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  1. Technology
September 21, 1995

MINIGRAMS

By CBR Staff Writer

If IBM Corp wants to buy a software company, Novell Inc looks the best bet, so the company will probably buy Lotus Development Corp, we wrote back in January – but just because IBM usually seems to get it wrong, it’s not an immutable law that it should, and the sale of the Unix Systems Group by Novell removes a significant obstacle to IBM buying the thing, although now that it has Lotus, several conflicts are set up, notably Wordperfect and WordPro, 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro, but little things like that are unlikely to deter Louis on the rampage.

ATI Technologies Inc of Toronto is to pay $30m for a 5% stake in a new company formed by Taiwanese United Microelectronics Corp to build and oeprate a new semiconductor foundry; OPTi Inc is also taking a stake in the new foundry operator.

Indonesia’s telecommunications firm PT Telkom may be allowed to launch its own satellite to meet rising demand for information and communications services, Bisnis Indonesia quoted posts and telecommunications minister Joop Avewas saying: Indonesia needs a large number of additional transponders to support domestic and regional demand for information and communications services and the government will not close the door on Telkom although it will continue to support PT Satelit Palapa Indonesia, which was set up in 1992 to take over the satellite business of state-run Telkom, which retains a 22.5% stake; the newspaper said Telkom has submitted an application last week to operate Palapa satellite B-5 and B-6, each of which has 24 transponders; the satellite could be launched in 1998 at the earliest, at a cost of more than $250m.

Oki Electric Industry Co Ltd has agreed to buy technology from Sensar Inc, Reston, Virginia that electronically recognises human eye iris patterns as a means of personal identification described by Oki as simple, secure and very accurate compared with other methods of protecting data and facilities such as magnetic cards using personal identification numbers: Oki plans to introduce a new line of automatic teller machines which will use the eye recognition technology in about a year, saying it makes counterfeiting virtually impossible as the human iris has eight to 10 times more unique information than a fingerprint; Oki has exclusive Japanese rights to the technology.

IBM Corp has fired the top three executives of its Argentine unit as the country’s government investigates that $250m contract between IBM and Argentina’s largest bank, state-owned Banco de la Nacion Argentina, the Wall Street Journal reports: IBM said it didn’t believe the company or the executives had violated Argentine law, but that an internal investigation had found the executives failed to follow very important and fundamental business processes and management controls that we use throughout IBM world-wide; Argentine investigators allege that IBM Argentina SA paid $14m of the value of its contract with Banco de la Nacion to a company called Capacitacion & Computacion Rural SA, which in turn paid nearly $6m of it to phantom companies in what investigators say they suspect was either part of a tax-evasion scheme or was used to bribe government officials to obtain the contract; if Argentine officials find payoffs or other illegal payments were made, IBM itself could also be investigated by US authorities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids payments of bribes by US companies to obtain contracts abroad; the bank’s president resigned last week but denied any wrong-doing; the three IBM executives fired were the unit’s president and general manager, its vice-president of finance, and its vice-president of operations, who have each been with the company for at least 25 years.

Microsoft Corp has a new joystick that takes advantage of Windows95, considered a better operating system for games than previous Windows versions, as its latest weapon in a battle to lure video game enthusiasts to personal computers: Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro, out in mid-October at $60, will operate older games but will h

ave eight buttons in total rather than the usual four, so games designers can add new options; it will take advantage of new digital optical technology to give players more precise control and will be bundled with Activision Inc’s MechWarrior 2 combat game for about $80; Microsoft said it will also offer a two-button analogue joystick called SideWinder for $30; hardware devices such as overpriced mice accounted for some $240m of its $5,900m turnover last fiscal.

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So in appointing Joe Guglielmi as its first ever head of its Computer Group, Motorola Inc has affirmed that it is really serious about the computer business this time – but in the present climate, it would be extraordinarily difficult to build a $350m a year business into something that would be taken seriously by the market – which means that Motorola will have to buy if it wants to fulfil its ambitions; the trouble is that there is hardly anything both fitting and available.

NCR is for sale – or, in the context of the above item, NCR is for sale: yesterday, AT&T Corp, after losing over $9,500m on computers, admitted defeat in the business and said it would spin the company off to shareholders, but the likelihood is that the market will put such a low valuation on it (AT&T bought it for $7,800m and is spinning it off b ecause no-one will pay enough for it to save its face) that someone will step in and sweep the firm up.

The requirements for a suitable acquisition for Motorola Inc is that it should have a Unix and Windows NT strategy in some disarray, and have a substantial customer base, much of which could be won over to PowerPC-based machines given enough flattery and stroking: Apple Computer Inc could be described as a no-brainer except that Motorola can sell Apple all the PowerPCs it can make without actually owning the company, and an Apple owned by Motorola would be no more convincing to the market than one that remained independent; Harris Computer Systems Inc is available, is already on PowerPC and should probably be mopped up, but it adds virtually no volume; it’s too late to buy Data General Corp, because the company is off down the road with Intel Corp and any new hiatus would likely cause the customers to flee; to buy Digital Equipment Corp, dump the clearly terminally ill Alpha and move the entire base to PowerPC is probably just a little too bold, so what about NCR Corp (now that AT&T Corp has given up on the company, it’s time for us all to give up on the ludicrous Global Information Solu tions name)? The company is firmly in the iAPX-86 camp, but the problem is that its business customer base is attritting (don’t worry, it’s not a real word) so fast that it doesn’t matter much, and much of the software could be migrated over to PowerPC; what makes NCR interesting is the banking and retail terminals businesses that represent a larger and larger proportion of the whole – as far as the banks and stores are concerned, these are sealed box systems that simply have to talk to their computers, and the special function terminals that make up a large part of the value of the total system demand ever more embedded intelligence – an enticing outlet for all of Motorola’s embedded PowerPCs.

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