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October 24, 1995

MINIGRAMS

By CBR Staff Writer

The latest Disk/Trend report from the eponymous outfit in Mountain View, suggests that IBM Corp’s disk drive business slumped 28% last year compared with 1993, and will claw back a mere 3.3% of that fall this year, before sliding 13.5% next year and remaining in the doldrums for two years thereafter: undisputed top disk industry guru Jim Porter’s organisation contrasts this with the world market, which it reckons grew 6.9% to $23,200m last year, will rise 10.6% to $25,700m this year and will flatten out over 1996, 1997 and 1998, as price reductions get into lock step with year-by-year growth in demand.

H&R Block Inc, Chicago reiterated its position that it has no plans to spin off its CompuServe on-line service – but only at this time.

NexGen Inc’s Nx686 is claimed to use a more advanced decode-execution approach and larger caches than the K6 would have done; it has seven execution units, including one dedicated to high-performance multimedia software applications and the company expects it to outperform a Pentium and Pentium Pro on both 16-bit and 32-bit software.

It is said that with Nexgen Inc being subsumed into Advanced Micro Devices Inc, Cyrix Corp will be under great pressure to find a buyer: while in the medium term it may have to find a company with deep pockets to finance development, we don’t buy the argument that it is under any particular pressure while it has chips that perform to step and its foundries are meeting its requirements, and we certainly don’t buy the suggestion that IBM Corp is the most likely buyer – its foundry, SGS-Thomson Microelectronics NV is extremely interested in having a top-selling microprocessor, despite the falling out between the two, Texas Instruments Inc, which was to have been another Cyrix foundry, has been trying to come up with a hit microprocessor family, and NEC Corp has long viewed the iAPX-86 franchise with undisguised envy, and although IBM is certainly a strong contender, its agreements with Intel Corp are only very partially made public, and they may preclude such a purchase.

Nevertheless, according to PC Week, IBM Corp is to resell Cyrix Corp’s 5×86 in 75MHz and 100MHz versions, calling it the 5x86c, and pricing the parts at $109 and $131 respectively in unit quantities: the latter chip performed slightly better than the 75MHz Pentium in tests by PC Week Labs, the paper says, noting that the parts are designed to go into cheaper 80486 motherboards.

Commenting on its third quarter results (figures), San Jose, California-based Conner Peripherals Inc said component availability and cost pressures hurt the results and that managing this will continue a significant challenge.

Oh dear, sounds as if it decided that discretion was the better part of valour when it comes to America’s litigatious investors: Chips & Technologies Inc is postponing indefinitely its share offer, not because of usual unfavourable market conditions but because of uncertainties concerning the early part of calendar 1996 arising from a potential supply issue with respect to one of the company’s products.

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Not too cheering to hear that memory and processor chips are worth more, pound for pound, than cocaine and it seems that the methods used by drugs gangs are straying into computer and chip theft: equipment worth over ú150,000 was stolen in an armed and masked raid on Knight Ridder Inc’s financial services centre in New Cross, London, with staff being sprayed with CS gas, bound and gagged, and the Daily Express lost computers or chips worth ú200,000 from its Thames-side offices in Blackfriars Road – the thieves used planks to bridge the 60 foot drop between the railway embankment and the building, and smashed windows to get into the computer room and do their worst.

Commenting on its third quarter losses (figures), MCI Communications Corp said its $831m charges were for decommissioning unproductive assets, redundancy costs for about 3,000 employees, legal contingencies and other restructuring costs; it said turnover in the quarter was fuelled by success across all segments of its market, including big gains in the long-distance carrier market; international business traffic also remained strong as did demand for calling card and personal 800 services; it also benefited from several US states opening their markets to short distance toll calls.

Londoners – and visitors to London of course – will fairly soon have the opportunity of sampling the thrills of virtual hang-gliding, Evans & Sutherland Computer Corp-style: we hear that one of the Salt Lake City company’s Virtual Glider systems is going into the Trocadero Centre, just off Piccadilly Circus.

DreamWorks SKG is to build a $50m animation complex in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale according to the Los Angeles Times, quoting city officials as saying the 500,000-square-foot building on 12 acres of land would one day employ 1,000 people; a whole load of permissions are still required for start-up.

You make a grown man cry – or perhaps Ve haf vays of breaking you down: according to the US PC Week gossip column, when you install the Explorer 2.0 beta release from Microsoft Corp, it asks whether or not you want to make it the preferred browser under Windows95, so of course you say no – but the pesky thing does not take no for an answer – sporadically, week after week, back comes the message apparently at random Do you want to make Internet Explorer your preferred browser? until you decide resistance is futile and say yes – not us, fellahs – second time the message comes up unbidden, it’s time to hit the delete button and tell Explorer that it’s history.

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