By John Lettice
Posted: 25/07/2002 at 15:51 GMT

IBM and Opera Software are developing a "multimodal browser based on the XHTML+Voice (X+V) specification," it says here, following up with a long-winded and deeply tedious explanation of what a multimodal browser might be. But cut to the chase* friends, it's a browser you can shove onto a handheld device and control via a number of non-traditional inputs - i.e., it's a browser you can shout at.

If it works, it's clearly A Good Thing. If your device is too small for the usual controls to be viable, or the conmtext is such that you can't control it with your hands, then being able to say 'go and get me so and so' is a boon. Although why you'd want to think of what you were talking via as being a browser, as such, is not entirely clear to us. Opera has relatively recently been involved in developments associated with the time at which the browser slides into the background and the task into the foreground, and this would seem to us to be something along the same lines.

The beta of the browser (which they insist on calling it anyway), is due this fall, and this is where it all gets a bit silly. We called up the nice people at Opera and asked what platforms the beta would be available on. They said, er, they didn't know. They're just coding the browser bit, and IBM is in charge of the actual hardware implementation, so there's no need for IBM to tell Opera (apart from equipping them to respond to the obvious question, that is), and they haven't.

We've called IBM, they haven't got back, but they've only had about 30 minutes to do so, so we shouldn't be too hard on them. We checked with the Usual Suspects, not us, as far as we know, they told us, so all we know is that IBM is issuing a beta of a multimodal browser this fall on a something hardware platform. Or maybe several something hardware platforms. They might, according to the quote from IBM Pervasive (announcements everywhere, substance less so) Computing Division GM Rod Adkins, be "phones, handhelds and even cars."

So there you go. It could fit in your pocket, you and your pockets could fit in it, or somewhere in between. But it's bound to be great.
seen where else but at the register

and for some different kind of news also from the register
Boffins create 'computer processor from chicken feathers'

Researchers at the University of Delaware's ACRES program - Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources - have developed a computer processor made from chicken feathers", according to the usually sober Assoicated Press.

According to chemical engineering professor Richard Wool(!) chicken features are better materials to work with than silicon "because they have shafts that are hollow but strong, and made mostly of air, a great conductor of electricity".

In a similar vein, AP reports that the main obstacle to Intel fabs becoming chicken plucking centres is that the "natural bumps and irregularities that come from using an organic base" make feather chips hard to fabricate. The microchip industry depends on materials that are "ultrasmooth and ultraflat", don't you know?

The Washington Post covers this breakthrough technology in rather more depth.