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INTERNET EXPLORER 5.0 made its debut last week, with Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates, saying that it will be a major part of the Windows 98 Second Edition upgrade, due in the autumn. Gates said the browser was part of Microsoft's mission to spread the Web lifestyle - "taking the Internet, combining it with great software and turning it into the most powerful tool of all time".

The company's IntelliSense technologies have been extended into the application to help reduce the time spent in routine tasks. Its caching methods and rendering engine are faster than in the previous version. Microsoft claims that it is up to 60 per cent faster than Netscape Navigator 4.5 at displaying pages. Search facilities have been enhanced and, playing catch-up with Netscape, a facility to show sites related to the current one has been added. A toolbar gives easy access to Internet radio stations without the need for third-party software.

IE 5.0 was released for Windows 3.1, 95, 98 and NT, as well as Sun's Solaris and Hewlett-Packard's HP UX versions of Unix. An upgrade version for the Macintosh will be available in the autumn, but there are no plans for a Linux version.

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APPLE COMPUTER last week launched the latest version of its operating system for servers, Mac OS X Server. It went on sale at $499, almost half the originally announced cost, as Apple targeted Linux with the software, which has its roots in the NeXT operating system.

Steve Jobs, Apple's interim CEO, said the new operating system using Apache software and Apple hardware can handle more web connections per second than comparably priced machines from Dell, running either Linux or Windows NT. He also said that Apple was getting on the open source bandwagon by releasing core parts of Mac OS X Server source code to enable developers to write more effective applications. "If we all work on this together, we can make a better product than any one company by itself," explained Jobs.

The release marks the start of Apple's two-tier strategy for operating systems. Echoing Microsoft's use of Windows and Windows NT for different markets, Apple will release a consumer version of Mac OS X later this year.

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MOBILE PHONES and the Internet featured prominently at the CeBIT trade show in Hanover last week. Symbian, the British-based alliance between the world's largest cell phone manufacturers, announced that Sun's Java technology would be a standard feature of the operating system in its new generation of mobile communications devices. The Symbian-member Psion demonstrated some products running Java and said that it would be releasing them in the second half of 1999.

Motorola, another Symbian member, demonstrated its latest models and said that next year all its mobile phones would have Internet browsing functions built in. Intel used the show to unveil its Pentium III Xeon Processor. The company's fastest microprocessor is designed for mid- range and high-end servers as well as workstations. The launch version runs at 500MHz. A 550MHz version is expected next month.

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AOL COMPLETED the acquisition of Netscape Communications following clearance by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and a vote last week by Netscape shareholders. The deal was worth about $4.2bn when announced last November, but the final value to Netscape shareholders was based on the price of AOL stock, which has increased by 140 per cent since then, making the deal worth about $10.1bn. Detailed operational plans for the combined company and a related alliance with Sun are expected to be released this week. Microsoft said the decision, and subsequent creation of an Internet giant, make the DOJ's ongoing anti-trust case against it irrelevant.

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DETAILS OF the consent order agreed between the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Intel on the eve of an anti-trust trial were released last week. Intel was accused by the FTC of being a monopolist, illegally withholding products unless customers signed away intellectual property rights. The consent order bars Intel from severing business ties with customers who sue it.

"If you have an intellectual property dispute, Intel cannot cut you off," said the FTC's chairman, Robert Pitofsky. However, if a customer sues Intel and seeks an injunction to prevent the company from selling its chips, Intel is free to withhold samples and technical information that the customer needs to stay in business.

Pitofsky said that achieving a balance was important and that no company would be permitted to shut down the other.

"This gives a framework for handling these disputes with our customers," said Peter Detkin, the associate general counsel of Intel.

The commission voted to accept the proposed consent order for a 60-day public comment period, after which it is expected to make it final.

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SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS last week became the first company to start mass production of 256-megabit dynamic random access memory (Dram) chips. Although the same size as current 64 and 128-megabit Drams, the faster and higher- capacity chips will increasingly be used in memory-hungry high-end PCs as well as servers and workstations. Samsung said it will make 2-3 million chips this year, worth $200m to $300m in revenue.

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