February 15-21, 1998

from the Up-To-Date dept

With no plans to give away free umbrellas…

The not always serious, 
not always weekly update
on the Hi-Tech Industry
February 15th - February 21st, 1998
With no plans to give away free umbrellas...
Say that again... 
"Bill forgot his PalmPilot!" 
- An assistant's response when Bill Gates left his demo PalmPC behind, soon after Bill berated a reporter for suggesting that anyone could confuse the PalmPC with a PalmPilot 

"Technology really has turned out to be a wonderful thing.  Americans 
really are tuning in in a positive way to the Internet." 
- Bill Clinton, in AllPolitics 

"Now you must take money quickly, or there will be many companies saying they do the same thing.  You need to take the money and declare victory immediately.  Then create a product." 
- Ann Winblad, famous high-tech Venture Capitalist on the importance of vaporware, apparently 

"I will always charge my readers as little as I can." 
- Rogers Weed, publisher of Slate, about their plan to charge a subscription fee.  Of course, they haven't been charging anything since it was created, so raising the price seems to go against that theory... 

"[Scott McNeally and I are] co-captains of the I-hate-Bill-Gates fan club. We just couldn't decide which of us hates him more." 
- Jeff Papows, CEO of Lotus, in the New Republic 

No such thing as a free... 
Subscription plans were big news this week as Slate is now taking orders for its site, which will become subscriber based in March.  As an incentive, they are giving away a free umbrella (you know what?  I think I'll pass)... BusinessWeek keeps inching towards charging for its site, though they had a somewhat negative view of Slate's plan to charge (apparently the business people and the writers at BW don't speak to each other)... Meanwhile, Marvel Comics has launched a subscription site.  No offense, but will people really pay money to read comics online?... Sports Illustrated has also decided to make its Swimsuit issue only viewable to folks who pay.  Of the above sites, this is the only one that I think has a chance.  Pornography and time critical info are still the only way to make money off online subscriber fees.  While Slate and BW are nice, and chock full of good info, neither are so critical to me that I'll pay for their fleeting bits... 

Searching... searching... 
More companies trying to get in on the search arena.  Autonomy has created a Knowledge Server that attempts to identify patterns within data and to automatically link related sets of data... Idealab's latest company, goto.com has a plan to let whoever pays the most money be the first name that appears on the search results.  A fascinating idea, based on standard Yellow Pages directories, but it does need a critical mass to make sense. Will it make it?... 

Earnings Reports, IPOs and the like 
DoubleClick, of Internet advertising fame went public this week with huge publicity following the offering.  On the first day the stock jumped from $17 up to slightly over $30 before closing at $26.75... HP missed earnings reports, and to appease the almighty analysts sacrificed a bunch of jobs to show "cost-cutting"... Softbank has decided that Ziff-Davis will go public in April... N2K Inc. reported a net loss for the year of $28.7 million, which was larger than last year... Dell blew away earnings estimates (as well as last year's numbers) and helped push the whole market up this week. They also announced plans for a 2 for 1 stock split... Lycos' earnings are up, but still aren't impressive... Earthlink announced losses that "weren't as bad" as last year's... WorldCom reported 19% higher earnings, much of which came from internet revenues, which rose more than 50%... Ciena reported slightly better than expected earnings, but warned that next quarter wouldn't be as good.  Now everyone hates them.  It's amazing how fast one can go from tech darling to the doghouse... Electronic Arts' stock shot up 10% as the company announced an agreement with Tiger Woods to make a video game with his name and likeness... 

Rumors, Conspiracies etc. of the week... 
Intel's new Covington chip, designed for low cost machines is really a scam to induce consumers into buying higher priced machines (i.e., it's "kludgey" enough that consumers will look at it and decide to move up to the next model)... In the continuing soap opera that is Apple, Steve Jobs apparently pissed off potential CEO candidate Jim Cannavino by screaming at him and telling him to leave Apple premises during a meeting to finalize details.  Following this, Board members got mad at Jobs and the screaming and cursing continued (fun guy, that Steve)... Intel is leaving 20% of their market open to competitors just to avoid being hit by anti-trust charges... 

Berating the obvious: (they call this news???) 
Globalstar finally launched its first four satellites... Australian security experts suggested that a terrorist organization could easily target the Sydney Olympic Games with "information bombs" instead of explosive ones... Seagate has created "Optically Assisted Winchester" technology to get 10 to 20 times more information on a hard drive (meaning we'll be running larger and larger bloatware applications on our computers for many years to come)... Mitsubishi has decided to slow down plans for new memory chips, based on the horrible memory market... Pixar not at all happy with an email that went around revealing the salaries of all of its employees (partly because it showed how poorly they pay)... COBOL programmers coming out of retirement to work on the Y2K problem (again)... CyberMedia didn't really mean for its First Aid software to change a machine's default browser from Netscape to IE... In the same manner, Symantec really didn't mean to spam thousands of email addresses... Computer Sciences tells Computer Associates to bug off... Intuit to pay AOL $30 million to provide content for AOL's Finance channel... AOL also made a deal with E! Online to provide content (and neither of these, claims AOL, have anything to do with all those content people they laid off last week)... Iomega settles one of the four class action suits pending against it... LA decided to name themselves the "Digital Coast" this week.  Among the names they thought about, but eventually turned down, were The Wired West and Silicone Valley... Of all the places to try to show that they're a high tech capital, the silliest is this new attempt by Rochester, NY promoting its easy commute (well, that's what happens when you're in the middle of nowhere) and friendly atmosphere (so that's what they call snow these days?)... The FCC began auctioning off microwave spectrum this week hoping to raise a little money... A federal indictment was handed down for Timothy Lloyd, who erased all of his company's software after being fired (costing Omega approximately $10 million).  Apparently he was fired for "discipline problems" (indeed)... Lawsuit against Netscape execs for fiddling with the stock option plan... Once again, high tech heavyweights are getting together in an attempt to put together a system to prevent copying of digital music and movies (while other, less heavyweight folks work on ways to break it, I'm sure)... Tennessee is considering a law which would require schools and libraries to use filtering software and hold those who don't, *criminally* liable.  Furthermore, they will hold ISPs responsible for any messages sent by customers (time to leave Tennessee)... A judge has approved the settlement of the class action suit against AOL that benefits close to no one (well, maybe AOL)... Apparently the DOJ is on a fishing mission, as they have ordered ISPs to turn over information about their dealings with Microsoft... Capitol Records has decided to shy away from the Internet as a distribution method for music, citing all the security problems (meaning people actually heard some songs over the Internet without paying for them!  Heretics.  Of course, I doubt Capitol checked to see how many then went out and actually *bought* the album due to that)... Dell is apparently now selling $4 million a day through its web site... The IRS has received 20% more filings online this year than last year... 

A teenager lured police officers in four different states into sexual chats, causing much embarrassment among law enforcement officials... AltaVista finally realizes that having the most powerful search engine capabilities isn't enough.  They will soon add additional features, such as those found on Yahoo! and Excite... NCI chairman, Jerry Baker, resigned this week, as the company decides it needs more of a business development type of head to move them forward (meaning prepare them for an IPO)... Brazil bans "Grand Theft Auto" CD-ROM game saying it might incite people to violence... Intel has decided to brand the different levels of its chips. At first it seems like a silly idea, but then again, this is the company that came up with the "silly" idea of branding microprocessors in the first place... CORE, a private group that wants to be one of the registrars of new top-level domain names had two servers stolen last weekend... Lucent has formed a venture capital fund to invest in networking and communications companies... US West will rent software to ISP customers... ABCNews.com has made a deal with CNet to get all of its technology news from news.com... The return of Mosaic?  Spyglass has licensed it to Nokia to be used in set-top boxes in Europe... Cisco, the great swallower of other companies picked up WheelGroup, a security software firm, for a $124 million... Meanwhile, Shiva picked up Isolation Systems for $37 million... Netcom was given a Usenet "death penalty" threat (and later granted a "pardon") to convince them to cut down on the spam originating from Netcom... Adaptec bought Symbios from Hyundai Electronics for more than three-quarters of a billion dollars... Synopsis has decided to port its tools to the Wintel platform... 

(Mis)Uses of Technology: 
Most Congressional Representatives reply to emails with paper responses, because they believe constituents want watermarked congressional letterheads... Hasbro has created "sound bites", which are lollipops that apparently let you hear music inside your head when you bite into them... Sony is making a small device that can download characters from popular fighting games to be trained.  Then the user can upload them back to the PlayStation via infrared... OnSale, an online auctioneer, had someone put up a Pepsi can for auction.  Someone else followed with a Coke can.... The DigiPen Institute of Technology has opened as an accredited Video Game University in Washington State.  They have a 4 year course of study where students have to take courses in math, physics, computer science and marketing (interesting to note that the school rents space in the US headquarters of Nintendo)... 

Mark Lottor of Network Wizards has released his Domain Survey (though many are questioning his methods) showing that the number of hosts has increased to 29.6 million (representing an annual growth rate over the last few years of 40 to 50%).  Also noted in the survey was that .com hosts made up the largest grouping, taking 28% of all hosts... According to Computer Intelligence, PC sales in the last quarter of 1997 grew 25% more than in the same quarter the previous year.  Meanwhile the average price of PCs dropped significantly during the year... Internet Billing Co., had an average monthly growth in customers of 20% per month in 1997.  They provide electronic commerce services, so consider that an indication where e-commerce might be heading... According to IDC, Internet commerce in Europe will grow from $1 billion last year to $30 billion in 3 years... Boardwatch Magazine ranked IBM as the most reliable ISP (AOL came in below average, but not at the bottom)... According to a new Harris Poll, 36% of Americans use the Internet, and 25% of U.S. adults have email addresses... Thomas Register and Visa U.S.A. have released a new survey that shows 21% of executives with purchasing authority plan to use the Internet for more than half of their purchases... A study from Market Facts Inc. says that 53% of Internet users check news on the web, though more check traditional sources.  The one area where the web beats out traditional sources is (surprise surprise) financial data... A Media Matrix study of popular sites showed Switchboard moving into the top 10 (how soon before someone snaps them up?).  Also in the survey was that the IRS site was the 20th most visited site from work... 

All this Microsoft bashing is going to lead to the reverse: an ultra pro-MS mindset.  I see some of this creeping out around the corners.  For example, ZDNet this week suggested you could be fired for using Linux at work instead of NT.  Personally, I think ZDNet just doesn't understand Linux... GTMI, the creation of some of the more hated spammers, have their backbone and claim to be ready to start a "friendly" email marketing setup.  They claim they will legitimize spam in the same way that telemarketing and junk mail is legitimate.  I hadn't realized either of these is considered legit. Either way, I think the net will crack down on GTMI before they have a chance to get very far... Tritium Network, which is attempting to give out free Internet access in exchange for constant ads running across the bottom of your screen, will not do so well in its initial tests (starting Monday)... 

Memes o' the week: 
I've discussed the stupidity of "exclusive" content deals on the Internet before, but this week made it clear that companies have no clue what they're doing.  CBS announced *exclusive* deals with both CDNow and N2K's Music Boulevard (the two most well known competitors in the online music business)... Stealing away AOL customers.  Last week Earthlink began their Get Out of AOL Free promotion, and now US Internet has even put up a phone number (888)Leave-AOL... A story created from anecdotal evidence.  Reuters this week reported that "customers are upset at AOL's rate hike" in which they quote one customer who decided to leave the service... Push isn't really dead.  No, of course not.  Email is push, and it never died.  So now we have the backlash to all the "push is dead" talk from the past few weeks... The "attention economy".  Twice this week I've been hearing about this emerging economy where everyone will vie for each other's attention, and not money.  Somehow, I think it's more of a fad that sounds cool then sound business practice... 

Too much free time: 
Haven't quite figured this one out yet, but it seems cool: 

Up To Date is written by Mike Masnick from whatever news he hears from whatever sources they happen to come from.  It is not intended for any uses other than as one of many possible ways to follow what's going on in the hi-tech industry.  I certainly wouldn't rely on it as your only source of info.  And, of course, my comments may not accurately reflect reality.  

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