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October 13, 1995

MINIGRAMS

By CBR Staff Writer

Petroleum Geo-Services A/S says IBM Corp has tentatively agreed to acquire Petroleum Geo’s Tigress and Exsci data management software for an undisclosed amount of cash, as part of an agreement to collaborate on future exploration and production systems for the petoleum industry: IBM will integrate the technologies with its PetroBank archival data management system, it said; Petroleum Geo would retain the Tigress applications and continue to market the integrated Tigress system, enhanced to exploit the IBM data management offering.

Now that its share of the US long-distance market is down to about 60%, compared with over 90% at the time of the break-up of the Bell System, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to end AT&T Corp’s dominant carrier status and to allow it to operate under regulations similar to those of competing long-distance telephone companies; the unanimous vote was in response to AT&T’s petition that its dominant status should end because competitors, mainly Sprint Corp and MCI Communications Corp, now have some 40% of the market.

Storage Technology Corp warns that ongoing evaluation of its structure and organisation with a view to improving its earnings will result in some future restructuring charges.

Fine way for partners to behave: Time Warner Inc has now filed a counterclaim in Delaware Chancery Court against US West Inc, saying its partner and 25.5% shareholder in its Entertainment arm, had systematically blocked it from deals with other phone or cable companies: Time denied it had violated its partnership with US West by agreeing to buy Turner Broadcasting Inc, charging it with fraudulent, reckless or negligent conduct.

AT&T Corp tapped Henry Schacht, former chairman and chief executive of Cummins Engine Co Inc and now a senior adviser to E M Warburg-Pincus to head its new $20,000m a year communications systems and technology company, and Richard McGinn, now chief executive officer of AT&T’s Network Systems Group, was named president and chief operating officer-designate of the new communications systems and technology company; no new executives were named for the third company to result from the spinoff, the transaction-intensive computing business, which includes the current Global Information Solutions business that used to be NCR Corp.

To alleviate the enormous problem for all but the biggest investors that UUNet Technologies Inc shares are traded only on Nasdaq, for the benefit of Unipalm Group Plc holders that accept its all shares offer for their company, UUNet has promised to arrange for one broker to provide a dealing facility, and for the UUNet price to be published in one national daily newspaper.

Philips Electronics NV has won a $140m order in Singapore to develop and install a system that can monitor and charge for car use, the NRC Handelsblad evening newspaper reported: it said that Philips led a consortium of four businesses awarded the contract by the government for the toll highway which comes into operation in 1997 in Singapore and will operate with Smart Cards.

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Apple Computer Inc formed a new North America division comprising the Apple USA and Apple Canada subsidiaries under James Buckley.

Commenting on its figures (page seven) Texas Instruments Inc says its orders for the period were $3,390m, up 15.7% compared with a year ago: it sees the worldwide semiconductor market growing by about 40% this year; last quarter it predicted growth of over 35%; to meet strong semiconductor demand, it is raising its capital spending for 1995 to $1,450m from the previously planned $1,300m.

Disk drive components maker Read-Rite Corp, Milpitas, says it expects to surpass analysts’ consensus earnings estimates for the fiscal fourth quarter and year to September 30 of $0.81 per share, with a range of $0.73 to $0.84 and against the $0.33 per share it earned in the same quarter last year: Read-Rite’s shares were up $2.25 to $32.75 yesterday, boosted by a Salomon Brothers research report that called it a strong buy; the company’s share price fell in September when Western Digital Corp, which Read-Rite supplies, forecast low third quarter earnings, but it said that Western Digital’s problems would not hurt it.

San Jose, California-based Netcom On-Line Communication Services Inc said its subscriber count had increased by more than 221% since January 1, boosting its number of subscribers to 232,800, a 38% increase for quarter ended September 31; Netcom said it excludes all complimentary or trial accounts.

How did TSB Group Plc come to have those Unisys Corp 2200 mainframe systems (see today’s front page? Back in the mid-1970s, the savings banks around the UK that came together to form today’s TSB needed to standardise on a computer system, and the biggest ones had ICL Plc System 4s, derived from RCA Corp Spectra 70 licences – and Spectra 70s were poor copies of the IBM Corp System 360: ICL had phased out the System 4 and created 2900 as the common upgrade path for all its mainframe users, but the TSB software was written in System 4 assembler or even machine code, so when the then Univac Ltd came along and offered to pay to convert the software for OS 1100 if the group agreed to buy an 1100/90 mainframe, ICL pulled out of the bidding, and Univac effectively bought the business – but if Lloyds really does decide to adopt the successor 2200 machines, it will prove to be the best bit of business ever bought.

Nine months after his arrival as president of Apple France SA, Franck Lanne has been moved on and has been nominated senior director in charge of printers in Europe: Apple Europe president Marco Landi will manage the subsidiary until a successor has been found.

NEC Corp says that while its handheld colour video and music player is awfully jolly, it has no plans to market the product at present, because the Flash memory cards it uses have too little capacity and are too expensive: as we hazarded, (CI No 2,767) the clips are indeed of very short duration, and a 40Mb card, costing over $1,000, plays only four minutes of video on the Silicon View system; NEC hopes to use a 1Gb Flash memory chip for the product when it starts marketing the player, likely in around 2000.

Cap Gemini Sogeti SA says it has installed a multimedia home banking service for Credit Mutuel de Bretagne that is accessible on the World Wide Web: the service updates the bank’s Domibanque Minitel service with new offerings such as real-time stock market quotes and account transactions; for security reasons, it does not connect directly to the Internet, but uses a client-server architecture based on Web standards, but configured for the bank’s operating environment.

Larry Ellison reckons that downloading movies is a pointless application for video on demand, which should be used for things that constantly need updating, such as financial and other news: Movies-on-demand for interactive TV doesn’t make sense either culturally or economically, the Oracle Corp chief says – Who would want the latest version of ‘Gone with the Wind’ that hasn’t changed since 1939?

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