Information on CompCore Multimedia and Zoran


CompCore Multimedia is a subsidiary of Zoran Corporation, a publicly traded company. CompCore was a privately held company prior to being acquired by Zoran in a stock deal. CompCore shareholders approved the merger deal on Dec. 27, 1996. Regulatory authorities approved the merger in early 1997.

As a "startup" company, prior to the acquisition by Zoran, CompCore specialized in MPEG digital audio and video software and hardware. CompCore was well known for its SofPEG and SoftDVD MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 digital audio and video player software, one of the first software DVD players for Microsoft Windows. CompCore also developed and licensed MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 decoder chip "cores" to several electronics companies.

Zoran transferred SoftDVD to MGI Software in June of 1999. MGI Software markets SoftDVD MAX.

Further information on CompCore and Zoran is available at:

CompCore Multimedia Web Page
CompCore Multimedia maintains a web page.
Zoran Web Page
Zoran Corporation maintains a web page.
EE Times Web Page
CMP Media Inc.'s Electronic Engineering Times (EE Times) has published many articles on CompCore Multimedia. EE Times maintains a web site. Search using the keyword CompCore to see many of the articles on CompCore.
NASDAQ Web Site
Zoran is listed on the NASDAQ. Quotes and other information on Zoran stock are available at the NASDAQ Web site. Zoran's ticker symbol is ZRAN.
Silicon Investor
The Silicon Investor web page includes coverage of Zoran. Choose StockTalk Semis Zoran for a newsgroup with postings by investors and others about Zoran and CompCore.

In late October or early November of 1996, someone using the name Louis Gourt apparently posted one or more highly inflammatory articles on CompCore to the Zoran newsgroup. He seemed to know more than a little about CompCore's business. These postings seem to have been deleted, but various responses dated in November of 1996 persist in the newsgroup (on Sept. 30, 1997). At least one (heated) response from George Haber, the CEO of CompCore, appears to have been deleted as well.

The Louis Gourt posting occured in between the announcement of the planned merger between Zoran and CompCore and the actual completion of the merger. CompCore shareholders voted on the merger on December 26 or 27 of 1996. After this, the merger had to wait for final approval from regulatory authorities in early 1997.

Pro-Zoran Investment Advice from Ariga in Israel
As of October 23, 1997, Zoran was part of the Ariga Portfolio, some recommended Israeli high-technology stocks. Ariga appears to be an on-line magazine or newspaper in Israel.
CD-ROM Professional
CD-ROM Professional Magazine, now EMedia Professional, provided extensive coverage of MPEG, Video CD, DVD, and various companies including CompCore. In particular, see articles by Jan Ozer.
EMedia Professional
EMedia Professional covers DVD, CD-ROM, and related topics, including CompCore. In particular, see articles by Jan Ozer.

Elron Electronic Industries

At the time of the merger, a large portion of Zoran's stock was held by Elron Electronic Industries and The Israel Company. Uzia Galil, President and Chief Executive Officer of Elron, was Chairman of the Board of Zoran at the time of the merger. Elron is a major electronics firm in Israel. Elron and Zoran are both originally military electronics companies with close relationships with the Israeli military, intelligence services, and government. Elron holds investments in many high technology companies including a large number of companies listed on the American NASDAQ stock market.

Information and links for Elron and related companies and organizations follows.

Also, see:

Securities Class Action Clearinghouse

Search for Uzia Galil or NetManage to see the text of complaints and other legal documents in insider trading lawsuits against NetManage. Zvi Alon, the founder of NetManage, is Uzia Galil's son-in-law. According to the Clearinghouse, at least three separate lawsuits have been filed against NetManage, Zvi Alon, Uzia Galil, and others.

The "Israeli Mafia"

The "Israeli Mafia" is a slang term used in the electronics industry for the community of Israeli electronics executives and engineers. Barbara Tuck's article in Computer Design (see below) has a few paragraphs on this group. She quotes Dr. Yoav Nissan-Cohen, the co-CEO of Tower Semiconductor:

"The 'Israeli mafia' is a network," notes Nissan-Cohen. "We Israelis all spent time in America, working for GE, Bell Labs, IBM, or in Silicon Valley, and we made our Ph.D.s together." A huge percentage of Israeli hi-tech management is in the hands of either jet pilots (like Nissan-Cohen) or military intelligence, and the two groups compete with each other, says Nissan-Cohen.

Most of the "Israeli Mafia" have an electrical engineering degree from the Israel Institute of Technology, the Technion, in Haifa, Israel. Many have served in the Israeli air force or military intelligence and have worked for Israeli military electronics contractors such as Zoran, especially companies affiliated with Elron Electronics Industries.

See the General Reading section below for more information on the Israeli High Technology industry including the Barbara Tuck article.

Israeli Military Intelligence

Israeli military intelligence is A'MAN, the Intelligence Branch of the Israel Defense Force (IDF). A'MAN is less well known than the famous (or infamous) MOSSAD. However, it is generally believed to be much larger than MOSSAD. A'MAN is responsible for all or nearly all electronic intelligence gathering by Israel. This includes activites refered to as SIGINT (signals intelligence), COMINT (communications intelligence), ELINT (electronic intelligence), PHOTINT (photographic intelligence), IMINT (image intelligence), VISINT (visual intelligence), and VIDINT (video intelligence).

A'MAN also carries out HUMINT, human intelligence, both espionage and covert actions.

A'MAN is reportedly responsible for Israel's fleet of mannned electronic surveillance airplanes, which surely include still image and possibly video cameras.

A'MAN is reportedly responsible for the development and deployment of RPV's, remotely piloted vehicles, for intelligence gathering. The RPV's are small unmanned airplanes with video cameras and other sensors on board, capable of transmitting video and other information in real time. The RPV's were reportedly widely used in Operation Peace for Gallilee, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980's.

Elron Electronics owns part of Elbit Systems Limited (May, 1999) which Elron lists as a member of its "group" of companies. Elbit, in turn, is a partner with Federmann Enterprises in Silver Arrow which makes RPV's, also known as UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles). Other manufacturers of RPV's include the state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Tadiran.

Ehud Barak, the newly elected Israeli Prime Minister (May, 1999), was chief of A'MAN from 1983-1985.

Packard Bell

CompCore licensed its software MPEG digital video player to Packard Bell, at the time one of the leading PC manufacturers. This was an early win and at times Packard Bell was the only major PC company licensing the CompCore MPEG player as opposed to software from competitors Mediamatics and Xing Technology.

For more on Packard Bell, see the following article:

Bled to Death: Packard Bell once ruled the PC market. But major self-inflicted wounds doomed the company, despite Herculean efforts to save it. Here's what happened, Geoffrey James, Upside, January 2000, p. 152

The following quote from the "Bled to Death" article is perhaps especially revealing:

Despite the success of Packard Bell, [CEO Beny] Alagem remained something of a mystery man. A former member of Israel's intelligence community, he acted as if he expected to be attacked by terrorists at any moment. His office, known as the Bunker, was hidden behind multiple key-card doors and armed security guards. Alagem arrived at and left the facility in a dark limousine with frosted windows.

I have received one e-mail from a former executive at Packard Bell objecting to this colorful description of Beny Alagem's style and personal security measures.

Intel

CompCore gained considerable visibility in 1996 through a relationship with Intel. Intel executives demonstrated CompCore's MPEG-2 software player, SoftDVD, at several trade shows and industry events. SoftDVD was optimized to use the MMX (Multimedia Extensions) instruction set that Intel added to the latest generation of the Pentium and Pentium Pro (now Pentium II) processor. Andy Grove, Mike Aymar, and Pat Gelsinger, all top executives at Intel, have demonstrated SoftDVD at various trade shows and industry events in 1996 and 1997.

MPEG digital video is one of the few multimedia applications that can clearly be accelerated by using the MMX instruction set. As such an MPEG player using MMX was an excellent promotional tool for the then new MMX instructions and specifically Intel's Pentium with MMX chip. Digital video is also very glamorous. Demonstrations of MPEG typically consist of movie trailers, rock videos, or advertisements.

As has gained considerable press since then, the MMX instructions were added to the Pentium processor at Intel's Israel Design Center. This facility is located in the Advanced Technology Center, an industrial park in Haifa. Other tenants of this park include Elron Electronic Industries, Zoran, and other companies closely associated with Elron.

Intel and Zoran/CompCore Events
Intel Internet Media Symposium (July 24, 1996)
Mike Aymar, Vice President and General Manager, Desktop Products Group, Intel, demonstrated the CompCore SoftDVD MPEG-2 Software Player playing a movie trailer for Waterworld with six-channel Dolby Digital (AC-3) surround sound at the Intel Internet Media Symposium on July 24, 1996 at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, CA. Aymar demonstrated the software on an Intel 200 Mhz P55C with MMX based personal computer. Fifteen-hundred people from industry and the press attended the symposium.
COMDEX, November, 1996
According to a number of accounts, Andy Grove demonstrated SoftDVD at keynote speech at the November, 1996 COMDEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
WinHEC '97
On April 8, 1997, Pat Gelsinger of Intel demonstrated Zoran/CompCore's SoftDVD in his presentation at WinHEC, the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference.
DVD Compatibility Day (July, 1997)
Near the end of July, 1997, Intel's Developer Relations Group (DRG) held a DVD Compatibility Day event which included a number of Pentium II (formerly Pentium Pro with MMX or "Klamath") running Zoran/CompCore's SoftDVD playback software.

Intel Web Site

Intel Secrets Web Site

Intel Secrets provides a more critical view of Intel than the official Intel Web Site. This site seems to have toned down its rhetoric since becoming affiliated with Dr. Dobbs. According to published reports (Michael Slater, Taking On Intel, Red Herring No. 60, November 1998, p. 48), Robert Collins was hired by Transmeta, a startup company rumored to be developing an Intel compatible chip.

Former and Current Employees of Intel (FACE Intel)

Some unhappy folks. According to an article in the April 14, 1997 issue of EE Times by Brian Santo, Intel blocked access to the FACE Web site from within Intel. In addition to Brian Santo's article in EE Times, FACE Intel has been the subject of an article in the San Jose Metro. After several Internet Service Providers dropped the FACE Web Site, the Communications Workers of America provided a host for the Web Site; CWA appears to back FACE Intel. Imagine a union of Intel engineers.

Promotional Site for Inside Intel: Andy Grove and the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Chip Company by Tim Jackson

Inside Intel: Andy Grove and the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Chip Company
Tim Jackson
A Dutton Book
Penguin Putnam Inc.
New York
1997
ISBN 0-525-94141-X

A recent book on Andy Grove and Intel.

Standard Based Monopolies and Near Monopolies: The WinTel Example
By John F. McGowan, Ph.D.
My hypothesis about the economics of Microsoft and Intel.

Pentium F0 Bug

The Pentium F0 Bug is a single "illegal" instruction that can crash the Pentium and Pentium with MMX processors. The Pentium protection modes make no difference. If you execute this instruction in user mode, the Pentium will still crash. Anything and everything can crash Windows 3.x and Windows 95. The Pentium F0 bug can crash Pentium's running "secure" operating systems like Unix, Windows NT, or OS/2. These are the operating systems used for critical systems. You must hit the reset button or cycle the power to fix the crash. Soft resets such as Control-Alt-Delete fail.

To demonstrate the F0 Bug, use the DOS DEBUG utility. Run DEBUG and enter the following commands. Boldface for commands typed by user. ???? stands for any four digit hexadecimal number.

C:\>debug
- a100 (ENTER)
????:0100 db f0 0f c7 c8 (ENTER)
????:0104 ret (ENTER)
????:0105 (ENTER)
- g (ENTER)

"F0 0F C7 C8" is an illegal CPU instruction. It should generate a hardware exception. This is what happens on the Pentium Pro and Pentium II CPU's and on Pentium-compatible CPU's from AMD and Cyrix. On Intel Pentiums the CPU will hang, requiring a hard reset of the CPU.

On November 6, 1997, someone using the false e-mail address noname@noname.com posted information on the F0 bug to a Linux newsgroup. According to accounts on the Internet, the post has been traced to a University of Texas dial-up line. Somebody didn't want the press to come calling ... AT ALL. Mr. Noname reminds me of Louis Gourt, CompCore's mysterious and very knowledgable critic. It would seem that so far Intel has managed to contain the public relations damage of a very severe bug, much more severe than the Pentium floating point division bug of 1995.

Of course, one would think, would one not, that Intel would have tested all 32-bit instructions as part of the Pentium Quality Assurance. A 100 MHz Pentium can execute all possible (4 billion) 32-bit instructions in about 40 seconds. It is not quite that simple, but this is a pretty easy test to perform. Mistake or something else...?

If someone wanted to put a "backdoor" in the Pentium chip design that would give them an "ace up their sleeve" against anyone using a Pentium, the F0 bug would be it. It is an illegal instruction that would never be used in "real" programs. Compilers would never generate the instruction. The chances of someone finding the instruction by mistake would be quite small. But if someone knew about it, all they would need to do is log on to a computer system, run a very simple program, and crash the system. They could also embed this instruction in viruses, in unused code in software that they distributed, to be activated by some signal.

Consider the F0 bug from the perspective of military organizations, spies, and criminals. Not to mention power-hungry corporate executives and VLSI chip designers.

And who might Mr. Noname be?

Pentium III Processor Serial Number (PSN) Controversy

In February, 1999 Intel released the Pentium III CPU. The Pentium III includes a unique processor serial number for each chip. Intel has also revealed that some Pentium II chips have a processor serial number as well. Software, for example a Worldwide Web Browser, can access this serial number and broadcast it, for example to a web site being browsed. Electronic privacy organizations organized a boycott of the Pentium III.

http://www.bigbrotherinside.org/

The Intel Processor Serial Number Letters (Junkbusters)

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Another Anti-PSN Site

More on Intel

Jim VandeHei, Bush's Cherished Tort-Reform Plans Survive Enron -- Barely, The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2002, p. A20

This article discusses how Intel has supposedly played a big role in lobbying for passage of a House of Representatives bill curtailing class-action lawsuits. Seven lawsuits were filed against Intel in 1996 after Intel published inaccurate test results on its Pentium processor -- inadvertently according to Intel.

Undocumented backdoor features similar to the Pentium F0 bug discussed above are a potential giant, in fact company-destroying, class action lawsuit, especially should someone unleash a virus on the Internet that exploits the backdoor feature or features to wreak havoc on corporate accounting systems and the world economy. Perhaps a good reason to quietly delete any such features.

Sun Microsystems

George Haber was employed by Sun Microsystems for several years prior to forming CompCore Multimedia. He played a leading role in the development of the VIS instruction set for Sun's UltraSparc chip. A number of CompCore's chip designers worked for Sun prior to CompCore.

The VIS instruction set is a set of new instructions for the SPARC CPU architecture adding support for parallel processing of multimedia data types. VIS is extremely similar to Intel's MMX instructions.

Prior to Sun, George Haber worked for Zoran, the company that ultimately acquired CompCore. Prior to moving into the consumer electronics field, Zoran designed and manufactured specialized digital signal processing chips known as VSP's (Vector Signal Processors) and DFP's (Digital Filter Processors). It is likely that these chips implemented functionality similar or identical to the VIS and MMX instruction sets and were used for image and digital signal processing by the Israeli intelligence agencies.

Andy Bechtolsheim, one of Sun's original founders, and some other investors invested approximately $1 million in CompCore during 1996. Andy Bechtolsheim became a board member of CompCore following this investment.

Dolby Laboratories

Dolby Laboratories created and licenses the AC-3 (Dolby Digital) audio compression algorithm used in DVD. Zoran was the first company to produce a working chip implementing AC-3. AC-3, under the name Dolby Digital, is now in use in movie theaters, some laser discs, and has been incorporated in the United States Grand Alliance High Definition Television (GA-HDTV) standard.

Paul Goldberg, Vice President of Systems Solutions and Audio Products at Zoran, was a senior executive at Dolby Laboratories for several years immediately prior to joining Zoran.

Prior to the merger, CompCore developed a sofware Dolby Digital, then known as AC-3, audio decoder that was incorporated in SoftDVD.

Dolby Laboratories

Cooley Godward LLP

Prior to the merger with Zoran, the law firm of Cooley Godward LLP represented CompCore Multimedia. Cooley Godward is a prominent high technology law firm with a large office in Palo Alto. Andrei M. Manoliu, a partner of Cooley Godward, held a seat on the CompCore board of directors.

Cooley Godward LLP

General Reading and Resources

Broken Promises: The Rise and Fall of Israel's Technology-Based Industries, by Joel Bainerman, © 2000

Joel Bainerman is an Israeli author who has written many articles and this book critical of the Israeli high technology industry. He is also the author of Inside the Covert Operations of the CIA & Israel's Mossad and Crimes of a President : New Revelations on the Conspiracy and Cover Up in the Bush and Reagan Administration. His articles and letters to the editor have appeared in both Red Herring and Upside.

Joel Bainerman has been a partner with Barry Chamish in a newsletter, reportedly titled Inside Israel, on political corruption in Israel. Barry Chamish is a conspiracy theorist and also a UFO researcher. See, for example: http://www.redmoonrising.com/chamish.htm

Barry Chamish is best known for his controversial theories about the assasination of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

"The Rabin Murder Cover-up" by Barry Chamish, in You Are Being Lied To: The Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths, Edited by Russ Kick, The Disinformation Company, New York, © 2000, p. 147

It may be pointed out that many of the Israeli UFO sightings discussed by Barry Chamish in his articles and book Return of the Giants could easily be sightings of camouflaged or "low-observable" remotely piloted vehicles (RPV's) developed by Israel and contractors such as Elron Electronics Industries. In the U.S., the National Reconnaissance Office, Air Force, and CIA have now claimed (quietly) that many of the UFO sightings in the 1950's and 1960's were actually sightings of the then classified U2 and SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft as part of the declassification of Project CORONA in 1995. Obviously some of the stranger reports with occupants are more difficult to explain in this way.

See also:

Skeptical About Israeli VC, by Joel Bainerman, Letters To The Editor, Upside, March 2002, p. 8

Book excerpt: Uncertain ground, by Joel Bainerman, Upside November 2000.

Surviving the ASIC Experience, by John Schroeter, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 07632, © 1992

Although somewhat technical, Surviving is essentially a business and management book, dealing with the economics and management of chip design projects. I recommend a thorough reading of this book to anyone considering working for, investing in, or otherwise making a major commitment to a "fabless semiconductor", "technology licensing", "intellectual property", or similar chip design firm. This book explains much of the jargon used in EE Times (above) articles as well.

ASIC is an acronym for Application Specific Integrated Circuit. An ASIC is a chip with a dedicated, customized function. Zoran and CompCore's hardware chip products, such as JPEG and MPEG decoder chips, are examples of ASIC's. This is in contast to more general purpose chips such as CPU's (Central Processor Units) and DSP's (Digital Signal Processors).

Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing by Randall E. Stross, Atheneum, New York, 1993

Stross's book is a highly critical account of NeXT, Steve Jobs post-Apple startup. Chapter Three, The thirtysomething company, and Chapter Ten, Roller Coaster, give descriptions of the management and working conditions at NeXT ostensibly based on interviews of former employees of the company, most of whom are not cited by name. I think this is worthwhile reading for anyone considering working at a startup company.

Computer Design (magazine)
10 Tara Boulevard
Nashua, NH  03062-2801
(603) 891-0123
(603) 891-0514 (FAX)
http://www.computer-design.com/

Computer Design is a monthly magazine dealing with electronic design. Plenty of coverage of ASICs and related topics.

"Israel: a remarkable hotbed for hi-tech" by Barbara Tuck, Senior Editor, Computer Design, July 1997, p. 16

This recent article in Computer Design magazine by Barbara Tuck provides plenty of information on the Israeli high technology industry, Elron Electronic Industries, and Uzia Galil.

LINK The Middle East International Business Magazine

LINK has substantial coverage of the Israeli high technology industry including the many Israeli companies such as Zoran traded in the U.S. stock markets.

GLOBES Israel's Business Newspaper

GLOBES carries substantial coverage of the Israeli high technology industry.

Red Herring Magazine Article on Venture Capital in Israel

Red Herring is a magazine focused on investment in high technology companies with coverage of venture capital, the stock market, IPO's etc.

FREE RIDE
Why so many Israelis want government to reconsider subsidizing multinationals.
By Joel Bainerman
The Red Herring magazine
October 1997

Yozma Venture Capital Investment Fund

Yozma is an Israeli Venture Capital fund that funds many Israeli high technology firms. Yozma was funded, at least in part, by the Israeli government.

Focus Capital Group

Another Israeli venture capital firm that has funded a number of high technology companies.

Israel Growth Fund L.P.

Yet another Israeli venture capital firm, affiliated with Apax Partners, a multi-billion dollar international investment fund.

California Israel Chamber of Commerce

List of Israeli High Technology Firms

Haifa for Tourists

Many Israeli high-technology firms, including Elron and Zoran, are located in the port city of Haifa.

Technion Israel Institute of Technology

Many Israeli engineers and high-technology executives are graduates of Technion. A number of Israeli members of the MMX design team at Intel are graduates of Technion. George Haber of CompCore/Zoran has a B.A. from Technion according to Zoran's filings with the SEC.

American Technion Society

The American Technion Society is an organization in the United States that supports and raises money for the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.

Securities Class Action Clearinghouse

The Securities Class Action Clearinghouse has texts of lawsuits involving alleged securities fraud, including lawsuits against NetManage and Uzia Galil.

Tristan Savatier's MPEG Site

Tristan Savatier's site is the leading Web site on MPEG. Tristan Savatier was a key member of the MPEG committee and was employed by SGS Thomson, the large French electronics company, for several years.

For a time, Sun Microsystems and SGS Thomson formed a joint consumer electronics enterprise to produce, amongst other things, set top boxes using MPEG. Sun's famous Java programming language was developed as a language for embedded systems programming for consumer electronics devices as part of this effort.

Gigapixel

George Haber is now the founder and head of Gigapixel, a company specializing in 3D graphics technology.

3dfx and GigaPixel Merge (Monday, July 24, 2000)

QuArc

CompCore Multimedia co-founder Sorin Cismas established another "startup" reportedly to market an MPEG-2 decoder core.

EE Times Article on QuArc


John McGowan

John McGowan was employed by CompCore Multimedia from Jan. 1995 to Oct. 1996. He is no longer affiliated with CompCore/Zoran except as a shareholder in Zoran. This web site and web page are not affiliated with CompCore/Zoran. Please contact CompCore or Zoran for official information on these companies and their products.

Disclaimer

This page is NOT intended as investment advice. Nothing here should be construed as a recommendation to invest in any of the companies mentioned.

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