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THE WEEK started badly for Microsoft's Bill Gates when record stock slides saw his worth fall by more than $5bn (pounds 2.9bn) on Monday to about $52bn, at a rate of up to $4.5m a minute.

Then, on Tuesday, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and 20 states broadened their anti-trust case against Microsoft with an 89-page brief cataloguing further examples of the software giant's business policies involving Apple, Intel, Real Networks, Intuit, Sun Microsystems and Netscape.

The DOJ also criticised Gates's pre-trial testimony, claiming that in nearly 17 hours of questioning, Gates failed to recall many alleged incidents including meetings with Netscape officials to discuss dividing up the browser market.

The DOJ called for Microsoft to hand over new evidence - database details and communications between it and other companies. Microsoft spokes- man Mark Murray said: "The government appears to have lost faith in the case it brought last May so it's trying to rewrite its case and expand its allegations without going through the proper legal procedures." However, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered Microsoft to deliver the evidence.

Microsoft asked that the new evidence be excluded from the case or, if it was not excluded, that the trial scheduled for 23 September be delayed for six months to give them time to respond to the fresh allegations.

The judge made no decision on either request. He said he would address those issues at a pre-trial hearing scheduled for 17 September.

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STEVE JOBS, Apple Computers' interim chief executive, outlined some of the key features of the next version of the Mac operating system at the Seybold Publishing conference in San Francisco last week. He said the OS 8.5 upgrade will ship next month after slipping from a July launch.

Jobs said that the upgrade from OS 8.0 will be a "must-have" piece of software because of its improved performance when saving files over the network - up to three times faster, according to Apple - and improved file and Internet search functions.

Jobs also showed Apple's next-generation operating system, OS X, and demonstrated programs from Adobe, Quark and Macromedia running on the prototype advanced OS, which allows pre-emptive multitasking and uses protected memory features designed to maximise efficiency and reliability of software operation. OS X is scheduled to ship in Autumn next year.

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THE FIRST hypertext competition organised by alt-x, the US publishing network, and trAce, the international online writing community based at Nottingham Trent University, has been launched with a prize of pounds 1,000 for the best hypertext site written in English on the web.

Although the judges are open to the use of sound, images and Java applets, in the main they are looking for primarily text-based, multi-sequential writing that allows the reader to follow different pathways. Robert Coover, of Brown University, is the overall judge.

Deadline for entries is 31 December and full details are on the trAce web site (http://trace. ntu.ac.uk/comp.html).

A CONSORTIUM of more than 50 telecommunications operators last week signed contracts in a $1.5bn project for a new fibre-optic cable linking Europe and the United States.

The cable, called TAT-14, has a capacity of 64 gigabytes per second, which is enough to carry 7.7 million calls simultaneously.

About 80 per cent of its capacity will be allocated to Internet and multimedia traffic.

The new system, based on four pairs of optical fibre cable and using the latest digital technologies, has 64 times the capacity of the current TAT-12/TAT-13 cable network which came online in 1996.

The TAT-14 network linking Germany, England, Denmark, France and the Netherlands to the United States will span more than 22,000 miles and should be in service by the end of 2000.

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E-COMMERCE is appreciated in Europe more in theory than in practice, according to a report from Andersen Consulting, which urges measures by both industry and European governments to boost online commerce.

In a survey of more than 300 European senior executives carried out between December 1997 and July 1998, Andersen found corporate leaders were enthusiastic about e-commerce's potential but wary of spending money on new systems.

While 82 per cent of executives surveyed thought e-commerce would have a strategic impact on their businesses in the future, only 39 per cent were acting on that belief. The report concludes that European governments need to work with businesses to create a regulatory regime that facilitates global e-commerce, encourages new venture capital markets, adopts e-commerce itself, ensures adequate training and retraining, and promotes e-commerce with both business and the public.

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REAL NETWORKS is offering a money-back guarantee on a new software package, SuperPlanet's CD-Streamer, that converts audio CDs into CD-quality RealAudio for personal playback on a PC.

The package allows music CDs to be stored in highly compressed RealAudio format, with up to 30 hours of music per gigabyte of drive space, on a PC hard drive. The software allows the creation of customised playlists for playback as well as standard and random playback. The software can be purchased over a secure link (http://www.realstore.com/specials/cdstreamer.html) for a limited time at $19.95 (pounds 12) instead of the normal $34.95.

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