PC technologies and strategies for resellers and assemblersIntel CEO denies graphics chip dumping chargesby Rob Guth and Terho UimonenTokyo - The newly appointed CEO of Intel has shot down recent reports that his com-pany is selling its graphics chips at deep discounts in order to gain market share and reduce inventories of its first-generation graphics accelerator chip.
"Nonsense," Intel president and CEO Craig Barrett said when asked about charges that his company is selling the i740 chip at below cost.
"You would hope the press would pick better sources than our competitors to describe our actions. It's kind of like going to [Sun Microsystems chairman Scott] McNealy and asking him about [Microsoft chairman Bill] Gates," he said, referring to two of the most well-known arch-enemies in the computer industry.
Barrett's comments follow recent reports that Intel is bundling the i740 chip with Pentium II processors at prices that would put the actual cost of the i740 at between $US7 and $US18. At those levels, the chip's cost would be far below its $US28 list price, prompting several industry sources to claim Intel is "dumping" the chip.
The reports originated from the Computex trade show in Taiwan where around 30 Taiwanese manufacturers displayed graphics add-in cards based on the i740, but quickly spread under the heat of the antitrust suit filed against Intel by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Rumour or reality?
The FTC complaint argued that Intel is withholding intellectual property from customers and is using its market monopoly power to "cement its dominance over the microprocessor market".
Intel spokesman Howard High said the com-pany has investigated the i740 dumping rumours and found no evidence that the chips were selling at a discount. Instead, according to Intel partners in Taiwan, the i740 sticker is about $US24 "and they said they'll go to $US22 in another quarter or so", he said.
Industry sources in Taiwan, however, put the i740's current price at around $US20.
Though Intel will probably shrug off the controversy, the company has not heard the last from the graphics chip community, which is under threat as Intel expands onto its turf, analysts said.
First introduced in February this year, the i740 marked Intel's long-expected entry into the graphics chip arena. To speed up the chip's development, Intel used 3D technology from Real 3D, which it has a stake in, as well as 2D capabilities from Chips & Technologies which was acquired by Intel earlier this year.
To date, most graphics chips in desktop PCs have ridden on add-in graphics cards. In higher-end systems, the superior performance of dedicated graphics add-in cards is still expected to remain a major market for chip and board vendors alike, and market analysts generally predict a bright future for the graphics chip industry.
Adaptec gives Macs accelerated performanceAdaptec now supports the Macintosh with its Ultra2 SCSI accelerator card.
It is designed for graphic, video and multimedia professionals, providing improved access to large files and faster rendering of digital media applications.
Adaptec says the card will appeal to value-added resellers that create "dream machines" for customers. The Power Domain 2940U2W SCSI card doubles the speed of Ultra Wide SCSI to 80MBps. The controller chip has an embedded RISC processor and FIFO buffer that have been doubled to accommodate Ultra2 performance needs.
The card is available in the Power Domain 2940U2W kit which will be available in July, with an RRP of $999. The kit includes the accelerator card, control software, utility software, four SCSI cables and documentation.
Adaptec products are distributed by Anabelle Bits, Agate Technology, Synnex Australia and Tech Pacific.
Iomega's got the Buz
Iomega's Buz multimedia producer is now available in Australia. The video capture solution combines ultra SCSI and hardware video compression, designed to enable consumers to use their PCs to capture, edit and share videos, digital photos and sound. The system installs in a "Buz box", a mouse-sized system that provides a single connection for all multimedia devices. Buz is available for $429 RRP. Iomega is distributed by Tech Pacific, CHA, Agate and Electronic Resources Australia.
HP to provide global 24 x 7 support
Hewlett-Packard (HP) has opened the first centre in the world to provide 24-hour-a-day, year-round global backup services to ensure customers' hardware, software and information technology systems are continuously operational.
In Europe, HP has roughly 200 companies signed up for this service at an average cost of $US250,000 annually.
The company formally opened the Brussels centre to keep users' systems up and running 99.5 per cent of the time. By 2000, HP hopes to achieve a 99.999 per cent availability rate, meaning that customers' systems will be down for a maximum of five minutes each year. Similar Mission Critical Support Centres will be set up in Atlanta and Tokyo later this year. HP is currently establishing centres in the Asia-Pacific region, but hasn't decided where the English language centre will be based, company officials said.
NEC launches new notebook range
by Ellen Cresswell
SYDNEY - Resellers can expect to be bomb-arded with advertising as NEC cranks up its marketing machine for its newly released Pentium II notebooks.
By their own admission, NEC is "slightly late to market" with a PII machine, but notebook product manager, Arno Lenior, says the advantage of the Versa LX series is it will be immediately upgradable when Intel releases its 300MHz PII chip later this year.
Targeted at corporate and government customers, the LX series comes in three models. NEC has designed the series with more than 15 common components, which is an aggressive attack on the total cost of ownership (TCO) issue. Lenior says this makes the range particularly attractive to bulk corporate and government customers.
"NEC is providing corporate users with a way of simplifying their inventory operations. Its accessories are compatible with future Versa offerings," Lenior said.
The LX series notebooks include a PII 233 or 266MHz processor, screen sizes between 12.1in and 14.1in and hard drives up to 5GB.
The notebooks can expand through desktop docking solutions and the VersaBay III, NEC's modular device bay.
They have a new dual-tone colour scheme and Lenior says there is minimal branding on the notebooks, which reduces the incidence of "computer envy" - where employees are envious of peers with more powerful machines. The LX series has no model markings on the exterior.
The notebooks are built at NEC's Japanese plant, where each machine undergoes extensive testing before being shipped. As a result, "dead on arrival" products are lower than average, according to Lenior.
The series is priced at $400 to $1000 below comparable PII notebooks.
The PII 266MHz with 14.1in screen, 5GB HDD and 64MB RAM is $8021 RRP (ex tax). The PII 233MHz with 13in screen, 3.2BG HDD and 32MB RAM is $6443 RRP (ex tax). The PII 233 MHz with 12in screen, 3.2GB HDD and 32MB RAM is $5786 RRP (inc tax). All models are available now with Windows 95, Win 98 on release or Win NT 4.0.
Tel 13 1632ÊFax (02) 9930 2049
Compaq takes wraps off notebooks
by Dan Briody
SYDNEY - As expected, Compaq announced four new Armada notebooks at last week's PC Expo.
The brand new Armada 1700 line features an all-in-one design and Pentium II processors.
The Armada 1700 will include a 266MHz Pentium II, 13.3in colour TFT 1024 x 768 display, 24x CD-ROM, 32MB of Synchronous DRAM, a 4GB SMART hard drive, and a lithium ion battery.
Compaq also introduced the high-end Armada 7800 notebook, the Armada 1573D, which will use a 233MHz Pentium II processor, and the Armada 1505 - a new low-end system.
All notebooks will be released in Australia on June 30.
Compaq Presarios get some Zip
by Naomi Jackson
SYDNEY - Two of IT's best-known brands are joining forces.
Compaq has signed a deal with Iomega that will see the PC powerhouse include Iomega's Zip drive as a standard feature in the majority of its new Presario PCs.
According to Iomega officials, the Zip Built-In drive will give Compaq's Presario PC customers up to 100MB of capacity, enabling them to create, save and share more information.
Initially, the Zip drive will be incorporated in the Presario 5030, 5032, 5035, 5140, 5610, 5630 and 5635 models in the US. It will be optional for other Presario models.
The worldwide agreement will extend to Australia, but specific Presario models are yet to be decided locally, an Iomega spokesperson said.
Windows 98 rescue disk lacks important componentby Brian McWilliamsSAN FRANCISCO - This week millions of PC owners will begin installing the final version of Microsoft's Windows 98 on their machines. But some who've already received advance copies of the operating system upgrade have discovered an error that could cause downtime for the unlucky.
The problem is with the emergency startup disk that Microsoft recommends you create when installing the new operating system. It's supposed to help you boot into safe mode from your floppy drive if Windows 98 won't start. And if you're really having problems, the emergency disk is supposed to have a utility that lets you uninstall Windows 98 altogether.
But as John Stewart, president of Audio Computer Information - a US-based publisher of audio cassette books for IT users - discovered when he tried uninstalling the final Windows 98 upgrade on his new Acer computer, Microsoft inadvertently left uninstall.exe off the floppy disk.
Stewart says it's like Ford selling you a car with instructions for changing the tyre, and when you open the boot, the spare isn't there.
Microsoft last week confirmed that the Win 98 emergency disk doesn't include the uninstall util-ity. As a workaround, the company said users can uninstall the new OS by using the utility on the Win 98 CD-ROM. It's also stored on the hard disk in the Windows\ Command folder.
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company is due to soon post an article about the workaround on the Microsoft Knowledgebase Web site. And when Win 98 officially launches on June 25, Microsoft's telephone support people will be able to walk users through the steps to get their system up and running.
Upgrading to Windows 98 should go smoothly for most people. But just to be on the safe side, if you're planning on installing Windows 98, make sure you manually copy uninstall.exe onto your emergency disk.
And just to be sure you know what you're getting into, when you first pop the new Win 98 CD-ROM into your PC, use the "Browse this CD" option to view the readme file that's stored there. It'll give you a rundown of some of the hardware and software that's known to cause Win 98 installation problems.
New tool keeps Windows synchronised
by Ellen Creswell
SYDNEY - With Windows 98 to go on sale tomorrow, it hasn't taken long for the utility developers to come out of the woodwork.
Syncronys Softcorp, distributed in Australia by Marketing Results, has come up with a utility that allows users to install Windows 98 while keeping their Windows 95 system intact. Why? Because some users have programs that won't operate under Win 98, says Rodney Orrock, director of Marketing Results.
And with an RRP of $39.95, it's a small price to pay for system security, he says.
If an older application doesn't work properly with Win 98, or hardware incompatibilities occur, some users may have to reconstruct their systems manually, according to Orrock. Syncronys' UpgradeAID 98 allows users to run Windows 95 and 98 concurrently.
Orrock says once "everything's been bedded down", the user can delete Win 95.
He says the software is targeted specifically at small business and home users - anyone without an IS manager.
Tony Wilkinson, Windows 98 product marketing manager, said in the "vast majority" of cases, software will work in 95 and 98. He said there was always space in the market for independent developers to write utilities complementary to the Windows platform. Wilkinson was unable to comment on the functionality of UpgradeAID 98.
Intel suit doesn't faze users
by Kim Girard
FRAMINGHAM - In the wake of the recent antitrust action filed against Intel (see ARN, June 10, page 6), users said they expect no immediate impact on the corporate desktop or their buying plans.
Sure, users would like to see more companies provide cheaper chips or greater innovation, but most don't expect the legal wranglings to affect the Intel chip standard. After all, they said, Intel will still set the standard.
"I don't think I really care too much if it's an Intel or an AMD chip, providing it meets the performance criteria we have," said John Keast, chief information officer at Pacific Gas & Electric, a US-based energy utility. "Intel is sort of under the covers."
But no one wants a wrenching withdrawal from the safe, comfortable cocoon of the Wintel desktop standard.
"There's something to be said about having a standard, and Intel has a great standard," said John Sweet, vice president of information management at DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, a tax consultancy in the US.
Sweet and others didn't seem fazed by the suit.
They contended that the legal disputes with rivals will likely remain separated from Intel's technological innovation.
Some users said Intel's practices were unpalatable, but not enough to change their buying habits.
"Someone else needs to worry about whether something was done that had legal or ethical implications. But that's not going to drive me or anyone else from buying an Intel product," Sweet said.
Keeping chip a secret
Users were concerned that Intel was blocking innovation from smaller companies that could help improve the PC platform and make for a more competitive market.
"The biggest problem Intel has is they're not telling anyone how the chip works, so no one can work with it," said Ed Bianco, CIO at Lowell General Hospital in the US. On a Windows NT system, Bianco said, he has little choice but to use Intel processors for compatibility, adding he would like more choice.
"I can't buy anything else," he said. "The Alpha chip doesn't run as fast. Unix is the same way. If you want to run NT, you have to run the Intel block."
But other than cheaper Pentium-class processors, what else does the corporate market really need? asked Bob Caplan, information technology manager at John W. Henry & Co, a financial trading company in the US.
Caplan said he has used both Cyrix and Advanced Micro Devices processors, along with Intel's, and sees little difference in quality.
"It's always a price decision," he said.
Although most users saw the suit as essentially an internal Intel matter, a few said the government's actions against Intel and Microsoft will have larger repercussions.
"Everything is coming to a head," said Susan Molloy, senior systems analyst at the Hospital of St Raphael. "It's the only way to drive prices down."
Stay up to date when out of the office
by Ellen Cresswell
SYDNEY - Riding the wave of popularity enveloping mobile computing, Symantec has released a client/ server application that automatically updates critical files for mobile users.
Mobile Update is targeted at mobile users who need the most current versions of documents, such as presentations, price lists and financial forecasts, but don't have time to connect to the network or intranet to retrieve them.
In using the e-mail gateway, Mobile Update reduces the number and type of connections mobile users require to stay up to date on changing documents.
Mobile Update comprises both server and client components. The Mobile Update server resides on the corporate network, monitoring files for changes and processing changes. It automatically sends out the file updates at user-defined intervals through the corporate e-mail gateway to the mobile user's notebook.
The process of updating a file locally is as simple as launching an e-mail attachment. Once an attachment is launched, the client's "update agent" takes over performing a virus scan of the file, creating an optional backup of the local copy, and then applying the changes to the current file on the user's hard drive.
Symantec Mobile Update is priced from $134 for 10 users. This price includes upgrade insurance for one year.
Symantec products are distributed by: Dataflow, Tech Pacific and Express Data.
Memory technologies vie for acceptance
by Andy Santoni
SAN MATEO - Three technologies vying to be the next-generation PC main memory - Direct Rambus, Synchronous Link, and Enhanced Synchronous - have taken steps to bring them closer to their goals.
Toshiba America Electronic Components (TAEC) has delivered samples of Direct Rambus DRAM (RDRAM) and announced that its 7MM Direct RDRAM devices have reached 800MHz, or 1.6GBps, performance. Prices have not been released.
Rambus completed the Direct RDRAM interface design and distributed it simultaneously to all of the company's DRAM licensees in February. Toshiba expects to begin general customer sampling in September, with volume production slated for the first quarter of 1999 in the US.
"We're confident we can ramp production to meet the industry's needs in 1999," said Jamie Stitt, manager of DRAM marketing at TAEC.
Meanwhile, Mosaid Technologies has announced it has completed the design for Synchronous Link DRAM (SLDRAM).
The design features an interface that runs at 400Mbps per pin, giving a single SLDRAM chip a total data transfer rate equal to 800 Mbps. The technology aims at communications and consumer electronics applications, along with high-end PCs and servers.
The design was commissioned by SLDRAM, a consortium of companies that includes computer manufacturers and DRAM producers such as IBM, NEC, Texas Instruments and Toshiba. These companies will create their own SLDRAM products based on Mosaid's design.
Prototypes of the chip are expected to be available for testing by the end of next quarter.
In April, Micron Technology announced it was shipping samples of a 400MHz, 64MB SLDRAM. The company is delivering engineering samples to Compaq, Hewlett-Packard IBM, and Micron Electronics.
"Compaq has been actively involved with SLDRAM in the definition and specification of this emerging industry standard DRAM," said Karl Walker, vice president of Compaq's Enterprise Computing Group. "Compaq Computer is evaluating the SLDRAM samples and is considering using SLDRAMs in our leading-edge products."
At the same time, the JEDEC JC42.3 Memory Committee has approved the definition of Enhanced Memory Systems' enhanced synchronous DRAM (ESDRAM) and double data rate ESDRAM (DDR ESDRAM) architecture as a superset to its Synchronous DRAM standards.
DRAM suppliers are more likely to support a memory architecture that meets an industry standard.
ARN's PC Solutions section showcases PC technologies and strategies for resellers and assemblers. This includes OEM issues, PC, Macintosh and notebook products, as well as software and hardware news. The section will inform readers about new products, current issues and industry news.
If you have any tips for news in ARN's PC Solutions section, phone the section editor, Ellen Cresswell, on (02) 9902 2777, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.orgOur aim is to have 100 per cent local content in this section to keep the channel up to date with the latest PC news.