2nd > April > 2004 Archive

War on Culture's victims face Penitentiary Blues

Step by step, the United States is becoming institutionally engaged in another 'War' against another abstraction - a War it can't win and shouldn't even be fighting. Critics were grimly amused to watch the copyright holders engage the trappings of the state - such as when the RIAA employed goons in police garb to confiscate $10 worth of counterfeit CDs from a Los Angeles car park attendant who couldn't speak English. But now, thanks to the powerful lobby groups, the State itself is being drawn in. Attorney General John Ashcroft rushed back from gall-bladder surgery this week - you can't keep a good man down - to announce that the Department of Justice will set up a special Intellectual Property Task Force. Although access and compensation are the two most important issues, the IPTF's job isn't to investigate new ways of engaging with or distributing Intellectual Property in the digital age, of course, nor examine compensation systems. The parameters have already been set. The formation of the IPTF, we learn from the press release, is "a milestone in the Justice Department's efforts to protect intellectual property rights," according to the press release [our emphasis] and its new chief himself framed it as "meet the evolving challenges that law enforcement faces". So sharing IP is a crime and it's also a law enforcement problem. But it's only a law enforcement problem if citizens are breaking the law, of course. Both the 'law' and the 'enforcement' received a pep today. The House Judiciary committee today gave its approval to a bill introduced last summer, HR.2517 or the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act. File swappers face three years in jail for the first offence, and six more years in the clink for repeat offences, thus making criminals out of a large section of the US population. The FBI will be encouraged to "facilitate the sharing" of information among Internet providers, copyright holders and police; a short way of saying that the State will act as both snooper and enforcer for private property holders. In a heart-searching chapter in his latest book, Lawrence Lessig takes himself to task for losing the Eldred copyright case, which would have rolled back Congress' right to extend the Copyright terms as it sees fit. He berates himself for presenting a logically correct argument, rather than a powerful moral case. Lessig isn't alone: we're reaping ten years of arguing absolutes ("freedom") while the moral case for culture has been neglected. In some cases, citizens groups gave up their moral authority by promoting systems such as Napster without addressing the case that artists should be recompensed. As a consequence, in both the Berman Bill and Ashcroft's Task Force, there isn't even a token attempt to justify the measures on behalf of citizens. If you had just landed from another planet, and read these two documents, the moral authority rests entirely with the copyright holders. Nor do the politicians responsible make any attempt to disguise who they are acting for. James Sensennbrenner, Head of the House Judiciary Committee which approved HR.2517 today, took $18,000 from the RIAA to lobby on its behalf oversees. He currently evades a conflict of interest investigation only on the flimsiest of technicalities. The top five contributors to Howard Berman, co-sponsor of PTEA when his last ill-fated effort to plant bombs in personal computers was introduced were Walt Disney Co, $32,000; AOL Time Warner, $28,800; Vivendi Universal, $27,591; Viacom Inc, $13,000; and News Corp, $11,750, notes P2P.net. Campaign contributions for Bill Lockyer - he's the California's State Attorney who recently called for peer to peer software to be banned - from the pigopolists are matched only by contributions from prison guards unions and construction interests. It's tempting to see the War on Culture a hedge by the prison-industrial complex in case the War on Drugs fails, and the jails empty. In the end a War on File Sharing is unwinnable as the 'Wars' on Terror, or on Drugs. Removing the 'war ' description doesn't mean that drug abuse is less of a social problem or that terrible terrorist outrages must not be prevented. But that's the point of such unwinnable wars: they really shouldn't be won. The point is that they should drag on for a very long time. They aren't crusades, so much as National Mood Music. ® Related Stories State Attorney - the MPAA's man - urges P2P ban Congressman pocketed $18,000 for RIAA 'lobbying trip' Free legal downloads for $6 a month. DRM free. The artists get paid. We explain how...
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Apr 2004

Gateway axes 2,500 jobs, closes US stores

Gateway is to close all 188 of its retail showcases in the United States - many stores within stores - with the loss of 2,500 jobs, or nearly 40 per cent of the work force. As recently as four years ago, Gateway employed over 20,000 staff; after the stores close on 9 April it will be down to 4,000. Three weeks ago the company completed its takeover over eMachines, although "reverse takeover" is more appropriate. Gateway's new CEO is Wayne Inouye, former eMachines boss, and the company announced it was relocating to Orange County, former eMachines base. In its most recent quarterly earnings statement, Gateway reported a loss of $114m on turnover of $883m. News of further restructuring is expected on 29 April, when Gateway issues its next earnings statement for the quarter that ended on Wednesday. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Apr 2004

Classless Reg hack is void of humor

FoTWFoTW Your article reads exactly like a press release from Intel's marketing dept. While there is a tiny nugget of actual information, I expect more from someone who's supposed to be a journalist. I saw no sales numbers and only a single percentage - "...now holds 51 per cent of the high-end processor market". Where's the supporting information? I'm left wondering if your article is actually a parody of the event. If so, then accept my apologies. I'll try harder to pick up on the humor in the future. Thanks, Henry Bruns And. And your point is? It perturbs me no end while, during my afternoon perusal of The Register, to come across such a huge, smelly, pile of bullshit such as you have posted this afternoon. Try as I might, I don't see the tie in to technology. I also don't see a tie in with the facts, although I don't expect a scumbag socialist like yourself would let the facts get in the way of the poisonous lie you are attempting to promulgate. For the record, and the record is easily ascertained through Google should you ever have a twinge of concious prior to your future blatherings: http://www.quivis.com/voxpop01.html http://www.freecongress.org/commentaries/2002/021210PW.asp http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/11/06/politics/main247248.shtml and of course many others. The key thing is that Ashcroft, in the heat of an election campaign, and in the wake of his opponents tragic demise, conducted himself with class, a concept you may not be familiar with. Bill Johnson Toronto, Canada
Ashlee Vance, 02 Apr 2004

Blair puts compulsory ID card on fast track for UK

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday made it clear that the government now feels it has sufficient public support to accelerate the introduction of compulsory ID cards. Speaking at his monthly press conference, he said that "we will need to readjust our terrorism laws still further. I have to say this to you, and I think that the whole issue of identity cards that a few years ago were not on anybody's agenda are very much on the political agenda here, probably more quickly even than we anticipated." Later, in response to a request for clarification regarding last autumn's Cabinet decision "to defer ID cards for a few years," Blair said that: "in relation to ID cards... I think there is no longer a civil liberties objection to that in the vast majority of quarters. There is a series of logistical questions, of practical questions, those need to be resolved, but that in my judgment now, the logistics is the only time delay in it, otherwise I think it needs to move forward." So he's he's not saying that civil liberties objections have gone away, simply that the objectors have now been sufficiently isolated for the government to introduce cards without sustaining political damage. Nor is he directly saying that the Cabinet delay deal has been torn up, but that is the clear implication of his response to the second question. Finally, he is saying that deployment will be faster than anticipated (by everyone except Home Secretary David Blunkett, that is) last autumn, and that the only issues in the way are technical, logistical and practical. That last one is worth more than just a passing nod; the British Government (alongside governments throughout the world) is proceeding on the presumption that it is manifest truth that ID systems are a cost-effective weapon against terrorism. It has conducted no significant research into whether or not this is in fact true, nor into how the specific systems it is currently devising will improve the effectiveness of the anti-terrorism, immigration control and crime prevention systems it already deploys. 'Well,' as much of the population now says, 'it's obvious, isn't it?' Well, if it is, a detailed study of how it would work in action would prove that pretty conclusively, wouldn't it? What seems obvious can often turn out to be wrong, especially when acted on by politicians. The UK, however, is about to commit one of the primary sins of IT system specification by commissioning a project without first figuring out how (or whether) it can achieve its stated objectives. Which is how all the Great British Government IT Disasters commence. The series of questions that prompted Blair's first reference to ID cards is significant here, not least because it wasn't actually about ID cards - Blair brought these up unprompted, in a context where their relevance is dubious (which is perhaps appropriate). An Al Jazeera representative pointed out: "More than 500 people, British Muslims, have been arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000/2001. Charges were pressed only against seven of them. Don't you think that policy gives credit to some critics that say there is racial profiling in Britain?" Blair first responded, with some justification, that under the circumstances many of those questioned will be Muslims. Next, asked about the potential for this causing conflict with the British population, he moved on to "we need the laws we have," and then on to their extension, including the introduction of cards. But folks, rewind here - what is it that the arrest rate should be telling us? The very low hit rate for arrests under the PTA 2000/2001 is of the same order as the hit rate the US has been experiencing in its post-9/11 investigations, and of that experienced by the UK in much longer period when it was dealing with the Provisional IRA. During this period the UK repeatedly ratcheted up the toughness of the legislation, but this appears to have had no demonstrable impact on the security services' effectiveness. So now there's a certain logic to lots of Muslims being arrested and released, whereas previously there was a logic to lots of people at least suspected of being Irish being arrested and released (not, unfortunately, for 20 years in some cases). The commonality however is large numbers of arrests, very low numbers of prosecutions - the best legislative repressions of successive governments have fulfilled the need to be seen to be doing something, but really haven't done much that was effective. Consider also the possible impact of a future ID card system on the most recent waves of arrests. We can reasonably presume that the security services had a fair idea of the identity of most of the luckless 500 before they pulled them in, and that any others who might have been collared in passing will have been IDed pretty swiftly afterwards. So there would have been little in the way of immediate benefit to be derived from any of these having ID cards. There would likely be a subsequent effect for these people, as a record of their arrest linked to their ID card would possibly affect their future arrest prospects, and would probably disrupt any international travel arrangements they might have. You could however say that this bummer of a deal (for the majority of the 500 who are surely innocent) would simply be an automation and global extension of the systems we've already got, i.e. the ones that don't work very well. They are the 'suspected of being Irish' de nos jours, and that's the price they pay in the War on Terror. As regards those who really are guilty, most of them don't turn out to be obviously guilty until they've actually done something, and although they have ID documentation, this does not say in big letters "Terrorist". The US government's profiling plans do indeed anticipate some form of equivalent to this, whereby individuals deemed to have a higher than normal probability of being a future terrorist will be singled out for special attention, but unless you believe that you can profile the whole world and that profiling works, this is sheer madness. Otherwise, presence or absence of an ID card has no demonstrable effect on the success of the security services - this (as UK experience over the past 30 years has shown) is largely dictated by how good they are at their job, and how well they know they organisations they're fighting. There's one last oddity to yesterday's events. Immediately before Blair's press conference, Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes resigned, having discovered that she had 'inadvertently' conveyed the wrong impression as regards immigration. The issue is currently under investigation, but Hughes' resignation confirms that there is a problem, and the specific issue she resigned over was her failure to reveal that she had known about it for over a year. Now, here is the problem as best as can be established at the moment. The size of the backlog of immigration cases (both asylum and general) has been a major issue for the current government, and Hughes (who reported to David Blunkett at the Home Office) was presiding over the acceleration of the processing of applications. It appears that in at least some areas this acceleration process resulted in the systematic rubber-stamping of applications. Cases from Bulgaria and Rumania have been cited where forged documents were approved, and where pro forma business plans were sold to applicants fraudulently applying under a programme designed to bring in self-sustaining business startups. Allegedly, the UK authorities were alerted to these fraudulent applications and to their rubber stamping, and Hughes herself had the matter drawn to her attention last year by one of her own ministers. So friends, what do we have here? If we had ID cards, what would have been happening? At the same time as Blunkett's Home Office has been thumping the ID card tub on the basis of its efficacy against crime, terrorism and illegal immigration, that very same Home Office has known as a matter of record (this is not, we accept, the same as actually knowing or even noticing) that it's been granting immigrant status to people who are not going to perform in accordance with what it says on the tin they just bought. Granted they're a lot more likely to be one-legged Bulgarian plumbers who don't know anything about plumbing than terrorists, but still... Their application rubber-stamped, under the future system they would then have been issued with ID cards, and would have happily acquired a perfectly legitimate UK identity on the basis of whatever it was they'd chosen to fill in. Moral: the Home Office might be best advised to sort out the loopholes and system failures it already has before introducing new ones to fix. ® Related stories Blunkett ready to force through compulsory ID for UK Draft ID card bill makes it to Queen's speech Mission impossible? Blunkett's big biometric ID adventure
John Lettice, 02 Apr 2004

AOL UK blows £20m on ad campaign

AOL UK is going on a £20m advertising spending spree to plug AOL 9.0 - the latest version of its Internet service. Aimed at both broadband and narrowband punters, AOL UK's biggest ad campaign to date, is expected to "reflect the increasingly mature and sophisticated nature of Internet consumers". Apparently. AOL 9.0, which includes Video Instant Messenger, AOL Talk (a Voice over IP service) plus spam controls, is due to be launched on 5 April. Said AOL UK VP Marketing Sharon Lang: "This campaign marks an exciting progression for the AOL brand in the UK to fully portray the depth and diversity of products we offer, which enable consumers to fulfil the potential of the Internet. "With more than half of UK households connected to the Web and total time spent online soaring, we wanted to create a campaign that showed how the Internet has reached beyond the virtual world to present real opportunities in people's lives." Whatever. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Apr 2004

You get paid to write this garbage?

LettersLetters Our piece yesterday on the inexorable rise of the machine provoked a certain amount of ire from Reg readers. Typical among these was Steve Reeves: You get paid to write this garbage? Not for long. Tessa Tumangday elaborates: Lester, Your story 'A robot in every home by 2010' posted in the register 1 April contained a very upsetting quote: 'Yes, it's that time of year again when we can read with glee that the cybernetic Phillipino maid is just around the corner. She'll be just like the real thing, too: you can pay her peanuts, beat her with a stick and lock her in the shed at night. Marvellous.' Perhaps you were trying to be funny? If so, you failed miserably. Racist humour is the lowest form of wit and only ever funny in this day and age to members of Combat 18. Furthermore, your failure to bring out some sort of ironic humour using the image of the beaten down Filipino domestic worker is a reflection of your poor writing style and a relection of the racial stereotypes that you have of a certain group of people. why do feel the need to share your ignorance, insensitivity and bad writing style with register readers? Perhaps you are only a select racist (against Filipinos) and wouldn't make the same jokes about Blacks and Jews. It might be a bit of bad luck should Rabbi Lionel Blue and Trevor Philips knocking on your door for an apology - easier to target the Filipinos as they do not have any political representation. I've got your number. Do us all a favour Lester, give up journalism, don your white hood, burn some crosses and take your rightful place next to Nick Green. Perhaps you would consider doing his PR for a bit of a laugh? Sincerely, T. Tumangday I'd rather not, thanks. In any case, I doubt whether I'd pass the Combat 18 vetting procedure. For the record: I have a Brazilian wife; I once worked as stage manager for a black women's theatre group; and, most enjoyably, did a stint as lighting man for a lesbian punk rock band. None of which, of course, will make any difference to those who are convinced that our observation in this case was nothing more than a racist attack. Observation being the operative word here - as opposed to neo-nazi propaganda. We understand that sometimes humour treads a fine line between this ironic examination of the way the world is and causing genuine offence. And of all the readers who read the piece, 20 or so of you felt we had crossed the line. We'll certainly take on board all your comments and continue - as we do every day - to carefully consider all material before publication. Now, moving on to the main thrust of the article, we have Lumatrix - one of dozens of like-minded readers waiting to get his hands on the transport of the future: Hi Lester, I luv luv luv it! Your Register future column - please give us more, more, more. Where is my flying car? Where indeed? Robert Irving, among many others, thought he had the answer: See here: www.moller.com/skycar/. Thanks for that Robert. Sadly, we've been there, seen that, didn't get the Moller flying car: Skycar crashes and burns? And the bloody flying car isn't the only thing we're waiting for. Take it away a very irate DZ-Jay: You forgot the jet-pack. Where's my fscking jet-pack I was promised for the end of the last millennium by Popular Mechanics et al back in the 40's, 50's and 60's??! That's what I'd like to know. Well said, sir. ®
Lester Haines, 02 Apr 2004
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BT fire: Everything should be sorted by Monday

Voice and data services hit by the devastating underground fire in Manchester earlier this week are expected to be up and running fully again by Monday. BT has so far restored services to almost all the 138,000 lines wiped out by last Monday's fire. However, some 900 business and residential customers are still without a service, and there are still ongoing problems with some data services and private circuits. BT is keen to emphasise the effort and resource it has committed to restoring services following what some have described as a "catastrophic failure of the BT network". However, as the service is restored, attention will no doubt focus on the cause of the fire and the not-so-small matter of compensation for those affected. A spokesman for BT said the issue of compensation couldn't be discussed until the cause of the fire was known. "It's a question of liability," he said. ® Related stories Black helicopters hover over Manchester A-bomb bunker inferno BT fire: 'situation improving' BT denies cable fire was in A-bomb exchange BT struggles to repair Manchester fire damage BT fire disrupts emergency services BT cable fire causes 'extensive damage' in Manchester
Tim Richardson, 02 Apr 2004

Nokia 6600 smart phone

Reg ReviewReg Review For a number of years now, I've carried my personal information - contact details, diary appointments and the like - around on a Palm. And for a similar period of time I've carried a sub-set of that information on my mobile phone. That's always struck me as daft. Surely I should to be able to carry one set of data, on a single device?
Tony Smith, 02 Apr 2004

Wippit offers pay-by-SMS digital music downloads

UK-based digital music company Wippit today launched its Apple iTunes Music Store-style song download service, introducing a mobile phone text message payment scheme in a bid to attract teenagers to the site. "We're ahead in addressing the younger market with our SMS billing solution, a real incentive for kids without credit or debit cards not to download music illegally," said Wippit CEO Paul Myers. "It could be our 'killer app'." Making it easy for youngsters to buy song downloads could be crucial in tackling online piracy. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) last week released statistics which indicate the 12-19 age group comprises the most active of music downloaders, with the vast majority currently using unlicensed services like Kazaa. All other licensed music download stores focus on an older, more affluent market - one, crucially, with access to credit cards. Wippit offers that form of payment too. The SMS payment systems is currently only available to UK customers, though the download service is open for business in the US, Germany, Spain and Sweden. Wippit pledged to bring it to those territories too. Wippit offers some 150,000 songs thanks to the recent addition of content from major recording companies BMG and EMI. The company hinted at the upcoming addition of songs from a third major label, but declined to name it. Tracks are offered in WMA format, though a number are available in MP3. Wippit's P2P-based download-all-you-want subscription service will continue to operate alongside but separate from the new Web-based download store. The company also said today that it was raising the annual subscription fee from £30/$50/€45 to £50/$90/€75 to "reflect the additional quality content that is being made available". Or, more likely, the higher licensing fees. Ahem. The 29p song pricing is limited to discounted songs - the "standard" rate is 49p/€0.69/$0.79, but all the (admittedly from chart acts and well-known bands) songs we looked up were offered at Wippit's "premium" rate of 79p/€1.19/$1.29. Wippit is also widening its offering, providing software downloads alongside the songs, with initial titles filed under music, video, entertainment, games and creative categories. It's a concept the Apple has discussed but has yet to implement, and it's not hard to imagine Wippit using the same system to offer other digital media in download form, such as movies. ® Related Stories Wippit preps 'EasyJet-style' music download scheme Wippit adds 10,000 BMG tracks to catalogue MusicNet to deliver music downloads to UK Mean Fiddler to flog music downloads
Tony Smith, 02 Apr 2004

FreeMove mounts its challenge to Vodafone

Few things move as slowly as telcos or committees, so the anti-Vodafone alliance of T-Mobile, TIM, Orange and Telefónica was never expected to make an impact overnight. However, a year after its formation, the group has indulged in a noisy relaunch that is still short on substance - although, 12 months on, it does at least have a name, FreeMove. The incumbent cellcos of Germany, Italy, France and Spain say that their combined forces will offer their customers - particularly enterprise travellers - consistent services, tariffs and roaming when using a partner network abroad. This will bring them somewhat closer to achieving the global footprint that is Vodafone's ambition. The second benefit will be to pool their negotiating power with the handset makers in order to gain discounts on a scale with those enjoyed by Vodafone. The companies have just started buying as a combined entity and said they had purchased 6m phones from Siemens and Motorola, for 10 per cent less cost than they would have commanded individually. This will give them greater flexibility to be price competitive against Vodafone. The fight against Vodafone Marco de Benedetti, CEO of Telecom Italia and current chairman of FreeMove, said that cross-border roaming was an increasingly lucrative market and that, last year, the four partners recorded a combined 900m minutes of roaming calls across Europe, a figure expected to rise by 10 per cent a year in 2004-2007 as customers' data needs rose and as they found it easier to use roaming services. The four operators have 170m European customers between them although the clear focus of FreeMove is on increasing enterprise business, a sector where Vodafone has had the greatest success in Europe because of its ability to offer unified, international schemes across the region. Of course, despite their impressive customer numbers, the Gang of Four still has several disadvantages against Vodafone. One is that the deal only covers the countries where they have networks, so they really need further partners - KPN of the Netherlands and TeliaSonera of Sweden and Finland springing to mind - to offer the complete service they promise. Key to expansion of the service will be the inclusion of T-Mobile USA, which is expected within two months. The group will use that as the basis to expand their brand to North and South America (mainly through Telefónica's operations there) and a global base of 230m customers. Another disadvantage, and more destructive in the long term, these are four rivals seeking to work together under one potentially confusing brand. The likelihood of such a body having the streamlined decision making process and agility of a single entity such as Vodafone is limited. Already, last summer, T-Mobile and Orange fell out over who would control the business and collect the money in the UK, where both have networks. What the alliance will do for the participants is to ensure their survival as the European mobile market shakes down to a handful of players over the coming few years. Common wisdom is that, come 2006, most countries will have just Vodafone and their incumbent operator surviving, with a couple of larger bases such as the UK and Germany supporting three players, and the others swallowed up by larger companies. But the incumbent operators are not entirely secure either. They may, for the time being at least, be protected in their homelands by the parentage of the wired telco, but only through alliances like this, or full scale mergers, can they hope to play effectively outside their home country. The StarMap Alliance This fact was also recognised last October by MMO2, which formed its own European grouping, the StarMap Mobile Alliance, with Amena of Spain, One of Austria, Hungary's Pannon GSM, Sunrise of Switzerland, Norway's Telenor Mobile and Italy's Wind. There was much talk late last year that NTT DoCoMo or KPN would join the group - and even buy MMO2 - and would seek to base its strategy on DoCoMo's i-Mode content platform, which competes with Vodafone Live! This would have given the operators a common brand and a differentiator, particularly in the consumer market, but so far, despite rumours that DoCoMo is seeking to get out of its stake in Hutchison 3, nothing has materialised. This leaves StarMap in the uncomfortable position of being a band of also-rans, with all the problems of in-fighting and conflicting agendas of FreeMove, but without the purchasing clout. However, StarMap has been quicker to roll out actual services, including combined photomessaging. It focuses on roaming, cross-marketing and developing mobile services and covers a base of 40m subscribers in Europe - less than half Vodafone's European base of 90m. Alliances like the MMO2 group are not a sign of strength but of small players huddling together for protection. Roaming, unified billing and so on are becoming basics demanded by all cellphone users, not added value features that can be used to drive up ARPU. And unified brands take time and money to establish - Vodafone has not spent the bulk of its marketing budget on creating a single brand for nothing. It knows the power of a single, simple message and product set. FreeMove will be run as a non-profit subsidiary under Dutch law that will be managed equally by the four members' CEOs. De Benedetti will head the supervisory board for the next six months while Elis Bontempelli, CEO of TIM's Brazilian unit, will chair the management board. © Copyright 2004 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, 02 Apr 2004

Nildram unveils broadband home move details

Buckinghamshire-based ISP, Nildram, is introducing a new service to help make it easier for people take their broadband with them when they move house. The scheme is free of charge and applies to existing Nildram broadband customers only. It means punters can move their broadband account to a new address, with none of the charges, or downtime, that have applied in the past. For more info check out Nildram's site here. Other ISPs are expected to announce details of similar schemes as and when. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Apr 2004

EC: implement e-privacy directive – or else

The European Commission (EC) is threatening eight member states with legal action for not adopting new privacy rules for digital networks and services. The EC warned nine member states in November for not intergrating its Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications (e-Privacy Directive) into their national laws. The Directive introduces a "spam ban" throughout the EU and sets rules for installing cookies on users' personal computers. So far, only Sweden has notified the Commission of new spam legislation. Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Finland now have two months in which to respond. If they fail to comply, they could face action before the European Court of Justice. Enterprise and information society commissioner Erkki Liikanen said in a statement: "We are determined to keep up the pressure on those member states that have yet to implement the legislation they signed up in 2002. This Directive is vital to ensure that privacy and data protection are assured in an online world." ® Related stories EC seeks to stamp out Net child porn, racism and spam EC targets laggard states over e-privacy
Jan Libbenga, 02 Apr 2004

CDMA450 threatens universal GSM

The hegemony of GSM-based networks in Europe is under increasing threat as the established cellular operators struggle to roll out 3G and would-be competitors, including some wireline carriers, eye WiMAX as a route into the mobile data and VoIP sector. At least mobile WiMAX is still not off the blocks, but now there is a more immediate challenge from CDMA450, a version of CDMA that operates in the 450MHz band. This has scored several wins in Eastern Europe recently, because it offers operators a low-cost and efficient way to unwire larger regions, and provides some disruptive equipment makers with a chance to enter Europe cheaply. Although CDMA450 - which inhabits the spectrum formerly allocated to analogue Nordic Mobile Telephony systems - has more limited functionality than its cousins in the 850MHz, 1800/1900MHz and 2100MHz bands, its wide cell radius means that it requires up to 80 per cent fewer base stations to cover a given area, making it economical to deploy and particularly suited to scattered rural communities. These advantages have given it obvious appeal for operators seeking to unwire large and relatively undeveloped markets while keeping infrastructure costs low. Russia is a good example and one of the top three countries targeted by Nokia as sources of growth for its infrastructure and handset businesses in the next few years. But, while the Finnish giant is launching cut-price GSM gear for this region, some cellcos are looking to CDMA. Moscow Cellular Communications and Delta Telecom have both deployed CDMA450 networks from Lucent while UralWestcom is trialling Nortel kit. This has raised speculation that Nokia, for whom expansion in the overall CDMA space is a key priority for 2004, will itself start to offer CDMA450, especially as Scandinavian countries are now leading a tide of western European interest in the network. The market is getting crowded - the top four CDMA manufacturers (Lucent, Nortel, Motorola and Ericsson) have all launched gear, as have two Chinese players, Huawei and ZTE. Huawei sees CDMA450 as a relatively easy route into Europe as it seeks to establish itself in the west in many areas of networking. It has three customers for CDMA450 so far - BelCel of Belarus and JSC Uzbecktelecom in Uzbekistan and, most significantly, Portugal's Inquam, highlighting the potential for the network to penetrate western Europe via the smaller operators. This is also likely to happen in Scandinavia. The Swedish government is under pressure to auction 450MHz spectrum, in which several operators are interested in running CDMA services, either as a stopgap or alternative to W-CDMA, or as a fill-in technology for rural areas. Last September, Sweden's regulator, PTS, received 13 letters of interest in response to its proposal to set aside some or all of the 450MHz spectrum for mobile phone services. Tele2 is considering using CDMA2000 in the space, and Vodafone and Hi3G have also expressed interest. Hi3G is the only one of four 3G license holders currently offering W-CDMA services in Sweden. Tele2 said the bandwidth that could be made available could sit alongside higher-bandwidth 3G transmissions outside populated areas, for instance in the Swedish forests. Also pointing to the expansion of 450 out of a small niche is the roll-out of the first network using the EV-DO third generation version of CDMA in the 450MHz band. All previous deployments have used the current x1 RTT version. The EV-DO system has been supplied by Nortel to Czech carrier Eurotel Praha and will support data rates up to 500Kbps for a low capital expenditure compared to conventional CDMA or GSM. With its greater power, it solves some of the problems of thin spectrum spread that affect x1 RTT in the 450MHz spectrum and could be particularly valuable in rural regions where there is limited wireline broadband infrastructure. © Copyright 2004 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, 02 Apr 2004
SGI logo hardware close-up

IBM lights Candle

IT giant IBM announced this year that it had reached agreement to acquire Candle Corporation, a widely-recognised supplier of solutions that help customers develop, deploy and manage enterprise IT infrastructures,writes Bloor Research analyst Tony Lock. Following its foundation in 1976, the privately-held Candle has picked up over 3,000 customers spread around the globe that employ its tools in everyday IT operations. The company has developed a wide-ranging set of infrastructure management solutions that has come to be highly regarded. Its offerings for Mainframe and Data Centre management may first spring to mind, but Candle has quietly put together solutions that manage a wide range of platforms, including zSeries, Linux, UNIX and Windows systems, along with IBM's DB2, Lotus, Tivoli and WebSphere software products. The acquisition, the value of which has not been disclosed, is expected to close in second quarter of 2004 following customary regulatory approvals. At that time Candle and its staff will be integrated into IBM, primarily the IBM Software Group. However, Candle will not become another standalone group within IBM, as happened with Rational. Instead, it is likely that the various solutions and components software will be gradually incorporated into IBM's software offerings. Until the acquisition closes, IBM and Candle will continue to conduct business as separate companies. Candle's main products have addressed issues surrounding the automation of data centre management, the optimisation of application infrastructures and the delivery of real-time application analytics. The company's flagship offering, Omegamon, provides tools to assist in the end-to-end management of data centres and the IT Infrastructure, that help pinpoint and resolve problems with its root cause analysis facilities and to automate IT operations. PathWAI, Candle's second major product addresses the application infrastructure and provides facilities to help streamline the Web development life cycle and to speed problem isolation and resolution. In particular, Candle has developed it solutions to measure system performance from the perspective of the end user and then to dynamically configure the supporting application infrastructure to deliver optimal performance. This has allowed Candle to develop its offerings to support the management of the data centre in business terms to help ensure that the service levels delivered by IT meet the objectives of the business. In some respects, the acquisition is less surprising than many others as the two companies have worked closely ever since Candle was set up and neatly complements IBM's own management and integration solutions, namely Tivoli and WebSphere. Indeed, over time the merging of the management offerings of two organisations has the potential to produce a new generation of management tools closely aligned with real business requirements. The fact that Candle's staff is eminently skilled is a valuable additional bonus. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 02 Apr 2004

Sharp ships Linux Wi-Fi PDA in US

Sharp has launched the latest member of its Linux-based PDA family in the US, but European users are still being left in the cold. The Zaurus SL-6000 was announced in Japan last November. Yesterday, Sharp's US wing launched the PDA Stateside. Over there, it's being pitched firmly as a corporate "mobile data terminal", rather than the more mainstream markets it targeted with the SL-6000's predecessors, the SL-5500 and SL-5600. The new - well, four-month-old - model contains a 400MHz Intel XScale CPU backed by 64MB of SDRAM and 64MB of Flash ROM, but Sharp is particularly proud of the PDA's 4in 480 x 640 colour display. The SL-6000 also features integrated 802.11b wireless networking. Expansion comes courtesy of CompactFlash and SD Card slots, and Sharp said it will offer a cellular data card for the unit. However, the unit lacks Bluetooth support, unlike its Japanese counterpart. The corporate push includes bundling IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager software on the device and touting the handheld's Java support, its integrated slide-out micro QWERTY keyboard and the "stylish yet durable" rugged casing, designed to survive a drop from up to a meter above the ground. The Zaurus also includes IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Multimodal Environment, which allows end users to run voice command-based applications. The SL-6000 ships with a removable 1500mAh battery that can be augments with an optional battery-equipped expansion jacket. The device measures 15.8 x 8.0 x 2.0cm (6.3 x 3.2 x 0.8in) and weighs 262g (9.2oz). It will ship for $700, through "select" Sharp US' corporate resellers and VARs. A Sharp UK spokeswoman said there were still not plans to offer the new Zaurus over here. ® Related Stories Sharp confirms next-gen Linux PDA specs Sharp to plot worldwide Linux PDA plan Sharp cans Linux PDA in Europe
Tony Smith, 02 Apr 2004

Severed cable plunges NTL punters into digital darkness

Hundreds of NTL punters were without TV, phone and Internet services last night after cables were severed in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire. Punters in nearby Harlow and Sawbridgeworth were also among those plunged into digital darkness last night. According to NTL, a utility company cut through cables yesterday lunchtime. The incident wasn't reported immediately and because of a suspected gas leak, NTL engineers weren't able to begin repairing the damage until midnight. Services were up and running by around 7.30am this morning although there are still "small pockets" where services have yet to be restored. A spokeswoman said that "hundreds, not thousands" were wiped out by the incident. Separately, the cableco has declined to comment on reports that the cost of its 1MB service is to increase from £34.99 to £37.99 a month. Details of the price hike are expected to be announced on 7 April, according to postings on Cable Forum. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Apr 2004

Sony sues Kodak in digicam patents clash

Sony has counter-sued Eastman Kodak, claiming that the photography pioneer has infringed ten of its digital camera patents. The suit, filed with the US District Court of New Jersey this week, is a direct response to similar allegations made last month by Kodak against Sony. By an amazing coincidence, the number of patents Kodak claims Sony has wilfully violated totals ten. Both companies are now seeking damages from each other and injunctions blocking the sale of allegedly infringing products. The pair have been in talks for several years now, trying to thrash out a joint licensing agreement, but to no avail. Fed up, Kodak decided its only recourse lay through the courts. Now Sony shares that view. Sony is the market leader in digital still cameras, a position Kodak is keen to challenge by transferring its market leadership in film cameras to the new, digital medium. In January, Kodak announced it would this year cease to offer 35mm film cameras in the US and Europe. ® Related Stories Kodak sues Sony over digital camera patents Kodak to drop 35mm cameras in Europe, US
Tony Smith, 02 Apr 2004

Porn and the handset

Porn and mobile chat rooms are forecast as big money spinners for mobile phone operators. Faster download speeds and colour handsets are driving the market forward. But concerns about child safety have prompted mobile operators into action to prevent 'adult content' getting onto the wrong handsets. In London this week, two mobile operators joined in a debate of the joint code of practice issued by the industry in January, to prevent youngsters from accessing porn, gaming and other unsuitable content on their mobile phones. Other participants in the well-attended debate included adult content outfits, aggregators and child protection lobbyists. It was lively affair. Under the code of practice, people must prove their age before they gain access to 18-rated content. Chat rooms available to under 18s will also be moderated to prevent misuse by paedophiles. Parents can add filters to phones blocking access to sites deemed unsuitable. Mobile chat worries The key areas of concern that emerged during the debate were contact and chat, rather than under-age access to porn. Users stumbling upon inappropriate sites might be put off, but text environments can draw in youngsters. Members of the audience said operators should draw a line between chat rooms and adult dating services. Mobile environment needs safety by design Ruth Dixon, advisory services manager at Child Net, said the mobile industry has a chance to learn from the experience and mistakes made by fixed-line ISPs. And she welcomed the mobile operators' code of practice, while expressing concern about mobile location services, which could increase child protection risks. ISPs are not currently liable for the content their users download but Dixon noted that "legal liability and public expectation are two different things. In the mobile area, safety is expected as standard". People assume that they will pay for content for their mobile phones - unlike the Internet. This should make mobile content easier to police. John Maynard, MMS programme manager at Vodafone UK, commented that "operators have a liability for content that is monetised - we have become shopkeepers rather than just a payment agency or common carrier. People are less likely to distribute illegal content because the billing mechanism will catch up with them." Hardcore in Germany, Page 3 in UK Vodafone is introducing age verification (for porn, gambling and chat) and content filtering for WAP content from May. This is not censorship but sensible self-regulation, Maynard said. However, an audience member pointed out that Vodafone users in Germany would have access to far "harder" content than those in the UK. Maynard countered that the company is simply reflecting the standards and classification of content expected in different countries. Jonny Shipp, head of content control at O2, supported this argument. "Community standards differ," he said. Operators - not aggregators - are taking control of filtering. This filtering will be tied in with an age verification database. Vodafone won't expose this age verification database to partners because of the difficulty of getting consent from punters. "It's unrealistic to think people will say 'I'm an adult content user - please share my information with other people," Maynard said. Vodafone - like 02 - will provide adult services, chat and gambling through third parties, rather than its own brand. Both operators said they would take tough action against aggregators who violate the code of practice. ® Related stories No porn for kids, say mobile phone operators Content is king for 3G. But what content? Sex and gambling drive mobile content sales Text me, Sex me, my porn star baby Handheld porn comes closer Europeans indifferent to 3G Watch out! There's a chatroom paedophile about
John Leyden, 02 Apr 2004

Telecom World fair bids au revoir to pricey Geneva

The world's biggest telecom fair - Telecom World - is waving goodbye to Geneva. The next scheduled bash, in 2006, will take place in Hong Kong, The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) announced this week. ITU cites several reasons for the decision, including the growing importance of Asian markets for the telecom industry. However, the principal cause of the relocation seems to be that Geneva is getting too expensive. The city could never really cope with the growing amount of visitors, in particular during the booming 90s. Hotels asked outrageous prices for rooms during the event, and many exhibitors choose to stay in towns as far as away as Montreux. The last Telecom World held in 2003 attracted some 100,000 visitors. Geneva has always played host to the event since it began in 1971. Geneva cantonal officials now fear that town could stand to lose some SFr100m (€64m), Swiss Info reports. Other cities which had bid to host the tenth World Telecom fair included Milan, Istanbul and Algiers. ®
Jan Libbenga, 02 Apr 2004

England Rugby World Cup winning sod auctioned for charity

A piece of turf cut from the Telstra stadium in Sydney - where England won the Rugby World Cup last year - is being auction on eBay for charity. The 30cm square (that's a foot square in old money) of turf is being flogged to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. The auction kicked off today and runs until April 12. And just to make sure there's no jiggery-pokery, the sod comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by the Telstra stadium head groundsman, Graeme Logan. The charity auction coincides with the launch of World Championship Rugby, the official video game of the England Rugby Team. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Apr 2004

OD2 clocks up 1m downloads in Q1

UK-based digital music distributor OD2 sold one million downloads through its European retail partners during the first three months of 2004, the company claimed yesterday. That figure amounts to a 1000 per cent increase on the same period last year and a 100 per cent increase over Q4 2003, OD2 - short for On Demand Distribution - said. The growth is certainly impressive, but the base figures are less so. OD2 offers downloads through 21 online retailers in nine European territories. Most of its downloads come through subscription-based packages. Last August, it announced its an a la carte download service, but this didn't kick off until Coca-Cola launched its OD2-fed music download store, MyCokeMusic.com, in January this year. The big increase over Q4 2003 shows the impact of MyCokeMusic, and shows how more popular the pay-per-download model is over the old 'x tracks for y pounds per month' approach. But OD2's progress pales before the 50 million songs downloaded from Apple's iTunes Music Store in the US during the store's first 11 months online. Even Napster managed five million downloads during its first three months of operating as a sing seller. OD2 covers roughly the same population base as the US, and Europe lags behind the States in the degree to which its citizens download music from unlicensed P2P networks. Yet Europe - the UK in particular - consumes a significant portion of the world's musical output. OD2 isn't Europe's only digital music distributor - DX3 operates a similar subscription-based system too - but like its rival, its focus on distribution leaves it at the mercy of those of its retail partners who promote their offerings and the concept of legal downloads to the public. Certainly, few have done so to the extent that Apple and Napster have, and that shows in the relative download stats. The arrival of these companies in the UK and Europe will raise the profile of downloading as a whole, but consumers coming to the download sites for the first time are more likely to opt for the better known ones: Napster through its P2P notoriety and Apple because of the success of the iPod. Both use their own distribution systems. Virgin, which currently uses OD2 to provide downloads, will shortly be relaunching its service as Virgin Digital, though this is backed by US-based OD2 rival, MusicNet, which this week opened a UK/European office. The privately-held OD2 also said its total turnover for the first quarter was £1m ($1.84 million), with proceeds from downloads and licensing fees. If it wants to increase that it had better persuade HMV, Freeserve/Wanadoo, Tiscali, MTV Europe et al to start marketing digital music in earnest. ® Related Stories Wippit offers pay-by-SMS digital music downloads MusicNet to deliver music downloads to UKApple notches up 50m music downloads Napster song sales hit 5m Coke's music download site falls flat Microsoft to beat Apple iTunes Music Store to Europe
Tony Smith, 02 Apr 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Sun settles with MS for $2bn (ish)

Sun Microsystems and Microsoft are to stop sueing each other for ten years, in a settlement which will see Sun trouser almost $2bn. The bitter rivals have signed a technology collaboration pact to get their products to work better together; and they have settled all outstanding litigation. They have also come to terms on patents and "other issues". Microsoft is to pay $700m to Sun to settle anti-trust issues and $900m to resolve patent issues. It is also making an up-front payment of $350m to Sun to cover patent royalties for server products. Sun and Microsoft will pay royalties from here on in for use of each other's technology. Oh, and Microsoft will be nice to Java, in future. This is a huge win for Sun, which today announced that it is firing 3,300 staff to bring costs under control. Remember, just a week or so ago, the company issued a statement applauding the EC's Microsoft anti-trust ruling. But today, CEO Scott McNealy is magnanimous in victory. Here is the canned quote, bereft of a single soundbite, which goes to show just how important this deal is to the company. "This agreement will be of significant benefit to both Sun and Microsoft customers. It will stimulate new products, delivering great new choices for customers who want to combine server products from multiple vendors and achieve seamless computing in a heterogeneous computing environment. We look forward to this opportunity - it provides a framework for cooperation between Sun and Microsoft going forward." Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, makes a better fist of it - just: "Our companies will continue to compete hard, but this agreement creates a new basis for cooperation that will benefit the customers of both companies. This agreement recognizes that cutting edge R&D and intellectual property protection are the foundation for the growth and success of our industry. This is a positive step forward for both Sun and Microsoft, but the real winners are the customers and developers who rely on our products and innovations." Now for the agreement details: Technical Collaboration The Technical Collaboration Agreement will provide both companies with access to aspects of each other's server-based technology and will enable them to use this information to develop new server software products that will work better together. The cooperation will initially center on Windows Server and Windows Client, but will eventually include other important areas, including email and database software. For example, one of the important elements of large scale computing environments is software to manage user identities, authentication and authorization. As a result of this agreement, Sun and Microsoft engineers will cooperate to allow identity information to be easily shared between Microsoft Active Directory and the Sun Java System Identity Server, resulting in less complex and more secure computing environments. Microsoft Communications Protocol Program Sun has agreed to sign a license for the Windows desktop operating system communications protocols under Microsoft's Communications Protocol Program, established pursuant to Microsoft's consent decree and final judgment with the U.S. Department of Justice and 18 state attorneys general. Microsoft Support for Java The companies have agreed that Microsoft may continue to provide product support for the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine that customers have deployed in Microsoft's products. Windows Certification for Sun Server: Sun and Microsoft today are announcing Windows certification for Sun's Xeon servers. In addition, the Windows certification process for Sun's Opteron-based servers is moving forward. Future Collaboration for Java and .NET Sun and Microsoft have agreed that they will work together to improve technical collaboration between their Java and .NET technologies. Patents and Intellectual Property: The parties have agreed to a broad covenant not to sue with respect to all past patent infringement claims they may have against each other. The agreement also provides for potential future extensions of this type of covenant. The two companies have also agreed to embark on negotiations for a patent cross-license agreement between them. Legal Settlements: The two companies are settling and terminating their lawsuit in the United States. Sun is also satisfied that the agreements announced today satisfy the objectives it was pursuing in the EU actions pending against Microsoft. ® Related stories Sun waves goodbye to 3,300 staff MS gets EU fine, orders for server info and WMP-free Windows version Sun welcomes EC Microsoft ruling Microsoft, Sun, IBM and the war for government desktops MS says how it will ship Sun Java for XP, Longhorn
Drew Cullen, 02 Apr 2004

Sony talks up PS3

Sony is planning to diversify its PlayStation product family significantly in the coming years, with the company set to show a remodelled PS2 at E3 next month and multiple versions of the PS3 on the horizon. Speaking in an interview on an official Sony website - which has now been pulled, and was apparently made public in error - SCEE president David Reeves strongly suggested that the PSP handheld and PSX home media centre would not be the only new PlayStation hardware devices on show at E3. "Something we haven't talked about, is that we made a change from PlayStation to PSone," he explained, "so we may, in the course of time, make some cosmetic changes to PlayStation 2 and come out with something that's a little bit sexier, but probably no changes to specs or anything like that." The PStwo console is likely to follow in the footsteps of the PSone by being significantly smaller, and the redesign would allow Sony to maintain a healthy price point for the PS2 platform going forward. Packing the PS2 components into a small case wouldn't be difficult at this point - after all, the company has effectively done just that to create the handheld PSP. On the topic of the PlayStation 3, Reeves revealed that the company is considering launching multiple versions of the next-generation console, catering for a variety of different requirements and price points. A version of the console described as the "home server" version would follow in the footsteps of the PSX media system, with "all-singing, all dancing features with maybe a hard disk drive" and a retail price take of "whatever it might be, €600 or €700." However, for those just seeking a new games machine rather than a fully fledged home media server, the company could offer a stripped down system catering to the needs of those who "just [want] to pay 200 Euros for a new generation games machine," Reeves said. Reeves also confirmed that the company is investigating the possibility of electronic distribution of content over broadband for its next generation system - describing the pursuit of this as the "ultimate goal" for the PlayStation 3, and stating that Sony hopes to see always-on network access and viable broadband distribution in place when the PS3 becomes available in 2006. "It's going to have to be 2 or 3MB, something like that," he said, speaking about connection sizes - which are currently generally at 512k (0.5MB) in most UK broadband-enabled homes. "Ken [Kutaragi]'s even talking about 30MB! And when it gets to that, then it is broadband distribution, and people then can just download whatever game they want. But it's got to be secure, and that's where DNAS [Sony's online security protocol] comes in." Copyright © 2004,
gamesindustry.biz, 02 Apr 2004

PeopleSoft dumps poison pill rebate

PeopleSoft has allowed a pledge to refund its customers if it was acquired to expire. The company made the guarantee last June as part of its defensive strategy against Oracle's $9.4 billion hostile takeover bid. PeopleSoft's licensing-fee refund program would have kicked in if the company is purchased within two years and support reduced within four years. The potential liability under the scheme could be up to $1.5bn, enough to poison any deal. But with the close of PeopleSoft's first fiscal quarter this Wednesday, PeopleSoft has allowed the programme to expire. PeopleSoft spokesman Steve Swasey told CNETG it had always planned to drop the scheme this quarter. The company has reserved the right to reinstate the programme. ® Related stories Oracle chokes on PeopleSoft's poison pill PeopleSoft: new obstacles for Oracle US DoJ sues to block Oracle's $9.4bn PeopleSoft bid
John Leyden, 02 Apr 2004

Virtual CEO launches Vodafone 3G

Vodafone's new CEO, Bill Morrow, picked a riverside venue in London to launch the company's 3G phone service - data only - at prices per bit which are around 10 per cent of the costs of GPRS. He promised "typical" download speeds of 200 to 300 kilobits per second, with uploading at 64K for the time being. "But we anticipate new software will raise that to 128 kilobits within 18 months," he added. Morrow appeared electronically in front of an audience of daily newspaper journalists in the Savoy Hotel, on the Thames embankment, and explained that "you don't have to be there any more". But he was there: he had a video connection from a cubicle hidden in the business meeting room. The card will cost a maximum of £100 for the lowest-level data user, expecting to download only 5 meg a month, paying the lowest monthly tariff. A typical user, said Morrow, would probably download only about 25 megabytes monthly, with a tariff of £20 a month; the heaviest user would pay £85 a month for a maximum of 500 megabytes download. "The experience is similar to working with ADSL," said Morrow. "It's about seven times faster than the typical GPRS download." Within two months, Morrow said, Vodafone expected to have WiFi. There will be, he said, a three-mode card available. The current dual-mode card does 2.5G and 3G. "There will be no 'walled garden' for our users," Morrow promised. "We will allow voice over IP if your notebook uses it, and you'll have full access to the Internet." Demonstrated, the card was capable of doing streaming audio at CD quality speeds, bearing out Morrow's promise. However, with almost no other users of the service existing at present, most observers didn't find it surprising that the full bandwidth was available. What they will wait for, is what the system looks like when there are thousands of subscribers in a small area - which probably won't be for a few months. How many cards are available? "We aren't revealing that data," said Morrow. "We're rolling out in the UK first, with Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Japan; and next month, we'll add Germany, France, Ireland and Sweden." And phones? "We'll hope to announce a deal in the next two months," Morrow said. "But when the handset is announced, it will be possible to use the phone as a 3G modem for your notebook." © Newswireless.net
Guy Kewney, 02 Apr 2004

Oz music download sites declare price war

Australia's digital music market is getting aggressive. Distributor Destra today said it would cut the price of downloads to AUD0.89 ($0.65) per song during April. The cut is a direct response to national telco Telstra's announcement that it would this month offer songs at AUD0.99 ($0.76). The telco usually charges its BigPond broadband subscribers AUD1.49 a song, and customers of other ISPs AUD1.89, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Analysts reckon that both companies are running their April promotions at a loss, the paper says. Destra supplies digital downloads to Australian music retailers like HMV, Sanity and JB Hi-Fi. It currently offers some 200,000 tracks, but has pledged to increase that figure to 500,000 by the middle of the year. Both companies' April promotions come ahead of entry into the music download market of NineMSN, the joint venture between Microsoft and TV station National Nine Network. ® Related Stories OD2 clocks up 1m downloads in Q1 Wippit offers pay-by-SMS digital music downloads UK, Oz album sales rise despite 'Kazaa crisis' Kazaa and co 'not cause of music biz woes', say Profs Judge delays Kazaa case to clear up 'mess'
Tony Smith, 02 Apr 2004

Pipex acquires Host Europe for £31m

Pipex is to acquire Host Europe for £31.2m after making a recommended cash offer for the Web business. Broadband ISP, Pipex, and hosting outfit, Host Europe, reckon the deal is a neat match since more and more punters want telecom services from a single supplier. Said Pipex chairman, Peter Dubens: "This acquisition will expand our hosting services, further improve the mix of products that we currently offer our customers and increase our gross margin. "It is an acquisition which reinforces our position in the UK telecommunications sector." News of Pipex's latest acquisition comes on the same day the company reported its results for 2003. Turnover at the company jumped from £8.1m in 2002 to £35.2m last year, while pre-tax loss narrowed from £11.8m to £9.9m. With customer numbers rising from 25,000 to more than 150,000, Pipex reckon it's now established at the UK's fifth largest broadband ISP. Said Mr Dubens: "2003 was an extremely important year in the development of the company. "During this period revenues increased more than fourfold and the company moved from heavy losses to being month on month EBITDA positive by the year-end." Shares in Pipex were up a smidgen at 11.5p by early afternoon. ® Related Story Pipex in talks to buy Host Europe
Tim Richardson, 02 Apr 2004

Sun waves goodbye to 3,300 staff

Sun Microsystems is firing 3,300 staff to bring costs into line with turnover. This will be a bitter pill to swallow for a much restructured workforce which today saw its employer trouser $2bn in a peace settlement with Microsoft. Today's news accompanies a poor set of preliminary results for the enterprise systems business, which expects to lose between $200m and $260m in its third quarter ended 28 March, before the bad stuff is added. Throw in a non-cash charge of $350m for an increase in the valuation allowance for deferred tax assets, and $200m for workforce and property re-org costs and Q3 losses balloon to $750m-$810m on revenues of around $2.65bn. Sun expects to shell out $475m over several quarters (including this initial payment of $200m) to pay for this restructure. Sun made its first big round of redundancies in October 2001, when it axed 3,900 jobs, around nine per cent of the workforce at the time. On the bright side (for shareholders), positive cash flow from operations this quarter should top $300m and the company expects to end the quarter with $5.5bn in cash and marketable securities. So it's not at death's door just yet. According to Sun chief Scott McNealy, the firm has re-energised its product lines, sales channels and developer communities in the last three years. It has also made "substantial progress" in cutting cost and capacity. "Now is the appropriate time to take cost out and drive productivity improvements in anticipation of returning Sun to sustained profitability... Continued execution of our strategies will pay-off in revenue generation over the long-run. We are well positioned with the strongest product portfolio in years, a substantial cash and market position, strong channels and partners, and a growing pipeline of customers who are demanding more Sun products and solutions." Sun also announced today the promotion of software head Jonathan Schwartz to president and chief operating officer, effective immediately. ® Related stories Sun settles with MS for $2bn (ish) Sun shuts Bristol and Cambridge offices
Drew Cullen, 02 Apr 2004

Pierre Bonelli RIP

Pierre Bonelli, chairman and chief exec of French IT services firm Bull, died yesterday after a long illness. He was 64. Bonelli is credited with pulling Bull out of a deep financial crisis since joining the company in December 2001. On Wednesday Bull reported an annual profit of €4.1m, its first in five years. Last year Bull made a loss of € 548m. The company is waiting for Brussels to sanction a €517m bail-out from the French government. Bull said it would pursue this restructuring plan as well as other strategies mapped out by Bonelli. Gervais Pellissier moves up from chief operating officer and finance director to replace Bonelli. Prior to joining Bull, Bonelli has a long an distinguished career in the IT services and semiconductor industries. He began his career at Texas Instruments in 1966. Eleven years later, he moved on the Sema where he rose through the ranks to become chief exec within five years. He took Sema public in 1985, prior to leaving after its acquisition by the Schlumberger Group in 2001. He is survived by his wife, Harriet, three sons and a granddaughter. ® Related story Groupe Bull feels cold steel of EU probe
John Leyden, 02 Apr 2004

MSN UK shuts Member Directory over paedo fears

MSN UK has shut down its Members Directory over fears, presumably, that it could be used by paedophiles searching for young victims. This is our assumption, because MSN refused to discuss exactly why it had decided to close the directory which lists its members' details. Unlike Microsoft's very public closure of its chat rooms last September to protect children from paedophiles, its decision to close its Members Directory has been sneaked out under the carpet. A message on MSN's Web site reads: "As of 30 March 2004, MSN UK has temporarily closed access to the MSN Member Directory." Question is, why? We called Microsoft's press office which dusted down the following drawer statement: "While MSN Member Directory does not allow people to directly search for profiles of MSN Members by age for age groups under age 20, it does currently allow searching for MSN user profiles using other criteria, with results that may include people under 20. "While we have not received any reports of this capability being exploited, MSN has shut down the Member Directory in the UK as a preventative measure, based on that local market's request. "In the April timeframe, MSN will deliver a global solution that will prevent people from finding profiles of MSN members under age 18, unless they know their direct screen name. "This will help to further deliver a more secure online experience for children by ensuring that their details cannot be accessed in the MSN Member Directory." It sounds like MSN is concerned about a personal security loophole that exposes its younger users to unwelcome attention. That's just our guess, mind, since no one at MSN, in the UK or the States would comment. Indeed, no one was able to say what prompted the move, who had "requested" the closure and why. ® Related story MSN torches chatrooms MSN Chat: It's the child protection lobby wot's to blame - LINX MSN chat stand is 'nothing short of reckless' - Freeserve
Tim Richardson, 02 Apr 2004

Glastonbury online ticket sales fiasco

The annual stampede to buy tickets for the Glastonbury festival turned into a farce today as demand swamped the online sales site. Tickets were due to go on sale from the official site (GlastonburyFestivals.co.uk), via Aloud.com, from 20:00 BST last night (1 April). Instead of being able to buy tickets, would-be festival goers were confronted by a series of messages telling them the system was busy or unavailable. The problem has persisted into this afternoon (2 April). The back-end system at wayahead-secure.co.uk - a few Win 2K boxes running IIS, apparently - seems hopelessly overstretched. Reader Oliver Denton's experiences are typical. "Last night I tried to buy tickets for the Glastonbury festival online, and after 4 hours of either 'this service is very busy, please try again later' and straight browser errors (no pretty error message) I went to bed angry," he writes. "On the odd occasion I did get through to the .asp credit card processing script, however it seemed that so many other people were using this too that it's reaction time was akin to that of Ben Johnson before he started taking steroids." Phone lines (allegedly available on 0870 830 2004) were jammed solid too. Have these people learned nothing from the experience of the Census site, the launch of Nectar and the communications meltdown that accompanied the sale of tickets for the French World Cup? Apparently not, because Glastonbury Festival actually has the gall to boast that "over two million unique user hits between 7pm and 8pm last night - and that was before the tickets went on sale! At one minute past eight over 300,000 hit the website and that level was sustained until well after 2.00am." Organisers claim tickets are been sold online, albeit slowly. According to latest available update, 70 per cent of tickets have been sold. Last year, tickets sold out within 24 hours. It's a perfect recipe for touts. Indeed one joker has already begun punting tickets on eBay. ® Related stories Technical hitch hits World Cup web sales Nectar suspends Web registrations 1901 Census farce runs and runs 1901 Census available online for testing
John Leyden, 02 Apr 2004

IBM's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

IBM yesterday held the Power Everywhere event in New York, which was a bit of a debutante ball for the upcoming Power5 chip and its Squadron line servers. What Big Blue really wanted to talk about, though, was opening up the Power architecture in such a way as to mimic the open source development methodology that is increasingly popular for standard software components... By embracing this approach, IBM hopes to make its Power line of processors pervasive because it will allow a whole ecosystem of Power-related hardware and software to emerge in a way that has not been possible as IBM and Motorola have controlled the Power architecture. IBM's top brass from its server and technology groups were very careful to try to avoid the implication that Big Blue is going to try to take Intel head-on in the processor racket. If this hesitancy sounds like a blast from the past, it is, just like the thumping rhythm of "The Power" by Snap was at the event yesterday. IBM vs Intel In February 1990, when IBM debuted the first Power RISC processor for its Unix workstation and server, it was an also-ran and a bit of a joke in the Unix market. And when the PowerPC alliance was formed between IBM, Motorola, and Apple in October 1991 to create a single PowerPC chip family that could run Unix, Windows, MacOS, and OS/400, the company allowed everyone else to figure out that they wanted to take on Intel, but they never really said it. IBM's increasingly aggressive moves into the RISC/Unix market in the past 14 years have allowed it to catch up to rivals, putting it solidly in a three-way race with Unix vendors Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems. But those moved haven't really taken Intel down many pegs. Both IBM and Motorola have carved a solid piece of market share out of the embedded processor market with their respective PowerPC designs because, to put it bluntly, the PowerPC designs that the two have for the embedded market can do the same work as alternatives with roughly half the clock speed and a lot lower power consumption. Neither company may have been particularly good at fostering a broad ecosystem for Power processors, but the 32-bit and 64-bit designs are solid and that is why Sony, Nintendo, Toshiba, Samsung, Microsoft, and dozens of other companies are using Power processors in their products. Broad ambitions IBM wants more than this. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy at IBM, hit the nail on the head when he described what IBM was after when he explained that IBM wanted to have a diverse range of Power processors in markets ranging from embedded controllers to handhelds and cell phones to desktops, servers, and supercomputers, because this was the only way to spread development and manufacturing costs around a large number of manufactured processors. Moreover, the expertise of designers in one area and the technologies they develop - such as with high-end server processors - can be repurposed in other designs, such as for embedded devices. In IBM's view, it will take very large and powerful servers - what IBM usually calls deep computing in homage to the Deep Blue chess-playing Unix supercomputer - to field the requests of billions of connected devices running all kinds of devices, which IBM calls pervasive computing. While IBM knows it cannot have a Power processor in every device along that spectrum, it wants its fair share, and now, after its experience with Java and Linux, it wants to make the Power processor family an open standard that is easy to license and adapt for myriad uses. The cost of Power When you realize that IBM spent $2.5 billion to create the 300mm chip factory in East Fishkill, New York, where it makes its latest Power processors, and spent $500 million to design the Power4 and Power4+ processors, it doesn't take any more numbers to realize that IBM does not want to shoulder the burden of continuing Power development alone. This is why IBM is proposing a much broader licensing structure for its Power cores and related technologies, why it will be providing partners and universities with free software and design services relating to the Power chips, and why it will allow other chip makers to license its chip making technologies and become second sources of Power chip fabrication. Nick Donofrio, senior vice president of technology and manufacturing at IBM, and the guy who brought the RS/6000 Unix servers and workstations to market in 1990, said IBM was exploring a community approach, like that of Java and Linux, to the design of the Power processors themselves. He explained why IBM would do this. "The architecture is no longer the center of innovation," he said. IBM's former chairman, Louis Gerstner, rammed that same idea about operating systems into the heads of its executives and eventually IBM embraced Linux with all of its heart. The truth, though, is more like this: If Linux takes off, operating systems can no longer be control points except where vendor lock-in on applications on specific proprietary platforms is strong. Donofrio was adamant that the chip is no longer the issue, and that IBM was not gunning for Intel. "We don't compete with Intel," Donofrio said. "We are system-level people and system-level thinkers." The real value of the Power chip was in the systems and devices that use it, and the innovation that companies other than IBM can add to what IBM is doing with its own systems. Opening up development IBM was quite vague on how this Power chip community might work, but the company was clear about one thing - it would absolutely retain control over the Power instruction set to ensure that applications would remain compatible across the wide range of 32-bit and 64-bit Power processors. If this sounds a bit like the Java Community Process (JCP) - which IBM grumbles about because Sun Microsystems Inc has not relinquished control of Java since it controls the JCP - then you are hearing correctly. And while Linux is open source, so anyone can make changes to it, the core kernel design is a meritocracy controlled by the Open Source Development Labs, which listens very closely to whatever opinions Linus Torvalds has. Neither Java nor Linux are completely open, and an "open chip" model for the Power processor can't be either. In this regard, the open Power chip - if this idea actually takes off - will more closely resemble the open systems Unix market, with closed source and open specifications licensed for money, than it will the open source Linux market, where code is open and vendors have to make their money integrating and providing service to the software stack. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related research: Datamonitor, "The IBM Corporation" (RBTC0058)
Datamonitor, 02 Apr 2004