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  1. Technology
November 20, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

No, no, no, we’re not claiming any cause and effect here, but we did write on Wednesday that any real gambler that bought the Netscape Communications Corp story would be going very short of Microsoft Corp shares indeed at the same time (CI No 2,793), and on Thursday, Microsoft shares slumped $4.125 and went right on falling on Friday, off another $1.375 at $88.50; Netscape meanwhile added $6.75 to $107.50.

BMC Software Inc had warned that it was on the acquisition trail (CI No 2,780) and it has duly snapped up two companies on undisclosed terms: Santa Clara, California-based Peer Networks Inc, developer of Simple Network Management Protocol tool kits and San Diego, California-based Hawknet Inc; Houston, Texas-based BMC intends to integrate Peer’s SNMP tools, including its Optima systems management architecture into its own Patrol agent architecture, as well as sell them separately; the same goes for Hawknet’s NetWare server tuning tool.

Integral Peripherals Inc, Longmont, Colorado 1.8 disk drive pioneer, and Samsung Electronics Co, have now completed the design of their 1.02Gb 2.5 disk drive, Samsung reports: the two outlined plans for such a development in May (CI No 2,654); the effort cost $21m all told and the 1.02Gb drive is half an inch thick; no pricing information or production date was given.

Seeing sense? The European Commission proposed on Friday that all European Community import tariffs on CD-ROM drives be suspended for six months from January 1; it has already suspended duties on CD-ROM drives for building into computers; the move would effectively reverse the decision to classify the products as video reproducing devices, which carry a 14% tariff, instead of computer products with a 3.9% tariff; there is no conceivable justification for any tariff expect for the protectionism beloved of the Little Europers, as no CD-ROM drives are made in Europe.

Unipalm Group Plc shares leaped to a new record of 855 pence on Friday, reflecting new rises in the price of UUNet Technologies Inc.

India approved a proposal from Apple Computer Inc to set up a 100%-owned subsidiary with an authorised capital $5.8m to produce computer software, the Industry Ministry said: the proposal was one of the 82 approved last Friday for a total investment of $225m.

You don’t have to be very clever to work out that if Cable & Wireless Plc sold its stakes in Hong Kong Telecommunications Ltd and Mercury Communications Ltd, it would be left with very little apart from cash, and Lord Young made that point last week: ill-informed commentators suggest that the company could do a demerger similar to the one planned by AT&T Corp, but you would have to search long and hard to find the communications equipment manufacturing, computer manufacturing and leasing businesses that Cable & Wireless could demerge from the worldwide telecommunications business – they don’t exist; AT&T, like all the other major phone companies around the world, is trying to put together precisely the kind of federation Cable & Wireless already has in place; given that, dismantling it does not seem a sensible option, and the focus of criticism should rather be on how Cable & Wireless could manage the thing more synergistically.

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Cable & Wireless Plc chairman Lord Young’s announcement last week that he wants to be succeeded by an outsider with political as well as business experience has some analysts worried – So we could get Lord Young mark two, but we need a manager not a well-connected politician, commented one to Reuter.

Italian state-controlled telecommunications holding company Stet SpA has bought a 10% stake in Iridium South America for $16m: the company will be responsible for satellite cellular services in Argentina Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia and will also manage the ground stations intalled in those areas.

The US Federal Trade Commission has finally signed off on Silicon Graphics Inc’s acquisition of those two multimedia software companies; the action clears the way for the Mountain View-based computer maker to acquire Alias Research Inc and Wavefront Technologies Inc, but Silicon Graphics must ensure access for competing entertainment software developers to its workstations, and allow them the chance to participate in its software development programmes, and Alias has to arrange a partnership with another maker of workstations besides Silicon Graphics, guaranteeing that Alias’ two major applications, Animator and Power Animator and their successors can be run on the new partner’s computer systems as well; this has to be in place by March.

AT&T Corp, IBM Corp, Novell Inc, lots of others, all announcing job cuts just before Christmas – why spoil a season that is meant to be warm and cosy? It’s not a matter of companies wanting to play Scrooge and announce these things during the Christmas season, Eric Greenberg, director of management studies at the American Management Association in New York told the Associated Press – it’s that the 1996 budgets are being approved and public corporations have to announce job reduction plans soon after they’re approved since news of cuts can move financial markets.

Compaq Computer Corp and Acer Inc both plan to cut the entry-level prices for personal computers to expand demand among less affluent consumers, the Wall Street Journal said: Compaq plans to deliver a new system complete with monitor for as low as $1,500 during 1996, about $500 less than the current lowest price for a new model; Acer plans to introduce a new model for about $1,400 in the US and a $1,000 model elsewhere in the world, the paper said; the plans, outlined at Comdex in Las Vegas, reflect a shift away from the affluent market, which is nearly saturated with computers.

The Indian government confirmed that it has rejected a $3,300m bid by BCE Inc unit Bell Canada International and India’s Tata Group to supply basic telecommunications services in Maharashtra, in favour of a joint venture between Hughes Electronics Corp and Nippon Denro Ispat Ltd: apparently Tata and Bell Canada made an error in calculations, and Hughes and Ispat emerged as the highest bidder at $4.3m; BCE and Tata say they are confused and disappointed by the decision.

Sanderson Electronics Plc of Sheffield has strengthened its management by appointing Christopher Winn as its new chief executive, a post previously held by chairman Paul Thompson; Winn, 20 years in the computer industry, has been on the Sanderson board since January.

The San Jose, California-based CompuServe unit of H&R Block Inc, has picked StrataCom Inc’s BPX and IGX Asynchronous Transfer Mode switches as the foundation for a worldwide broadband network: though financial details of the agreement were not disclosed, CompuServe said it plans to spend $30m over the next two years on StrataCom switches in order to build a production quality network; under the agreement, CompuServe said it will initially buy and deploy more than 40 of the switches along with StrataCom Axis interface shelves; the broadband core is needed to handle increasing traffic levels, high speed access and transport, and emerging services; Compuserve says it plans to implement the upgrade in two phases over the next 12 to 18 months.

Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV, Ypres, Belgium has unveiled four new speech technologies at Comdex in Las Vegas, two of which, the L&H.asr1500/M SDK and the L&H.asr1500/T, are automatic speech recognition products that improve the accuracy of previous products and are compatible with the Microsoft Corp Speech Application Programming Interface: the company said it also launched its L&H.tts3000/T, a text-to-speech technology that converts computer-readable text into natural-sounding synthetic speech; about half the size of the L&H.tts2000/T, the new product offers improved smoothness and clarity, and will feature pre-processing of electronic mail messages; the L&H.smc150 is a new compression technology that encodes and decodes voice at 1.7Kbps, based on LPC algorithms that offer high-quality playback and low complexity; the L&H.smc150 compresses one minute of speech into 13.6Kb of storage, a saving of 96-to-1, compared with linear sampling, the Belgian said.

Western Micro Technology Inc, Campbell, California is to buy IPI-GrammTech, a value-added reseller of high-technology products and services to government agencies: Western Micro will pay 300,000 shares, worth some $1.7m and enter into an earn-out agreement with IPI shareholders based on future performance; San Antonio, Texas-based IPI’s commercial business is on target for $12.5m sales this year.

Telecom Eireann is increasing its leased line charges for business customers: it says that its rates are currently lower than those in markets that do have competition in the European Community, and insists that other cuts that are in the plan will more than offset the rise; the new prices will be introduced in two phases beginning on February 1 for new connections and from April 1 for existing customers; the second phase follows in April 1997; there will also be reductions on leased line charges to Europe and the US, it promised.

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