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Week of July 29, 2001 News Archive

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Monday July 30, 2001 Top

Upgraded Pentium III Officially Announced Today

Intel Corporation today announced five new processors based on Intel's advanced 0.13-micron (130 nanometer) process technology that significantly increase the capabilities of mobile PCs. The new family of Intel Pentium III Processor-M products feature architectural enhancements to increase performance, reduce power and improve battery life. They are available in volume today at speeds up to 1.13 GHz, the industry's fastest speed for mobile processors. By incorporating its advanced 130-nanometer process technology, Intel is able to build transistors (the switches used to create the ones and zeroes of the information age) that are the fastest in the industry. This new process technology also features high speed copper interconnects that accelerate the flow of data inside the processor, further increasing performance while consuming less power.

Processors built on Intel's 130-nanometer technology consume up to 40 percent less power and are up to 20 percent faster than the previous 180 (0.18-micron) nanometer process. Chips using Intel's 130-nanometer technology contain circuitry that is about 1/1000th the width of a human hair (1000 nanometers equal 1-micron). The five new mobile processors at speeds of 1.13 GHz, 1.06 GHz, 1.0 GHz, 933 MHz, and 866 MHz are available today. In Enhanced Speed Step automatic mode, the mobile Intel Pentium III Processor-M runs at up to 1.13 GHz at 1.4 volts (Maximum Performance Mode). In Battery Optimized Mode, it runs at 733 MHz and 1.15 volts, and consumes less than 2 watts of average power.

In 1,000-unit quantities, with either micro-flip-chip Ball Grid Array or micro-flip-chip Pin Grid Array packaging, the mobile Pentium III Processor-M at 1.13 GHz, 1.06 GHz, 1.0 GHz, 933 MHz, and 866 MHz are priced at $625, $499, $394, $278 and $247, respectively. Intel is also moving forward with plans for desktop and server processors as well as flash memory components manufactured on the 130-nanometer process. The Pentium III processor at speeds of 1.2 GHz and 1.13 GHz will soon be available for small form-factor desktop PCs. In addition, a 1.13-GHz Intel Pentium III processor for single and dual-processor servers has been shipping since May. Several OEMs have already introduced systems based on this technology, with more expected in the third quarter. Intel also expects to release a 1.26-GHz version of the Pentium III processor for servers later this year. These products are used in systems targeting front-end, application servers and deliver a balance of performance and lower power without sacrificing reliability and availability.

Successor to PCI Likely Finalized This Week

A key industry group has all but approved an Intel technology to overhaul the innards of PCs, with full consent expected Friday. Currently, everything from modems to network cards plugs into computers using the widespread PCI (Peripheral Components Interconnect) standard. But increasing the speed of PCI will become prohibitively expensive, and engineers have been searching for an alternative that will let computers keep pace with ever-faster CPUs. Rival chipmakers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices each had designs that could do the trick, with AMD's HyperTransport further along than Intel's. But now, after the industry group in charge of PCI met Friday, the question of succession has been largely decided in favor of Intel's technology, code-named Arapahoe and sometimes called 3GIO. The political maneuvering was first reported by CNET on Wednesday.

A final vote by PCI-SIG is scheduled for Friday, after lawyers from member companies have had a week to review Arapahoe, but the group is expected to adopt the technology, PCI-SIG President Roger Tipley said in an interview. "The intent of Arapahoe is to be the one unifying input-output technology of the future," Tipley said. "There wasn't anything negative said about adopting the technology. The extra week of due diligence may not have been warranted, but it helps all the board members feel better." Arapahoe could be used to speed the transfer of data to not only network cards but graphics systems as well, and to the subsystems that must funnel the huge amounts of data associated with digital images or video, said Bala Cadambi, third-generation interconnect program manager at Intel's Desktop Platform Group. "Ultimately, the goal is to make sure we have a specification ready where products are ready by the second half of 2003," said Michelle Leyden Li, platform initiatives manager in Intel's Desktop Platform Group. Intel plans to describe Arapahoe details at its Intel Developer Forum beginning Aug. 28.

The latest version of PCI, called PCI-X, satisfies current data-transfer needs, said Instat/MDR analyst Cary Snyder, but that will change. "In the next couple years...PCI-X no longer has the bandwidth. That's when Arapahoe would be ready to come into its own," he said. Though Intel and PCI-SIG executives declined to give details on Arapahoe, Tipley said the standard will offer speed, cost and longevity benefits over the current PCI while using the same control commands. That means today's PCI software won't have to be rewritten to support Arapahoe hardware. Whereas today's PCI transfers data across 32 or 64 parallel wires, Arapahoe will use fewer, higher-speed lines, and data won't have to be synchronized across the collection. Current PCI-X has a total bandwidth of 1.1 gigabytes per second, with each wire carrying about 138 megabits per second. When Arapahoe is ready, that may increase by a factor of four to eight, but Arapahoe will be even faster than that, Tipley said.

Software Sales Up Despite PC Hardware Slowdown

Retail sales of software inched past peak levels in the first half of 2001, fueled by demand for financial and security software for PCs, according to market researcher NPD Intelect. Although sales of PCs sold in stores and through catalogs have sunk compared with the same period last year, the continued flat or even slightly higher sales of software programs are bringing a sense of relief to retailers. "A lot of people were holding their breath because of all the dismal performance of hardware sector," NPD analyst Steve Koenig said. "It definitely is good news for retailers that demand for software remains steady compared with a year ago and even improved by a thin margin." For the first half of 2001, 69.65 million software units were sold by stores and catalogs, up slightly from the 69.6 million in the first half of 2000 and from the 68.4 million units in the same period in 1999.

Intuit, maker of Quicken products, holds 70.6 percent share of the retail market. H&R Block, maker of Kiplinger TaxCut software, holds 28.3 percent. Retailers sold 29.2 percent more security software packages in first half of 2001 than in the first half of 2000. Slightly higher average selling prices helped push revenue from virus detection titles up 32.3 percent. Symantec's Norton series of security and anti-virus software holds 68.2 percent unit share of the market. Network Associates has 29 percent. Unit sales of communication software, such as e-mail programs, rose 35.9 percent with revenue jumping almost 11 percent. In the operating systems market, Microsoft's Windows Me drove dollar sales in the segment 25.9 percent higher in the first half of 2001 than in the same period last year. Retail revenue from Microsoft Windows increased 31.5 percent from the previous year, driven by sales of Windows Me. Meanwhile, dollar sales of the Linux operating system fell more than 40 percent. The release of OS X in March helped Apple Computer's OS sales improve nearly 20 percent during the first half of 2001 from the same period last year.

BMG Entertainment Plans to Test Copy Protected CD's

BMG Entertainment said Monday it will work with security technology provider SunnComm to create copy-protected CDs, one of a growing number of efforts by the record labels to combat alleged Internet piracy at the source.Under the deal, SunnComm said BMG will use its technology, dubbed MediaCloQ, which prevents people from being able to "rip" songs directly from a CD onto a computer. BMG said it is testing SunnComm's technology and is starting to implement it on promotional CDs. BMG said it will decide later whether to use SunnComm's technology for commercial releases. SunnComm has worked with record labels in the past on CD-copy protection, although the results have been inconclusive. A CD by country artist Charley Pride incorporating its technology was released in U.S. stores in May, but that did not stop unauthorized copies from leaking onto the Net. SunnComm said the leaked songs did not come from a cracked CD but were likely copied from an unprotected set of CDs released in Australia.

Last year, BMG Germany experimented with secure CDs using technology from Israeli security company Midbar. The experiment failed, and BMG abandoned its project after complaints from customers who said their players could not read the discs. Phoenix-based SunnComm would not disclose details of its technology. SunnComm said the MediaCloQ technology is applied to the CD at the manufacturing stage--at the encoding level--so that it prevents people from ripping songs. "You cannot see the content," said William Whitmore Jr., executive vice president at SunnComm. "You cannot rip what you can't see." While the deal with BMG is at an evaluation stage, SunnComm is hoping that the deal will enable the company to move forward and get noticed by the other record labels.

Microsoft Forces MSN Icon on Windows XP Desktop

Microsoft will allow computer makers to put icons for competing products on the desktop of its new computer operating system--as long as they plug Microsoft's MSN Internet service as well. Company spokesman Vivek Varma said Microsoft has told computer manufacturers they have two choices for how they configure Windows XP, due out Oct. 25. They can either ship computers with a desktop free of any icons or they can add as many icons as they want, but only if they also include an icon for Microsoft's MSN Internet access. The decision was made public only after computer maker Compaq said Friday it had struck a deal with Microsoft rival America Online to exclusively feature AOL's Internet service on the start-up sequence of computers featuring Windows XP. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant had previously announced that it would loosen restrictions on the new desktop operating system to let computer makers remove the icon for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser and replace it with a rival browser such as Netscape Navigator, also owned by AOL. Varma argued that by requiring MSN be featured on the desktop, Microsoft is simply giving consumers a choice of products. That left executives at AOL, Microsoft's chief rival, fuming. "It appears that Microsoft is backing off their much ballyhooed itty bitty teeny weeny sliver of flexibility and heading back to the rigid stance that has been slapped down by the second-highest court in the land," said AOL Time Warner Vice President John Buckley.

Tuesday July 31, 2001 Top

Maxtor Announces Release of Ultra ATA/133 Specification

Maxtor Corporation today announced the release of the Ultra ATA/133 hard drive interface specification, which boosts data transfer rates between the computer and the hard drive up to 133 megabytes (MB) per second. The new interface is one-third faster than earlier record-breaking Ultra ATA/100 technology integrated in most PC computer systems and performance adapter cards sold today. Currently, VIA Technologies Inc, Silicon Integrated Systems Corp, Promise Technology Inc, and Silicon Image have formally completed licensing agreements to use Maxtor's Ultra ATA/133 interface technology in upcoming systems and chipsets. "Maxtor's Ultra ATA patented technology has been the de facto standard since 1996," said Vic Jipson, executive vice president of engineering for Maxtor. "The Ultra ATA interface has been one of the computer industry's most important achievements and can be found on almost 90 percent of all hard drive, CD-ROM, and DVD equipped systems shipped in the world today." The Ultra ATA/133 Fast Drives interface is currently being built into next-generation products. ACARD Technology Corp, Acer Laboratories Inc, Adaptec Inc, Agere Systems, HighPoint Technologies Inc and Pacific Digital Corporation will also be among the first to adopt the new specification.

"Fast and smooth data transfer between memory and hard drive is essential for digital video, audio and gaming experience," said Richard Brown, director of marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. "Large capacity and fast access to data storage are also key for the performance of servers and workstations. By working closely with Maxtor to enable the cutting-edge Fast Drive interface and Big Drive capacity, VIA will bring the user experience to a new level for both consumer and commercial markets." The Ultra ATA/133 interface uses Maxtor patented technology that was previously incorporated into the highly successful Ultra ATA/66 and Ultra ATA/100 interfaces. It is also backward compatible with the existing ATA standard. Personal computer users who want to upgrade from Ultra ATA/100 to Ultra ATA/133 will need to purchase a compliant adapter card or system motherboard along with the new hard drives. It is anticipated that licensed partners will announce and begin shipping products that incorporate Fast Drive technology during the second half of 2001. Widespread PC adoption is expected in 2002.

Integraph Sues Intel Over Itanium

Workstation manufacturer Intergraph has filed a new patent lawsuit against Intel, claiming that the world's largest semiconductor company used patented Intergraph technology in its new line of Itanium high-end server processors. Itanium, based on the IA-64 platform developed by Intel and Hewlett-Packard, was officially launched earlier this year after delays and testing. It uses the EPIC (explicitly parallel instruction computing) instruction set, which the lawsuit claims conflicts with 1993 Intergraph patents relating to instruction routing and parallelism. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court (Eastern District of Texas). Intergraph also filed suit against Intel in 1997, claiming that Intel used Intergraph patents in the Pentium line of processors. The 1997 suit is still awaiting a trial date, and Intergraph says it is unrelated to the Itanium suit. Intergraph says that Itanium specifically infringes two patents for technology developed in 1992 by Intergraph's Advanced Processor Division for the C5 Clipper microprocessor. The patents cover parallel instruction computing (PIC) techniques used to convey parallelism to hardware and a method of routing instructions to processing units, according to Intergraph. In 1993 Intergraph scrapped development of the C5 Clipper chip in favor of a line of Pentium-based workstations. "Intel's Itanium-based products, which are just now becoming commercially available, infringe upon Intergraph's patented PIC technology, developed almost a decade before Intel introduced the Itanium," said Intergraph Chief Executive Jim Taylor in an official statement.

Study Finds that Game Ratings Under Report Violence

Roughly three out of five video games rated suitable for children as young as 6 years old reward players for injuring or killing characters, Harvard researchers said Tuesday. "Physicians and parents should understand that popular E-rated video games may be a source of exposure to violence that rewards (children) for violent actions,'' said the report published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. An E-rating is the video game world's equivalent of a G-rated movie, having "content suitable for persons aged 6 and older,'' said the report from the Harvard School of Public Health. The Entertainment Software Rating Board, a panel created in 1994 to evaluate video games for children, is supposed to give its "E'' rating to games containing minimal violence, but the Harvard researchers said many such games contained a significant level of violence.

"With all of the questions about the impact of violence in video games on children, this is the first study to our knowledge to quantify the amount of violence in E-rated video games and to show that many E-rated video games do involve violence, killing and the use of weapons in the normal course of play,'' study authors Kimberly Thompson and Kevin Haninger wrote. The software rating board also uses content descriptions to warn parents about violent games. The pervasiveness of video games was illustrated in a 1999 Kaiser Family Foundation study that found 70 percent of American children aged 2 to 18 live in homes with at least one video game player and that one-third had it in their bedrooms. After compiling a list of 672 E-rated games, researchers at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis played 55 of them and then analyzed videotape recordings of their play to assess the amount of violence in each game. The researchers found 35 of the 55 sampled E-rated games depicted intentional acts of violence ranging from 1.5 percent of the time in a hockey game to 91 percent of the time in an action game. Twenty-seven of the games depicted deaths from violence.

ATI Ships New USB TV Tuner for the Mac

ATI Technologies Inc. announced today that it is now shipping the highly anticipated XCLAIM TV USB EDITION external TV tuner to the Macintosh consumer market for just (USD) $99 manufacturer's suggested retail price. "ATI has always been committed to the Macintosh market and continues to deliver great graphics products," said Jewelle Schiedel-Webb, Director, Desktop Marketing, ATI Technologies Inc. "XCLAIM TV USB EDITION, now on store shelves, is yet another example of the innovative solutions ATI is producing for Mac users." XCLAIM TV USB EDITION is ideal for Mac users to watch TV on Apple desktops or mobile systems through an easy, single cable installation into the computer's USB (Universal Serial Bus) port. Features include: Channel Preview for quick previews of "what's on"; Hot Words to identify key words and phrases in a desired TV program using the closed captioning stream; and Parental Control to allow parents to lock in or lock out selected channels and monitor or limit their children's exposure to adult programming. XCLAIM TV USB EDITION enables Mac users to easily multitask by watching TV while downloading from the Internet or keeping an eye on a favorite TV show while responding to e-mail messages. XCLAIM TV USB EDITION adds TV capabilities to Apple systems that have a USB port, including the iMac, PowerBook, iBook, or G3/G4 Macintosh. No additional power supply is required. A cable TV signal or amplified antenna is also required. The OS support includes Mac OS 8.6 to 9.1 and QuickTime 4.0 or higher.

Third Apple Store Opening This Weekend in Texas

Apple Computer is stepping up its retail efforts, opening its third retail store and expanding an effort that puts Apple employees inside CompUSA stores. The Dallas-area store will open on Friday at a brand new mall, The Shops at Willow Bend. Apple is also set to open its shop at the Mall of America outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul on Aug. 11 and a Chicago-area store on Aug. 25. A Boston-area shop is also set to open next month as part of the computer maker's plans to open 25 stores this year. Meanwhile, Apple is also broadening a pilot program that puts Apple employees inside its store-within-a-store locations at CompUSA outlets. "Apple sales representatives are working in several CompUSA retail locations to help enhance the customer buying experience," Apple said in a statement provided to CNET "This pilot program started on April 1, and we'll continue to review its success."

David Bailey, a Gerard Klauer Mattison analyst who follows Apple, said that putting Apple workers inside CompUSA outlets could help Mac sales. "Apple has unique products, and they need a retail system that allows them to articulate the benefits," Bailey said. "It appears the best way for them to do that is to use Apple employees, whether in their own stores or selected national retailers." Using the base of CompUSA stores makes sense given that Apple will only have a handful of its own stores, at least this year, Bailey said. Plus, being in CompUSA could help Apple in its stated goal of trying to sway potential Windows-based computer buyers to consider Apple. Apple executives have stated their unhappiness with the way Macs are sold by some retailers. In a January conference call with financial analysts, Apple Senior Vice President Tim Cook said the company was looking for better representation and would cut ties with some of its sellers.

Wednesday August 1, 2001 Top

Intel Will Not Support Ultra ATA/133

Throughout the last six years, the AT attachment (ATA) standard has been the one constant in the PC storage industry. But not any longer. On Tuesday, Maxtor officially announced the ATA-133 storage standard. ATA-133 is an interface designed to bridge the gap between ATA-100 drives and Serial ATA, whose one-year delay at Intel was first reported by ExtremeTech. However, the new ATA-133 interface won't be supported by Intel itself, the largest chipset manufacturer in the industry. An official at Seagate Technology also gave a thumbs-down to the new technology in favor of Serial ATA. IBM's Storage Systems Division remains undecided, as does Acer Laboratories, a smaller chipset house. Chipset manufacturers Via Technologies and Silicon Integrated Systems, however, have endorsed the new standard. The result: a split in the storage industry for the first time since 1994, when Western Digital came up with the Enhanced IDE specification. PC buyers and builders will now have to factor in storage questions when choosing a chipset provider, observers concluded.

The struggle once again pits Intel and Via, the two largest chipset suppliers, against each other. In addition, Maxtor, which captured the top spot in drive manufacturing when it acquired the hard disk drive division of Quantum, will take on second-ranked Seagate with the new standard. Analysts said that an additional question mark hangs over the optical storage market, which has yet to weigh in on the ATA-133/Serial ATA debate. "This certainly has the potential for throwing a lot of monkey wrenches into (the storage industry)," one market watcher concluded.The debate lies in the need for faster data transfer rates. Specifically, the question is whether hard-disk drives are pushing the limits of the 100MB-per-second ATA-100 interface. Officials at one drive manufacturer--one not supporting the standard--scoffed at the notion that data rates would push beyond 100MB per second by 2003, when Intel's fifth I/O Controller Hub (ICH-5) is due to ship. (Originally, the 150MB Serial ATA standard was due next year in ICH-4, but Intel officials confirmed a one-year delay last week.)

WI-Fi Gets Boost From Microsoft and Intel

Although still committed to rival technology Bluetooth, Microsoft and Intel are putting their muscle behind 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, which also enables short-range wireless links between computers and other devices. The two technology powerhouses are joining the board of directors at the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), an industry group pushing Wi-Fi as a universal platform for small wireless networks. WECA is expected to announce the addition of Microsoft to its board on Wednesday. Intel, which until now hadn't even joined WECA as a regular member, has yet to officially disclose its new affiliation and prominent role, but WECA has already added the computer chipmaker's name to a Web page listing its board of directors. The moves by Microsoft and Intel--both prominent among Bluetooth backers--provide another boost to the unexpected momentum building behind Wi-Fi. While not yet the de facto standard Bluetooth was expected to be, Wi-Fi has scored a series of coups over the past year, most recently with Microsoft's decision to weave the Wi-Fi standard into Windows XP, the upcoming overhaul to the software maker's ubiquitous computer operating system. Meanwhile, computer makers such as Dell Computer and IBM have begun offering built-in Wi-Fi capabilities with their machines, and a growing number of public venues such as airports, hotels and Starbucks coffee shops are providing Internet access via Wi-Fi transmitters. "It's about Bluetooth being ready for mass market adoption. Bluetooth has not progressed, unfortunately, at the phenomenal rate of Wi-Fi," said Jawad Khaki, vice president for Windows network communications. "Microsoft has worked very hard in being ready for when Bluetooth matures. But we're disappointed that the progress has not been as fast as the industry said it would."

Kodak Details Complaint Against Windows XP

Corporate behemoths Microsoft and Eastman Kodak exchanged harsh words Tuesday over the digital photography features that are built into Windows XP, the forthcoming upgrade to Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system. The showdown took place at an event in New York City where Microsoft and 20 companies extolled the features in Windows XP for loading, manipulating, storing and printing digital photos. Kodak, however, sought to grab the spotlight and divert it to some features of XP that it claims limit consumer choice. "We believe that Windows XP restricts consumers' choice when it comes to digital photography applications," Kodak spokesman Anthony Sanzio said in an interview. "We also believe that Microsoft gives its own application preferential treatment...and steers consumers' transactions toward Microsoft's (offerings) or Microsoft-preferred vendors." Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan countered that "Kodak is just not being forthcoming in the truth about the situation." He added that Kodak, which launched an expanded photo service with America Online on Tuesday, would like to limit consumers to its own photography software. "They want their software in Windows (XP) to basically handle everything to do with pictures."

Kodak's concerns are focused on two areas: the ability to choose the default application for manipulating photos, and Web-based photo printing services that are built into Windows XP. In a statement released Tuesday, Kodak said "Windows XP makes it difficult for consumers to set as the default the digital photo application of their choice." In addition, Kodak said that Windows XP includes a list of "Microsoft-preferred" services for sending digital photos to a Web-based photo-printing service. "Microsoft plans to charge an up-front listing fee and a transaction revenue share to those companies included on this list, in effect 'taxing the Internet.'" As for the ease in selecting a photo application, Cullinan countered that Kodak's own device driver defaults to its software. Drivers are pieces of software that allow a PCs to recognize various peripherals such as scanners, printers or digital cameras. Significantly, Microsoft has "not signed off" on the driver, and the driver is not included in the current version of Windows XP, called Release Candidate 2. Although the driver could be downloaded, a dialog box will appear on the PC stating that the driver has not been tested for use with Windows XP and may not be reliable, Cullinan said. "We have asked Microsoft whether they would sign our driver and they have told us 'no,' they would not. Microsoft has given us no indication of why they would not sign (the driver), nor have they have given us indication of the requirements."

PC Makers Selling Placement on Windows XP Desktop

Microsoft's decision to give PC makers more freedom in customizing Windows XP may give profit-starved computer manufacturers an unexpected windfall: cash bonuses from software makers, Internet service providers and other companies eager to gain a spot on the operating system's desktop and Start menu. Several PC makers report fierce negotiations with a variety of software companies and service providers for valuable Windows XP real estate, but none yet reports reaching a final agreement. An unplanned cash boon from prime placement of icons could bolster manufacturers' bottom lines as PC sales hover at record lows. AOL, in the most publicized deals for XP placement, has been brokering new arrangements for where icons go with at least nine PC makers, according to documents seen by CNET PC makers get payments from AOL based on whether consumers sign up for the company's services and how long they remain subscribers, the documents show. But other companies are also vying for prime location, said sources, in what may be the most important Windows upgrade in six years.

"The floodgates are open," said a representative of one PC maker, describing the interest in Windows XP real estate. The representative wouldn't talk about specific companies, other than to say, "some of them are companies you would never think of." Search portal AltaVista is in "active negotiations" with "some OEMs" said a person familiar with the discussions. AltaVista representatives were not available for comment. Other companies potentially involved in negotiations for Windows XP placement include Internet service provider Earthlink and streaming-media provider RealNetworks, said sources. A representative from Earthlink would not comment on any potential deals with PC makers. The interest in desktop and Start menu real estate is industrywide and may take in companies with fairly narrow focuses, said Gartner analyst Michael Silver. "It could be folks in the travel industry for consumer machines. It could be folks in the small-business industry for (PCs) targeted at small business."

Mac OS X 10.1 Betas Widespread on the Net

Apple Computer, famously tight-lipped about its product releases, is finding it difficult to keep a lid on an important upgrade to Mac OS X upgrade. The trading of beta, or test, copies of Mac OS X version 10.1 is running fast and furious on the Internet, with Mac enthusiasts willing to put up with five- or six-hour downloads--even over speedy broadband connections--to get the software. Internet chat rooms are abuzz about the release, which offers performance improvements, DVD playback and recording, and refinements to Mac OS X 10's Aqua user interface. Apple is expected to release Mac OS X 10.1 in September. Current OS X users will be able to buy the update for about $20, according to Apple. Typically, Apple releases OS test versions to a select group of developers and beta testers, who sign nondisclosure agreements. But enthusiasm for "Puma"--the code name for Mac OS X 10.1--has opened a floodgate of leaked betas. "I am surprised at the leaks. If at this stage of the game, there are these kinds of leaks, imagine the impact on sales when (the software) is released," said Tim Deal, an analyst at Technology Business Research. At least three versions, or builds, of the release are currently in wide circulation: 5D15, 5F7 and 5F24. The latter was seen by CNET

As anticipation grows for Mac OS X 10.1's release, so does the pressure on Apple to deliver the upgrade on time and with improvements in speed and stability. Apple released Mac OS X in late March and started shipping the OS on new computers two months later. Apple CEO Steve Jobs previewed Puma at New York Macworld. Besides speedier performance and interface tweaks, Jobs promised OS X 10.1 will offer long-delayed DVD playback and a new version of Apple's DVD authoring software. "This is what they should have released in the first place," Deal said. "These are the kinds of features and performance Apple needed to deliver when they released Mac OS X." If the beta seen by is any indication, Apple may have licked some of Mac OS X's biggest shortcomings, particularly slow performance using the file system and Aqua interface. "The current version of OS X is a tad sluggish, but only in (user interface) transactions, like growing a window," Barbose said.

Thursday August 2, 2001 Top

Microsoft Antitrust Case Requests Denied by Court

A federal appeals court on Thursday issued setbacks to both Microsoft and the government in their long-running antitrust battle. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Microsoft's request that it reconsider its June decision that the software giant illegally integrated its Internet browser with its Windows operating system. The court, in the tersely worded brief, also denied a request by the Justice Department and 18 states to forgo the normal waiting period before returning the case to a lower court. The government sought to avoid a mandated 52-day waiting period, dated from the appeals court's June 28 decision, before returning the case to the District Court. The government's request to speed up the case was seen as a necessary step should it seek an injunction that might delay the scheduled Oct. 25 release of Windows XP, the company's new operating system, antitrust experts said. In June, the appeals court upheld eight separate antitrust violations against Microsoft. The Redmond, Wash.-based company asked for rehearing on one: commingling.

The appeals court found that Microsoft's commingling of Internet Explorer code with Windows 95 and 98 was an anticompetitive act. In the court order issed Thursday, the appellate judges denied Microsoft's request for a rehearing, and wrote that: "Nothing in the court's opinion is intended to preclude the District Court's consideration of remedy issues." Antitrust law experts said the order means that the District Court has free rein to choose a remedy in the case. "That last sentence (of the order) suggests that the District Court has complete discretion to decide what is the right remedy," said Kevin Arquit, an attorney with the firm Clifford, Chance, Rogers & Wells. "The court of appeals was not telling the District Court that a breakup was off the table." The denial of the government's request to speed up the case could derail any movement to delay the shipment of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system.

Fujitsu Exits Desktop Hard Drive Business

Fujitsu Computer Products of America announced late Wednesday that it will exit the desktop hard drive business to focus on the more profitable notebook and server markets. In addition to scanners and magneto optical drives, Fujitsu makes hard drives for desktop PCs, notebooks and servers. The desktop hard drive business is notorious for its highly competitive environment, which is thick with competitors, but thin with margins. "The desktop hard drive business is very saturated and the low margins make it an especially limited growth market," Fujitsu Vice President Mike Chenery said. "In order to take a leadership position in a market, it helps to be one of the first player in that market. We weren't there with desktop drives, but we stand a better chance in the notebook market." The move should alleviate some of the price pressure in the industry and could help to turn the market around once the economy starts to pick up, said David Reinsel, an IDC analyst. "Fujitsu's competitors will welcome the move because they can get the additional business," Reinsel said. "Fortunately for Fujitsu, they have businesses in mobile and enterprise to support this move." Fujitsu had counted Maxtor, Seagate, Western Digital IBM and Samsung as competitors in the desktop hard drive business. Fujitsu was fifth in market share with about 9 percent of the market. The profit margin for desktop hard drives is in the single digits. In the notebook and server markets where Fujitsu will now turn its attention, margins are in the high teens to low 20 percent range, according to IDC. And Fujitsu has a more solid position in both markets compared with desktop hard drives.

Intel Plans to Open Plant to Build More Pentium 4's

Intel announced plans Thursday to open its new network-processor design center in Malaysia, the first such center in Asia for the world's leading maker of computer chips. The Southeast Asian country is expected to assemble, test and package the Pentium 4 chip, the U.S. company's highest-performance microprocessor for desktop computers, Intel Chief Executive Craig Barrett said. These activities "demonstrate how we are building on Malaysia's manufacturing expertise to expand into new areas," Barrett said in a statement during a brief visit to Malaysia's northern Penang state. "Manufacturing industries focused on (research and development), skill development and continued investment will remain competitive in the global market," Barrett said. In a separate interview with Reuters, Barrett also said he thinks that despite the ongoing global economic slump, "the computer industry has bottomed out. That in itself tells you that you're looking at when it's gonna take off." The Intel CEO predicted that PC demand would improve during the second half of the year as students purchase new computers for school and buying increases during the holiday season. Microsoft's introduction of its new Windows XP operating system will also help.

Dell Stops Shipping Consumer PC's With Linux

Dell Computer has ceased shipping Linux on its desktop and notebook PCs. Citing slow demand for the operating system on client PCs over the last several quarters, a Dell spokesman said the PC maker chose to stop preinstalling Red Hat Linux on desktop and notebook models. The move was not unexpected. Dell executives have suggested that the operating system has more potential for workstations and servers. The desktop decision was largely a financial one, influenced by the slow PC market, said Dell spokesman David Graves. Dell has not bid goodbye to the operating system altogether. The Texas-based PC maker continues to offer workstation and server models with Red Hat preinstalled. The company recently began installing the latest version of Red Hat, version 7.1. In addition, Dell will likely continue to offer Red Hat Linux to larger customers who wish to custom-configure desktop PCs or notebooks with the operating system.

Analysts seemed unsurprised by the move. "Linux has held a very small portion of the market" for desktop PCs, said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of systems software research at IDC. Despite an initial splash last year, and efforts by groups such as Gnome to build graphical user interfaces to run on top of Linux, it has been difficult for the operating system to get a foot in the door of the desktop market, said Red Hat spokesperson Melissa London. "With Linux, the productivity suites just aren't there," London said. As a result, she added, "you're fighting a pretty big uphill battle" to establish the operating system on the desktop. Kusnetsky agreed that a shortage of applications was hurting Linux on the desktop. "If the application is only available in one place, (PC buyers) will select that place," he said. t may be a while, though, before Linux breaks into the desktop market. "I think that the Linux people are doing something else" besides desktop applications," Kusnetsky said. "There are all kinds of devices that aren't PCs. Linux people seem to really be focusing their attention on embedded, mobile and wireless."

Code Red Worms Begins to Slow Down

Apple Computer, famously tight-lipped about its product releases, is finding it difficult to keep a lid on an important upgrade to Mac OS X upgrade. The trading of beta, or test, copies of Mac OS X version 10.1 is running fast and furious on the Internet, with Mac enthusiasts willing to put up with five- or six-hour downloads--even over speedy broadband connections--to get the software. Internet chat rooms are abuzz about the release, which offers performance improvements, DVD playback and recording, and refinements to Mac OS X 10's Aqua user interface. Apple is expected to release Mac OS X 10.1 in September. Current OS X users will be able to buy the update for about $20, according to Apple. Typically, Apple releases OS test versions to a select group of developers and beta testers, who sign nondisclosure agreements. But enthusiasm for "Puma"--the code name for Mac OS X 10.1--has opened a floodgate of leaked betas. "I am surprised at the leaks. If at this stage of the game, there are these kinds of leaks, imagine the impact on sales when (the software) is released," said Tim Deal, an analyst at Technology Business Research. At least three versions, or builds, of the release are currently in wide circulation: 5D15, 5F7 and 5F24. The latter was seen by CNET

Friday August 3, 2001 Top

Intel Design Becomes Successor to PCI

Compaq, Dell, IBM, Intel and Microsoft, promoters of a third-generation interconnect architecture, and the PCI-SIG, a non-profit special interest group, today announced a working relationship to define a new serial I/O interconnect architecture code-named "Arapahoe." The Arapahoe architecture will allow high-speed connection of components inside a system and offer increased bandwidth for emerging applications. The Arapahoe promoters chose the PCI-SIG as the preferred industry body to promote and support an open, cross-industry interconnect architecture. The Arapahoe promoters and the PCI-SIG have entered into an agreement to manage the Arapahoe architecture based on the PCI-SIG's proven ability to promote interconnect standard requirements such as PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect). Although PCI will continue to be used in product designs, the PCI-SIG recognizes that the Arapahoe architecture offers an opportunity to develop a new interconnect to address bandwidth demands of increasingly powerful applications such as desktop, mobile, servers and embedded communications. Arapahoe is the general-purpose interconnect of the future for these demanding applications.

"PCI lives on in 'Arapahoe.' While today's PCI will fulfill the needs of local I/O devices for many years to come, a broad range of applications will see the benefits of choosing the Arapahoe interface," said Roger Tipley, president of the PCI-SIG. "Arapahoe's scalability expands the list of hardware solutions that will gravitate to PCI-SIG technologies, and PCI-SIG adoption will help establish Arapahoe as a highly successful industry standard I/O interface." Executives from promoter companies Compaq, Dell, IBM, Intel and Microsoft fully endorse the Arapahoe Work Group objective to enable an open industry specification. Arapahoe will be designed as a highly flexible, reliable, serial I/O architecture that will scale to the theoretical limits of copper, and comprehend the needs of multiple markets. "One of the most compelling benefits of Arapahoe architecture is its ability to not only support high levels of I/O bandwidth, but also deliver maximum bandwidth per pin creating both a scalable and cost-effective I/O solution," said Louis Burns, Intel vice president and general manager, Desktop Platforms Group. "Arapahoe will co-exist and complement other I/O attach technologies such as InfiniBand, IEEE 1394b, USB 2.0, serial ATA and 1/10Gb Ethernet."

Another Vulnerability is Found in Wi-Fi

Researchers have discovered a way to quickly break through the security system that protects the leading corporate wireless networking system, a trade group said Friday. While computer security experts had previously uncovered weaknesses in Wi-Fi, a standard for wireless-data communication also known as 802.11b, the latest discovery is being treated with more concern, because it is more feasible and takes less time to carry out. The new attack allows a hacker to discover the "secret key" used to encrypt data before it goes into the air. The group that promotes the Wi-Fi standard, which briefed reporters and analysts prior to the publication of a paper that details the vulnerability, said it has long urged wireless network users to supplement Wi-Fi's built-in security system with stronger encryption tools. "Companies that have something worth attacking are likely to--and if they're not, they certainly should--put in other forms of network protection," said David Cohen, chairman of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance.

Digital Photography Features in Windows XP Introduced

Despite possible legal threats to Windows XP, more than 20 of Microsoft's OEM and ISV partners this week announced support for new features in the future OS. At a press conference in New York on Tuesday, Microsoft officials reaffirmed that XP will ship as planned on Oct. 25. Chris Jones, VP of Microsoft's Windows Division, reiterated the position, also delivered by Microsoft Group VP Jim Allchin this week, that Microsoft has made no "contingency plans" to unbundle any of the new features in response to potential court challenges. Microsoft is still facing possible legal action surrounding a federal suit alleging earlier antitrust violations. Privately, officials of Microsoft and its OEM partner Eastman Kodak clashed on Tuesday over what kinds of support XP will give to Kodak's digital cameras and online photo ordering service.

Still, Kodak was on hand as an exhibitor at the press event, along with fellow camera manufacturers Canon, Fuji, Hewlett-Packard, Olympus and Sony; PC producers Compaq and Dell; several ISVs and online photo services; Intel; scanning specialist Umax Technologies; printer OEMs Epson and Lexmark; and monitor maker NEC-Mitsubishi Electronic Visual Systems. Sony, for one, is also supporting Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP), an emerging hardware interoperability standard initiated by the PIMA industry group. At this point, PTP has only been defined for USB, although plans are in the works to support wireless and IEEE1394 transports. A Fuji spokesperson said on Tuesday that Fuji will instead rely on an auto-recognition feature in USB 1.0 for recognition of its digital camera drivers. Jones also pointed to several new digital photography features already available in Windows XP release candidate 2 (RC2), which shipped to manufacturers this week.

Those features include a scanner and camera wizard, support for Sony memory stick and rewritable CD-ROM media, enhanced image compression, the ability to publish photos to the Web, and a series of "new views" in the My Pictures folder. The new views in XP consist of thumbnails, image preview, filmstrip view, and a tile view providing "meta data" or properties such as image resolution, date and file format of each photo. Windows XP, though, will also come with only "rudimentary" photo editing features, according to Jones. To add more advanced features, users will need to install either Microsoft's Picture It! software or third-party packages from ISVs like The Learning Company; Shutterfly; ArcSoft; or Ulead Systems.

Corel Releases New WordPerfect Bundle

Corel Corporation announced today that WordPerfect Family Pack 3 is now available in stores across North America. This easy-to-use yet powerful collection of software applications is designed to meet the home computing needs of all the members of a household. WordPerfect Family Pack 3 is available at the affordable suggested retail price of US $99 (Can $149). Applications Included in WordPerfect Family Pack 3: Task Manager, WordPerfect 9, Quattro Pro 9, Corel Print House 5, Corel Photo House 5, Compton's Interactive World Atlas, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 11, McAfee VirusScan, and Internet content filter, CYBERsitter 2000. "Following on the success of WordPerfect Family Pack 1 and 2, we are especially excited about the new additions to this latest offering, including industry leading virus scanning and Internet filtering applications," said Graham Brown, executive vice-president for the business applications group. "Dedicated to meeting the needs of our customers, this package provides the security and peace of mind they demand when their families are using the Internet.

Napster Releases Beta Version of Their Pay Service

A test version of Napster's new subscription-based file-swapping service will be available shortly, the company said. Napster is letting fans try out a free beta version of the software before it launches a new paid model designed to appease the recording industry, which has sued the current free service out of existence. "We're hard at work creating an environment that will sustain the Napster community over the long term," the company said in a letter to beta testers. "We expect that Napster will start small and grow, just as it did when Shawn first released it two years ago." Meanwhile, Napster said its new subscription model will collect a small monthly fee and ensure that "over half of what you pay Napster will go directly to the artists, songwriters and other rights holders whose works are transferred between members of the Napster community." Napster did not reveal the cost of the new service, but in the past it has estimated that customers will have to pay between $5 and $10 per month, depending on how many songs they want access to. However, it will be a long time, if ever, before the new model resembles the Napster service of old. For one thing, the number of songs traded through the service is determined by the number of people using the system. Thus, if only a fraction of the people who used Napster for free are now willing to pay for it, then only a small portion of the songs that once zipped across the system will be available.

Weekend August 4 & 5, 2001 Top

Buffer Overflow Largest Cause of Vulnerabilities

It used to be that buffer overflows were just a nagging 40-year-old glitch in the software development process. Today, as illustrated by Code Red, they are the No. 1 reason hackers can slice through corporate networks like Swiss cheese. A buffer overflow occurs when someone inputs more data into a field than that field expects. The text that spills over can then be executed on the computer. "In layman's terms, it means your toilet's stopped up and there's stuff everywhere," explained Fred Stangl, an independent software developer in Langhorne, Pa. According to the Computer Emergency Response Team, more than 50 percent of the vulnerabilities found in operating systems are due to buffer overflows, and many are attributable to Microsoft technology. Microsoft's software was developed for desktops, where buffer overflows are a minor problem. But with the same desktops now attached to the Internet, the problems can leave a gaping hole for hackers to climb through, critics say. But scanning millions of lines of code to fix the problems is not an easy task, said Mike Corby, vice president of Netigy. "The code is so large and so complicated and written by so many different people, it's impossible to prevent these things." "Software is still written by people, and buffer overflows is an issue that affects the [entire] industry," explained Christopher Budd, a Microsoft program manager.

Intel CEO Optimistic of Forth-Quarter Rebound

The PC industry has bottomed out and is poised for a rebound, says Intel Corp.'s CEO Craig Barrett, who expressed his optimism during a business tour through Asia this week. His bright outlook stands in contrast to the dour forecasts presented in recent weeks by such computing giants as Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM, which projected that PC sales would remain flat and possibly even worsen in coming months. "The computer industry has bottomed out. That in itself tells you that you're looking at when it's going to take off," Craig Barrett told Reuters today in Penanag, Malaysia, where Intel has a large testing and assembly plant. Earlier this week, the executive projected that sales will begin to rise soon. "We anticipate the normal seasonal up-tick in the second half--the back-to-school portion and then the holiday buying season at the end of the year," Barrett told CNN during a stopover in Tokyo. While Intel is looking for back-to-school sales to spur demand over the next few weeks, analysts say they don't expect sales to rise until the end of the year. "I think you have a potential for a fourth-quarter pickup, but I don't see it happening in the third quarter," said Andy Neff, an analyst with Bear Stearns in New York. "I think the third quarter will be a challenge." One factor that's expected to undermine PC sales in the coming months is what industry insiders are calling the "XP stall," where computer buyers delay purchases while awaiting the Oct. 25 release of Microsoft Corp.'s new operating system, Windows XP. "That clearly will impact sales" in the coming weeks, Neff said. "It's new, it's different and people will be waiting for it."

Office for Mac Gets Makeover for OS X

At his Macworld feature presentation last month, Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit general manager Kevin Browne gave the first-ever public demonstration of the next major version of Mac Office. Office 10 will exclusively be a Mac OS X application, written in Mach-O Carbon. Not simply a port, Office 10 for Mac OS X will take advantage of a lot of OS X's power to deliver a stellar productivity suite. The release of Office for OS X (along with Adobe Photoshop for OS X -- look for more on Photoshop for X later in the week) will add some much-needed legitimacy to the new operating system. Of course, the interface and dialog boxes of Office will feature an Aqua design overhaul, but the interface has also been retooled so that features (such as the "split window" functionality in Word) are easier to discover. "The user interface of Office is a lot more intuitive," one source noted. "While it looks almost identical the first time, they seem to have tidied up a lot in the interface." Following along with Browne's "OS X enabled it, and Office 10's going to deliver it" mantra, it will take advantage of OS X's powerful graphics layer to provide real-time transparancies. Other new features in Office 10 will include multi-selection in Word, AutoRecover, customizable keyboard shortcuts, and the ability to save a PowerPoint presentation and all of its files as a "package." Also making it clear that this is stricly an X app, animation will be found everywhere, such as when minimizing the formatting palette. "They tried to animate almost everything and it looks pretty good," observed one user who used a beta of Office 10. According to one insider, the animations were some of the most time-intensive parts of Office 10 for Microsoft to develop.

Instant Messenger Moves Past Text Messaging

Long associated with casual text-based conversations among teens and singles in America Online chat rooms, IM technology is now poised not only to gain mainstream acceptance, but to establish itself as an independent platform for a variety of communications and information-gathering applications. Already, instant messaging applications from mainstream software and media companies Yahoo, AOL Time Warner and Microsoft offer a long menu of communications tools that go beyond the traditional text-based instant message. These include audio chat and PC-to-phone telephony, videoconferencing, file sharing and multiplayer games. A further glimpse of what may be in store came last week, as Microsoft showed off several new IM capabilities in the pipeline at an analyst conference. One of these would make it possible to exchange drawings, or "ink," in instant messages, an application that could find a place in messaging over handheld devices. The other lets IM correspondents collaborate on messages with an editing capability for drawings and text.Microsoft is demonstrating its new IM application, Windows Messenger, which will let people share applications, giving one person the ability to write in another person's word processing document, for example. Windows Messenger is scheduled to launch in October as part of the company's new Windows XP operating system.

The problem with current IM applications, Microsoft researchers say, is their limited capacity to give details about the "presence" of consumers. An IM client might say that someone is available, or inactive, but Microsoft one day wants to make those indications more precise. "I think the current availability features are very primitive," said Anoop Gupta, senior researcher at Microsoft. "It is saying, 'Have you been typing on your keyboard or not?' I might be in my office reading or on the telephone. So one of the things we're doing is to change the sense of availability, using other sensors like cameras and microphones, looking at your keyboard. It means getting a much more precise sense of availability." Another problem Microsoft researchers are trying to solve has to do with how they expect people to access IM applications in the future. The challenge will be to recognize the recipient's context and translate the message accordingly. For example, if a voice message is sent to a handheld computing device, researchers would like to translate that message into text. If text is sent to a computer in an automobile, they would like to translate it into audio.

Code Red Returns With New Version

A new and possibly more virulent version of the "Code Red" computer worm was detected circulating the Internet over the weekend, attacking machines and leaving them vulnerable to other intruders, a leading Internet security site reported. The Systems Administration, Networking and Security Institute (SANS) said in an advisory on its Web site that the latest variant of the computer virus seems to leave a "back door" in infected systems that makes them easy for an intruder to infiltrate. If the new worm spreads as quickly as last week's Code Red outbreak, hundreds of thousands of Web sites could be left open to computer hackers. Machines that had already been "patched" with Microsoft software aimed at thwarting the virus were not vulnerable to the new Code Red, computer experts said. The SANS Institute said several sources reported that the number of probes to their home networks had increased and that a new worm, similar to Code Red, started circulating Saturday. The Internet security Web site said the most obvious difference between previous variants of Code Red and the latest one was that Web server logs will record a GET request containing "XXXXXX" instead of the familiar "NNNNNN'" of Code Red.

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