Contents | < Browse | Browse >

/// CPU Status Report                     Late Breaking Industry-Wide News

Cable TV's Big Day in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The cable television industry's attempts to roll-back rate
regulation are being heard in Washington. 

At a US House hearing in which Democrats complained about rising rates in the
face of a law passed last year to lower them, Republicans said they would try
to repeal the same law. And at the US Supreme Court, four justices agreed to
hear an appeal of the law's "must carry" provision lodged by Turner
Broadcasting System Inc. 

The 1992 cable re-regulation law was passed over a veto from former Republican
President George Bush and opponents, including the cable industry's trade
groups, had long predicted it would result in rate increases. At a hearing
before the subcommittee of Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Texas
Republicans Joe Barton and Jack Fields said that is just what happened, and
Barton said he would introduce legislation to repeal it. 

But Markey and the panel's Democrats refused to back off. They lectured interim
Federal Communications Commission Chairman James Quello on the need to stop
unjustified rate hikes. Quello replied that the commission is now surveying the
effects of the law with the 25 largest US operators, and predicted it will find
that most rates have, in fact, gone down. Quello added that the September bills
are just the first step in a long process mandated by the law. 

Local governments which feel the new rates are out of line can challenge them,
cable companies can appeal those challenges to the commission, and consumers
may still get rebates on overcharges, back-dated to September 1. He also warned
that if complaints prove true, the industry will again be open to the charge
that it is the "monopolistic evil empire" of the telecommunications world. 

Meanwhile, at the Supreme Court, four justices agreed to review Turner
Broadcasting System vs. FCC, a case now numbered docket 93-44. That is a
challenge to the "must carry" provision of the 1992 law, under which small
cable systems must reserve one-third of their channels for local broadcasters,
even if they must drop popular cable programming for home shopping stations.
Turner had sued against the provision claiming it violated operators' free
speech rights under the First Amendment, but the challenge was rejected by an
appeals' court. 

The "must carry" provision is tied to a "retransmission consent" provision,
under which popular local stations can force payment from cable operators to
carry their signals. Unless agreements were negotiated by October 6, many
operators said they would stop carrying some local network affiliates. And in
agreements worked out so far between networks and operators, the operators are
agreeing to clear additional channels for new cable offerings created by the

The one exception is CBS, which has no plans to produce a cable network and
recently dropped its demands that operators pay it 10 cents per home per month,
at least for the next year. The result is to help networks like CNBC, owned by
the NBC television network, and hurt networks like CNN, owned by Turner,
because Turner does not have a network of local stations. "Retransmission
consent" is the one aspect of the new law even Rep. Barton said he does not
want repealed. 

The real irony is that technology is making all this moot, observers note. The
500-channel systems being built by major operators like Time Warner and TCI
will eliminate any problems with a scarcity of channels. And the entry of local
phone companies into the business, recently authorized by a US District Court
in Virginia, would provide competition which would eliminate the rate
regulation provisions of the 1992 act. 


Wireless Network At 20 Mbps

CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA -- Wi-LAN Inc., has announced its first products - a
line of wireless Ethernet local area network (LAN) equipment that company 
officials claim can carry data at speeds up to 20 megabits-per-second (Mbps), 
or twice the speed of conventional wired Ethernet. 

Frederick Rogers, president of Wi-LAN, told Newsbytes the high speed is
possible because of the modulation technique used. The products are based on
spread-spectrum technology that transmits data using radio frequencies. The
technology was developed at the University of Calgary and AGT Ltd., the
telephone company serving Alberta. 

Wi-LAN said the fastest of its new products is the 20-Mbps Wi-LAN 902-20, which
can plug directly into the Ethernet network interface card of any computer. It
modulates and compresses data from the interface card and transmits it to
another Wi-LAN interface. 

The 902-20 is due to begin shipping in January, Wi-LAN said. By March, Rogers
said, the company plans to add a LAN gateway using the same technology. The
gateway will attach to a wired LAN and provide communications between computers
on the wired LAN and those equipped with the Wi-LAN wireless interfaces. 

It will also be attachable to a network server, allowing computers equipped
with the company's wireless interfaces to communicate with the server by radio
frequency. That will mean new stations can be added to the LAN without any
wiring, the company said. 

The suggested retail price for the Wi-LAN 902-20 is US$1,495. 


Computer Associates Wins Trade Secret Case

ISLANDIA, NEW YORK -- A US District Court jury in Denver has awarded Computer 
Associates International Inc., $8.5 million in damages after concluding that 
Denver-based American Fundware Inc., stole trade secrets from the large 
software firm. 

The damages include $4.245 million in compensation for lost royalties and an
equal amount in punitive damages. Mike McElroy, vice-president - legal at
Computer Associates, said he believes it is the largest amount of punitive
damages ever granted in a software trade secrets suit. 

The verdict shows that the courts are prepared to enforce property rights in
software, McElroy said. 

CA sued AFW over PC Fund and Fundware, financial software programs sold by the
Denver company. The court upheld CA's claim that sizeable portions of the AFW
packages were copied from software that AFW licensed from Stuart P. Orr &
Associates, a company CA bought in 1983. 

The Stuart P. Orr software was written for minicomputers from Data General
Corp. PC Fund and its successor, Fundware, run on IBM and compatible personal
computers. All were written in the COBOL programming language, and according to
McElroy, significant portions of the source code were identical. 

McElroy said that after CA filed the trade secret lawsuit in 1986, AFW tried to
cover up the copying of the software by changing some of the code. 

The jury ruled that AFW breached its 1979 contract with Stuart P. Orr and
misappropriated trade secrets from Stuart P. Orr and CA. 

AFW no longer sells PC Fund. Computer Associates has asked for an injunction
against the further sale of Fundware, McElroy said, but the jury does not have
the power to grant an injunction. The judge in the case must rule on that, and
has not yet done so. 


DEC Japan Intros Beta Japanese Windows NT

TOKYO, JAPAN -- Digital Equipment Corp. Japan (DEC Japan), has released a 
beta copy of the Japanese version of Microsoft's Windows NT. The program 
operates on the company's personal computers, including the AXP 150 and
the DEC PC. 

Three kinds of Windows NT packages are offered for the Japanese market. The
developer's kit is intended for programmers working on the AXP 150. The retail
price is 957,000 yen ($9,570) - the same price as the original English version
released in May. The program will be sold until the end of November. 

The upgrade kit consists of a CD-ROM, firmware, an ECU kit, and documentation.
It is priced at 70,000 yen ($700). An OADG keyboard that offers compatibility
with IBM's DOS/V PC costs an additional 5,000 yen ($50). 

A beta version of the Japanese Windows NT package for general users costs
1,604,000 yen ($16,040). The developer's kit is also included in the bundle.
Customers of the beta versions will be provided with the finished versions at
a later date, free of additional charges. 

With the release of the beta versions, DEC Japan has started accepting test
users of the program. DEC Japan will provide the program to 200 users of the
DEC PC (with a 33 megahertz 486 processor or above). The test users need pay
only 6,000 yen ($60) for the disks and the manuals. 

DEC Japan has also begun providing support services - covering installation and
consultation for the Japanese version of Windows NT - as part of its
multi-vendor customer services. 


Unix Expo - Object Technology More Than A Language

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Moving to object technology takes a lot more than 
just learning an object-oriented programming language, concurred 
participants in a roundtable discussion at Unix Expo last week. 

"The worst way to start is to just go out and buy a language," said Marie
Lenzi, president of Cyrix Corp. and editor of Object Magazine. "Instead, what
you need to do is establish an object mindset," she added, in a session called
"Object-Oriented Programming for Non-C Programmers." 

The first area to focus on is object analysis and design, Lenzi told an
audience of programmers that ranged in background from Smalltalk to Fortran and

Other areas to be considered, outside of the development language, include the
object database, and the administration and management of objects. Object
databases are quite a different animal from relational databases, she noted. 

"In object technology, an object is an object throughout analysis, design, and
development. All we do is say `Persist' and the object sits itself on the disk,
instead of doing the `dance of the seven veils' to get itself on and off the
disk as we have to do with relational databases," she commented. 

People who make good candidates to become object-oriented programmers include
abstract thinkers, "true engineers who really understand what's going on inside
the machine," experienced script writers, and people who work well with visual
tools, according to Lenzi. 

"I agree with Marie that you're not doing OT programming just because you're
using a language that happens to be object-oriented. OT is more a way of
thinking about a problem," said Randy Howie, vice president of engineering at
AIT, a company that has been providing OT consulting services for the past
eight years, mostly to federal agencies and large newspapers. 

OT is best suited to problems which call for simplification of complex data, he
suggested. In one application, recently readied as a proof of concept for NASA,
AIT developed an object- oriented query tool for use by scientists who needed
satellite data. 

The problem in this situation was that satellites tend to store information on
time and place in different ways, said Howie. Some satellites store the
information as arcs, and some as a series of contiguous rectangles, he

To circumvent this problem, AIT "modeled concepts like time and location as
objects that could translate a scientists' way of expressing time and location
into the satellite's way of expressing time and location." 

Agreed Gene Bonte, vice president of product management at Object Design:
"Today, objects are hot, so (you're seeing) object-oriented oleomargarine. But
OT is not a universal panacea." 

OT has made its first strides in the engineering design market, he said. "The
reason is fairly simple. The data is complex, and the data model that OT
supports fits the data model for these applications very well," he maintained. 

OT is also making rapid progress in the telecommunications field, mainly
because OT and telecommunications both share an orientation toward Unix and
C/C++ programming, he added. 

Now that the difficulties of using OT in distributed computing are starting to
be overcome, the technology is emerging in the area of business reengineering
and client-server technology as well, he said. 

Regardless of the applications field, users should go through four sequential
stages in implementing OT: figuring out whether OT will be useful, developing a
pilot, creating a "first product," and finally expanding into additional
products. "Otherwise, you'll get into big trouble," cautioned Bonte. 


Merisel To Buy ComputerLand Franchise Div

EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA -- Just four months after announcing the lay off of 
6.5 percent of its workforce, ComputerLand has signed a letter of intent to 
sell its Franchise and Distribution Division to Merisel. The two companies 
have also announced the formation of a "strategic relationship." 

However, the companies say that terms and conditions have not been finalized.
Once completed, the new Merisel ComputerLand subsidiary will be managed by the
current president of ComputerLand's Franchise and Distribution Division, Martin

Merisel will also become the preferred supplier of software and hardware
products under a volume purchase agreement to ComputerLand Corp. According to
the companies, ComputerLand will then continue, under a long-term deal, to
provide the new company with "purchasing, distribution, systems and other
services currently supplied to ComputerLand franchisees and Datago affiliates."

Definitive agreements have yet to be signed. The deal is also awaiting receipt
of regulatory approvals, although it is expected to be completed before the end
of 1993. 

Under terms of the deal, Merisel will pay up to $110 million for the US
ComputerLand Franchise and Distribution division, with an initial cash payment
at closing of $60 million. The purchase price gives Merisel the rights to the
ComputerLand name in the US. 

ComputerLand says it will "temporarily retain the rights to use the name for a
limited period and will eventually change its name, although it will continue
to own the rights to the ComputerLand name internationally." 

Announcing the deal, Merisel Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael D.
Pickett, said: "The proposed purchase of the ComputerLand Franchise and
Distribution Division is intended to enhance Merisel's customer intimacy
strategy, and provide the benefits that come from doing business with a
full-line distributor focused exclusively on selling to resellers." 

William Y. Tauscher, Computerland's CEO and chairman, said: "This agreement
will help us focus on our core business, providing products and services to
corporate end-users. It also improves our cash position substantially." 

According to a statement issued by ComputerLand, the transaction "will greatly
strengthen the balance sheet of ComputerLand, which has been thinly capitalized
since the July 1992 acquisition of TRW's Customer Service Division and the
acquisition of ComputerLand franchises or establishment of company-owned
operations in most US major markets during the past two years." 

In May, Newsbytes reported that, while ComputerLand was expanding in Russia and
the Baltic, it also announced plans to lay off of 6.5 percent of its work
force, or about 170 workers. 


Dell Intros Pentium-based Desktop Prototype

AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Dell Computer Corporation has rolled out a Pentium-based 
desktop prototype PC that incorporates Intel's Peripheral Component 
Interconnect (PCI) local-bus. 

The system was demonstrated at the annual management conference of the
Microcomputer Managers Association being held in New York. Dell's chief
Technology Officer Glenn Henry says that while Dell currently offers other
industry-standard local-bus technologies, the company thinks PCI is the most
attractive long-term solution. 

Both companies say PCI offers advantages over other local-bus implementations
or proprietary architecture's, including its ability to work with processors
such as 486 and Pentium chips, an open standard that includes over 120 system
manufacturers and I/O card suppliers. They also point out that because PCI bus
devices are not directly attached to the processor bus, the processor can
continue to operate while the PCI peripheral is accessing information from the
system's main memory. 

"While many other local bus technologies only allow one peripheral to operate
at a time, PCI has the advantage of allowing multiple peripherals to operate
independently," Henry said. 

Intel says that PCI technology will enable vendors such as Dell to offer what
they call "auto-configuration." That's the system's ability to automatically
recognize when a PCI-compatible add-in board has been installed and will
reconfigure itself to accommodate the card. Intel says that PCI is also
designed to handle future design advances in the Pentium architecture. 

In outlining its strategy for Pentium-based systems and PCI technology, Dell
said that user benefits for such systems include high performance data storage
and retrieval through a PCI SCSI disk subsystem, high performance video and
graphics capability through a PCI video subsystem, and easy of upgrading to
future PCI expansion through flexible system designs. 

Dell also predicts high performance PCI local area network adapters and other
communications peripherals, full motion video adapters compatible with PCI, and
technology that integrates telephone technology with computers for business
communications applications such as video conferencing on the desktop computer.

  The preceding stories are © 1993 NewsBytes.  Reprinted with permission.