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WINDOWS 2000 will be released on 17 February 2000, Microsoft said last week. The operating system designed to replace Windows NT 4 will be launched on the last day of IDG World Expo's Windows 2000 Conference and Expo trade show in San Francisco.

Microsoft said the launch of the software, already a year late, will be the company's most important, as the product will form the basis of all future Microsoft operating systems.

Chairman Bill Gates, earlier this year, said that the product would ship before the start of 2000. Keith White, director of marketing for Microsoft's business and enterprise division, pointed out last week that PC manufacturers would have copies shipped to them in December to get ready for the retail launch. "Our goal was always to release the product by the end of 1999, meaning our final bits to manufacturer," he said.

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THE INTERNATIONAL Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said last week that it will take action against piracy on the Internet by launching legal initiatives against hundreds of sites in more than 20 countries.

IFPI said it aimed to pave the way for artists and record labels to distribute music online legitimately around the world, by closing down sites that break the law by trading in illegally copied music files, typically in MP3 format, and by deleting those files found on Web and file transfer protocol servers. It estimates that there are about one million illegal music files and it will be targeting people who post files on the Net and Internet service providers who host illegal Web sites.

"Where Internet pirates are persistently breaking the law, there is now a global anti-piracy operation which will stop them,"' IFPI Chairman Jay Berman said.

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INTEL RE-STAKED its claim to produce the fastest processors used in desktop PCs when it introduced a range of new Pentium III chips last week. Its 733MHz chip overtakes AMD's 700MHz Athlon chip released earlier this month. Fifteen processors were launched (nine PIIIs for desktops, three PIII Xeons for workstations and three PIIIs for notebook PCs), all of them made using the new 0.18-micron process technology called Coppermine.

Intel said the chips produced by new technology run on lower voltages and, with advanced on-chip caches and improved system buffering, are up to 25 per cent faster than older PIIIs. The gap between transistors in the silicon produced using Coppermine technology is smaller enabling more transistors to be included than with the old 0.25-micron technology. The new Pentium IIIs have 28 million transistors compared with about 8.5 million in older Pentium IIIs.

Intel will phase out 0.25-micron technology as its factories turn exclusively to the Coppermine technology. The introduction immediately sparked price cuts of up to 24 per cent on existing Intel and AMD processors, and Intel will further drive prices down by introducing cheaper chip packaging.

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DELL COMPUTER, who last quarter took over Compaq's position as the top seller of PCs in the US, maintained their lead according to figures released by IDC and Dataquest. Dataquest also said that this year Dell has taken Apple's number-one spot in supplying the US education market with a market advantage of 21 per cent to Apple's 16 per cent. In the world PC market Compaq managed to hold on to the top spot, but analysts predict that Dell will soon take that position as well.

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BRAD SILVERBERG, architect of many Microsoft successes, left the company last week after nine-years' service. He was head of the team that made Windows 3.1 and later took control of the Internet Explorer project. Two years ago he dropped his involvement to a part-time advisory role. Since the arrival of Rick Belluzzo, "[Silverberg] felt the consumer strategy was on track and there was less need for his services," a company spokeswoman told Cnet.com.

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