Network: Bytes

MICROSOFT AND AOL last week continued the battle over instant messaging, which allows users to communicate with each other online in real time. As well as the technical approach with AOL's Instant Messenger service (AIM) locking out MSN Messenger users and Microsoft providing "fixes" to get round AOL's barriers, AOL tried a different tactic. MSN users have received messages warning them that they are using unauthorised software and providing a link to download sites for AIM.

"As part of our blocking strategies, we are sending instant messages to MSN users which basically informs them that they are accessing AOL servers on an unauthorised client," AOL spokeswoman Tricia Primrose said.

Microsoft, which argues that instant message systems should be based on open industry standards, has planned a meeting next month with other interested companies such as AT&T, Prodigy and Yahoo. AOL, which has Sun and Apple on its side in the dispute, said it has not been told of the meeting.

THE RECORDING Industry Association of America (RIAA) last week said it was dropping legal action against Diamond Multimedia's Rio portable digital music device that plays MP3 audio files downloaded over the Internet. The RIAA said it and Diamond had reached "mutually satisfactory resolution of outstanding legal issues".

An appeals court ruled in June that the Rio was not primarily a recorder and thus did not violate anti-piracy laws. Since litigation began in October, RIAA and MP3 player manufacturers have launched the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) to establish guidelines for Internet music formats and devices.

"The RIAA is pleased to bring a formal end to this legal process," said Cary Sherman, RIAA senior executive vice president and general counsel. "The future of the digital music marketplace will be created in the marketplace itself, enabled by initiatives like SDMI."

ALAN BARATZ, the former head of Sun's Java software division and president of the company's software products and platforms division, announced his resignation last week. Sun said Jon Kannegaard, vice-president of Sun's Java platform business, will take on the role of acting division president while it searches for a replacement. Baratz will stay until mid-August when he leaves to become managing director of the investment firm Warburg Pincus.

Meanwhile, Sun announced plans to introduce an advanced chip with an inbuilt Java virtual machine to enhance Java software and multimedia performance. The Majc (pronounced "magic") chip is not intended to compete with Intel processors on desktop machines, but is aimed at Internet devices with high demands on graphics, video and audio. "It's a general-purpose [device] for a new class of applications where you see the convergence of various data types," Jeff O'Neal, group marketing manager for Majc, said. Chips are expected to ship next year.

INTERNET SEARCH engines are set for a boost according to developments last week. Excite@Home and a Norwegian company, Fast Search and Transfer, separately announced plans to launch search engines that will catalogue the entire Web in their databases. Current search engines typically have indexed less than 6 per cent of the estimated 800 million Web pages.

Excite@Home, which currently has 50 million pages indexed, said its new service will become operational this month and is scaleable to keep up with the growth of Web pages. It says that it will be comprehensive, but will also allow users to target precisely the information they require to prevent them being overwhelmed by search results.

Fast Search and Transfer's AllTheWeb had 200 million pages in its database when it launched last week. Next year it claims that it will have indexed them all.

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