12th > December > 2003 Archive


The Death Star storms into consumer Net phones

VoIP pioneers such as Vonage Inc, which boasts 75,000 pretty happy users, have been touted as revolutionary upstarts which would mortally threaten the incumbent telcos. Vonage offers cut-price telephony using your existing broadband connection for as little as $14.99 a month, and throws in features familiar to GSM cellphone subscribers, such as voicemail and caller ID, that usually carry a premium on landlines. Advocates of the extinction theory overlooked one factor, however: all it takes for the incumbents not to be completely asleep. In a move that parallels IBM's announcement of a Personal Computer, AT&T today announced that it will aggressively enter the business Vonage has pioneered. In addition to business VoIP, AT&T is to offer Net telephony in 100 major US metropolitan areas from early next year. "VoIP is the most significant, fundamental new technology shift in telecommunications in decades," said Death Star's Chairman and CEO David Dorman in a canned statement. "We're on the verge of a VoIP revolution," he told financial analysts this week. AT&T already says its networks carries more IP packets than anyone else, and its vertical integration give tiny innovators like Vonage a real battle. Vonage has been teaming up with smaller cable operators to simplify the bundle for beginners, but it's likely to face a squeeze between AT&T on one side, and Sprint, MCI and Time Warner Cable on the other. At the start of the week, the three giants said they were also teaming up to provide residential Net telephony. But the VoIP revolution may not be the starting gun for an economic recovery. AT&T confirmed that it was cutting 8,500 jobs today or 12 per cent of its workforce, up from the 10 per cent it announced earlier. That's in addition to the 3,500 jobs lost a year ago and the 10,000 lost the year before that. ® Related Stories AT&T pitches public WiFi at Big Biz AT&T chops 3,500 staff, turns to Covad for DSL
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Dec 2003

DVD Jon appeal ends: verdict before Xmas

The appeal trial of Jon Lech Johansen ended yesterday in Norway, with prosecutors repeating their demand for a suspended custodial sentence. Johansen circumvented the CSS encryption scheme on DVDs, allowing him to watch movies he had already bought on his Linux computer. Johansen was acquitted in January. The judge is expected to deliver a verdict on December 22. The case is interesting for several reasons, of which the most remarkable is that Norwegian prosecutors are pursuing a Norwegian citizen on behalf of a US-based lobby group: the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). By publishing DeCSS, Johansen broke no laws in Norway, and the prosecution changed tack several times. 'DVD Jon' was prosecuted under Section 145 of the criminal code, a law originally intended to target the opening of snail mail. The law had been extended to cover electronic documents, but there was no precedent for an act of reverse engineering facing the same sanctions. The Norwegian economic crimes unit ØKOKRIM was reluctant to bring charges but found itself under intense pressure from Hollywood lobbyists. The DVD Copy Control Association first brought actions against two US citizens for publishing the code in 1999. Johansen was indicted only when he turned 18, just two years ago. Johansen recently posted a similar crack for iTunes Music Store locked music. Like his earlier DeCSS, the code which Johansen calls QuickTime AAC memory dumper also grants freedom for people to enjoy music they have legitimately purchased. Johansen recently locked horns with fanatical supporters of the Apple Computer company who called for him to be jailed. Many more found the position indefensible, and pointed out the recording industry was reaping what it deserved. Johansen's iTunes DRM circumvention has served to illustrate that more equitable models - which compensate artists but which don't restrict fair use - have been gaining traction with industry executives. ® The DeCSS Trial DeCSS show trial opens in Oslo Young DeCSS developer rudely arrested 'DeCSS' DVD descrambler ruled legal DVD hacker Johansen indicted in Norway DVD Jon is free - official Fair Use for Locked Music DVD Jon unlocks iTunes' locked music Lock Up DVD Jon - or we all lose our jobs Lock up the copyright cartel - not Johansen There's a noose in the hoose - iTunes shoppers discover DRM
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Dec 2003

Flextronics demos open source chips

Contract manufacturer Flextronics has been demonstrating a board based on open source processor technology. The demonstration system-on-a-chip uses the OpenRisc 1200 processor core based on the OpenCores project and Flextronics is making reference boards available to its ASIC customers. The SOC integrates Ethernet and PCI bus interfaces. The world isn't short of open processors. The SPARC instruction set is am IEEE specification and the guardian body, SPARC International, makes technical documentation available for free and asks only a $99 fee for the compliance badge. LEON, GPL implementation of a SPARC 8 processor was created at the European Space Agency three years ago. A history of ESA's relationship with SPARC can be found here. Back in August, EE Times reported that a co-founder of OpenCores, Jamil Khatib, had established a "virtual laboratory and design center", Handsa Arabia to promote projects based on the cores. The first two projects include an Arabic Linux PDA, OFOQ, and a Bluetooth chip. Curious hardware hackers in the Bay Area can see a demonstration in Mountain View at 7pm on Monday. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Dec 2003

Record PC shipments in '03

Strong consumer demand for laptop PCs, as well as an upsurge in demand from the public sector, has driven demand for a record 152 million PCs in 2003. According to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, total PC shipments in 2003 are expected to exceed 152 million. This is 8.8 per cent higher than 2000, the previous highest year for PC shipments. However, the total value of the shipments is actually 22 per cent lower than the 2000 figure, as aggressive pricing and a shift towards lower-end configurations lower the average unit cost of PCs. The number of units shipped in 2004 is expected to grow at 11.4 per cent in 2004, while the shipment value is expected to grow by four per cent year-on-year. The growing popularity of laptops among consumer is fuelled by the diminishing price difference between laptops and desktops. The functionality of laptops is now comparable to that of desktops and also laptops are perceived to be more fashionable than desktops. Finally, advances in wireless technology mean that consumers can use their laptops in different locations, thus making laptops even more adaptable. But this trend may not continue in the medium term as new technologies emerge that have not been optimised for laptops. "The convergence of price and performance between laptops and desktops is not a steady trend," said Roger Kay. "Performance and price will diverge again as new technology emerges." He predicts that there will always be a market for desktops in situations where the computer is not meant to be moved, such as in offices or factory shop floors. He also pointed out that the Chinese PC market has shown a distinct preference for desktop computers. The overall surge in demand is taking place in every region of the world. In the US and Europe, demand is driven by the consumer and government sectors and this demand is expected to be continued in 2004. Although the Japanese market was fairly strong in the third quarter, it was only in comparison to the poor figures from the same quarter of 2002. Nevertheless, IDC predicts double-digit growth in this market in 2004. In the Asia-Pacific region, PC shipments are still recovering from the effects of the SARS virus, but the survey predicted double-digit growth in this region in 2004 also. Although the commercial sector has not yet participated in the market upswing, this is expected to change. "We're sort of seeing an upswing in the commercial sector already, particularly in the SME sector," said Kay. "We expect to see participation by the large corporate sector in 2004." Copyright © 2003, Electric News
ElectricNews.net, 12 Dec 2003

Dothan debut due 15 February

Intel will officially launch 'Dothan', the 90nm version of its Pentium M mobile processor, on 15 February, a date also earmarked for price cuts to its desktop Pentium 4 line. Dothan will launch at 1.8GHz, as expected, and be priced at $637 - Intel's traditional price-point for new top-end CPUs. It will also ship at 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz, for $326 and $455, respectively, according to an Xbit Labs report. A 1.3GHz Low Voltage Pentium M will debut at the same time, priced at $284, alongside a 1GHz Ultra-low Voltage part with a $241 price tag. Both parts have 1MB of L2 cache, suggesting they're based on the current generation of the technology, 'Banias'. A second 1GHz ULV chip - dubbed the 1.0A by Intel - contains 2MB cache, presumably because it is a Dothan derivative. Its higher price, $262, lends weight to that assumption. According the Xbit Labs story, the 1.8GHz Dothan consumes up to 31W, rather more than Banias' 24.5W, despite being fabbed at 90nm rather than 130nm. That should come as no surprise, not only given the fact that Prescott has a higher power consumption than the current, 'Northwood' Pentium 4s, but that Intel said as much when it first announced Dothan, back at the Centrino launch last March. The process may be 'smaller' but Dothan's transistor count isn't. Looking beyond 15 February, Intel is expected to offer Dothans with a higher, 533MHz frontside bus clock, with core frequencies to match: 1.87GHz and 1.73GHz. Initial Dothans will support a 400MHz FSB, as will the 2GHz part launched later this year. A 2.13GHz,533MHz FSB version will follow in due course. The 1.9GHz part listed on earlier roadmaps now appears to have been dropped - Xbit Labs doesn't mention it, at least. ® Related Story 2 February 2004 is Prescott Day
Tony Smith, 12 Dec 2003

Intel to produce 802.11g WLAN module by year end

Intel will begin mass-producing its long-awaited 802.11g wireless networking module at the end of this month, a senior Intel Asia Pacific executive has said. The Pro Wireless 2200BG unit will be offered alongside Intel's existing 802.11b and 802.11a/b products, all components of the chip giant's Centrino platform. The new unit is based on the second generation of 'Calexico', Intel's wireless chipset architecture. Calexico 2 comprises two chips rather than the previous generation's four. Calexico 2 will also form the basis for a tri-mode 802.11a/b/g part due to ship early in the second half of 2004. The module will offer 802.11i security, the standard having been ratified by the IEEE by that point. Calexico 2 will also be a key part of 'Centrino 2', codenamed 'Sonoma' and also due to ship during H2 2004. Sonoma is based on a new chipset, 'Alviso', which will bring a 533MHz frontside bus, PCI Express, DDR 2 SDRAM, Gigabit Ethernet and Serial ATA to Centrino notebooks. ® Related Stories Dothan debut due 15 February Intel Centrino 2 to offer 533MHz FSB - report Intel i855GME to pave way for 'Centrino 2' next year
Tony Smith, 12 Dec 2003

Ofcom to probe UK telecom sector

The UK's monster communications regulator, Ofcom, is to conduct a year-long review of the UK's telecommunications industry. Beginning in January, it will be the first comprehensive assessment of the sector for 13 years and will examine matters such as its importance to the UK economy as well as investment and innovation trends in the industry. Crucially, though, the review will examine the competitive landscape of the sector, including the fixed, mobile, narrowband and broadband markets. It will also attempt to assess whether competition and regulation have combined successfully to deliver lower prices, higher quality of service and wider choice for service providers and consumers. While this is an industry-wide review, much of the investigation is likely to concentrate on BT, giving critics of the UK's dominant fixed-line telco yet another opportunity to challenge it. And there should be no surprises if rival operators and lobby groups use the review to call, once again, for the break up of BT or other measures that would reduce the telco's dominance in some areas. Only last month, for example, tempers boiled over at a parliamentary enquiry into broadband when BT boss Ben Verwaayen was questioned about the telco's "dominance". Equally, BT will spare no effort in defending its position. Last month, broadband industry lobby group BIG said that greater wholesale competition within the UK's broadband market would give the UK economy a £22 billion shot in the arm. At the time, Energis boss John Pluthero said: "If we want an innovative, dynamic broadband market delivering huge economic benefit to the UK, genuine wholesale competition is needed. "The time for action is now. We look forward to working together with Ofcom and other operators, including BT, to make this happen," he added. ® Related Story Competitive broadband could add £22bn to UK economy
Tim Richardson, 12 Dec 2003

Time to reassess Brew

The mobile operators' increasing obsession with content as the way to maintain or boost margins in the future is pushing content download/delivery platforms out of their niches and into the strategic mainstream. Whether or not we believe that content will really compensate the carriers for the commoditization of the voice market, those with any chance of success need three strengths - good, well branded content partners; appealing handset designs; and a simple and effective software platform for developers and downloaders. The importance of the third element was spotted at an early stage by Qualcomm, always on the look-out for technologies that will boost uptake of its CDMA mobile network technology. In mid-2001, it launched its Brew application download product in a bid to establish it as a de facto standard among CDMA operators. It has fallen well short of this goal so far, but as it loses its near-monopoly on the CDMA chip market (Wireless Watch December 4), the company has to pursue growth by penetrating new markets, notably W-CDMA - the 3G version of CDMA rival GSM - and by deriving ever more revenue from its critical intellectual property portfolio. This gives Brew a new importance to the company. It may not generate massive revenues in its own right (these are not broken out, but Qualcomm receives a royalty based on number of downloads), but if it gains popularity with carriers, it can make CDMA more attractive, especially at a time when W-CDMA is still struggling; and it has recently been seen as a Trojan Horse for boosting Qualcomm's presence in markets previously closed to it, notably Europe and GSM. So, far from putting Brew on the back burner, as many thought Qualcomm should, the company has recently made a string of steps that raise the platform's profile and importance. It has upgraded the software with a particular focus on enterprises, seeing these as a back door into the GSM world; it has made noises about a European push; and it is assembling content and applications partners, most recently a deal this week with AOL. Comparisons with Java All these are designed to accelerate Brew's growth and this has become more important than ever before to Qualcomm. The platform is now used by 19 operators, up from eight at the start of the year, and features on about 100 handset models from 21 manufacturers. There are 16m Brew handsets in the world and 63m downloads have been made, claims Qualcomm. But Brew faces huge competition from its major rival, Java, which is heavily pushed by Sun as an applications and content download platform for carriers and has been the main success story for the Java technology on mobile phones so far. Java's figures deeply overshadow Brew's. While the number of Brew-enabled handsets in the world has doubled this year to 16m so far, they have not reached the 25m predicted by the company at mid-year. Nor are they close to Java's statistics - over 120m Java-enabled handsets have shipped worldwide, up from 50m at the start of the year, according to Java's creator Sun, and there are 200 handset models available from 70 carriers, an increase of 35% in the past six months. But there are signs that Brew could gain ground. Qualcomm's critical decision came when it said it would integrate Brew and Java more closely, allowing Java applications to run on its platform and supporting Java, and particularly the IBM mobile Java Virtual Machine, on its CDMA chips. Although C++ is the native language for Brew, Qualcomm has made some strides in convincing the Java development community to consider its platform, and many mobile games creators are now using both alternatives according to the target market for a particular program. The acceptance of Java was undoubtedly an admission that Brew could not defeat Java as a content platform for phones, and would have to accommodate its almost default status among some carriers. However, by removing the either-or choice, Qualcomm also made its technology more attractive and risk-free for operators and gave it the potential to carve out its own niches, even in a Java-centric world. And Brew does have several advantages over Java. Qualcomm has moved far more rapidly to develop functionality such as application provisioning which makes the operator's life easier. Its long experience of working with carriers in its CDMA business make it far more attuned to the real requirements of this group of companies than Sun. New strengths Qualcomm has recently looked like a company always a step ahead of its major rival. The AOL deal is a "significant milestone", it claims, allowing for the distribution of popular AOL services, including Instant Messenger, Mail, ICQ and MapQuest, with Brew handsets, to make these models more appealing to the consumer. The company aims to tie any voguish mobile service in with Brew to make the phones the most feature-rich on the market and so encourage carriers to support the platform. Push to Talk, the popular walkie-talkie style communication method that is being rolled out by various US carriers, is a recent example - as it enjoys a boom, Qualcomm has announced BrewChat, which enables voice over IP and PTT on CDMA2000 handsets. This week, the first handset maker agreed to support this new development - Kyocera, which was the first company ever to launch a Brew handset in 2001. The cumulative effect of such moves, Qualcomm believes, is to convince carriers that Brew will enhance their efforts to launch attractive data services and so increase average revenue per use and average margin. Its most valuable operator ally is undoubtedly Verizon Wireless, whose CTO Dick Lynch recently said "Brew has leapfrogged Java" and that the platform had been critical to Verizon's aim of rolling out more and more data services. The largest US mobile operator says that users of its Brew-based Get It Now service, which offers 115m ringtones, games, photo messaging and other applications, generate $7.50 per month more, on average, than other subscribers. This is the kind of statistic that will reawaken operator interest in Brew. The other appeal is that it provides integrated provisioning, billing and application aggregation, making the rapid roll-out of content services far simpler for the carrier. The enterprise or carrier can create its own service on top of this platform and choose from the apps that Qualcomm has aggregated. By contrast, Sun's approach with J2ME is to provide developer tools but it does not - surprisingly - offer a readymade platform. Brew has become increasingly focused on mobile entertainment and on services that involve pay-per-download, where its download and billing platform comes into its own and this is also, of course, the primary focus for the carriers in the consumer market. Qualcomm says that the advantage of Brew over Java is that Java-based services such as Vodafone Live! require significant inhouse development, while Brew comes as a ready-to-use platform, almost like an outsourced service. US operator Alltel launched its Brew service in under two months, it said. Brew aggregates, distributes and manages content and applications and handles billing and the division of royalties between operator, developer and handset maker. Europe Qualcomm even believes it can penetrate the European market on the back of these advantages, which would help in its overall strategy to come in from the cold in the GSMdominated region, with its W-CDMA and hybrid chipsets. In September it appointed its first vice president of European business relations for the Brew unit, Johan Lodenius, who will be based in Sweden. Various other senior executives will be relocated to European countries as Qualcomm aims to build the type of relationships it has with CDMA operators in this unfamiliar turf. "We're trying to put leadership locally in Europe," said Lodenius. The sign that Europe is ready for Brew is the success of Vodafone Live! believes Lodenius. He said that, until this year, Qualcomm had been focusing on building up Brew in its familiar CDMA world, especially as Europe had been focused on handset styles and brands rather than applications. Now Live! shows the world has shifted and Qualcomm needs to get Brew inside the door while the applications market remains immature, before Java has a chance to become a default - and while carriers need to roll out data services quickly to have any chance of catching up with Live! Its other route into Europe will be the enterprise.The recently announced version 3.0 of Brew increased the ability to easily tailor applications to different user groups, particularly corporate users and business travellers. Qualcomm believes take-up will be driven by enthusiastic individuals within large companies and that up to five enterprise customers in Europe will be beta testing Brew applications by the end of March 2004. More important than Europe to Brew is Asia, where CDMA and Qualcomm have greater presence and where content services are taking off rapidly. China Unicom and Japan's KDDI are key partners, although Brew's initial strength in South Korea suffered a blow when the country's three leading operators, SK Telecom, KTF and LG Telecom, backed by the government, developed WIPI (Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability) as an alternative to Brew. KTF is estimated to pay $2m-$3m a year in Brew royalties. In general though, operators' attempts to build their own application delivery systems have been slow to take hold - Sprint being a notable example. The real threat remains Java, whose strongest market is also in Asia. Sun has made some efforts of late to catch up with Brew's strengths, notably with the acquisition of Pixo, a company that makes service provider software to manage, distribute and bill for content downloaded to mobiles using Java, in a similar way to Brew. It seems time to reassess Brew. Widely written off at the start of this year, it now looks healthy and with significant advantages over its rival. But there is a paradox here. Qualcomm needs Brew more than it has in the past, and is using it as a critical weapon in its aim of boosting CDMA at the same time as moving into new markets such as Europe. But it is doing so in the knowledge that Brew can never be a de facto standard and thus give Qualcomm the kind of influence over handset makers, developers and operators that Symbian gives Nokia. The presence of Java means that Brew will always be a second platform in a two-horse race. For a software house, that would be an acceptable position, provided that other challengers could be seen off and decent market share retained. For a chipmaker and intellectual property giant, a non-dominant software platform, whatever its technological strengths, must always be a sideline and potentially a damaging distraction. © Copyright 2003 Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Wireless Watch, 12 Dec 2003

NTT DoCoMo spurns Windows for 3G

Japanese mobile giant NTT DoCoMo has dealt a blow to Microsoft Windows Mobile by excluding the operating system from its 3G strategy and saying it will recommend Symbian and Linux to its handset partners. DoCoMo has huge influence on the Japanese market, where operators have much greater input into the design choices of their phone suppliers than in the west. The endorsement of Symbian will give a major boost to the operating system, which has been seen as being too European in focus. DoCoMo's president, Keiji Tachikawa, said that it needs to reduce the development and production costs of new handsets for its FOMA 3G service, and this will be aided by supporting open platforms and reducing the number of operating system variants it backs. The operator has been growing increasingly close to Symbian and sells Fujitsu handsets based on the OS on its 3G network. In September it said it would work with Symbian to create a standard user interface and service platform for the OS on FOMA handsets. Some of Symbian's licensees were said to be concerned that DoCoMo would gain too much influence over the design of the operating system, especially if it adopted it as its only 3G platform. However, it has not gone this far, mainly because of the growing strength of Linux in several Asian countries, notably China. It is likely that DoCoMo will develop its own Linux variant, in line with its tradition of investing heavily in R&D to create differentiated technologies that it can then pass on to its handset makers. © Copyright 2003 Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Wireless Watch, 12 Dec 2003

Linux share grows in UK SME sector

The use of Linux is growing in the UK SMB market, According to a survey of 200 small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the UK, conducted in September this year by Vanson Bourne on behalf of IBM. The survey indicates that 26 per cent of small businesses already deploy Linux. Of those not yet using Linux, 15 per cent said they are likely to use it in the future while a further 26 per cent were undecided, and the remaining 59 per cent had no current intention to adopt it. The main reason given for moving to Linux was lower costs (38 percent of respondents), with performance, security and reliability at 23 percent. The major casualty in the migration to Linux is Windows, with 42 per cent of users having moved away from Microsoft Windows NT and Windows 2003 server environments, 23 per cent from Sun Solaris and 15 per cent from HP UX. With SMBs the common areas of application for Linux are for file and print applications, web serving, hosting, caching, email systems and firewalls. However, the survey indicates that the role of Linux is spreading. 55 per cent of SMBs believe Linux is sufficiently robust to run mission critical applications and 40 per cent believe that Linux will become a core application operating system. Of the SMBs likely to invest in Linux in the next year, 15 percent will use it for mission critical applications such as ERP, SCM and CRM and 23 per cent will use it for business intelligence and data warehousing. Linux is clearly moving up the SMB value chain. An interesting part of the survey was statistics on influencers. Apparently for SMBs, business partners (18 pe rcent), professional organizations (16 per cent) and consultants (15 per cent) were the most important sources of information on Linux. This is no different to what we might have expected, but it draws attention to an important aspect of the growth of Linux. Across the world now Linux is viewed as a major revenue generating opportunity for the IT organisations that serve the SMB market - which, incidentally, is estimated to be half of the whole IT market. The SMB market is not and has never been awash with money, so value is critical to the SMB and thus low cost computing is equally critical to the IT providers to the SMBs. However, both IT providers and customers are resistant to change in this market. That's why Novell didn't die away quickly when the trend was towards Windows. The trend is now clearly away from Windows, to what is perceived to be a less expensive and more robust server environment. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 12 Dec 2003

Hitachi readies fuel cell for PDAs

Hitachi and Japanese ciggie lighter maker Tokai will ship a direct methanol fuel cell system for PDAs in 2005. And they have already built the prototype, the pair said this week. The two companies believe they can develop the prototype into a device the size of a AA battery, as their concept design shows. Inside the cell, the methanol fuel is mixed with air in the presence of a catalyst coats on the electrode. The catalyst comprises metallic nano particles between 1nm and 2nm in diameter. The chemical reaction generates electricity. It also produces water and carbon dioxide, making it more environmentally friendly than other battery technologies, the companies claimed. The prototype contains a 20 per cent solution of methanol, enough, the companies say, to provide sufficient fuel to power a handheld device for six to eight hours. The water produced by the electricity-generating chemical reaction is used to dilute the fuel down to the right concentration, 3-6 per cent, needed for the reaction to take place. Hitachi first demonstrated its fuel cell system back in March. NEC is also known to be working on a similar system of its own, as is Toshiba. Unlike Hitachi, they are targeting the notebook computer market. In October, Toshiba showed off a PDA-sized version of its fuel system that can recharge a mobile phone. ® Related Stories Toshiba demos mobile phone fuel cell NEC, Hitachi prep notebook, PDA fuel cells Toshiba boffins tout laptop fuel cell Fuel cell to power notebooks and mobile phones Motorola claims alcoholic PC breakthrough
Tony Smith, 12 Dec 2003

Dump Lindows name or we'll take all your money, says MS

Lindows.com CEO Michael Robertson steps into the hotel lobby, shakes hands and then picks up the latest Microsoft death threat from his pigeonhole. Microsoft legal affairs has pursued him across Europe this week, setting off explosions in the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Finland, but this one's fairly minor - a response to his letter to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's pitch boiling down to more or less, 'dump the Lindows name now and we'll let you off, persist and we'll bust you, all your distributors and take all your money.' The week's previous high was being handed the brown envelope when he got off the plane in Stockholm, but you get the impression they're currently coming in faster than Robertson can keep track of. His European tour was triggered by Microsoft moving against LindowsOS resellers in the Netherlands, but he says he didn't know anything about the Swedish action until he was served with the injunction, he's got a two page fax in French which appears to indicate he's being busted in France, but he's not entirely sure, and there's another one he can't remember right now. Oh yeah, Finland... Robertson's perspective however is not that of mere mortals. In his mp3.com glory days he had something in the region of 50 actions pending and judgments against the company adding up to "numbers that broke calculators." So this is kid's stuff, and he coolly analyses what he thinks Microsoft is doing. The latest fax is from one Horacio E Guttierez, Associate General Counsel for MS EMEA, based in the La Defense Barad-Dur, but the Swedish action used the Redmond address, and any suggestion Redmond wasn't driving all this would be absurd. "Microsoft's actions are in no way designed to impede competition," says the letter. "There are many competitive operating system distributions widely available in Europe that do not willfully infringe Microsoft's intellectual property rights. As long as Lindows.com stops engaging in infringing behavior we look forward to competing with your products." Oh, really...? Robertson is of the view that Microsoft and its like have lockers of patents and trademarks they will unleash when threatened by competition, but that the stability of the system is maintained by members of the 'club' each having a counterstrike capability, resulting in a cold war balance of power between the major players. This doesn't work for the little guys without the big IP portfolios, if they're a threat they get hit, he's getting hit, QED. So Red Hat and SuSE not currently getting hit means they are not perceived as competition on the home turf, the desktop, yet. Microsoft has had two years when it could have moved against Lindows in Europe, but it's only just starting, meaning in Robertson's view that he has only recently become dangerous there. And he proposes to become more so - he pitches the next generation of low-cost Lindows notebook as selling for $100 less than equivalent Microsoft machine in the same stores so, yes, that could be a threat. If Lindows notebooks can make it into the stores. Here's the deal from Tour B, La Defense. If he knocks it off now: "Microsoft will voluntarily dismiss all pending actions in Europe against Lindows.com and its distributors and will refrain from taking any further legal actions to enforce its trademark in Europe if you discontinue use of 'Lindows' in favor of a new, non-infringing name. In addition, if Lindows.com agrees promptly to such change, Microsoft will not seek any monetary sanctions to which it may be entitled against Lindows.com, including recovery of Microsoft's legal expenses. "The decision is yours. If Lindows.com is willing to respect Microsoft's rights in the Windows brand in Europe, Microsoft will not initiate or pursue any action against Lindows.com or its distributors in Europe relating to the Windows trademark. If, however, Lindows.com intends to continue to use an imitation of the Windows mark that is likely to confuse consumers into believing that your company's operating system products are connected with Windows operating systems products, Microsoft has no choice but to enforce its trademark rights in the Netherlands, Sweden and other countries." Most companies receiving this would fold, says Robertson. The board would look at the exposure, look at the 'get out of this for free' carrot, and if the CEO still wanted to fight, he'd be an ex-CEO. Microsoft is however using this tried and tested script against the wrong kind of company. Robertson is a man with a mission, and that most dangerous of competitors, the one who doesn't give a shit. If by the time Longhorn hits Microsoft does not have serious competition on the desktop, he reasons, then we will all be DRMed up to the eyeballs. And right now it seems to him that Lindows is the only game in town when it comes to competition in the consumer market. He has enough money personally, and enough to fight the lawsuits. So the financial threats don't overawe him the way they're supposed to, and it's important to him that he stand his ground. There are two things in his history that that maybe make DRM and fighting bigger issues to him than you might think. In his view mp3.com was actually offering the music industry a way out, a mechanism for coming to terms with digital music. The ungrateful music industry however sued the crap out of him and is now reaping the whirlwind. mp3.com was characterised as a pirate's cove and hit with statutory damages for infringements. These were so huge that it was just plain impossible to post the bond that would have been needed to pursue an appeal. The system, says Robertson, acted in favour of vested interests by denying mp3.com the right of appeal, and he couldn't fight. But here it comes again, in the shape of Windows as a vehicle for DRM. So, this time...? ® Related stories Microsoft takes Lindows fight to Sweden MS plays hardball with Dutch Lindows resellers MS issues take-down to Lindows, redefines 'guilt' Lindows.com CEO pickets Bill Gates speech Apple v MS lawsuit to walk again in Lindows.com trial
John Lettice, 12 Dec 2003

Siemens to shift 10k software jobs to Eastern Europe – report

Siemens is preparing to move 10,000 software developer to lower cost countries, the Finacial Times reports. This represents one third of software developers employed worldwide by the German industrial giant. In Siemens' case, eastwards means Eastern Europe, rather than India. Which means that developers in Germany, its biggest market, are under particular threat. Johannes Feldmayer, head of corporate strategy told the FT. "We have to follow the trend, as all of our competitors are doing the same, and move some of our activities eastwards." Feldmayer notes the availability of highly skilled, cheaper labour in the region. The company has already set up a back-office pilot in the Czech Republic. But will Siemens really ship so many jobs to Eastern Europe? The company is unhappy with the rigid, expensive labour market in Germany. Now it is putting a gun to the heads of politicians and unions. Says Feldmayer: "We are not happy with the conditions in Germany in comparison with conditions in the strongest growth countries... In the end Germany should benefit from this trend as it will make us more competitive." ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Dec 2003

Aiirnet to blanket US city with Wi-Fi

Work to create what will arguably be the world's largest Wi-Fi hotzone is expected to begin in Cerritos, California next month. When completed, the zone will cover all 8.6 square miles of the city, situated some 26 miles south east of Los Angeles, Associated Press reports. That's enough to provide almost all of Cerritos' 51,000 residents with wireless Internet access. The deployment is being carried out by California-based wireless ISP, Aiirnet. Not only have the city authorities allowed Aiirnet to install access points throughout the locale for free, but they pay the company over $25,000 a year to allow their employees to access the network. Access points will be installed on public buildings and traffic lights. Aiirnet will also connect the WLAN to the Internet via a high-speed link. It turns out that Cerritos can't get DSL or cable broadband, and residents have been demanding that the City Fathers do something about it. Never let it be said the local government isn't responsive. ® Related Story London gets UK's first Wi-Fi 'hotzone'
Tony Smith, 12 Dec 2003

Navman GPS 4400 Bluetooth navigator

Reg ReviewReg Review Navman is well known for its GPS systems for individuals, transport fleets and the like. In addition to dedicated devices, it has offered a clip on unit for HP's iPaq Pocket PC devices. Recognising that those machines aren't the only PDAs out there, the company recently launched the GPS 4400 a standalone module that connects to the Pocket PC across a Bluetooth wireless connection rather than a physical one.
Tony Smith, 12 Dec 2003

Mugabe rails against colonialist Internet

Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has stepped up his war against Western "white racist bullies" by accusing Britain of using the Internet to destroy his country. Laughing Bob, addressing the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva, asserted that information technology is dominated "by a few countries in the selfish interests of those countries which are in quest of global dominance and hegemony", the Daily Telegraph reports. He singled out Britain, the US and Canada as attempting to "challenge our sovereignty through hostile and malicious broadcasts calculated to foment instability and destroy the state through divisions". Email and the Internet are pretty well the only lines of communication still open to Mugabe's opponents - among them the much-harrassed Movement for Democratic Change - and, despite controlling all broadcasting and press in Zimbabwe, the embattled and impoverished president simply doesn't have the resources to control the flow of electronic dissent. It's natural, then, that Mugabe would finger IT as a tool of colonial bogeymen. In fact, the anti-white card is the only one he has left to play. Having reduced Zimbabwe to destitution, he now hopes to save his skin through rekindling the revolutionary fervour of his youth. Then, he was a hero for his struggle against the British. Now, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it, he is "becoming a cartoon figure of the archetypal African dictator". And, in the time-honoured fashion of cartoon African dictators, Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have embarked on a terror campaign against their own people in which membership of any form of opposition often leads to a premature appointment with the undertaker. What exactly turned a young socialist freedom fighter into a tyrant is unclear. What is certain is that not even Mugabe - his head filled with e-colonialism and black helicopters - can blame this strange and lamentable process on some Internet-manipulating Cecil Rhodesian conspiracy. He alone must shoulder responsibility for his own descent into autocracy. ® Related stories Mugabe mocked on Zimbabwe embassy Web site Net censorship hits all time high
Lester Haines, 12 Dec 2003

Anti-spam law will tie up UK firms up in red tape

The Government's legal attempt to crack down on email spam and unwanted phone calls has been condemned as a recipe for disaster that will hit law abiding UK businesses much harder than the spammers it is trying to stop. According to hi-tech industries' trade association Intellect, the increased costs of managing and storing data in accordance with the legislation will shift resources away from core business activities and make it mharder for new companies to get started. John Higgins, Intellect Director General, said he recognises the need for data protection, But he also "firmly believes that the new regulations have the potential to do more harm to law abiding businesses than to the spammers we are attempting to stop. "Regardless of whether all UK firms comply with the new regulations, inboxes will still fill up with spam, because most of it is sent from afar, safe from the UK Information Commissioner's reach." Intellect has, with Masons Solicitors, devised a checklist to help UK firms to comply with the new laws. It offers advice including urging companies to understand what is and is not 'solicited'. "You will have to comply with the Act with respect to these communications but not to the bulk of the regulations," Intellect said. Additionall,y firms are encouraged to ensure that all marketing e-mails contain an "unsubscribe" bottom which clearly labels the service to which it applies. They such also examine any legacy data to see if prior consent is needed to continue with use. Intellect said that it is important to remember the British Code of Advertising, Sales, Promotion and Direct Marketing ("CAP Code), which may apply to marketing activities as well as the new Act and the regulations. Companies would do well to make sure IT systems can suppress marketing materials quickly to those who have opted out, as the checklist notes that the Information Commissioner has targeted this as an important area for enforcement action. The full Intellect checklist is here. ®
Robert Jaques, 12 Dec 2003

UK firms drowning beneath tide of e-crime

UK businesses are drowning beneath a rising tide of computer crime, says Microsoft which is coming to the rescue with new chums the National High Tech Crime Unit, Business Watch and the British Chambers of Commerce. Almost half of UK small firms suffer at least one malicious security breach every year, ranging from major hacking incidents to small-scale email security issues and theft of hardware and intellectual property, according to Microsoft Kathy Riley, director of business development at the BCC, warned that that 80 per cent of small businesses never recover from a serious security breach and are forced to close within the following 12 months. "Many businesses simply don't know how vulnerable their systems are to outside attack," Riley said. "It is vital that companies take the opportunity to educate themselves about e-security," Inspector James Cooke, specialist crime directorate, New Scotland Yard, said that 97 per cent of all businesses in London are defined as being small - with 1-49 employees. "The Metropolitan Police is concerned that their security and well-being is preserved particularly in vulnerable neighborhoods where they are isolated and exposed. A high proportion of all recorded crime comes from this sector. There are many inexpensive ways of improving physical and computer security." In coming months Microsoft will send information and advice packs containing practical IT security help to "selected small businesses" across the UK. The Business Watch packs will also contain practical advice for small businesses to fight e-crime. Throughout 2004, Microsoft is organising a series of regional events throughout the UK where small business owners and entrepreneurs can meet local police to find out more about computer security. More information here.. ®
Robert Jaques, 12 Dec 2003

Oracle ships 10g application server for grids

Oracle has announced the availability of its 10g application server for grid computing, first launched with great fanfare in September. Application Server 10g uses workload management techniques to share loads across large numbers of processors in a grid configuration. The server is accompanied by software tools designed to simplify programming in Java 2EE, a goal shared by all the enthusiasts for Java as they seek to match the ease of use of Microsoft’s development products. The 10g release of the core Oracle database was due this month but has been put back to January. This will feature a workload manager and Oracle’s Real Application Clustering technology for provisioning loads across massive systems. This will be managed by new Enterprise Manager 10g Grid Control software. Oracle will demonstrate the products running on 128 servers at its Oracle World conference in Tokyo, Japan this month. Oracle said it plans a version of the application server based on the latest J2EE specification, version 1.4, during the next few months. For the current version, Java Edition is priced at $5,000 per CPU or $100 per named user; Standard Edition (with portal and business intelligence) is $10,000 per CPU or $200 per named user; and Enterprise Edition, which includes wireless support, is $20,000 per processor or $400 per named user. © Copyright 2003 News IS News IS is a weekly newsletter published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. News IS covers the news announcements, business transactions and financial statements of the top 150 or so IT vendors, along with other news of interest to the modern senior IT manager working within data centre technologies. Subscription details here.
News IS, 12 Dec 2003

CA shakes up web services management market

Computer Associates has entered the web services management field with the shipment of its Unicenter Web Service Distributed Management product, which has come out of its acquisition of Adjoin last summer. CA aims to shake up this market, which has been the preserve of small specialists, with its own weight and with a host of new partnerships. The new product gives network operators a way to monitor and track how web services applications are meeting predetermined performance thresholds. Performance is monitored and alerts sent of any problems. Hewlett-Packard is likely to be the next giant to enter this space, since it acquired a start-up in the area, Talking Blocks, earlier this year to accelerate the addition of these capabilities into HP OpenView. In CA’s systems, software ‘observers’, or embedded pieces of code within application servers, monitor messages sent between different web services applications and feed the data to Unicenter's existing systems management tools or those of third parties. Partners have been signed up, including Microsoft, BEA Systems, Sun Microsystems, JBoss, Collaxa, DataPower Systinet, whose tools will be able to share information with the new Unicenter module. CA intends to support a forthcoming web services standard, Web Services Distributed Management (WSDM), which is set to be completed early next year. © Copyright 2003 News IS News IS is a weekly newsletter published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. News IS covers the news announcements, business transactions and financial statements of the top 150 or so IT vendors, along with other news of interest to the modern senior IT manager working within data centre technologies. Subscription details here.
News IS, 12 Dec 2003

BT suspends orders for broadband satellite service

BT has suspended registrations for its one-way broadband satellite service. A customer service operative told The Register: "Orders have been suspended pending a review of the service." He also told us that due to a backlog, it would be up to eight weeks before BT could carry out any installations. But a BT spokesman denied this, insisting that the company did not have an order backlog and neither it would take up to two months to get a broadband satellite service installed. So, we called BT's "Broadband Satellite sales advisors" again - just to make sure. And guess what? They spun us the same line with a very helpful customer service operative once again mentioning a backlog of orders and that installations wouldn't begin again until February, possibly not until late Feb, at the earliest. Ho hum. Anyhow, one thing is for sure. Orders have been suspended. The reason, it seems, is that BT is set to make some big announcements regarding its broadband satellite service early in the New Year. At the moment it's all a bit hush-hush, so keep it under your hat. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Dec 2003

HP email abuse dismissals unfair, says tribunal

Three workers at Hewlett Packard’s plant in Renfrewshire, Scotland, who were fired after sending or receiving e-mails of a sexual nature, have won a claim of unfair dismissal, according to local newspaper reports. The tribunal found that HP had not been consistent in its response to abuse of the company's email system, according to the Metro, Daily Record and Evening Times coverage. Lynsey Rankin, Richard Reid and Brian Graham were three of 100 people who had been caught under a company investigation into e-mail abuse. They were sacked, but others who had sent e-mails with a similar or more explicit content, were not. According to the Daily Record, manager Robert Wilson had sent e-mails with sexual content (of a nature not disclosed in the reports) to Brian Graham. But Wilson was not punished because his mailbox was empty at the time of the investigation. The employment tribunal ruled that the computer giant’s inconsistent approach to enforcing its e-mail abuse policy meant that the employees had been unfairly dismissed. Reid and Graham have accordingly been awarded a full year’s pay in compensation, while Rankin is set to receive nine months' pay. Robyn McIlroy, an employment law specialist with Masons, the firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, says the case highlights not just the need for an e-mail and internet policy, but also the need to enforce it consistently. McIlroy commented: "This defence - disparity of treatment, inconsistency of sanction – is one which employees increasingly are seeking to rely on in such cases. This might be in fact one of the few defences open to employees, where an employer has a clear policy prohibiting the circulation of inappropriate e-mail, and can show that the employees concerned were aware of the potential sanctions for breach of the policy. "It is essential, therefore, that such policies and sanctions are consistently applied and enforced - albeit that this will always depend on the individual facts and circumstances of every case." © copyright 2003 OUT-LAW.com
OUT-LAW.COM, 12 Dec 2003

PlusNet unveils 150k DSL service

Sheffield-based ISP PlusNet is offering a cut-price DSL service for the same price as many unmetered dial-up services. At £14.99 a month, DSL Connect provides download speeds up to 150k and has been just been launched on a trial basis. Orders taken now should be fulfilled early next year. Unlike some other operators that provide 150k services, nowhere does PlusNet describe DSL Connect as a "broadband" service. Instead, the 150k service is being marketed as a "natural stepping-stone from unmetered dial access to the even higher speeds offered by Broadband Internet access". Said PlusNet's commercial director, Marco Potesta: "We believe that DSL Connect will meet what we see as a huge demand for convenient, always-on connectivity at the same price as most other ISP's unmetered dial offerings. "Internet access at 150kbps offers great value for those primarily using low-bandwidth applications such as web browsing and email. DSL Connect is the logical next step for those still using traditional dial and unmetered access." A spokesman for PlusNet declined to name the wholesale provider of the service, citing "commercial reasons". Thankfully, Tiscali wasn't so coy and 'fessed that it was behind the 150k service. Tiscali unveiled its own 150k service in October - which costs £15.99 a month incidentally - adding that it was "absolutely" happy to resell the service to other ISPs. ® Related Stories Tiscali's 150K service goes through roof Tiscali to unveil 150k 'broadband' service
Tim Richardson, 12 Dec 2003

Microsoft wants non-standard media for Xbox 2?

A job advertisement posted on Microsoft's careers website suggests that the company may be considering moving to a proprietary disc format for its next console, in an effort to make piracy on the device more difficult. According to the ad, Microsoft's Xbox team is seeking an engineer "to manage the design and development of the Xbox Game Disc for the next generation Xbox console", with the job description going on to mention anti-piracy as the first in a list of key factors for the new game disc specification. Although it's possible that the role will simply involve devising a copy protection mechanism for games on existing DVD media, similar to that used by the current generation Xbox and the PlayStation 2, the description of the role hints strongly at the company developing a more proprietary format. Microsoft may be planning to follow in the footsteps of Nintendo, whose mini-DVD format has been highly successful in preventing piracy on the GameCube. It's widely expected, however, that whatever media the next Xbox console (codenamed 'Xenon', apparently) uses will be the same size as DVD media, since the system will be expected to play back DVD movies and provide backwards compatibility with Xbox games. Although preventing piracy which results from the copying of game discs is obviously an important consideration, Microsoft will also be thinking very hard about how to prevent piracy which uses the hard drive on the system. Many mod chips for the current generation of Xbox allow users to copy games to their hard drives and then play them without the original game disc, or simply download copies off the Internet directly onto their console - a new avenue for piracy which has potential to be hugely damaging if it becomes popular. Copyright © 2003, GamesIndustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 12 Dec 2003

Windows Longhaul? Longhorn could be 2008, says Gartner

Longhorn in 2005 seems definitely off the agenda, and while it might ship in 2006, it could be delayed until 2008 or 2009, according to Gartner. According to a report of the Gartner Data Center Conference in Information Week, Gartner research VP Tom Bittman puts the likely release window between late 2006 and mid-2008. The prediction isn't exactly as far out as it might appear on the surface, because he's talking (in Gartner's irritating probability-speak) of a 50 per cent probability of 2006, 40 per cent 2007 and 2008-2009 as outside chances. Major Microsoft projects do tend to slip pretty spectacularly, so history tells us none of these dates is entirely bonkers. But we at The Register are becoming intrigued by what happens in the ever-stretching period between the shipment of Windows XP and the shipment of Longhorn. This gap is unprecedented, because in the past Microsoft has always had something half-credible to throw into the marketplace to keep interest alive and to keep the customers upgrading. Not having such a thing could have a pretty immediate adverse effect on consumer revenues, and there are more specific reasons why it could hurt in the corporate market. Think yourself into the part - you're a business running Win2k or earlier clients, you've got the Microsoft sales people talking to you about upgrading to WinXP and Server 2003, and you've got the public prints and (cough) Microsoft's senior executives telling you Longhorn is the big deal upgrade. But what is it, when is it, and how feasible is it to wait for it? The Microsoft sales people can try to sell you .NET as here, and where it's at, but you surely have the growing impression that it's not quite where it's really at, because that's all about Longhorn. Just a thought, people. Microsoft could be maiming its sales teams by sending them out without credible roadmaps, and talking up something it can't ship for years, just when Sun is starting to look dangerous on Microsoft's home turf, too. We think that if Microsoft can't nail Longhorn down absolutely to 2006 pretty soon, it's going to have to come up with some interim ideas to hold the fort. ®
John Lettice, 12 Dec 2003
Broken CD with wrench

Sun adds a little more juice to v1280

Sun has upgraded one of the weirder servers in its product line, adding 1.2GHz chips to the 12 processor v1280. Sun launched the v1280 back in February as a kind of low-cost alternative to some of its other midrange gear. The system does not have all of Sun's more advanced, read more expensive, mainframe like qualities for running dynamic domains, for example, or for upgrading processors on-the-fly. Still, the box offers customers up to 12 processors in a 12U package and has price closer to the volume products shipped by Sun. The kit has been shipping with 900MHz chips, but will now be offered with the 1.2GHz UltraSparc IIIs. This translates to a 30 percent performance boost. Sun launched the v1280 with great fanfare but has been relatively quiet about the system since. So who is using it? Sun lists Nortel Network North American Home Location Register as a customer. But even this Nortel group is using the Netra 1280 system, which is a telco-ready, more ruggedized version of the product. IDC has shipments of the v1280 increasing 12 percent from Q2 to Q3. It's hard to gauge exactly how impressive this is given the rather short life span of the kit so far, but at least it's moving in the right direction for Sun. ®
Ashlee Vance, 12 Dec 2003
Broken CD with wrench

IBM cuddles up to Red Hat

While IBM is most often found touting SuSE Linux, the company this week firmed up its ties with open source rival Red Hat via a sweeping server upgrade. Doing the basics, IBM is now ready to ship Version 3 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux across all of IBM's server line. And when IBM says all, it means it. The operating system will be available on Intel-based and RISC-based boxes as well as mainframe systems. The support also extends across IBM's software line, including WebSphere, DB2, Lotus, Tivoli and Rational code. Tightening the alliance a little more, IBM will now package Red Hat Enterprise Linux with sales of its Xeon and Opteron servers in North America and Japan. This bundle will eventually be extended worldwide. In related news, IBM has released a new version of its GPFS (General Parallel File System) for AIX. The latest iteration of the software includes support for version 5.2 of AIX and allows GPFS to run across both AIX and Linux servers at the same time. GPFS is for hardcore users trying to run a file system across numerous servers. It provides shared access to the files regardless of what server in particular they are sitting on. Along with the improved AIX and Linux support, IBM has added in a few storage features to GPFS. Users can create a logical copy - or snapshot - of a GPFS file system. In addition, both Linux and AIX clients can tap into features of IBM's Tivoli SANergy software. Users can also create backups of the file system with Tivoli Storage Manager. ®
Ashlee Vance, 12 Dec 2003

Living Tomorrow Today

A washing machine that warns you not to mix the red socks with white clothing and automatically selects the right washing cycle? All that is possible when smart tags - an antenna-bearing chip smaller than a grain of rice - are attached to your pants, socks or underwear. It is one of many innovations showcased at Living Tomorrow, a shoe-shaped Home and Office of the Future, opened yesterday near the Amsterdam Arena Stadium in the Netherlands. In the building - architected entirely on the computer by Berkel & Bos - Philips, 3M, LogicaCMG, HP and a dozen more partners show their applications (all near to market or recently introduced) in a living room, a kitchen, a study, a bedroom, a bathroom and several corridors. Living Tomorrow was founded c. ten years ago in Vilvoorde, outside Brussels. Bill Gates opened the first Home of the Future in 1995 (video here). In 2004, Living Tomorrow will open another branch in Shanghai and next on the agenda id the USA. "We want a House of the Future on every continent," co-founder Peter Bongers told journalists. Living Tomorrow is not just any House of the Future, usually a walk through building tucked away on a university or research lab campus. Unilever and Philips will use the building for consumer research and for testing innovative consumer connectivity concepts. LogicaCMG will provide consultant services in the areas of IT and communication technology. The €25 million project will shut down in five years. Meantime the displayed concepts will be continuously adapted to the latest developments. Don't expect to see far fetched-ideas, though. On show are: a bathroom mirror that displays the latest news; interactive television with mobile ticketing; websites with a ´personal agent´ and speech technology; ambient environments which adapt themselves to the needs of the workers; a conference table that responds to heated discussions (using light effects); and semi-transparent solar cells which supply much of the energy. What about the washing machine? That’s almost a reality too. Benetton's Sisley line of clothing contain a Philips radio frequency ID tag that replaces the ubiquitous bar code, although right now it is used for inventory control purposes. Living Tomorrow is open to the general public from January 3 at weekends and on a reservation-only basis during the week. ®
Jan Libbenga, 12 Dec 2003

World Summit is wholesale triumph

GenevaGeneva They’re packing up the RFID detectors at Geneva’s Palexpo conference centre as the first meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society grinds to an end. Everyone will be back again in 2005 for the second stage in Tunisia, but for now the delegates, diplomats, hacks, liggers and hacktivists (even the ones who are here using fake ID to show how insecure the place is) are off to the airport, the nightclubs or the streets. All ended peacefully, despite initial worries that the Summit’s declaration of principles and the associated action plan for government would be abandoned because of disagreement over some of the more controversial ideas – like support for free software, a robust defence of freedom of expression, a suggestion that the governance of the Internet should be taken away from ICANN, and a request for the rich countries of the world to put some money into a special fund to help poorer ones cross the digital divide. The Declaration was unanimously endorsed, the Plan was adopted, and all is set for another triumph in Tunisia. Except that the final versions of the two key documents had been effectively gutted by the rich and powerful countries, none of which wanted to see their own interests threatened by proposals which involved them giving up power or influence, or having to reach into their coffers. So the governance of the Net is to be looked at by a special working group, which has two years in which to decide to do nothing. And a task force – we’re not quite sure if this is more or less important than a working group – will spend the same time reviewing existing ICT funding mechanisms and deciding if a voluntary Digital Solidarity Fund is a good idea. Apparently this is OK, because everyone agrees on the need to get every village in the world connected to the Internet by 2015. They may be paying over the odds to some grasping Western telco for the privilege, and using Microsoft software which comes with a restrictive licence, but they will all have joined the information society. Those who expected little were not disappointed. It will only be the naïve idealists who believe that the governments and people of the rich world really care about the interests of the poor except as a source of raw materials, low-paid labour, and cheap back office services who leave Geneva feeling let down and saddened. The rest of us arrived cynical and leave feeling vindicated. But not even the hardened hacks could suppress a small smile at the final press conference when the ITU’s Yoshio Utsumi, the summit’s Secretary-General of the whole event, said that “there had been no demonstrations against the summit, meaning all stakeholders could express their views”. Because we all knew that there were no demonstrators or protests outside because what the politicians and diplomats have been up to here for the past three days really doesn’t matter at all. ® Related stories World+dog fight over World Summit of The Information Society Will December make or break the Internet? Internet showdown side-stepped in Geneva Mugabe rails against colonialist Internet Cyber Oscar honour for Cambodian data-entry charity
Bill Thompson, 12 Dec 2003