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  1. Technology
September 19, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

Sounds weird, but CompuServe, the on-line service owned by H&R Block Inc, is exploring buying the 50% of Prodigy Services Co owned by Sears, Roebuck Co according to Advertising Age: executives close to CompuServe told the advertising trade publication that CompuServe had made overtures to Sears, which last month acknowledged it was assessing its 50% stake in Prodigy, but no formal offer was made, said the magazine; IBM Corp is believed to have talked with Sears about buying the other half, to give it total ownership.

IBM Corp is opening a new pan-European HelpCentre for personal computer users at its site in the Scottish town of Greenock which it said will create up to 200 jobs in the area and establish Greenock as the single European site for all HelpCentre activities: IBM agents there already provide advice and support for users of IBM personal computer hardware and software in the UK and Ireland and from September 12 France became one of the first continental European sites to be served entirely from the Scottish site; customers will get a direct connection with Greenock through a local rate call in their own country and queries will be handled by an agent speaking their language; recruitment for the new positions has already begun and most of the new staff are locals.

General Instrument Corp, Chicago is in talks to buy Shipley, West Yorkshire maker of television set-top decoders and satellite receivers Pace Micro Technology Ltd, for ú120m, says the Sunday Telegraph.

Compaq Computer Corp is pulling further ahead of the competition according to International Data Corp’s annual worldwide and regional forecasts: it is about two points clear of IBM Corp and Apple Computer Inc, which were tied for second place in worldwide shipments; for US sales, Compaq retained its lead, but dropped a point in market share, with Packard Bell Electronics Inc and Apple close behind, and IBM trailing in fourth.

Updating the British Railways Board plans for sale of its British Rail Telecommunications Ltd, the London Times says it will be sold for nearly ú100m by the end of December, and that more than five potential bidders, including overseas firms, have already signed confidentiality agreements and are looking at the business; final bids for the unit, which has turnover of ú170m will be due in mid-October.

Memory Corp Plc, the Scottish company that assembles dud memory chips into Single In-line Memory Modules with an extra chip that fills in the gaps in working cells in all the less than perfect chips, was valued at ú270m as it joined the Alternative Investment Market in London yesterday, and as such, and with nary a penny in profit, it looks a bit like Netscape Communications Corp – but its potential for enormous profit is rather easier to see than that of Netscape: it is able to sell its day’s output of SIMMs on the day, gets the money for them 12 hours later, and does not have to pay the relative pittance it pays for the dud memory chips for 30 days; according to the Daily Mail, Memory is currently selling boards with 8Mb of memory for around the top indust ry price of $250, 16Mb boards for $450; the company sub-contracts the assembly work, confining itself to simpky testing every chip and every board.

Compaq Computer Corp announced pricing and availability of its new LTE 5000 high-end multimedia notebook yesterday while also cutting prices on its Contura and Elite ranges: the Pentium-based LTE 5000 has PCI local bus graphics, memory expansion up to 72Mb and a front bay capable of holding a hard, floppy or CD-ROM drive, or an extra battery (CI No 2,734); prices for the LTE 5000 start at ú3,000 for the 75MHz Pentium model with 10.4 super-twist nematic display, a 510Mb hard disk and 8Mb RAM, rising to ú4,900 for a 120MHz Pentium with a 10.4 thin film transistor display, 1.35Gb hard disk and 8Mb RAM; the 75MHz and 90MHz models are out next month, and the 120MHz version will follow by the end of the year.

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Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert will react within 10 day

s to the changes made by France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom AG to their Atlas joint venture, a European Commission source told Reuters, warning that this would not be the end of the procedure which, under internal Commission guidelines, could last for another two months.

Apple Computer Inc – onlie begetter of the core technology – and Hewlett-Packard Co are wavering over whether to pay their dues to finance Taligent Inc next year and beyond, US PC Week magazine hears.

Redwood City, California-based RSA Data Security Inc has added Spyglass Inc to its list of licensees.

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd’s Hutchison Telecom UK Ltd decided not, after all to comment on a newspaper report that it is planning to float its UK cellular telephone operator Orange in the second quarter of next year: When we are ready to, we will do, the company declared.

Symantec Corp, Cupertino has formed an alliance with AT&T Corp’s Global Information Solutions to help businesses migrate to Windows95: AT&T Global plans to use Symantec’s Norton Administrator for Networks 2.0 in its Desktop Migration Solution for Windows95, and both companies’ direct sales forces will engage in co-operative marketing efforts.

Seems the Lithium ion batteries Apple Computer Inc has been using in its PowerBook 5300s don’t actually go bang in normal use (CI No 2,751) – they overheat so badly that the machine can catch fire: two of the 1,000 units it has shipped so far did just that; both machines were owned by or loaned to Apple staff; the batteries come from the Panasonic Industrial Co arm of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co and will be replaced with a Nickel-metal hydride model, but Apple will not ship the systems in volume until the first quarter of 1996.

Reuters Holdings Plc has paid $2m cash for the shares it did not already own in software development company Sailfish Systems Ltd, which specialises in risk management for the banking and corporate sectors; Reuters acquired its 33% in 1994.

The Sprint Telecommunications Venture, which includes Sprint Corp, Tele-Communications Inc, Comcast Corp and Cox Communications Inc said eight cable companies have signed letters of intent to affiliate with it, extending the venture’s cable reach by 8.8m US homes: signers of letters include Falcon Cable Systems LP, InterMedia Partners, Lensfest Group Inc, Marcus Cable Inc, Rifkin & Associates Inc, TKR Cable Inc, Susquehanna Cable Inc and Coastside Cable Inc.

America Online Inc, Reston, Virginia is extending its computer information joint venture with Bertelsmann AG (CI No 2,736) to the UK and French markets: the on-line service is currently available in Germany.

After growing at 9.3% in the first quarter, the overall European computer market slowed to a 7.1% rate in the second quarter, and is expected to slow to 5.5% this quarter, says International Data Corp: a slackening in consumer sales from last winter’s boom is a main factor in the market slowdown, it says, adding that Scandinavia, Germany and the UK remain relatively strong with the British market expected to grow by 8.7% this year to $24,900m.

Michel Bon, newly appointed chief of France Telecom, told Le Figaro that he wants to meet with the unions in the coming days and that he intends to undertake the reforms needed to prepare the operator for a deregulated market: he has taken no time at all to establish a reputation for coming out with quotes that sound gnomic until you examine them, whereupon they are seen to be as vacuous as those of Peter Sellars as Chauncey Gardiner in Being There: I have been appointed to push things ahead, and I will advance them together with those who want to move ahead; on that point there can be no doubt, but according to what calendar, I don’t know yet, but probably at the speed that will seem the best, he said; furthermore, he said, the evolution of France Telecom is not incompatible with the attachment to public service, while adding no regulation can protect you from the competition present in

the world of telecommunications – yes indeed.

Digital Equipment Corp chief Bob Palmer’s Unix Expo keynote speech will address the Unix industry’s failure to deliver applications portability – or vendor independence – at the 32-bit level which let Microsoft Corp’s Windows NT into the frame: the NT wake-up call has led the Unix crowd to its 64-bit application programming interface initiative, Palmer believes, saying it’s an effort it can’t afford to get wrong this time around.

Mortice Kern Systems Inc says it will launch its promised Code Integrity code analysis tool at Unix Expo this week and announce a version for IBM Corp’s OpenEdition MVS.

Borland International Inc in Scotts Valley, California, will put version 4.0 of its InterBase 4.0 server database up under HP-UX and Solaris from October: it’s already up under other Unixes and under Windows NT.

NEC Corp has introduced to the Chinese market Chinese-language word processors that it developed jointly with Chinese software firm Ri Dian Hua Electronics Co, at a lower price than competing word processors with similar functions marketed in China, the firm said: the machine is priced at $1,800 and NEC aims to sell some 10,000 units in the first year to large corporations and government offices.

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