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INTEL IS working with Australian content providers as part of its Web Outfitter project to build websites that are not only optimised for PCs with Pentium III processors, but restricted to them, says a report last week in Australia's Fairfax IT News. Ultimately, Intel wants the controversial processor serial number (PSN) to be used to identify a Pentium III PC and send it seamlessly to sites optimised to take advantage of its ability to handle streaming video, 3D and animation.

However, as many consumers are choosing to disable the feature that allows them to be tracked across the Net, Angelo Lo Certo, Intel's advertising and Internet marketing manager for Asia Pacific, says that in the meantime the websites will "interrogate the processor" and route the machine to appropriate pages. "There is no information transaction," he adds. "The CPU ID is simply a reporting-back feature, not one of actively sending information. The basic premiss is that if you have a Pentium III-based PC your Internet experience will be greatly enhanced."

The Web Outfitter Scheme is described as an after-sales benefit for Pentium III buyers. Intel is building a site of its own, linking to similarly Pentium III themed sites. "On our own site we're developing themes on various issues, like a magazine," Lo Certo says. "The type of websites we're working with then add to that theme. That means not just the traditional uses of the Internet for research and e-mail but also lifestyle-oriented material such as entertainment and learning." The sites are due to go live this month, but Intel would not identify its partners.

THE ANTI-TRUST case against Microsoft may be in recess, but it is still centre-stage in the industry. Last week it emerged that the Software and Information Industry Association, a prominent trade group, has proposed the "death penalty" for Microsoft. In a secret 40-page report circulated among its board and Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers, it said Microsoft should be broken up into companies selling different products or broken up into "Baby Bills", each with identical product lines. It did not recommend a plan for the break-up, saying that was for the court to decide, but it did conclude that structural reorganisation was the only way to prevent Microsoft from exerting monopoly power unfairly.

DOJ representatives refused to comment on the document, but have said that if it wins the government will ask for a special hearing to decide Microsoft's fate, such as requirements that it allows other companies to sell versions of Windows they have modified, or limiting the deals it can make with computer manufacturers and Internet companies.

PLAYSTATION II will be launched in spring 2000, but Sony revealed some details of its 128-bit console last week. The new PlayStation, based on a processor designed by Toshiba and Sony, will be DVD-Rom based and have a rendering engine comparable in speed and data throughput with high- end workstations. MPEG2 compression will be used to store images that can be decompressed in real time as software demands. PlayStation II will be compatible with the more than 3,000 titles available for the current model.

NATIONAL OFFICIALS from the EU last week adopted a recommendation that EU privacy laws require hardware and software manufacturers to give customers tools to control what is transmitted about them over the Net.

"It is almost impossible to use the Internet without being confronted with privacy-invading features which carry out all kinds of processing operations of personal data in a way that is invisible to the data subjects," it said.

The recommendation specifically cited problems with web browsers and programming technologies such as Sun's Java and Microsoft's ActiveX. It also complained about "cookies" allowing websites to keep track of what a registered visitor does at a site, information often used for marketing. "The programs should be built in an easy way so people know how to turn them on or turn them off," says Alonso Blas, an official in the Dutch data protection authority.

Peter Fleischer, a Microsoft lawyer, said the company was worried that such interpretations would prevent consumers from using personalised Internet services.

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