Microsoft quietly opens its new Windows
"We're doing this really differently from in the past," says Susan Smith, head of consumer marketing for Microsoft Europe. "We're running some TV ads in France during the World Cup, but we're really relying on our partners to show the product this time."
Despite the low-profile appearance, sales are expected to reach 12 million by the end of the year. In Britain, 17 PC World stores stayed open beyond midnight, but the queues were short compared with those for Windows 95 three years ago. Two days before the software release, a US appeals court overturned an injunction obtained by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that required Microsoft to offer its Windows 95 operating system without requiring computer makers to bundle its Internet Explorer Web browser. Analysts were divided over the precise effects of the judgement on the broader anti-trust case brought by the DOJ and 20 states centred around Windows 98 and Microsoft's business practices. The ruling could undermine the DOJ position in the case, due to be heard in September.
NETSCAPE COMMUNICATIONS is still hanging on to its lead in the Web browser market, according to the latest study by International Data Corporation. IDC measured the number of browsers installed throughout 1997 and showed that although Netscape's Navigator slipped from 54.6 per cent to 50.5 per cent, it still had double the share of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which rose from 16.4 per cent to 22.8 per cent. AOL's browser, based on IE, climbed to 16.1 per cent from 13.1 per cent, while all other browsers fell from 15.9 per cent to 10.6 per cent. Microsoft gained market share in most sectors, but in small businesses Netscape increased its share by 2 percentage points and in education it still held about 75 per cent of the market.
"It's clear that Netscape has lost market share, but they're still in the lead," says Joan-Carol Brigham, an IDC analyst. "It's also important to note that these numbers are relevant to the period before Netscape started giving its browser away."
AMERICA ONLINE last week closed down the SuraLikeit website set up by one of its customers because it carried material deemed to be offensive to Muslims. Scholars at al-Azhar University in Cairo protested about the site and its parodies of Koranic verses, and had threatened to sue AOL for hosting it. An AOL spokeswoman, Tricia Primrose, says several complaints were received. "We have removed that page. Our terms of service are very clear on what we call `inappropriate content', such as content which is defamatory in nature."
An al-Azhar official says the university was unsure whether AOL was legally responsible, but thought that assisting such a site broke international human rights and heritage conventions. Ahmed al-Taibe, dean of al-Azhar's Islamic Studies College, suggests that the university set up a website to counter "anti-Islamic sites", rather than threatening to sue. That strategy may be more fruitful. In a separate case in the United States last week, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case that accused AOL of liability for material posted on its system.
3DFX INTERACTIVE, maker of brand-leading Voodoo 3D add-on cards championed by the games industry, today unveils a new chip intended to expand its influence into the mainstream PC market. The Voodoo Banshee has 2D and 3D graphics built into a single chip that is claimed to 15 to 17 per cent faster than its rivals. As well as running standard applications, the chip will offer arcade-quality 3D enhancements to 250 games .
"3Dfx has been extremely successful creating a rabid following among the PC gaming community for cards based on their products," claims Geoff Ballew, an analyst at Dataquest. "They are the brand name. [However, this new market is], very competitive; there are lots of players, and prices are down."
THE CONVERGENCE between PCs and television came a step closer last week with the announcement that AT&T is to buy the cable TV company Tele-Communications Inc in a deal that will be worth up to $68bn.
By combining AT&T's long-distance phone and Internet services with TCI's cable and telecommunication business the new subsidiary - AT&T Consumer Services - will be able to build the necessary infrastructure for one- stop Internet, cable and phone access via devices such as set-top boxes.
The acquisition, which will also mean AT&T owning local telephone lines for the first time in a decade, will be looked at by the American government, although the Attorney General, Janet Reno, has said that it has not yet been decided whether the review will be done by the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission, another government agency which has responsibility for enforcing anti-trust laws.
THE MAINFRAME manufacturer Amdahl, a California-based unit of Japan's Fujitsu, is expected tomorrow to announce a new generation of mainframes, the Millennium 800 series, that run faster than IBM's newest models due out in August.
IBM's System 390 G5 models will ship with a single processor operating at 125Mips. Up to 10 processors can be employed for a system working at about 900Mips. But Amdahl's machines, due in January, will come with a 125Mips processor, and 12 processors can be linked to work together at 990Mips. IBM has about 67 per cent of the global mainframe market, whereas Amdahl has 10 per cent.
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