30th > December > 2002 Archive

Alienware comes to Europe

Alienware, the niche American PC builder, has landed in Europe. The company, best known for what it dubs "Ultimate Gaming Machines" has set up European HQ, incorporating call centre ops and assembly in Athlone, Ireland. And it is touting for direct business in the UK, through its online site www.alienware.co.uk. ®
Drew Cullen, 30 Dec 2002

EU tells HP et al to scrap inkjet ‘clever chips’

Prices of printer cartridges look set to drop thanks to a new EU law that will ban printer firms from forcing consumers to buy their own-brand refills. The European Parliament voted unanimously on Wednesday in favour of a new EU "electroscrap" recycling law, which includes a ruling directing manufacturers of printers to no longer incorporate chips into their own-brand ink refill cartridges. These chips prevent cartridges produced by other manufacturers from being used in many printers. In addition, proponents of the measure say the chips prevent them from being refilled -- a feature on many cartridges made by printer manufacturers. According to the European Parliament press office, member states must take measures to minimise the disposal of so-called electroscrap by consumers as unsorted municipal waste. Among the measures was a provision on better product design "aimed at preventing producers from getting round recycling rules (by designing products with 'clever chips' to ensure that they cannot be recycled, e.g. ink cartridges for printers)." The news will be a blow to printer companies like Hewlett-Packard, Epson, Canon and Lexmark, which derive significant portions of their revenues from non-reusable cartridges. Colour printers can be bought for as little as EUR100, but prices charged for refill cartridges tend to start at around EUR30 and rising. The EU law could hit HP the hardest, because the US company depends heavily on revenues from ink cartridge sales and is the largest cartridge producer in Europe. HP's consumables business, including inkjet cartridges and laser jet toner, account for more than half of the printer group's revenues, which were more than USD20 billion in fiscal 2002. The director of the Consumers Association of Ireland, Dermot Jewell, welcomed the news. "It has at its heart a very positive aim," he said. "One of a whole series of moves designed to inject some sort of reason into the business regarding recycling." However, he said that he wouldn't be surprised if manufacturers raised their prices because of the immediate costs to them associated with the recycling laws. Under the new rules, manufacturers will be required to pay for the recycling of electrical goods ranging from shavers to refrigerators and laptop computers. The EU hopes 75 percent of such goods can be recycled. The law is due to come into force in September 2005. It is estimated that old electrical appliances account now for some 6 million tons of waste across Europe, most of which goes into landfills. Manufacturers estimate the rules could cause them to spend USD7.7 billion a year to collect and dispose of the waste. They warn the costs could be passed on to consumers. However, industry representatives have generally welcomed the new rules, particularly that manufacturer will pay for recycling its own waste once the plan is fully operational, instead of sharing costs across the industry. Producers will, however, have to share the costs of disposing of equipment sold before the law comes into force. Four leading electrical manufacturers-Electrolux, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and Braun-met in Brussels this week to consider how best to gather and dispose of old goods. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 30 Dec 2002

ISPs welcome UK Net libel review

The UK Internet industry has welcomed a report by the Law Commission examining defamation and the Internet The report found that there is a "strong case" for reviewing the way that defamation law currently affects ISPs. The preliminary findings - prompted by the Lord Chancellor in January - suggest that there is a possible conflict between the pressure put on ISPs to remove material and people's right to freedom of expression as embodied under the European Convention of Human Rights. Several ideas are currently being floated that would protect ISPs and one suggestion is to exempt ISPs from liability, as is the case in the US. The UK ISP lobby group, ISPA, welcomed today's report and said it would work with the Government to draw up any new legislation. However, ISPA is concerned that the report focuses only on defamation and would like the work extended to include a review into copyright. Scottish telco THUS, which owns Demon, also welcomed the Law Commission's call for a review of how the defamation law affects the Internet. In 1999 Demon faced a defamation case which centred on a Usenet article about Laurence Godfrey. Thus's Internet content regulation manager, Mark Gracey, said: "Despite having no editorial control over material hosted on their servers, ISPs are currently being held legally responsible for defamatory, copyright-infringing and other types of content. "This puts ISPs in the untenable position of acting as judge and jury in cases where complaints have been made, having to balance the rights of the complainant with those of their customer and the risk to their business. "The law should recognise that it is the author of the material, not its distributor, who is responsible for ensuring the legality of information online." Last week, an Australian court ruled that entrepreneur, Joseph Gutnick, has the right to have a defamation case against US online publisher Dow Jones heard in an Australian court. Dow Jones argued that any libel case should be heard in the US since that was where the story had been published. The Australian court's ruling opens the doors for publishers to be subject to the law where material is downloaded, not published. In the report today, the Law Commission concluded that the issue of jurisdiction and applicable law "has always been complex" and that there are "no easy answers". Any solution would require an "international treaty, accompanied by greater harmonisation of the substantive law of defamation". "We do not think that the problem can be solved within the short to medium term." ® Related story Aussie Net libel writ extends to world+dog
Tim Richardson, 30 Dec 2002

Orange rolls out of Swedish 3G race

Orange SA gave its rivals in Sweden an early Christmas present on Friday, when it announced it was pulling its plans to roll out a 3G operation in the country. Operators in Sweden have become increasingly nervous about the costs of setting up 3G in the country. In November the government rejected pleas from Orange Sverige and Vodafone's Swedish subsidiary for extensions to the deadlines for rolling out their networks. Last week Orange finally cracked, and announced its "intention to withdraw from the Swedish market in response to the pressures placed upon it by the UMTS license requirements and current market conditions." The firm said it would be significantly reducing the size of its operation in the country, which currently numbers 243 staff. The decision should provide some relief to the country's rival 3G outfits, if only because it means that if they continue to roll out their networks they all stand to get a bigger slice of the customer pie, assuming someone else does not step forward to take on the Orange license. Ironically, Orange's decision came as the Swedish minister for telecommunications reportedly signaled her willingness to discuss a possible revision of the 3G license conditions. On the other, hand, Orange had been a partner in 3G Infrastructure Services AB, which it jointly owned with Vodafone and Hi3G, to cooperate in building a countrywide 3G infrastructure. Orange presumably faces the task of placating its partners, who apparently now face the task of building the network on their own. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 30 Dec 2002

Highberry fails to force Colt into administration

An attempt by hedge fund Highberry Ltd to force the telecoms company Colt Telecom Group Plc into administration, has been thrown out of court. In the High Court in London, Mr Justice Jacob dismissed the claims of Highberry as "shaky, tentative and speculative peering into the middle distance", and concluded that there was no basis for forcing Colt in administration. Summing up, he said: "There is not and never has been, any substance whatever in their petition. It should never have been launched." Highberry Ltd, which is part of New York-based Elliott Associates, had attempted to show that Colt would become insolvent in the next few years, and would not have the funds necessary to repay or refinance around 1bn pounds ($1.5bn) in bonds due between 2005 and 2009. The claim was vigorously denied by Colt, which said it had cash reserves of 1bn pounds ($1.5bn). Colt accused Highberry of buying 75m pounds ($118.5m) of its loan notes at a discount and seeking to make a speculative profit by forcing "an unjustified transfer of value from shareholders to noteholders" that a debt-for equity swap would bring. If Highberry had been successful in persuading Mr Justice Jacob that Colt was heading for bankruptcy, it would have opened the way for a host of similar actions against highly indebted companies. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 30 Dec 2002

RIAA nominated for Internet Villain award

Oftel, the Home office and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) are among this year's shortlist for the Internet Villain Award being dished out by the UK's Net industry. As ever, there are two hotly-contested gongs that always seem to court controversy. However, the Internet hero and villain shortlists reflect the people and organisations that have helped - or hampered - progress in the Internet industry. So, without further ado, the nominations for the Internet Villain Award are: BBC Watchdog - for a report on the important issue of spam that was more intent on vilifying ISP's than educating consumers The Home Office - for the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security (ATCS) Act and continued delays associated with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) Oftel - for (among a host of other things) failing to ensure expedient local loop unbundling by BT which has hindered both competition in the telco sector and the development of Broadband Britain The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) - for supporting "right to hack" proposals and other unworkable solutions to curb copyright abuse, and Telecomms analysts - for their "substantial contribution to the meltdown in the telecomms and Internet sector’. Interestingly, this is the second year on the trot that former villain winner, BT, has failed to make the shortlist. How the monster telco has managed, yet again, to pull the wool over the eyes of the judges is simply beyond belief. Still, there you go. Anyhow, there can be no villains without heroes. The nominations for the Internet Hero Award are: The All-Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) - for launching the public inquiry into data retention and access laws Richard Allan MP for Sheffield Hallam - for ongoing support and understanding of the Internet and the Internet industry. Hugh Blunkett - for briefing his father David Blunkett, Secretary of State for the Home Office, on privacy fears associated with giving a raft of public bodies in the UK access to private email and mobile phone records Elizabeth France, Ex-Information Commissioner - for her stance on data retention legislation, and Simon Watkin, Home Office - for doing his best to understand the industry, tech sector interest groups and experts and to subsequently inform discussions within the Home Office. The winners of the 2003 ISPAs - the fifth annual UK Internet industry awards - are due to be announced on February 20. ®
Tim Richardson, 30 Dec 2002

Microsoft plots Macromedia coup against Java

Microsoft Corp is believed to have trained its acquisition crosshairs on Macromedia Inc, lining up a deal that would throw enterprise Java into a spin, Gavin Clarke writes. Industry and analyst sources believe Microsoft covets San Francisco, California-based Macromedia's Flash vector graphics design tool and player, which was radically updated this year. Microsoft's own scripting efforts are regarded as relatively inferior to the cross-platform Flash, which now supports XML, Unicode, MP3 and HTML and which was taken closer towards Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) in 2002. The Flash Player, meanwhile, is compatible with most browsers and used on nearly 90% of desktops. Flash would give Microsoft access to tools for building rich interfaces on both desktops and mobile devices, furthering .NET. An acquisition, though, would be seen as a hostile move deliberately designed to thwart J2EE uptake. Flash is a powerful and rich development environment, which - through Macromedia's changes this year - took a step closer to J2EE. Macromedia adopted the MX brand for Flash to emphasize integration with ColdFusion MX, also launched this year. ColdFusion MX is a web and server development environment and application server updated to sit on top of J2EE application servers. Macromedia partners include IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. The ColdFusion web application server is regarded as superior to Microsoft's Active Server Pages (ASPs) and even Santa Clara, California-based Sun's Java Server Pages (JSPs) because of its simplicity, power and completeness. ColdFusion MX, meanwhile, uses ColdFusion Mark-up Language (CFML) tags that compile to Java. Flash MX and Cold Fusion MX were presented by Macromedia as a means by which programmers could build in Java, but avoid the complexity of Java. The J2EE community sorely lacks a programming environment that can make Java more accessible to mainstream developers. San Jose, California-based BEA Systems Inc has come close with WebLogic Workshop but this is more for Java-based web services. Macromedia, meanwhile, said it was bringing its estimated 300,000-strong community of developers to J2EE, potentially expanding the pool of J2EE programmers. A Microsoft acquisition of Macromedia would inevitably see Flash, and Macromedia's other cross-platform tools, tailored purely for Windows and .NET. Analysts believe Macromedia is ripe for acquistion. Revenue for the most recent four quarters has been flat while net income is in the red. Macromedia reported an $11.6m net loss, down from $70.7m, for the fiscal quarter to September 30 on revenue that fell 2.2% to $85.4m. For the six months period, Macromedia has narrowed its loss from $182.4m to $13.6m while revenue fell 3.4% to $169m. Neither Macromedia or Microsoft were available for comment. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 30 Dec 2002

Sun confirms commitment to InfiniBand

Sun Microsystems Inc has maintained its commitment to the InfiniBand switch fabric architecture, breathing new life into a technology that at one stage this year looked destined to be forgotten. Santa Clara, California-based Sun said it will use InfiniBand in its future server, storage and software products, including horizontally scalable blade servers, which are due for availability in 2004. The company said it expects applications running on InfiniBand-enabled servers to demonstrate significantly improved performance. InfiniBand is a high-speed, low-latency switch fabric architecture with advanced features for I/O interconnects that offers link speeds from 2.5Gbps to 30Gbps. It was first released as a draft specification in April 2000 and has been seen as one of the potential solutions to the problem of processing bottlenecks. InfiniBand's potential for becoming the chosen solution to the problem took a knock in May when Intel Corp stepped away from its commitment to ship InfiniBand interconnect chips in favor of a renewed focus on developing the PCI Express internal PC bus replacement technology. That was followed in August by Microsoft Corp's decision to discontinue the development of native InfiniBand, believing customers would prefer to extend existing Ethernet networking technology. At that stage it looked like the hopes for InfiniBand had been dashed, although Hitachi Ltd confirmed that it had a pulse in September by investing in networking start-up Voltaire Inc. Sun's commitment, although not expected to bear fruit for some time, is much more significant and indicates that there is future for InfiniBand after all. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 30 Dec 2002

NAF ruling escapes UK court scrutiny

What was to been the first challenge a domain name arbitration ruling by ICANN in the UK courts has ended up in an out of court settlement. Back in July UK domain name registry Internetters issued High Court proceedings to prevent the transfer of a domain name, domainregistry.biz, to US firm DomainRegistry.com Inc. Internetters acted after what it claimed was a flawed decision by a one-member panel of the ICANN-appointed National Arbitration Forum (NAF) to strip it of the disputed domain. Paul Westley, co-founder of Internetters, explains: "We registered 'domainregistry.biz' when the new .biz domains became available as we thought it was descriptive of the services we offer and a strong generic name for use on the Internet. We had no idea that a small US company would challenge this on the basis of a trademark which it has not yet registered." NAF's decision was heavily affected by DomainRegistry.com's application to trademark the term domain registry despite the fact this was such a generic term for many similar businesses. Also its previous attempts to trademark the term had been turned down by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Another point of contention was DomainRegistry.com alleged refusal to abide by the conditions of the STOP (.biz registry Neulevel's Start Up Opposition Policy) process concerning the location of the dispute in the event of a challenge. This is known as 'Mutual Jurisdiction'. "As the arbitrator failed to address the subject of Mutual Jurisdiction, even winning the court case in the UK could have left us in the position of possibly having to later defend the case all over again in the United States, which surely defeats the object of having such arbitration," Westley commented. Faced with the prospect of fighting its corner in courts on both sides of the Atlantic, Internetters decided to strike a deal. Domainregistry.com Inc. has agreed to relinquish any claims on domainregistry.biz to Internetters in exchange for $12,000. Internetters is far from alone in contesting a NAF decision, or questioning its procedures. Ottawa businessma Douglas Black recently won rights to the domain name canadian.biz against brewing giant Molson. Molson owns the trademark for the word Canadian, as it applies to beer, and this impressed Internet arbitrators - but not the Ontario Superior Court. Many firms have Canadian in their name and Judge Wright decided that Molson had no particular plans for canadian.biz, unlike Black who plans to use the domain as a meeting place for Canadian businessmen. The Judge overturned the ruling of the arbitration panel and awarded Black costs. Last year, Professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa conducted a study into allegations of systematic unfairness in the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). The study found that NAF complainants win 82.9 per cent of the time. ® Related Stories Domain name disputes taken into national courts Call for domain name code of practice
John Leyden, 30 Dec 2002