Author: Adamson Rust

HP accuses Cisco of betraying IEEE standard principles

HP has accused Cisco of abandoning its promise to work on unified IEEE standards.

Both companies were working on the IEEE 802.1Qbg and IEEE 802.1Qbh standards, which are not yet approved and won’t be until the end of 2011. The companies intended to keep them as close as possible to one another so that there is common ground in their networking businesses.

That has since changed, with Cisco broadening the scope of the 802.1Gbh specification so that a new tagging system is required, despite the fact that both companies had originally agreed to use VN-Tag, a Cisco product, for the standards. 

HP claims, according to NetworkWorld, this will force switch and NIC vendors to use two different tagging systems if they want to support both standards, defeating the whole purpose of the companies working in unison to deliver closely-matching standards.

Cisco claims that this change was not a deliberate one made by management but rather a shift driven by customer demand, a claim which isn’t washing with HP. Cisco said it needed a new tag anyway and that its approach offers more versatility and longevity.

HP said that both standards were intended for data centre use, but it could be thought Cisco’s divergence means the data centre focus has been removed, making it an “anywhere-type” specification. Cisco says it’s still intended for data centre use, but that things changed along the way.

Both companies are still working together on the standards, but Cisco’s move away from the original design could possibly strain relationships between the two for some time to come.

Dell business tablet challenges RIM Playbook

Dell is to take on RIM at the business tablet market with a 10-inch Windows 7 model that is designed specifically for healthcare, education and financial sectors.

Steve Lalla, head of the Business Client division at Dell, revealed that while the tablet is still in its early development stages, with no working prototype to demonstrate, it intends to launch the device much sooner than the end of the year.

It was also revealed that the tablet will utilise the Intel Oak Trail processor, one of Intel’s Atom line. 

A key differentiator will be the target audience of the device, which is aimed at businesses. Most tablets so far are consumer devices, trying to steal Apple’s iPad glory. But RIM’s upcoming Playbook is aimed at the business community, not surprising given the success of the Blackberry in the market.

RIM has a good name in business and a well-received product, so Dell will have its work cut out.

Dell suggested it may also offer a general model of the tablet for consumer use.

Dell has already dabbled in the tablet market with its Streak, which, due to its five-inch size, was more like a smartphone than a tablet. It recently improved things by bumping the model up to seven inches in the Streak 7, but the 10-inch tablets are expected to be proper tablets for a change.

Just in case the Windows 7 model doesn’t take off, Dell is also planning an equivalent 10-inch Android version.

Dell is also launching the Latitude XT3, the successor to the XT2, which is a laptop/tablet hybrid that utilises a swivel screen to alternate between the two modes.

Microsoft planning management shakeup

Microsoft is planning a management shake-up that will concentrate on replacing many of its executives with fresh people who have an engineering background.

The changes are being sought by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to two unnamed sources close to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Ballmer has already been replacing people in the company, last month getting rid of its server division president, Bob Muglia, who had been with the company for 23 years. Ballmer said that the company needed new leadership in this area to focus on cloud computing, an area which is expected to boom over the next few years.

The changes in other key positions are likely to be in the smartphone and tablet sectors, areas which Microsoft arrived considerably late at after the success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad and Google’s Android platform. The appointments are expected to be made this month, although these plans were not intended to be public.

One of the reasons cited by the sources for the shake-up is mounting investor criticism, which has been focused on Microsoft slipping behind main rivals, particularly with Windows Phone 7, which received good critical reception but had a very late market entry. The dramatic failure of the Kin phone also received stern criticism from shareholders.

The focus on finding engineering people to fill the key positions suggests that Ballmer has lost faith in his marketing team. He already replaced Stephen Elop with Kurt DelBene, an engineering chief, instead of a marketing executive, which was widely expected.

The fact that an engineering background is a prerequisite for the positions suggests that Microsoft’s current management lacks this kind of knowledge to a degree, which rivals like Google and Apple have been using to push product lines. 

How about Steve himself? He’ll probably be clinging on.

McAfee posts record revenue results for 2010

McAfee has posted its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year of 2010, revealing record revenue, share earnings and operating cash flow.

Fourth quarter revenue was up five percent on the same period in 2009, reaching a record figure of $550 million. Deferred revenue for the fourth quarter was also up nine percent, bringing in a record $1.5 billion.

Full year revenue was up seven percent from 2009 to $2.1 billion, while operating cash flow increased by 20 percent to $595 million. Cash and marketable securities were at $1.2 billion for the year.

For the fourth quarter non-GAAP earnings per diluted share were $0.67, while GAAP earnings per diluted share were $0.38.  Full year non-GAAP earnings per diluted share reached a record $2.57, up six percent on the previous year. GAAP earnings per diluted share for the full year were at $1.17, up seven percent on 2009.

Operating cash flow for the fourth quarter was $164 million.

Intel agreed to buy McAfee for $7.68 billion in August of last year, but anti-trust probes delayed the acquisition. The deal was eventually approved by the ITC and EC, although the latter required that the chips be kept open to rival anti-virus vendors.

McAfee also said that its acquisition by Intel is set to be completed within the first quarter of this year. It’s likely the Intel buyout helped McAfee’s sales in the fourth quarter, but the strong sales are also a likely reason why Intel chose McAfee over rival security software companies in the first place.

Public cloud revenue to rise 21.6 percent by 2014

Cloud computing revenue in the US public sector is expected to grow by 21.6 percent over the next few years, according to the latest survey by International Data Corporation (IDC).

The report, entitled U.S. Public IT Cloud Services by Industry Sector: More Details on the Opportunity, shows that from 2009 to 2014 public cloud revenue in the US will grow significantly from $11.1 billion to $29.5 billion.

The main areas that will employ cloud computing are professional services, communications and media, and discrete and process manufacturing markets. Professional services will be the primary driver of growth, due to a large volume of small to medium size businesses that require software-as-a-service.

The report found that the services and distribution sector makes the most revenue for cloud computing and that it is expected to more than double from its current intake of $3 billion to $8.5 billion in 2014.

Currently applications make up a large portion of revenue in this area, amounting to half of cloud revenue in 2009. As the sector grows, however, it will become less dependant on this and its market share will drop to one third. At the same time, infrastructure software is expected to increase to provide 22 percent of revenue.

Some public sector areas will be restricted in how they can apply cloud services, due to additional regulations, privacy concerns and security fears. These mainly include government, banking and healthcare sectors, all of which will also have a severely curtailed budget due to cutbacks.

Despite this, the potential for healthcare is huge and IDC forecasts a compound annual growth rate of nearly 23 percent by 2014, which will see a healthy increase on its currently small five percent market share. Collaboration applications will be the primary area where cloud computing will be employed in healthcare.

While these figures apply to the public cloud sector, it’s highly likely that the private cloud arena will see similar high growth over the next few years. A previous IDC report last year suggested that private cloud revenue would jump from $7.3 billion in 2009 to $11.8 billion in 2014, which is a slightly lower rate of growth than the public cloud, albeit still significant.

Developers working on OpenJDK Android platform

With evidence stacking against Google in the Java lawsuit filed against it by Oracle, a group of open source developers have taken the matter into their own hands and have begun development of an alternative Java code that Android could use.

If Google loses its case, it could be prevented from using Java in Android, which would require a complete rewrite from the bottom up. It could also be forced to pay damages to Oracle and hefty licence fees if it wants to continue using its code, which was acquired through the buyout of Sun Microsystems.

In anticipation of this fate, some open source developers have started working on a reworked Java Virtual Machine based on the OpenJDK platform, which is open source with a General Public License v2. Currently Android is based on the Apache Harmony implementation of Java, which Oracle is contesting in court.

“By integrating Java code available on GPLv2 terms they hope to be safe from legal attacks on Oracle’s part, but this depends on what exactly they do and how the implicit patent license contained in the GPLv2 would apply,” said Florian Mueller, an intellectual property expert. “The more they modify the OpenJDK code, the less likely they are to be covered by that implicit patent license.”

The move will also see the developers create their own version of Android, based on the new code, but as suggested above, they could find themselves in legal hot water if they modify the code too far away from the original OpenJDK, which may be necessary to replicate the features in Android.

Google has not yet lost its battle in court, but it appears that at least some developers are preparing for the worst. Whether or not Google decides to pay licence fees to use the Oracle code or try out the OpenJDK alternative remains to be seen.

Intel resumes Sandy Bridge shipments, bug fix nearly ready

Intel has announced that it is resuming some shipments of the Intel 6 Series Chipset, which was originally taken off the market last month due to a design defect.

Intel said that after discussing the problem with PC manufacturers, it decided to resume shipments of the chipset, but only for PC configurations that are not affected by the defect.

Intel reported the problem at the end of January, weeks after the launch of the greatly anticipated Sandy Bridge processors. The bug affects the SATA ports of the Sandy Bridge Cougar Point support chips, which can cause degradation over time and result in inferior performance.

The resumption of shipments could have a positive impact on Intel’s financial results, given the $700 million cost Intel predicted for the disaster, but Intel is being cautious and not further revising its outlook for the first quarter and full year.

Intel has also begun manufacturing a new version of the support chip, which contains a silicon fix that should address the defect. It plans to start shipping these in mid-February, on target for a complete replacement of the line by April.

Nokia E7 smartphone finally ready for launch

The Nokia E7 smartphone will arrive this week, at long last, after its launch was delayed in December.

Nokia said the delay was to ensure “the best possible user experience”, which, if we consider similar delays by the company in the past, could mean that a patch was needed. A previous flagship phone, the N8, was delayed because of power problems.

The E7 will pack a touchscreen and a slideout keyboard, similar to other models. It will also be powered by Symbian ^3, the latest version of Nokia’s struggling platform.

The company reported that it was already shipping the phone to retailers but the delay means it missed out on the busy Christmas shopping season.

Nokia has been losing ground to Apple and Google in the smartphone market, with its Symbian operating system taking a major beating over the past year. Many believe that Symbian won’t last and that Nokia may be forced to adopt Android, a move which may help it recover from weak sales due to the growing popularity of Google’s OS.

It was also suggested that Nokia would sack many of its executive board members in a move to shake-up the company and restore it to previous profitability. A complete revamp of the company is expected later this year, according to Reuters.

Noctua cooler, Gigabyte motherboard, Dell Streak 7 preview

Antec has released a number of new computer cases, enhancements of previously successful models, according to HardwareBistro. The P183, P193, Nine Hundred Two V3 and Twelve Hundred V3 are all available now with additional upgrades, including a front panel USB 3.0 port, an internal 2.5-inch SSD drive bay, and a CPU cutout for easier heatsink replacement. Prices are €160 ($217), €190 ($257), €149 ($202) and €189 ($256) respectively.

HardwareCanucks reviewed the Noctua NH-C14 CPU cooler, which was praised for its easy installation process, great design, good cooling, low noise, and two good 140mm fans. It can struggle with higher heat loads due to compatibility issues for 140mm fans, while there were also issues with the Fan Y and LNA/ULNA adapters not being braided. Price was another major obstacle, but it was still seen as one of the best down draft style coolers on the market.

The Gigabyte E350N-USB3 motherboard was tested by TweakTown. A full high-definition movie was loaded up on it, which played smoothly, apart from fastforwarding, where there was a slight delay. It packs plenty of connectivity options and has plenty of room for overclocking. The board also supports AMD Fusion, but the lack of a box label describing this is a major setback for those unaware of it, which could hinder sales.

HotHardware previewed the Dell Streak 7, the slightly larger cousin of the original five-inch Streak model. It’s set to pack a seven-inch WVGA touchscreen with a resolution of 800×480 pixels, multi-touch support and Corning Gorilla glass. It’s powered by a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra T20 dual-core processor, comes with 16GB of internal memory, and has two cameras, a 1.3 megapixel one on the front a five megapixel one on the back. It also features Android 2.2. Early testing suggest it’s more powerful than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, while also being considerably cheaper.

The Patriot Memory Division 2 Viper Extreme 4GB 1866MHz DDR3 RAM Kit was reviewed at Futurelooks. It earned some brownie points for its high build quality and nice design, along with its good performance at 1866MHz. It was also easy to set up XMP profiles and is compatibility with Clarkdale and Lynnfield systems. Its only real setback is the fin height, which can block larger heatsinks, but with a price tag of between $89 and $94, it’s a quality piece of kit.

"Big changes" coming to Google

A Google employee says that there will be some very “big changes” at the company soon, which could see a major shift in how it deals with Adsense.

The Google employee, who goes by the name Moultano, said: “At the organisational level, Google is essentially chaos.” He added that once an employee has demonstrated that he or she is good enough to do stuff on their own, “you’re pretty much free to work on whatever you think is important.”

This freedom, which includes 20 percent of paid time devoted entirely to personal projects, could be causing problems for Google. Moultano said that there is no mechanism in place for shifting priorities, which could be particularly devastating to the company if it needs to change its direction.

That said, Google has been doing extremely well with its current business model. Its fourth quarter 2010 results showed a revenue increase of 26 percent on the same period in 2009, so while it has changed its CEO, it’s unlikely that it will shake up the company structure too much to deal with the “chaos” one worker suggests is present.

One area that Google will focus on, however, is Adsense, with Moultano revealing that Google has been working on revising Adsense for a long time – and that it has recently made some good progress. He said: “You can expect some big changes here very shortly.” 

Moultano said it’s difficult to provide ads that qualify as high quality while also remaining true to Google’s goal of providing on-topic advertising, but the changes it plans to make appear to be aimed in this direction.

Moultano also suggested that Google would “dramatically” change how it employs links, but did not specify what we are likely to see. Regardless, it looks like some major changes are coming to Google products soon.