apple's VP Marketing, a position currently unfilled, while interim CEO Steve Jobs oversees the promotion of Mac products. Given Whilhite was ultimately responsible for the marketing of VW's new-generation Beetle, a car often compared with Apple's iMac not only as a design classic but as the product that turned the company round. ®
Later on today, Compaq will announce that it has endorsed Project Monterey's high volume shrink Unix for IA-64. At the same time, Compaq is expected to say that it will provide IBM middleware on its Unix systems. The move could be seen as something of a climbdown for Compaq with Tru64. Compaq will offer Big Blue middleware on all of its Unix offerings. Further Project Monterey announcements from SCO, IBM and Sequent are expected this afternoon, UK time. ®
Microsoft has confirmed it's pulling out all the stops to release Windows 2000 on 6 October, although this date is "100 per cent subject to review and change". According to a report by Computerworld, the Great Stan of Software also announced that the Beta 3 version will be available in a fortnight, as revealed here in February (See Intel Developer Forum coverage). Neither of these dates could be confirmed by a Stan spokesman today although he did say that they more or less tallied with a broad timetable currently being considered. More worrying for anyone eager to get their hands on the OS that reportedly has more bells and whistles than the Notting Hill carnival, is that Windows 2000 may be shipped incomplete. Sources quoted by Computerworld say that although all the features will be ready in time, some "such as Active Directory and Intellimirror will lack integral management tools". This was denied by Karan Khanna, a Stan product manager, although Computerworld quoted an analyst at Meta Group in Toronto who said it was becoming "painfully obvious that Windows 2000 will not ship intact" after he was briefed personally by the software company. ®
A senior IBM executive said today that later this quarter, the company will, in conjunction with Microsoft, offer eight node clustering. The project, codenamed Cornhusker, uses elements of RS/6000 SP technology, and will work in conjunction with Windows NT 4.0, said Tikiri Wanduragala, IBM EMEA's Netfinity director. "One machine can be backing up seven other machines," said Wanduragala. "We have an API that pople can programme to." He said Cornhusker was endorsed and supported by Microsoft, but only IBM will sell the solution. "We have no plans to OEM it," he said. ®
IBM, in conjunction with its Project Monterey partners SCO and Sequent said that the first initial tests of Monterey for IA-64 have been concluded successfully.
Big Blue said today that its eight way SMP server using Intel's Profusion technology will arrive in Q3. According to Tikiri Wanduragala, IBM Netfinity manager in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the box will come with technology developed in its Austin, rather than Raleigh facility. That means it will incorporate elements of technology developed by the RS/6000 team, he confirmed. That team will also take over the Merced project. Wanduragala claimed that IBM will have a technical edge that will make its 8500 box faster than other offerings from its competitors. The box will come with eight microprocessors, a new variant of ECC memory, and four specially developed 66MHz PCI buses, said Wanduragala. "We're using our 64-bit and optimising skills on this box," he said. "It will include X architecture components and the Lightpath technology." He said: "The sexy Unix guys have devised a scheme to give the fifth processor 50 per cent more performance than the first four. The Unix boys are telling me they'll deliver 95 per cent performance on eight processors." He continued: "The PCI bus will be ahead of the game. The bus will go at 66MHz and will have hot plug from day one. We don't shift any software in the box but it will be capable of running 32-bit Monterey." Meanwhile, IBM will announce a $1,000 server in early May which will include the usual raft of system management software, he said. ® There will be an ASIC incorporated on the memory modules which will detect failures before they happen, he said.
Has Hewlett-Packard, the big-horse, no-rider company, made a strategic error in its self-inflicted surgery, or "re-invention" as HP likes to call it? The evidence is that people work better in smaller units, and 122,800 employees is too great for one organisation in such a fast-moving sector. But there seems to be three things wrong with the move to split into two separate companies for computing and what it grandly calls imaging (printers to you and me), and the measurement side (where HP had its origins). First, the split should have been into three independent units: computers, printers and measurement instruments. HP seems to have allowed its own perception of what goes together to blind it to the perception of its customers. Second, it is reported that the instruments company will adopt a new name, as yet undecided, and effectively throw away its brand name, which seems silly, just to be able to float 15 per cent of the company in the middle of next year. Existing shareholders will get new shares in both companies. The measurement side generated only (only!) $7.1 billion of HP's $47.1 billion revenue, so the split is very uneven anyway. Yesterday, HP announced some staff juggling, with the elevation of four executives, each to be president and CEO of the four remaining HP businesses. This could be the company's third mistake, since it is hard to see how these chiefs, who are given a great deal of autonomy, can easily be effectively ruled over by a paramount chief who will not be in post until probably the middle of next year. Ann Livermore will head what is being called the "enterprise computing solutions" unit. Her 17-year HP career has mostly been in sales and marketing, and she is being tipped as the potential paramount chief. Duane Zitzner, who has a software and hardware background and has been at HP for ten years, will run the computer products unit. Antonio Perez will head the inkjet unit, and Carolyn Ticknor the LaserJet side. The logic of splitting the printer side into two is hard to follow: to the punters, printers are printers, and the business needs one supreme leader and two operating officers. Some functions will remain central: intellectual property, corporate governance, and HP labs. HP seems to have overlooked that it will be hard for it to establish credibility for this new team and a new paramount chief. Since the new execs are in effect COOs (or even presidents) with budgetary control, it might have been better to have spared them the additional titles. It does look absurd when one hard-pressed person undertakes seemingly two or three jobs (many CEO/presidents are also chairman of course, as we chided Scott McNealy of Sun in our recent exclusive interview -- see below). The importance of the forthcoming paramount CEO is diminished by the superabundance of lower-level CEOs. Lewis Platt, the present 57-year old paramount chief, said he will stay on the job until this transformation is complete. He insisted yesterday that "the core values that comprise the HP way will remain central", which to many observers implies a continuing, slow-moving and rather unprofitable behemoth. He seemed to realise this, since he added "we simply must move faster and more decisively if we are to meet customers' needs and maximise shareholder value". HP has admitted that its reorganisation will not help the near-term bottom line, but this posse of meritocrats that has just been appointed is no substitute for a charismatic sheriff to ride the big horse. ® See also Interview with Scott McNealy Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four
Easynet is to offer high speed Net access using BT satellite technology to help users overcome the world wide wait. Believed to be one of the first commercial services of its kind, the ISP believes there will be much interest in a service which BT claims is quicker than conventional ISDN connections. "Our customers will be able to download Internet information at the high speed and convenience offered by satellite," said Brian Mulligan, MD of Easynet. "The service will provide users with speeds greater than are typically available using ISDN from anywhere in Europe. This is the first time that Internet users can receive Web content via satellite for a fixed monthly subscription," he said. Exact details of how the service will operate are still sketchy but a spokeswoman for Easynet said it would cost £49.99 (excluding VAT) a month or £550 (excluding VAT) a year, although she was unable to say exactly what users will get for their money. And anyone using the service would also have to buy a satellite dish and specialist hardware to complete the connection. The service will use the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD 4 satellite which covers a broad area of Europe from the UK to the Ukraine. ®
The president of Amiga, Jim Collas, who formerly worked at Gateway, the company that owns Amiga, has outlined his plans for the future of the Amiga platform. Collas said that an Amiga show held at St Louis two weeks ago had showed an increase of 14 per cent in visitors year on year. He said: "The Amiga community is the most innovative, dedicated, heroic and enduring community in the computer industry." But he said some of the problems the Amigos had endured in the last two years came from "misguided" decisions by Amiga Inc. In an open letter, he wrote: "It is now obvious to me that some very big mistakes were made in defining a path for Amiga in the last two years. The low priority and support given to Amiga by our parent company, Gateway, aggravated this situation. Gateway was preoccupied during this period with significant internal restructuring to strengthen its core business for the future. The intentions relative to Amiga were good but the situation was mismanaged. "Some people have told me that I should stop talking about past mistakes and only look toward the future. I agree with this but I also want people to clearly understand that I realise how much our past mistakes have hurt the community and delayed progress. This is important because I do not want to repeat these mistakes so be patient as I discuss this one last time. "In my opinion, the biggest mistake was the decision not to evolve the current Amiga architecture as we developed the next generation. This hurt the current Amiga community the most. The right decision would have been to overlap product generations just as Apple did during the Apple II to Macintosh transition. Apple evolved the Apple II architecture by introducing the Apple III even after Apple came out with the Mac. The Apple III wasn't a big seller but it helped Apple II hardware and software companies and allowed them time to transition their products to the new Mac platform." "In hindsight and from the vantage of the Amiga community, not evolving the current architecture may look like an incredibly stupid mistake but it was not as obvious to people coming from the PC industry. I am not trying to justify this flawed decision but to give some insight as to how such a decision could be made. Living in a computer industry dominated by Wintel PCs skewed the thinking of people making this decision. In a computer industry dominated by Wintel PCs, computers are obsolete within six to 12 months. The inefficiency of the architecture requires a continuous upgrading of CPUs, graphics and storage devices in order to deliver acceptable improvements in features and functions. This is what happens in an industry where revolutionary innovation has been replaced by constrained evolution. From this PC-centric view, no one could imagine that a computer architecture that stopped evolving in the early 90s could have any life left in it. "Obviously this view was very limited and flawed as the Amiga community has proven over-and-over again how much life was left in the current Amiga architecture. It is obvious that the community would currently be stronger if we had made the decision two years ago to evolve the current Amiga architecture. Two years have now passed and we are faced with a tough question. Is there still life left in the current architecture? I believe that there is. The release of O/S 3.5 in late July or early August will allow the current architecture to live on for a few more years. In addition to O/S 3.5 we are looking at supporting companies that are looking at hardware enhancements to the current architecture. We will also support emulation of the current Amiga architecture on the next generation Amiga so that people can use most of their old software. I am spending time with key people in the Amiga community to finalize transition plans between the current Amiga and the next generation." He said the Amiga community is very strong in Europe and he plans to visit the UK and Germany later this month to meet representatives. "I will use this input to finalise our future architecture and plans. I especially need help in planning out how we will transition from the old architecture to the new architecture in such a way that keeps the Amiga community healthy." ®
Microsoft is attempting to move developers away from Java and toward its own C/C++ development system -- and it's all Sun's fault, apparently. Microsoft's Visual C Product Manager, Jeff Ressler, recently appeared on a live Web chat session hosted by the Enterprise Assistance Web site and claimed that Visual C was a far better development environment than Visual J for VARs who are working on e-commerce solutions. His reason: "Sun and the lawsuit they have brought against Microsoft has directly threatened the industry's ability to innovate in Java. This has most directly affected our Visual J development tool. We continue to sell it, and apps built with it will not be subject to any limitations, but its future is not definitive [we assume he means 'definite']." Claiming that a move threatens "the industry's ability to innovate" is Microsoft's stock phrase for any action that directly affects its own programmes -- the DoJ's request that Microsoft unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows was also said to be just such a threat. ® See also Microsoft preps Cool to tool on Java
Portable Add-Ons has joined TDK's UK distribution channel, just weeks after the exit of mobile distributor PPCP. TDK has taken on Portable Add-Ons as its niche distributor for PC cards in portable devices. And in the long-running dispute over who-dropped-who in the PPCP saga, TDK says it sacked PPCP because the distributor did not fit in with TDK strategy. Keith Marsden, TDK Systems Europe MD, said: "We dropped PPCP. Occasionally you have to review your distribution strategy, and PPCP wasn't growing at the same speed." But Marsden denied Portable Add-Ons, the Datrontech subsidiary, was swapped for PPCP, saying: "PPCP didn't fit into our strategy, but we didn't drop one for the other." However, Marsden added: "We only feel we need one focused portable distributor." PPCP still sustains it dropped TDK. Mike Nolan, PPCP MD, said: "We were happy to quit. We have replaced TDK with Option International. Margins were too tight on TDK products for all except the broadliners." This claim was refuted by Clive Girling, Portable Add-Ons' MD. "There is more margin in TDK than other mobile CE product, and definitely enough margin to be made," he said. Girling put margin on TDK product at between ten and 20 per cent. Nolan said PPCP was having difficulty scraping five per cent on certain products. Marsden refused to comment on margins, saying the matter was between him and his distributors. Portable Add-Ons is TDK's sixth distributor in the UK, joining Computer 2000, Ingram Micro, Micro Peripherals and Hugh Simmons. ®
Mobile phone shares soared yesterday on reports that almost two million Brits flocked to buy the gadgets in the past three months. Vodafone, Cellnet, Orange and One2One all saw a healthy rise in share price following the news that around 1.9 million subscribers had signed up for mobiles from January to March. The figures, which beat analysts' expectations, were largely due to the success of pre-paid phones. Analysts estimated that over a quarter of the population now used mobiles. Vodafone shares rose from £11.82 to £12.07 yesterday. It added 700,000 customers in the quarter, making its total 5.57 million. Cellnet added 479,000 subscriptions, totalling 4.52 million. Shares in BT, which has a majority stake in Cellnet, rose from £10.28 to £10.89. Orange shares rose from £8.94 to £9.27. It added 370,000 customers in the quarter, bringing the number to 2.53 million. One2One stayed in fourth position, with 329,000 new subscribers, making a total of 2.25 million users. The UK now has almost £15 million mobile phone users following the industry’s normally quiet post-Christmas trading period. Most of the new subscribers chose "pre-paid" services, paying neither contract nor line rental. ®
Sources close to Merced's plans said today that Intel has an ambitious plan to hire 70 engineers to help it sort out various problems with the microprocessor. And the same source, a senior executive at one of Intel's largest OEMs, said that while his company had still not yet seen silicon, even if samples arrived on time, systems using the Merced chip would not appear until the very end of 2000. Intel has publicly committed to providing silicon samples in June this year, and shipping chips in June 2000. He said that his company will make Merced boxes and expected to sell "hundreds of the systems" in Europe. Corporate customers, however, were likely to evaluate Merced rather than buy systems in droves. He admitted that many would buy Merced boxes, which will initially appear in four way configurations, so they could prepare for McKinley technology in the future. ®
Sources said that Citrix is in talks to licence its technology to Sony for the Playstation platform. If the talks succeed, it could mean that you will be able to run your favourite Window apps on the Playstation and even do print and operations on Playstation II because it will have USB and FireWire connectivity. Citrix software has a very small footprint and it would be possible to connect to a virtual NT server on the Internet. Neither Citrix nor Sony were prepared to comment at press time. ®
Intel yesterday launched its entry into the home networking market, AnyPoint, a system that will go head to head with rival technology from 3Com and Microsoft. AnyPoint connects multiple PCs through a building's telephone wiring. It's based on the Home Phone Networking Alliance (HomePNA) spec., which offers a data throughput rate of 1Mbps. The PC connection is made through an AnyPoint add-in network interface card or an external box that hooks up to the parallel port. Intel will, however, have to ramp up the performance of the technology pretty smartish. It may have got to market ahead of the 3Com/Microsoft partnership, which is due to deliver product this summer, but its rivals are offering both Ethernet and HomePNA-based kits at 100Mbps and 10Mbps, respectively. The 3Com/MS products will also be followed up with radio frequency networking kits and units that connect PCs via domestic mains power cabling. Neither company has confirmed when these two products will become available, however. Both sets of products -- AnyPoint and 3Com's kits -- offer file and printer sharing, and communal Internet access through shared modems. Ironically, given Microsoft's backing of 3Com's kits, it's Microsoft software technology, to be built into the next upgrade to Windows 98, that also brings this functionality to the Intel product. Intel's pitch also contains, perhaps surprisingly, planned support for the Mac platform. Actually, it's not all that surprising since Intel appears to have had some help from phone-based networking specialist Farallon, a company that has a long history of offering cheap Mac-to-Mac and Mac-to-PC networking products. Farallon will be handling the Mac side of things, basing its offerings on the Intel chips that power AnyPoint. It will also offer the modem sharing software -- the MacOS already provides file and printer sharing. Both Intel and Farallon cited the floppy disk-less iMac as a major platform in the home. However, since each iMac already ships with 10/100Mbps Ethernet, adding a 1Mbps AnyPoint module will be something of a downgrade, even if the cabling is cheaper. That said, it's not clear what level of Mac support the 3Com/MS line will provide, so backing the Mac could prove a smart move for Intel. Meanwhile, Apple is known to be working on wireless networking technology, possibly in co-operation with Palm (whose owner is, er, 3Com). Originally designed for Newton handhelds and notebooks, to allow users to form ad hoc networks, it's hard to see Apple not using it -- or licensing it -- as the basis for home networking products. ®
Further evidence has emerged today that Microsoft Internet Explorer is increasing its lead in the browser war as Net users desert Netscape in favour of the Great Satan of Software's software. According to figures published by analyst WebSideStory, IE ranks number one in the browser hit parade with 68.75 per cent of Internauts using it to get online, up almost two percentage points on last month. Netscape only has 29.46 per cent of the market down from 31.21 per cent over the same period. The figures -- gathered from more than 22 million unique daily visitors to more that 55,000 Web sites using the HitBOX Tracker -- are accurate as of yesterday. The figures also suggest that almost nine per cent of Net users now employ IE 5 even though it was only launched less than three weeks ago. ®
IBM has admitted that some of its PCs may be infected with the CIH virus, set to plague some of our systems later this month. That is, if we've bought IBM Aptivas, and the evidence is not many of us have. Big Blue said some Aptiva machines in the US were exposed to the bug during manufacture due to human error. IBM warned users to look out for model numbers 240, 301, 520 and 580 made between 5 and 17 March, with the codes after "MFG DATE": AM909, AM910 or AM911. The CIH virus trashes the PC's hard disk and is set to trigger on 26 April. ®
South Carolina has lost out in its bid to persuade Microsoft to open a new facility in the state, rather than in North Carolina where Microsoft already has a base. It was announced yesterday that Microsoft will expand its 1000-person facility in Charlotte that it uses as its eastern regional product support services operation. Last December, South Carolina dropped its parallel action against Microsoft, as part of the coalition of 20 states (and DC). The state attorney general Charlie Condon claimed that, following the AOL takeover of Netscape, "innovation was thriving" so no action by the state was warranted. Condon also dusted off some Milton Friedman economic views that suggested government intervention was not a good thing. It was strange that he had not remembered these views earlier. It was suspected at the time that Microsoft had lobbied hard to persuade several states to give up the case, but was able to bring leverage against South Carolina by suggesting that the state would have no chance of winning the Microsoft facility unless it withdrew. Microsoft now says that it was "a difficult decision", which is another way of saying that it was cheaper to expand in North Carolina. This is humiliating for Condon, who has lost face and quite likely something more tangible as the result of his dropping the case. ® Complete Register trial coverage
NatSemi Cyrix said today that Tatung was to manufacture its WebPad design and aim it at the mass market. It is the first OEM announcement in a string of others, according to our source at Cyrix. The devices will arrive in volume in Q3 this year, according to the announcement. And Cyrix' partner ViA, not to be confused with VIA, is likely to develop similar portable devices that go beyond the computer in the trousers that it exhibited at CeBIT.
Tikiri Wanduragala, the charismatic director of Netfinity products at IBM EMEA, was in Raleigh last week talking to his colleagues who work on bus technology. And he was adamant that his company, Compaq and Hewlett Packard have not fallen out over the PCIX versus the NGIO bus. However, he did say that the PCIX chipset was due to ship shortly, an interesting snippet of information. No one from Intel UK was available for comment today. ®
Departing Symantec CEO Gordon Eubanks is to join little-known business directory software supplier Oblix. Eubanks' decision to hand over the day-to-day running of the Great Stan of Utilities has been discussed for some time. However, this is the first official sign that he is not only stepping aside from that role but from the company altogether. The one-time C&E Software founder said he intends to stay with Symantec until a replacement can be found. Oblix products' are used by the likes of copy-shop giant Kinko's to track resources -- human and otherwise -- over a network. ®
Network Associates yesterday saw its shares take a battering due to a warning that first quarter earnings would fall short of analysts’ expectations. The US-based software security company also announced a $169 million adjustment to acquisition write-offs taken last year. Shares fell 26 per cent in anticipation of the announcement, closing at $21.94. 21 million shares moved, with stock changing hands after hours at $19.25, according to Instinet in today’s Wall Street Journal. Network Associates, known for its antivirus software, had beaten analysts’ forecasts for 21 straight quarters. It expects to report 30 – 32 cents earnings per share, compared to analysts’ estimates of 48 cents, according to First Call in the Wall Street Journal. CEO William Larson blamed slowing customer demand and fear over Year 2000 compliancy. "It appears there is a general slowdown of demand across multiple sectors of the technology industry," said Larson. He added: "It's going to be an interesting year for technology." The company’s rivals have also had financial troubles. AXENT Technologies has issued a warning and ING Baring Furman Selz today downgraded Check Point Software Technologies, saying there was "concern that demand for network security has slowed in the first quarter." Network Associates’ shares were down 6 1/16 this afternoon at 15 7/8.®
Two of the world's 'big five' music companies, Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) and Universal, today combined their online music ventures into a single operation, GetMusic.com, as predicted here. The deal, while initially merely an attempt to provide artist information and flog CDs, nevertheless paves the way for full-scale digital distribution of music. Much of what the two companies discussed at a New York press conference focused on the promotional content GetMusic.com will offer. Behind the "unparalleled fan access to artists" and "lifestyle content" (urgh) hyperbole, what's really being discussed here is a unified Internet presence that's about artist control. There's nothing Machiavellian here -- it's essentially taking what labels already do for many bands (fan clubs, merchandise licensing) who haven't contractually taken control of that kind of thing themselves. However, the really important side of the agreement is the e-commerce pact. Selling CDs might not seem too much of an issue -- after all, GetMusic will only offer BMG and Universal discs, whereas online retailers like Amazon and high street chains like Virgin and Tower offer everyone's' recordings -- but it sets in place the e-commerce basis for the sale of the music itself. Here's the 'nightmare' scenario: GetMusic develops an e-commerce infrastructure for the sale of CDs. Then, when the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) comes up with a definitive digital music format that protects against piracy, GetMusic begins to offer downloads -- and it does so exclusively. Sure, you can still buy Sheryl Crow CDs from anyone, but if you want MP3s -- or their equivalent, you have to go to GetMusic. Of course, GetMusic is unlikely to be quite to restrictive -- the example of the software industry suggests that most companies who use the Web to sell direct to customers don't eliminate other channels. That said, the big difference between the digital distribution of music and of applications is that Office 98 takes rather longer to download than the latest Boyzone album, and the latter requires no support (counselling for distressed teens when the band splits, yes; support, no). And since together BMG and Universal control only two-fifths of the music business, there's no monopoly issue here. EMI and Sony are working on a similar agreement right now (see Sony, EMI team up on Net music development), and it's not hard to predict many smaller labels taking the same approach, partnering with each other or major sites like GetMusic. Fortunately, the real losers will be the local retail chains who control album pricing and ensure that a $15 CD in the US costs $20 in the UK and $30 in Germany. Music is a global business, and hopefully moves like today's will lead to global pricing, which can't help but benefit the consumer. ®
A helicopter crash off the Dorset coast on Easter Monday nearly cost millionaire Phil Burgess his and his family's life. Burgess, financial director at Uxbridge, Middlesex reseller Pandi Data Services, was rescued from helicopter wreckage with his pregnant wife on Monday. The couple spent an hour in freezing sea water after their Bell Jet Ranger got caught in thick fog off the Dorset coast and plunged into the sea. Burgess, his wife Lisa and the baby are all in good shape. The Burgess' were making a routine flight from his parents in Devon to their own home in Buckinghamshire, when they got lost and plunged into the sea. With her husband's help, Lisa clambered on top of the now-floating helicopter. But gallant Burgess feared his 15 stone weight might sink the machine, so stayed in the water, inadvertently playing out the scene from a recent movie. "We couldn't help but think of the end of the film Titanic, where Leonardo DiCaprio is in the sea and Kate Winslet floats on the raft," Burgess told the Daily Mail. Eventually they were spotted by a fishing boat and hauled to safety. A representative at Pandi told The Register that Burgess would return to work next week. "He's a bit shocked, but other than that he's OK," she said. ®
IBM's pre-announcement of its Profusion eight way SMP box later this year cannot disguise the fact that Intel is being tardy delivering essential infrastructure for the platform.