Advanced Micro Devices and Intel each surpassed a landmark
with the introduction of 1-GHz processors, but supply problems may crop up.
Having raced to unveil the high-speed PC chips, the duo may struggle to
furnish computer makers. Both companies have recently suffered
manufacturing problems at the top end of their product lines, and both
skipped over 900-MHz chips to get to the breakthrough "clock speed," an
The need for speed
AMD trumped Intel by
introducing its 1-GHz Athlon on Monday, two days before the 1-GHz Pentium
III chip debuted.
Two weeks ago, 1-GHz chips weren't expected until the middle of the year.
Not surprisingly, both companies admit that production remains limited.
Strong demand therefore could create shortages, as has recently happened
with top-speed PC processors.
Intel's processor performs slightly better than its rival
because of integrated "cache" memory and superior interaction with
Microsoft's DirectX software, widely used with multimedia elements,
according to recognized testing sites. The gap should close in the next
Leading PC makers split in endorsing the new chips: Compaq and Gateway are
offering Athlon-based systems, while Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are
backing Intel. Expensive systems incorporating the 1-GHz chips are
principally aimed at computer game players.
AMD's stock rocketed past its all-time high on the news, falling
some but remaining in record territory at the end of the week. The
company's shares have climbed sharply since the Athlon's introduction last
TV goes supersonic
Some 12 broadcasting heavyweights reaching 80 percent of U.S.
homes--including the Tribune Company, Gannett, Cox, Post-Newsweek Stations
and the E.W. Scripps Company--aligned with a little-known start-up to
provide fast, wireless Net services to PCs. The iBlast service, to launch
in 2001 in select markets, provides software, video and information
products on PCs via airwaves reserved for the transmission of digital TV.
Faced with declining viewers and increased operating costs, television
broadcasters are thinking less about digital TV as a medium for sitcoms and
game shows and more about using it for beaming Web content.
Microsoft described a game console with built-in high-speed Internet access
and e-commerce capabilities that could well supplant the PC. Despite rumors it
would include an AMD chip, Intel processors will power the system. The
X-Box will compete directly against Sony's PlayStation 2, Nintendo's Dolphin and Sega's Dreamcast in the lucrative gaming market, heavily populated by teenagers and computer programmers.
Worldwide PC shipments in 1999 grew 23 percent over the previous year and
24 percent in the United States. But the glory days of 40 percent growth
are likely over.
Cap Gemini is on the verge of
breaking into the competitive U.S. market after agreeing to a joint venture
with networking equipment leader Cisco to build a network design and
consulting subsidiary. The European consulting firm also is preparing an
e-commerce alliance with Sun Microsystems and last week sealed an $11
billion deal for Ernst & Young's 18,000-employee consulting unit. Cap
Gemini has eyed America since the early 1990s but has struggled competing against domestic services giants.
IBM took equity stakes in i2 Technologies and Ariba in an effort to expand its services via strategic
alliances. Analysts said the move likely will solidify these firms as
leading players in the business-to-business market. Meanwhile, General
Electric is creating two units to enter the same burgeoning market,
counting on its experience in creating so-called electronic data
interchange (EDI) services for more than 15 years.
American Express plans to team with business software maker Ariba to develop an online payment
processing system for the growing number of business exchanges on the
Internet. Although marketplaces that connect suppliers and customers have
given birth to a new way of doing business, the payment process still
requires customers to wait on verification and approval, slowing the
PeopleSoft unveiled its application service provider strategy with a slew
of technology partners and an executive management team snagged from rival
Oracle, claiming it already has a large group of customers. The enterprise
resource planning software maker has lagged behind rivals Oracle, SAP and
J.D. Edwards but counts some 11 partnerships with "pure-play" ASPs
such as Corio that have been hosting and managing PeopleSoft's software
since November 1998.
Mergers on again, off again
Security software maker VeriSign agreed to acquire
Network Solutions in an ambitious move aimed at vastly expanding its offerings. Analysts were unsure of the wisdom of a
$21 billion stock deal for the leading domain name registrar.
Qwest Communications apparently ended talks with a "major
telecommunications company," rumored to be Deutsche Telekom, because of the
demands of current merger partner US West, which is afraid of being left at
the altar after last summer's dramatic courtship. It's unclear whether the
latest developments signal a true end to the discussions or the latest
negotiating tactic to get all parties to agree to terms.
E-commerce in your in-box
Home furnishing retailer IKEA is recruiting friends of friends to get the
word out about its new store opening in the San Francisco Bay area,
offering discounts to people who send 10 friends an online postcard announcing the opening. The promotion could be risky: Sending unsolicited ads through email, or "spamming," has long been a controversial practice in the Web community, even if it involves friends.
Chief executive Jeff Bezos called for patent reform in a letter posted
on the company's Web site, responding to widespread criticism of Amazon's
patenting of some of its Web site features. The retailer, which doesn't plan to relent, holds rights to its 1-Click ordering tool and its affiliates program and has sued rivals who have adopted the commonly used features. Third-party critics argue that not only are the features obvious, but Amazon's enforcement of patents for them could harm Net commerce.
Shares of cable Net access leader Excite@Home traded at their lowest point in the past year
before recovering. The weakness, reflecting a steady slide that began last
April, runs counter to the industry-wide excitement over all things
broadband and a series of steps Excite@Home has taken to explain its
sometimes murky strategy.
Politics and the party line
Panel members of the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce submitted their
latest proposals in preparation for a Dallas meeting beginning March 20,
amending recommendations. The new proposals indicate the panel is even less sure of itself than
previously thought. To promote e-commerce, one group advocates banning all
Internet-related taxes. But another, afraid of losing
revenues and having to cut state and local spending, proposes modifying current laws to
allow levies on Net sales and other online activities.
The rapid growth of the business-to-business market is raising concerns
about the potential need for government regulation, an issue
that could lead to bitter disputes over control of the multibillion-dollar
industry. Industry analysts and at least one member of Congress are already
debating whether the Federal Trade Commission should establish some form of
oversight of business-to-business marketplaces. Those in favor of
regulation argue that the expected size of the market requires some
guidelines be established to prevent collusion or other anti-competitive
practices. However, any oversight legislation is expected to meet with
resistance from the technology industry, which has vociferously opposed
Arizona's momentous first day of online voting drew tens of thousands of
new voters but also frustrated
an untold number of others who encountered computer glitches. Older
versions of Netscape Navigator infested with Y2K-related bugs and busy
lines to the Net were to blame, according to election officials.
Also of note
Between 200,000 and 400,000 Dell notebook computers sold last year contain
defective memory, the PC maker
acknowledged…A pricing war
has broken out among Britain's leading Internet service providers…Microsoft boosted salaries of its Silicon Valley employees by 15 percent to stem turnover and
increase staffing, the first time it has offered regional cost-of-living
raises…AT&T's wireless division president is resigning to join a start-up just
weeks before a pending public offering…CNET chief executive Halsey Minor
is stepping down, the latest in
a series of executive departures this year…The Nasdaq closed above 5,000 for the first time, a short
time after surpassing the 4,000 mark.