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  1. Technology
November 10, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

Sears Roebuck & Co is actively looking for a buyer for its stake in Prodigy Services Co, sources told Reuters: but Sears chairman and chief executive Arthur Martinez said only We’re still in the midst of reviewing strategy and choices and have made no decision; he said that the Sears board met Wednesday.

Bit of a surprise – Microsoft Corp is to sell its 17.9% stake in Covent Garden book and CD-ROM publisher Dorling Kindersley Plc – it originally bought 26% but was diluted when Dorling floated: the shares will be placed with UK and overseas investors by Goldman Sachs International as the lead manager and bookrunner of the offering.

Bloodied but unbowed and undaunted, Europe Online SA says it will launch its service on December 15, but now that its only major publishing partner is Burda Verlag GmbH, it will stress value-added Internet access as its main attraction, and it has licensed Netscape Communications Corp’s Navigator; it will begin offering its service in Germany and the UK using AT&T Corp’s Interchange software, and will extend the service to other European countries next year; services will be in English, French and German, but pricing is not yet set.

It was like pulling teeth, but GEC Plc did finally confirm that GEC Plessey Telecommunications Ltd chief Richard Reynolds had resigned: GEC was saying nothing more but the consensus was that Reynolds’ exit had been sparked by his public disagreement earlier this year with the GEC board over the way it was handling the task of finding a successor for Lord Weinstock, who has finally agreed to resign as the GEC managing director in the summer; he has run the firm ever since 1961.

Sun Microsystems Inc shares have been surging of late so the company decided to set a two-for-one split.

Naperville, Illinois-based Spyglass Inc has now licensed the Java programming language for the Internet from Sun Microsystems Inc and will integrate it with its Spyglass Mosaic Web client technology so that Mosaic browsers will be able to view Web content developed in Java.

Siemens AG’s US operations did $8,000m in the year to September 1995, up 9% from last year; orders rose 5.3% to the same $8,000m, and employment rose to 47,200 from 46,300 – but it did buy Pyramid Technology Corp during the year.

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The disappointment was palpable when the bid for Unipalm Group Plc finally came in and was worth only 450 pence a share in UUNet Technologies Inc shares, but all that is forgiven and forgotten now by all those that sat tight rather than selling their shares in the market in a huff: the undimmed US market enthusiasm for all things Internet, which has just taken Netscape Communications Corp shares through the $100 mark, has also steadily lifted UUNet’s share price so that the offer is now worth around 600 pence a share, and Unipalm shares have soared along, and are now at 594p.

OmniStop… it sounds like a really small earthquake in Chile, but everybody would go really big on the story if it were to hit IBM Corp so for the record, Hewlett-Packard Co says it has has found a manufacturing defect in early units of its HP OmniGo 100 handheld organisers, in which under certain circumstances, information may be lost when batteries are changed in the unit; the problem has been isolated to some 1,900 units in the US retail channel – they have all been rounded up – and the company believes that about 500 US-based users may be affected; if your machine has a serial number lower than SG54402000, it will replace it.

Cisco Systems Inc, San Jose, says it has now completed its acquisition of Grand Junction Networks Inc.

The strategy at SoftKey International Inc is to put bargain basement prices on all its software and sell huge numbers of copies, but that idea does not appeal at all to Learning Co, which reckons it would trigger a price war in educational software that would not leave margin enough to fund future development, and accordingly the board has rejected SoftKey’s unsolicited bid out of hand and persuaded friendly bidder Br°derbund Software Inc, Novato, California to improve its offer: Broderbund is now offering 0.92 of a share for each Learning Co share, currently worth $60.26 a share, coming close to the SoftKey offer – however many holders are likely to want to go to SoftKey, which is bidding $65 cash for half the equity, shares for the rest.

China’s Ministry of Electronics Industry has a five-year plan to raise the value of the country’s computer exports to $11,000m by 2000 from the current $3,600, the Xinhua state news agency reported.

In one area at least, applications for patents in electronics, the Axis has broken down completely: according to no less an authority than Chancellor Helmut Kohl, while Japanese electronic patent registrations rose to 23,000 in 1992 from 17,500 in 1987, in Germany over the same period, they slumped 37% – to a vestigial 181, from 289.

MCI Communications Corp’s 1-800 Music Now compact disk marketing and ordering service is not exactly overambitious and is not going to appeal to real music enthusiasts if it has only 5,000 titles in stock: baby boomers that have rebought the key albums of their youth on CD typically have 500 to 1,000 in their collections, and 5,000 is the sort of number that only mass-market department stores stock – your friendly neighbourhood record store would have nearer 30,000.

Well they can’t really blame that on the antique IBM Corp 9020E 360-generation mainframes: a combination of a good breeding year and weather – a lengthy mild autumn that caused them to leave migration to the last minute – sent millions of ducks and geese heading south across the middle of the US last week, the mass overloaded radars, forcing temporary closure of airports in Kansas City, Missouri, Omaha, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa.

Read-Rite Corp plans capital spending of about $250m in fiscal 1996, up from $185m in fiscal 1995, primarily to expand manufacturing capacity in Thailand and Japan, expand capacity and enhance technology at its thin wafer fabrication facility in Fremont, California, and expand its process development capabilities in Milpitas: Read-Rite makes heads and head stack assembly components used in making computer disk drives and magnetoresistive heads for quarter-inch-cartridge tape drive data storage devices; additional capacity is expected to come on line during the third quarter of fiscal 1996 from its Philippines, Thailand and Osaka plants.

NEC Corp has licensed production rights to its 16-bit microcontroller designs to Samsung Electronics Co: the parts in question are the 78KIII Series and the 78KIV Series.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc will demonstrate a 160MHz version of its Am5X86 microprocessor at Comdex in Las Vegas next week, US PC Week reports: the chip is actually derived from the Am486, but the company claims that it matches performance of a 100MHz Pentium; there are no immediate plans to ship it.

Telephone companies are complaining about the potential complications resulting from Time Warner Inc eating Turner Broadcasting System Inc, the Wall Street Journal says: it hears that the larger regional Bells and others have told the Federal Trade Commission the takeover could interfere with their efforts to enter the cable television business because the new media giant could stall competition through its control over popular programming.

IPC Corp Ltd of Singapore is setting up an old-fashioned bureau as a joint venture in China: partner is regional state-owned Shanghai Commercial Advanced Technology Development Co, but IPC will hold 51% of the new company, Shanghai Shared Data Network Co Ltd, the local the rest; the venture, with an initial paid-up capital of $6m will provide data processing services for the Chinese banking, retail, health and transport industries, including credit and debit card processing.

Dubuque, Iowa-based Eagle Point Software Corp has bought Ecom Associates Inc, a privately owned Milwaukee-based developer of Unix, MS-DOS, and Windows structural design and analysis software for the professional engineering, architectural and home building markets; the deal was structured as a share swap but terms were not disclosed.

MCI Communications Corp has introduced a package of network design and operations services called networkMCI WIN, for Wireless Integrated Network, based on its existing infrastructure, including full use of its intelligent communications network, billing and customer service that it says enables any local wireless services operator to build and run its business: the package is targeted at existing Personal Communications Services companies and small businesses and entrepreneurs who will participate in the US Federal Communications Commission auction of licences for the broadband services beginning December 11 (CI No 2,785); the company signed letters of intent with wireless equipment makers L M Ericsson Telefon AB, AT&T Corp’s Network Systems Group and Northern Telecom Ltd to provide equipment for the services; MCI also signed a letter of intent with US AirWaves Inc, a Bellevue, Washington start-up and would-be participant in the US Personal Communications Services auction, to provide full WIN services – network, common carrier and facilities management services.

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