June 21, 2021
Week of April 22, 2001 News ArchiveMonday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Weekend
Slew Of New DVD Recording Drives Announced
DVD drive manufacturers are hoping that some of the magic that has made recordable CDs a big hit with consumers will rub off on their efforts to make recordable DVDs a mainstream technology. Panasonic, Hitachi and other companies descended Monday on the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas to show off new hardware and software that will allow consumers to record video onto DVDs. Although recordable DVDs were originally touted as a way for creating backup files for businesses, the pitch has fallen on deaf ears in the corporate world. Subsequently, manufacturers are now looking to consumers to jump-start the market. Prices of recordable DVD products remain high, but there's no lack of effort among companies to grab a foothold in the market. Both Panasonic and Hewlett-Packard announced Monday that their upcoming DVD-related products will be bundled with digital video authoring software, allowing consumers to record and store video on discs.
"Copying music was one of the reasons that CD-R took off," Gartner analyst Mary Craig said of CD-recordable technology. "And now DVD manufacturers are hoping that copying video will have the same effect. Backup and data storage just didn't do it for DVD, so manufacturers are looking to consumer applications to fuel better acceptance." Panasonic announced that its upcoming combination DVD-RAM/R drive, the LF-D311, will be bundled with Sonic Solutions' DVDit LE software. Meanwhile, HP announced that its DV Accessory Kit will be bundled with Spruce Technologies' SpruceUp digital video authoring software. The new software kit is only available for buyers of HP workstations and will cost $299. The company also announced a workstation Monday at the trade show. HP's new $3,000 workstation, the x2000, comes with a 1.7GHz Pentium 4.
"We have found that more and more users are communicating through video. And with our kit and workstations, our customers can now capture, edit and publish to DVD, CD or the Web," HP spokeswoman Molly Connolly said. Pioneer also announced it will ship its DVR-A03, a combination DVD/CD drive, by the end of May for $995. The Pioneer drive includes DVD-R, DVD-rewritable, CD-R and CD-rewritable. The Pioneer drive will also bundle Sonic Solutions' software, MyDVD, for DVD-video authoring. Right now, the Pioneer drive is only available as the SuperDrive in Apple Computer's Power Macs and in high-end computers from Compaq Computer. CNET.com
1.7Ghz Pentium 4 Released Amid Major Intel Price Cuts
Intel on Monday released a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 processor--and with it, a scorched-earth approach to the PC market. As earlier reported, the new chip, which will be featured in a number of PCs from major manufacturers, will increase overall desktop performance, especially on entertainment applications such as video encoding, according to company executives. Equally important, Intel will slash the price of the Pentium 4 line and pour millions into advertising and software-developer programs to ensure the chip penetrates nearly every segment of the sleepy PC market. The 1.7GHz Pentium 4 will sell for $352 when it debuts, with PCs incorporating the chip selling for just less than $1,800, monitor included. Price cuts on 1.3GHz, 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz Pentium 4 chips slated for the following week will drop the base price of computers using the chip to the $1,000 mark. A little more than a year ago, 1GHz chips alone cost $1,299.
The price issue will also likely not abate. Although AMD has been able to equal and even best Intel when it comes to chip design, Intel far outstrips AMD when it comes to factory capacity. By the end of the year, Intel will be producing Pentium 4s in seven plants, Chandrasekher said. AMD has two plants. Often in the past, the production imbalance has allowed Intel to undercut AMD in volume and price. Intel, for instance, will move to the more economical 0.13-micron manufacturing process with the Pentium 4 in the fourth quarter, a quarter ahead of AMD, and also move more quickly to use larger 300-millimeter silicon wafers, which will cut manufacturing costs by around 30 percent. "Intel will be the lowest-cost producer, enhancing its gross margins and giving the company an edge in any price war," wrote Ashok Kumar, an analyst at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. CNET.com
Dell Becomes Worlds Largest PC Maker
Dell Computer surpassed Compaq Computer in the first quarter to become the world's largest PC maker, the first time the rankings have shifted in about seven years. Dell achieved 12.8-percent market share worldwide in the first quarter, surpassing Compaq for the first time on a worldwide basis, according to figures released from research firm Gartner. Compaq ended the quarter in second place with a 12.1-percent share of the world market. Along with becoming the largest PC maker, Round Rock, Texas-based Dell re-established itself as the fastest growing--with a vengeance. Dell saw shipments of desktops, notebooks and Intel-based servers grow by 34.3 percent worldwide and 30.7 percent in the U.S. Nearly everyone else shrank. Overall, the industry was sick. PC shipments in the United States declined by 3.5 percent, a historical first, according to Gartner. Worldwide, shipments climbed by 3.5 percent, worse than expected. At the beginning of the quarter, Gartner expected to see 10-percent growth worldwide. Compaq held the lead in worldwide PC sales from 1994 through 2000. IBM was the largest PC company from 1991 to 1994 and for various years in the 1980s. Apple Computer shipped the most in 1990, according to IDC. ZDNet.com
Workers Spend Close To An Hour a Day With Email
Employees waste nearly an hour a day managing work e-mails, according to a new survey. The survey, released Thursday by research firm Gartner, said workers spend an average of 49 minutes per day managing e-mail and that 24 percent spend more than an hour per day on this task. Maurene Caplan Grey, a senior analyst for Gartner, said although employees are writing their co-workers at a higher rate to be more helpful or communicative, the constant load of e-mails can end up backfiring. "In reality, (employees) are cluttering e-mail in-boxes, filling up servers, and sapping productivity with the volume of these messages," Grey said in a statement. "In a slowing economy, where businesses are looking for ways to cut costs and increase productivity, simply cutting out unnecessary e-mail will have an immediate impact." The survey, which asked workers about their e-mail and instant messaging habits, found that 34 percent of the internal business e-mail they receive is unnecessary. The survey also said that only 27 percent of the e-mail that workers receive demands their immediate attention. ZDNet.com
Apple Releases Quicktime 5
Apple today announced QuickTime 5, Apple’s industry-leading software for creating, playing and streaming high-quality audio and video over the Internet, and QuickTime Streaming Server 3, Apple’s new version of the standards-based, open source, streaming server. In addition, Apple is demonstrating a preview version of QuickTime with support for industry-standard MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 encoding and decoding. “QuickTime has been long established as the digital media standard for capturing, encoding and delivering content on the Internet,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “QuickTime 5 offers incredible new capabilities for everyone who creates or views multimedia content.” QuickTime 5 includes an enhanced user-interface with new audio controls, “Hot Picks” guide and QuickTime TV (QTV) channels display; a new DV codec for enhanced speed and quality; the ability for content creators to design custom interfaces for the delivery of their QuickTime content; and a component downloader to add Apple’s own enhancements as well as third-party plug-ins on the fly. QuickTime 5 also offers full support for MPEG-1, Flash 4 and QuickTime’s new Cubic VR technology.
Microsoft's Windows Media Player 8 Will Only Be Available To XP Users
Microsoft is requiring consumers who want to use the latest version of Windows Media Player to upgrade to the new Windows XP operating system--a move that is reminiscent of the company's controversial decision to tie the Internet Explorer browser with Windows. Windows Media Player 8 will be bundled with the forthcoming Windows XP--the upgrade to Windows 95, 98, Me and 2000. A similar "tying" of Internet Explorer with the OS in 1996 is credited with helping Microsoft win the browser war against Netscape's Navigator and has been a key issue in the antitrust case that is awaiting a decision by a federal Court of Appeals. However, with Windows Media Player 8, Microsoft is going one step further than it did with Internet Explorer: the newest version of the application will only be available to consumers who upgrade to Windows XP. The older version of Media Player, version 7.0, will continue to be available as a free, separate download. Some analysts were critical of the move, considering the legal and public relations troubles that were caused by tying Internet Explorer to the OS.
Repeating the company's argument for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, a Microsoft representative said Media Player 8 includes new features that require close integration with Windows XP for optimal performance. "There are some features with Windows Media Player that can only be delivered with Windows XP," said Jonathan Usher, Microsoft's group product manager for Windows Media Player. These include CD burning and DVD movie playback, among other features not available with earlier versions of the product. When it tied Internet Explorer to the OS, Microsoft was attempting to boost market share for the browser. With Media Player 8, the company also could be trying to spur demand for its new OS, Windows XP, analysts said. "I see this as trying to add value to the OS and trying to get people to move to the OS rather than upgrading to the media player for free," said Gartner analyst Mike Silver. But he said he doesn't think it is enough of a reason to buy Windows XP. "They're grasping at straws," Silver said. Others agreed that Microsoft appears to be using Media Player to boost acceptance of Windows XP. CNET.com
Chernobyl Virus Set To Strike Again
A 3-year-old virus may damage some PCs Thursday when it's set to strike again. Known as CIH, or the more dire-sounding Chernobyl, the virus first hit a month after the Melissa virus three years ago and is due to strike on Thursday. Antivirus software company Trend Micro warned that though the outbreak may not be severe or widespread, CIH can nevertheless wreak havoc on a computer's hard disk by deleting the information the disk needs to find files. CIH is an old file infector that originated in Taiwan and was discovered in June 1998. The writer, Chen Ing-Hau, created the virus while he attended university in the island nation. It struck an estimated as 700,000 to 1 million PCs worldwide on April 26, 1999, with high incidences of infection in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Very few of those incidents have been verified, however. Although the number of CIH cases fell sharply in April last year, it still caused considerable damage. It infects only Windows 95 and Windows 98 systems and activates when the system month reads April and the system day reaches 26. When one antivirus company noticed that the date coincided with the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident, it dubbed the virus "Chernobyl." When CIH triggers, it tries to overwrite critical information on the system's hard disk and, on some computers, deletes system information storied in BIOS memory, which leaves the computer unbootable. ZDNet.com
Microsoft Spreads Virus Accidentally
Microsoft representatives acknowledged Wednesday that the company may have infected up to 26 of its top support customers with a tenacious virus that spread to a key server late last week. Known as FunLove, the virus was first discovered in November 1999 and is known for its ability to infect Windows NT servers--in addition to computers running Windows 95, Window 98 and Windows Millennium Edition--by posing as a system program. The virus also spreads automatically throughout a network via any hard drives shared with the infected system. Though managers at the company did not yet know how the virus got in, they did figure out where the infection started. "We have standard corporate policy that every server that has (a) business function needs to have antivirus software installed," said Kurt Powers, product manager for the Gold and Premier support sites at Microsoft. "There was one in a chain that did not."
The server had been carrying the virus and infecting downloaded files for almost a day starting April 19, until Microsoft located the infection and shut down the server April 20. During that time, only 170 files were downloaded, Powers said. "We have a limited scope; we know exactly when the virus infected," he said. Powers would not comment on whether the virus had spread through Microsoft's internal network, but said, "We also checked every workstation that is connected to every server." Microsoft notified customers with a mass e-mailing Monday, and by late Wednesday had narrowed down the potentially infected organizations to 26, based on the user names used to download the files. Company representatives were in the process of calling those specific customers, said Michelle D'Amour, manager of Microsoft's product support services. "Now that we know who downloaded the files, we are having the account manager call each one," said D'Amour. CNET.com
Macromedia Releases New Versions of Director and Freehand
Graphics software maker Macromedia has released Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio and FreeHand 10. Director 8.5 allows developers to bring 3D content to the Web, CDs and DVDs. The Director 8.5 bundle includes a new version of the Shockwave Multiuser Server, Havok physics engine for 3D game behaviors, support for Macromedia Flash 5 and the ability to stream RealMedia content. It is available for both Mac and Windows. It costs $1,199, or $199 to $399 for upgrades. FreeHand 10 offers features such as new drawing tools, templates, tight integration with Macromedia Flash 5, and the ability to publish to both print and the Web. FreeHand 10 is available now for Windows, with Mac OS versions, including Mac OS X, expected in May. FreeHand 10 costs $399, or $129 for upgrades. The Flash 5/FreeHand 10 Studio is priced at $499--$100 less than Macromedia will charge later. Upgrades cost $199. CNET.com
Nvidia Plans To Lower Chip Prices
Nvidia said Tuesday it will lower prices for its graphics chips to better compete with ATI Technologies and other competitors in the consumer market. The price cuts mean that add-in boards using Nvidia's new chip will sell for a suggested price of $399, about one-third cheaper than originally projected, spokesman Brian Burke said. Other boards will sell for $129 and $299, which is 28 percent and 38 percent cheaper than previous versions respectively. Canada's ATI sells versions of its comparable series of boards under the Radeon name for retail prices ranging from $99 to $229, a company representative said. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Nvidia is trying to increase its retail sales, which accounted for about 15 percent of its $735.3 million in revenue last year, Burke said. ATI led the U.S. retail market in February with about one-third of all board sales, said Virginia-based research firm NPD Intelect. Last year, Nvidia overtook ATI and became the No. 1 supplier of graphics chips to desktop PC makers with 48 percent of market share as of Dec. 31, according to Tiburon, Calif.-based industry researcher Jon Peddie Associates. CNET.com
Compaq Will Soon Release PCs and Devices for TV and Video
The long-anticipated marriage between television and PCs will soon take a step forward when Compaq Computer comes out with a new series of PCs and devices tweaked for video and TV. The Houston-based PC maker is working on a new class of products made for playing video and delivering it via the Internet, said Mike Winkler, executive vice president of Compaq's global business unit. "As (carriers) move broadband into the home you will continue to see the PC evolve. You can now do video on demand or video storage applications," he said. "These will be an extension of the PC." The new PCs and devices could also serve to deliver content from Disney. Last November, Disney and Compaq entered into a three-year, $100 million technology and marketing alliance.
The change has come alongside the advent of digital media files. With music, movies and pictures being published in digital formats, the PC is emerging as the default conduit for entertainment. "The usage models are all on the uplift today. Digital still cameras are growing at a compound annual growth rate of 80 percent. That is phenomenal," said Anand Chandrasekher, vice president of microprocessor marketing at Intel. "You may use the PC to order a disc for your Discman, but there the connection stops. The connection of an MP3 player to a PC is 100 percent." Compaq in many ways has been at the forefront of the charge. Last year, the company released a portable music player called iPaq Personal Audio Player. And at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the company showed off the upcoming iPaq Music Center, a home MP3 jukebox with a CD player that hooks up to the Internet. CNET.com
AOL Shifts Away From Internet Explorer
AOL Time Warner is quietly testing software that could end exclusive support for Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser in future versions of its online services, signaling a growing fissure in an already strained relationship. The software, code-named "Komodo," would allow AOL Time Warner's America Online and CompuServe services to support multiple Web browsers, including AOL Time Warner's Netscape products, according to a company memo first obtained by Betanews, a Web site that tracks new software releases. Two sources within AOL confirmed the document's authenticity to CNET News.com. "Komodo will reduce AOL's dependence on any single provider of browser technology," the memo reads. The development will likely further chill the relationship between the two technology giants, who have cooperated uneasily for years even as they have competed in key businesses. Now, as Microsoft pushes more aggressively into Net-related services, the two companies may find it difficult to avoid a showdown.
The Komodo memo said the technology will be built into AOL and CompuServe and then "marketed globally under multiple brand names." It adds that "the Komodo schedule is tied to the fall 2001 AOL and CompuServe client release." According to the memo, an unreleased version of CompuServe has already incorporated Komodo, using Netscape's Gecko technology as its default browser. The memo adds that Komodo could be ready for widespread release as early as August but does not indicate that AOL plans to end support for IE at that time. AOL's tests to support multiple browsers comes just months after the expiration of a five-year contract guaranteeing AOL prominent placement within Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows operating system in exchange for exclusive support for IE on its online service. The companies' promotional contract expired Jan. 1, 2001, according to a Microsoft representative. Microsoft has since offered an extension, but AOL has declined, the representative said. With the expiration of the contract, AOL has the ability to use whatever technology it wishes as the default browser in its online service, the representative added. CNET.com
New Technology Will Give Instant Messaging Many New Features
In a few weeks, a new "buddy" will appear on instant messaging lists that could substantially change the way information is distributed and retrieved on the Net. The new buddy won't be real. It will be a "bot" created by New York company ActiveBuddy , which is developing technology that lets popular software for trading short text messages be used to grab information stored on Web sites and computer databases. Rather than visiting a Web site for stock market information, for example, a person could send an instant message with the text "IBM stock" and instantly receive a response with the current price of IBM shares. An early version of the technology is already quietly living inside AOL Time Warner, Microsoft and Yahoo chat networks, providing movie schedules, stock quotes, and news headlines.
It also can search for dictionary terms or answer math questions. Although it's still new, the service holds the potential to expand consumers' ideas of the possibilities far beyond the traditional Internet. It could even increase use of an IM service--for example, AOL Instant Messenger--as it siphons traffic from popular Web portals. At the least, it will change people's view of the lowly chat window. "This opens up some areas (for the Net) that really haven't been explored," said Michael Pazzani, a University of California at Irvine computer science professor who studies interactive technologies and also heads a company focusing on personalized information. "This opens up a lot of possibilities." ActiveBuddy's data application is just the latest twist in the development of instant messaging, which is slowly evolving from an informal chat network into software with the ability to support many applications for both consumer and corporate uses. CNET.com
The Next Versions of Mozilla and MSN Explorer Have Been Delayed
Two pending browser upgrades--one from Microsoft and one from Mozilla--have fallen behind schedule. Mozilla.org.'s Mozilla 1.0 browser, which until last week was expected to go gold in May, is now expected sometime in the third calendar quarter of this year. The push back in the Mozilla schedule was noted by MozillaQuest Magazine this week. At the same time, Microsoft's next version of its MSN Explorer consumer browser, which Microsoft had said it planned to make publicly available last week, now won't be available until some time in early May, a Microsoft spokesman confirmed. Mozilla.org representatives contacted for comment on the revised Mozilla schedule did not respond by press time. Mozilla, the open-source browser and framework at the heart of the America Online/Netscape Communications Netscape 6.0 browser, is currently in beta (with the most recent version being designated 0.9). Last fall, the Mozilla development team was predicting it would deliver the long-awaited Mozilla 1.0 release early in the second quarter of this year. Earlier this year, that prediction was amended, with the team expecting to deliver final gold code in late spring.
Meanwhile, on the proprietary-source side of the fence, Microsoft is running into its own roadblocks with a minor MSN Explorer update. A spokesman said the company was continuing to make final tweaks to the MSN Explorer update and now anticipates it won't be ready to make the product available for download until some time in early March. The spokesman declined to specify the nature of those tweaks. As it works to finalize the update to MSN Explorer, which is a derivative of its Internet Explorer browser, Microsoft also is making modifications to its Internet Explorer 6.0 product, which is currently in beta. Microsoft has been making modifications to IE 6.0 beta releases, according to Windows enthusiast site ActiveWin.com, including the elimination of the Personal Bar feature of the release. Microsoft is expected to release the final IE 6.0 product in fairly short order. It's not clear if the MSN Explorer delays are directly related to the evolution of IE 6.0. Two weeks ago, Microsoft said it was poised to release imminently the next version of MSN Explorer. The upgrade, designed in response to customer feedback, is meant to address the needs of more Internet-savvy users, Microsoft officials said. ZDNet.com
More Information About AMD's Forthcoming Clawhammer Processor
Good things come in small packages, Advanced Micro Devices executives told investors Thursday at the company's annual shareholders meeting. AMD disclosed that the first of several forthcoming processors, code-named Clawhammer, will be only 105 millimeters square--about the same size as a current Athlon chip and half the size of Intel's current Pentium 4 chips. But it will deliver more than three times the clock speed of the first Athlon, and its small size will help AMD hold down capital expenditures. It's all about value, CEO Jerry Sanders said at the New York meeting. By employing a new manufacturing process, using design innovations such as silicon on insulator (SOI) technology, and holding down the physical size of the chip, AMD believes it can keep costs in check and deliver higher performance at a lower cost than Intel can. To that end, AMD will use a new 0.13-micron manufacturing process to build the new generation of chips. AMD will also include SOI, a performance-enhancing manufacturing technique licensed from IBM. SOI adds a layer of oxide material between the transistor and silicon it rests on inside a chip. The oxide insulates the transistor from the silicon, reducing the amount of energy lost. The transistor, therefore, can run faster and at the same time consume less power. Sample versions of Clawhammer will be made available to PC makers in the fourth quarter. CNET.com
Step Fowarde for Nanotubes, Successor To Silicon
IBM researchers have achieved a breakthrough the company says will help pave the way for the next era in the evolution of the microprocessor--beyond silicon. The development in nanotechnology, the manipulation of molecular structures, will allow IBM to more easily create groups of transistors from tiny cylinders called carbon nanotubes. IBM believes that nanotubes, which measure 5 atoms to 10 atoms wide and are 10,000 times narrower than a human hair, are the most promising replacement material for silicon in developing advanced chips in the coming decades. IBM's achievement, to be detailed Friday in the journal Science, has allowed the computer giant to automatically produce pure semiconductor surfaces from nanotubes without the chip-frying metallic impurities that plagued earlier efforts. Silicon has been the basis for manufacturing processors, memory and other chips for years. However, it is expected to reach its limits within 10 years.
IBM and other researchers had previously run into difficulties assembling transistors from nanotubes. The tiny cylinders, when synthesized, come in bundles consisting of both semiconducting and metallic carbon nanotubes. The metallic parts, if left in the mix, would short-circuit a transistor. Without any other way of separating the metallic impurities, researchers were forced to assemble nanotube transistors by hand. But while studying the effects of electrical currents on nanotubes, IBM discovered that with the right voltage, it could incinerate the metallic tubes, leaving only the semiconductors needed to build chip transistors. IBM believes that this work will lead to new research that will help establish nanotubes as the most worthy successor to silicon. "We are already working on simple circuits," said Phaedon Avouris, manager of nanometer-scale science at IBM Research. These groups of nanotube transistors will ultimately become the ancestors of full-blown processors and memory chips based on nanotubes. While solving the metallic issue is an important achievement, IBM and other researchers acknowledge that it's just one obstacle in a succession of barriers researchers must confront before nanotechnology chips are ready for the market. CNET.com
Lexmark Profits Flat Due To Competition From HP
Lexmark International, the No. 2 printer maker, said Monday its first-quarter profit was little changed because competition and rising costs eroded its 12 percent increase in sales. Earnings came in at $79.7 million, or 60 cents a share, on revenue of $999.4 million. That compares with $80.2 million, or 59 cents a share, on revenue of $891.7 million in the same period a year earlier. A consensus of analysts expected Lexmark to earn 58 cents a share, according to First Call. Hewlett-Packard, the No. 1 printer maker, is giving Lexmark a run for its money. HP, for example, is giving $50 rebates to counter Lexmark's offer of free printers with purchases of PCs from Dell Computer. Lexmark, based in Lexington, Ky., has been selling more inkjet printers, which are less profitable than laser printers. In addition, operating expenses increased 11 percent from the year-ago period. CNET.com
What Will Apple Announce On Tuesday
Breaking with its normal trade-show schedule, the Mac maker has convened a special press gathering on May 1, the content of which Apple is protecting with the zeal of three-headed Cerberus guarding an extra-large bowl of Alpo. Probably the biggest announcement on the radar is Apple's long-awaited, nationwide chain of brick-and-mortar Mac boutiques. While Apple has resolutely declined to confirm or deny its retail aspirations over the past year, it's far more difficult to hide an entire storefront than it is a Mac prototype. What's more, the company has had only imperfect success in instilling its mania for secrecy in city zoning boards and realtors, some of whom have innocently gone on the record to confirm Apple's land grab. According to my own sources, Jason O'Grady, head honcho of Go2Mac.com, is barking up the right tree in his recent description of the new system, code-named Marble: The slimmed-down laptop will pack a DVD-ROM drive, come in 466MHz and 533MHz G3 configurations, and top off at a screen resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. Even more dramatic than the sleek new enclosure will be the entry-level price, which O'Grady and I have both heard quoted at a shockingly low $999. Apple has been a key player in defining the consumer-portable category; given the fickleness of consumer interest, dramatic tweaks (and a compelling new retail strategy) could be just the tonic Apple needs to revive flagging iBook sales.
Apple gave short shrift to dual-processor systems amid the hoopla surrounding the introduction of speedier Power Mac G4 desktops at January's Macworld Expo/San Francisco, when the supplies of PowerPC G4 processors running at up to 733MHz were tightly constrained. Now, however, the chips have become more prevalent; considering that both the G4 and Mac OS X are built for multiprocessing, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that dual-processor Macs will make a comeback sooner than later. While some Apple watchers suggest that the company will introduce the next version of Mac OS X Server on May 1, the long-awaited server configuration of Apple's new OS will proably not surface until WWDC; sources predict that the company will talk up Mac OS X Server 2.0 to third-party developers in lieu of revealing many details about Puma, the Mac OS X client upgrade expected to debut at July's Macworld Expo/New York. Rumors also that Apple will use next week's gathering to roll out Kiva, the next generation of the consumer desktop. ZDNet.com
IBM Releases High-End LCD Display
IBM is releasing a new series of flat-panel monitors and will continue to turn up the heat on industrial design and style as the year progresses, and it introduces more products. In May, the company will introduce a flat-panel computer monitor with a 20.8-inch screen. The monitor will boast picture-within-a-picture TV streams, various split-screen configurations, and a resolution level that IBM predicts will be the highest on the market. Eighteen months ago, just two prototypes of the monitor existed. IBM's new T540 15-inch flat-panel monitor sells for $599. In December, the equivalent IBM monitor cost $929. The T750, with a 17-inch screen, sells for $1,269, a product that would have sold for $1,899 in December. The 20.8-inch T210, though, is in a price class all its own. It will cost $5,929 but will feature a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels, otherwise known as Quad XGA, or QXGA. Some analysts have opined that this is detailed enough for X-rays. In addition, energy costs have made flat panels more attractive. Flat panels require far less electricity than CRTs. A 15-inch flat panel can, on average, run on 30 watts, while an equivalent CRT monitor takes 70 watts of power. Annually, the difference comes to 40 kilowatt hours--basically, a lot of electricity. "With a CRT monitor, you've got to run a cathode ray gun. With a (flat panel) you only have to run the light source," Manitply said. CNET.com
AMD Delaying More Processors
Advanced Micro Devices has pushed back the introduction of a pair of new processor cores by as much as six months. The chipmaker had planned to ship the first of its next-generation "Hammer" family of processor cores in the first half of 2002. "Clawhammer," the first Hammer core, was scheduled for the first quarter of 2002. Sledgehammer, a more server oriented processor core, was scheduled for later in the first half of 2002. Both have now been rescheduled for the second half of the year, company spokesman Ward Tisdale confirmed Friday. AMD representatives said the company decided to wait in order to align the Hammer family of chips--which feature the ability to process data in 64-bit chunks--with a new chip manufacturing technology, called Silicon on Insulator (SOI). At the same time, the company plans to extend its Athlon processors well into 2003, instead of tapering them off earlier.
SOI is a chipmaking technique that AMD has licensed from IBM. SOI aims to increase performance by adding a layer of oxide material between the transistor and silicon it rests on inside a chip. The oxide insulates the transistor from the silicon, reducing the amount of energy lost. The transistor, therefore, can run faster and consume less power. Still, the delay could affect AMD's attempts to break into the corporate market because one of its most touted technologies--64-bit computing for servers--will be delayed. However, the company will try to make good by extending its existing line of Athlon chips well into 2003. This is not the first time AMD has redrawn its processor road map. Just a few months ago, the company pushed back the introduction of a new desktop-oriented processor core, "Palomino." The company said it would instead dedicate production capacity to a new mobile Athlon processor, also based on the core. The chip shipped in the first quarter, but notebooks with the chip are not expected until May. Palomino-based desktop chips will not ship until the third quarter.
Originally, Palomino and "Morgan," an accompanying core aimed at low-price notebooks, were scheduled to ship in the fourth quarter of 2000. However, AMD disclosed in November plans to push them back to the first and second quarters of 2001, respectively. The chips were pushed back largely because of issues related to infrastructure. The chipsets that are needed to manufacture notebooks were not available then. AMD said, at the same time, that it had canceled a server chip called "Mustang" because of lack of demand from potential customers. "The delay is probably (for) tuning of either the market or the technology issues," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. "From a market perspective, there's no rush for (AMD) to get the 64-bit stuff out." Meanwhile, AMD has disclosed a potential placeholder, "Barton." This new processor core, to be available in desktop and mobile versions, will ultimately be based on Palomino. Barton combines SOI technology with AMD's forthcoming 0.13-micron "Thoroughbred" processor core. Thoroughbred is a successor to the Palomino core. "What Barton does is extend the Athlon well into 2003 so that the Socket A infrastructure (AMD's method for attaching a chip to a motherboard) is extended out, which gives the Athlon platform stability, especially for the commercial market," Tisdale said. CNET.com
IBM Starts New Effort To Make Self Healing Technology
IBM has embarked on a new multibillion-dollar effort called eLiza to build computer systems that can fix themselves while problems are in the early stages. The effort is an attempt to bring some of the self-healing abilities of living creatures to the brittle world of computers, where component failures can bring down larger systems and ripple across a network to other computers as well. "Just like the human body, when you sweat, it evaporates and cools you down," John Patrick, vice president of Internet technologies at IBM, said in an interview about the program. "And when you're cold, you shiver and that warms you up. When you cut your finger, you bleed and that heals the wound. "It's a long-term project," added Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice. "You'll see parts of it rolling out this year and next year. But if you're waiting for full delivery, you'll be waiting five years, eight years, 10 years. It's not a product; it's a vision statement." But there are some differences between IBM's plan and actual biological systems. IBM essentially is patching today's computing technology, adding another layer on top of a very complicated system rather than employing radically different designs. For example, human brains, in some ways resembling a computer, sometimes can adapt to keep functions such as speech working despite serious damage.
IBM's Greg Burke will lead the multiyear effort, reporting to Irving Wladawsky-Berger--the man who led IBM's effort to embrace the Internet six years ago and the Linux operating system two years ago. Wladawsky-Berger will unveil eLiza at an analyst meeting Friday. The effort will take place at five IBM research labs, the company said. It will consume a quarter of the company's server research funds. The effort will consolidate several smaller programs under way within various groups at Big Blue. Hundreds will work on eLiza, Patrick said, spreading changes to all IBM's server lines, its storage products and software packages such as DB2, WebSphere and Tivoli. With eLiza, computers would monitor everything from patterns in a power supply's electricity consumption to how many people are using a Web site, Patrick said. When the behavior of an element of the computing system starts showing the first indications of distress, automatic services would fire up backup systems, order replacement parts or take other measures to ensure that people using the system don't notice problems.
One element of eLiza will be a project called Project Oceano, a prototype that consists of a bunch of Linux servers that can share jobs among each other, with new servers being added into the mix or removed as necessary. The system can even install operating systems and stored data without human intervention. Oceano probably will arrive as a product later this year, Eunice said. BM also has been working for more than a year on a feature called software rejuvenation for Windows servers. Unfortunately, servers using Windows must be restarted periodically because of problems such as memory "leaks"--when computing processes claim memory but don't return it when done. Consequently, IBM's Windows servers can automatically restart themselves periodically, and IBM has been working to make the feature more sophisticated, predicting when restarts are needed so the server is available as much as possible. CNET.com
Sony Releasing Version of Linux For Playstation 2
Linux fans who want to run their favorite operating system on the Sony PlayStation 2 game console apparently will get what they've been hoping for. On Friday, Sony posted information on the Beta Release 1 of its PlayStation 2 Linux Kit, including a press release on its Japanese site that puts its price tag at 25,000 yen, or about $200. The kit includes a DVD with software, 40GB hard drive, keyboard and mouse. The beta, or test, version will be available in June. More than 6,000 people signed a petition earlier this year to encourage Sony to work on the project. The PlayStation 2 is powered by a MIPS chip. One of the benefits of Linux is that it's comparatively easy to get it working on different CPUs. Sony selected Linux to help game developers simulate the PlayStation 2 so they could get a jump on creating games before the actual hardware was available. Running Linux on the game console itself, though, is a different matter entirely. Rumors of the possibility have been circulating on Slashdot, a news and discussion site popular with Linux fans. The programming blueprints, or source code, for the kernel --the heart of Linux--is included on the DVD, Sony said. But the source code for a proprietary "runtime environment" that lets games play on the system is not. CNET.com
DeCSS Case Coming Back To The Courts
The film industry and a hacker publication will head back into court Tuesday in the DeCSS case, a legal dispute that could dictate whether it's legal to publish or link to certain materials online. A panel of appellate judges will decide whether to uphold a lower court ruling preventing online hacker magazine 2600 from linking to code that theoretically could be used to crack DVD security. But legal experts say the case could have wide-ranging ramifications for linking, publishing and copyright on the Internet. "The courts have to craft a ruling that tells people when they may or may not publish certain content," said UCLA law professor and computer scientist Eugene Volokh. The case also is the first major test of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), an entertainment industry-backed law designed to extend copyright protections into the Digital Age. The legal dispute began in January 2000, when the Motion Picture Association of America sued 2600 and several other Web sites for publishing and linking to DeCSS code, claiming that it violated their copyrights. DeCSS was originally designed to let programmers create a DVD player for Linux machines--technology that did not exist at the time--but the movie industry argued that it eventually could be used to copy DVDs. ZDNet.com
Deja.com's Newsgroup Files Are Back, On Google
Google has cracked open a lockbox filled with millions of newsgroup conversations, dated to 1995, nearly three months after the popular search service bought the collection from now-defunct Deja.com. Late Thursday night, Google made available more than 650 million messages from Usenet--a bulletin board discussion area linked off the Internet. By adding the archive to a "beta," or test, version of the revamped service, Google is taking its first step to fully restore postings many Internet users have come to depend on for research and communication about special interests. When Google in February bought parts of Deja, an early discussion-group search site, it did not immediately plug in the entire Deja archive. This caused some uproar among its longtime users. Thursday's move serves to calm some early concerns that the postings would be lost after the acquisition. "This is human conversation going back six years--and something that users had asked for, for a long time," said Google spokesman David Crane. He added that because Deja pulled the archive from its site in May 2000, before it went out of business, demand for the records was heightened.
The delay on Google's part came from its efforts to create a newsgroup service that would complement its own search site. Over the last couple of months, the company has added several features to enhance search, including hierarchical browsing and searching by date, keyword, author, group, subject and message ID. Rather than purchase Deja's search engine and interface along with the archive, Google opted to develop its own search capability, promising big improvements within a few months. However, the archives were just one of many missing pieces in the test version, and critics say the service still needs work; for example, newsgroup users can't post messages. Google plans to begin letting people post messages "no later than mid-May," Crane said. The company said it's working to address technical and other search issues that come from making such a huge volume of data available. In its full version, the site will appear in Google's simple design and let people browse and post messages in a faster environment. ZDNet.com
New Bill In Congress Could Destroy Competion in DSL
A broadband bill introduced Tuesday by two leading House members could lead to the death of the competitive DSL industry, several congressmen said Wednesday. At a House Commerce Committee hearing on a bill that was only hours old, several Republicans and Democrats said that given the current economic uncertainty this was not the time to be passing any legislation that could make it harder for smaller telecom companies to compete. In doing so they defied the top members of their committee, Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., and top Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, sponsors of the bill. Tauzin and Dingell want to deregulate Bells such as Verizon Communications and SBC Communications in their handling of data traffic, to give them financial incentives to deploy DSL in rural and underserved areas where profit margins aren't as strong. The bill primarily would allow Bells to carry data long distances--so they wouldn't have to pass data traffic off to a fiber provider--and would spare them from having to open up new broadband equipment to competitors.
That would rewrite the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which prevents Bells from providing voice or data long distance until they meet a long checklist in a given state they serve. But Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., who as a Hill staffer participated in the writing of the Telecom Act, said the Tauzin-Dingell bill "is fundamentally flawed. It can't be fixed." Pickering cited recent testimony by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, who said that given the difficult economy "any wholesale rewrite of the (Telecom) Act would be ill-advised." Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat representing Silicon Valley, said Bell competitors "have lost 90 percent of their stock value" in the last year. "This bill drives the last nail into their coffin," Eshoo said. But the bill's proponents weren't focusing on post-Telecom Act competitors such as Covad Communications. They said the lifting of regulations on Bells was necessary to level the playing field with cable providers such as AT&T, which has few broadband regulations and dominates the residential broadband market. CNET.com
Napster Introduces New Blocking System
Napster steeply ratcheted up its efforts to block unauthorized song swapping, sending the amount of music available on the service plummeting. The company on Thursday posted a notice on the service saying the step is necessary to comply with a federal court order, which requires it to block access to certain files identified by the record industry as copyrighted works. Nevertheless, Napster acknowledged that the measures could obstruct some songs that fall outside the scope of the injunction. In addition, the judge overseeing the case on Thursday put off a request by the record industry to order stricter remedies against Napster, saying she first wanted to hear the report of a technical expert assigned to the case. The legal pressure has finally forced Napster to give ground in its filtering strategy, changing the way it is blocking music so that even many songs not identified by record companies as copyrighted are being screened out. As a result, the availability of music on the service this week has fallen steeply.
In a note to Napster users posted Thursday, the company apologized for its actions. "We have recently enhanced (our) filters in an effort to screen out the wide range of variations in artist name and song title that result in noticed works continuing to appear on the Napster index," the company posted. "That, in turn, has unfortunately caused substantial additional 'overblocking,' the unintentional removal of otherwise authorized works, for which we apologize to our users and artists." Napster isn't releasing details on how the new filters work, saying it doesn't want to give people a road map for evading them. But a representative confirmed that in some cases the company has started screening by single words--an artist's name or a song title, for example--instead of requiring both to trigger the block, as it had in the past. Patel issued an opinion late Thursday that clarified what the record companies must give Napster to trigger filtering, but she put off much of the decision on whether the filters are working well enough. The judge said that the record labels must hand Napster the names of individual files that are being traded on the service, a point that has sparked some contention. She also asked both sides to submit new testimony within two weeks on how much information could be given to Napster about new releases before those albums hit the shelves. CNET.com
Growth Of Bluetooth Lower Than Expected
Bluetooth will be taking a slightly smaller bite out of the wireless-networking market than previously expected, according to new projections. Shipments of devices using the Bluetooth standard will grow from less than 15 million this year to 955 million units in 2005, Cahners In-Stat Group analyst Joyce Putscher said in the report released Wednesday. However, the estimates in the current report are nearly one-third lower than those in last year's report, in which Putscher projected shipments to hit 1.4 billion units in 2005. Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology that allows portable devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones and notebooks, to communicate within 30 feet of one another without wires. The lowered estimate is the result of the delay among manufacturers in getting products to market and of the U.S. economic slowdown, Putscher said. Manufacturers apparently have been overly optimistic as to how long it will take to develop products and how much it will cost. Putscher still expects strong growth for Bluetooth, however, because it can be used in a number of ways and devices. ZDNet.com
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