Archive for July 2006

AMD to Acquire ATI

July 25, 2006

Forbes.com reports AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) will purchase graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies for $5.4 billion.  The deal is expected to close fourth quarter this year.

Even though the takeover looks fairly valued, RBC analyst Steve Arthur said there is limited upside to the offer unless competing bids are made for ATI.

For now, Arthur said AMD’s takeover deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, effectively offers his one-year price target of $21 now.

Will the merger strengthen AMD’s position against rival processor maker Intel?  BetaNews reports the merger will allow the company to bring integrated products to the market:

The merger will allow AMD to offer integrated processor and graphics solutions to its customers. By 2008, AMD plans to introduce new processor configurations that would integrate the CPU and graphics processor into a single unit. The end result will be smaller, more powerful computers.

In a conference call to analysts, AMD’s Chief Executive, Hector Ruiz (as reported by Techtree.com) hopes the acquisition will result in more innovative products:

Hector Ruiz, chairman and chief executive officer, AMD, said, “Bringing the two great companies together will allow us to transcend what we have accomplished as individual businesses, and reinvent our industry as the technology leader and partner of choice. We believe AMD and ATI will drive growth and innovation for the entire industry, enabling our partners to create differentiated solutions, and empowering our customers to choose what is best for them.”

Dave Orton, ATI’s current president and CEO, is also optimistic about the acquisition:

[He] said, “This combination means accelerated growth for ATI, and will benefit all our product lines. Joining with AMD will enable us to innovate aggressively on the PC platform, and continue to invest significantly in our consumer business to stay in front of our markets.”

According to BusinessWeek online, Nvidia’s CEO couldn’t be any happier with the impending merger:

“I thought it was just impossible to get a gift like this,” crowed Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, in an interview with BusinessWeek.com. ATI is “basically throwing in the towel, leaving us as the only stand-alone (graphics chip) company in the world.”

AMD is aware it has its work cut out for itself.  The officers at both companies, however, are prepared to do what it takes to prove that both product lines will benefit from the merger.  From the Press Release at AMD.com:

The combination will create a processing powerhouse by bringing AMD’s technology leadership in microprocessors together with ATI’s strengths in graphics, chipsets and consumer electronics. The result: A new and more formidable company, determined to drive growth, innovation and choice for its customers, particularly in the commercial and mobile computing segments and in the rapidly-growing consumer electronics market. Combining technologies, people, and complementary strengths, AMD plans to deliver in 2007 customer-centric platforms for the benefit of customers who want to collaborate in the development of differentiated solutions.

Good luck, guys.                                

Microsoft’s Answer to the iPod? The Zune.

July 20, 2006

It looks like Microsoft’s so-called iPod-killer will be called the Zune.  BetaNews is reporting it may be released as early as this October.  The Zune seems to be the software giant’s flagship product; there may be another, smaller, more scaled-down device called the Pyxis.  It will rival Apple’s iPod nano.

The entire initiative falls under the name “Project Argo,” and insiders believe Microsoft is working on at least two portable players. Zune, which first surfaced in June, is believed to be the iPod-like device that would include wireless connectivity in a design very reminiscent of the Apple iPod.

Sources have confirmed to BetaNews that a second player exists, known by the code-name “Pyxis.” While details are scant on the player’s features, it is being billed as a competitor to the iPod nano in both size and functionality, with the addition of video support. Talk of a third device has not been verified.

As posted to this blog July 14, the Zune will offer Wi-Fi capabilities.  Gizmodo reports Internet radio streaming may be a feature Microsoft will offer:

Microsoft’s concentrating on features the iPod doesn’thave, instead of trying to beat Apple at their own game. The tipmeister reiterates that ad-hoc networkingfeature will be there, as well as a possible buffered internet radio streaming feature. If you’re within range of a WiFi signal and you’re listening to a station, the device will snatch as much of the feed as it can so when you wander out of WiFi signal, it’ll keep playing the stream as if you were in range. This might not make its way into the final product, so don’t get your hopes up too high.

The folks over at Engadget posted a picture of the device:

The Zune?

The device sports a clean design.  Will its OS be a sleek as its outside?  This random broad sure hopes so!

AOL Releases AIM Pro for Free

July 19, 2006

AOL announced today they have concluded their beta testing for AIM Pro and it is available for general download at no charge.  The company partnered with WebEx to develop the product, which is aimed at corporate users.  BetaNews reports the new IM client dropped the advertising found in its consumer client, AIM, and added tools such as a people-search service, Wall Street Journal headlines and podcasts with a business angle. 

In addition to the facelift, AOL and WebEx beefed up the backend of the product, too:

But AIM Pro’s biggest improvements have been made under the hood, Brian Curry, vice president of Business Services at AOL, told BetaNews. Security has been bolstered with SSL encryption when sending messages between two AIM Pro users. AOL is also offering an automatic virus scanning service, which routes file transfers through the company’s network.

AOL is now supporting e-mail addresses as screen names in AIM Pro, a feature requested by business customers. Users can validate their e-mail address and use it in lieu of picking an AOL username.

AIM Pro will also allow users to:

  • Participate in a 10-user voice chat
  • Videoconference with another user
  • Share their desktop with another user for collaboration sessions or presentations
  • Schedule meetings via Outlook integration

The product also offers interoperability with AIM, ICQ and Apple’s iChat.  Click here to download AIM Pro.

Microsoft to Release PowerPoint Patch by August 8, 2006

July 18, 2006

InformationWeek is reporting Microsoft is slated to release a patch in response to an zero-day bug discovered in PowerPoint recently.  The bug has been exploited by a Trojan horse called PPDDropper.b:

The attack is carried out by a Trojan horse with the moniker “PPDDropper.b,” which hides inside a malicious PowerPoint file attached to an e-mail with a Google Gmail return address. PPDDropper.b, in turn, drops a backdoor component, dubbed “Bifrose.e”by Symantec. Bifrose.e then injects a malicious routine into Windows’ EXLORER.EXE process, and overwrites the malformed PowerPoint file with a new, clean presentation document.

Microsoft has had to issue patches for both Word 2003 and Excel 2003 in response to dangerous vulnerabilities.  The Excel bug was very similar in nature to the PowerPoint bug, and was even exploited by the same type of Trojan horse.  The PowerPoint bug, however, is present in versions 2000, 2002 and 2003.

In an advisory published July 17, 2006, Microsoft warns users not open Office files unless you’re expecting them:

Do not open or save Microsoft Office files that you receive from un-trusted sources or that you received unexpectedly from trusted sources.

The InformationWeek article suggests using PowerPoint Viewer to view presentations you may need to open.  You can download PowerPoint Viewer 2003 from Microsoft by following this link.

**Update** Click here to learn more about the security update that patches this exploit and downloading options on microsoft.com.

Add to Google

Microsoft and Yahoo To Allow Messenger Users To IM One Another

July 14, 2006

InformationWeek is reporting Microsoft and Yahoo are working together to allow their respective users to IM each other:

Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. on Thursday said they have opened their instant-messaging networks to each other in a limited public test.

The two companies will begin by offering up the new open messaging networks to users with the latest version of Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. This test phase is meant to ensure the networks can handle the combined accounts of approximately 350 million worldwide, the companies said in a statement.

This partnership could be viable competition for AOL’s AIM, which dominates the IM market share.   CNet’s News.com reports, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, AOL has about as many unique users as Yahoo and Microsoft (via MSN Messenger and Live Messenger) combined:

AIM dominates the instant-messaging arena in the United States, with 51.5 million users in September, compared with MSN’s 27.3 million and Yahoo’s 21.9 million, according to research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

Experts speculate both companies could have partnered in the interest of self-preservation.  Google has entered the IM game with Google Talk.  While they still don’t have the numbers to be a threat, perhaps Microsoft and Yahoo aren’t willing to take any chances:

“In my opinion, the biggest external driver for this announcement must be MSN and Yahoo’s mutual need to defend themselves in the long term against Google,” John Delaney, an analyst at Ovum, wrote in a research alert. “Google is a relatively recent insurgent in these services, but it is clearly determined to grow its presence there aggressively,” Delaney said.

Microsoft and Yahoo’s foray into interoperability will initially be on a trial basis.  If the two are attempting to take on AOL, and get the added benefit of keeping users away from Google Talk, the results could be very interesting.

Microsoft’s Argo to Rival Apple’s iPod

July 11, 2006

More reports are coming in about Microsoft’s so-called iPod-killer, code-named the Argo.  Bloomberg News reports the device may be available for the 2006 holiday season.  J Allard, founding member of the Xbox platform project, and Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices Division, are governing the project.  Their successful launches of the Xbox and Xbox 360 bode well for the iPod rival. 

Microsoft Xbox Vice President J Allard is overseeing the development of the company’s digital player, the people familiar with Microsoft’s plans said. It also is being developed under the supervision of Robbie Bach, who leads the unit that produces the Xbox video-game console. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer last year tapped Bach to take on the added role of overseeing Microsoft’s music strategy. With the Xbox, Bach had overseen the most significant of Microsoft’s few forays into building its own hardware.

Microsoft has traditionally opted to partner with other companies rather than develop hardware.  With the exception of the Xbox and the Xbox 360, most Microsoft hardware offerings haven’t done so well.  They discontinued their broadband routers and NICs (Network Interface Cards) and seem to have no intention to wade back into those markets.

The Argo will allow consumers to download media files via Wi-Fi, a feature iPod devices lack.  The ability to download songs on the go is an extremely attractive difference.  The Wi-fi capability will also allow users to connect to other Argo devices  Microsoft has had plans to develop a new online media service, called URGE, since late lst year.  The company is working hard to garner fresh content for its service:

Microsoft hired music industry executive Chris Stephenson, who is among Microsoft officials who have met with music and Hollywood companies to seek licenses for their content, according to industry officials with knowledge of the plans. J Allard, 37, a Microsoft Xbox vice president, is overseeing the development of the device, the people said.

Microsoft met with music companies including EMI Group Plc and Universal Music Group, and TV broadcasters NBC, Fox and CBS Corp. to gain content for a music and video store to compete with Apple’s iTunes, according to people familiar with the meetings. Sally Julien, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, declined to comment, as did representatives of the music companies and TV networks.  

Apple has quite a hold on the portable media device market.  The team leading the Argo project, however, has a proven track record for success.  It will be interesting to see how the two giants stack up this holiday season.

Lexar Recalls More Than 60,000 JumpDrives

July 8, 2006

Lexar is recalling two JumpDrive models sold between April 1 and May 31 of this year.  Some of the two models, the JumpDrive FireFly and the JumpDrive Secure II, could overheat, potentially burning consumers.  Lexar says no reports of overheating have been submitted to them; they discovered the issue during testing.

Consumers have two options for this recall.  They can choose to select a comparable Lexar USB drive as a replacement or they can opt to have their existing drive replaced with the same model.  The latter option requires the defective unit be sent in to be replaced in about two weeks.  Lexar will also reimburse the consumer $5 for shipping.  If you would like to replace your unit with Lexar, point your browser to their registration page for this product recall.  Lexar’s Recall Hotline number is 800-248-2798.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises consumers to stop using the drives immediately. The models being recalled are:

JumpDrive® FireFly
Capacity Part Number
256MB (red) JDFF256-431RU
JDFF256-264
JDFF256-445RU
512MB (lime green) JDFF512-431EM
1GB (blue) JDFF1GB-431TO
2GB (black) JDFF2GB-431BK
JumpDrive® Secure II 1GB
Part Number
JDSE1GB-00-500 Rev H and 3052-1GBA-2006
3052-1GBA-2106
3052-1GBA-1906
3052-1GBA-1806