IT firms blown over by leaves on the bottom line

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As teenagers quake in their boots at the thought of exam results, the same is true of big companies when quarterly earnings are announced.

This week we've seen some of the tech industry's A students sent to the back of the class for failing to hit earnings targets, while shareholders have praised other boffin blue chips for doing well.

IBM, for example, thought it had done well in its quarterly results - revenue had risen four per cent since last year. But there's no pleasing some shareholders, who slashed more than five per cent off IBM shares in after-hours trading. Ouch.

Shareholders in server and storage maker Rackable Systems were also blasted by bad tidings when the company's low figures forced shares to spiral downward. Earlier in the week Rackable warned its figures would come in well below analyst expectations.

Security company Symantec also failed to meet expectations with its data centre products not shipping as well as hoped. Sales for the end of the year were in the range of $1.29bn to $1.31bn, lower than a forecast of $1.315 bn to $1.345bn.

But there's always one swot in the class who never fails to get straight As, despite the bullying. Apple sold $7.1bn worth of goods in the first quarter compared to $5.7bn in the same period last year. Strong iPod sales were said to be responsible for this as the "think-different" firm shipped 21 million of the little boxes in just one quarter - a 50 per cent rise in sales.

Carphone Warehouse says 'my way or the highway' to Big Brother

Bullying doesn't stop when you leave school. This week, Jade Goody and her Big Brother friends have been in the spotlight after a flurry of complaints were sent into TV regulator Ofcom accusing the gang of racism toward a fellow housemate. While Big Brother is probably further from most techies' minds than going outdoors, the stir has caused Carphone Warehouse to pull out of the sponsorship deal for the program.

Government: 'What data protection?'

Speaking of Big Brother, the government has launched a bill that would allow more organisations in the public and private sector to share people's personal information. While the Data Protection Act seems to be taking a hammering at the moment, the government believes data can be shared if it is in the public interest, such as preventing fraud.

This would essentially mean the powers that be can legally link up data between a person's tax, employment, and benefits status, as well as any pensions and other personal financial information.

There's more data sharing hoo hah about schools taking fingerprints of children without their consent. Campaign groups have asked for a public debate over accusations the government has allowed schools to take children's fingerprints and paid for the fingerprint systems using e-Learning credits.

Yet optimism for IT reigns somewhere in Parliament, as Cabinet Office Minister Pat McFadden argued there is "still a strong case for government investment in IT". Wow. McFadden, the lead minister for transformational government, said problems with major projects should not deter the government from continuing to look for new ways to use technology to improve service delivery – so that was a speech of inspiration and foresight then.

Connection charges for Skype users

Skype has introduced a connection charge of €3.9 cents for all calls outside the Skype network. The company, which was acquired by auction giant eBay in 2005, has changed its tariff scheme and launched a Skype Pro service which will cost €2 a month and remove any per-minute charges for national calls to landlines.

Storms force train operators off rails

London lost rail networks and station roofs yesterday as high winds and stormy weather battered the capital. And yes, you've guessed it, the inclement weather blew over websites as well. While it is unclear whether leaves on the server were to blame, Southern Railways said it was unable to give out service information on specific trains at this time and apologised. So that's all right then.

Man burned by exploding mobile phone...or not?

A US man was badly burned in a fire that started spontaneously in the "right front pocket of his polyester-blend slacks" while he slept, leading investigators to point the finger at a supposedly spontaneously combusting mobile phone that was residing in said pocket. However, the Nokia 2125i has been let off the hook, and what exactly provoked the combustion remains a mystery.

ID theft from hospital

Thieves have swiped 30 computers containing patient data from a disused hospital site in Hampshire. The theft of the computers, worth an estimated £15,000, has sparked ID theft fears in the community.

HP with your chips?

HP says it has made a "design breakthrough" that could result in integrated circuits in chips (the computer sort) up to eight times denser than those currently in production. The new technology would also use less energy per transaction than today's chips, if HP's computer models are correct.

At the same time, Seagate claims it has produced the world's fastest hard drive - a 15,000rpm, 2.5in 3Gbps Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) job designed for servers and enterprise-oriented storage systems.

Cisco to lose grip on iPhone?

A US lawyer has found a loophole in American law that could leave Cisco without the copyright for the term "iPhone". Reports last week said the company could also be in danger of losing the European trademark.

Joost up?

This week the Reg made its way down to the West End for a demonstration of the much discussed Venice Project, which revealed itself to the world as Joost - an interactive, IP-based TV software system from the people who brought you Kazaa and Skype.

Can you imagine TV for everyone at work? It would be like being a student again...

Security holes...patch 'em fast or peril

No less than 51 fixes for Oracle products were released this week. This quarter's patch sorted out vulnerabilities in Oracle Database, Application Server, Enterprise Manager, Identity Management, E-Business Suite, Developer Suite, and the PeopleSoft software packages.

Symantec's customers have also been plagued with problems as they face attacks that target a vulnerability the company patched more than seven months ago - yet more proof that IT professionals, not just mums and pops running their first PC, are dangerously lax about installing crucial security patches.

Free 3 roaming?

Customers of mobile phone firm 3 will no longer pay to receive calls and will be able to use their bundled minutes, text, and data when roaming abroad. The catch is this only applies if you use a 3 network in another country, which is only a handful. Still, better than nothing – participating countries include Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Hong Kong, and Australia .

Shoe camera lands man in hot water

An Australian man has been accused of using a tiny video camera embedded in the toe of his shoe to look up women's skirts on buses, trains and trams. The 20-year-old man was snapped on a tram after police received complaints from a female passenger who'd spotted his hand-held video recorder.

Giant rabbits to be sold as meat in North Korea

And finally... You couldn't make this up. A German has sold 12 giant rabbits to North Korea to help boost meat supplies. Korean officials travelled to see the man and his 23lb bunny, offering a him a supply contract on the spot.

Supplier Mr Szmolinsky reportedly said: "They want to boost meat production. They've arranged for me to go to Pyongyang in April to advise them on setting up a breeding farm."

And on that note, thanks for reading. Same time next week. ®

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