2nd > July > 2004 Archive

Microsoft squares Minnesota class action

Microsoft is to pay out up to $241m to settle a class action suit in Minnesota. The software vendor admits to no wrongdoing, but the deal mean that it escapes its first-ever state trial over business practices. The Minnesota lawyers will trouser up to $59.4m, the class members up to $174.5m in computer equipment vouchers, and for good measure, Microsoft is doling out $2.5m in cash and $2.5m in vouchers to Minnesota University's Institute of Technology, and $2.5m to the Minnesota Legal Aid Society. Microsoft lawyers have had a busy week. Yesterday, they also settled an overcharging class action suit with Vermont, distributing up to $9.7m in computer equipment vouchers, joining deals struck earlier in the week with Massachusetts, South Dakota and Arizona. It ain't over until it's over On Wednesday, Microsoft won a crucial victory, with the US Court of Appeals rejecting an application by the state of Massachusetts and two US industry lobby groups to overturn the anti-trust settlement struck in 2002 with the Department of Justice. The decision means that the DoJ settlement is final - there is no recourse to another appeal. In April, Microsoft took Sun out of the anti-trust loop in a $2bn-ish deal. This leaves Microsoft lawyers with only two big cases to fight: the appeals process against the EC's anti-trust sanctions, and the California action with Real Networks, which is sueing the company for $1bn Yesterday, it emerged that Microsoft had paid the EC fine - €497m - into an escrow account. Last weekend the EC suspended the more meaningful penalty - what's half a billion euros, after all, to Microsoft? - forcing the company to decouple Media Player from Windows. A lasting court-proof resolution is expected in, oh, three years, or so. This slows down the case nicely for Microsoft. Its flurry of recent activity shows that it wants to clear the decks of legal cases, but the EC ruling strikes too deeply into the heart of Microsoft for it to bow down without a fight. The lengthy appeal should ensure that decoupling is defanged. Real time It doesn't look like Real is going away any time soon, either. Here is a statement the company sent us, following Microsoft's appeals win: "The U.S. courts and the European Commission have each concluded that Microsoft's unlawful abuse of its operating system monopoly has restricted competition, stifled innovation and limited consumer choice. Unfortunately, the settlement approved today by the court has done little to restore competition in the browser and operating system markets. As recognized by the European Commission, Microsoft has used the same unlawful tactics to limit competition, innovation and consumer choice in other critical technologies, including the growing field of digital media. We will continue to vigorously pursue our case in the U.S. district court in California to obtain injunctive relief sufficient to stop Microsoft's predatory conduct and secure compensation for the harm Microsoft has caused. In the meantime, we will continue to compete against Microsoft's products by innovating, diversifying our business and giving consumers and businesses real choices in digital media." ® Related stories US court waves through Microsoft DoJ settlement EC suspends Microsoft sanctions Sun settles with MS for $2bn (ish) Real sues Microsoft, seeks $1bn damages Why Real sued Microsoft
Drew Cullen, 02 Jul 2004

Chip biz breaks quarterly fab spend record

Chip vendors are banking on the recovery in the world semiconductor market - literally. During Q2 2004, the industry invested a record $18.4bn in new plant, market watcher Strategic Marketing Associates (SMA) said yesterday. Construction commenced on some 15 fabs in Q2, mainly in Japan, South Korea, the US and Ireland. Around 46 per cent of the total - $8.4bn - is being invested in Japan as Elpida, Fujitsu, Matsushita, NEC and Toshiba put spade to earth for their 300mm wafer fab facilities. Samsung began work on three plants in South Korea, together totalling $3.4bn of investment, while Intel launched a $2.25bn building programme that will see the expansion of fabs in the US and at its Leixlip, Ireland facility, which is being upgraded to 90nm. Together, these and other fabs on which work began in Q2 will yield some 500,000 wafer starts a month upon completion and the commencement of volume output. That, says SMA, is the same capacity that all of 2003's new fabs are planned to provide. Indeed, the $25bn invested in new plant during Q1 and Q2 2004 is more than that invested in the whole of 2003. The most the semiconductor industry has invested in a single year is the $38bn it spent in 2000. SMA wasn't willing to hazard a guess as to whether 2004 will exceed that record figure. Construction spending started to ramp in Q4 2003 and since then $35bn has been invested in new plant. That's still some way from the 1991-2001 total of $58bn, but this time round the investment ramp rate is much higher. ® Related stories STMicro confirms Hynix JV talks Trade body talks up global chip sales Intel 'spends $500-700m' on first 65nm kit UMC ramps 90nm process to volume output EC to fund Euro 45nm process with €24m grant Samsung joins IBM 65nm R&D team Infineon preps €120m R&D fab expansion plan EU approves 545m grants for AMD Dresden
Tony Smith, 02 Jul 2004

Post Office to offer 'me too' telco service

The Post Office is joining the growing list of companies looking to offer telecoms services to residential customers. Twenty years after the Post Office's former telephone business (now BT) was privatised, it's hooking up with Cable & Wireless to provide a fixed-line service. The "HomePhone" service is due to be trialled at the end of the year before a full commercial launch at the beginning of 2005. The service is based on Carrier Pre Selection (CPS), enabling punters to switch telco provider without the need for number prefixes or dialler boxes. The Post Office claims that its "trusted" brand and network of 16,000 branches will help it attract at least a million punters by 2010. Post Office chief exec David Mills said: "We have one of the most trusted, credible and recognised brands in the country. We'll be building on this to launch our Post Office HomePhone service which will be amongst the most competitive in the marketplace." A BT spokesman said the company had no plans to start up a letter and parcel delivery service, although he conceded that it did handle email. ® Related stories Tele2 unveils UK phone service BT loses 2m punters BT dominance unacceptable , say MPs Carphone Warehouse in free call offer
Tim Richardson, 02 Jul 2004

Telecom Italia slammed for spam hypocrisy

Telcom Italia Mobile has been accused of double standards after taking anti-spam action against Vodafone. TIM began blocking SMS messages from Vodafone customers last week after identifying Vodafone as the source of numerous text message spam messages sent to its subscribers. But veteran spam fighter Steve Linford, of the Spamhaus Project, says TIM is being hypocritical. TIM is owned by Telecom Italia S.p.A. which also runs interbusiness.it, a frequent source of complaints to Spamhaus. Linford said: "interbusiness.it is Europe's spammiest ISP and one which we, as well as Italy's other main networks and many US networks, consider to be Europe's worst spam problem." The ISP records an impressive ninth place in Spamhaus's "Top 10 World Worst Spam ISPs" for May 2004 (chart published at the bottom of our home page, www.spamhaus.org). "They're the only European ISP to ever make our chart. In fact it has such a bad spam reputation that there's even a blacklist just for it: interbusiness.blackholes.us," Linford said. "Basically, Vodafone users are probably receiving inordinately far more spam from interbusiness.it, AKA Telecom Italia S.p.A., than the other way round. ® Related stories Italian gov text spams entire country Mobile spam complaints rocket Russia fines text hack spammer Junk mail host nations named and shamed Vodafone penetrates Italian 3G market
John Leyden, 02 Jul 2004

Intel: WiMAX in notebooks by 2006

Intel has reiterated its forecast that notebooks will begin to incorporate WiMAX wireless broadband technology during 2006. Speaking to reporters in Taipei during the launch of a antenna lab foundation programme, Lonnie McAlister, a product manager with Intel's Wireless Networking Group, also said the chip giant expects WiMAX take-up grow more quickly than did demand for Wi-Fi. Intel outlined its vision for WiMAX earlier this year at its Developer Forum. Next year will see the installation of broadband provider equipment and kit on the outside of customers' premises, the company believes. During the second half of the year, that end-user equipment will move indoors, with transceivers moving within other systems - notebooks, and possibly even PDAs and mobile phones - sometime in 2006. Intel is a major proponent of WiMAX, not only as a maker of communications silicon, but because anything that encourages consumers and business to buy more computing devices based on Intel processors is a good thing, in its opinion. More philanthropically, the company believes WiMAX is essential to getting broadband Internet access to that majority of the world's population that lives too far from cable TV or digital phone exchanges - or even a decent fixed-line telecoms infrastructure of any kind. Indeed, McAlister said that the standard remains the best solution for wireless networks in China, particularly in remote areas. Intel has already won deals to roll out WiMAX in two Chinese cities. Earlier this year, Intel partnered with Proxim and Alcatel to develop WiMAX reference kit and end-user products. ® Related stories Intel invests in smart antennae to drive Wi-Fi, WiMAX Proxim, Intel to develop WiMax reference kit Intel recruits Alcatel to co-develop WiMAX kit Wireline operators flock to WiMAX BT joins WiMAX standards group WiMAX approaches tipping point with new specs and carrier support WiMAX trials speed up
Tony Smith, 02 Jul 2004

Compaq tunes into MP3

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... Back in 1999, Compaq supremo Michael Capellas said that "The Internet will demand different types of devices to service different purposes". He was talking about cool kit like digital music players, and he was right: Compaq tunes into MP3 By Tony Smith Published Friday 2nd June 2000 16:09 GMT Compaq will hop onto the MP3 bandwagon later this year courtesy of CEO Michael "Groovin'" Capellas's pet project: the Big Q's consumer division. "We're coming out with MP3 players. The Internet will [demand] different types of devices to service different purposes," he told a gathering at Santa Clara, California's Churchill Club, according to CNET. That means kit like digital music players and Net access set-tops - both products Compaq's consumer division has been working on since its formation in July 1999, not long after Capellas joined the company. "It is time to take these beige boxes and transform them into interesting access devices," he added. It's also time to take a stand against the controversial MP3 sharing software, Napster, said Capellas: "It will ultimately be destructive if we don't take a stand." The Big Q Capo's concern here is the ease with which Napster can be used to distribute unauthorised copies of mus#ic and other intellectual property, as demonstrated by the open source Napster knock-off Gnutella, which he didn't appear to mention. Perhaps he hasn't heard of it. Capellas didn't go into much detail about either the MP3 player or Compaq's set-top box, so it will be interesting to see when - and if - the company does indeed make a foray into the consumer electronics space. Comdex launch in time for Christmas, anyone? After the speech, Churchill Club members boogied away the night in single-minded pursuit of the groove. As history records, HP swallowed Compaq in 2002 after much legal wrangling, but retained the brand name. Later that year - having pocketed a cool $14.4m from the deal - Capellas jumped ship to join, er, Worldcom. The bankrupt giant was able to rustle up enough cash to promise Capellas a $2m sign-up fee plus first-year salary of $3m - something which raised a few eyebrows at the time. Still, men of vision demand a salary to match their farsightedness. In March, we reported that "Apple posts Compaq iTunes as HP music store goes live". This was followed by the news that HP will imminently punt an HP-branded iPod. Rival Dell, meanwhile, is offering a $100 trade-in to customers who ditch their iPod in favour of the company's Digital Jukebox MP3 players. The age of the digital music player is truly upon us. As for the "interesting" set-top box, well, it's early days.... ®
Team Register, 02 Jul 2004

MSN search finds time loop

LettersLetters Larry taking the stand in the anti-trust trial was bound to attract some comments. Some people wanted to give Larry some advice. Others were more interested in his facial hair. Yes, you read that right.. Oracle could, in theory, hurt Peoplesoft just as handily as purchasing them directly if they purchased BEA Systems. Much of the processes that the Peoplesoft platforms runs on uses systems owned and maintained by BEA. If Ellison wants to just be a thorn in Conway's side, I think this would be a good way to go. -- Matthew And while it p*ss*s me off, it won't count in the Judge's decision ... Oracle has stated that it plans to kill off Peoplesoft's products, letting them just wither. If that's not reducing competition, then I don't know what is! Also, it is acting clearly contrary to the consumers' interests, in that the product they have chosen as best meeting their needs is being taken away from them. Okay, I'm not in that position, but if I were a Peoplesoft customer and Oracle took over, I'd be inclined to blacklist Oracle and tell their salespeople "we know we've got to migrate, but don't bother calling. You're not going to get ANY business from us". It minds one of the CA days, when companies would migrate away from CA products because they didn't like the *company*, only for CA to take over the company they'd moved to ... Cheers, Wol I have been tyring to find out for a year now why the hell Larry Ellison has no eyebrows? Have a look at the cover of Oracle magazine - January/February 2002... a perfect shot of this Larry's face - minus the eyebrows. I ask just about every Oracle consultant that comes into the office - why he has no eyebrows - none of them know. I even emailed Larry to ask - but he didnt reply :(. I am from Australia and maybe this "fashion trend" hasnt caught on here yet, as it has in the US? I read the article on your website "Top IT execs look like sh!t" and even Ms Sherry Maysonave failed to notice his absence of eyebrows. If you wonderful people at "The Register" could find this out for me and the team of DBA's I work with would be ever so grateful! Thanks! Liz Well, Liz, we've no idea. We've spent some time examining pictures and we don't seem to be able to find them either. Maybe the answer is in a database somewhere... There seems to be a fair amount of scepticism out there about Orange's 3G launch. One to watch, perhaps: Lucy I hope they do something about their billing for data which in the 2.5G product is simply a joke. I've changed the tariff I use for GPRS a couple of times and it seems to throw a spanner in the works for a couple of months thereafter. Last month they charged me for 14MB, at some insane rate per MB, that I was certain I hadn't used. When I challenged them to prove that I'd used it they acknowledged that their records didn't allow them to do this and simply refunded the money (or said they would -- we'll see when the bill arrives this month). Moral of story: check your bill and be sure to complain if necessary. I think they and the WiFi folks have got their pricing all wrong. It takes you back to the days when we were paying for the internet by the minute (on 9600 baud modems!) and hanging up at the earliest possible second for fear of the BT bill. That's no way to promote rapid take-up. Best John Whitehead I'll not get too excited about Orange releasing a 3G data card on the 19th July if that's all right. They "launched" the Nokia 6230 a month ago, and I still haven't managed to upgrade to one, despite repeatedly phoning Orange, checking their website (where there still not listed for upgraders), trying two different Orange shops, and an independent Orange retailer. Whenever you speak to any of them, they tell you they'll be avialable on Tuesday, or next week or whatever. Each time they seem to get 2 or 3 at a go. Last time I checked my local Orange store, they had 4 in, and a waiting list with over 30 people. They told me it wasn't even worth my while adding my name to the waiting list, as they thought it would take them a month or so to clear it, and they should be available more widely by then anyway! How many 3G data cards will be available at launch for the UK? Three, maybe four? Graeme Life is hard on the cutting edge... Microsoft announced the launch of its new search service this week. Said it invested $100m in it. That's quite a lot of money for something that isn't sure of the date: Drew, fine reporting, I have to say, but (there is always a but) I wish you had mentioned some of the problems with this new opening page for msn search, especially regarding accessibility (check out the site with javascript disabled in your browser). I am not sure how this page complies with the accessibility guidelines, which as far as I know have become quite an important thing in the UK. cheers, peter zsoldos Hi Drew, I'm astonished Microsoft claim to have invested $100m in their new search service; it patently doesn't work. If I worked on it I'd be very embarrassed. Take the query "Cambridge Community Circus" - no results. Try "Cambridge Circus" though, and you get relevant results, including pages titled "Cambridge Community Circus" - after a wait. This was the first query I tried and I gave up shortly after that. The search engine shouldn't have been released in its current state. Over five years ago we built a search engine indexing around half the number of pages Microsoft claim to, running on 30 standard Intel boxes, which gave far more relevant results in under a second even under heavy load (you might find this in your archive as 'Webtop'). Of course, this was running on Linux... Best regards, Charlie Hull Hi I went to the MSN web search and searched for "Google"... first result is a bit obvious but can you explain the second result returned? Doesn't seem to mention Google anywhere.. in fact it's a catalogue of antique furniture in French. Their "relevancy" might still need a bit of a tweak. Jim MSN may have updated their search page but I think I have found an interesting glitch! By hitting refresh a few times I have noticed that the date in the top right changes to 1 July and 30 June seemingly at random - every so often it displays the correct date (2 July). Bizarre! Phil Cooling Indeed. Next up, you may have pondered the eternal question "Where does all this spam come from, and what the hell is it for?" Pure, cold logic and reasoning, spurred by a recent spam survey have finally yielded the answer: Products offered by unsolicited bulk email are worthless. Therefore unsolicited bulk email has another purpose. International terrorist groups use bulk email and bulk email providers to send encoded messages to their membership. Sent to millions and intended for only a few, groups like Al Qaeda steal bandwidth and storage to communicate. Countries that assist or overlook the operations of bulk emailers are effectively complicit in this agency of international banditry. Only by agressively terminating the access and mail accounts of the bulk email houses will this avenue of evil be closed. GreyBeaver We all feel better now, don't you? What do you mean, "No"? On to much more important matters now: nudity, and the lack (or even lack of lack, we're confused) thereof. There is a reason why the .nu domain is used for porn... In Swedish, "nu" means "now" in English. Whish means that you can almost take any dirty Swedish word, and make it into a .nu URL. Like: www.porr.nu (Swedish "porr" = English "porn"). There are other more innocent sites like: www.datum.nu (Swedish "datum" = English "date" (time date, not dating) ). /Micael Hildenborg. "No nudes on .nu: official" I note that there also are no nudes on nu.de. Scot Lester remarks: Well, they missed a trick there... No nudes on .nu: official What's so hard about: http://www.google.com/search?q=the+site%3A.nu ->Results 1 - 10 of about 1,900,000 for the site:.nu or http://www.google.com/search?&q=porn+site%3A.nu ->Results 1 - 10 of about 247,000 for porn site:.nu gustavio81 Sigh. Another case of not reading the whole article. May we quote? Sadly, neither this fiscal firewall nor "aggressive policies against pornography" appear to have stopped smutmongers peddling their wares from .nu. Indeed, a quick Google search reveals plenty of .nu sites offering a range of delights for the discerning punter. Moving swiftly on... We also wrote about the Linux servers IBM is using to underpin its support of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. One small problem: Thanks for your good article about linux servers holding the Wimbledon website together. It seems that they still dont get it though. The website only supports MS browsers. I cant see the live scores page cos Im running mozilla on redhat 9. If I try to look at the live scores i get sent to this error page A touch of irony perhaps? Cheers, John Finally, a quick visit to blogland, beloved and behated [Calm down - Ed] in equal measure by our readers, and now a habit taken up by Sun executives: The theory states that 80 percent of everything is (among other things) crap. To be charitable to the blog community, we can hypothesize that 20% of blogging activity is worth reading. Since most of us have to work for a living, how much useless crap do we have to trawl through to find that worhtwhile 20% (which is more like 0.01% based on my personal experience)? How much time can we spare for this, and how much of this time would our employers be willing to pay for? Blogging is one's own personal echo chamber. It is the best technology-enabled ego-stroke available today. Until it engages in dialogue with the outside world, and abandons the monologue ("talk to yourself, will you?"), it will remain the intellectual autoeroticism it has become (hello, Sun, Microsoft, can you hear me?). If a diary is published online due to exhibitionist impulse, will anyone read it (substitute "tree", "forest", "no one there", "make a sound" as appropriate)? Regards, Name and address withheld Well, that made perfect sense to us. No, really. Although it does make us wonder if there ought to be a sobriety limit for sensible use of the Net. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Jul 2004

Vulture fan spotted in Aberystwyth

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion We're obliged to reader Mark Nash who as just sent us the following concrete evidence that El Reg apparel is the must-have kit for the Welsh Summer season. The picture was captured in Aberystwyth while said correspondent was out and about during a day's training in that fine seaside town: And we say - good on yer, love. In fact, so impressed are we at this bit of flag-flying that if the subject of this snap wants to drop us a line, we'll give her a complete Hacker package. Keep up the good work. ®
Cash'n'Carrion, 02 Jul 2004
Cat 5 cable

Maxtor to axe 400 workers

Hard drive maker Maxtor today announced that its second fiscal quarter results will be "extremely disappointing", with the company set to become a casualty of pricing warfare. In response, it is axeing 400-500 workers worldwide - up to 3.7 per cent of its 13,500 staff. Maxtor competitor Seagate has already announced the loss of 3000 jobs, for similar reasons. Maxtor is set to publish its Q2 2004 figures on 21 July, but it's already warning that the three months to 26 June will produce a GAAP loss of $20-30m (between eight and 12 cents a share). That contrasts with Q1's GAAP income of $9.2m (four cents a share) and Q2 2003's figure, $6.2m (three cents a share). The Q2 2004 is even worse than it sounds - had the hard drive maker not gained $24.8m through its legal battle with Philips, it would have lost $40-50m (16-20 cents a share). At the heart of the matter are reduced quarterly sales. Q2 revenues will total $820-825m on the back of 11.6m units shipped. This time last year, the company achieved sales of $910.9m, shipping 12.2m hard drive products. During Q1, Maxtor shopped 13.6m hard drives, yielding revenues in excess of $1bn. Q2 2004's figure represents a sequential and year-on-year decline of up to 19.6 per cent and ten per cent, respectively. Unit shipments fell 4.9 per cent and 14.7 per cent, respectively - and ten per cent below company forecasts. According to Maxtor, the quarter's average selling prices are likely to come to $71, down $4 on Q1 and well below what the company had forecast. Maxtor president and CEO Paul Tufano vowed to continue cutting costs in the face of declining prices. The redundancies he announced will save the company $60-80m, the company said. The restructure will take place mostly in Q3 and finishes in Q4. ® Related stories Seagate axes thousands Seagate thins product line in black ink bid Western Digital sues Cornice Seagate gets litigious with small hard drive rival
Tony Smith, 02 Jul 2004

China snoops on text messages

China has extended its hard-line stand against human rights and personal freedom by introducing new rules to monitor and censor the use of text messages. According to state media, by way of AFP, the "Self-Discipline Standards on Content in Mobile Short Messaging Services" have been brought in to tackle porn, fraud and other dodgy content. But critics claim this is yet another move by Chinese authorities to clampdown on personal freedoms. They claim that the idea that the new rules will be used to tackle mobile phone fraud is just a smokescreen. Instead, they insist that the surveillance technology will be used to identify "reactionary" texters and pinpoint those spreading "false political rumours" and "reactionary remarks". Condemning the move media rights group, Reporters Without Borders, said: "The Chinese authorities are making ever greater use of new technology to control the circulation of news and information. In the past months we have been witnessing a real downturn in press freedom particularly on the Internet. The international community should react against this hardening by the Chinese regime." According to information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, China has 2,800 SMS surveillance centres. During the SARS epidemic in May 2003, these snooping centres worked flat out to monitor text messages sent about SARS. Around a dozen people were arrested as a result for having spread "false rumours" through their mobile phones, said the media rights group. Last month, Chinese websites, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other Internet-related organisations across the country were "invited" to sign a self-discipline pact drawn up by the Beijing-based China Internet Association to prevent the spread of anti-government information, porn and anything else that might threaten "national security (and) social stability". ® Related stories China urges ISPs to sign 'self-disciplinary' pact Chinese cyber-dissident gets four years' house arrest China goes large for mobile phones Chinese government censors online games
Tim Richardson, 02 Jul 2004

Apple to ship next-gen iMac in September

AnalysisAnalysis Apple has announced an major iMac update... sort of. It's said when they will arrive - September - but nothing more about them than that. The company's US and UK online AppleStores both today state that they are no longer taking iMac orders pending the upcoming announcement of a new line of consumer desktops which will become available in September. "We planned to have our next generation iMac ready by the time the inventory of current iMacs runs out in the next few weeks," the site confesses, "but our planning was obviously less than perfect." Rumours that Apple is preparing a new iMac, possibly a G5 model, surfaced a few weeks ago, with the inevitable assumption being made that CEO Steve Jobs would unveil the machine at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which took place this week. A number of Wall Street analysts even stuck their necks out and forecast that that's exactly what Jobs would do - even though Apple had not revealed any intention to broadcast his keynote, which they surely would have done had the company decided to make such an important announcement. Indeed, that's what happened at last year's WWDC, when Jobs unveiled the Power Mac G5 and its 64-bit PowerPC 970 processor. Just ahead of Monday, 28 June's keynote, website Think Secret noted that its sources said there would be no iMac introduction at WWDC. Why? "June is too early to roll out a consumer product that needs just the right amount of momentum entering the holiday buying season." And Apple is only just starting to build this product in Asia, apparently. That's sound logic on Apple's part - but why now make a statement that casts doubt on the company's inventory management abilities, skills which it has often touted in the past? With a new iMac on the way and summer upon us, sales of the original are bound to dip, and the last thing the company wants on its hands come September are heaps of old machines it can't get rid of because everyone wants the new one. As it stands, it's forsaking only two months of iMac revenues - not to mention the cost of producing two months' worth of old iMacs - and instead building up considerable interest in as-yet-unannounced product. Yes, there's the inevitable 'back to school' sales period, but presumably Apple believes it has more than enough eMac desktops and iBook laptops to cover that, the former being of particular interest to buyers looking for a kids' machine and fearing the angle-poise iMac might be insufficiently robust. Apple may have had its hand forced in all this. Last week's high-level rumour-mongering - Wall Street this time, rather than the usual online suspects - might have persuaded it to forego two months' sales with certainty rather than maintain inventory for demand that might be killed of by the media attention surround said rumour. But if Apple can turn supply off quickly enough to react to the possible effects of a rumour that's less than a week old, it can manage inventory well enough to equip it and its channel with enough iMacs to meet demand over the next two months - demand that might have been maintained had it not given credence to the rumours as it has done today. As we know, Apple doesn't (usually) comment on rumours. Conspiracy - not cock-up In other words, it's all been planned, probably as a way of building interest in the new machine. We might even suggest that last week's analyst reports might have been, shall we say, encouraged. It's not difficult for a company like Apple to drop a few hints and wait for reporters and analysts to draw their own, incorrect conclusions: that the new iMac was imminent. Apple is not beyond announcing hardware well in advance of the product's availability, so it's possible that it did intend to announce the new iMac this week, even though it won't see light of day until September. But it can't have been excessive inventory that forced a rethink of the content of Jobs' keynote: Apple quite simply doesn't have the inventory to risk remaining unsold, according to what it said today. But what of the alternative scenario: that it's cock-up, not conspiracy. Apple ordered too few iMacs. That's still good news: it means sales during the latter half of Q2 were probably higher than expected, despite any anticipation of an announcement at WWDC. But Apple would have known weeks ago that its supplies might not stretch to September, in which case there was no reason not to announce the new model at WWDC, even if it knew the new model wouldn't be ready until September. The fact that it didn't make an announcement suggests this scenario isn't correct. No, it all points to a carefully considered strategy designed to whet Mac fans' appetites for whatever's coming in September. Quite apart from the addition of a G5 CPU, speculation has stretched to a completely new enclosure and the revival of the old tablet rumour. The latter now starts to make sense. The launch of AirPort Express is begging someone to come up with a remote iTunes control system that doesn't require you to carry a notebook around the house. After all, if you're going to have to bring your PowerBook into the living room to control what's being played on your hi-fi via AirPort Express, you may as well connect you notebook straight to your amplifier. How much better would a small wireless tablet system be that communicates with the base unit via the same wireless network being used to feed your AirPort Express module? ® Related stories Delayed tablet Mac to launch next month? Apple 'launches Longhorn' with better search, graphics Apple punts prizes as iTunes nears 100m-song target iTunes users hijack iMixes to demand indie content Ten years old: Apple's Power Mac line The Apple Mac is 20 Apple: no 3GHz G5 'any time soon' IBM's PowerPC 975 - verified or vapour?
Tony Smith, 02 Jul 2004

MS offers 57% price cut as Paris tilts to open source

Faced with the possibility of another major municipal defection to open source, Microsoft has slashed its prices by 57.4 per cent. The move, which has been confirmed by Microsoft France (after being revealed by the aptly-named Libération on Monday), comes shortly before the publication of a feasibility study on open source deployment in Paris by Unilog SA. Veteran French consulting company Unilog has already been involved in a number of open source projects in France, and there is political motivation for a switch both locally and nationally. Paris' administration is currently socialist, while last month French civil service mininster Renaud Dutreil confirmed that he intended to give open source software suppliers a slice of the government computing upgrade programme. The Paris contract is relatively small, but has a certain symbolism, and is one of those most worrisome of gigs for Microsoft, an open source desktop project. Desktop software licensing pays the Redmond rent amply, so if places like Munich and Paris start showing there's a viable alternative, the fiefdom will start to fray away. Microsoft France CEO Christophe Aulnette told Agence France Presse he remained confident that Microsoft would hold onto Paris. "There are a certain number of incorrect ideas circulating about free software, for example that it's free," he said. Libération cites a source close to the mayor's office as saying that Microsoft fears the symbolic effect of the loss of Paris most of all, but notes that the price cuts may be enough to discourage Paris from making the big leap. On an entirely unrelated (well alright, maybe it is a bit related) matter, The Register hears a shocking allegation that a certain high-profile win for the excellence of Microsoft's price cuts... er, technology, recently went live with its spanking new Exchange system. At which point, senior execs became unable to access their email. But we don't believe a word of that, no sir. ® Related stories: Munich embraces the penguin Microsoft, Sun, IBM and the war for government desktops Linux on desktop not cost-effective for most, says Gartner Joseph Joffre's homepage
John Lettice, 02 Jul 2004

Sony Connect to launch 5 July, late

Sony's online music service, Connect, will launch in the UK, France and Germany next week offering 500,000 songs. The service will go live on Monday, 5 July, followed by stores for Switzerland, Austria, the Scandinavian countries and The Netherlands by the end of the year. Spanish and Italian stores will open in the spring of 2005. The dates come from Robert Ashcroft, VP of Sony Network Services in Europe, cited by news agency AFP. Monday's launch represents a late arrival. In March, Sony said it would launch its first three European stores in June. Even Sony's electronics division was under the impression that this was the intention - its press release announcing the launch of the company first hard disk-based Walkman referred to Connect Europe "which launched [past-tense] in June". Ah, well. Hopefully Sony will have spent the extra time wisely, updating its European service to avoid the issues that have led at least one critic of the US version to call it an "embarrassment". Connect will offer content from all five major recording companies and "approximately 150" independent labels. This could be seen as a dig at Apple. Its iTunes Music Store has so far failed to win the support of European indies, with only "dozens" of labels' songs in its catalogue. Indeed, Ashcroft derided Apple's claim to offer 700,000 songs - 200,000 more than Connect. "I don't know where Apple gets its famous 700,000 titles from," he said. "We have signed up with everyone, and we don't come out with that figure." He neglected to mention Napster, which also touts a song catalogue of 700,000-odd tracks. Like Apple, Connect will offer songs for £0.79 in the UK and €0.99 in other territories. Unlike Apple, it turns out Connect is based in Germany, where it will be having to cope with a 16 per cent sales tax, rather more than the three per cent Apple pays by incorporating an ITMS subsidiary, iTunes SARL, in Luxembourg. Industry sources claim Apple is losing money on some record label deals because of its price-point. However, Ashcroft claimed Connect would make money. "The rule at Sony is for each activity to be profitable," he said. "We will not be an exception to that rule." ® Related stories Sony unveils HDD Walkman Sony to ship portable video, MP3 player Sony unveils colour 'iPod killer' Sony US music service an 'embarrassment' Sony opens US music download store Sony music download service to launch in June iTunes users hijack iMixes to demand indie content Indie labels reject iTunes
Tony Smith, 02 Jul 2004

Mobiles in hospitals are safe, say doctors

A row has broken out between doctors and the Department of Health over the use of mobile phones in hospitals. At the British Medical Association's annual conference, Dr Simon Calvert, a specialist registrar at King's College Hospital in London, told the assembled physicians that there was no justification for banning mobile phones. He argues that emergency services radios have a much greater risk of interfering with essential equipment, yet are allowed into resuscitation units and intensive care rooms, the BBC reports. He cited a 1997 study, which found mobiles only affected four per cent of devices, and only 0.1 per cent were seriously affected. "We haven't moved on in 30 years. Mobile phones seem to be the pariah of the wards, with threats of disciplinary action on any staff using them," he said. The Department of Health, however, maintains that the ban is necessary. It said that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found that mobile phones could interfere with sensitive medical devices, particularly at short range. However, doctors insisted that the rules were over-cautious, and dated back to the days of analogue phones. It is possible that there are arguments other than safety for keeping mobiles off the wards: Some hospitals charge patients a daily fee to have a phone by their beds, and charge premium rates for family to dial in, for example. It will also be interesting to see how hospitals respond to the closure of pager services, such as the one run by O2, which closed this week. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health concluded: "The MHRA advises that trusts make a decision about the use of phones in hospitals dependent on individual circumstances." ® Related stories Mobile phones rot your balls Kids, cancer and mobile phones NHS: improvements online
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Jul 2004

BT to trial pay-as-you-go broadband

Net users in the UK could be given the choice of paying for broadband access by the minute if a mini-trial later this summer proves successful. Instead of users paying a flat fee for their broadband access, BT is giving punters the chance to pay 5p a minute for the time they spend online. BT Wholesale is recruiting 50 people from within the company to take part in an eight-week trial due to begin within the next month or so. As part of the market test, the UK's dominant fixed line telco wants to establish whether it's commercially viable to offer a broadband service paid for by the minute. At the moment, many ISPs offer flat-fee broadband access. Others offer a flat-fee/PAYG hybrid, which enables punters to acquire additional time online if they need it. But according to internal documents seen by The Register: "BT is very aware that not all people want to pay a monthly fee for Broadband access and many only want to pay for the time they are using the service. As part of BT Group's commitment to Broadband Britain, BT Wholesale are looking to trial a Pay as You Go Broadband offering which will enable customers to have up to 10 times faster internet service and only pay for the time they are online. "This is a limited two month market test by BT Wholesale Markets to establish usage patterns and the triallists' existing connections will be restored at the end of the test. The only cost to triallists will be a 5 pence per minute usage charge for the time triallists are connected to the Internet." A spokesman for BT Wholesale confirmed that the trial was going ahead but that it was still "very early days". BT doesn't intend to launch a PAYG broadband service at this time, he said. ® Related stories 1,000 exchanges get go-ahead for broadband BT Retail cuts cost of DSL, caps users BT's DSL market share carries on falling
Tim Richardson, 02 Jul 2004

Software giants feel open source pressure

Developer support is critical to the success or otherwise of the smartphone platforms and Microsoft and Nokia are both adapting some measures of openness to encourage programmers to their operating systems. As software rather than devices become the basis for competition, Microsoft can no longer have a free run at client OSes, and in turn will increase its dependence on services as Java dominates on the handset. In the cellphone world, Microsoft is trapped uncomfortably between two mighty pressures on its traditional business model - the handset makers' determination to control the software environment of their devices on the one; and the implacable rise of open source on the other. Microsoft had hoped, when it launched Windows Mobile, to turn the first of these trends to its advantage by presenting its operating system as one that could form the basis of carrier-specified handset designs, and so provide a counterweight to systems controlled by the phonemakers, notably SymbianOS. However, the cellcos were not blind to what had happened in the PC world and, in general, refused to leap out of the Nokia frying pan into the Microsoft fire. Instead, they are turning to technologies that they can be more confident of moulding to their designs, most of these Java-based. That has left Microsoft exposed on one flank to Java and to carrier dominated technologies such as SavaJe, and on the other to Linux. The situation becomes even graver as Sun shows increasingly strong signs that it will open source Java too, leaving Microsoft - and Symbian too - under growing pressure to adapt their models or be left behind. The clearest indication yet that the Windows giant is feeling the pressure is this week's announcement that it will introduce a measure of open source to the CE variant of its OS, which is targeted at handheld devices and the embedded market and is the basis of Windows Mobile. New rules for Windows CE Windows CE 5.0, which will be released next week, will be fully open for the first time - although not free, as there will still be a licensing fee of $3 for every device running CE, the toolkit is priced around $995. However, this is a major step forward from the half-hearted steps towards open source that Microsoft made in April 2003 with its CE Shared Source Premium Licensing Program. This was expanded to allow manufacturers, chipmakers and integrators to sell products incorporating CE code that they had customised, but manufacturers could still be compelled to license some of their changes back to Microsoft for no royalty, which amounted to free R&D for the giant. Under the terms of the shared source license for CE, there were two types of terms - modifications to improve CE, and changes made to differentiate a vendor's own product. When a vendor made the latter type of change, it had six months of exclusive rights to market devices with the amended version of CE, and after that Microsoft gained a royalty-free license to the technology, and any developer could use the changes. That highly-unpopular policy is now ended, and the open source program is available to all, not just selected partners. Now, by making CE available to the public, Microsoft expects to boost its developer uptake beyond the 250,000 who have already downloaded the current OS. The new version will allow people to see more than 2.5m lines of available sourcecode - the kernel, graphical user interface, file system, device drivers, web server and more. With its limited open source moves, Microsoft is seeking to improve its image among developers, and so attract them to its platform, in markets where it cannot rely automatically on its installed base - notably mobile handsets and embedded devices, both areas where Linux is making headway. The company can also see the benefits of community involvement in terms of innovation, faster time to market for improvements and lower R&D costs, and as such is establishing a program similar in scope to Sun's for Java. Java - open source? Java, too, has a strong community process for new developments, but remains controlled by Sun. This, of course, is likely to change in the coming year or two, with Sun saying that it will open source the technology at some unnamed point to speed adoption through attracting more developers and lowering costs. Among its many announcements at this week's JavaOne conference, Sun said that it has open sourced its 'Project Glass', which is working on a three dimensional interface to improve the often basic UI of Java devices. This is a critical project for the operators, which need sophisticated Java facilities to enable them to customise their interfaces, and the new licensing terms are another clear sign that Sun is hurrying towards opening Java itself. While this is generally applauded in the enterprise market, which is increasingly moving towards open source systems, there is a far more ambivalent view in the mobile world, where many developers fear further fragmentation of the platform if Sun relinquishes control. It is a myth that all developers and software houses favour open source J2ME. In the fast moving mobile world, the main fear is of anything that slows down or confuses Java and so makes it less appealing to the operators. A quick look at the Java games development community site, javagaming.org, shows that most phone-based games creators would prefer Java to remain closed, feeling that Sun's control results in a higher quality, more consistent platform (although the site is hosted by Sun, it does not moderate this forum). Some representative comments include: "If this happened I'd probably never use Java for any more commercial projects. I have been a professional C programmer, and if I'm to go back towards that hell (the chaos of an uncontrolled mainstream language) then there are better languages to use. C++ as a value proposition gains a great deal (comparatively) if Java becomes yet another open source limp biscuit without standards and with-out control." If the real issue for the vendors is control, the real issue for developers is uniformity, without which they will struggle to achieve mass market in the mobile world. The JCP has not been wholly effective at creating a single platform, though it has certain strengths - for instance, it uses a process called Technology Compatibility Kit testing to ensure consistency, which supporters claim is more reliable than what Apache calls the 'Darwinist' approach of open source to uniformity, which treats non-conformance as a bug to be fixed. For reasons like these, it may be more productive to improve the mechanisms of the JCP in the mobile world - for instance, by making it easier for smaller developers to submit improvements - than to go for complete openness. Sun president Jonathan Schwartz, who has heavy personal input into the software strategy, highlighted the issue at JavaOne, saying that the biggest challenge would be to adopt open source without losing compatibility between Java on different devices. Because open licenses allow programmers to move in different directions, compatibility problems may arise. "If you write to Red Hat Enterprise (Linux), it's not going to run on SuSE Linux. That presents Red Hat with an opportunity to increasing pricing," he said. Nokia's moves And then there is Nokia. Like Microsoft and Sun, the Finnish giant is torn between its habitual iron control of its technology and the need to make them competitive by adding a level of openness. This is especially vital as its ability to set the agenda in handset design comes under fire from the operators' power, turning its attention to software as its primary route to setting industry standards and tying the mobile world into its technologies. Its Series 60 development and user interface technology, which is licensed by other phonemakers, and its dominant influence in the Symbian consortium, are currently its sharpest weapons in this respect, and both are showing some shifts towards open source as it seeks to build a developer community to rival Microsoft's and to make its phones an unavoidable choice for carriers. Series 60 device architecture. Its latest move towards boosting its developer base has been to expand support for Java programmers on CDMA platforms and allow GSM applications to be ported easily to CDMA devices. Forum Nokia, the company's developer initiative, has also up-dated its tools and software developer kits for the Java-based Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which is rapidly becoming a de facto standard for enterprise oriented projects, which are critical to Nokia's strategy of pushing the Symbian/Java handset as an alternative to the PC in the corporate environment. This quest will be heavily dependent on developer support and Nokia has certainly learned many lessons in the past year about how to support programmers. It has put significant resources into expanding the Forum Nokia community and has started to listen to the feedback from that group, even appointing its first vice president of developer relations, Lee Epting from Handspring. Last year, Nokia took its first step to making Series 60 more friendly to novices - and its first nod to open source - when it agreed to support Psion's old language OPL, which is similar to Basic and has a loyal programmer base. Symbian open sourced the 20-year old language, though Epting concedes that it needs to gain some buy-in from various parts of Nokia. Other items that the Nokia developers' community, Forum Nokia, has demanded, and which Epting aims to address in the coming months, include improved documenting of APIs; better integration and support for 'smart downloading'; and the ability to support 'DRM forward lock', which allows someone who owns an application to forward it in a trial format to a friend. Nokia says that 1.3m developers have downloaded software tools for its platforms, and that its new moves are based on a poll of their most common complaints. This is very far from open source, of course, but Nokia is banking on the combination of a Series 60 platform that is open to other vendors to license, and of a friendlier approach to developers, to strengthen its products against Windows. The signs are, though, that its real war is with the operators' bid for control of the handset platform, and their increasing determination to make Java work for them in this battle. This is more immediately threatening to Nokia and Series 60 than Windows. Microsoft's moves towards openness show it is feeling cornered in a way that it has never been in the PC world. It is likely to remain just one among several players in the mobile market, and not the strongest, which makes its current business model unworkable on phones. Like other companies that can no longer rely on the device alone to deliver market dominance, such as Motorola and Nokia, Microsoft will turn increasingly to services and integration as a way to establish its influence with operators and mobile enterprises. This week the giant said it would work with MMO2 and TeliaSonera in Europe to provide real time location services, to enable businesses to track and manage assets and people. The service, built around Microsoft's MapPoint Location Server, is likely to be the first of many such deals. Rather than luring the phone industry to standardise on Windows directly, Microsoft will have to adapt to a more modern model, where it infiltrates its technology - and boosts its margins - through providing complete business solutions. © 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. Related stories On Sun, Java and Open Source MS baits .Net with CE 5 MS, open source, The Facts and the fit-ups MS expands WinCE 5.0 'shared' source licence MS Compact Framework squares up to Java Nokia fights Microsoft by addressing Series 60 developer complaints
Wireless Watch, 02 Jul 2004

Java and DRM key to mobile ambitions

This week's JavaOne show highlighted the increasing involvement of European cellcos in the platform, which they see as a way to strengthen their control on the development of multimedia handsets and deliver consumer applications more rapidly. There are major risks however: the cellcos need to adapt to new business models, managing software projects and investing in R&D; and they need to achieve new levels of co-operation to address standards in key areas like DRM. The European mobile operators have moved aggressively in recent months to tighten their grip on the evolution of the handset platform and increasingly, they are seeking to turn Java to their cause. The JavaOne annual show this week highlighted their absolute determination to direct the future of the media handset, and to build a strong revenue stream around multimedia, as did several other developments, notably T-Mobile's full-on launch in to music services. The most significant announcement at JavaOne was a partnership between Sun and Vodafone to define a next generation Java-based platform for the 3G version of Vodafone Live!. The Vodafone VFX platform will be based on the Java Technology for the Wireless Industry (JTWI) technology specification and some third party technologies. The closeness of the relationship with Sun shows how Vodafone increasingly seeks to control the technologies that are fundamental to delivering its multimedia services and its brand - responsibilities that would once have rested with its handset suppliers. Since Java supports rapid application deployment, content download platforms and multimedia, it is an ideal tool in the cellcos' common strategy - to increase ARPU through multimedia services, and to use these offerings to strengthen their own position in the overall mobile industry. This was highlighted by the fact that T-Mobile and Orange have now joined the Java Verified program, previously dominated by manufacturers. This program is designed to enable Java mobile applications to run on phones from multiple vendors with only one certification required. Sun will manage and operate the scheme, which aims to maximize available software and allow developers and content providers to get their products to market more quickly. Software partners on the Asian model Operators will increasingly seek partnerships with software houses that enable them to achieve their aim of customisable handsets that can be easily changed and upgraded to support new features or applications, through rapid development and over the air delivery. One example is French company Open Plug, whose Flexibleware provides a component-based platform for creating embedded software with a Lego-style approach similar in concept to Java, though aimed at lower level applications and functions. Andreas Malzach, head of sales and marketing, believes Europe has been blind for too long to the developments in Asian handsets and that western operators are just starting to wake up to the advances there and to seek a similar position to their counterparts such as NTT DoCoMo of Japan or SKT of Korea. These operators largely specify the designs that they commission from the phonemakers and argue that this position has enabled them to remain far closer to consumer needs than cellcos in Europe, and to deliver rapid fire enhancements and multimedia features almost on demand. Orange and Vodafone are probably the most advanced European players in moving towards the position of SKT or DoCoMo. Open Plug is working with Orange on technology that will enable the 'configurable phone', which can be upgraded over the air to incorporate new applications such as push to talk without forcing the user to swap device. This takes the focus off the hardware and shifts it to applications and ARPU - the area where the operators, rather than the handset makers, make their best margins. Critical is the ability to deliver more advanced multimedia applications more cheaply and quickly. Malzach, whose company sells mainly in Asia, believes this is the main route for operators to increase their revenues and they need to be able to support multimedia far more effectively. There are many excuses made, with claims that European consumers are less interested in applications such as video than those in Asia. However, it is far more likely that operators and phonemakers have failed to deliver those applications at affordable price points and with genuine consumer appeal, because cellcos have often been seriously out of touch with their end user market. Now they plan to change all this, which means achieving a handset platform that can deliver such new facilities quickly and attractively; controlling its interface; and working far more closely with the friendlier of the manufacturers. Operators taking huge risks All this is involving dramatic changes in habits. Orange, for instance, has invested significantly in R&D and in developer relations programs - both areas that cellcos formerly left mainly to phonemakers. In turn, such requirements change their cost base and business structure, bringing them closer to the development- heavy Asian giants like DoCoMo, but also requiring them to learn some unfamiliar skills very quickly. Managing and end-to-end business from R&D to end user commercialisation is a very different process to what European carriers are used to, and there are sure to be mistakes and even casualties along the way. Effective software partnerships will be critical to minimise the risks, something that Sun has clearly recognised with its Java programs. While it may seek to replace Nokia as the supplier without which operators cannot provide an attractive service, the handset makers will be performing shifts of their own. Most interesting will be the Koreans, Samsung and LG, which are already gaining ground in Europe and which will see the opportunity to take a key role as the operators shift to a model with which they are entirely familiar at home. Samsung, whose mission is to overtake Nokia in the number one spot by 2010, is the most advanced of the majors in multimedia innovation, with R&D driven by the stringent requirements of the Asian cellcos and the almost boundless demand of Asian consumers for new media applications. The starkest illustration of the power of the Asian operators, to which Vodafone and co aspire, is SK Telecom's recent statements that it seeks to buy a handset maker. This could be a bridge too far, even in South Korea. Since the operator could hardly afford to acquire Samsung or LG, it would need to buy up an unbranded manufacturer, and then risk sacrificing a carefully nurtured closed loop relationship with Samsung by setting up in competition with it. In turn, this could reduce the choice of handsets open to SKT to offer its consumers. So perhaps the strategy is unlikely to become reality - even if regulators allowed it - but it does indicate the scale of the cellcos' ambitions, which is sure to influence the approach of European counterparts too. Digital rights management One thing all operators agree on is that success in establishing a strong brand in the multimedia markets will be fundamental to furthering their political as well as commercial objectives. This forces them to adapt to yet another unfamiliar business model, that of content aggregator and retailer. It also raises more practical issues and one of the thorniest of these is content protection. Cellcos complain that content providers, such as film studios or record labels, are unwilling to sign up for their programs because of fear of piracy and so are putting huge pressure on handset makers to incorporate deterrents into their designs. This is clear in a new alliance between Texas Instruments and ARM, under which TI will incorporate its partner's TrustZone hardware security scheme into its chipsets for media handsets. For TI, this boosts its ambition to be the chipmaker of choice for advanced phones, though the move also raises suspicions that operators will seek to use security and digital rights as a new excuse to lock down their handsets and retain control of their 'walled gardens'. "Operators are crying out for the digital multimedia handset," said Dave Steer, ARM's director of US marketing. "The key is to convince Hollywood that we've got it under control." TrustZone designates protected areas of memory for passwords and encryption algorithms that are separated from other applications, including the operating system. T-Mobile's Ear Phones On the software side, the Open Mobile Alliance's digital rights management system is gaining ground as a standard and the big operators are putting pressure on manufacturers to incorporate it into a wide range of handsets. One of the cellcos supporting the OMA technology is T-Mobile with its new music service, Ear Phones, which offers a Jukebox track download service as well as ringtones and other music-related services. Currently, only OMA-compliant handsets can access Ear Phones, hence the urgency to get more handsets on board. The relevant models available now are the Nokia 7600 and 6230, the Motorola E398 and the Sony Ericsson P900 and K700. T-Mobile believes Ear Phones has a better chance of attracting the mass market than rival services because it does not require an application on the phone and so can be used on a wide variety of devices, not just certain operating systems (provided the DRM is supported). Nor does it require a dedicated gadget like the MMO2 offering. By Christmas, it will support download of full tracks at a cost of £1.50 in the UK or €1.50 in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and the Netherlands, with download times of about one minute per track in 3G or five minutes in GPRS. Content partners include Universal Music and Sony, both of which insist that T-Mobile's openness to their concerns about DRM had attracted them to the service. In February, MMO2 was the first cellco to offer a music downloading device that did not have phone functionality. It seemed to show MMO2 taking the Nokia line that customers will purchase multiple mobile devices for different functions - the opposite opinion to that of T-Mobile, which wants to make the handset a universal, integrated gadget for a wide range of functions. Because of the DRM problem, MMO2 failed to gain agreement with music publishers to let songs downloaded to its player be played on computers or transferred to MP3 devices, so tracks remained confined to its gadget, and only songs on the O2 site can be downloaded The threat of IP Issues like DRM will be addressed over the months, but there is a far broader threat to the operators' multimedia-driven ambitions. This, of course, lies in IP, as does the potential fightback route for Nokia and the other handset giants. Mobile devices that support Wi-Fi and, in future, WiMAX are the antithesis of what cellcos want from their newly acquired power over their handsets. The initiative is returned decisively to the manufacturer, the phone - like a computer - can support a choice of operating systems and networks and it becomes impossible to confine customers within the walled garden without losing their business once the contract expires. With Windows or Symbian devices, users can bypass the carrier and create or purchase their own content. They might even use IP, instead of the cellular network, for messaging, currently the operators' best source of data revenue, just as they can use generic MP3 players, embedded in phones, to avoid the cellco's own download platform. The fear factor for carriers was highlighted with a demonstration by Fujitsu and Net-2Com last week of what they claim to be the first fully mobile IP handset that switches seamlessly between wireless Lans and cellular networks without dropping the call. Fujitsu Laboratories said that this product is the first wireless handset with an open architecture, enabling free selection of applications and networks by swapping in CompactFlash cards to support various systems in different parts of the world. This means that users would no longer have to worry about which networks they can roam on to under their operator agreement. The handset also takes an open, PDA-style approach to operating systems, and is capable of running Windows or Linux, making it suitable for business applications. Operators know that they have to incorporate Wi-Fi and IP into their strategies, both at network and handset level. Their challenge over the coming 12 months is to make sufficient impact with their branding strategies and their multimedia services that they retain customer loyalty even when the walls have crumbled, and so create new revenue streams based on multiple networks rather than losing out. While the tactics for establishing this level of brand power may be heavy handed, the news can only be good for consumers in the medium term, since offering mediocre content services, locked-down devices and relying on cheap voice plans will no longer be an acceptable way for European carriers to compete. © 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. Related stories Java: the next mobile cash cow? Java to dominate consumer electronics? Smartphone wars over, Symbian and MS both lost? Open source punch-up surrounds mobile Java upgrade
Wireless Watch, 02 Jul 2004

Team moots car alerts via SMS

Car owners might in the future be alerted by email or SMS when something is amiss with their vehicle and requires garage intervention. So says Eric Postma, professor of Information Science/Artificial Intelligence of the Faculty of General Sciences at the University of Maastricht. Research institutes from the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the UK and car manufacturers Volkswagen and BMW are to participate in a new European consortium MyCarEvent (short for the snappy MobilitY and CollAboRative work in European Vehicle Emergency NeTworks), which is going to explore the idea of car maintenance alerts by email or SMS. Garages these days often use computers to test vehicles. Most new cars are equipped with sensors that monitor and file technical information about failures that have occurred since the last service. The mechanic only has to read this data to know what needs to be done. Modern technologies, such as wireless communication and navigation equipment, will make it possible to carry out these inspections remotely and send car owners timely warnings about impending breakdown. Ford and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have already teamed up to construct an intelligent transportation system whereby cars will talk to roads and to each other to keep out of traffic jams and bad weather. Operators will be able to track (through a secure website) vehicle location and mechanical status. The European project involves a self-learning mechanics database which initially will be primed with information from existing manuals and then learns from further input. "The larger and more varied the input, the faster the system learns," Postma says. He believes that intelligent maintenance will extend cars' lifespan and improve reliability while reducing costs. Research may still take five years or longer, Postma told The Register. "Commercial alailability may even be further off," he admitted. ® Related stories BMW to add iPod in-car interconnect Briton invades France in amphibious car Speed camera clocks motorist at 406 mph
Jan Libbenga, 02 Jul 2004

Washington sex blogger signs book deal

Washington sex blogger Jessica Cutler - aka Washingtonienne - has reportedly signed a $300,000 book deal with HyperionDisney. Cutler formerly worked sorting mail for Republican Senator Mike DeWine but was shown the door after using Congressional computers to write her now-legendary blog. The diaries recount Washingtonienne's sexual shenannigans on Capitol Hill, including fumblings with an unnamed Bush administration appointee. She also apparently sold herself like a two-bit hussy to supplement her meagre $25k salary. Cutler's agent told the New York Times that the book deal was in the "substantial six figures." Wonkette.com is a little more forthcoming, noting: About that Washingtonienne book deal: We hear the bidding started Tuesday at $75K, based on a 25 page proposal (described a "pretty f***ing twisted"). A dozen houses went for it, and she wound up with a cool $300-f***ing-000. And she still owes us for drinks! Cutler will also pose for the November issue of Playboy, according to the NYT. No more cut-price sexual favours between sorting mail for this go-ahead girl, it's clear. ® Related stories Murderer blogs from behind bars Most bloggers are teenage girls - survey Blog almighty!
Lester Haines, 02 Jul 2004

Small.biz must embrace new technology

Entrepreneurs need to embrace new technology such as broadband or risk going out of business, management guru Sir John Harvey Jones warns. In a speech to the Leicestershire Economic Partnership (LSEP), Sir John, star of the Troubleshooter TV series, praised the role that small firms play in the economy, but warned that businesses that do not pace with electronic developments will fall by the wayside. "Small businesses are a vital component of the economy. They account for the majority of jobs and are the creative force behind British business. Because they are small, they are quick and nimble - they can react to a situation faster than big business, and far faster than the public sector. In ten years time, small businesses will have either accepted the electronic changes that have been made in the economy - or they will no longer be in business," he said. LESP said that its own research found that many small firms have not yet accepted the importance of IT, e-commerce or even computers. Sir John said by embracing new technology, small businesses can save themselves time and money: "Just by investing in a new computer and broadband, a typical small business can save two hours a day. Many small business owners are also the finance director, the chief salesman and the dispatch clerk. They give it everything they’ve got, 18 hours a day. But by investing some time and money in the appropriate technology, they could spend more time working on the business rather than running around frantically fire fighting." Copyright © 2004, Related stories UK.biz must address broadband Broadband worth 52 days a year to UK.biz Small.biz neglects online presence
Startups.co.uk, 02 Jul 2004

Boots deploys digital print kiosks

More than 1,000 Boots stores across the UK now boast Kodak digitalk print kiosks offering quick output of your digital snaps. The booths can deal with Compact Disk (CD), Multimedia Card (MMC), Compact Flash Card, Secure Digital card (SD), Sony Memory Stick, Phone-cams (Bluetooth & infra-red), Smart Media Card, Microdrive Card and Floppy Disk. A hard copy of those precious memories will cost 29p for a 6" by 4" print, and 8" x 6" versions are available as well. The Boots' press release claims the process "couldn't be easier", which is normally the kiss of death and it further quotes Kodak's Hal Duffin as saying: "The Kodak Kiosks are so quick and simple to use that they are great for all members of the family. We are really excited at Kodak that you can now go into your local Boots store and get digital prints in seconds." Hmmm. Still, the price seems ok and if the machines work as claimed and the quality is any good, then it's a handy high-street service which will save budding Lord Litchfields' hideously expensive colour print cartridges from taking a battering. ® Related stories Up-skirt law to destroy mobile phone biz? Brits avoid MMS in droves Kodak to drop 35mm cameras in Europe, US
Lester Haines, 02 Jul 2004

British geeks fly the flag at cup final

A team of UK students is on its way to Brazil to compete in the finals of the Imagine Cup, an annual programming challenge, open to students around the world. The UK final - a three day, round-the-clock codeathon - was held in April. Ali Gardezi from the University of Sheffield, Andrew Grieve from the University of Aberdeen, and Mat Steeples from the University of Hull beat more than 4,500 competitors to the prize. Now they get a chance to go for the top prize of $25,000. Second place would net them $15,000, and third place a still pleasant $10,000. The brief for the contestants was to work in teams of up to four, to design a smart software system/application that would improve the quality of everyday life, based on the .Net platform. The application had to contain a mobile device, contain some smart component, and create and use at least one Web service. At the codeathon, the UK champions came up with 'The Juice', an application designed to help students "get the very most out of University life", by which we assume it contains maps to various pubs. Possibly with an interactive element allowing for real time 2-for-1 alerts... In a press statement distributed by Microsoft, the event's main sponsor, Mat Steeples says: "To be able to go to Brazil and meet other student developers from around the world is just amazing! The UK finals were really tough so Andrew, Ali and I are going to have to pull out all the stops in Brazil." Dr Stuart Nielsen Marsh, head of academia, Microsoft UK, said he was impressed with the flair and dedication shown at the finals, and was looking forward to seeing how the team meets the challenge in Brazil. The team has a tough act to follow: last year, the UK entrants came third. ® Related links Brain Academy 2: Calling all students Singaporean sets SMS world speed record Ultimate geek challenge at IPSC
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Jul 2004

Phantom phone scam hits another village

Another village in the East of England has been targeted by premium rate crooks after they apparently gained "illicit access" to BT's phone network. West Wickham in Cambridgeshire was targeted in May leaving some 20 or so homes stung by premium rate charges that residents insist were not made by them. A victim told The Register: "We were charged for £86 of calls made between 11.30pm and 1.00am when we were in bed. We were the lowest bill. Most other people's bills were in the £150 price range. "BT has refunded these charges, acknowledging that the 'calls were not originated from inside the residence'," he told us. Last month, it emerged that residents in three villages in Essex and Norfolk were billed for calls made to premium-rate XXX phone services. In each of the cases residents said they didn't make the calls, raising concerns about "mystery" or "phantom" phone calls inflating people's phone bills. In a statement, BT admitted that "an investigation by BT Security has shown that a number of customers in the East Anglia area have been affected by illicit access to the BT network. "This has resulted in some customers receiving bills with unrecognised calls listed. The investigation has shown that the calls in question were not made from within customers' homes and we are in the process of refunding the customers that have been affected." The question for many, though, is how could these calls be made without people's knowledge? Our man in Cambridgeshire has his own theory. "I believe they [the rogue calls] originated in the roadside box as many of those who were charged shortly afterward had faulty lines and were also connected to the same roadside box," he told us. Indeed, the question of how these phantom calls are made was raised by Liberal Democrat MP, Malcolm Bruce, earlier this week as MPs debated the increasing problems threatening the future of the premium rate services industry. And Mr Bruce also believes BT should take a little more care with access to its network. "Is it not the case that the boxes in the street are accessible with a T-key? Anyone who knows what they are doing can access them, dial a premium rate number and charge it to a domestic bill. Is not the first priority to have a little more security on the boxes?" he said. A spokesman for BT insisted that the problem of premium rate phone calls appearing on customers' phone bills was "not widespread". He declined to comment on suggestions that criminals are breaking into BT's roadside boxes to make the calls. ® Related stories BT's phone network hit by 'illicit access' ICSTIS in meltdown - MPs UK premium rate phone complaints rocket BT cuts off dialler scammers MPs slam premium-rate 'criminal scams' ICSTIS blames dialler scams for premium rate freeze
Tim Richardson, 02 Jul 2004

Qualcomm claims victory in TI suit

A US court this week ruled that Texas Instruments has indeed violated the terms of an agreement with Qualcomm concerning the use of the latter's CDMA intellectual property. However, while Qualcomm may now pursue TI with further legal action to seek financial redress, it is not allowed to revoke the original agreement, the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled. Qualcomm sued TI almost a year ago, alleging the company had breached the Patent Portfolio Agreement (PPA) drawn up between them. It alleged that statements made to financial analysts by TI when it announced a tie-in with Nokia and STMicroelectronics to design CDMA chips broke the PPA. TI subsequently counter-sued, claiming Qualcomm had violated the same contract. In response, Qualcomm dropped its own action, and merged the case with TI, in order that both claims should be heard by a single court. The court has now decided to dismiss TI's claims against Qualcomm. It threw out TI's request for a summary judgement that it had not breached Qualcomm's PPA; and even if it had, that Qualcomm had not been harmed by the breach. Qualcomm's claims have been allowed to stand, and the case will proceed to trial on 16 August 2004. Only then will its request for damages be judged. Qualcomm was recently sued by Maxim, a billion dollar-a-year supplier of analog integrated circuits and owner of Dallas Semiconductor. Maxim's anti-trust suit accuses the CDMA pioneer of misusing its patents in "maintaining dominance in the market for CDMA technology by improperly seeking to exclude competition". Qualcomm has legal action pending against Maxim. ® Related stories Qualcomm hit with anti-trust suit Buoyant Qualcomm proves R&D pays TI counter-sues Qualcomm Qualcomm lawyers defy Nokia's rabbit cull TI, Nokia gang up on Qualcomm
Tony Smith, 02 Jul 2004

Scottish science gets £4.6m cash injection

The Scottish Executive has allocated a total of £4.6m to fund development of scientific research with "commercial potential" in Scotland. Projects that will benefit include low-toxicity anti-cancer drugs activated by laser light, a computer game enhancer called Spell binder, and a 3D imaging project at Heriot-Watt University. According to The Scotsman this round of funding will be distributed among 26 separate projects. Over the last five years, the fund has helped 56 projects to completion. The money comes from a proof-of-concept fund, originally conceived in 1999 as a three-year programme with a total budget of £11m. However, it proved so successful that the Executive added another three years to its life, and £22m more to its budget. To qualify, a project must be in a pre-commercial stage, and must have been developed at a Scottish university, research insitution or NHS trust. ® Related stories CMI launches search for the Future of Comms Medical imaging research awarded £4.5m University gets £1m complex systems grant
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Jul 2004

Enforcement is key to fighting cybercrime

AnalysisAnalysis The publication of a review of Britain's cybercrime laws by an influential group of MPs and peers this week has been welcomed by the IT industry. Broad agreement with the All Party Internet Group's (APIG) conclusion that the Computer Misuse Act 1990 needs only minor reforms have been matched with widespread calls for tougher enforcement action against cybercriminals. APIG concluded that the CMA had stood the test of time well. Although written before widespread use of the Internet its provisions covered most cyber crimes just as the Theft Act, for example, covers the theft of mobile phones and other devices not even dreamt of by the legislators who drafted that law. APIG limited its recommendation to the introduction of a specific new "denial of service" offence - a grey area in the current law - and tougher sentences for hackers convicted under Section One of the Act. MPs would also like to see steps to encourage private prosecutions of cybercrime offences. Offences under Section One of the CMA, unauthorised access to computers, would be punishable by up to two years' imprisonment instead of just six months, if APIG's recommendations are taken up by the Home Office. The higher sentences would allow the UK to seek extradition of individuals suspected of Section One (hacking) offences. Penalties for offences under other sections of the Act - unauthorised access with intent to commit further offences (Section Two) and unauthorised modification of computer material (section Three) - would remain punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment. A good start but more work needed APIG's recommendations follow a public hearing with industry, Government and public figures in April into how the law could tackle the increase in computer crime. Security services firm Ubizen believes the proposed revisions should help clear up some of the grey areas that exist within the CMA, but that there is still more that should be done. "The recommendation to increase length of sentencing under section one of the CMA to up to two years, and thus enable the UK to extradite cyber criminals from abroad, is definitely a step in the right direction," said Bart Vansevenant, director of European security strategies at Ubizen. "Many hacking groups operate out of countries in Eastern Europe, and it has been very difficult for the UK authorities to bring them to justice. Hackers in these countries have previously regarded the UK as a 'soft target', so it is good news that this issue is finally being addressed." Other observers questioned whether tougher laws would have much effect on international hacking activity. Alan Lawson, research analyst at Butler Group, said: "Marginally increased powers for section one hacking offences and explicit denial of service offences may discourage 'joyrider' hackers and stimulate legal prosecutions but is not strong enough to prevent any significant illegal activity. Hardened criminals will continue to ignore the present legislation." Act locally, think globally Cybercrime is an international problem that requires an international response. Ubizen would also like to see improved integration of international computer crime laws, the promotion of increased public awareness of cybercrime threats (such as phishing) and California-style laws to oblige companies to tell their customers if confidential details have been accessed. "If companies are obliged to publish when consumers' details have been accessed, a culture of openness will evolve and it will become more acceptable to admit to being a victim of cybercrime," said Ubizen's Vansevenant. Computer crimes are frequently online variants of established crimes, like fraud and blackmail. A failure to feel enough collars rather than a lack of applicable laws is blamed for the relative rarity of cybercrime prosecutions. The reluctance of victims of cybercrime to come forward is a big problem in this area. Simon Janes, a former head of Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit, reckons that UK businesses typically only report five to seven per cent of all computer-based crimes to the police. "Around 93-95 per cent of all cybercrimes go unreported because companies rate unwanted publicity as potentially more damaging to their business than the incident itself. The report offers recommendations toward allowing private prosecutions however I believe that it should go one step further by facilitating and legitimising private cyber investigations," he said. More resources needed but who will pay/ Janes, operations director of computer forensic firm ibas, and a witness to its inquiry, warns that the UK is facing a critical shortage of trained computer forensic investigators both within law enforcement and in the private sector. "Whilst the report's recommendations on reforming the Computer Misuse Act are a welcome first step, I am disappointed The All Parliamentary Group has not offered any solution as to how resources can be increased for specialist training for law enforcement agencies," he said. APIG also recommends a number of other initiatives to tackle new forms of computer-related crime such as "phishing" attacks and spyware. Sometimes it is appropriate to look outside the CMA in tackling cybercrime offences. Measures in the Fraud Bill expected in November, for example, will make it an offence to set up a bogus website prior to sending out phishing emails, a move that will make police action in this arena far more straightforward. The MPs' recommendations were welcomed by the Home Office, which has announced its intention to review the CMA and bring forward amendments to the Act. Although APIG's report pushes the issue of cybercrime further up the political agenda it's still unclear if changes in computer crime legislation will be prioritised by the Home Office ahead of a general election, likely to take place in April or May next year. ® APIG's Key Recommendations Add a denial-of-service (DoS) offence to the Computer Misuse Act Increase the tariff for CMA section One (hacking) offences from six months to two years Ensure that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) "sets out a permissive policy for private prosecutions" under the CMA Provide educational material about the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) on the Home Office website Improve information on cybercrime by using statistical sampling to more accurately estimate levels of computer crime Introduce a new Fraud Bill - reforming the law on fraud rather than computer crime might be a better way to deal with some offences Related stories MPs demand big stick for hackers MPs urged to reform cybercrime laws MPs hold inquiry into UK computer crime law US should follow EU lead on spam MPs UK police lack e-crime savvy officers Small.biz told to swot up on Net security
John Leyden, 02 Jul 2004

Megapixel camera phones will kill MMS

It's no secret that the "multimedia messaging service" which was supposed to put money into the empty pockets of starving mobile phone networks has flopped. According to Cognima, which is looking for a different solution, MMS has missed its chance, because it isn't good enough. The company has launched a new photo-transmit product, Cognima Snap which uses standard GPRS to send pix home. Why would you do that? Easy! - one look at the pictures you get from a modern, megapixel camera, and the same picture as mangled by MMS, and you won't need to ask again. Enough said. The problem is that if people go to the bother of sending the picture to someone, they're expecting that person to look at it on something bigger than a cameraphone. It will arrive at the other end big enough to print on a full A4 sheet of paper - and if it looks good enough to send, it will probably be tempting to do so. The result is total disappointment. Nobody who did this would do it again. Instead, you would see what we see in the market: people pulling their phones out, and showing the day's pictures to friends in the pub - but never, ever, transmitting them to Granny, or posting them on their blogs. "By simplifying the ability to get photos from the phone to the web and using GPRS rather than MMS, Cognima Snap could be a useful tool to stimulate usage of camera phones beyond portable photo albums," commented Mike Grenville of the SMS group, 160 characters. Grenville is (understandably) pessimistic about the future of MMS. "The original dream that MMS would replace SMS seem as far away as ever," he observes, "and the search for bolt on applications that will stimulate OTA usage goes becomes more vital." According to Cognima: "The results of a trial reveal that Cognima Snap increased the number of photos uploaded from camera-phones to online photo albums by 14 fold." Users also visited the online photo album more than twice as often, the company reports, and made more use of the album services, including sending pictures from the album to other phones. "Two weeks into the trial over 70 per cent of Cognima Snap users were still actively using the service, compared to only 18 per cent of the participants using standard MMS to upload their photos. © Newswireless.net Related stories Exam cheats reveal MMS killer app Picture messaging: Peace and love breaks out Brits avoid MMS in droves
Guy Kewney, 02 Jul 2004

Daleks boycott Dr Who

It's hard to imagine a Dalek storming off a TV set and back to his (its?) trailer pausing only to exterminate his agent on the way, but the BBC has confirmed that the malevolent salt-cellars will not be appearing in the new Dr Who TV series. The shock bust-up was provoked by the Beeb's failure to reach terms regarding editorial control with the estate of the late Terry Nation. A BBC spokeswoman said: "The BBC offered the very best deal possible but ultimately we were not able to give the level of editorial influence that the Terry Nation estate wished to have." For its part, the Terry Nation estate accused the Corporation of attempting to "ruin the brand of the Daleks". Estate representative Tim Hancock said: "We wanted the same level of control over the Daleks that we have enjoyed for the last 40 years. If the BBC wanted to re-make any of George Lucas' films, you can bet George Lucas would have something to say about it." All this unpleasantness will naturally outrage and upset Who fans expecting to see an orgy of Dalek mayhem and destruction when the new series hits the screens in 2005. Writer Russell T Davies expressed his disappointment but asserted that the BBC was "reinventing Doctor Who for a 21st Century audience with a fantastic writing team and exciting new challenges". He added: "We are disappointed that the Daleks will not be included but we have a number of new and exciting monsters. And I can confirm we have created a new enemy for the Doctor which will keep viewers on the edge of their seats." Excellent. And while we all speculate on just who this new villain might be (No Bill Gates emails, please - Ed), we can confirm that there is one thing guaranteed to get your kids running behind the sofa: Billie Piper, who plays the Doctor Christopher Eccleston's assistant Rose Tyler. Now that's what we call pure terror. ® Related stories Doctor Who fans applaud new assistant Aliens: coming to a house near you soon Was the Internet based on alien technology?
Lester Haines, 02 Jul 2004

Patents and the threat to open source

Have you heard of the media company Acacia? Probably not but actually quite a few website owners have. Many of them have received FINAL NOTICES from Acacia Media Technologies Corporation (www.acaciaresearch.com). The leading light of Acacia (Newport Beach, California) is Robert A. Berman, who claims that his company owns a handful of U.S. Patents (Patents Nos. 5,132,992; 5,235,275; 5,550,863; 6,002,720; 6,144,702) and 17 International Patents covering the transmission and receipt of audio/video content via the Internet. If you provide access to digital audio/video content via your website without a license from Acacia, then Berman insists that you are infringing his company’s patents. So either you have to pay $1,500 per year for a license or risk being sued. It’s your choice. Some companies have paid, including porn sites. Currently Acacia is sueing (and negotiating with) the cable companies. I’m not sure whether Apple or Microsoft has received a writ yet, but if not then it’s probably coming - if Acacia continues to have success. What does this have to do with open source? Well, simply this: Acacia is one of a number of companies that are making a good living by sitting on patents that are actually very general in their application. Individuals can register such patents, with no ability to develop associated product, wait for infringing products to appear, then get a good lawyer and go hunting. Such patents are sometimes referred to as submarine patents. A major fear of some of the movers and shakers in the open source movement is that someone (Microsoft, perhaps, but actually anyone with a patented ax to grind) will come gunning for Linux, Apache, Tomcat et al through the courts with a fistful of patents. Actually, there is little point in sueing the originators of open source. You have to sue someone who is using it - which means a large corporation with deep pockets rather than the average geek with empty pockets. However the effect on open source would be the same. The 'right' patent could damage an open source product badly. This is, in fact, a fear that the SCO case has brought to the surface. It is also why many large corporations like software contracts that indemnify them against such legal hunting and why the likes of HP and Novell are providing such contracts. How big a risk is it? It’s hard to say. Nobody actually knows what patents there are that might be used against open source products and how many would stand up to a legal challenge. Patents can be challenged on the basis of prior art - i.e. someone suggested the idea in the public domain or implemented it in some way before that patent was registered. Microsoft, for example, has patented the double-click. Is there any prior art? Who knows? © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Free software guru speaks on patents European Council snubs software patent vote No US patent for the patently obvious Patent lawyer puts claim to entire Internet
Robin Bloor, 02 Jul 2004

US, UK and Australia sign anti-spam act

The UK, US and Australia are combining forces to combat spam. They have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote joint enforcement and investigation of spammers across the three countries. Stephen Timms, the UK communications minister, today called on other countries to join the trio in their anti-spam crusade. He said the MoU is "not going to solve spam overnight but it is going to help. It reinforces our determination to tackle spam with a combination of government and industry initiatives, technical solutions, and user awareness. Timothy Muris, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, said: "Illegal spam does not respect national boundaries. This agreement is an important next step to help law enforcers on three continents leverage resources to combat illegal spam." Daryl Williams, Australia's minister for communications, information technology and the Arts, said the anti-spam MoU gives the welcome message that the United States and United Kingdom, like Australia, regard spam as a serious problem, and want to take practical action to reduce that problem." The UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is hosting a summit in London on October 11 for consumer protection regulators from 30-ish countries to discuss anti-spam enforcement and to learn how to find and catch spammers. ® Related stories Spammer prosecutions waste time and money Anti-phishing group backs email authentication Penis pill peddler stiffs AOL spam insider Big six unite to can spam 'Spam King' Richter get legal roasting Feds reject anti-spam registry Last call for spam poetry
Drew Cullen, 02 Jul 2004

Aussie judge sets Kazaa trial date

Kazaa parent Sharman Networks' battle with the music industry may finally come to trial in November, the Australian court cautiously ruled this week. Sharman and representatives of Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI), the Australian music industry's anti-piracy taskforce, returned to Justice Murray Wilcox's courtroom yesterday. Judge Wilcox pencilled in a 29 November 2004 trial date, with discovery to be completed by October, after Sharman lawyer Robert Ellicott argued against an earlier discovery deadline of 13 August. Ellicott also claimed that evidence seized from Sharman's premises may not be admissible, arguing that the raids undertaken by MIPI were in breach of Australia's Telecommunications Act. The raids took place on 6 February 2004, and targeted Sharman's HQ and company executives' homes and a number of other Internet firms. MIPI had been granted Anton Piller orders authorising the raids, which were conducted to retrieve evidence of copyright infringement. An Anton Pillar Order is a search and seize order, used in Australia and the UK, giving one party in a legal dispute the right to enter premises and search for evidence. The application is made without the knowledge of the party who is to be searched - the judge must be satisfied that material concerning the case would be destroyed unless secrecy was maintained. Since Sharman's Anton Pillar raids, lawyers have attempted to have the orders deemed inappropriate and thus have the evidence seized thrown out of court. Judge Wilcox has allowed the orders to stand - Sharman is appealing against his ruling - but agreed that the evidence obtained should be sifted to remove any material nor pertinent to the terms of the order. The parties have not agreed a procedure by which this review should be conducted, and this has continued to hold up the case since March this year. Sharman wants to delay the case. It hopes that the US movie industry's appeal against a 2003 District Court ruling that liberates P2P networks from the acts of their users. Indeed, Judge Wilcox dubbed Ellicott's latest argument as a "distraction". Ellicott maintained that during the raid, MIPI had breached the Telecommunications Act, which forbids the interception of a "communication" passing through a telecoms system. MIPI infringed the Act by taking "communications" from Sharman's routers before they were relayed to the company's computers, and it did so without making Sharman aware of the fact, he submitted. Wilcox dismissed the argument, due to a lack of appropriate evidence and ruled the Ellicott's motion to have the Anton Piller evidence rejected to be unnecessary. MIPI and Sharman must return to court on 16 July to report on the progress of their negotiations over how each should be granted access to the seized material. If no clear review procedure is in place, the trial could be delayed even further. ® Related stories Judge delays Kazaa case to clear up mess Kazaa to appeal data seizure order ruling Kazaa fails to overturn music biz data seizure orders Kazaa trial judge delays hearing Kazaa demands Oz trial delay Music industry raids Kazaa's Australia HQ
Tony Smith, 02 Jul 2004

Microsoft half fixes serious IE vuln

Microsoft issued a workaround today to guard against a serious vulnerability in Internet Explorer which created a way for hackers to turn popular websites into conduits for viral transmission. Configuration changes to the Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 operating systems introduced today do not fix the underlying problem with IE, but they do protect against the Download.Ject attack. The configuration changes are currently available on Microsoft’s Download Centre and will be made available later today through Windows Update. Microsoft is working on a series of patches to provide a more comprehensive fix. It didn’t say when they would be available. On 24 June many websites running IIS 5 were infected with malicious JavaScript code called Download.Ject. Websites running the latest versions of Microsoft IIS were unaffected. If IE users visited websites hosting Download.Ject their PCs attempted to download a virus from a Russian website. Acting with law enforcement authorities, Microsoft was able to rapidly shut down the Russian website, but the affair still highlighted security concerns with IE. Security clearing house US-CERT took the extraordinary step of advising users to ditch IE in favour of alternative browsers. Most embarrassing. Microsoft is "continuing to work with law enforcement and industry partners to identify the individuals or entities responsible for Download.Ject Internet attack, and bring those responsible for this criminal act to justice". ® Related stories Malware attacks IE users via pop-ups CERT recommends anything but IE Internet Explorer. Quick, call security! Gates defends Microsoft patch efforts MS hatches June patch batch
John Leyden, 02 Jul 2004

Sun slips 'workstations that must not be named' on Web

Sun Microsystems is playing on odd game of hide the workstation with its customers. Earlier this week, a Reg reader made his way onto a Sun training site that listed the W1100z and W2100z as the company's upcoming Opteron-based workstations. But just moments after the systems were spotted, they disappeared. Thankfully, Google has a strong memory, and still has the boxes popping up here. What's new? Well, mostly the names. Sun has strangely been offering its Opteron workstation - code-named Metropolis - via a couple of channels, including this developer bundle and this eBay auction. But neither sales program disclosed the W1100z and W2100z names. The monickers are apparently prized possessions. It seems safe to guess that the W1100z is a one processor box, and the W2100z ships with two chips. We're told that both systems start shipping on July 13. Hopefully, Sun will take the bold step of releasing the product names at that time. In other Sun Opteron news, we hear the company dumped Newisys's board designs in favor of designs from Celestica. Our sources were not sure whether this change spread across Sun's current 2-way system, workstation and upcoming 4-way box or if they change was on the 4-way only. Sun will, of course, dump both Newisys and Celestica over the next year as it moves to in-house designs. These will come from a skunkworks project led by Andy Bechtolsheim, a Sun founder who recently rejoined the company. His Becky-Boxes are expected this year. ® Related stories AMD 'penetrates' Dell - again Intel feels more 'complete' with release of 64-bit Xeon Sun slams Red Hat IBM breathes life into Itanium ecosystem Sun goes back to the future with Metropolis
Ashlee Vance, 02 Jul 2004

HP issues apocalyptic Netscape HP-UX warning

HP has put out a red alert for users of the Netscape browser on HP-UX, saying this software pairing could result in no less than total destruction. HP customers have been strongly urged to remove Netscape and install Mozilla on HP-UX 11, 11.11, 11.22 and 11.23. The continued use of Netscape on HP's operating system could result in "denial of service attacks, information leaks, unauthorized access and remote unauthorized code execution." Not a pleasant list. Along with its warning, HP has dropped support for Netscape on HP-UX. This move by HP is no shocker since much more attention is being paid these days to Mozilla - the open source basis of Netscape. Mozilla for HP-UX is available here. ® Related stories Fiorina touts HP advances Sun offers a hand to confused HP-UX customers MSN search finds time loop Public offering for Opera, Mozilla renames browser
Ashlee Vance, 02 Jul 2004

Wireless cola gives USAF target practice

A stunt by Coca Cola to equip special 'prize' drink cans with a tracking device has backfired on the company. Over a hundred cans have been fitted with a red button which when pressed, will activate a marketing SWAT team from the drinks giant, which will then descend from the skies and present the bewildered soda guzzler with a prize. The cans contain a GPS tracking device and a GSM cellphone. It's raised security concerns, although who has the most to fear is debatable. Over at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the USAF will screen incoming soda cans to detect the tracking device, and other military installations have followed suit. But surely, the real danger is to the airborne marketeers. Our assessment of the Coca Cola Company's military strength isn't quite up as comprehensive as we'd like it to be. The company has a history of using local proxies for its overseas campaigns. But descending on a US Air Force Base while the Homeland is in a state of Orange Alert is far riskier than any of its South American operations - and sure to end up with only one winner. So if you hear a loud explosion this July 4 weekend, it may not be a firework. It may simply be Coca Cola marketing people dueling it with the USAF. ® Related story RIAA orders US Navy to surrender Apple users' disgust at RIAA's Pepsi child ad
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Jul 2004

Google sued over Orkut bug replication feature

Google's Orkut code is stolen, says the company that its eponymous author founded and left. A lawsuit filed by Affinity Engines, co-founded by Orkut Buyukkokten, claims that there are nine unique bugs in the codebase, and that's too much to be a coincidence. Buyukkokten is a Stanford graduate and developed the social networking code for Stanford alumini, founding a company to develop it commercially before joining Google. But Google says that despite requests to see the code, Affinity Engines has, like SCO, refused to reveal its hand. At the peak of the social networking hype a year ago, Google considered buying the best known brand, Friendster. Instead it launched Orkut, which represented a surprising departure for them. The home spun Windows-based project lacked much of the polish of the usual Google labs experiments, and was withdrawn within days after security bugs compromised users' privacy. It reappeared with a draconian Terms and Conditions which give Google the right to create derivative works. As for the hype? Well, repetition and inanity have thinned the ranks considerably, as this excellent précis explains. None of the much-trumpeted social networking sites has yet to figure out a business model. And established and profitable networking websites point out that this isn't so much a Brave New Science, so much as a simple feature existing websites can add quickly and cheaply. So you don't have to be a genius to guess which way this will pan out. (Silicon Valley VC John Doerr has put money behind Friendster, but you must remember that this is the fellow who predicted that another of his investments, Segway, would become the fastest-growing company in history, thanks to its $5,000 scooter). Orkut means "to cum" in Finnish, although we don't know if Mr and Mrs Buyukkokten, who are Turkish, knew that at the time they christened their son. Perhaps the choice of Orkut, and the orgasmic name, are a sophisticated joke by the management. ® Related stories Big Brother nominated for Google Award Google revives discredited Microsoft privacy policy for Friendster clone Security bugs floor Google's Friendster-clone Why the Friendster bubble 'has peaked will pop'
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Jul 2004