8th > December > 2004 Archive

IBM sells PC biz to China

So, it's true. IBM, creator of the original PC in 1981, has sold its computer business to Chinese assembler Lenovo, formerly the Legend Group. Lenovo will pay Big Blue $1.25bn, with $650m in cash, and IBM will retain an 18.9 per cent stake in the joint venture. Lenovo will be IBM's preferred supplier and retains the right to use the brand for five years. The deal excludes IBM's eServer x86 PC servers. IBM's chief executive Sam Palmisano cited economies of scale, explaining in a release that the consumer PC market was increasingly resembling the consumer electronics business, and that the deal would help maintain IBM's focus on business computing. The deal has huge symbolic significance, far greater than IBM's five per cent market share suggests. IBM's stake in the largest Chinese PC OEM could prove to be one of its better investments, as the domestic market in the PRC has the most promising potential for growth: the government has vowed to urbanize a billion citizens over the next decade. Originally the deal was rumored to exclude IBM's notebook line - and forum members over at Bill Morrow's Thinkpads.com site were anxious that the Thinkpad line maintains its stellar reputation for build quality and reliability - not to mention documentation and parts support. "I'm a diehard Mac fan but the IBM Thinkpad is the only PC I will buy," wrote one, when the rumors surfaced last week. Lenovo has next to no R&D experience at present. Thinkpad is undoubtedly a stronger brand than the one Lenovo produced last year. The joint venture will be headed from New York with major offices in Raleigh, North Carolina and Beijing. Stephen Ward, the Personal Systems Group director at Big Blue, will be the operation's founding CEO. Yuanqing Yang, Lenovo's current President and CEO, will become chairman of Lenovo if the deal closes as expected in the second quarter of next year. Lenovo expects to have close to 19,000 staffers at the close of the deal with 10,000 of these workers - 40 per cent of which are in China and 25 percent in the US - coming from IBM. ® Related stories IBM to take 5% of Lenovo to seal PC biz deal - report IBM, Lenovo to announce JV 'this week' IBM said to be in PC divison sell-off talks IBM to Power China IBM, Lenovo ponder world desktop PC JV China's 3G 'wonderchip' primed and ready Dell drops out of China's low-end PC market AMD bags Chinese giant Chinese PC giant sets new benchmark in branding banality Motorola gambles big on Linux, Sinocapitalism
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Dec 2004

Toshiba touts DVD/HD DVD hybrid

Toshiba and fellow Japanese technology company Memory-Tech have developed the obvious successor to DualDisc: a disc that incorporates both DVD and an HD DVD playback surfaces. Unlike DualDisc, which mounts a regular CD on the back of a DVD Audio disc, the Toshiba/Memory-Tech system uses a dual-layer structure so both formats can be played off one side of the disc. Both discs indicate a lack of confidence in consumer demand for the higher-resolution formats. While punters readily enough dropped vinyl LPs and cassettes for CDs, they have yet to show the same enthusiasm for DVD Audio or its Sony alternative, Super Audio CD. While both offer much better audio quality than CD, their respected supporters have yet to push either format to the mass-market, preferring to target audiophiles. DualDisc is seen as a way of enticing ordinary listeners over to the new format, but allowing recording companies to issue single-package product that supports CD along with DVD Audio, ensuring backward compatibility with today's hi-fi equipment, but allowing punters to build up a library of high-res material without being forced to splash out on a new player straight away. The Toshiba/Memory-Tech system would presumably work the same way, allowing consumers to obtain hi-definition video content long before they feel the need to upgrade to the new technology. When they do, they'll have a ready supply of content. Having the content already is also likely to encourage consumers to upgrade to the higher-quality format sooner rather than later. And with Sony pushing Blu-ray as an alternative to HD DVD, Toshiba undoubtedly hopes that that availability of cross-generation content will help shift the market toward the latter format rather than Sony's alternative. Toshiba recently said four major pre-recorded DVD providers have committed to HD DVD. While the format has the strength of the phenomenally popular DVD brand, it's still up against the Sony marketing machine and - crucially - the Playstation 3's role as a Blu-ray market seeder. Both systems also assume that consumers are not going to go on a big media replacement binge like the music industry saw when buyers shifted to CD. Both formats' success will depend on broad label adoption and non-preferential pricing. If they significantly cost more than vanilla DVDs, few buyers beyond those who'll quickly adopt HD DVD anyway will choose the hybrids. The first discs will hold 4.7GB of DVD data and 15GB of HD DVD content, the two companies said. ® Related stories Major studios back HD DVD HP confirms plans for Blu-ray Toshiba preps HD DVD notebook PC CE giants 'readying Blu-ray camcorders' DVD Forum finalises HD DVD-RW disc spec Blu-ray group mandates Microsoft codec for BD-ROM European sofas brace for HDTV Blu-ray movie disc format unveiled DualDisc roll out challenged by Euro patent holder Sony selects Blu-ray for PlayStation 3 Blu-ray founders rename, open group to new members
Tony Smith, 08 Dec 2004

Google News' chief robot speaks out

Is Google News' chief scientist, Krishna Bharat, actually a robot? From an interview in the current issue of Wired magazine, it's increasingly difficult to conclude that Bharat could convincingly pass the Turing Test. Every time Google News is criticized for bias, Bharat is wheeled to field out an identical reply. He claims that humans can't be held responsible for what appears on his website - because machines are in charge. "The truth is, Google News doesn't have a point of view," he tells the magazine. "It's a computer, and computers do not understand these topics the way humans do and can't be systematically biased in any direction." Surely even a simple Eliza script could produce a more convincing reply, or at least have been tweaked moderate it subtly on each occasion. This leaves us skeptical: the Bharatbot is long overdue a maintenance upgrade. Now even hive-minded Google fans who are predisposed to viewing the internet as a "natural democracy" (in Google's own words) are beginning to smell something fishy in the Chief Bot's refusal to take responsibility. Google News alone consistently ranks as the fifth most popular site in the United States - so its reach and influence are matters of public concern. Amongst the groups getting a chance-in-a-lifetime publicity boost from the website are the fascist British National Party, we discovered. The controversy began eighteen months ago when Google News began to include corporate and lobbyists' press releases in its aggregator. After our stories, Google began to tag identify stories as press releases. One Friday evening back in April 2003, the company even promised to publish a public, written policy for inclusion the following Monday. (You can read what happened here). To this day, Google hasn't published a criteria for what goes in to the news aggregator, and has used the same reasoning to counter privacy concerns about its Gmail service. It's a PR disaster almost entirely of Google's own making. Google's refusal to take responsibility for its actions isn't exactly original: at one point in an Antitrust deposition Bill Gates claimed that "the computer wrote" one particular incriminating email. It's the "cat ate my homework" excuse of the 21st Century. But Google insults the intelligence of its users, who are well aware that Google's computers process whatever its human operators tell them to process. So human or algorithm? We're leaning towards the latter. What the Bharatbot doesn't seem to have been programmed with is the experience of ever having being someone who reads the news himself: and experience is often the vital difference between bot and machine. ® Related link Bharat: human or robot? You decide [Wired] Related stories Tide of migrant BNP PR menaces Google News PR Rules OK? Google ducks promised News pledge Google launches email, takes the Bill Gates defense “This MS Antitrust story was created by a computer program”
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Dec 2004

Dell turns on too pricey Red Hat

Dell and Sun Microsystems actually agree on something. Both companies think Red Hat's Linux operating system and services are too expensive. A Dell executive struck out at Red Hat today, saying smaller customers might shy away from the price of Red Hat's software. This charge is particularly unusual for Dell, which has been a major Red Hat backer. Dell, in fact, has been a longtime investor in Red Hat and was late to promote SuSE Linux as an option for customers. "We believe Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, for the small and medium-sized business market, was out of the price range of these customers," Judy Chavis, director of business development for Dell's enterprise product group told CNET. "(Red Hat's price) was definitely a factor in us working with Novell. Novell was able to step in and offer us that price point." Sun executives have long been beating on Red Hat's pricing model, saying the company charges too much for services and support. In addition, Sun has pointed to Red Hat customers who complain about the costs of certifying software to the company's version of Linux. Dell, typically a quiet company, will take an occasional public shot at partners in order to help out its own bottom line. Chavis, however, was more aggressive than usual with her comments. "You get overconfident," she continued. "You believe you're the only game in town. But you always have to be watching for the second in line." ® Related stories Sun shooting for double-digit piece of the x86 market Oracle's data center of the future doesn't include HP or Sun Itanium inventor bobs to surface as chip's savior? Sun begs partners to sell more Opteron servers Dell eclipses Sun in server sales How MS will end the Dell - Intel love-in Novell makes profit in Q4
Ashlee Vance, 08 Dec 2004

IBM CEO's memo clarifies PC biz sell-off

ExclusiveExclusive So why did IBM agree to sell its PC division to Lenovo for $1.25bn? And how did Big Blue break the news to thousands of worried staffers, not only in the company's Personal Computing Division, but throughout out the increasingly high-end oriented firm? For the answers to these questions, we turn to none other than IBM chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano. Here, in full, is his email to IBM's workers, obtained today by The Register: Dear IBMer: I have important news to share with you. Today we announced a definitive agreement with the Lenovo Group, China's largest manufacturer and distributor of personal computers. Lenovo will acquire IBM's Personal Computing Division, creating the third-largest PC business in the world. Headquartered in New York, Lenovo's new PC business will be our preferred supplier of IBM- and Think-branded PCs. This will allow us to continue to provide our clients with end-to-end integrated solutions - but with the advantages of a PC business with unique and powerful capabilities: significant economies of scale, global distribution channels, strong brand recognition, an experienced and expert management team and workforce, and number one market position in the world's fastest growing IT market. In addition, IBM will be Lenovo's preferred services and financing provider. IBM will hold an 18.9 per cent equity stake in Lenovo. Today's announcement is the latest action we have taken in recent years to reposition IBM for leadership in a rapidly changing industry. For some time we have said that there are two ways to create long-term value for clients and shareholders in the IT industry: invest heavily in R&D and be the high-value innovation provider for enterprises, or differentiate by leveraging vast economies of scale, high volumes and price. IBM is an innovation company. We are committed to being the premier IT solutions partner for enterprises of all sizes, in all industries. This business model requires that we continuously create intellectual capital and that we reinvent everything we do - our technologies, products and services, our culture and our portfolio of businesses. This has been the hallmark of our company and has enabled IBM to grow and to lead countless product and technology cycles over many decades. Today, computing and its uses are again changing radically - to what we've been describing as on demand business. This is opening up tremendous opportunities for IBM, and it's why we have invested billions of dollars in recent years to strengthen our capabilities in hardware, software, services and core technologies focused on transforming the enterprise. At the same time, the PC business is rapidly taking on characteristics of the home and consumer electronics industry, which favors economies of scale, pricing power and a focus on individual users and buyers. These are very different business and economic models, and they will diverge even further in the years ahead. By combining our personal computing division with its own, highly complementary business, Lenovo will be much better positioned to capture the opportunities in the PC industry. Lenovo is committed to investing in, growing and winning in PCs. Lenovo will be a formidable competitor, and our alliance gives IBM an even stronger position in China, while strengthening our brand presence there. Of course, IBM will continue to play a significant role in creating innovations for individuals - and not only through the broad PC alliance we are announcing today. As you know, our company is investing heavily to create the computing platform of the future. Our microprocessors and open software technologies underpin the next-generation on demand infrastructure, which will extend from the enterprise to the home to the mobile product to an expanding array of connected devices. In just the past couple of weeks, we've made significant announcements about advanced microprocessors we are developing in partnership with some of the world's leading consumer electronics companies, as well as initiatives to broaden adoption and support for these open platforms. We are excited by today's announcement and how it further positions IBM for leadership in the days and years ahead. Sam Palmisano, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Related stories IBM sells PC biz to China Is IBM PC sell off preparation for a Power chip attack? Apple of IBM's eye? IBM to take 5% of Lenovo to seal PC biz deal - report IBM, Lenovo to announce JV 'this week' IBM said to be in PC divison sell-off talks IBM to Power China IBM, Lenovo ponder world desktop PC JV
Tony Smith, 08 Dec 2004

Update for Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 secures new beta status

Microsoft has strolled a little closer to delivering an update for Windows Server 2003 by showing a release candidate service pack for the OS. This first service pack for Windows Server 2003 arrives with a variety of new security features, including more stringent privilege policies, support for "no execute" hardware and a fancy security configuration wizard. Along with the release candidate for SP1, Microsoft said beta testers can play with release candidates of its 64-bit Server 2003 and XP operating systems for AMD and Intel's x86-64-bit chips. SP1 and the 64-bit versions of Windows are all much delayed. They're now expected to arrive in production form during the first half of 2005. The SP1 release comes with all the typical warnings from Microsoft. "Windows Server 2003 SP 1 addresses known vulnerabilities to Windows Server 2003 by tightening the authorization needed for some services and disabling others all together," Microsoft said. "In some cases this may result in unexpected behavior from your applications." That sounds exciting. Customers will also be getting the Windows Firewall released earlier this year with Windows XP SP2. You can see Microsoft's Top Ten reasons to install the Windows Server 2003 SP1 here. ® Related stories Disruptive IT forces gather in London hotel India to enjoy cut-price Windows MS quashes infamous Bofra bug Sun, MS just thrilled to be together Is Microsoft creating tomorrow's IE security holes today?
Ashlee Vance, 08 Dec 2004

'Pukka celeb' to front Madasafish ad

Madasafish.com is hiring a "pukka celebrity" to star in a TV commercial plugging its new broadband service. David Laurie, boss of Brightview Group -owned ISP, is keeping the exact details of the celeb under wraps because of "contractual" reasons. However, he did reveal the star was a funny man. The TV ads will plug Madasafish's £17.99 a month ADSL service and air for the first time on Christmas Day. The offer also includes a free modem, free connection and no download restrictions. Elsewhere, Exeter-based ISP Eclipse Internet has doubled the maximum boost speed of its FLEX Broadband range by introducing two new services - FLEX Broadband Home 2000 and FLEX Broadband Business 2000. The ISP has also cut the cost of its 1Mbps unlimited FLEX Broadband service by 20 per cent. Last month Eclipse unveiled a 2Mbps capped broadband service for the entry-level price of £14.99 a month. The service, which enables punters to buy more time online depending on their usage, was described as being "similar to the German Autobahn". Which is nice. ® Related stories Eclipse punts entry-level 2Mb broadband The Great ISP Buyout Kingston Comms buys Eclipse Internet
Tim Richardson, 08 Dec 2004

PeopleSoft customers learning to love Oracle

PeopleSoft customers are getting more comfortable with the idea of an Oracle takeover - at least they are according to Oracle's co-president Charles Phillips. Speaking at the opening of Oracle's customer jamboree OpenWorld in San Francisco Phillips said: "A lot of opinion of this deal has changed. We're reaching out to these customers. They've gotten a lot more comfortable about it.", according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Some observers fear that uncertainty created by the takeover, or the fight over the takeover, would push customers to other vendors. More here. In other news Oracle said it hopes to hold onto as many former JD Edwards developers as possible. PeopleSoft bought JD Edwards in June last year. Safra Catz, co-president of Oracle, said: "One reason we've been in a hurry is we've been concerned about the state of the J.D. Edwards intellectual properties. We are hearing about a lot of J.D. Edwards resumes on the street - people being let go by PeopleSoft. And we want to maintain as many folks as we can." According to CRN, Oracle wants to keep as many developers as possible and will keep offices in Pleasanton, California - PeopleSoft's HQ. Catz says Oracle is committed to supporting PeopleSoft apps for ten years - but the countdown for that grace period began when it launched its takeover bid last year. Catz said Oracle will ensure that PeopleSoft's existing 12,750 customers stayed happy. Oracle is determined to keep customers happy and pledged to "oversupport" them to achieve this. Catz said: "Our number one goal is to maintain the customer base...We need to spend as much as SAP(on research and development)...A large customer base is the only way to do it," Reuters reports. More here. The hostile takeover is currently on hold while a Delaware court decides whether to remove the "poison pill" clauses PeopleSoft is using to prevent Oracle taking control of the firm. A decision is expected in January. ® Related stories Oracle plots PeopleSoft board takeover PeopleSoft holds firm PeopleSoft threatens to sue Oracle
John Oates, 08 Dec 2004

Meet Frank Fowlie, ICANN Ombudsman

InterviewInterview It would be very easy to paint the newly appointed Ombudsman to Internet overseeing organisation ICANN as a heroic figure. The fact that he hasn't been is either a missed trick or a reassuring sign that substance is more important than style - we can't be sure which. A former Canadian mountie, UN peacekeeper and Olympic Games officer, Frank Fowlie is also a keen swimmer and photographer. He has worked at the hard edge of social services, drugs enforcement and finance for 20 years and yet the man who can't believe he's got a cold while sitting in the Cape Town sun when he's more used to freezing weather in Ottawa, is jovial and jokey. It is ICANN's 20th conference and four days earlier, he had been introduced to the world as the man who would act as the eyes and ears of the Internet. As Ombudsman designate he would be able to question any decision made by ICANN, its board and staff, have unlimited access to people and files, and have direct board-level access for his findings. It is a role pushed onto the organisation two years ago but which ICANN has stubbornly failed to fill, while those involved in running the huge underlying infrastructure of the Internet have grown increasingly frustrated. It is a complex, difficult, daunting and controversial task. He appears unfazed: "Everybody's been asking me: 'Have you got your first complaint yet?' It's been the question of the day," he quips straight off. In fact, he hasn't. But neither has the newly published "framework" on how he intends to do the job attracted a single public response yet, three days after it was first posted. It may have been a very long time coming but it seems that no-one, including Frank himself, has any idea what to expect now that the Internet community finally has a formalised complaints process. "It could be a mile wide and an inch deep. Or three feet wide and the bottom of the ocean. Or the bottom of the ocean wide and deep," he says about the expected workload. "I have no idea whether there will be lots of small issues, or two or three really deep issues." Empathy and understanding What is envisioned though is a sort-of one-man crusader who will take on whatever problem is thrown his way, piece together all the information, listen to all sides, come to a conclusion and then let it be known to the wider public. "I'm an intermediary. Alot of this job is a matter of translation. Very often alot of the issue is being able to talk people, get the different points of view and resolve them so each party has a real good understanding and a little bit of empathy for the other party." He fears that he may have come too late to the party: "The unfortunate thing is with ICANN that there are probably a number of cases in litigation now where the parties could have benefited from coming to an Ombudsman first." That doesn't mean he won't listen to complaints now. So long as no paperwork has been sent on the issue, he is prepared to review it. "The future will indicate whether there are opportunities for people that feel similarly angered," he muses. "Let's hope that they do." This is not a high-powered job, though. Frank will be working purely by himself in his home town of Ottawa, although he is soon moving to the West coast of Canada to be in the same timezone as ICANN's headquarters in Marina del Ray, California. He has no secretary, no PA, and will personally deal with all complaints that will arrive via email through an interactive form on ICANN's website. "I want it to be accessible to anybody in the world, and wherever I am travelling I will be able to see it over a secure server," he explains. On top of his salary, he has drawn up a draft budget that will include his stay, travel, peer involvement of the US Ombusdman Association, the costs of investigative facilities, translators and start-up costs for his office's infrastructure. He will be visiting Marina del Ray on a "weekly or bi-weekly basis because that's where all the staff and the files are", but his independence is vital and has been frequently referred to by ICANN's CEO Paul Twomey as evidence that it isn't just setting up a yes-man operation. Casting his net He already has his own Ombudsman page on the ICANN website at http://www.icann.org/ombudsman, where Frank claims to be able to post whatever he likes. "My intent is to make it as open and transparent a website as possible," he tells us. Although at the moment, the Web-based form is on hold while he finds and installs some decent case management software. As for whether he intends to set up his own, separate website (www.icann-ombudsman.com is free, we tell him), he says not. "People will look to me first through ICANN, there is a natural linkage." But while the set-up seems fine (although we would prefer a separate site, linked to by ICANN), the real issue is over what the Ombudsman can do, will do and can pressure ICANN into doing. "ICANN is not a goverment, and I am not a governmental Ombudsman, I am an executive Ombudsman," he explains. "A lot of the stuff I have said about governmental Ombudsmen is to underline the independence of the office." The difference, he says, is that if, say, the government of California had appointed him, "it would be really difficult for people from the other 259 countries to see natural justice, to look on the process as having any sort of fairness." He has, he argues, "globality". Globality or not, what powers does he really possess and what can he do in the event of a serious and upheld complaint about ICANN decisions in the future? "The powers that I have are very much in line with those of a governmental Ombudsman in Canada - to make recommendations. If something goes wrong and I am really worried about it, I can do two things: one, notify the board, give them notice that something is wrong; and two, make recommendations, saying there is a systemic issue here that needs a solution and the recommendation I have is..." And if the board ignores him? "They can accept it or reject it. But if I feel it is rejected with no good reason, I have the power of moral persuasion to go to the ICANN community in my annual report, or whatever, and say 'I've made this recommendation and you're not following it'. And certainly the ICANN community as I've seen it is not a quiet one." A community effort He says that in the talks he had with the board prior to being appointed, and with Paul Twomey in particular, that the feeling he got was very much that his job was to say what he thought and stand by it. "That's why they hired me. Whether issues arise that cause me to have to do those sort of things, that is very much down to the community." If ICANN and another party do get stuck in intractable problems, that is where he steps out and the case goes either to ICANN's Reconsideration Committee (made up of Board members) or the still-untested Independent Review Panel. "I am as much a tool of empowerment to the community as much as I am an adjudicator able to say you must change something," he surmises. "The important thing is that people know I'm here." With any luck, they will soon, and the long overdue accountability issues with ICANN will finally have a proper forum. However successful they are however, depends almost entirely on the personality of the light-hearted Canadian that ICANN has just appointed. ® Related links The ICANN Ombudsman page The Ombudsman framework Related stories ICANN selects its wardens ICANN works Harry Potter magic on net ICANN pitches the internet's future
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Dec 2004

Nvidia to unveil 'nForce for Intel' Q1 05

Nvidia will roll out a Pentium 4-oriented nForce chipset by the end of Q1 2005, the company has confirmed. An announcement will be made in that timeframe, an Nvidia spokesman revealed, Xbit Labs reports. According to a DigiTimes report, the chipset, codenamed 'C19', will support SLI and almost certainly many of the goodies Nvidia announced when it launched the nForce 4 last month. It's not hard to forecast a broad spec: 775-pin processor slot connected to 1066MHz FSB, with PCI Express - two x16 slots, if the SLI claim is correct - Serial ATA, dual-channel DDR 2 at 533MHz or 667MHz, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet and Nvidia's security-oriented network processing technology. By the time C19 ships, Intel should have got its 3.73GHz P4 Extreme Edition out of the door, incorporating not only the recently introduced 1066MHz FSB but its AMD64-like EM64T 64-bit addressing system. Intel should also have shipped the 2MB L2 cache, EM64T-enabled P4 600 series by the then. Nvidia is said to be already sampling C19 to mobo makers, with volume shipments scheduled to commence around the time of the late Q1 2005 launch or early Q2. The chipsets are claimed to be coming out of IBM's fab, rather than TSMC. The graphics chip specialist's move follows last month's announcement that it had signed a P4 bus licence will Intel. Arch-rival ATI already has such a licence and is expected to use it again next quarter to ship versions of its Radeon Xpress chipsets for the P4 600 series. ® Related stories Nvidia nabs PS3 graphics contract Nvidia signs Intel bus licence deal Nvidia details nForce 4 Nvidia ships mobile GeForce 6800 Nvidia pushes GeForce 6200 at value end Nvidia beats Street with Q3 sales hike Nvidia accused of patent violation
Tony Smith, 08 Dec 2004

Think tank survey claims 81% support UK ID cards

A survey carried out for the think tank Reform claims 81 per cent of the British public favour the introduction of compulsory ID cards, with 29 per cent thinking it would be a very good idea, and 52 per cent a good idea. The survey, of 1,022 adults, was carried out by ICM between 1st and 2nd December, and reflects the largely non fact-based public viewpoint that cards are harmless, would tackle terror, fraud and illegal immigration, and 'what have you got to hide anyway?' The survey does however signpost several vulnerabilities of the scheme, the 'Madrid' factor and cost, and as the public grasps the full significance of the National Identity Register, this could present a third problem. Reform presents itself as independent and "strictly non-party", although its high command has something of a Tory track record. But it has not yet taken a position on ID cards, and it's perfectly conceivable that it could come out against, once it's balanced free-market and libertarian imperatives versus security. Reform says it will produce a paper assessing the ID scheme "shortly". The questions posed by the survey seem relatively balanced (certainly compared to what passes for balance in government circles these days), although in a couple of areas they have at least arguably been influenced by received wisdom. For example, the sample was asked whether they agreed most with the first or the second statement, "ID cards will help to prevent benefit fraud, or ID cards will inevitably be forged which will undermine their effectiveness against fraud." The Register's view (and we can cite sources) here is that they will not help significantly against benefit fraud, because only a very small amount of this relates to ID fraud, and that it is by no means certain that they will be forged. So what to answer? All the questions and responses can be found here, and overall the survey can probably be best viewed as an indicator of public prejudices on a scheme they're currently fairly ill-informed on. As regards the 'Madrid' factor, the split here is relatively close, with 56 per cent believing ID cards will help in the "war on terrorism", while 39 per cent thought "ID cards did not help prevent the Madrid bombings so what difference would they make here." Now, this is particularly interesting because it's also one that the Home Office has identified as a key area of vulnerability. Speaking at a press event last week Home Office Minister Des Browne said that he knew ID cards helped against terrorism because he'd spoken to the Spanish, who had said ID cards had helped Spain in the fight against the Basque group ETA. The Home Office's latest word here is "interdict", which is helpful because ID cards do not have to be seen to stop specific incidents happening, they can be justified on the basis that they "interdict" the support networks terrorists use in order to carry out specific incidents. There was however a slight snag with Browne's claim even before ETA set off a string of bombs last weekend. ETA has been active in Spain for 30-40 years, and seems not to have been massively effected by ID cards for most of that period. The factors that have helped Spain to overcome ETA have been better cross-border cooperation with France, the compromising of ETA's command structures, and a substantial decline in public support for the group. Similar factors affected the conflict in Northern Ireland. The survey also reveals that 31 per cent of people don't want to pay for cards at all, and that a further 30 per cent would only be willing to pay £10. Nevertheless, when presented with the actual cost of £35 for ID card alone and £85 if issued with a passport, 68 per cent in total still thought ID cards were a good idea. Price is therefore a vulnerability which the government can overcome, as long as it can keep the public thinking that ID cards will do what it claims they will. Overall cost could however be an issue. Presented with an estimate of £5.5 billion for the cost of the scheme, 46 per cent were more inclined to think that the money would be better used to fight crime in other ways, with 51 per cent agreeing that the ID scheme was worth it. Further cost revelations and a few more government IT disasters could change this very quickly. For the record, 33 per cent think the Government's IT record means the scheme is bound to go wrong, while 64 per cent, presented with the decidedly leading suggestion "The Government already runs large databases such as for passports and driving licences and it is quite capable of running a national ID database properly", agree with that. Now, if the running of these databases was viewed as totally satisfactory, why is it that David Blunkett places so much importance on not using them, and starting with his vaunted "clean database?" ® Related links: Reform announcement Home Office defends ID card plans (again) Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card
John Lettice, 08 Dec 2004

O2 unveils compact PocketPC phone

UK mobile phone network O2 is to bring a more compact version of its XDA II PocketPC phone, through the device will initially only be made available to its Far Eastern customers. Dubbed the XDA II Mini, the device is based on a 416MHz Intel XScale PXA272 processor, 64MB of RAM and 64MB of ROM. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, PocketPC Phone Edition, to give the OS its full title. The compact, iPod-like, 10.8 x 5.8 x 1.8cm, 150g device sports a 2.8in, 240 x 320, 16-bit colour LCD - slightly smaller than the usual 3.5in job PocketPCs ship with - and a 1.3 megapixel camera. Expansion comes courtesy of an SD IO card slot - O2 Asia is bundling a 256MB card with the handheld - so there's potential for Wi-Fi connectivity to be added to the Mini. However, it does incorporate Bluetooth, tuned to the 1.2 spec. The Mini is also a tri-band GSM/GPRS handset capable of operating on the 900, 1800 and 1900MHz bands. O2 said it will run for 180 hours on stand-by or provide 4-5 hours' talk time. The handset supports 40-voice polyphonic ringtones. The XDA II Mini will be more familiar to European PDA and smart phone buffs as the T-Mobile MDA Compact. It will also go on sale in Europe later this month as the i-mate Jam for around £400, SIM-free, less with connection. O2 XDA II Mini pricing depends on which territory you buy it in. In Singapore, for example, the Mini costs SGD1168 (£367/$714). All these devices are produced by Taiwanese PDA-phone specialist HTC. ® Related stories Vodafone launches Wi-Fi Pocket PC O2 unveils XDA IIs, IIi Wi-Fi Pocket PCs T-Mobile: UK will get Windows Mobile smart phone T-Mobile unveils Wi-Fi PDA-phone Related reviews HTC 'Blue Angel' Wi-Fi PocketPC phone Voq Pro smart phone Mio 8390 smart phone Vodafone Blackberry 7100v
Tony Smith, 08 Dec 2004

Flashing Xmas lights down DSL connection

Dodgy Christmas lights are being blamed for knocking over broadband connections, with imported flashing lights that don't meet UK electrical standards fingered as the worst offenders. As a result, BT Wholesale has written to ISPs warning them to be on their guard over the festive season. "It has come to BT's attention that an extremely small percentage of seasonal lighting, which can be used both internally and externally may cause interference with the broadband service. "When the lighting control unit is set to any mode other than a steady state it may generate high levels of radio frequency noise and may cause the broadband service to lose synchronisation. "Investigations have revealed that the broadband service may be impacted where the lights do not meet the standards necessary for customer equipment marking," it said. So far, only a few dozen instances of flashing Christmas lights felling broadband have been reported. Incidentally, similar advice had to be issued last year. ® Related stories Twelfth Night brings ADSL respite Amazon unavailable for holiday shopping madness M&S site falls over Hate the Band Aid single? Click here
Tim Richardson, 08 Dec 2004

IBM gives up on Schlumberger Ireland buyout

IBM has decided against buying the Irish arm of disaster recovery company Schlumberger, following a decision by the Competition Authority to block the deal. Although IBM could elect to slog it out in the courts with the Competition Authority, it has decided to simply exclude Schlumberger's Irish operation from a global €200m deal that should strengthen IBM's position in the disaster recovery business in Europe. Citing representatives from IBM, the Irish Times reported today that the long delay that would likely be part of an appeals process has prompted the firm to pass on buying Schlumberger's Irish business. The paper also notes that the decision by Big Blue leaves the fate of Schlumberger Business Continuity Services (Ireland) Limited up in the air. Without a global presence, the unit may struggle to win contracts with multinationals, although it could represent an attractive opportunity for other disaster recovery specialists or even for Schlumberger Ireland management. The Competition Authority handed down its decision on the matter over a month ago in what was the first such ruling under merger control legislation introduced in Ireland last year. At the time, the authority said that the takeover would dramatically reduce competition in the Irish disaster recovery market, giving the merged entity an 80 per cent stranglehold on the sector. Schlumberger Business Continuity Services (Ireland) Limited is the biggest provider of disaster recovery services and "hot seats" in Ireland, accounting for about €10m of a €15m market. IBM is its nearest rival. Disaster recovery involves the activation of back-up data and computer systems in the event of a fire, flood or other incident that could take a whole office building out of commission. Companies like IBM and Schlumberger keep computer systems warm, so that when a crisis occurs, large firms can keep operating using backed-up data and hot desks, or fully equipped office space that staff can temporarily re-locate to. In April, the two corporations agreed on a takeover by IBM of all of Schlumberger's disaster recovery sites globally. This deal included the transfer of some 750 clients and 260 employees, which would be folded into IBM Global Services. Schlumberger, a firm involved mainly in energy and natural resources, has been involved in a long process of selling off its non-core assets. Copyright © 2004, ENN Related stories Apple of IBM's eye? IBM buys disaster recovery biz Schlumberger Sema: UK eHealth market poised for substantial growth
Matthew Clark, 08 Dec 2004

HP discussed divorce

HP's board have discussed splitting up the company on three separate occasions, Carly Fiorina, CEO, revealed yesterday. She told a meeting of financial analysts: "The board looked at this analytically and dispassionately and in detail three separate times...and each time the board...came to the same, unanimous conclusion," Reuters reports. Fiorina made the disclosure in response to a question from Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich who has repeatedly called for the firm to be split up. HP's printer business deliver the lion's share of group profits. Plagued by uneven recent financial performance HP has been under pressure from investors for some time. Some observers also believe separating its consumer and business divisions would improve profitability. Fiorina warned that such a process would incur "real costs" and take years to achieve. She pointed out that HP's spin-off of Agilent in 1999, which raised $2bn was only finally completed three months ago. ® Related stories HP redeems pride with strong Q4 Compaq's servers save HP from enterprise sales hell Fiorina: HP's SAP disaster under control
John Oates, 08 Dec 2004

Singapore Airlines plans in-flight live TV via Wi-Fi

Singapore Airlines will add in-flight Wi-Fi to its Singapore-London route during Q1 2005, the first step in the carrier's plan to bring live TV to passengers by the middle of next year. The airborne WLAN comes courtesy of Boeing's Connexion service, which will begin fitting SA's fleet with access points during 2005 to "selected flights worldwide", the airline said. SA announced its plan to implement Connexion back in November 2003, which shows you how long it can take to set up a maintenance schedule that permits aircraft to be pulled out of service for sufficient duration to install the WLAN kit and get it certified by the appropriate flight safety organisations. SA previously said it would begin adding Connexion to aircraft during Q3 2004, with a eye to launching commercial services "shortly thereafter". Next year, that will finally happen. As a long-haul flight, the London to Singapore trip will see punters charged $30 for unlimited Internet access, or billed $10 for 30 minutes' access, with extra time rated at $0.25 a minute. A "minimal" extra charge may also be imposed by ISPs with Connexion roaming agreements - companies with such deals include Singapore's StarHub and SingTel, Japan's NTT (DoCoMo and Communications), InfoNet, and T-Systems. The SA deal follows All Nippon Airways' (ANA) roll out this year of Wi-Fi on its Tokyo-Shanghai run, and the extension of Lufthansa's initial Munich-Los Angeles trip with Frankfurt-Denver, Munich-Charlotte, Munich-Tehran, Munich-San Francisco and Munich-Tokyo. According to Connexion VP Stan Deal, interviewed by Wi-Fi Networking News, Lufthansa will this month add Munich-Miami to the WLAN route-list. Japan Airlines (JAL) will begin offering the service on its London-Tokyo run this month. December will also see Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) offer Wi-Fi on a number of Copenhagen-based flights. Connexion has already announced plans to offer Wi-Fi on Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and China Airlines flights. However, Deal said two further carriers have signed up - formal announcements will follow in due course. To date, early Connexion trialist, British Airways, has not said it will follow up its experiments with a commercial roll out. ® Related stories iPass extends Wi-Fi coverage to stratosphere Intel backs in-flight Wi-Fi initiative Korean Air gives nod to Boeing's in-flight broadband Boeing prices up in-flight Wi-Fi Boeing to offer roaming via in-flight WLANs Wi-Fi takes to the skies British Airways flies high with broadband
Tony Smith, 08 Dec 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Cisco charts course for sustained growth

Cisco yesterday said it is on track to meet Wall Street estimates for 13 per cent growth in its current financial year. Analysts expect revenues of $24.81bn - $22.05bn for FY2005, which ends next July. The networking giant forecasts compound annual revenue growth of 10 - 15 per cent between 2004 and 2008. Dennis Powell, Cisco's CFO, anticipates growth towards the upper end, based on investment on advanced networking technology and expansion into new markets. He acknowledges margins are under pressure but says the firm can maintain growth targets through productivity gains and by focusing on systems - rather than product - sales. ® Related stories Cisco unveils 'mini' monster router Cisco and Fujitsu pool R&D for big routers, switches Cisco's solid Q1 gains leave investors unmoved 3Com issues profit warning Cisco dominates declining router market
John Leyden, 08 Dec 2004

Sprint spends $3bn on 3G

US mobile firm Sprint has detailed what it will spend on upgrading its network and getting it ready for 3G services. The big winners are Lucent, which gets $1.5bn over three years, Nortel, which gets $1bn and Motorola which picks up $450m. All three are existing Sprint suppliers but one industry analyst told Reuters that Motorola had increased its share of Sprint's budget. The contracts cover new switching and radio hardware, software for cell sites and deployment of Sprint's Evolution, Data Optimized (EV-DO) technology. EV-DO will be available in "major US metro areas" during 2005 and provides peak data rates of 2.4Mbps Kathy Walker, vice president of network services at Sprint, said business users and consumers would benefit from the network improvements. "Consumers will enjoy improved wireless capabilities such as high-speed video and audio streaming for entertainment content while business consumers will benefit from mobility data applications that improve productivity and collaboration in such areas as healthcare, insurance, security and professional services." See this press release for more details. ® Related stories Telcos could block free wireless in Philly Sprint to shed another 700 jobs Sprint to axe 1,100 jobs
John Oates, 08 Dec 2004

Dutch govt Microsoft desktop deal riles MPs

Dutch government plans to adopt Microsoft software for 245,000 desktop PCs have caused a stir among Dutch MPs, online magazine Webwereld reports. MPs from D66, SP, GroenLinks and PvdA are unhappy about the proposed deal, worth €147m. Just two years ago a motion by MP Kees Vendrik (Green Party) was unanimously carried in the Dutch Lower Chamber to guarantee that by 2006 all IT systems in the public sector would operate on open standards. He now fears that his motion will be "entirely ignored". Michel van der Bel, CEO of Microsoft in the Netherlands, at the time already criticised the motion as being "oversimplified and one-sided". However, a survey conducted last year by research institute MERIT (Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology) on behalf of the OSOSS (Open Standards and Open Source Software) programme showed that awareness of open standards and open source is steadily progressing in the Dutch public sector. Although closed standards remain widely used within public sector organisations, ICT managers see clear advantages in adopting open standards. The Dutch town of Harlem, for instance has already migrated over 2000 desktops to OpenOffice.org after the city was faced with an annual bill of about €500,000 in licensing fees to upgrade from an early version of MS Office. The city found its costs for training and migration to be €50,000, roughly 90 per cent lower than its license costs for an upgrade to Office 2000. Several MPs now demand an explanation. They ask why there wasn't a public tender, which is mandatory for (IT) projects of €236,000 or more. A definitive vote on the proposed plans is expected next week. ® Related stories Jambo OpenOffice released MS wins Isle of Man government IT deal Linux and the job market
Jan Libbenga, 08 Dec 2004

Offshoring letters keep coming in

Letters to letters. We don't like to get too post-modern here at Reg Towers but we've received a fine selection of letters in response to a previous selection of letters we published. Offshoring or outsourcing is something every Reg reader has an opinion on, and we've yet to hear from two readers who agree. First up we have a calm, detached and worldly view worthy of a Swami from David Evans: Dear John, I thought the criticism of your article on offshore job migration was a little on the harsh side, but I think there is a wider context that has not been mentioned either in the article or the published letters. The average tea worker in Tamil Nadu, India, earns somewhere in the region of $1.50 per day (last I heard). They are paid based on the number of sacks of tea they bring in, and so if they are unable to work due to illness then they don't get paid. Many of them suffer debilitating back problems as a consequence of the work. The water supplies are not clean, so dysentery and other conditions are common. To buy enough bottled water for one person each day would consume the entire wage packet. In fact, the wages are not enough to subsist on even in India - the workers are forced to borrow money from their employer just to live. They do get a pension, which results in a lump sum at the end of their career (should they make it that far, 'job for life' has several meanings). This works out nicely, as the lump sum is usually enough to pay off the debt, leaving them 'all square' when they retire. Indentured servitude, anyone? Yes please, as long as it's not me. When I visited a tea field in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, there was a sign in the factory (I have a photo). It said "Quality is Passport to Prosperity". I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or just vomit. Let's just say I made my choice, and somebody is going to have flavoured tea when they aren't expecting it. The point is that given the choice between giving a programming job to a tea worker in India, or an unemployed programmer in Conneticut, which would be fairer? We in the USA and Europe have had our turn at the trough, excluding the rest of the world with the excuse that it's 'market forces' at work (which is code for 'greed and fear' any economist will tell you). The revenge that is currently being visited on us in the west is nothing compared to the suffering we have inflicted on India, China or elsewhere (and still do). Being unemployed in Connecticut is still better than being the average employee in India. Having said that, the tea worker in India is still probably a tea worker, and unnaffected by the influx of hi-tech jobs into cities such as Bangalore. I hope it means an uptick in the overall prosperity for India that will eventually result in a better standard of living for all Indians, but there are over one billion of them, and so it will take time. In the meantime, unemployed US software engineers are always welcome in India. The locals enjoy a good laugh. Well, if you can't laugh, what can you do? That's what I always say. Kind regards, David Evans Southampton, UK More perspective from an anonymous Indian IT student studying in the US: This. And in particular, this. might send your 2 correspondents throught the roof ... :) Of course, quoting Maddox can't be an argument, ever, but the point remains that people getting all het up over their jobs being "stolen" need to get real. Especially in the high tech sector, outsourcing makes perfect sense, and they know it. Is there even a choice between paying a good engineer upwards of $75k here in the US and paying an equally qualified person $10k-$20k in India? To put that in perspective, while I was in high school in India, my dad was making $2400 a year and we were comfortably upper middle class. Even factoring in inflation since then, companies can afford to pay what are insanely competitive salaries in Asia, which are still a pittance compared to what they'd have to pay here. Since I'm an Indian studying in the States, I'm probably biased, but I know a bunch of guys who did grad school here and went back home to take up a job. So by outsourcing, you're essentially getting people who were the cream of the crop ... makes sense to me. As for the H-1 jobs, again, people, give the companies a reason to hire you! The H-1 guys didn't get the job because they agreed to minimum wage - they were hired because they were the better option. Tough titty. My 2 cents. And the final word goes to Andrew Barratt: Feel it's necessary to defend John's article somewhat. As for Mr Nodleman's rather feverish rant... Has he not asked himself "WHY am I not getting a job!" A quick search on numerous recruitment sites shows that there are thousands of jobs in the connecticut area. The question I would ask is has Mr Nodleman been spending any of his unemployed time reading and skilling up on new technologies or simply technologies that are more in demand. I've lost track of the amount of my colleagues that have gone from develeopment contracts to infrastructure to support to whatever... Be Flexible! Read! and stop wasting time multiplying numbers from one state by all states to give some bloated overstated figure that argues your case for being a lasy bastard whilst you are unemployed. Outsourcing is inevitable... if for no other reason than the people at the top think "mmmm can do the same over there for less" and so do move production / support / call centres. It doesnt necessarily mean its for good. A lot of call centres are now moving back to the UK, because people arnt happy with the level of service. I think the arrogance of Mr McCourtney sums up a lot of American attitude. you seem to think that you are the only part of the world capable of doing anything with intelligence, I suspect he would be the first to be surprised when he sees that many people don't actually think you Americans are "all that clever". Welcome to global competition, I know several Indian MCADs MCSDs and they are more than competent at their jobs. It matters not where they are but what they can do. High speed networking and good infrastructure deal with the rest. "The idea that they could write software successfully half a world away is laughable"... do you know your industry at all?? I'm laughing at the fact that comment was even made. Instead of whinging, look at what's in demand in your area and do some reading around that will equip you with the necessaries to get a job. Staying skilled up is the key to staying in a your job... (as is doing it well, professionally, etc etc) Thank you for all your emails on this topic, correspondence on this subject is now closed...for now. ®
John Oates, 08 Dec 2004

GM cocaine 'grown in Colombia'

Colombian coca plant farmers have developed genetically modified strains of the plant, the Financial Times claims. Anti-drug officers in the remote Sierra Nevada region of northern Colombia have discovered a new variety of coca plant that can grow up to 2.7m (9ft) tall - double the normal size - and produce four times as much cocaine as ordinary coca plants. Foreign agronomists have helped the coca growers to develop the new strain of plant, which is resistant to many commonly used herbicides and can yield as much as four times the regular concentration of cocaine, the FT reports However Camilo Uribe, a Colombian toxicologist, told Reuters that there is no evidence that the plants are genetically modified. Their extreme size could be because of "an excess of fertiliser", he said. A spokesman for the US embassy in Bogota told BBC News that there was "no scientific proof" that "transgenic coca" had been developed, although rumours of its existence were rife. The increased yield from these new strains of coca plant could help to explain why cocaine production has stayed constant despite the Colombian government's claim that the area under coca cultivation has halved since 2000. Under the government of President Alvaro Uribe, elected in 2002, Colombia has attempted to crack down on cocaine production across the country. Uribe is an enthusiastic supporter of Plan Colombia, a US initiative to train Colombia's security forces and provide them with equipment and intelligence to tackle drug traffickers and destroy coca crops before they can be processed into cocaine. Colombia is the world's third largest recipient of US military aid. ® Related stories Scientists call for nanotech caution Boffins grow breasts on mice Cocaine props up German dotcommers
Robin Lettice, 08 Dec 2004

Tough-talking Ofcom boss slaps BT

Ofcom boss Stephen Carter has squared up to BT over plans to overhaul the UK telco. On Monday BT signalled that it won't comply with new regulatory demands made by Ofcom if such moves are too damaging for its business. In its review of the UK's telecoms sector last month Ofcom called on BT to give rival operators equal access to its products and services (aka "equivalence") and to bring about "substantive behavioural and organisational changes" within its sprawling organisation. Failure to make these changes would lead to BT facing the threat of being broken up, said Ofcom. But on Monday BT boss Ben Verwaayen said it would not meet all of Ofcom's demands if it meant damaging its business. In response, Carter told the Independent today that while Ofcom was happy to enter talks with BT concerning its strategic review of the telecoms sector, BT had no "room for manoeuvre". "There's a lot of room for discussion. I'm not sure I would describe it as room for manoeuvre. I don't at this stage, and I never have thought, that it's constructive to characterise it as a conflict or a contest. We've had 20-odd years of it working one way, we're trying to suggest it could work another way. "My own view, and this is one I think shared by many people, and I would include BT in that, is that this requires substantial change in some areas and I think we can make that work. Like everything, the genie is in the detail and right now we're working on that detail." Critics claim that Verwaayen's comments show that BT is up to its old tricks and playing for time. ® Related stories BT stands firm against Ofcom Ofcom review 'misses golden opportunity' BT faces life-changing three months Ofcom tells BT: shape up, or split up
Tim Richardson, 08 Dec 2004
channel

Intel 'firing on all cylinders' - CEO

Intel CEO Craig Barrett reinforced his optimistic outlook for 2005 when he claimed the "missteps" the chip maker made this year are now behind it. However, Barrett's current number two - and his named successor - COO Paul Otellini admitted that the company hasn't been able to reduce the cost of punching out each processor as much as it had anticipated. Countering 2004's sudden roadmap reversals and product cancellations, Barrett said 2005 would see "some exciting advances in products coming out in the near future". Intel is expected to introduce a new line of Pentium 4 processors, the 600 series, next quarter. However, the line will ultimately cap out at 3.8GHz - Intel formally cancelled the promised 4GHz P4 a few months ago. "I think we have recovered from those missteps and I think the machine is firing on all eight cylinders in terms of product introduction," Barrett said. Next quarter will also see the debut of 'Sonoma', the second generation of Intel's Centrino notebook platform. Barrett also indicated the company would build on Centrino to create platforms based around a series of products, rather than one-off chips, for other types of computer. The company is expected to announce a home entertainment desktop platform this summer. Around the same time, Intel is set to launch its first dual-core desktop chip, 'Smithfield'. All of which may be "exciting" for Barrett and his colleagues, but it seems Wall Street's not too enthusiastic. INTC stock fell a further 53 cents, down 2.2 per cent, to $23.48 after the analyst meeting at which Barrett and Otellini spoke. Pre-market trading saw the price fall to $23.45 this morning. The last 12 months have seen Intel's share price plunge from around $34 down to under $20, though over the last month it has crawled back up to almost $25. Despite Barrett's enthusiasm, investors were probably more concerned by Otellini's statement that the company's 15 per cent target reduction in the cost of manufacturing chips will be missed, blaming the "ups and downs" the market has experienced this year. Instead, he said, they will be 20 per cent cheaper to make by 2006. Barrett's optimistic outlook is also at odds with a number of market watchers who anticipate at best small growth in world chip sales during 2005 or at worst a decline as customers continue to plough through the excessive volumes of semiconductors they bought earlier this year. ® Related stories Intel decides speed matters less these days, kills 4GHz Pentium Intel dual-core desktop chip 'to ship mid-2005' Intel says Adios to Tejas and Jayhawk chips Intel to 'ditch' Pentium 4 core after Prescott Intel's deskbook CPU platform merger plan iSuppli cuts 2005 chip sales growth target World chip sales to fall next year - analyst Intel CEO touts 'much improved' H1 '05 growth Intel's Barrett looks for chip sales growth in '05
Tony Smith, 08 Dec 2004

Sprint sued over alleged vice hacks

A Las Vegas adult services operator is making a federal case of his longstanding claim that cyber security weaknesses at the local phone company have permitted hackers to hijack calls intended for his stable of in-room entertainers - reprising a complaint that state regulators rejected in 2002. Eddie Munoz is seeking $30m in damages from Sprint of Nevada, accusing the company of unfair business practices, in a lawsuit filed in federal court last fall. Munoz first complained to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission in 1994 that Sprint was allowing mercenary hackers to cripple his business by diverting, monitoring and blocking his phone calls - a complaint that's been echoed by Las Vegas private investigators, bail bondsmen and some of Munoz's competitors. In the years of testing and legal wrangling that followed, Munoz produced a wealth of anecdotal evidence, but no empirical proof to support his claim. Sprint maintained that its security was adequate, and insisted that, to the company's knowledge, it had never been hacked. But in several days of PUC hearings in 2002, company officials admitted that they'd lost or destroyed years of records in a reorganization of their security department, and that they'd permitted dial-up access into their switches for maintenance purposes with little logging. Ex-hacker Kevin Mitnick - hired by Munoz as a consultant - even appeared at the hearings to testify that prior to his 1995 arrest he had illicit control of the company's switching systems, and enjoyed unfettered access to a computerized testing system called CALRS that allows users to monitor phone lines and intercept or originate calls throughout Las Vegas. But Mitnick's own testing found no evidence that Munoz was victim of an ongoing call diversion scheme. The commission eventually dismissed the claim, concluding in its final ruling that "Sprint's security is no better nor no worse than that of other telephone companies," and crediting the company with taking "reasonable steps" to protect its network. Citing that finding, attorneys for Sprint of Nevada asked the court last month to dismiss Munoz's new lawsuit, on the grounds that the matter was settled, and the former vice king lost his chance to appeal years ago. Sprint also sites a PUC tariff that holds Nevada telephone companies immune from liability for errors in delivering phone calls. A ruling on the motion to dismiss is likely to come early next year. Copyright © 2004, Related stories Sprint spends $3bn on 3G Sprint to shed another 700 jobs EC wrong on Worldcom / Sprint deal
Kevin Poulsen, 08 Dec 2004

FTC punishes porn dialler firm

A US adult content payment processing firm has agreed to tear up disputed bills of $17m to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. Alyon Technologies has agreed not to pursue an estimated 200,000 consumers for their supposed use of adult videotext services. Another $22m in bills may be forgiven if consumers challenge their charges. According to the FTC, Alyon downloaded a modem-dialling program onto user's computers that changed redirected dial-up into Alyon's network, charging them $4.99 per minute in exchange for access to pornographic content. The FTC alleged that many consumers never visited the defendants’ sites at all, and were charged due to billing service errors, of which the defendant was aware. Alyon also allegedly failed to get the informed content of its "customers" before installing its porn dialler software. In May 2003, the FTC charged Alyon and its principal, Stephane Touboul, with illegally billing and collecting for videotext services. These charges were dropped this week after Alyon promised not to chase disputed bills predating June 2003. Alyon also pledged to clean up its business practices. Widespread consumer complaints against Alyon resulted in charges against it in 16 US states. Alyon's Touboul told Reuters it expects to settle all 13 outstanding actions within a month. ® Related stories When spyware crosses the line Anti-spam spamvertisers agree to quit US company fined for UK rogue dialler scam BT blocks 1,000 rogue dialler numbers Sophos in porn dialler row with UK developer Ireland soothes South Pacific over rogue dialler crackdown
John Leyden, 08 Dec 2004

Nortel finally readies accounts

Nortel Networks says it will finally be able to post financial results for 2003 on 10 January next year - after a series of delays. The company said 11 November it was aiming to provide full accounts within 30 to 60 days - the new deadline just hits this target. Nortel will update its unaudited results in the week of 13 December. Nortel admmitted in March that bean counters had found a hole in its accounts. The networking specialist overstated costs for 2001 and 2002 which meant profits for 2003 were unduly high. The problem was made worse because bonuses were paid to executives based on the faulty figures. In April Nortel sacked its CEO, CFO and financial controller for their role in the disaster. Net earnings for 2003 are now expected to be 28 per cent lower but most of this will be accounted for in previous years so losses in 2002 and 2001 will be reduced. Earnings fell in the first half of 2003 but rose slightly in the second half. Only 18 per cent of 2003 net income reductions will hit continuing operations. Revenue reductions so far have cut revenues for 1999 and 2000 by $430m and $2.8bn. Remaining revenue adjustments will be deferred for future years. The firm still has to check in with Stock Exchange regulators every two weeks. There is a full statement available on Nortel's website here. ® Related stories Nortel delays filing accounts (again) Nortel hammered again No news is good news for Nortel Nortel delays results
John Oates, 08 Dec 2004

AOL confirms 750 job cuts

AOL is culling 750 workers at its HQ in Northern Virginia, three weeks after announcing plans to split the business into four divisions. The reorganisation is designed to cut bureaucracy and improve efficiency, as well as making the decision-making process "much crisper". Axing four per cent of the workforce should also help cut costs as the ISP giant battles to cope with falling customer numbers. At the end of September AOL had 22.7m US users, down 646,000 on the previous quarter and two million down on a year ago. It blamed the decline on an exodus of customers from its service and poor uptake to its marketing campaigns, as consumers opted for rival dial-up services or shifted to broadband instead. In March AOL warned stiffer competition from broadband and cheaper dial-up services meant that "significant" erosion of subscriber numbers looks set to continue. Last December AOL trim its software development operation, axing 450 workers and shutting two California offices. ® Related stories AOL to slash 700 jobs - report AOL to be split in four AOL loses 2m US customers
Tim Richardson, 08 Dec 2004

PalmSource to build Palm OS on Linux

UpdateUpdate PalmSource is to create a new version of the Palm OS with Linux at its core, the company said today after announcing a plan to buy Chinese phone software company China MobileSoft (CMS). With the device market becoming increasingly phone-centric, and with the Chinese market offering a far greater opportunity to device vendors - and their suppliers, like PalmSource - than Europe and North America, it's not hard to see the OS developer's interest in the region. PalmSource already has a smart phone OS, but it believes CMS code will allow it to extend its reach further downmarket into more basic voice-oriented models. CMS has built a phone platform, mfone, on the back of a home-brewed, ARM- and MIPs-oriented embedded version of Linux, mLinux, and a selection of the usual comms and PIM apps. All these components will be the Palm OS look and feel - and, crucially, data compatibility - over time. What's planned is no mere GUI swap - more the replacement with PalmSource code of CMS' application and that part of the OS sitting above the Linux kernel. Some CMS technology, particularly in the telephony area, may well find its way into the Palm OS. PalmSource is also likely to take full advantage of Linux's strength in chipset and device support, the better to improve its OS' ability to offer wireless connectivity, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which if PalmOne and SanDisk's attempts to ship WLAN add-ons are anything to go by, currently need some improvement. Some Linux APIs will be exposed to PalmOS programmers. Palm's 68k emulation model will be ported to Linux, PalmSource said, to ensure full compatibility with older apps. Software written for Palm OS 6 - aka Cobalt - using the Protein API will probably just need to be recompiled, the company said. Like Apple with Mac OS X, PalmSource will keep all the top-layer code proprietary, but it will release any changes it makes to the underlying Linux code - for faster boot times and battery life preservation systems, for example - available to the open source community. Targeting low-end phones PalmSource will clearly pitch the result as a more open alternative to Symbian and Microsoft's phone operating systems. But it may also improve PalmSource's ability to attract handset makers looking for a less complex operating system than those that typically power smart phones. Not only Symbian and Windows Mobile, but the Palm OS too is generally seen as unsuitable for low-end, low-resource devices. So far only a small percentage of the world's mobile phones fall into the 'smart' category. While that may not matter to the Nokia's of this world, already equipped with suitable OS technology, it is likely to appeal to companies keen to break into the developing phone markets, and who are more willing to license the technology they need. If they want a full-featured product, PalmSource has its currently shipping Palm OS 5-based Garnet OS, along with Cobalt. For customers who want something more open, there will be the CMS-derived Linux version, too, replicate Cobalt's feature-set, PalmSource insiders tell us. CMS' focus on China should help PalmSource's moves in that geographic direction. For all CMS' interest in that market, it was co-founded and is run by Silicon Valley folk, so there should be a good cultural fit with PalmSource. CMS' China sales and R&D operation is run as a subsidiary, MobileSoft Technology (Nanjing), which PalmSource also plans to acquire - doubling its number of engineers at stroke. PalmSource CEO David Nagel was keen to point out that the results of the joint development work will not be restricted to Chinese ODMs - European and North American customers will be welcomed too. However, it remains the case that many of the device makers most keen on adopting Linux are based in the Far East. Interestingly, it's been actual and potential customers who have pushed for Linux adoption, rather than PalmSource itself, Nagel told The Register. CMS software is today shipping on 30 Chinese handset designs and has signed ten ODM licences, so its not exactly short of customers. The deal depends on shareholder and regulatory approval, of course, but if it goes ahead, PalmSource will issue 1,570,000 shares which it will swap for CMS equity. The transaction is anticipated to close before the end of PalmSource's third fiscal quarter, ending 28 February 28 2005. PalmSource will then be able to announce a 'Palm on Linux' release schedule at its developer conference next Spring. ® Related stories Group Sense ships Palm slider-phone Tapwave offers Zodiac Wi-Fi pack to UK users Global smart phone sales soar Intel, Symbian to define 3G smart phone 'standard' PalmSource unveils Cobalt OS PalmSource reboots Cobalt, but no phones until 2005 PalmOne offers Wi-Fi card... SyChip gains Palm OK for Wi-Fi modules PalmSource narrows Q4 loss
Tony Smith, 08 Dec 2004

UK failing CO2 targets

The UK will miss its targets for carbon dioxide emissions reduction, unless it pulls its socks up, The Department of the Environment said today. The Government wants to cut CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 20 per cent by 2010. but this goal, will not be reached, as things stand. Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett is consulting "all stakeholders" to review how the UK can reach long-term goals. Armed with this new information the government will publish a revised programme for CO2 reduction in the first half of 2005. On a brighter note, "the UK is on track to go significantly beyond its Kyoto [Agreement] target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Emissions of the six main greenhouse gases have fallen by 14 per cent since 1990, and as a result of the policies currently in place, are projected to be 21 per cent below 1990 levels in 2010." The main reason for the fall is that the UK has much fewer coal-fired power stations these days. Many were mothballed, scrapped or converted to gas in the 1990s, more for reasons of cost, rather than for saving the environment. The next round of cuts will be more difficult, as the biggest gains will come from being nasty to car owners and being nice to public transport. The first is deeply unpopular, the second hugely expensive. The Government today identified the following opportunities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions: Greater energy efficiency. A number of measures, regulatory and incentive-based, have been introduced to stimulate energy efficiency in households. The Government also announced in last week's pre-budget report a £20m package of measures to encourage the development of energy-efficient technology. A rise in the production of biomass. More environmentally friendly travel choices, such as workplace travel plans and promoting alternatives to the school run. Increased use of biofuels. ® Related stories Biofuels key to UK farming future Hydrogen-powered cars creep forward Scientists suck hydrogen from sunflower oil
Robin Lettice, 08 Dec 2004

Virgin Mobile goes to China

Virgin Mobile is in talks with several Chinese mobile operators about starting operations in the country. Richard Branson's mobile arm works with carriers as a Virtual Mobile Operator - it provides the marketing magic while someone else deals with the nuts and bolts. In the UK it uses T-mobile's network. Kong Branson told reporters in Hong Kong that had put aside £154m ($300m) to spend on Chinese expansion. The two most likely candidates for a 50-50 joint venture would be China Telecom , the dominant player, or China Unicom. Asia Times plumped for China Telecom as the likely partner, but offers little evidence; the story is here. Branson told The Guardian: "We are in the early stages of discussion - I suspect the whole thing would take 12 to 18 months before we'll launch. The Chinese market is obviously the fastest growing market in the world. Virgin will be foolish if it is not a player in the market." China has 300m mobile phone subscribers. This timescale would fit with the expected announcement of 3G licenses by the Chinese government. The bearded entrepreneur said Virgin "would certainly be interested in 3G". Virgin is launching a joint venture with Bell Canada, in Canada, and is also looking at Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa, according to The Scotsman. ® Related stories Sigourney Weaver books flight with Virgin Galactic Virgin Mobile ups customers, drops profits Virgin space tourists will blast off to Bowie
John Oates, 08 Dec 2004

Wippit to gain over 1m major-label tracks

UK-based digital music company Wippit has secured content distribution licences from the two remaining major labels that have thus far eluded it: Warner and Universal. In the latter's case Wippit's a la carte download service will gain more than one million songs, though they will only be made available to Wippit's UK and Ireland customers. Warner's catalogue will be made available to a broader, pan-European customer base, Wippit said, though it did not disclose the number of songs it will be adding out of Warner's list. That said, only UK buyers will be able to use Wippit's pay-by-SMS system - buyers in other territories will only be able to use credit cards for payment. And unlike other labels' tracks, the Warner songs will be encoded at 192Kbps. Most major label content is encoded in WMA, though Wippit also offers MP3s from some indie labels. Wippit signed Sony last May after securing BMG and EMI support in March and February this year, respectively. ® Related stories Digital music firm demands big-name business boycott easyMusic picks Wippit for pre-Xmas launch Shawn Fanning's Snocap touts vision of P2P heaven UK CD album shipments break Q3 record Grokster, Sony BMG to do legit P2P service? UK indies sign to Napster... Wippit offers pay-by-SMS digital music downloads Wippit adds 10,000 BMG tracks to catalogue Wippit preps EasyJet-style music download scheme P2P service makes beautiful music with EMI and others
Tony Smith, 08 Dec 2004

London Bridge Software fined for using unlicensed software

A London-based debt recovery software specialist has paid a £39,500 fine for using unlicensed software. This settles a copyright infringement claim brought by the Business Software Alliance against London Bridge Software Holdings for its illegal use of software, including Macromedia products. According to the BSA, London Bridge Software was quick to reach a settlement. This is unsurprising, given the embarrassment factor at play. The investigation against London Bridge followed a tip-off submitted via the BSA's website. Last month the BSA doubled the maximum reward for reporting illegal software use from £10,000 to £20,000, in a campaign running until the end of the year. ® Related stories BSA raises grass ceiling to £20K UK firm fined £30K for dodgy software 11 charged over 'biggest-ever' MS piracy bust
John Leyden, 08 Dec 2004

Amazon's 'morning nightmare' lasts 11 days, and counting

Amazon.com suffered an embarrassing outage earlier this week, but promised customers that problems with its IT systems had been rapidly fixed. This claim, however, has come under closer scrutiny from Amazon users in the UK, US and Canada. Many members of Amazon's Seller marketplace say the company has been suffering from long-standing problems during the peak holiday shopping season. And, to the dismay of Amazon PR, the company's IT staff agrees with the sellers. On Monday December 6, Amazon admitted that its homepage had become inaccessible. A spokesman said the problem's had lasted for "a morning" and declined to provide any specific details on what has caused the outage or how many customers were affected. It could be the longest morning in Public Relations history, however, as the problems stretch back over 11 days. Numerous Register readers complained that Amazon's statements about the problems being fixed were simply false. This reporter tried to access his Amazon account page after the "fix" and experienced similar issues to our readers. Orders could not be tracked and our shopping cart was closed. These problems are minor in comparison to those faced by members of Amazon's seller marketplace. A flood of complaints have filled the Amazon seller message boards, decrying slow order processing times, slow payment processing times and lagging inventory updates. Tasks that typically take close to 30 seconds are requiring hours. Sellers in the UK started noticing a significant increase in problems on November 26. "This week has been slow and sales ceased yesterday," writes Sylvia Ringer. "None today at all? This in theory should be the best week for sales, as most people get paid at the end of the month. In previous months . . . that has been the case for me." Where were the sales going? Apparently, into Amazon's software ether. "I also had trouble getting into the Amazon site at all last night and this morning," writes BA Finch. "There are quite clearly some significant problems." No. Amazon spokesman Craig Berman assured us that the only problems occurred on Monday, and they were quickly resolved. These complaints from Nov. 26 were clearly fiction. So what about the complaints from Nov. 29? "Everything since . . . yesterday that costs more than £10 has gone into "payments processed" but hasn't completed yet," writes Grogan2. "I sold two books yesterday over £10, both still pending - dead annoying," adds Lucy Lui1. Similar gripes continue on right up to Monday this week: December 6. Interestingly, Amazon completed maintenance operations on its US, Canada and UK sites near the end of November. Shortly thereafter it received a spike in the complaints and was forced to issue a number of maintenance reports back to the sellers. On November 26 - that date sound familiar? - the Amazon UK Marketplace Team writes, "We performed urgent maintenance on Amazon Marketplace last night and unfortunately fallout from the event is causing a proportion of listings to be unavailable for purchase on-site." In fact, the Amazon UK team reported four problems - listings not updating, the urgent maintenance, order and listing problems and seller account problems - on or around November 26. It then fixed two more problems on December 6. The US and Canada sites began feeling the pain last Friday, December 3. We are currently experiencing an issue that is impacting customers' ability to place orders on the Amazon.com and Amazon.ca websites.  Engineers are actively engaged on resolving this issue and we will continue to provide updates until service has been restored.   Thank You, Dan C. Amazon.com How about Monday, December 6 when Amazon's spokesman said all the problems were fixed. Greetings from Amazon.com, We continue to experience impacts from the issue reported earlier. The customers' ability to place orders on the Amazon.com and Amazon.ca websites is no longer impacted. The issue continues to impact the availability and access to our bulk upload processing systems. The delivery of Ship Sold Now e-mails and order reports are also impacted at this time.  Bulk uploads that can be submitted will be queued for processing and once this issue has been resolved, will resume flowing through the system.  Engineers continue to be engaged on resolving this issue and we will continue to provide updates until service has been restored. Thank You, Dan C. Amazon.com According to Amazon's IT staff, the problems were actually fixed on Dec. 7 with the company still working to churn through backlogs of orders. Then, wouldn't you know it, this message pops up today. Greetings from Amazon.com.   We are continuing to work on the issue that is causing the incorrect status to be displayed for some listings in Seller Your Account.  We will continue to provide updates until the issue has been fully resolved. Thank you, Lacey N Amazon.com It took four calls to Amazon.com PR Craig Berman to get a response. He broke his silence with the comment, "Oh yeah, what is it - biting the hands that feeds IT, right?," he said. "Great." "The site is up and running," he continued. "I've been walking folks through stuff all day," he said; a less than adequate response in the face of a flood of complaints and problems experienced by vendors, customers and Amazon's own IT staff. So it's official: the company is not suffering from technical problems during the height of the holiday shopping season. Orders are not being lost. Sales are not being slowed. Amazon is a sleek, efficient selling machine that will make no complaints about lackluster sales when the holidays are over. The morning sickness will surely be excuse enough for investors who view Amazon as a dotcom retail bellwether stock. ® Related stories Amazon unavailable for holiday shopping madness Amazon supremo joins space race Dell sued for alleged global sales patent abuse
Ashlee Vance, 08 Dec 2004

One in four Brits on net for Porn

According to a survey conducted by British ISP Homecall, 23 per cent of Britons are getting broadband for the porn, and it's by far the most important factor in getting wired. 12 per cent cited access to music videos, 8 per cent access to movie trailers, and a gratifying 9 per cent for radio, which is undergoing a renaissance in the UK. Sometimes new media can be the best thing to happen to old media. Only five per cent cited social factors, such as the ability to share photos and information with friends and family, which has spurred the latest round of Silicon Valley bubble investment. (Friendster, Flickr et al). And education didn't even figure. Strikingly absent from the survey of 5,000 members of the public is any mention of illicit file sharing. The survey was conducted after the London-based copyright lobby group launched the first wave of suits against British file sharers. One man who may feel a little vindicated by the survey is The World's Biggest Luddite, former Australian communications minister Richard Alston. Alston backed the claim that pornography was responsible for South Korea's high broadband adoption rate. Alston will be able to examine Britain's sticky habits first hand if he takes the job of Australian High Commissioner to London, as rumored. ® Related stories Porn filters have a field day on Horniman Museum Oz conservatives demand porn-busting net levy Pornsters face life in China smut crackdown Net porn good for you: official Hey, where'd my porn go? The porn must go on - US Supreme Court I Know You Surf for Porn Help! I married a Net porn star Net Porn addict claims unfair dismissal
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Dec 2004

Supremes evaluate Internet booze shopping

The US Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether or not consumers should be permitted to shop for wine via the Internet and have it delivered directly to their doors. Hundreds of millions of dollars in state taxes and distributors' commissions are at stake, so the notion is being fought vigorously by states and industry lobbyists. There are two apparently contradictory passages in the US Constitution that the Supremes will have to reconcile. One is the Twenty-First Amendment, which says that: "The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited." Now, this does seem to say that states can regulate booze sales with impunity; but there is another item, in Article I, Section 9, often called the "Commerce Clause," which says that: "No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state. No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another." Which for ages has been understood to say that states cannot discriminate against each other at all in regulating commerce. So, while the Twenty-First Amendment insists that booze regulation is a state matter, the Commerce Clause rather insists that a state can't have two sets of regs, one for its own producers, and one for the rest of the country. The Supremes were not sympathetic to state arguments suggesting that the Twenty-First Amendment somehow overrides the Commerce Clause. Additionally, the states took a shot at the old 'save-the-children' con, warning that kids would soon be partying with $80 bottles of wine bought on line, instead of the usual cocktails of Ever Clear and Kool-Aid. However, since many states allow home delivery of booze from local outfits, this argument lost a good deal of its weight. The Court will be reluctant to do much violence to either the Twenty-First Amendment or the Commerce Clause, as it prefers to gut the Constitution only when individual liberties interfere with law-and-order or commercial interests. Thus a likely outcome would be a ruling whereby the states are permitted to regulate booze as before; but, when a state permits local direct delivery to consumers, it would have to extend the same privileges to out-of-state outfits. ® Related stories Three-quarters of Brit workers drunk after lunch Reg road tests the Wi-Fi pub London boozers offer beer via SMS Hangovers give UK biz a headache
Thomas C Greene, 08 Dec 2004