26th > March > 2000 Archive

Intel tenders advice on slot-to-sockets

In a letter Intel sent to its channel partners on the 18th of January (see link below), the firm said that because of tightness in supplies, and a rapid move from Slot 1 (SECC2) packaging to flip-chip (FC-PGA) packaging, it was recommending the use of slot-to-socket adaptors. Indeed, earlier this year, there were strong indications from some of Intel's PC manufacturer customers that it could offer its own workaround device, to make up for the gap in mobo support. The relevant part of the letter to distributors and dealers said: "Intel is now shipping CA810E desktop boards to support Pentium III processors in FC-PGA package and is planning additional board offerings. Other motherboard vendors are also shipping socketed boards that support Pentium III processors in FC-PGA package. For more information about boards and slot-to-socket adapters go to the Technical Center on the IPD Net." (IPD Net is Intel's channel site, closed to the general public). Now resellers, forced to use the slot-to-socket solution, have been issued with a document outlining the adaptors that in Intel's eyes meet "minimal funtional and voltage requirements of the Pentium III processor in the FC-PGA package". The table in this document outlines the firm, the name of the product, and the 242 (Slot 1) connector mobos based on the Intel's 440BX AGPset which passed the tests. Summarised, these are: Gigabyte The GA-6R7 (rev 1.1.) used with the GA-BX2000 and the GA-6BX. Asus The S370-133 (rev 1.01) and mobos P3B-f, P2B-F, P2B-B and the P2B. MicroStar The MS-6905 Master (rev 2.0) and mobos BXMaster, MS-6163 Pro, MS-6119. MagicPro The MP-A8++ (rev 4.5) in mobos the MP-6DBX, the MP-686JBX and the MP-6ABX2. Soltek The SL-02A++ (rev 4.5) and SL-02D (rev 4.5), used with the SL-67EB and the SL-67EB+ Iwill The Slocket III (rev 0.9) used with the BD100plus and the BS100. The document then lists slot-to-socket adaptors that have failed in one or more of the following specs: AGTL+ Signal Integrity and/or voltage levels of Vcc, Vtt and/or VccCMOS. Those adaptors are Gigabyte's GA-6R7 (superseded by a newer version, above), Iwill's Slocket II (no longer shipping), The MicroStar MS-6905 rev 1.0 and the Master rev 1.1 (superseded by a newer version above), the MagicPro MP-A8+ rev 4.0 (again superseded above), the Soltek SL-02A+ rev 4.0 (superseded). Others which have failed Intel's internal tests, according to the document are Azza's 370 CPU Card 3.2, Fastfame's 370SPC rev 1.0, Epox' EP-S1C revs 0.5 and 0.6, FIC's CK71 rev M99A05, 2theMax' EP-S1C rev 0.5, Eagles CM-1 and lastly the Super Slocket III CPU Card rev 1.0, produced by that top firm Unknown. Intel includes a warning at the bottom of the document which runs: "Important. Verify the motherboard and SSA revision-level with the motherboard manufacturer to ensure they have tested for an validated compatibility with the Intel Pentium III processor for a specific revision. Contact the motherboard manufacturer for additional motherboards supporting the Intel Pentium III processor." But iWill has reacted angrily to these suggestions. Todd Burch, in the marketing department at iWill US, said: "We at Iwill would like to clarify this:  Iwill's Slocket 2 has NOT stopped shipping, and in fact the newer version has been improved to support dual Coppermine processors.  We've had sensational results with our DS133-R dual Slot 1 i820 motherboard, which has been considered "one of the most stable solutions available."  iWill's problem, we would suggest, is with Intel, not us. Very arcane stuff. But not to system builders and resellers building machines, nor to people buying machines which include such adaptors... ® See Also Intel confirms huge Pentium III shortage
Mike Magee, 26 Mar 2000

Compaq's executive perks predicated on performance

Executive SweetCompaq's recently-released proxy statement reveals that company performance and shareholder value rank high in the firm's executive compensation scheme. According to the proxy, CEO Michael Capellas last year received a salary of $850K and a bonus of $1M. He also received 200K shares of Compaq restricted stock awards worth $5M, and 1.8M stock options. The stock options, which expire throughout 2009, could be worth as much as $70M if Compaq's share value rises 10 per cent in each year. The restricted stock awards vest on Capellas' fifth anniversary as CEO, but will vest earlier if Compaq's stock climbs out of the cellar. 50K shares will vest as soon as Compaq's stock trades at $35 per share for 30 consecutive trading days; another 50K will vest if the stock trades at $40 for a month; and the final 100K will vest if the stock trades at $50 per share for at least a month. Capellas' assumption of the CEO title dramatically improved his financial fortunes. In his role as CIO, Capellas in 1998 received a salary of $400K, a $200K bonus, and 200K stock options. Ousted CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer in 1998 received a salary of $1.5M, a bonus of $3M, and 875K stock options. During his four month tenure as CEO during 1999, Pfeiffer received $1M in salary plus a $6.4M separation payment and $3.4 long-term bonus. At age 65, Eck will be eligible for a $560K annual pension. Taken in conjunction with the erstwhile CEO's 13.4M exercisable stock options, it's obvious that Eck will be able to continue in his role as the epitome of tonsorial perfection. Capellas' compensation scheme is far less generous, but it reflects a new performance-based incentive plan that the CEO has implemented for all senior executives. For example, newly-hired CFO Jesse Greene will receive a base annual salary of $550K and a first-year cash bonus that will range from $550K to $1.375M, based in part on the company's success in meeting performance targets. Even Compaq's rank-and-file employees can profit from the firm's success, albeit on a much more modest scale. Compaq last December awarded each full-time employee a one-time option of 200 shares. Compaq's first-ever across-the-board dispensation of stock options is designed to give employees an incentive to remain employed at Compaq and to redouble their efforts to improve shareholder value. Compaq will hold its stockholder meeting on March 27, 2000 in Houston, Texas. ®
Charlie Matco, 26 Mar 2000

Morgan Stanley's vote for a $500 Rambus

Staff at The Register have now had a chance to view a Morgan Stanley Dean Witter report on Rambus which it issued on the 23rd of March last and which caused shares in the memtech company to rocket on Wall Street. The report is interesting in many ways, not least because it says that its target share price for Rambus is $500 with a market capitalisation of $8.5 billion. It also appears to think that the i820 chipset, despite the trouble the whole industry has seen with it, is a solid and sound platform for Rambus' future. Taiwanese manufacturers, as we have reported previously, are not of this view. The report says: "We rate RMBS Outperform. We believe that Rambus has one of the most attractive intellectual-property (IP) franchises in the semiconductor industry and that it will become the de facto standard for PC main memory during the next three to five years." The pre-split target of $500 (RMBS splits its shares 4:1 in May/June), is based on what Morgan Stanley describes as "the average IP company" with 2.5 times growth on C2001 earnings. Further, the investment broker believes investors who can tolerate price volatility should buy into it. Why? The report says that Rambus is similar to a software company, earning high gross margins because it just licenses its technology to semi firms, but it has the benefit of extremely low sales and marketing costs. It cites the Intel Developer Forum as showing that Chipzilla (our word) delivered straightforward support for Rambus. Of course, this does not take into account the highly ambiguous statements Intel also made about Willamette's big server brother Foster at IDF. Morgan Stanley thinks Rambus RIMMs will represent 50 per cent of the memory market in 2003. And the i820 debacle, or Caminogate as we describe it? The firm believes that the i820 chipset will bring "other bandwidth enhancing technologies to the PC platform". Rambus, as we reported from IDF, and since, is cutting costs and tweaking the platform to deliver volume production, says MS. Morgan Stanley admits it's biased. The small print on the analysis is interesting, because as a matter of course Morgan Stanley & Co, Dean Witter Reynolds and/or affiliates have managed or co-managed a public offering of Rambus stocks. And, more small print adds, such firms and their employees have or could have long or short positions on these stocks. Plus, the same outfit, in the words of the report: "make a market in the securities of Rambus and Intel". One independent analyst commenting on the report, says that the rationale for the $500 forecast is likely to deliver a target price of $422, based on 2.5 times growth being equivalent to the target pe. Three year growth amounts to 130 per cent, and 2001 earnings, which should be used as the $500 is a 12 to 18 month target, gives 2.5 x 130 x $1.30, which equals $422. Rambus (ticker RMBS) closed at $332.3125 at close of trading last Friday evening. ®
Mike Magee, 26 Mar 2000

An Omega for Alpha?

AnalysisAMD and Intel have attained the 1GHz Holy Grail, while Compaq's Alpha processor—billed as the fastest processor on the planet—continues to languish at the ~700MHz level. The 933MHz and 1GHz Alpha chips promised for 1Q00 by Samsung Semiconductor and Alpha Processor, Incorporated have yet to materialize, and API recently lost chief marketing honcho Jeff Borkowski. Is the Alpha architecture ready to join the VAXasaurus in the silicon Jurassic Park? Not so, claim insiders at the Big Q. While Alpha is now a distant second in the clock-speed derby, the architecture maintains its benchmark bragging rights and floating-point performance superiority. EV68 processors running at 1.2GHz are up and running in Compaq labs; IBM is delivering samples of 0.18µ copper-based Alpha chips to Compaq, and the Alpha roadmap now calls for 0.18µ CMOS8 parts running as fast as 2.4GHz, and 0.13µ CMOS9 parts running at speeds as high as 4.8GHz. Conspicuously absent during the past year were significant improvements in Alpha clock speeds. Systems based on 667MHz processors have been available since last summer; 700MHz EV67 upgrades for GS60 and GS140 TurboLaser systems have been shipping for some time, and 733MHz EV67-based WildFire seed systems are now being delivered to selected customers. During a 12-month period that saw Alpha clock speeds increase by a mere 66MHz, IA-32 processor speeds have increased by more than 300MHz, or about five times as much as Alpha. Missing from the Alpha equation are production-quality systems based on the 833MHz Alpha EV68 processor that Samsung has been producing since mid-1999. As it turns out, Samsung experienced serious yield problems with the 833MHz part. Given the expenses associated with refining the 833MHz process, Samsung elected to focus on retooling its fab lines to produce Alpha chips running at 1GHz and higher speeds. Accordingly, the 833MHz part is likely to be used only for a near-term GS80-GS320 WildFire CPU upgrade (the WildFire architecture is compatible with processors running at 104MHz speed increments, hence 833MHz is the first feasible upgrade target for the incumbent 729MHz EV67 WildFire CPU). The next performance plateau for the remainder of the Alpha range should be ~1GHz, a target which should be attained Reasonably Soon Now. Elsewhere on the Alpha front, Compaq continues to experience decent growth in the low-end and midrange product space. On a year-over-year basis, the 4FQ99 Alpha order rate increased by 25 percent while low-end shipments increased by more than 30 percent. Not surprisingly, Linux is the engine for low-end growth: the Q reports that Linux now ships on "double-digit" quantities of entry AlphaServers. ® Terry Shannon is editor and publisher of Shannon knows Compaq. He can be contacted at this email address
Terry Shannon, 26 Mar 2000

50 schools wanted for supanet ADSL trials

Fifty British schools are being offered the chance to take part in an ADSL trial to see how broadband can be used to help teach children. supanet said the three-month trial would enable users to enjoy "high-speed, unmetered access to the internet, and to connect to the latest sophisticated multimedia Web sites and to access streaming audio and video." Yeah right. And it will be top for gamers too. Anyone interested in taking part should check out SupaAdsl.com from Monday. The trial is due to go live from April 10 although schools need to be within the M25 area, or in Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds to stand a chance of geting selected. The trial will cost schools just £50 a month inclusive of all calls and VAT. supanet is already trialling an unmetered narrowband Net access service by paying people £10 to take part. ® Related Stories Supanet pays you to surf The Register Guide to ADSL in Britain
Tim Richardson, 26 Mar 2000

Lastminute splits Amazon sites in Brit popularity stakes

Stock market sinker Lastminute.com is the UK's second favourite ecommerce site, research claims. Amazon.co.uk was the country's most visited e-commerce site in February , followed by lastminute. Amazon.com came in third place, according to NetValue. And Amazon soundalike Jungle.com came in at number four. However, the online market research firm doesn't record how many of these visits resulted in a purchase. Nothing against lastminute, but we guess a lot of visits in February would have been from wannabe investors in the company -- as the retail portion of Lastminute's IPO was open only to people who registered with the site. Lastminute claimed sales of £409,000 for the last three months of 1999. Anyway, here are a few fascinating statistics turned up by NetValue: Seventy one per cent of UK users visited an e-commerce site during February, compared with 65 per cent in France and 60 per cent in Germany. Online music and bookshops are still the most popular sites in this country -- 26 per cent of UK home owners logged on to one in February. Whereas most French and Brit surfers choose "leisure interests" sites, Germans prefer serious Web sites, such as those used for banking, insurance and rail information, says NetValue. ® The UK's top ten e-commerce sites for home users in February Amazon.co.uk Lastminute.com Amazon.com Jungle.com Bonzi.com Ugo.com Expedia.co.uk Barclays.co.uk Bol.com Apple.com The most popular sites overall (including non e-commerce) in the UK were Yahoo.com Freeserve.com Hotmail.com Msn.com Yahoo.co.uk Microsoft.com Msn.co.uk Passport.com Excite.co.uk Aol.prop
Linda Harrison, 26 Mar 2000