Coop's Scoop: The week ahead the week that was

Coop's Scoop: The week ahead the week that was: High noon for Microsoft, the Napster fiasco and Intel's chip fest.
Written by Charles Cooper, Contributor on
Microsoft goes for all the marbles on Monday when its lawyers troop back into a Washington D.C. courtroom--this time before a panel of appellate judges--to argue why the software company did not break the law. After all the speeches, all the articles and all the arguments, it comes down to two days of courtroom presentations. If Microsoft convinces the judges to overturn the verdict, the states participating in the antitrust lawsuit would likely be by their lonesome if they attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court. There's a new sheriff in town and he's more likely to be a Friend of Bill than his predecessor.

Intel has the chip stage all to itself when company execs unfurl the design of the long-awaited McKinley processor. The first systems based around this 64-bit server chip aren't expected to reach the market until some time next year. Also look for faster mobile Pentium IIIs in the 700Mhz range, upping the stakes in Intel's low-power mobile processor rivalry with Transmeta.

Also of interest, Entropia co-founder Andrew Chien, is slated to give a talk at the conference. Entropia, it should be recalled, is one of the more high-profile P2P developers. From Intel's perspective, it doesn't matter whether the market sticks with client-server or shifts to peer-to-peer. The idea is to help foster an environment in which the demand for processors remains robust.

Under the "hope springs eternal," category, Jupiter Research hosts a get-together in the Big Apple where lessons will be shared on how old media companies can leverage content and commerce to make a buck on the Internet.

Another in a seemingly limitless number of Internet security conferences is on the agenda, this one, called InfoSec World 2001, takes place in Orlando. As long as hackers--white hat, black hat, no hat--continue to flex their keyboard muscles by busting through cheese paper firewalls, the Internet security conference biz will continue to go gangbusters.

The sub-text of Sun Microsystems sub-par earnings call could have been lifted from the 1992 Clinton campaign slogan, "It's the economy, stupid." Now that the dot-com euphoria is dead and buried, the real Internet companies that are long-term players are desperately waiting for a macro-economic fillip. And so the upcoming week is chockablock with market-moving reports from the likes of the National Association of Realtors (home sales), the Conference Board (consumer confidence) and the United States Commerce Department (gross domestic product.)

Laser-based communications will get lots of attention when Terabeam, a Seattle-based laser service provider, and FSONA Communications, a laser equipment maker, announce the commercial availability of their products and services. A lot of people are anxiously awaiting this rollout. If this stuff actually works as advertised, it could qualify as the next big thing.

The week that was
Jim Allchin has had worse weeks I'm sure. Indeed, I recall the scene last year when government lawyer David Boies reduced the Microsoft honcho to a puddle of protoplasm after a withering cross-examination. But the mini-controversy triggered by Allchin's apparent attack on open-source software qualifies as a close second. "I'm an American, I believe in the American Way," Allchin told a reporter from Bloomberg. "I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don't think we've done enough education of policy makers to understand the threat."

Allchin has since backpedaled, suggesting that there was a wider context for his remarks. But the wider question has to do with his criticism (and thus Microsoft's criticism?) of the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License. Any product containing software licensed under the GPL must be made available to third parties free of charge. In a fine column by Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News, Allchin expressed concern about publicly funded software projects which prevent private companies from using the research to create proprietary software. That's surely a concern for Microsoft, which worries about the potential commodification of its intellectual property. But as former Novell exec Craig Burton recalls, Microsoft reverse-engineered Novell's intellectual property in the early 1990s and gave away the technology in Windows. To be sure, this was all legal and part of the hardscrabble competition between the two companies. But if that's part of the "American way," then how does Open Source rate as something beyond the pale?

Sizing up the situation following their recent slam-dunk legal victory, the record studios promptly rejected the Napster-Bertelsmann call to make nice and move on. The moguls, who are in the drivers seat--and know it--would be absolutely delighted to see Napster disappear and they have no incentive to help save Hank Barry's skin. Even Napster's $1 billion music licensing offer fell short. My take: From a purely tactical point of view, the studios are quite rightly taking advantage of the new reality--the law is on their side in ruling that theft as a business model won't pass muster--and they see no reason not to pursue the matter to its final resolution.

But what a waste. What shortsightedness. Instead of thinking about ways to work with Napster and create a business model that will benefit all sides, not to mention help eliminate rip-off prices consumers now pay for music CDs, they're taking the easy out by pulling the trigger. Fine. Kill Napster off but you'll have to deal with Gnutella and other pure P2P music-swapping technologies that can't be padlocked.

If you're looking for any sliver of good news about PC sales, consider this: Consumers may be buying fewer machines but they're spending more. (January sales of computers in the $1,000 to $1,500 range are up 65 percent in the last year.)

As we approach the one-year March anniversary of the Nasdaq's all-time high, the stock market continues its frenzied destruction of shareholder value. It's the same herd mentality, but the flip side of the coin, almost as if we had opened a door on the Bizarro Nasdaq.

Something I still don't quite understand but the low-end and mid-range iMacs Apple introduced at Tokyo Macworld, which come with 64MB of RAM, don't have enough memory to fully run the upcoming OS X.

U.S. Robotics says it is on track to start shipping modems based on the V.92 standard later in the first quarter. The standard, ratified by the International Telecommunication Union last year, shortens the time it takes to make a connection and lets users adjust transfer speeds and place data transmissions on hold to take a voice call without losing the connection. The upshot: dial-up modems may be around a lot longer than we thought.

Former President Clinton earned his multi-thousand dollar fee for enlivening an Oracle user conference in New Orleans with such gems such as "The Internet is our future" and "(empowerment) is good business." And then he walked away with a fat multi-thousand fee for that? I must confess that I am insanely jealous.

Cyber civil libertarians had good reason for concern after a trade group representing global music interests said it plans to develop software that will help identify anyone uploading music onto the Internet. That's just a silly waste of brainpower.

Following in the footsteps of AltaVista and Juno, another cyber outfit is dropping its offer of unlimited free Internet access. This time it's Bluelight.com, the cyber arm of giant retailer Kmart. I don't think many people are going to get too upset. They recognize that the objective in business is to make money--and after the puncturing of the dot-com bubble, that obvious fact has taken on new urgency.

Transmeta got a boost when the first servers based around its chips hit the market. Rebel.com, which makes the machines, claims the systems consume just one-fourth the power used by rival servers. But as I noted earlier in the column, Intel is not sitting by idly. The upcoming 700MHz low-power mobile Pentium III chip is designed for notebooks, a market where Intel and Transmeta will doubtless repeatedly collide throughout the remainder of the year.

In the news
Jobs unveils iMacs in Tokyo
KMart's free Net access--for limited time only
Record labels scoff at Napster offer
Microsoft, Bristol, settle lawsuit
Music industry to snoop on Napster users
It's official: PC sales stink!
Rebel.com first to debut Transmeta-based server
Webvan closes Dallas operation
Java security hole could put servers at risk
Privacy issues take center stage in Washington
Dell reveals product numbers fail to add up

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