Channel looks on the bright side, Woolies goes soft and Cisco aims small

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Let the good times roll

Let's start with the good news. According to a survey of European channel distributors and resellers (that means you), 2007 will be a year of strong sales growth and rises in revenue. The ETech 2007 survey found 70 per cent of channel distributors and resellers were confident about their business prospects this year. ISVs and system integrators were the most "bullish".

This week's deals: Big bucks

Xerox revealed plans to double its small business distribution channel by acquiring document management company Global Imaging Systems for $1.5bn. At the same time, Google was rumoured by the Wall Street Journal to be competing with Microsoft to snap up online advertising broker DoubleClick for a sum in excess of $2bn.

This week's deals: Little bucks

On a slightly smaller scale, Computacenter bought Allnet Ltd, the in-premises cabling division of Cable and Wireless and became the "preferred supplier of LAN services to Cable and Wireless in the UK". It also emerged that gadget website Expansys was planning to raise £25m by selling shares on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Sun bathing mobiles

One interesting future gadget could be a solar powered mobile phone. TI has developed an ultra-low-voltage DC/DC booster chip that could run mobile phones off low energy sources such as fuel cells and solar panels. Meanwhile, a new version of the Bluetooth standard has been published which promises to boost battery life and make pairing gadgets a doddle.

Woolies goes soft

On the high street, Woolworths (Woolies) was said to be going into the software business with its own range of PC software. The products will be supplied by Formjet Innovations - the company which also provides Tesco's own brand software - and will include word processing, internet security, and anti-virus packages.

Taking it to the maxx

"Are you ready to go weak at the knees?" retailer TK Maxx asks visitors to its website. Some customers driven dizzy by the designer clothes at low prices will be feeling even more queasy following the admission by the retailer's parent company, TJX, that 45.6 million credit card numbers have been stolen from its systems. Elsewhere on its website, TK Maxx states: "We run an efficient business, spending money on the important things like the stock and staff to help you but no fancy extras". Like proper security for example?

Not clear at nuclear department

Speaking of things mislaid, the US government department that safeguards technical secrets about nuclear weapons has lost 20 PCs, 14 of which were used to process classified information. This is the thirteenth time in four years the agency has failed a PC inventory audit. Wonder where those PCs got to...Iran? North Korea?

Microsoft animation is a bug's life

But we can't talk about security without mentioning Microsoft. No, really, we can't. This week, Microsoft released an out-of-sequence patch to counter widespread exploitation of a Windows vulnerability involving cursor animation files that allows hackers to inject hostile code into unpatched systems. At the same time, it emerged hackers were trying to trick people into loading malware - the Grum-A worm - pretending to be a beta 2 of Internet Explorer 7.

Vista (In)Capable spat

Meanwhile, MS has been sued for deceiving US consumers by marketing PCs as 'Vista Capable' without pointing out they could only run the most basic version of the OS. One survey also claimed 80 per cent of business PCs are not Vista capable.

No wonder salesmen like PowerPoint

Speaking of incapable, Australian researchers have found that people's brains are incapable of taking in verbal and visual information simultaneously, such as in PowerPoint slide presentations. Professor John Sweller of the University of New South Wales described the use of PowerPoint as "a disaster. It should be ditched". More here.

Something fishy here

On the genuine product front, Microsoft unveiled Deepfish, a prototype version of a browser for mobile devices. In another piscine development came news of Sun's FISHworks (Fully Integrated Software and Hardware) technology which will target NetApp first before heading for further shores.

Flexible friend goes mobile

On the subject of mobile devices, Visa is trying to promote closer collaboration between the wireless and credit card industries by investing in the Dublin-based dotMobi domain registry. The credit card giant is looking at teaming up with mobile phone companies to enable cashless transactions with a handset, known as m-payment, or m-commerce.

Fotovista warehouse fraud hits DSG

Returning to security, DSG claims to have identified "a significant fraud operation" worth as much as £8m at its Paris-based Fotovista warehouse. Several arrests have already been made. On its website, Fotovista boasts it has "acquired an undeniable know-how in the image domain" over the past 35 years. It'll need it.

Problems hound Vodafone email users

Firefox users have been having trouble trying to access to use its email service. Vodafone seems to have been a little bit tardy in making its service work with the increasingly popular browser. Vodafone has apologised for the inconvenience and suggested customers use "an alternative browser" in the meantime. Subscribers to BT-owned Plusnet were also having problems accessing their email.

Support costs increase for Carphone Warehouse

Carphone Warehouse revealed it would have to spend an extra £10m to £15m on supporting broadband customers. Earlier delays in migrating people onto broadband mean it is behind original plans. It will also spend another £10 to £15m setting up the Geek Squad for technical support in the UK.

Red faces at Red Hat

Linux vendor Red Hat reported a sharp drop in fourth quarter profits as sales failed to match analyst expectations. The company singled out its training and services business as an area of weakness and blamed stock compensation and tax expenses for the earnings hit.

The tax man goeth away

By contrast, Intel was celebrating after the tax man decided to close an audit into the chip giant's tax returns from 1999 to 2002, effectively allowing Intel to take back $275m it had put aside to cover any potential charge. Intel also said its 2007 tax rate should come in below the 30 per cent it previously forecast.

Dell has problems adding up

Meanwhile, loyal Intel partner Dell reported an audit committee had found evidence of misconduct and accounting errors which could lead to restatements of previous financial results. The SEC and the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York are also scrutinising Dell's finances. Plans to preload PCs and laptops with Linux are unlikely to turn around its fortunes on their own, but they demonstrate the company is listening to customers.

MPs gross £10,000 for net

We'll return briefly to the subject of taxes and what looks like a serious waste of taxpayers' money. MPs have voted to give themselves £10,000 each to spend on websites that will give the public a better idea of what Parliament is about and what it does. One answer would be that it wastes over £600,000 on stupid schemes.

Too hot for the web

Whatever the UK's politicians might be planning, a data centre serving Florida's main website and 4,500 government employees had to be closed down for nine hours because it was too hot. A failure in the air conditioning chiller forced the shut down until two 400 tonne backup chillers were delivered to get it back up and running - but they couldn't provide air-conditioning for the workers, so they got the day off.

Great Danes

Good news for the Danes. They've made it to number one in the rankings of technology nations (up from third in 2005-2006) while the US has dropped from first to seventh place. The UK is ninth. The Global Information Technology Report from the World Economic Forum report looks at 122 countries and judges their infrastructure according to 67 variables. One ray of sunshine for the UK was the news that more than half the adult population now has broadband internet access at home. No wonder the politicians want to set up websites.

Small matters

It was a busy week for small business. Cisco announced its Smart Business Communications System bundle aimed at SMEs and a new certification for resellers in that sector.

At the same time, it was predicted that outsourced business services and hosted applications would be the norm for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) by the year 2020, according to a report by the Social Issues Research Centre. Assuming they don't get sued first.

Typeface company Monotype claimed the average computer in a small business has 300 unlicensed fonts installed on it, leaving the company exposed to legal action.

EC out of tune with Apple

EMI became the first major record label to agree to sell music downloads through Apple's iTunes music store without DRM. The tracks, encoded at the higher 256Kbps rate, will cost 20p more than existing 128kKbps DRM tracks.

But the EC spoiled the party by issuing a statement of objections against Apple and a number of major record labels over variable iTunes pricing in Europe. If found guilty, Apple could be fined up to ten per cent of its worldwide turnover.

Some things we don't have space for

No time to talk about the company offering people the ability to set up their own Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). US start-up Sonopia says prospective operators can be up and running in ten minutes and receive about five per cent of the revenue they generate.

We definitely don't have space for the cock up in the UK's key banking processing system which left 400,000 people without their salary.

Or Sony's edict that senior staff need to "start blogging actively" .

And let's not even get started on the family who converted their dead dad into a synthetic diamond just in time for his daughter's wedding. ®

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