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Week of August 26, 2001 News Archive

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Monday August 27, 2001 Top

Intel Introduces New Chips and Lower Prices

Welcome to the 2GHz PC era: Intel on Monday officially announced the speedy Pentium 4 chip. The top-of-the-line chip is expected to usher in a new wave of Pentium 4-based PCs, as computer makers offer it in high-performance desktops. Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard are expected to announce support for the chip. At the same time, Intel is reducing prices of existing Pentium 4 chips, which should bring about Pentium 4 PCs priced as low as about $900 by the end of the year. The new 2GHz chip lists for $562, which is what its existing 1.8GHz sibling had been selling for. "Where the prices are the same, we expect our customers to quickly go to the higher speed. So we're obviously moving the market to higher speeds," said Intel spokesman George Alfs. Intel also on Monday announced a 1.9GHz Pentium 4, aimed at the more budget-conscious. That chip is priced at $375. After the introduction of the 1.9GHz and 2GHz Pentium 4s, Intel reduced the price of the 1.8GHz chips by 54 percent from $562 to $256. Intel also cut the 1.7GHz and 1.6GHz Pentium 4 chips by 45 percent each from $352 to $193 and from $294 to $163, respectively.

Meanwhile, the chipmaker dropped the prices on its 1.5GHz, 1.4GHz and 1.3GHz Pentium 4 chips to $133 each. The move aims to encourage PC makers to adopt the faster chips, the company said. The price drop on the 1.5GHz chips, for example, represents a 48 percent cut. Along with the 2GHz announcement, Intel will preview other technologies such as "Banias," the code name for a new mobile processor it aims to introduce in 2003. Intel also cut prices on its Xeon and certain 0.13-micron desktop Pentium III and Celeron chips. The chipmaker dropped the price of its 900MHz and 850MHz desktop Celerons, for example, from $89 and $74, respectively, to $64 each, a reduction of as much as 28 percent. The move aims to encourage the adoption of Intel's new 0.13-micron Pentium III chips and at the same time makes room for faster Celerons. Celeron chips running at 1GHz and 1.1GHz are expected from the chipmaker this quarter.

AMD Cuts Prices In Response to Intel's Latest Cuts

Advanced Micro Devices responded Monday to Intel's Pentium 4 price cuts with aggressive discounts of its own. AMD nearly halved the list prices of its Athlon desktop chips, which range in speed from 1GHz to 1.4GHz. AMD, for example, cut the list price of its 1.4GHz Athlon from $253 to $130, a 49 percent drop. Meanwhile, it lopped the list price of its 1.3GHz Athlon by 46 percent, from $230 to $125. The 1.2GHz chip was cut 40 percent, from $199 to $120. The 1.1GHz Athlon fell 36 percent, from $179 to $115, and the 1GHz version dropped 28 percent, from $160 to $115. The AMD price cuts aim to help keep the Athlon price competitive with Intel's Pentium 4. AMD's 1.4GHz Athlon now lists for $3 less than an equivalent speed Pentium 4. Intel cut Pentium 4 prices by as much as 54 percent on Monday, after the introduction of its 1.9GHz and 2GHz Pentium 4 chips. But AMD's price cuts also make room for new Athlons. The chipmaker is expected to introduce a 1.5GHz desktop Athlon next month.

It also recently announced a new 1GHz Duron desktop chip, which it says will ship in October. The list price represents AMD and Intel volume prices for PC makers that buy in lots of 1,000 chips. Actual prices can be much more fluid, especially for AMD, because the chipmaker negotiates individually with customers that buy chips in lots larger than 1,000. These customers sometimes buy more chips than they actually need to get lower pricing. They then resell what they can't use into the gray market. This can result in supply gluts, in which street prices fall well below list prices. However, street prices for Athlon chips, as shown by the PriceWatch Web site on Monday morning, were close to AMD's new list prices. Prices on the 1.4GHz Athlon, for example, began at $107 and went up from there, while the 1.3GHz was listed for $101 and up and the 1.2GHz for $91 and up. AMD has also recently cut prices on its desktop Duron and mobile Athlon 4 chips.

Nvidia Adding PVR Features to New Cards this Fall

Chipmaker Nvidia said Monday it will release a graphics card for PCs that will allow consumers to watch and record live TV and play DVDs. The graphics card, expected in the fall, will provide all of the functions of a digital video recorder (DVR), including the ability to pause live TV, fast-forward through commercials and schedule recording ahead of time. The card will range from $149 to $429 at retail, depending on how powerful a graphics chip each card carries, a company representative said. VisionTek and Compro Technology will sell the cards at retail, using Nvidia chips and reference designs. "This product fills a space in our product offerings that we haven't had," the Nvidia representative said. Nvidia's main competitor, ATI Technologies, already offers such a graphics card, the Radeon All-in-Wonder, with all of the same functions. ATI announced a partnership with Compaq Computer in June to bundle the card in certain models of its PCs. Nvidia's device, to be called Nvidia Personal Cinema, will make use of a traditional universal remote control to operate it, in addition to on-screen controls. Once the card is installed in a PC, consumers can hook up devices, such as camcorders and speakers, to an external box that connects to the graphics card via a cable. Gemstar-TV Guide International will provide the interactive programming guide.

Ximian Introduces First Commercial Products

David Patrick, CEO, Ximian Ximian, a company trying to benefit from the use of Linux on desktop computers, on Monday launched its first products and services that will start creating revenue for the Boston start-up. Ximian launched two versions of a boxed product, Ximian Desktop, which includes the Gnome desktop interface and other software, a $29.95 basic version, and a $49.95 version with Sun Microsystems' StarOffice suite of programs. The company announced individual and corporate versions of its Red Carpet service to automatically download and install updates to Linux and higher-level software. Though the existing free service launched in April will continue, Ximian now offers priority access for individuals paying $9.95 a month or corporations paying $150 a year, said Nat Friedman, co-founder and vice president of product development. Corporations, which also must pay a $2,500 setup fee, can customize the system to their particular software needs. The products, combined with others to be introduced through early 2002, will be the basis for Ximian's push to achieve profitability, a goal the company hopes to reach in mid-2003, said Chief Executive David Patrick in an interview Monday. The company will focus on lining up customers in 2002, he said.

Microsoft Releases Internet Explorer 6

Microsoft announced Monday that the latest version of its browser, Internet Explorer 6, is available for download from the Web. IE 6 will be integrated into Microsoft's forthcoming Windows XP operating system. Monday's release will permit users of older Windows operating systems to preview some elements of XP before its scheduled release in October. The browser includes new features such as the media bar, which allows users to play music, video and mixed-media files without opening a separate window. The IE 6 image toolbar lets users e-mail, print and save pictures found on the Web. PC makers can begin selling PCs with Windows XP in September. The software giant celebrated the release of the final--or gold--code to PC makers last week during a lavish event complete with a helicopter stunt.

Tuesday August 28, 2001 Top

Intel Introduces New Hyper-Threading Technology

Intel Corporation today announced and demonstrated Hyper-Threading technology, a new processor design breakthrough, improving system performance by 30 percent. Intel's simultaneous multithreading design, originally code-named Jackson Technology, allows a single processor to manage data as if it were two processors by handling data instructions in parallel rather than one at a time. Using Hyper-Threading technology, data instructions are "threaded" as parallel streams for processing. Designed to improve system performance and efficiency, Hyper-Threading technology is expected to be introduced in Intel Xeon processors for servers in 2002 and incorporated into a variety of Intel products over the next few years. In addition to increased performance, initial validation tests have shown that Hyper-Threading technology can significantly improve the number of Web transactions and users that Intel-based servers can handle at the same time. The technology also holds promise for increasing the speed and quality of multitasking capabilities for PC, workstation and server users who run unique applications simultaneously.

The multithreading design techniques allow an operating system to view a single physical processor as if it were two logical processors. To accomplish this, processors enabled with Hyper-Threading technology can manage incoming data from different software applications and continuously switch from one set of data instructions to the other, every few nanoseconds, without losing track of the data processing status of each set of instructions.Current processor technologies queue up individual instructions and handle them one at a time and in a logical order, much like a person who is trying to watch television while talking on the phone. In the current scenario, the person takes in data from each medium, handling it piece by piece. Hyper-Threading technology allows the viewer to accomplish both activities simultaneously without impacting the quality or speed of either experience.

Operating system and application support is a key aspect for enabling Hyper-Threading technology. Prototype software development systems enabled with the technology will be available from Intel later this year so vendors can develop and tune their applications. A large number of operating system and software developers are embracing Hyper-Threading technology and are currently optimizing applications to ensure they will take full advantage of the unique capabilities of this technology when it becomes available. For applications that are currently not multithreaded, Intel is developing a toolset that will assist in adding multithreading capability to software. Future Intel compilers and Intel VTune Performance Analyzers will also include a full set of features to help applications get the most from this technology. Applications that are already multithreaded can take advantage of incremental tuning with Intel Performance Libraries enabled with Hyper-Threading technology a! s well as programs offered by Intel Developer Services, an online resource dedicated to enabling software developers by providing technical, marketing and business development programs.

Microsoft Software Patents Threaten Open Source

Members of the open-source community are becoming increasingly concerned by ongoing moves from Microsoft Corp. to acquire a range of software patents that the company can potentially use down the line to attack and try to restrict the development and distribution of open-source software. And much of that concern is being directed toward open-source desktop company Ximian Inc.'s Mono Project, an open-source initiative to replace part of Microsoft's .Net product line, including a way to run C# programs and the .Net Common Language Infrastructure on Linux. Leading the charge is Bruce Perens, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s open-source and Linux strategist who helped to craft the Debian Social Contract, which later became the Open Source Definition. Perens told eWEEK in an interview on Monday in San Francisco ahead of the LinuxWorld conference that an increasing number of people in the open-source community are very concerned about the Mono Project and by Microsoft's initiative to buy software patents and to patent as much of its own technology as it can.

"If I were in Microsoft's position, I would be looking through all the patents I had been buying that are potentially being infringed by open-source software," Perens said. "They are going to hold onto these patents until they see what happens with the antitrust case against them. Once that is resolved, they will then use them against the open-source industry." But Miguel de Icaza, the chief technical officer at Ximian, disagreed with Perens, saying that any application that runs on Linux could be infringing on some hidden and unknown patent owned by Microsoft. "Microsoft has not historically used its patents in an aggressive way," he said. "They've previously used it to defend themselves. While I suppose they might use it for attack purposes going forward, I don't think they'll go after Mono as we are only in the early stages and are sticking to developing technology from existing concepts. There's nothing new in .Net; it's just a combination of existing technologies." But while Perens acknowledged that Microsoft has largely not invoked its patent rights to date, he said, "Past performance is not predictive of future behavior.

Microsoft's [senior vice president] Craig Mundie has previously said the company intends to enforce all its patents." An example of a patent held by Microsoft that could be detrimental to open-source initiatives going forward was clearly demonstrated in the password change protocol found in Samba, he said. Microsoft had modified the password change technology and then patented the new protocol of the password change. "This means you cannot make a compatible implementation without potentially infringing on a Microsoft patent," Perens said. "We went ahead and did it anyway, and Microsoft hasn't enforced that patent, but it doesn't mean they never will. This is a telling case as they've taken what was an open protocol and deliberately put in a patent to close it and then introduced the patented feature in all new systems."

Corel Close To Selling off Linux Division

Canadian software developer Corel is expected to sell the majority of its Linux division on Wednesday to a privately held startup, a move that would end its commitment to developing the Linux desktop operating system software. A source close to the negotiations told Reuters on Tuesday that a newly formed company called Xandros will pay $2 million for the Linux unit, a division that accounted for about 14 percent of Corel's total business as of January 2001. Speculation as to the buyer of Corel's Linux division has circulated in media reports since last January, when Corel's new chief executive, Derek Burney, said the division could weigh down Corel's growth. Earlier reports placed the unit's value at $5 million. "The desktop division has the potential to hinder the company's growth and needs to be spun off and allowed to expand outside the company," said Burney on Jan. 23. "At this time, there is nothing new to report," said a Corel representative, reiterating that Corel is still looking to shed its Linux distribution business, which does not include software applications based on Linux.

The sale of the unit would enable Corel to focus on its graphics-software business, which it recently beefed up with the acquisitions of Softquad Software and technical illustration firm Micrografx. Also, Corel would likely continue to sell Linux versions of its WordPerfect Office and CorelDraw software products, said the source. "Corel is selling it (the Linux division) because of the change in leadership. The former chief executive thought it was the future of the company, but Burney thought they were putting more money into it than they needed to," said a source who wished to remain anonymous. Corel is expected to retain an ownership stake in the Linux unit of about 5 percent, with Xandros paying cash for the remaining 95 percent. Xandros is controlled by Linux Global Partners, a small New York-based holding company with stakes in a handful of Linux startup companies. Corel's Linux division will continue to be based in Canada with the core of engineers that helped create the unit staying on as employees, said the source.

Intel's 845 Chipset Set to Spur Pentium 4 Growth

PC makers may be packing their latest Pentium 4 computers with memory based on designs from Rambus, but the picture will change in a very short time. In about two weeks, Intel will release its 845 chipset, which will let PC makers combine Pentium 4 processors with standard computer memory, or SDRAM, for the first time. Although SDRAM-based computers won't provide the same level of performance as those filled with Rambus memory, they will likely be much more popular, say executives and analysts. "The 845 (chipset) delivers the stable mainstream platform," Louis Burns, vice president of the desktop platform group at Intel, said in a speech at the Intel Developer Forum here. Computers containing the chipset will come out in the price range "where the majority of businesses will be buying," he added. Using SDRAM can cut from $150 to $200 off the retail price of a PC, according to various executives and analysts at the forum. "The 845 is going to be extremely popular. There is still a price gap between RDRAM (Rambus memory) and SDRAM," said Willy Kok, product manager at Acer. The prices of upcoming PCs "will definitely be lower, based on the memory costs alone," he said.

"You can probably save about $150 on the bill of materials. That could translate into a street price (savings) of $175," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64. Not only is SDRAM cheaper than RDRAM, but the motherboards, which hold the main circuitry of a PC, are cheaper too. Intel will come out with a version of the 845 that works with DDR DRAM in the first part of 2002. Later that year, it will follow up with a DDR DRAM chipset for the Pentium 4 containing integrated graphics, said Burns. This will cut costs even more. Microtowers are generally associated with the budget market, said Gateway's Collas. Manufacturers don't want to put a Rambus-based PC in the small boxes because it would send a mixed message. Computers with the 845 chipset won't be bound by the constraint. "The 845 chipset will enable a more mainstream design," he said.

Mac OS X 10.1 to be Finalized by Early September

Apple is now pushing along to finish development on the Mac OS X version 10.1 update, code-named Puma, sources said. While the target date for hitting the final gold master stage was pushed back by as much as two weeks, Apple appears to be on track to reach gold master in the first days of September. Optimization is the key factor now, with Apple's OS X developers churning out multiple internal builds daily, at times.The closeness of the gold master stage is also becoming visible in recent pre-release builds, according to those familiar with them. Builds in the 5G3x series are reportedly both fast and stable, and contain ample help documentation. Recent builds are also being marked "Version 10.1 Pre-release" in the about box.One third-party software developer noted that the frequency of external pre-release seeding for 10.1 appears to have increased slightly, as Apple has been known to do when software development is in the home stretch. "5G27 is the second build I have received within two weeks," he said. "It seems that Apple is responding to the recent criticism concerning infrequent software seeds to developers." Other random usage notes from recent builds: The menu extra for IRDA that appeared earlier in the month has been removed because of problems, Java Web Start is now included, iSub now functions fine, build 5G28 includes better support for Japanese installations, and disk images can now be burned to a CD from Disk Copy. A second reader Q&A on 10.1 is being completed, and will be posted shortly.

Wednesday August 29, 2001 Top

AMD Plans to Remove Megahertz Rating from Processors

Intel is "devaluing the meaning of megahertz" with its Pentium 4 design, charges rival chip maker Advanced Micro Devices, which claims the chip's design makes Intel's frequency claims misleading. Just over a year ago, AMD proudly proclaimed its success in beating Intel to the 1GHz level with its Athlon chip. But now, following Intel's release of a 2GHz Pentium 4, the smaller chip maker is crying foul. AMD representatives this week sought out reporters attending the Intel Developers Forum in San Jose, Calif., to raise awareness of the issue. In particular, AMD contends the design of Intel's Pentium 4 has made the long-established practice of comparing CPU frequencies irrelevant. "Over the last 20 years, AMD and Intel had similar architectures--so the fundamental difference between AMD's and Intel's products were the frequencies," said Aaron Seen, a spokesman for AMD, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. "Recently, with the advent of the Athlon and Pentium 4 processors, we've fundamentally diverged in terms of our architectures."

Specifically, Seen alleges, AMD's Athlon does more work per clock cycle than the Pentium 4. As such, an Athlon could essentially handle processing applications faster than a similarly clocked Pentium 4. In place of merely comparing clock rates, AMD proposes uses a technical formula to rate processor performance, essentially multiplying the number of instructions per clock times the frequency. "We need to help educate the end users about the difference between frequency and performance," Seen said. But AMD faces an uphill battle to change people's perception, one analyst said, and its focus on jargon such as "instructions per clock cycle" won't appeal to users outside the industry. "Trying to do a comparison based on instructions per clock cycle, that's a tough one to get across to non-technical people," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64 in Saratoga, Calif.

Intel Introduces Wi-Fi Based Wireless Products

Intel Corporation today announced the AnyPoint Wireless II Network family of products that provide high-speed wireless network connectivity and shared Internet access for the home, home office and small office environments. The AnyPoint Wireless II Network product family consists of a USB model, a PC card and the Intel Wireless Gateway. Based on the IEEE 802.11b standard, the products provide data transfer speeds up to 11 million bits per second (Mbps), ample bandwidth for simultaneous Internet access, video streaming, MP3 sharing, photo sharing, file sharing and other demanding applications. The AnyPoint Wireless II Network products incorporate the AnyPoint Connectivity Software Suite and are Intel's first 802.11b products specifically designed for consumer installation and ease of use. The Connectivity Suite supports file and printer sharing and includes Internet security features such as Web site filtering for parental control, integrated firewall protection, and 128-bit 802.11b Wireless Encryption Protocol (WEP) encryption. The Intel Wireless Gateway combines the functionality of an access point, Internet router and firewall into a single device.

It is optimized for homes and small offices sharing an Internet connection among desktop PCs, mobile PCs or handheld devices. The gateway features both Ethernet and 802.11b wireless connectivity, and includes 128-bit WEP encryption, an embedded firewall to help protect against network intrusions, and AnyPoint software to simplify installation. "The AnyPoint Wireless II Network products and the Wireless Gateway provide the simplest, most flexible way for non-technical consumers and small businesses to set up a wireless network and share a single Internet connection," said Barry Bonder, director of residential networking products at Intel. "These additions to Intel's extensive wireless product line allow consumers to use the same wireless networking standard at home as they use at work, and many locations in-between." The AnyPoint Wireless II Network products are now available in North America. Suggested retail prices are $129 for the PC card and $149 for the USB model. The Intel Wireless Gateway is now available for business use and will be available for consumers in October with suggested retail pricing to be announced at a later date.

Serial ATA Standard Finalized and Drives Coming in 2002

The Serial ATA Working Group will announce the final version of its ATA specification at the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif. The new standard, Serial ATA, will allow hard drives to keep up with PCs, which speed up with every iteration of processors from the likes of Intel and AMD. This not only will improve performance, but also enable PC makers to use smaller cables inside PCs, reducing heat and allowing for smaller systems to be developed. Serial ATA ultimately will allow data to be transferred at 600MB per second. It will start at about 150MB per second. The emerging standard is meant to be the successor to the current ATA-100 standard and has some big backers--including Intel, Dell Computer, IBM, Maxtor and Seagate--that will help the transition occur. Hard-drive maker Seagate will demonstrate a prototype drive using the Serial ATA standard at the Intel conference this week. Seagate announced that it will manufacture drives that use the Serial ATA standard by next year. The Serial ATA standard will do away with the need for the ribbon cables used with the ATA-100 standard to transfer data between components within a PC. ATA-100 ribbon cable is about two inches wide and can be only 18 inches long. The Serial ATA cables will not be as wide as ribbon cable and can be made up to three feet long, allowing for more elaborate routing, which would aid in creating cooler-running PCs.

Second Generation Itanium Chip Will Double Performance

Intel is coming out with new versions of its Itanium chip--a slow seller so far--that the company says will provide far faster performance. The next version of Itanium, code-named McKinley, will be "able to realize a 1.5x to 2x performance gain very readily" over the current generation when it comes out in test systems later this year, according to Abhi Talwalker, vice president of the server products division at Intel. The boost comes from a much faster bus, additional microstructures and a more efficient 3MB memory cache located on the processor, he said. Because of a number of delays, the first version of Itanium, code-named Merced, has largely been used as a test vehicle. "Merced was kind of a flop" commercially, said Jon Joseph, semiconductor analyst at Salomon Smith Barney.

Despite delays with Merced, its progeny are following in quick succession. Prototype servers containing McKinley will begin to appear later this year. Commercial systems will arrive in 2002, said Talwalker. McKinley gets its power from a generous helping of circuitry. In all, it will sport 220 million transistors, or about five times more than the Pentium 4, and will come with a 400MHz bus that is 128 bits wide. Itanium, by contrast, sports a 266MHz bus that is 64 bits wide, according to Talwalker. Typically, increasing the speed and width of the bus--the main data conduit connecting the processor to main memory--leads to greater performance. With McKinley, Intel also has increased the number of integer units, which perform basic calculations, from four to six. In addition, the chip will come with 11 instruction cores, two more than the current Itanium.

Talwalker declined to state the speed at which McKinley will run but said it will be faster than the current Itanium, which runs at 800MHz. McKinley also comes with a more efficient Level 3 cache. Cache memory is near the processor and holds data that needs to be accessed rapidly. Current Itanium chips come with 2MB to 4MB of Level 3 cache. The tertiary cache, however, is not integrated into the processor but sits on separate chips next to the main chip. McKinley will come with caches ranging in size from 1.5MB to 3MB, integrated into the processor. While smaller, the caches on McKinley will likely lead to higher performance. Integration essentially allows data to reach the processor more rapidly by cutting down the electron commute. The new chip also will allow computer makers to build systems with more than 1,000 processors, Talwalker said. Current Itaniums can be melded into 512-processor systems.

Bluetooth Receives Blow from Intel Executive

Bluetooth has already lost the battle to become the wireless network standard, according to the head of Intel's communications strategy. Bluetooth--which lets cell phones, notebooks and other devices create wireless networks that can then link to the Web--is not going to become a mainstream technology, according to Sean Maloney, vice president and general manager of the Intel Communications Group. Maloney made the comments during a press conference Wednesday at the Intel Developer Forum. Instead, 802.11 will emerge as the de facto standard for connecting wirelessly to the Internet. "802.11 has won. Bluetooth is in full retreat from Moscow at the moment," Maloney said. "It may end up winning but right now it isn't...Bluetooth will survive but it will be a much more niche product than expected." To add insult to injury, Bluetooth is even losing ground in Scandinavia, where Norwegian ski resorts are installing 802.11 infrastructure. Bluetooth borrows its name from the 10th-century Viking King Harald Bluetooth, who united Nordic nations under one religion. Although a number of other executives and analysts have already written Bluetooth's epitaph, Maloney's comments could ruffle some feathers. Intel was an early proponent of Bluetooth and is a principal member of the trade group promoting the standard.

Thursday August 30, 2001 Top

New Details Released About New AMD Branding System

Hoping to counter a perception that its processors are slower than those from rival Intel, Advanced Micro Devices is moving away from branding its chips based on megahertz. Starting next month, the chipmaker will introduce a new Athlon naming plan that reflects the processor's overall performance rather than simply its speed based on megahertz. The aim is to convince PC buyers not to base their purchasing decisions on clock speed alone, but to also consider the actual performance of the chip, sources say. "If AMD can succeed in shaping the message...maybe the customer will change his or her view," said Mark Shifrin, analyst with Technology Business Research. "It's a good strategy. It's the only strategy in the face of the inability to increase speed. Hopefully people will see it as a positive and not a negative." The new nomenclature will use a model number instead of listing the Athlon's clock speed, according to sources familiar with AMD's plans.In other words, rather than selling a PC with a 1.5GHz Athlon, AMD and PC makers might market an Athlon 1900+ or Athlon E Class computer, for example.

New Athlons will likely be named Athlon model XXXX+, sources say, with the number referring to the chip's performance when measured against the Pentium 4. Depending on how AMD rates itself against the Pentium 4, a 1.5GHz Athlon could become an Athlon model 1800+ or possibly an Athlon model 1900+. This is because megahertz, as AMD will emphasize in its marketing, is only half of the performance equation. Performance, according to many inside the industry, is measured by multiplying megahertz by the number of instructions, or commands, the chip can process at the same time. The Pentium 4 processes up to six instructions per clock. AMD has not disclosed how many instructions its new Palomino core can process. In all likelihood, it will have to be larger than three. If not, AMD could not tout a higher performance figure without first offering a higher megahertz. AMD has already begun an effort to educate the media with a white paper on how megahertz multiplied by instructions per clock is the way to measure PC performance.

A Second Manufacturer is Making a Pentium4-Rambus Chipset

Another manufacturer is expected to start producing Pentium 4 chipsets that will use Rambus memory, a development that could help revive support within the industry for the memory standard. A chipset maker is in the final stages of negotiating a deal that will allow the company to manufacture a chipset that links a Pentium 4 processor with Rambus-based RDRAM memory, according to several industry sources. The announcement is expected to take place within the next two weeks. If another manufacturer comes out with a Rambus chipset, it would likely be seen as a shot in the arm for controversial chip designer Rambus. The chipset connects a PC's processor with other components, such as memory. RDRAM is currently the only memory that comes inside of Pentium 4 computers. Although it provides a performance boost, RDRAM is also more expensive than regular memory, making customers reluctant to embrace it. In addition, PC makers are skittish; in 1999 and 2000, they were stung by problems with a Pentium III-Rambus chipset.

Some analysts were surprised at the prospect of another Rambus chipset. "It (Rambus) is a sunset industry," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray. "I don't know what the market opportunity is." To date, Intel is the only manufacturer to release a Pentium 4-Rambus chipset. Another supplier would likely increase the availability of chipsets and lower the price of building computers. Both Intel and Rambus declined to comment on any upcoming third-party chipsets. An Intel representative said three companies currently have licenses to manufacture Pentium 4 chipsets: Acer Labs, SiS and ATI Technologies. These companies are all expected to come out with Pentium 4-SDRAM chipsets. A Rambus representative said Acer also has a Rambus license.

Sun Introduces Version 6.0 of StarOffice

Sun Microsystems is showing Linux fans the next version of StarOffice, the most viable competition to Microsoft's Office package, and will release the beta version in October. Sun acquired StarOffice from Hamburg, Germany-based Star Division in 1999, and has made it available as a free download in an effort to undermine popular programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint that help to keep the Windows operating system dominant. The company also released the source code for the software under the General Public License (GPL), the same license that allows anyone to see, modify and distribute Linux software. But the current version, 5.2, has been roundly criticized as a large and sluggish product. By default, the program tries to take over many desktop functions, coming with its own "Start" button and file browser, and all its programs load at once. Version 6.0 will break these programs into individual applications that can run independently, said software demonstrators at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo where the software has been demonstrated this week. StarOffice 6.0, as with the current version, will run on Linux, Sun Solaris and Microsoft Windows machines.

Sun had been working on a Mac OS X version but canceled the plan. In April, Sun announced it was turning over the project to open-source programmers at the OpenOffice development site. "Sun firmly believes that there is enough support within the Mac OS X community to continue development on the port, and we invite Mac developers throughout the world to contribute their efforts to finishing the work that must be done to make this port a strong rival to other office software suites," Sun said at the time. The new version will also begin a switch to new, nonproprietary XML-based file formats that anyone can emulate. Because the inner workings of Microsoft file formats aren't published, it's difficult for companies to create "filters" that can read and write Microsoft files. Because of Microsoft's dominance in the office software market, file compatibility is key for any competitor. Though files can be read and written, the "macros"--small programs used to automate tasks in Microsoft Office--won't necessarily run in StarOffice, Sun said. By using a new compression scheme, StarOffice files will be about half the size as in version 5.2.

Iomega Introduces Simpler Software for CD Burning

Iomega Corporation today announced that they had "set a new standard for speed and simplicity" with the introduction of Iomega HotBurn software for CD recording. "In usability testing, HotBurn software consistently performed faster than the industry leader for users of all experience levels. In four out of five tasks measured, users were able to set up CD projects quicker, and they experienced less waiting time before and after the burn." "CD-burning software often puts the user through a confusing and complicated process," said Germaine Ward, senior vice president of software solutions, Iomega Corporation. "HotBurn software is a faster and easier user experience. It wraps the functions that people use most of the time -- burning music, copying data, creating liner notes -- into a clean powerful interface, replacing the usual complexity with one or two simple steps. HotBurn will allow CD-RW users to successfully burn a CD faster, and it will differentiate our optical drive bundles in an intensely competitive market."

The HotBurn console interface conveniently groups all options for creating a CD on a single screen, and the interface is designed with replaceable skins that allow the user to customize the software's look and feel. Additional convenience features include a "Best Of" CD creation function, which streamlines the making of a compilation disc by eliminating the need to copy selections from several CDs to the hard drive first. Standard HotBurn features for Macintosh(R) and Windows(R) users include easy two-step music and data CD mastering, one-step CD duplication and convenient CD imaging of multiple copies from a source CD. HotBurn also fully supports new technologies like BURN-Proof(TM), which virtually eliminates the buffer under-run errors that can turn a CD into a coaster. Iomega HotBurn software will be available in October with new Iomega CD-RW drives; it will also be available in the fourth quarter of this year as a retail download from for users of third-party drives. Iomega HotBurn software is compatible with Windows 95, 98, Me, NT 4, and Windows 2000 on Pentium PCs with supported USB, FireWire or ATAPI CD-RW drives, and will be compatible with Windows XP in the fourth quarter of this year. Iomega HotBurn software is compatible with Macintosh computers running MacOS 8.6 through 9.x with supported USB, FireWire or ATAPI drives.

Motorola Announces Technology to Boost Chip Density

Motorola says it has developed technology that would allow for mainstream production of computer chips with microscopic circuitry more than 50 percent more densely packed than currently possible. Motorola said Wednesday it had developed photomasks--material that is applied onto silicon wafers to make chips--that will allow features on the integrated circuits smaller than 100 nanometers in width to be created. By comparison, a human hair is about 10,000 nanometers wide, and the current next-generation industry standard is for chip etchings of 157 nanometers in width. The chips would be created through a process known as photolithography, in which light is used to burn away excess silicon and create circuitry on the wafer. The Motorola photomasks were designed for use with extreme ultra-violet (EUV) photolithography, which uses a smaller wavelength of light than previous processes for more precision and finer detail, the company said. Motorola plans to first become proficient in making the EUV masks, and then outsource the process to dedicated suppliers. By 2002, Motorola expects to begin using the masks and a prototype EUV tool to print smaller features on integrated circuits. Production EUV tools for manufacturing are not expected until 2005.

Friday August 31, 2001 Top

Intel Introduces Faster Celeron Processors

Intel on Friday launched a trio of low-priced Celeron chips. The new desktop chips include the fastest Celeron to date, a 1.1GHz version, along with offerings at 1GHz and 950MHz. The faster chips also serve to help Intel fill the gap between the Celeron and its Pentium 4 as the company phases out its Pentium III. Intel executives have said the company will make the complete transition from the Pentium III to the Pentium 4 on the desktop this year. The earlier chip will live on in notebook PCs, however. Meanwhile, Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices has also joined the low-money 1GHz fray, having announced a 1GHz desktop Duron chip last week. The new processor will be widely available starting in October, the company said. List prices for the new Celeron chips are $103 for the 1.1GHz, $89 for the 1GHz and $74 for the 950 MHz, Intel said. The chips offer a 100MHz front-side bus (the data pipeline between the processor and system memory) and 128KB of level 2 cache. Intel is expected to follow with a 1.2GHz Celeron in the fourth quarter.

Acer Announces SDRAM Based Pentium 4 Chipset

Intel's Pentium 4 processor got another chipset option this week with Acer Laboratories' (ALi) launch of its Aladdin-P4, which, at $31 will undercut rivals such as Via Technologies. However, the chipset is using a 0.25-micron manufacturing process, less advanced than those used by Via and Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS) for their Pentium 4 chipsets. Via uses a 0.22-micron process and SiS manufactures at 0.18 microns. Aladdin began sampling to motherboard manufacturers on 28 August and Acer hopes to have the product shipping in volume in October, according to reports, so that Aladdin-based motherboards can be on the market in time for Christmas. A chipset enables the processor to communicate with other PC components such as I/O and memory. New chipsets will reduce Pentium 4 system prices by allowing the chip to use standard SDRAM memory, instead of the Rambus Direct RAM memory to which it is presently restricted. Acer's chipset supports PC-100 and PC-133 SDRAM platforms, as well as high-speed DDR memory. Intel is to launch its own SDRAM chipset, the 845, on 10 September but will not ship a DDR-compliant product until next year. Aladdin supports a 400MHz system bus and will support up to 3GB of main memory.

FreeBSD 5.0-RELEASE is Delayed by a Year

The 5.0-RELEASE was originally scheduled for November 2001, it being our intention to release 5.0 before the end of 2001 without also colliding with the Christmas / New Years holidays. Unfortunately, a lot of the features on the TODO list for 5.0, such as SMPng (next-generation symmetric multi-processing), KSE (kernel scheduler entities) or support for a new architectures like the PowerPC, SPARC64 or IA64 (Itanium) are nowhere close to being complete. Without these features, there's just not a lot of reason for 5.0 to exist in non-snapshot form and it's therefore been decided that rather than release 5.0 prematurely, we're going to give ourselves the time we need to finish it properly. The projected ship date for FreeBSD 5.0-RELEASE is now November 1st, 2002. That will give us a full 14 months to finish the various works-in-progress for 5.0-RELEASE and give it the kind of testing it will need to truly be an improvement, from both a performance and a stability perspective, over the 4.x branch. We will continue to ship releases along the 4.x-STABLE branch during the interval, of course, and will be constantly striving to merge our best work from -CURRENT so that the -STABLE branch remains a good place to be. 4.x-STABLE is one of this project's best branches yet and running it is certainly no sacrifice, but we'll be making an extra effort to ensure that staleness doesn't set in during its somewhat extended lifetime.

Intel and AMD Working to Get Better Linux Support

In a sign of how strategic Linux has become, AMD and Intel are angling to lure open-source programmers to their future chip designs. Linux--with a strong developer community and a flexibility that allows the Unix clone to run on numerous chips--has become an asset the chipmakers want on their sides as they prepare future chip designs. Linux has become a tool to secure quick support for a new chip. "Linux gets software into market more quickly than waiting for support from Microsoft," said Mercury Research analyst Dean McCarron. "Linux is a wonderful operating system for rapid deployment. The Microsoft operating systems ultimately get used in very large volume, but when (a chip) is first coming out, those operating systems aren't typically available." Because the fast-paced Linux world is filled with developers and companies eager to make names for themselves, backing Linux also can help put pressure on Microsoft. "I think it is the Linux presence that will cause Microsoft to have to take Hammer seriously," Insight 64 analyst Nathan Brookwood said of AMD's upcoming line of high-end processors.

"You know that there will be a Linux implementation that supports Hammer. Intel and AMD are working on 64-bit chips--higher-end models that can handle vastly larger amounts of memory and transfer information in bigger chunks than 32-bit products such as Intel's Pentium or AMD's Athlon. Both Intel and AMD crave a bigger presence in the lucrative and prestigious server market. Without software support, new chips will fail, and each chip faces its own hurdles. Intel's new Itanium chips speak an entirely different language than the 32-bit chips, so software must be reworked to take advantage of the change. AMD's Hammer line is a 64-bit extension of the language used by the 32-bit chips and will run current software well, but taking advantage of 64-bit features will require software to be overhauled.

To improve Linux support for Itanium, Intel last week announced it would sell key software, called compilers, which translate software written by humans into the instructions a chip can understand. Compilers are necessary for any chip, but the performance of software on the Itanium chip is particularly sensitive to the quality of compilers. The Intel compiler is fine for some, but most Linux developers use GCC, known more for its support of many languages and chips than for its optimization for any particular technology. And GCC for Itanium "has a ways to go," said David Mosberger, a Hewlett-Packard programmer and leader of the effort to bring Linux to Itanium. "A lot of people just use GCC. It's very important to help...developers get compilers up to speed," Mosberger said. Among those pitching the Hammer designs: AMD's Kevin McGrath and Conor Malone, in charge of wooing software developers to Hammer. The Linux compiler for Hammer is "pretty much done," Malone said, and will be included in the next update of GCC.

DOJ Requests That the Supreme Court Denies Microsoft Request

The Justice Department urged the Supreme Court on Friday to reject Microsoft's request for review of the antitrust case against the computer software giant. The software manufacturer argues that the case is "ripe" for the high court's review, "but Microsoft offers no satisfactory explanation of why that is so," states the 26-page Justice Department filing. Microsoft wants the nation's highest court to decide whether the appeals court determined the proper remedy after it found that the original judge in the case had improper contacts with the news media. "Granting review on that question now will not eliminate the prospect of future requests" for Supreme Court review, said the Justice Department brief. "Microsoft's petition provides clear notice that" hearing the company's arguments now "would likely lead to multiple, piecemeal requests for review--precisely the result" that the high court's standard practices are intended to avoid, said the government's filing. The department concluded that the case "should now go forward" in the District Court and that "there is no warrant for further delay." U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the Justice Department and Microsoft to file a joint report by Sept. 14 outlining proposals for bringing in new witnesses and seeking additional documents. Such decisions could prompt a new round of testimony and discovery. Both sides will report to Kollar-Kotelly what additional information they will seek from each other and when they hope to get it.

Weekend September 1 & 2, 2001 Top

Intel Executive Talks About Moving Past Processor Speed

Only moments after demonstrating a Pentium 4 running at 3.5GHz, a senior Intel executive somewhat downplayed the significance of his company's achievement by predicting that computer users will soon care less about processor speed and more about overall performance. In his opening keynote at the Intel Developers Forum in San Jose, Calif., Paul Otellini, general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, also took note of the ongoing industry slump and challenged hardware and software makers to bring out new products people will want. "During a downturn, companies tend to lose focus on what people want," Otellini said. "Growth for us as an industry is not a given." For its part, he said, Intel is continuing to invest heavily in new technologies, not only designing faster processors, but other enhancements designed to improve computing performance as well. "The focus is moving beyond gigahertz," Otellini told an audience of 4,000 developers. "Increasingly it's about reliability, style, ease of use and power savings [in the case of portables]. In other words, the total computing experience." While Intel has long been a leader in pushing the chip-speed envelope, the giant chip maker Tuesday touted technologies it is developing to improve chip performance without raising clock speeds.

Microsoft Releases First 64-bit Version of Windows

Microsoft on Tuesday opened the door to 64-bit Windows. The company announced that its Windows Advanced Server, Limited Edition, is now available for computers based on Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip. Microsoft said that Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and IBM will start shipping servers running the new operating system within 30 days. Other computer makers will ship it later this year. The Itanium chip, aimed at heavy-duty workstations and servers for businesses and engineering, supports greater amounts of system memory and offers stronger floating-point, or mathematical, capabilities than current 32-bit desktop processors. The extra memory support and the floating-point capabilities serve to increase the performance of applications including Web hosting, data warehousing, computer-aided design and scientific research. The 64-bit version of Windows, based on Windows 2000, joins several other 64-bit operating systems ported to Itanium, including several Linux releases. Microsoft is also working on 64-bit versions of its Windows XP operating system. The new XP-based 64-bit OSes, one each for workstations and servers, are due next year. "Itanium-based servers combined with Microsoft's latest server software offer customers superior performance, greater choice, reliability and investment protection at significantly lower costs than proprietary solutions," Abhi Talwalkar, vice president and assistant general manager, Intel Enterprise Platforms Group, said in a prepared statement.

The Cost of Virus Attacks this Year has Reached 10 Billion

The cost of virus attacks on information systems around the world reached an estimated $10.7 billion so far this year, according to Computer Economics of Carlsbad, Calif. That compares with $17.1 billion for all of 2000 and $12.1 billion in 1999, Computer Economics said. "If there are no new bugs, then we will land under that, around $15 billion," said Michael Erbschloe, vice president of research at Computer Economics. But "one more big outbreak that becomes a billion dollar bug" would put the total over last year's. The Love Bug, whose 50 variants have hit more than 40 million computers since it emerged in May 2000, was the most expensive virus so far at $8.7 billion, Erbschloe said. The Melissa virus, at $1.2 billion, and the Explorer virus, at $1 billion, were the costly viruses of 1999, he said.

This year, in addition to Code Red, the other big virus has been SirCam, which has infected more than 2.3 million computers and cost $1.04 billion, according to the research. The costs from SirCam included an estimated $460 million spent on cleaning infected systems and $575 million for lost productivity. Code Red, which infected more than 1 million computers, has resulted in an estimated $1.1 billion in clean-up costs and $1.5 billion in lost productivity so far, according to Computer Economics. Clean-up costs include patching systems and returning them to normal operation and inspecting servers to see if they need patching. Lost productivity includes time spent by system users and support and help-desk staff on virus issues that takes them away from their regular responsibilities.

Broadband Access Continues To Grow in the US

Despite a wide technology downturn, Internet subscriber figures continue to grow in the United States where a majority of homes have at least dial-up access and nearly one in four online households use a broadband connection, according to a new study. The June 2001 survey, conducted by Gartner Dataquest, shows that 65 million U.S. households, or 61 percent of the nation's homes, actively use the Internet on a regular basis. The total represents an increase of 8.4 million customers since November 2000, when the research firm last conducted a similar study. Gartner Dataquest is the market research arm of business consulting firm Gartner. "As more and more of the world get on (the Internet), you want to be on it too," said Peggy Schoener, a senior communications industry analyst at Gartner Dataquest.

"As it gets more accepted, the others come along." Despite the increase in rates for high-speed Internet access and the demise of portions of the market for DSL (digital subscriber line) connections, Gartner Dataquest estimates that just shy of 25 percent of U.S. households online connect to the Internet via a broadband connection. DSL and cable modems are the two leading methods of high-speed Net access. The study shows that cable modems, which have led the broadband race for years, account for more than 50 percent of all broadband connections. According to the survey, almost 20 percent of dial-up Internet customers said they intend to subscribe to a high-speed alternative by mid-2002.

Third-Largest Memory Chipmaker in Financial Crisis

Banks controlling the fate of South Korea's cash-strapped Hynix Semiconductor questioned its long-term viability on Friday, rocking Hynix shares and setting the stage for a meeting of key creditors next week. Korea Exchange Bank has asked lenders for more than $3.93 billion for Hynix just three months after a similar bailout. The world's third-largest memory chipmaker needs funds to staunch losses from a record downturn in chip prices. Its banks voiced concerns over the deal ahead of a key meeting on Monday. "Only when creditors can get a clearer picture of its viability will we help Hynix, including measures to extend fresh loans," Hanvit Bank Chief Executive Lee Duk-hoon told reporters. State-run Hanvit is one of a half dozen lenders who hold more than 75 percent of Hynix's debt and therefore control its fate. "If creditors fail to extend support for Hynix, perhaps because of uncertain prospects about a possible recovery in chip prices, the Hynix issue will be resolved according to market principles, which makes court receivership likely," Finance Minister Jin Nyum said on a radio talk show. "Although the government is a major shareholder in commercial banks, it goes against market principles for the government to meddle," he said.

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