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Technology / AI and automation

MINIGRAMS

Hewlett-Packard Co, Compaq Computer Corp, IBM Corp et al may be about to regret their plunge into the cut-throat home computer market as signs begin to appear that it may be very close to saturation: a survey by Odyssey Ventures Inc, San Francisco finds that only 5% of homes without a computer were extremely likely to buy one in the next six months – and that means it will really be less than 5%, because it’s easier to say you will do it than to do it, Nick Donatiello, Odyssey president told the Wall Street Journal; some 78% of the sample said they had no plans to buy a computer this year – and two thirds of the 10m homes with children and annual incomes above $50,000 already have a computer.

Ian Diery, who was pushed out of Apple Computer Inc in April, has resurfaced as chief executive of AST Research Inc, and he has been talking to Reuters, saying that he expects the company to gain momentum now that it has lined up additional financial from Samsung Electronics Co: I’m a pretty impatient person myself, so I intend to execute the improvement of the company as quickly as possible, he said – AST has negotiated $100m in credits from 40% shareholder Samsung in return for a larger say in how AST is run and two more board seats and the right to take its stake to 49.9% and ultimately right to 60%.

Acer Inc already had L M Ericsson Telefon AB distributing its computers in Sweden, and Ericsson has now signed to do the business for Acer all across northern Europe: it plans to extend its sales network to Denmark this month, and will begin distributing Acer computers in Norway and Finland next year.

Daniel Eilers, worldwide marketing chief at Apple Computer Inc, has quit just weeks after the resignation of chief financial officer Joseph Graziano, who failed to persuade the board to sell the company: Eilers allegedly sided with him, alienating chief executive Michael Spindler says the Wall Street Journal: Eilers was seen as a key strategist in Apple’s quest to rebuild market share and had a possible successor to Spindler.

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SGS Thomson Microelectronics NV wants to move to 12 – well 11.8 or 300mm – wafers, and has signed up Applied Materials Inc to work with it in Crolles, France and Agrate, Italy on a variety of 300mm wafer manufacturing technologies. that will be used by SGS-Thomson in

Cable & Wireless Plc announced that it is joining the fray and developing a new international corporate Virtual Private Network service for large companies which it hopes will begin operation in the middle of next year, and looks to take 10% of the world market: it sees the product producing revenue of $300m to $450m in the next few years.

Now that’s the kind of overheated talk that heralds a sharp and painful slowdown: according to Reuter, the chief economist of Texas Instruments Inc, Vladi Catto said demand for semiconductor chips is so strong that the industry will have to start construction of one chip factory per week for the next five years in order to satisfy orders.

The Japanese are adamant that the objectives of the US-Japan Semiconductor Arrangement have been fully achieved, and they bitterly oppose it being extended: Electronic Industries Association of Japan chairman Norio Ohga says that further government intervention in the semiconductor sector is unwarranted; the existing five-year arrangement negotiated between the US and Japan in 1991 expires on July 31 1996.

Capita Group Plc has won the contract to manage the introduction of a voucher system for pre-school education in four regions of the UK – three London boroughs and in Norfolk – Capita will provide all administrative support for Phase 1 and be responsible for the processing of applications, the issue of vouchers, the construction and maintenance of databases covering eligible children and educationalestablishments and the preparation of weekly payment schedules; Capita gave no financial details, but said it would make use of its established software and publications expertise; the UK government is pioneering the use of vouchers that parents can exchange for nursery education at the school of their choice – provided it has a place.

Intek Diversified Corp, Los Angeles is discussing a possible merger with Securicor Group Plc’s Securicor Radiocoms Ltd radio communications unit, but any agreement would be subject to final negotiation after the merger of Intek with the wireless communications business of Simmonds Capital Ltd; management from Intek, Simmonds and Securicor are looking into the advantages from a merged entity that would operate in North America and the UK.

As their first joint venture since their alliance, MCI Communications Corp and News Corp Ltd are to launch a sports pager that will deliver up-to-the-minute sports news and scores for all the big games as they happen, and doubles as a normal alphanumeric pager; the service costs the same as a normal MCI pager – $35 per month for a local pager and $66 a month for national paging; there is also a one-off $15 activation charge.

Europe Offline: Axel Springer Verlag AG has joined Pearson Plc and Matra Hachette SA in pulling out of the Europe Online venture in face of soaring growth of the Internet,

British Telecommunications Plc has been chosen as technology partner for the planned insurance industry World Insurance Network being set up as an independent organisation owned by six of the world’s largest insurance brokers, including Sedgwick Group Plc and Willis Corroon Plc of the UK: it will be used to exchange information and electronic documents and be open to all insurance brokers and insurance companies worldwide; it will build and run the network with joint venture partner MCI Communications Corp.

Microsoft Corp will launch the simplified-Chinese version of Windows95 on Christmas Day and looks for over 80% of new personal computers shipped next year in China to have Chinese Win95 preloaded.

Tandy Corp sales for the month of October rose 25% to $481.1m compared to October 1994, but that was almost all down to new openings – same store sales rose 1% to $386m.

Those pesky Reuters people in Amsterdam are at it again, dumping a story from Haarlem on us in Dutch, but it appears that Verenigd Bezit VNU NV’s VNU Tijdschriftengroep Nederland subsidiary has formed VNU Interactive Media BV as a joint venture with educational publisher Malmberg NV: seems the new company will publish educational material aimed at children on CD-ROM and other interactive delivery media.

Maxtor Corp has now approved the offer by Hyundai Electronics America Inc to acquire the majority of the equity it does not yet hold.

Poor old Motorola Inc has had to admit that it’s so green about selling computers that it has had to call in a third party to advise it on how to sell RISC PCs to itself: it has called in computer direct marketer Insight Enterprises Inc to develop a direct marketing, sales and fulfillment programme to sell Motorola Computer Group PowerStack RISC PCs and servers to the various departments throughout Motorola, and to its employees for home use.
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