9th > January > 2003 Archive

Unions call for workplace snooping clarification

The TUC is calling for clear guidelines to halt prevent employers snooping without reason on their staff. Trade unions say new Information Commissioner Richard Thomas must protect workers and publish a long-overdue code of conduct that has been under review for the last couple of years. Union officials claim the information tsar is being lobbied by employers to water down guidelines which would give management greater scope to monitor the use of email and the Web at work. The TUC reckons the latest draft of the unimplemented code "gets it about right" by ensuring that employers have a justifiable reason before breaching employee privacy. Critics claim the current lack of guidance from the Information Commission means that employers and workers are unsure about their legal rights and responsibilities under current data protection laws. The TUC's plea follows yesterday's interview in the FT in which Mr Thomas signalled that he intended to review the code of conduct giving rise to yet further delay. He also hinted that he might be prepared to give even more concessions to employers in a bid to simplify the code. In a statement Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary Elect, said: "We have been waiting more than a year for a code of practice. Employees and employers have been left in legal limbo. There has been adequate consultation and the first item on the new Information Commissioners agenda should be the publication of the code of practice. "He should resist the last gasp employer lobbying to weaken the code. He should publish and be praised," he said. Last year Tory MP Michael Fabricant said he was looking to introduce a Bill that would stop employers from snooping on employees' email. The Lichfield MP wants to give the same level of privacy in law for emails, as currently exists for conventional mail and telephone calls. Mr Fabricant says he is looking to introduce the legislation at a time when a growing number of employers are monitoring their employees' email. One report found that one in five of firms monitors employee Net usage on a daily basis, compared with one in ten 18 months ago. The same survey also found that email and Net abuse at work have become the number one reason why UK employees face the sack. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2003

IBM launches supercomputing on demand

IBM Corp's Server Group and Global Services organizations have got together to launch the first true utility computing offering for server customers from Big Blue, writes Timothy Prickett Morgan. The supercomputing on demand offering is the first in what will likely be a flood of similar announcements for just about every kind of workload and customer. Under the program, IBM will build supercomputer application hosting centers around the world based on its AIX-based pSeries line and Linux-based xSeries Intel servers. The first supercomputing on demand hosting center will be located in Poughkeepsie, New York, and it will comprise a grid of hundreds of eight-way pSeries 655 midrange machines running AIX and what IBM calls a massive Linux cluster based on its xSeries 335 1U and xSeries 345 2U two-way, rack-mounted servers, which are powered by Intel's Pentium 4 Xeon processors. IBM will eventually set up other supercomputing on demand hosting centers around the U.S. and in other geographies, and these will all be linked using the open source Globus grid software. The exact configurations of this grid are not available since the first customer for the on demand service - the PGS Data Processing division of Petroleum Geo-Services, an oil exploration and visualization firm that is based in Lysaker, Norway and Houston, Texas - does not want to let its competition know what iron it is using. PGS is already running its own Linux clusters and will move those Linux applications to the IBM service, and says that it will save $1.5m a year in costs since it doesn't have to buy, configure, maintain, or upgrade that Linux cluster, and more importantly, it will only pay for the data processing capacity it uses. Companies like PGS often have peak computing demands that are far in excess of their average demands, and they have to acquire equipment to pay for the peaks or risk losing business. In this regard, all IT organizations face similar problems. This is why IBM is so excited about its so-called e-Business On Demand initiative, spearheaded by chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano as the defining characteristic of his tenure as the head of the company. While the utility computing model is something that all IT vendors are trying to move their customers to because it takes some of the risk out of predicting sales and tends to lock customers into tighter deals, the question that no one has been able to answer is this: Exactly how, in principle, does On Demand computing differ from the application service provider model that was supposed to take over the corporate computing world a few years ago? The technology might be evolving with grid and Web services middleware, but most companies are still buying servers and software. Should this on demand initiative take off, IBM will probably have to consider installing supercomputing equipment from rival vendors. IBM Global Services has long since supported competitive equipment, and while it doesn't brag about it, the organization is fairly agnostic about server platforms so long as customers are willing to pay for services and support on the gear. Exactly what Global Services is charging for the supercomputing on demand offering is unclear. IGS does not publish a price list, in contrast with the Server Group, and IBM sources say the pricing will depend on the type of iron used, how much iron customers need, how much processing capacity they use, the workload they have, and how much work IBM needs to do to support that application as it runs. On demand computing has not evolved to the point that pricing and competitive comparisons can be made as is possible with Web and email hosting, for instance. And because of the complexities of corporate application workloads, that may never happen. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 09 Jan 2003
cable

Sun repositions first plank in N1 strategy

Sun Microsystems will today detail the first fruit from last year's acquisition of start-up Pirus Networks Inc, in the form of a storage virtualization engine which will represent the first phase of what Sun has grandly called its N1 network initiative. N1 is a marketing label for the storage and server products and technologies Sun is developing at the moment. Other vendors have similar labels for what they are working on, such as Hewlett Packard Co's ENSA, EMC Corp's AutoIS, or IBM Corp's eLiza. The labels are coined in an effort to differentiate each vendors' products, but across servers and storage all the major vendors are focusing on the same goals - to increase the automation of management tasks and the flexibility of systems so that resources can be easily pooled or reallocated according to customers' requirements. In storage, virtualization is the pooling of disk space across multiple arrays. As such it is a basic feature of any next-generation system. The storage virtualization engine Sun will talk up today is the same PSX-1000 device that Pirus marketed last year, with what is very likely to have been zero sales. Pirus was founded in 1999, and by the time it was acquired by Sun late last year it had scored no OEM qualifications for its device, and was claiming no sales, only customer evaluations. That almost certainly was the result of the super bleeding-edge status of smart storage switching and the state of the IT market, rather than any deficiency of the Pirus product. What will be news tomorrow is that the device is to be sold with the backing of Sun's support organization. It will be rolled out by Sun in the first quarter this year running a virtualization application. At some later date it will also host applications such as asynchronous replication, file systems, and back-up and restore, Sun said yesterday. Since Mark Canepas moved over from Sun's server business almost two years ago to head up the company's storage division, he has been working hard to boost the flagging performance of the unit. One of his achievements has been to boost Sun's revenue share of the external RAID systems market worldwide from 5.7% to 6.8% between 2001 and 2002, according to IDC's estimate. Another was to persuade Sun to accept what multiple sources said last year was a sizeable $150m undisclosed price tag for Pirus. Buying a smart-switching start-up reinforced Sun's promise that it had become very serious about storage. Unfortunately, precisely because Sun is still coming from some way behind, it must reposition the Pirus hardware as an "application platform," rather than "the industry's first storage utility switch," as Pirus originally described it. Depending on the sophistication of the hardware they are selling, suppliers are defining smart switches as anything from a switch that can handle multiple protocols to one that hosts applications that process the data being carried by the switch, such as virtualization or volume management. The alleged advantages of moving these applications onto a switch within the network - rather than running them on servers from outside the network - is the reduction in the number of devices that have to managed, and the elimination of bottlenecks which could limit data throughput. These benefits have yet to be measured against any hidden disadvantages, of course. Storage networking giant Brocade Communications Systems Inc is promising to ship smart, application-hosting switches this year. The storage switches made by Cisco Systems Inc which IBM Corp will begin reselling in around two months' time will be able to support multiple protocols in the summer, and later will be able to host applications. Faced with this competition, Sun is backing off. While it was good for Pirus as a specialist start-up to compare its hardware to that of Cisco, it is no longer true now that Pirus is a part of Sun. Competing for mindshare and attention in a brand new storage networking arena, with no track record in either networking or storage, Sun is very likely to be eclipsed by the heavyweight presences of Brocade and Cisco. Former Pirus CEO Rich Napolitano who is now Sun's vice president of data services platform said this week: "As Pirus, we pointed to Cisco as our competition, because it looked good. But when you actually look at what we have, it's very different. It's a system designed to be a computational application environment." What exactly is the difference between Cisco and Brocade switches that can host storage applications, and the Sun device which has multiple ports, was formerly called a switch, and which also hosts applications? "We have CPUs [IBM PowerPC processors] in front of every port. Cisco and Brocade have ASICs. That's a fundamental difference," Napolitano said. Applications originally written to run on server CPUs - such as say the FalconStor virtualization software which Brocade promises will run on its smart switch - won't run well on ASICs, if at all, the Sun chief claimed. "Show me the applications they have running. Have you ever programmed to an ASIC? It's a very hard thing to do," he said. If the PSX-1000 is not a smart switch but is instead a "platform" for data processing applications, then it invites comparison to existing server-based virtualization appliances from suppliers such as FalconStor or DataCore. Here, Napolitano repeated Pirus' former arguments about the better throughput of the PSX-1000. Because it includes a crossbar device which connects its ports to the application-hosting processors, the box "can do hundreds of thousands of I/Os per second, an order of magnitude greater than a general purpose server," he promised. That crossbar according to Napolitano will allow multiple CPUs in the PSX-1000 to deliver linear performance scaling. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 09 Jan 2003

Microsoft adds security layers to ISA Server

Microsoft Corp will start to foster use of two-factor user-authentication and application-layer firewall defenses with the Feature Pack 1 upgrade to its Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000 firewall and web-caching server, intended to strengthen security across Microsoft Exchange Server email and Internet Information Services (IIS) web server deployments. ISA Server 2000 Feature Pack 1 supports RSA Security Inc's ACE/Agent component of that company's SecureID software to provide for two-factor authentication at the network edge. Two-factor authentication software helps provide a secure, simple and reliable way to verify a user's identity before granting access to network resources. Enforced 128-bit RPC encryption for remote Outlook-to-Exchange users is intended to ruggedize email channels. In addition, improvements made to SMTP filtering features means unwanted email messages can be screened by sender, domain, keyword, attachment name, extension or size. The integration of URLScan into Feature Pack 1 means that common web server vulnerabilities should be blocked at the firewall edge, before they are ever presented to an internal web server. The complexity of security configuration and management can actually make a network vulnerable, and improperly configured firewalls are still a major threat to enterprise security. ISA system administrators could benefit from new system wizards that are intended to make configuration of ISA Server 2000's Exchange Server and IIS defenses much simpler. ISA was born from Proxy Server, but is slowly evolving into a full-featured web-caching and firewall server, including other features such as intrusion-detection capabilities and bandwidth control. In the area of intrusion detection, Internet Security Systems Inc has made available RealSecure for ISA Server. Other agreements are intended to flesh out the ISA Sever offering. Symantec Corp has released a new product to provide anti-virus protection for ISA Server, designed to provide virus protection and repair for HTTP, FTP and SMTP traffic server through ISA Server. Trend Micro Inc will also integrate its anti-virus product, while internet filtering company SurfControl Plc has said that the latest version of its SuperScout Web Filter software is compatible with ISA 2000. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 09 Jan 2003

Motorola expects good year for handsets

Motorola Inc, the world's second largest mobile handset manufacturer, is predicting a turnaround in the fortunes of handset makers in 2003, after two years of misery. In an interview with Reuters, president and COO of the Schaumburg, Illinois-based electronics giant, Mike Zafirovski, said he expects all of Motorola's business divisions to make a profit this year after two years of cost-cutting that has seen the company's workforce trimmed from a peak of 150,000 in August 2000, down to an estimated 100,000 in 2002. Motorola's third-quarter figures released in October confirmed it had returned to profitability after six consecutive quarters of net losses, and Zafirovski now believes that industry sales of handsets will increase by 8% to 10% during 2003, after poor growth during 2002. However, any upturn in mobile handset arena is likely to a double-edged sword, with Motorola's number-two slot in the handset market coming under attack from the Far East, mainly from the up and coming Samsung Electronics Co, which leapfrogged into the number-three slot in 2002. Samsung's strong showing during the year was due to strong demand for its color screen handsets, which accounted for an estimated 10% of all the 390 million handsets sold during 2002. Motorola is due to report its fourth-quarter results later this month, when it should become clear whether it has managed to fend of Samsung's attentions and retain its hold on its 15% market share. Zafirovski also took the opportunity to play down ongoing speculation regarding a technology partnership with Siemens AG. He confirmed that Motorola is no longer talking with Siemens, but did not rule out a tie-up if the market heads south. Three months ago, Siemens was rumored to be talking to Motorola about the possibility of swapping its mobile phone interests with Motorola's mobile infrastructure business. This would have boosted Motorola's market share to around 22%, compared with undisputed leader Nokia Corp's 36%. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 09 Jan 2003
Broken CD with wrench

Members rally round Liberty Alliance

More than half of Liberty Alliance Group members will implement version 1.1 of the organization's specifications for federated network identity within the next 12 months. That's according to a recent internal poll of Liberty's founder and sponsor-level members. Liberty said 59% either plan to implement the specifications, issued for public review in November, within the next year or have already implemented them. There are 41 founder and sponsor members of Liberty. Liberty published the survey having been stung last December by reports it had conceded defeat to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp's Passport on Windows. Liberty promptly issued a statement, re-affirming its "focus on all platforms." Yesterday's survey is designed to emphasize support and re-capture the initiative. Liberty said more than 70% of respondents plan to implement specifications into products or services for customers, and 52% "placed a high priority" on using the specifications for employees. © ComputerWire Related story Liberty insists no rift, just differences of opinion
ComputerWire, 09 Jan 2003
cable

France Telecom bail-out faces EC probe

The European Commission has been forced to launch a formal investigation into whether the French government's €9bn ($9.3bn) assistance to France Telecom SA breaches regulations that ban state aid. As third-placed French mobile operator Bouygues Telecom SA has made a complaint to regulators, they had little option but to investigate. Competition commissioner Mario Monti described it as a "very important case" and said that third parties will have an opportunity to make their views known. Given that the French government has a 55% holding in France Telecom, it has little option but to prop up the debt-laden company to the disadvantage of its private-sector competitors. The big question is whether European regulators can persuade the French government to sell its stake in the company and let France Telecom sink or swim as a private company. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 09 Jan 2003

Nvidia targets Mac games users

Nvidia is muscling its way onto the packaging of a significant number of games for the Mac platform. Unlike the array of PC publishers and developers - who must be wooed individually – the Mac gaming software community is close-knit and means that Nvidia's “The Way It's Meant to Be Played” logo will get a lot of exposure. Nvidia has managed this feat by teaming up with Mac publisher Aspyr. You may not recognise the name, but a quick trip to Aspyr.com will give you an idea of the size and girth of their product catalogue. Everything from Deus Ex, Medal Of Honor and every Star Wars game you can think of to The Sims, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and even Tomb Raider are available on the Mac thanks to Aspyr – and although the Nvidia logo will appear only on "selected" packaging, those titles handpicked will surely be the cream of the crop. © gamesindustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 09 Jan 2003

Eclipse cuts broadband costs

Exeter-based ISP Eclipse Internet has cut the cost of hooking up to broadband. Eclipse is offering a broadband starter pack, including set-up fee, modem and microfilters for £74.99 - a saving of £50. It also reports that the connection fee for the service will be halved from £50 to £25. Oh, and it's also reduced prices for broadband routers, modems and microfilters by between 30 per cent and 50 per cent. One more thing - it's also planning to launch a reduced price router starter pack for networks. A number of other ISPs - including Virgin.net, Demon and One.Tel - have recently announced price cuts to their broadband services. ® Related Story Virgin.net, Demon, etc, cut broadband fees
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2003

MS, Intel talk up portable video players

Microsoft and Intel have devised a PC-centric reference platform for portable video players. Microsoft is providing the software, of course, an optimised version of Windos CE.Net called Media2Go, and Intel is supplying the hardware reference platform. Called Portable Media Player (PMP), the design is built around an XScale processor. And - this is the cool bit - media can be transferred onto PMP players from a USB 2.0 connection via a PC or personal video recorder. According to Intel, the PMP will be small enough to fit into a coat pocket - in other worlds around the same size or smaller than today's portable DVD players. It handles stills and music, as well as video playback. Samsung and Viewsonic have already thrown their hats into the ring, signalling their intention to build PMPs. The Taiwanese will surely not be too far behind. ® Related link Microsoft Q&A on Media2Go platform
Drew Cullen, 09 Jan 2003

UK racks up record games sales

The UK registered a bumper year for the sale of video games and consoles in 2002, according to industry figures published today. UK sales of leisure software and hardware reached a record £2.07bn in 2002 - up eight per cent on 2001. ELSPA (The Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association) reported that the market was buoyed by the launch of a clutch of major smash-hit games including "Grand Theft Auto 3", "Grand Theft Auto Vice City", "The Getaway", "Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers" and "Fifa 2003". The sale of games consoles also helped boost the market with the biggest growth area coming from the launch of the Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo GameCube. Console software sales increased by 19 per cent compared to PC software, which was down by 5 per cent on 2001 sales, said ELSPA. In a statement Roger Bennett, head of ELSPA said: "Once again the industry has seen its most successful year ever. "The leisure software market is clearly positioned as the fastest growing and most dynamic entertainment media sector globally. "And this is particularly the case in the UK where gaming is now established as the first choice leisure pursuit for so many people of all ages, with the average age game player now being in their mid twenties," he said. Yesterday, high street electrical retailer, Dixons, blamed weaker sales of games consoles (among other items) in the run-up to Christmas for lower than expected profit forecasts. ® Related Story Dixons chokes on Christmas turkey
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2003

The return of the celebrity virus

A worm written in apparent tribute to Canadian singer/skater chick Avril Lavigne is spreading across the Net today. Avril-A (Lirva) is pretty much your bog standard Windows worm. It spreads mainly as an infectious attachment within emails and takes advantage of a year-old exploit in Outlook that permits its execution without a user double clicking on an infected attachment. The worm also tries to disable AV and security software. Oh and this is a Windows only virus - Mac and Linux users are, as usual, immune. On infected machines, Avril-A opens IE on the Canadian singer's Web site, www.avril-lavigne.com, on the 7th, 11th and 24th of the month. The worm comes with various subject lines, such as 'Fw: Avril Lavigne - the best', as explained in more depth here. Managed services firm MessageLabs reports capturing 11,165 copies of the virus so far, since first detecting it on Monday (January 6). AV vendors have updated their signature files to detect the worm. There's really no good reason to get caught out: simply filtering executable attachments from emails will guard against this virus. ® Celebrity Virus Chart Anna Kournikova Jennifer Lopez Avril Lavigne (new entry) Britney Spears Keith Chegwin
John Leyden, 09 Jan 2003

MS bids for lucrative wristwatch, fridge magnet markets

Bill Gates yesterday announced the Microsoft watch, possibly causing a certain amount of look and feel inconvenience to one columnist friend of ours. But we're sure Mary-Jo will be filing the suit already, so we'll move on. Microsoft is reinventing numerous wheels with what it has dubbed SPOT, Smart Personal Objects Technology. SPOT is intended to embed some form of information capability into everday objects, giving you 'glanceable' access to useful data. Which Microsoft execs will cheerfully tell you consists of news, the weather and, er sports scores. Which about sums up every wannabe ubiquitous consumer information device revolution. What would you do with it? Well, you can get news, weather and, er, sports scores. Oh, and calendar, it can do calendar too. And if you wait a minute maybe I'll say 'recipes.' Enough, however, of the imagination failure that was the mobile phone industry two years ago and is Microsoft today; let's look at those reinventions. The demo SPOT units are wristwatches and fridge magnets, which seems to us contradictory from a ubiquity point of view. Practically everybody has a watch, here in Europe people have nearly as many of them as they have mobile phones, and practically everybody has the watch with them all the time. But not fridges. We know that the European fridge industry is sadly underdeveloped compared to the US, but even there, we're almost certain, very few people have a fridge with them all the time. Nor are they near the fridge all the time. And if they are, they can't read the fridge magnet because the door's always open. But at least it gave a minion the opportunity to say "here I have some very rich magnets" in Bill Gates' keynote yesterday. The word 'rich', as you'll note if you search the text for it, is well up in Microsoft's top ten faves. Wristwatches, however, are definitely ubiquitous, so they're an opportunity, and SPOT addresses this as follows. The design uses an ARM chip with a little bit of ROM and RAM, and what Microsoft calls a microkernel real time operating system. Which in this kind of hardware wristprint probably really has to be true, this time. It incorporates a radio receiver, and uses DirectBand, which Microsoft terms a technology but which we have our doubts about, to pick up information broadcast via FM subcarrier technology. So Microsoft (or whoever) uses this pipe to broadcast information via FM radio stations. This is in concept kind of like digital radio, and very like pager networks; Microsoft even talks of having them receive messages, but although Bill seems to say they'll send as well, this is clearly either a mispeak or a typo - this will not be feasible for quite some time, and will require different technologies. The choice of network, and indeed chums, is interesting. Pager and mobile phone networks can currently do pretty well all that SPOT will do, and some, but although Microsoft doesn't mention music when it's chanting the news, weather, sports scores mantra, in this sense the radio stations are sensible people to buddy up to. They have news and information, and/or they have entertainment to promote. They could perhaps even be persuaded that there's sufficient of an opportunity here for them to give Microsoft licence money, rather than for them to rent Microsoft the spectrum. Microsoft has also likely spotted digital radio's potential. This is finally starting to take off in Europe, and the US not invented here version, IBOC, was approved by the FCC last September. Among the good points of digital radio is that it is effectively broadband, and can even be set up to do internet provided you have a return pipe. The radio stations will be players in digital radio (well, obviously...) so although the current SPOT FM WAN system might look like a blind alley, it's maybe a useful mark down in the right places. Bad points about digital radio currently include size - they're smaller than they were, but absolutely no way are you getting a receiver into a watch-style package any time soon. Stop, though, thinking about whether or not the Microsoft watch will sink without trace, and start thinking about what SPOT stands for - i.e., anything and everything. Really, the sense of SPOT is nothing to do with watches and fridge media experiences. It's a network play, designed to carve Microsoft a place in a broadcast market that some people have started to notice, but that's still pretty fragmented. If the network is there, then the devices can be anywhere, and anything. Some of them could be small, but others wouldn't have to be - they could be in cars, getting the traffic reports, they could be in PCs, or they could even be in mobile phones. The chips are intended to be small, cheap and low power, so the functionality could effectively be viewed as free, and so long as Microsoft gets the data broadcast networks right, it could end up owning a whole new channel. If this comes to pass, it will be interesting to see how the charging works. The first generation of devices will have unique IDs, and there's some potential there. They'll be able to hook up to PCs, so that could provide a return pipe for authorisation of paid for services, and Microsoft also talks of using them as some kind of universal security authorisation, instead of smartcard, car keys or whatever. Nightmare, yes, agreed, but authorisation implies a revocation ability, so although the device itself can't be zeroed remotely by design, the devices it interacts with have to be able to know instantly if its security is compromised. Lob in Bluetooth, infrared of some kind of local radio transmit capability (you weren't going to unlock your car with a real key, were you?) and there's some more communications potential added to the picture. So there you go. In the world of the future Microsoft owns your front door, your car, everything electronic everywhere, everything that didn't use to be electronic but is now, the ubiquitous broadcast data networks, and it can maybe even kill your dog if you forgot to renew its rabies innoculation. Happy new year. But to cheer you up, remember electronic watches are sometimes products out of their time.
John Lettice, 09 Jan 2003

MoD ‘spams’ firms ahead of Iraq call-up

If you've received an email from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) concerning the mobilisation of volunteer reserve forces ahead of any possible conflict in Iraq - don't panic. You're not alone. It seems the MoD sent out 100,000 of the blighters after enlisting the help of a company specialising in aggregating email lists. The emails - from the MoD-run organisation SaBRE (Supporting Britain's Reservists & Employees) - provide general information and advice about the call-up of military reservists. Said the email: "If you have Reservists among your workforce, it is vital that you are aware of your obligations and rights, in case they are called up." Snag is, some of those who've received the email are somewhat bemused by the official-looking memo. One concerned reader who runs his own business, told us he doesn't employ anyone and has no military background - and was puzzled as to why he had received the email. Another told us: "Out of the blue, I've just received an informational email from the Ministry of Defence. I am not and never have been a member of the Armed Forces, I don't employ any members of the Armed Forces. In fact I don't 'know' any members of the Armed Forces. Am I just unlucky, or has the MoD gone and bought a CD of "100 million email addresses" on the Internet and started spamming recently?" A spokesman for the MoD said that it was a "general email" sent out to 100,000 companies in the UK using emails from a list gathered by an external company. "We apologise if it's caused any offence or worried anybody," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2003

Wanadoo mum on redundancy fears

Freeserve - one of the UK's leading ISPs - says it has "no plans for any redundancies". The statement comes as AFX reported that French union, SUD-PTT, claims 148 jobs are to be axed at Freeserve's parent, Wanadoo, as part of cost cutting measures. A statement from Freeserve said: "No announcements have been made regarding redundancies at Wanadoo. Freeserve is an autonomous UK subsidiary of Wanadoo and we have no plans for any redundancies." Freeserve employs 398 staff in the UK. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2003

Vodafone, DT tussle for O2 Netherlands – report

Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom are poring over the accounts of O2 Netherlands, with a view to buying the mobile phone network, according to a Dutch financial newspaper. O2 Nederland, a subsidiary of UK-based mm02 PLC, has annual sales of €320m and is worth c€200m, according to FEM/de Week, by way of Bloomberg. But a bidding battle could talk up prices nicely. Deutsche Telekom has perhaps the greater need, as O2's customer as would establish it in clear third place in the Dutch market, ahead of Dutchtone, owned by Orange. However, all of the existing operators will benefit if O2 Nederland is taken out. Maybe, they will see less need to collude in price-fixing in future. The Netherlands has five mobile networks, which is an awful lot for a country of 16 million or so. Traditional incumbent KPN Mobile is comfortably the market leader and Vodafone is in second place, although it would be nip and tuck with KPN if it nabbed O2. mm02 is perhaps already semi-detached from the Dutch market, signing a deal in April 2002 to outsource its entire mobile network in the country to Ericsson. It is doubtful if this arrangement would survive a change of ownership too long. mm02 also operates in the UK, where it is the smallest mobile network of four, and which is thought by many, to be the most vulnerable to the impending arrival of Hutchison 3G as the country's fifth operator. 02 has country ops in Germany and Ireland too. ® Related Stories Who will buy O2?
Drew Cullen, 09 Jan 2003

MS dumps .NET tag in latest Windows Server name change

In a desperate - but, as it happens, successful - attempt to get The Register to write about its latest name change to .NET Server, Microsoft has made it a secret. Until today, anyway. The company has released the information, together with an explanatory backgrounder, to its partners under NDA, thus drawing our attention to an otherwise eminently binnable announcement. It's not called Microsoft(R) Windows(R) .NET Server 2003 any more, since you ask, it's called Windows Server 2003. This tidily follows up on last August's name change to Microsoft(R) Windows(R) .NET Server 2003, prior to which its been called numerous things at various points, including Windows 2002 server. Not, of course, that Microsoft is confused or anything - oh no, sir... The official rationale is that Microsoft "is making an effort to clarify the naming and branding strategy for .NET." At the time of the initial .NET announcement there was much loose talk from MS execs about 'the first .NET operating system' (which was sometimes XP, sometimes Blackcomb or whatever was deemed to be the Next Big Thing at the time), and this did kind of send the message that .NET was supposed in some way to be about operating systems. Microsoft now however seems to be moving it into the 'set of technologies' category to where Cairo was consigned when it became an UN-OS. "As support for Web services becomes intrinsic across our entire product line," it says here, "we are moving toward a consistent naming and branding strategy to better enable partners to affiliate with this strategy and customers to identify .NET-enabled products." Windows Server 2003 will also have the logo "Microsoft .NET Connected," as no doubt will practically everything else coming out of the Redmond stable, and certification under this programme will also apply to partner products. This logo will indicate "its ability to easily and consistently connect disparate information, systems, and devices to meet customers' people and business needs (regardless of underlying platform or programming language)." That last bit may have some significance - is it perhaps more important that Windows has fallen off .NET than that .NET has fallen off Windows? The Q&A attached to the announcement is far too tedious and uninformative to bother you with, but you'll be pleased to know that the name change won't cause slippage: "A) No -- we remain on track for a worldwide launch of Windows Server 2003 in April 2003." So they haven't printed the boxes and manuals yet. ®
John Lettice, 09 Jan 2003