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Intel enters 3D graphics market

Intel last week unveiled its first 3D graphics chip. Previously code- named Auburn, the new chip is called the i740 and will be targeted at mainstream PC users running Pentium II processors when it becomes available in the spring.

The i740 will perform in the same league as high-performance graphics chips from Nvidia and ATI, two of the leading 3D PC graphics chips manufacturers. It will first appear on separate video cards or add-ons from manufacturers such as Diamond, Number Nine and STB. Intel will also allow the chip to be integrated into motherboards.

Games are likely to see improvements in 3D using the chip. Graham Palmer, Intel European marketing manager for chipsets and graphics, said that the i740 would boost performance for any vendor writing to Microsoft's DirectX API and its Direct3D subset. Mike Feibus, principal analyst at Mercury Research, said, "The i740 will make Intel a serious competitor in the graphics market. The big question is whether they will take over the graphics market. This is a fast-changing market; there are a lot of able-bodied competitors. ATI, Nvidia, and 3DLabs, those are the companies that will be most affected by a new competitor."

By 1999, Intel is expected to account for 20-30 per cent of the graphics processors in the performance desktop market, which itself will account for close to $1bn in revenue, according to Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Associates.

QuickTime endorsed for MP4

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) said last week that Apple Computer's QuickTime will be the underlying technology for the next generation of interactive Internet audio and video. QuickTime was proposed as the starting-point for MP4 by IBM, Netscape, Oracle, Silicon Graphics and Sun, as well as Apple, which developed the tool.

MP4 is an emerging digital media standard, currently being defined by the ISO's Moving Picture Experts Group, that will let users view and manipulate audio, video and other forms of digital content. Adopting the QuickTime file format as the basis of the standard means all digital media content can be authored in a common file format that supports real-time video and audio streaming across all major platforms. The final specification is not expected to be completed until the beginning of next year. The latest version of QuickTime, QuickTime 3.0, was launched in the UK on Friday.

Iomega stands by Zip drives

Iomega has responded to persistent postings about the reliability of its Zip drives by trawling the newsgroups and Web pages where the so-called "click of death" complaint is discussed, and e-mailing a message asking customers who are experiencing any difficulties to contact its customer support services.

"We make a proactive effort," said Tyler Thatcher, an Iomega spokesman. "Iomega routinely browses a variety of sources for input on customer issues."

Although Iomega says that its failure rates and product returns are below industry norms, some vociferous users say that, after a time, their Zip drives no longer read disks and instead produce a loud clicking sound. Other users complain of damaged disks and data loss.

Analysts say that the ill will directed against Iomega is largely a result of the company's overwhelming success in selling millions of drives. "When you've sold 12 million drives, even a 1 per cent failure rate is going to mean a lot of complaints," said Bob Amatruda, an International Data Corporation analyst. "Ship 12 million, and you're a victim of your own success."

Minister faces questions online

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, David Clark MP, is answering e-mail questions from the public about the Freedom of Information White Paper until 24 February. Questions should be sent to questions@democracy.org.uk and answers will be published on the Have Your Say Web site (http://foi.democracy. org.uk/). The site is administered by UK Citizens' Online Democracy, with the approval of the Cabinet Office.

As well as reading Dr Clark's replies, visitors to the site can read submissions on the White Paper as they are received by the Government, follow the latest debate in Parliament and the press, and discuss the issues with fellow site users.

Andy Oldfield

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