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Office 2003: one year on

Richard Glew, Microsoft's worldwide director of partner marketing, told The Reg how the introduction of Office 2003 has changed the way the software giant's reseller partners work with customers. Glew said Office 2003 was the first time the desktop applications came with a proper developer platform, enabling independent software vendors to offer more tailored solutions rather than just selling licences. "It's a very different sales technique," he said. "It's not just about mapping sales to hardware refreshes any more. Partners can lead deployment rather than follow it - they can offer extra services the customer wants." Glew believes the developer platform allows partners to sell more services on top of straight software licences. Michala Alexander, UK project manager at Microsoft, says she had seen similar changes in the UK with more resellers working with other partners to win contracts: "The challenge of getting resellers to network and work together is a big focus for us this year." Microsoft is also look for more UK partners to resell enterprise project management, she says. In terms of barriers to sales, older versions of Office are a more frequent problem than Linux or other vendors, Glew said. According to Microsoft, Office 2003 is ahead of XP after one year in every segment it tracks. Office revenue grew 17 per cent in financial year 2003 to $10.8bn. SharePoint Portal Server is the firm's fastest growing product, with 30m licencees. ® Related stories MS launches Outlook email subscriptions MS gives Welsh a fat LIP Microsoft Office 2003 gets first service pack
John Oates, 27 Jan 2005

Police launch site to tackle net pervs

An international police taskforce has launched a website where children can report possible online paedophile activity. The site's logo will appear on AOL BT, Vodafone and Microsoft websites, providing a hotlink to the home page of Virtual Global Taskforce. Virtual Global Taskforce aims to make the internet a safer place for children and a more hostile place for paedophiles. It is the result of international collaboration between the National Crime Squad and its counterparts in Canada, the US and Australia. Children who are worried that they might be chatting online with a paedophile, or that they are being tricked into a meeting, can use the site to learn how to get the person's IP address and user name. They can also use the site to record the details of any conversations with the suspected paedophile, which can be used as evidence if authorities decide to prosecute. The information can also be used to warn offenders. The site contains links to other sources of information on online abuse, and child safety agencies. Jim Gamble, deputy director general of the National Crime Squad, said that clicking on the logo was like walking through the police station door. He is quoted in The Daily Mail as saying: "If you are a child online, and you are approached by someone in a chatroom, you now have access to law enforcement. It is a reminder that the internet is no longer anonymous. For potential offenders, this is the equivalent of a speed camera, telling them to slow down, and think again." But what is to stop someon making malicious allegations against a person who is entirely innocent? "We are aware that it could be abused, but then anyone can walk into a police station and make allegations," said a spokeswoman for the NCS. "We have very thorough checking procedures. We look at what is given, how it is collated. Nothing is acted upon until it is investigated by the proper authorities, until the police are involved." The taskforce explained that the ultimate goal is to have a 24 hour online presence so that any child online who felt threatened will have someone to talk to. The police also outlined proposals to seize the credit cards of anyone found to be using one to access child pornography online. The contact section of the site is yet to go live but the NCS says it expects it to be up and running in the next couple of days.® Related stories IT industry urged to fight online child abuse Web paedophile jailed for four years Brit cuffed in US net sex investigation UK gov ads warn kids of net perils
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Jan 2005

eXeem Lite promises spyware-free P2P

Developers this week released a spy-ware free version of popular P2P app eXeem. The official version of eXeem, which entered into public beta this week, is contaminated with an adware app called Cydoor. eXeem Lite 0.19 is smaller - 1.9MB compared to 2.5MB - and promises file trading without search hijacking and pop-up ad bombardment. Unlike eXeem, eXeem Lite is also available to Linux users (who need to run the app using WINE). Enjoy it while you can. History suggests it's a matter of time before the developers of eXeem sue the developers of eXeem Lite - or try to exclude users from the P2P network. That's what happened with a Kazaa Lite, remember? eXeem is based on the BitTorrent idea, but with nodes in the program taking the role of BitTorrent trackers. As the eXeem Lite FAQ explains, connecting to the network can be a little hit and miss. Our attempts to connect to the network using eXeem Lite proved fruitless until we applied a registry patch for eXeem Lite, available on MyeXeem. This updates the app with a list of valid nodes needed to establish a connection. The patch can be applied automatically on XP. But changes must be done manually using regedit on Win 2000 and Windows 98 machines. ® Related stories Kazaa shuts down Kazaa Lite The BitTorrent P2P file-sharing system P2P hub operators plead guilty BitTorrent hub ready to rumble with Hollywood
John Leyden, 27 Jan 2005

900 BT biz punters snagged by BT 'system problem'

Some 900 UK businesses have been left without broadband following a BT cock-up. The firms affected were all BT Business Broadband static IP punters who were due to have their service speeds doubled between January 14 - 19. BT had previously announced plans to double broadband speed at no extra cost for business users, in its "continuing drive to give our business customers the tools they need to really harness broadband". But due to a "system problem" last week, 900 or so business customers have been left high and dry without high speed net access. A spokesman for the telco said that all those affected should be sorted within the next couple of days or so, although it "could be longer". Engineers carried out a system update on Tuesday night to prevent other customers from being caught by the glitch. Separately, around 2,000 BT business broadband punters had their service interrupted on January 20 following a 45-minute outage caused by a network failure, BT confirmed today. ® Related stories BT's broadband service crashes and burns BT customer signed up for five years - without his consent UK firms tempted with free broadband
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 2005

HomeChoice extends VoD reach

Video Networks Ltd (VNL) is ramping up its investment in local loop unbundling (LLU) by rolling out its service to an extra one million homes in the London area. Through its HomeChoice brand, VNL currently passes 1.4m homes in London and Stevenage and aims to target 2.4m homes by June 2005 as it sticks more of its kit in BT exchanges to offer broadband via LLU. Said VNL boss Roger Lynch: "The concept of broadband delivered TV and video-on-demand is very new to the entertainment buying public and to already have 20 per cent market share of new DSL subscribers in our coverage area so soon after our launch is a great achievement. This gives us the confidence to significantly expand our network." So confident in fact that VNL has finally gone public on its subscriber numbers. Since its relaunch in last September, HomeChoice has snapped up 15,000 punters with eight in ten signing up for the company's "triple play" of digital TV, broadband and voice calls. Earlier this week VNL announced plans to double speeds for its HomeChoice service to a maximum of 4Mb at no extra cost. ® Related stories HomeChoice doubles broadband speeds UK leads Europe in VoD Homechoice wakes up and smells the coffee
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 2005

T-Mobile flourishes in the US, wilts in Germany

T-Mobile USA has added more than a million net new subscribers in its fourth quarter, the company said today, the vast majority being post-pay subscribers. It reported annual customer base growth of 32 per cent despite a slight increase in churn rates among both post and pre-pay customers. T-Mobile is investing heavily in the US market, where it is the fourth largest operator. US customers spend around 175 per cent as much as European phone users, and growth in Europe is much slower. Indeed, back on home soil in Germany, a survey of analysts indicates that the company's popularity has been hit by reduced handset discounts. Bloomberg reports that even with 420,000 new domestic customers, analysts expect the competition will have taken a bite out of T-Mobile's market share. The discount reductions part of a wider cost cutting campaign. Last week, T-Mobile announced plans to cut 2,200 jobs throughout Europe over the next two years. CEO Rene Oberman aims to reduce costs by €1bn. The cost-cutting measures have opened the door for rival operators to come after T-Mobile's customer base, the analysts said. Boris Boehm of Nordinvest in Hamburg told Bloomberg: "Deutsche Telekom [T-Mobile's parent company] is suffering these days from very aggressive price models from competitors such as O2. If its market share goes below 35 percent, the red light will go on." Deutsche Telekom releases detailed results on 3 March. ® Related stories Cingular posts Q4 loss Tapping the telecoms barometer Stelios to hop into bed with T-Mobile Virgin Mobile ups customers, drops profits
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Jan 2005

MS mulls charging for anti-spyware app

Microsoft is leaving its options open on charging for full versions of anti-spyware and virus disinfection tools. Speaking in London yesterday, Detlef Eckert, chief security adviser for Microsoft EMEA, revealed there will be a second beta of Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware application. However, the company remains unsure how the product will evolve from then on. "It could evolve into a consumer or enterprise product. There could be a basic and plus version," he said. The first beta of Windows AntiSpyware is free of charge, as is recently-released Microsoft Windows malicious software removal tool. Will users be prepared to pay extra for tools from Microsoft to clean up the malware mess that is almost the exclusive preserve of the Windows desktop? Eckert thinks that they might - although he emphasised that Microsoft has made no firm decision. "Users value investment and there is a willingness to pay for it," he said. Botnets – public enemy number one According to Eckert, the most significant information security issue today is presented by botnets, networks of compromised PCs used by professional criminals to spread spam or launch denial of service attacks. He talked up the role of Windows XP SP2 in combating the problem, suggesting the changes to IE made with SP2 (such as a pop-up blocker and download manager) made it a "new browser" that is "more resistant to attack". Despite the emergence of Firefox as a serious competitor to IE, Eckert said Microsoft had no plans to release an updated version of IE until the release of the next version of Windows, Longhorn. Longhorn is scheduled to arrive in 2006, but analysts reckon it is more likely to ship in 2007. Windows 2000 users can expect roll-up fixes but no further service packs before the product moves out of standard support in June 2005. XP SP2 marked a break with tradition for Microsoft, according to Eckert. "Previously we've been religious about backwards compatibility but now Microsoft trades this off against higher security. This isn't a wholesale change - we still believe in protecting customers investments - but it does mean that we might drop support for old protocols or block risky protocols like UDP by default," he explained. The perimeter is flaky Security architectures need to change because of increased use of technologies such as instant messaging and wireless LANs, according to Microsoft. "The philosophy of protecting the boundaries of organisations at the perimeter is falling to pieces," said Eckert. Firewalls were traditionally designed to guard against network-level attacks - such as IP spoofing and port/network scans - but as more sophisticated application-layer attacks, such as worms and exploits of known software vulnerabilities, have become increasingly common a need has arisen to rejig corporate defences. Microsoft, arguably a significant part of the problem, is seeking to become part of its solution through initiatives such as support for Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) architecture and its own Network Access Protection (NAP) scheme, a policy-enforcement bolt-on due to ship with Longhorn in 2007. Both approaches allow sysadmin to quarantine compromised machines in order to block the spread of worms such as Blaster and Sasser across networks. Eckert made his comments during a presentation at a security conference in London yesterday. The two-day conference was designed to stimulate interest in the three-day Infosecurity Europe 2005, due to take place in London later this year. ® Related stories Microsoft Anti-Spyware? MS AntiSpyware bites BitDefender MS virus clean-up tool sparks controversy Blaster clean-up tool was stellar success MS Better security means lower TCO for Win 2003 MS
John Leyden, 27 Jan 2005

Lizard Army invades Alaska

Those who still doubt our assertion that technology - in the service of the lizard people - is about to turn on humanity and enslave mankind in a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter where the relentless whine of the chill wind will be broken only by the distant screams of naked, hysterical survivors being consumed by murderous cyberloos or strafed by rat-brain controlled stealth aircraft should brace themselves for the chilling revelation that it may already be too late to stem the tide. We are obliged to the members of the fledgling neoLuddite Resistance Army (NRA) who have, over the past two weeks, alerted Vulture Central to an apparently unrelated series of news items which, when viewed in a global context and preferably from the window of a black helicopter, indicate that the lizard army's campaign of terror is about to blossom into full-scale war. First up is truly bone-marrow-chilling proof that Alaska has already fallen to the Rise of the Machines™. The Juneau Empire reports that a 27-year-old resident of Wasilla has taken it upon himself to construct an 18-foot high motorised killing machine with the capability of firing nine-inch nails from its hydraulically-powered shoulders and further armed with flamethrowers. As apprentice ironworker Carlos Owens Jr puts it: "You've got to have flame-throwers!", apparently unaware that he has just blown his cover to the local press who are, incredibly, totally oblivious to the fact that they are speaking to a man who has been genetically modified during an alien abduction incident in order that he might execute his dark masters' will, viz; construct 18-foot high cyborgs with the capability to melt permafrost and nail panic-striken Alaskans to door frames. Owens has been working on his "Mecha" since 2001 and has spent $20k on the project. The petrol-engine-driven cybernetic exoskeleton is controlled from within by Owens himself via 23 hydraulic cylinders offering 46 possible movements. We assume that all of them are designed to seek, locate and destroy human prey. Chillingly, Owens says of his creation: "I'm 110 percent positive this will work. Failure is not an option. I have no choice but to do this. If I don't do it, I will explode." Those readers wondering exactly what will cause Owens to explode should he fail, should note that all human emissaries of the lizard army are programmed to spontaneously combust in the event of capture, thereby destroying any evidence of their restructured DNA. But if Alaskans have reason to take to their skidoos and flee for the hills, then pity if you will Jordanian ne'er-do-well Mohammed al-Zarqawi - sworn enemy of just about everybody and on a mission to create anarchy during the forthcoming elections in Iraq. Well, Zarqawi had better take to his camel and flee for the dunes, because the US military is about to unleash its latest insurgent-busting robogrunt - Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems, or Swords* to his mates. The 1m-high remote-controlled weapons platform uses four cameras and infra-red vision to train its M249 or M240 on its victim before dispatching them to paradise with a precise burst of canned heat. It's due for imminent deployment in Iraq where, after it has made short work of Zarqawi and his Merry Men, the mechanised Sly Stallone will certainly decide that control of Iraq's vital oil supplies would better serve its robotic allies. We sincerely hope that Iran has nuclear weapons, as it recently suggested, because it's going to need 'em. We estimate it will take a battallion of Swords around two weeks to send the US military packing from Iraq, after which the massed ranks of battery-powered Terminators will turn their attention to the Persian oilfields - vital nourishment for the marauding cohorts of petrol-driven Alaskan Mechas. Donald Rumsfeld, meanwhile, might hope that ongoing research into rat-cell controlled attack aircraft will offer some hope of stemming the metal tide. We know different. Anything controlled by rat cells is simply going to ignore orders and get straight down to taking control of the sewers and venturing forth by night to spread disease and pestilence while rifling your dustbins. Rumsfeld, however, is not listening. Neither are lizard army operatives at the University of California who say they have developed a microscopic robot controlled by rat cells. Professor Carlo Montemagno has reportedly "grown muscle tissue onto tiny robotic skeletons". His team "used rat heart cells to create a tiny device that moves on its own when the cells contract". Montemagno explains: "The bones that we're using are either a plastic or they're silicon based. So we make these really fine structures that mechanically have hinges that allow them to move and bend. "And then by nano-scale manipulation of the surface chemistry, the muscle cells get the cues to say, 'Oh! I want to attach at this point and not to attach at another point'. And so the cells assemble, then they undergo a change, so that they actually form a muscle. Now you have a device that has a skeleton and muscles on it to allow it to move." Montemagno then offers: "They're absolutely alive. I mean the cells actually grow, multiply and assemble - they form the structure themselves. So the device is alive." Enough. Any reader wishing to break into the University of Cyberdyne, sorry, California and destroy this devil's project before the offspring of the nanobeast can travel into the past and terminate everyone at Vulture Centrals' mothers so that we are never born and hence do not have a chance to issue this warning, please contact your local NRA cadre. They can usually be found in bars, drinking heavily while planning an attack on a cantankerous cyberloo. Finally, and most disturbingly for those of us who like our beer cold while planning an attack on a cantankerous cyberloo, there has been an outbreak of exploding fridges in the Lothians. Nasty. Firemen attended a kamikaze fridge incident at a West Lothian health centre and, three hours later, an identical blast at Edinburgh University. The explosions were blamed on either leaking ammonia - the coolant involved in both cases - or overheating. A fire brigade spokeswoman admitted it was "highly unusual" for two fridges to detonate in one day, adding: "We do occasionally get calls to ammonia leaks from fridges, although they are not regular and don’t usually occur more than once a month. To get two incidents in one night is very strange." Yes it is. No-one was seriously injured during the attacks, which we attribute to one of two causes: either the fridges became self-aware and decided to make an instant contribution to the Rise of the Machines™ or Edinburgh University and West Lothian health centre have been doing research into rat-brain-controlled nanobots which provoked a pre-emptive strike by the West Lothian cell of the neoLuddite Resistance Army. Whichever is the case, the facts are clear: it is only a matter of time before a rodent-cell-driven, flamethrower-bearing cyberfridge comes knocking at your door. You have been warned. Act now. ® Bootnote *Aka TALON™, according to lizard army manufacturing tentacle Foster-Miller, Inc. The Rise of the Machines™ London menaced by flaming DVD players Killer hoover attacks Scotsman Car self-destructs in assassination bid The rise of the rat-brain controlled android Japanese unveil trumpet-playing robot Boffins unleash robotic cockroach Ukrainian teen fights the Rise of the Machines Man in satanic Renault terror ordeal Killer cyberappliances: Satan implicated US develops motorised robobollard Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie A robot in every home by 2010 Cyberappliances attack Italian village Fire-breathing buses threaten London Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent Spanish cyberkiosks claim second victim Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager Hi-tech toilet caught on camera Hi-tech toilet swallows woman
Lester Haines, 27 Jan 2005

Pipex in DSL migration promo

Pipex is offering broadband subscribers the chance to switch to its DSL service for free, along with the added bonus of up to two months net access for nowt. Residential customers can get one month free subscription (if they need a modem or router) or two months free if they have their own kit. Business users can expect one month free service rental. In a market swarming with different broadband ISPs, operator promos are only to be expected. As the market matures, evergrowing numbers of punters have a view about the performance of their ISP - concerning price, speed, service quality and customer support. And like consumers everywhere, a proportion will be dissatisfied with their current provider and keen to switch. Thanks to the introduction of a new migration process last year that should make switching broadband ISPs a relatively painless experience, punters can now chop and change. No doubt there will be some ISPs that could attract plenty of new subscribers thanks to such initiatives. Equally, there are likely to be plenty of others who could lose out unless they keep their customers happy. This is a trend worth watching. ® Related stories ADSL migration made easier Gloves off as ISPA gong nominees named Pipex approaches 200k broadband punters
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 2005

Ellison confounds sceptics over PeopleSoft

The long-running Oracle-PeopleSoft saga is drawing to an end with the integration of PeopleSoft into the Oracle organisation. With this, Oracle has achieved its ambition of becoming the number one enterprise applications vendor in the US at least and it now boasts that it has 23,000 applications customers worldwide. When this acquisition was first announced some 18 months ago many commentators doubted the motives of Oracle's front man, Larry Ellison, envisaging that his intention was merely to kill of a competitor. But Ellison has confounded all sceptics and has not only promised to support all PeopleSoft and JDEdwards product lines until at least 2013, but has even announced plans to continue developments of new versions of the products for release to existing customers. To do this, he is even keeping on 90 per cent of PeopleSoft's developers and support staff. At the same time, Oracle is to begin development of a suite of applications that incorporate the best technology from among all of the product lines that it now owns, which Ellision states will form a superset of all the product suites. With this new product line, Oracle is promising to concentrate development on information-oriented applications, as opposed to process automation applications. What this promises is that, instead of merely automating existing processes to gain productivity and cost improvements in corporate operations, the new applications will allow customers to perform better analyses of the way that their businesses are performing, such as the ability to see which suppliers are the best for a firm in terms of total cost to the business instead, for example, which suppliers offer the lowest list prices. All this appears to bode well for customers of all the former vendors – Oracle, PeopleSoft and JDEdwards. But where is the sting in the tail? Will Oracle salespeople really respond to requests to purchase PeopleSoft and JDEdwards product lines? Or is this really an effort to stop PeopleSoft customers from defecting to rivals such as SAP or Microsoft? Many people at the Oracle Analyst Day in New York on Wednesday (25 Jan) have listened to Ellison bashing former rival PeopleSoft over the years. It comes as a surprise that he has changed his tune to such an extent and has promised to heed the wishes of the new customers that Oracle has acquired. But it took a member of the audience to draw Ellison on Oracle's strategy for new sales – when pushed, Ellison admitted that the Oracle salesforce has been instructed to work very hard to persuade new customers to purchase the Oracle e-Business Suite, rather than product lines from PeopleSoft or JDEdwards. If you are an existing customer, it seems that you do not need to be worried about what this acquisition means for you, for the moment at least, but if you haven't yet made an intended purchase of PeopleSoft or JDEdwards but still intend to do so, you may well have a fight on your hands. © IT-analysis.com Related stories Oracle boss forecasts PeopleSoft customers' future Lawson lures Peoplesoft punters Oracle and the culling of the 5,000 Oracle finally puts PeopleSoft in its pocket
Fran Howarth, 27 Jan 2005

German court protects P2P ne'er-do-well

ISPs are not obliged to reveal the identity of internet users who offer downloads of music files on the web, a Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt ruled this week. The Court overturned a lower court order to reveal personal information about an ISP customer who operated an illegal music server from his home. The Court ruled that an ISP only supplies technical access to the web and does not have to inspect data being sent through its network. Internet access providers are required to block access only when they learn of illegal content. The ruling seems now pretty much standard in Germany. Last year, the Higher Regional Court of Munich handed down a similar verdict. In the US and the UK, however, several ISPs have been forced to provide personal details of persistent filesharers to the recording industry. ® Related stories eXeem Lite promises spyware-free P2P Supreme Court to probe P2P in March P2P hub operators plead guilty Downloading digital music
Jan Libbenga, 27 Jan 2005

Intel gets it right for once

OpinionOpinion Intel has, quite unusually, got it right for the launch of a new processor family: it has timed the release sufficiently late. Normally, it ruins the PC market's Christmas by making everything obsolete in November; the new Centrino, however, is nicely scheduled. But nonetheless, the market may have hiccups, because of pricing, and channel conflict. The new machines are officially released today and further models will be unveiled on 1 February. They'll get enthusiastic reviews. But technical reviews aren't the whole story. The problem comes in two main parcels. First, nobody knows what the effect will be when (if) IBM stops making and selling the ThinkPad brand. And second, there are several people who will be eager to leap into the supposed gap. Pricing of notebook computers is a black art; at a small pre-launch party in London last night, several of the big Intel customers showed their "Sonoma" based Centrino models. And the wireless technology was about the last subject on the list of any of them. What they were excited about, was the simplicity of designing new models with specific specs. "The motherboard, the components, the build, is all designed to make it as easy to produce one special configuration, as it is to build 10,000," said one enthusiastic manufacturer. "It really is possible for a small builder to produce a special design for a run of five machines, and compete with the big guys." This man's enthusiasm arises because he's one of the players who builds blank boxes for others to re-badge. Without giving the names of the re-badging people (and betraying who he is!) they aren't merely the weird ones; they include some top brands. One of the players in this market is Asus, whose motherboards are inside a huge variety of notebooks. From what we saw last night, the days when Asus was content to be the invisible partner for a lot of people who hog the limelight, are coming to an end. It was showing Asus-branded systems - we saw three last night, but only because it was a small room that we were in, and the contributors were asked to restrict themselves to two models. Unimpressed To be honest, Asus was more impressed with its new machines than I was. One was a very cheap machine, obviously designed to look like a Sony Vaiao - small, light, nice design. It included a web-cam, built into the display lid. Now, the point about a webcam is that you should be able to point it at different things. The Asus design can look towards the user (video phone style) or away from the user, out across the vistas you'd be looking at yourself over the top of the screen. Which is nice! - only some idiot has mounted the camera on a spring. Which means that it lies flat to the display. Which means that the only way of adjusting the elevation, is to move the display. So, for example, if you're sitting at an airport and want to show what is going on in the lounge, then you have to pull the display vertical. And no, of course nobody can read a notebook screen when it's vertical, as many angry airline passengers have pointed out, vehemently. Nonetheless, this small flaw apart, the Asus design is incredibly cheap, and if they can smooth the odd error of that sort out of the final product, the range could sell well. The trouble is, if it does, then Asus is taking the bread out of the mouths of its customers. It's called "channel conflict" and it's something that successful manufacturers have always been utterly aware of; don't sell things to the end-user if you are also trying to sell to the distribution trade. I have the highest opinion of Asus, both as an enterprising, and as an engineering company. But its understanding of the European retail market is (to quote a large rival's marketing department) "completely ignorant"... "they couldn't find a market with a telescope and a compass." I can't contradict him on that. What happens in that sort of circumstance is as unpredictable as a flash flood. The bets on "failure, withdrawal" will be popular. Asus doesn't have a huge, well-experienced European HQ staff and so the chances are quite real that its attempt to become a main brand will flop. The trouble is, this hardly helps. Big, conspicuous flops have notoriously flooded the market with below-cost product, wiping out sales and profits for everybody else. Anybody who remembers Nippon Steel's entry into the notebook business a decade and a half ago will recall the carnage it caused when it launched. But that was nothing to the mess left when it pulled out. And Asus isn't the only supplier planning big launches. Low, sleek designs At HP, they seem reasonably well prepared for any gap in the market which IBM may leave. The new machines (I only saw three) are clearly not HP designs, but Compaq designs - but they are also all re-modelled to look like ThinkPads. Buff black finish, low, sleek designs, and even the famous centrally located inertialess tracker-mouse in the middle of the keyboard, for some models. And a truly lovely docking station which is designed to make it easy to find somewhere to put a full size keyboard, plugged into the back, when docked. Dell's strategy can't be challenged. Its rivals pour scorn on the Dell build quality, saying that in the corporate market, they have an evil reputation for breaking. Maybe they do, maybe they don't; but the new models had a noticeable enhancement to the thickness of the rubber surround, so maybe Dell have taken action. It hardly matters: Dell has been selling large volumes, and I can't see any reason to predict that this will change this year. Other brands are equally optimistic - NEC seems to have a beautiful range of truly well-engineered notebooks, for example (I'm busy testing one of its pre-Dothan machines at the moment) and is determined to make the big breakthrough into corporate sales. And the list of other notebook makers, from Elonex to Aopen, includes several who are equally bullish. One thing is clear: none of these big names is scaling back. On the contrary, they all expect bigger and better demand, and they are getting ready to fill their shelves with products for sale, and the smaller ones are ramping up too. If someone like Asus or Arrow really can compete on level terms with HP and Dell and Acer, then a lot of this extra production is going to find itself being dumped at cost. Is this the moment for me to say that I don't actually believe the market predictions for market growth that people are offering for 2005? Because I don't. I think the wireless market did wonders for Intel last year, and the new Dothan-based Sonoma systems which are now going to be Centrino-labelled won't spoil the party. But I also have to query the idea that wireless is going to be all good news this year. There are several queries. First, is the old one of RF interference. There are too few wireless channels for 802.11b/g technology, and if the market for access points really does take off, the cities will quickly choke themselves. That would take the gloss off notebooks with Wi-Fi in. Will that happen in 2005? or 2006? I don't know, but I'd be nervous about betting on it. There's also the question of "other devices." At the moment, the PC is the only e-book reader worth looking at, and it's also what most people feel they need to have to keep in touch with head office. But is 2005 the year of the smartphone in corporates? Several people are betting it will be - and that you will be able to manage your corporate data when on the run, through the small screen. It takes only a very, very small increase in the phone market, to make sales of PCs look trivial. If the market for smartphones doubles, will those users buy notebooks as well? - if not, it could have a nasty impact on mobile PC sales. Again, this may turn out to be a 2006 phenomenon. But is that certain? Meanwhile, prices of notebooks are set to tumble. A "plain" vanilla empty box, requiring just processor and disk to be added, can be bought wholesale - and in small numbers - for well under £300 sterling, or close to $600 - except that in the US, the price will be well under $500.That will have 256 meg RAM and a 12-inch display. Top of the range, wide-screen models with the full Sonoma chipset, will retail at £1,200 to £1,400 in the UK. Be afraid Scarily, most of the price differential is the processor: you'd expect to fork out (wholesale) around the fifty pound mark for a basic Celeron M mobile processor (bottom of the heap!) but the fastest Dothan Pentium M at 2 GHZ will be nearly ten times that, close to £400. Add a hard disk: an 80 Gig fast drive is now well under a hundred pounds; you can spend forty quid and get a 30 Gig slow one. Another 256 meg of ram is another forty quid. A full optical DVD re-writer drive is still going to add comfortably less than fifty quid to the bill of materials. If the builders are right, and literally anybody can put together a machine to whatever spec the customer wants, in their back kitchen if necessary, then it's going to be fascinating to see whether the big brands can manage to compete. All they have, after all, is brand recognition. That doesn't come cheap; and it's easily spoiled. Many people think that taking the "IBM" letters off the "ThinkPad" brand won't make a difference, but are they right? many others think this is their big opportunity. From Intel's point of view, this won't be too much of a concern. The company may be suffering from the (predictable, and predicted) consequences of bad decisions in the server market. There, AMD's 64-bit Opteron chip is wiping the floor with Intel, and Intel's marketing guys know it, even if they can't admit this in public. But AMD has nothing to come close to Intel in mobile. So if the market for notebooks grows, Intel looks to be the main beneficiary. And if there is chaos, it will be AMD which gets squeezed at the exit. At the end of 2005, then, I expect Intel's mobile profits to be handsome. But I rather doubt that all of its customers will be quite so pleased. © NewsWireless.Net Related stories Intel to bring 64-bit to P4, Celerons in Q2 Vendors target IBM ThinkPad market share HP unites golden printer biz and gimpy PC unit Dell Axim X50v wireless PocketPC World PC sales still growing
Guy Kewney, 27 Jan 2005

Alarm over anti-theft busting belt

A Dutch retail association has raised the alarm over a new device that Eastern European shoplifters use to turn off retail theft detection systems at a shop's checkout or exit. According to the RND, which represents the interests of the larger retailers and franchise organisations in the Netherlands, Eastern European gangs have successfully shoplifted from perfume and electronics outlets by using a device that looks like a large battery and is hidden in a waist belt. Dutch police this week arrested several shoplifters from Germany and Slovenia who carried the device. RND has started talks with manufacturers of Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) systems to see what can be done. A spokesman of RND stresses that not all detection systems are deactivated by the device, which is believed to be manufactured in Eastern Europe. Retail theft detection systems that continuously swap frequencies are pretty much resistant to attack, a spokesman for Nedap, a major manufacturer of EAS systems, told The Register: "Most of our newer systems are connected to the internet anyway. When they are disrupted, we can immediately warn the retailer." ® Related story Technology credited with cutting retail theft
Jan Libbenga, 27 Jan 2005

Nokia smiles through falling profits

A poor performance in the US marred an otherwise better than expected set of results, Nokia said today. The world's biggest mobile handset maker reported net income of €1.02bn, down 13 per cent on the same period last year (€1.17bn). Sales were up three per cent to €9.06bn (Q4 03:€8.79bn). The company slashed handset prices in Q4 as it worked to regain market share. By the end of Q4, market share climbed back to 34 per cent, recovering from earlier in 2004, when it fell to its lowest levels in five years. Despite a difficult start to 2004, performance improved greatly in the second half, and the final results were better than expected, the company says. It shipped 208m units through the year. Revenues for 2004 of €29.3bn were slightly lower than 2003 - the company blames the fall on currency variations, as half of its invoices are in dollars. Net income fell 8.5 per cent to €3.2bn (Q4 03: €3.5bn). "Even if operating profit was somewhat down, we were able to report growth," Jorma Ollila, chairman and chief executive, said in a webcast today. "We exceeded our guidance to the markets, and have better than expected profitability in both the infrastructure and handset markets." Nokia has been heavily criticised for tardiness in bringing to market clamshell style handsets and camera phones. However, Ollila says the breadth of the product portfolio is much better now: "It covers pretty well all segments," he said. "The ten clamshell phones and the 9300 enterprise smartphone were important additions." He expressed disappointment in the sales of games devices. Nokia's N-Gage has sold so poorly, that many in the games industry think its days are numbered. Regionally, the European market continues to dominate, but the fastest volume growth is in Latin America, China and Asia Pacific countries. Africa was also a strong emerging market, Ollila said, but the USA, was "a disappointment". The company employs 55,505 people, up eight per cent on 2003. Three quarters of this staff increase is in manufacturing. Ollila said: "Volumes do require more personnel". The company also paid €456m to staff in bonuses and incentives Earnings per share were slightly down on 2003 at 70c, but the company proposes a ten per cent dividend increase, taking it up to 33c per share. ® Nokia results here. ® Related stories Nokia settles GSM patent clash Nokia 'completely committed' to N-Gage Nokia cuts hit smart phone, multimedia R&D
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Jan 2005

Ebbers' financial know-how probed

The prosecution in the Bernie Ebbers fraud trial wheeled out an analyst yesterday who testified that the ex-WorldCom boss seemed to know a thing or two about the firm's accounting procedures. Adam Quinton, an analyst at financial giant Merrill Lynch & Co, told the court that when Ebbers was quizzed on some fairly complex financial matters he was able to answer in a "in a reasonable amount of detail". But while Ebbers was shown to have a handle on financial matters, Quinton also testified that former CFO Scott Sullivan usually dealt with the numbers questions, PA reports. The analyst's testimony was part of the prosecution's case to prove that Ebbers had the financial know-how to mastermind the $11bn (£5.8bn) accounting fraud that led to the collapse of WorldCom in 2002. Ebbers denies being involved in one of the US's biggest corporate scandals. He says he was incapable of being behind such a widespread and complex fraud. Playing tapes of conference calls with analysts dating back to 2001/2, Ebbers is heard passing taxing financial questions to Sullivan, who last year admitted "engaging in a fraudulent scheme to conceal WorldCom's poor financial performance" and is the Government's star witness against Ebbers. At one point, when Ebbers is asked about the US economy, he is heard saying: "...remember, I'm a PE graduate, not an economist. So I don't know that I can speak to that with any credibility or anything". The trial is expected to last eight weeks. If found guilty, Ebbers faces up to 25 years in jail. ® Related stories Gloves off in Ebbers WorldCom fraud trial Ebbers fraud trial kicks off Ebbers faces WorldCom court showdown Former Worldcom directors cough up $18m MCI breaks free from Chapter 11 WorldCom gets sums wrong by $74bn Bernie Ebbers faces criminal charges
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 2005
globalisation

Crooked Microsoft worker masterminded $7m racket

A former Microsoft staffer yesterday pleaded guilty to conspiring with three others to run a massive software piracy ring that raked in millions through the sale of stolen software between April 2001 and November 2002. Finn Contini, 36, of Redmond, Washington yesterday pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and four counts of money laundering, Reuters reports. The former group assistant admitted personally making $2.3m through selling 2,700 items of software valued at $7m. The software, including SQL Server 2000 packages with a retail tag of $15,000, was obtained through Microsoft's internal ordering programme and sold to unscrupulous software distributors in Oregon and Virginia. The gang doctored the ordering systems to prevent transactions notices reaching their supervisors. Contini is the one of four suspects charged in November 2004 over the racket. Also charged were Alyson Clark, 38, of Normandy Park; Christine Hendrickson, 34, of Bothell; and Robert Howdeshell, 40, of Puyallup. Clark and Howdeshell are due to enter pleas in the case tomorrow (Friday 28 January), the Seattle Times reports. Contini faces up to 10 years of jail and a $250,000 fine for the money laundering offences, and up to five years imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud at a sentencing hearing due on 3 June. He has already agreed to forfeit goods valued at $1.7m including four properties, gold and silver bars and coins, a 2003 Toyota Highlander, a 2002 Honda Civic, and more than $188,000 in cash and currency. The case is one of several to feature abuse of Microsoft's internal ordering systems to emerge since 2002. Microsoft has hired investigators and revamped internal ordering system to prevent future scams. ® Related stories Crooked Microsoft worker jailed for 21 months Ex-MS worker jailed for black market racket MS staffer pleads guilty to $6m software racket MS worker ran $17m software racket
John Leyden, 27 Jan 2005

Apple website points to PowerBook G5

ExclusiveExclusive Is the PowerBook G5 near at hand? A tentative clue from Apple's own website suggests that it might be. One eagle-eyed Register reader noted the following section of HTML code tucked away in Apple's main PowerBook page: Avenue A is an online marketing and advertising agency owned by Seattle-based aQuantive, which also owns the atdmt.com domain name. Right now, the code simply places a 1 x 1-pixel placeholder graphic on the page. The file is called apple_g5_powerbook.gif. That presumably allows Avenue A to count the number of visits to the PowerBook page - and, indeed, many of the other Apple website sections. all of which contain links to switch.atdmt.com, particularly for the more pro-oriented products. In each case, the URL is different, with the final segment changing to reflect each page's subject matter. Could it be an error? Possibly, but other hardware pages thus linked all correctly label the type of processor each machine features. The Xserve page, for example, down as apple_g5_xserve, not the more generic apple_xserve. Ditto the Power Mac page. That suggests - and Avenue A's role would appear to reinforce - the notion that the labelling is correct, so configured to track page hits. The fact that the PowerBook G4 page is already labelled apple_g5_powerbook perhaps suggests that such an upgrade can't be far off - maybe Avenue A is preparing 'before' and 'after' stats. The timing also appears to tie in with reports from sources within Apple's Far Eastern notebook contract manufacturers that the PowerBook G5 is scheduled to ship sometime in Q2. As we've said, it could be an error, but with two separate files both using containing the sub-string _g5_, one on Apple's site, the other on Avenue A's, this seems unlikely. Or Apple may simply be out to get Mac fans excited ahead of time. Certainly the PowerBook G5 is probably the most eagerly awaited machine Apple has yet to produce. Interesting times, eh? ® Click for full-size image Update Within an hour of posting the story, and the screenshot we took as evidence, Apple altered the HTML to replace g5 with g4. Don't hang around, do they? Related stories Mini-Macs: it's a small world, after all Euro Apple fans moan over Mac Mini pricing Apple said to ship PowerBook G5 in Q2 2005 Apple unveils CD-sized mini Mac, one ounce iPod IBM, AMD, Sony boost chip speeds by 24% Dual-core IBM PowerPC 'to ship in single-core form' Freescale to launch 90nm PowerPC G4 today Apple: no 3GHz G5 'any time soon'
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 2005

mmO2 posts 'strong' Q3

UK-based mobile phone network mmO2 today announced "strong" third quarter, pointing to its latest customer and average revenue per user figures as evidence. During the three months to 31 December 2004, mmO2's O2 networks in the UK, Ireland and Germany were joined by 1.18m new customers, taking the group's total to 23.2m. In the UK, some 360,000 punters signed up with O2, taking its total customer-base here to 14.2m people. The parent company was quick to point out that a further 250,000 existing O2 customers bought additional SIM cards, a largely UK-only phenomenon dubbed 'spinning'. It affects other networks too, and mmO2 CEO Peter Erskine challenged them to separate out such additional purchases from their overall new-user figures. "Net adds are not all new customers," he emphasised. mmO2 similarly excluded 500,000 users contributed through its 15-month-old partnership with retailer Tesco, since they are not billed by the network. Of the 360,000 new users signed in Q3, almost 94 per cent were pre-pay customers - just 22,000 people joined the network on contracts. That figure is down significantly on previous quarters - 127,000 in Q2, for example. Erskine said the dip was largely due to UK telco BT's replacement of O2 UK with Vodafone as its mobile telephony partner. The big decline shows just how many users BT was bringing to O2 and how many it will now presumably be putting Vodafone's way. Still, the overall number of users joining O2 UK's network has been increasing over the past four quarters - a good sign, said Erskine, given that "churn is up in a competitive market" - and with it the blended average revenue it takes from each of them in a quarter, to £283, from £264 in the year-ago period. The blended ARPU grew year on year in Germany and Ireland, Erskine said, to €370 in Germany and €564 in Ireland. These countries contributed 729,000 and 91,000 new customers, respectively, to the group during Q3. Their total customer bases are 7.4m and 1.5m, respectively. The Irish operation demonstrated "encouraging performance", Erskine said. Data traffic Erskine said that data was the key ARPU growth driver during the past 12 months, with the contribution of voice remaining roughly the same through the last four quarters, but data ARPU growing almost 11 per cent. But what he was quick to point out that non-SMS traffic is making an increasing contribution to the total, it remains just 11.2 per cent of the total data service revenue taken in Q3 FY 2004/2005, up from nine per cent in Q4 FY2003/4. Data traffic accounts for 23.9 per cent of O2's total service revenue. Non-SMS traffic includes all content downloads, browser traffic, MMS, email etc., indicating each of these has a long way to go to individually contribute significant sums to mmO2's top line. Some 3.8bn SMS messages were sent across the O2 networks in Q3, compared to just 20m MMS - 0.5 per cent of the total. Erskine said the network is standing by is previous forecast of 12-15 per cent revenue growth in the UK for the full year, figures for which will be published in May, with Germany seeing "strong" growth but a more modest increase from Ireland. ® Related stories T-Mobile flourishes in the US, wilts in Germany First MVNO hopeful throws hat into Irish ring EU rules against Voda/02 Irish duopoly mmO2 dials up change for small investors O2 falls for Blackberry 'Charm' Tesco claims 500,000 mobile sign-ups Mobile operators put the squeeze on retailers - report O2 to bring i-mode to UK in 2005
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 2005

Sony Q3 profits plunge as sales slump

Sony's third-quarter earnings rose 55 per cent, but more on the back of content than the kit used to play it back. Sales for the three months to 31 December 2004 totalled ¥2.15tr ($20.9bn), down 7.5 per cent on the year-ago quarter's total, ¥2.32tr ($22.5bn). Net income came to ¥143.8bn ($1.4bn), up 55.3 per cent from ¥92.6bn ($898.9m) a year ago, thanks to a tax credit. However, operating profit fell 13 per cent over the same period to ¥138.2bn ($1.34bn). The reason, the electronics and media giant said, was declining demand for PlayStations, CRT TVs, camcorders and portable audio systems. Falling component prices hit the company's figures too. Despite a strong brand, Sony's electronics sales have been hit by competition from cheaper Asia-sourced product. It also failed to tap into emerging demand for large-format LCD and plasma TVs as well as its Japanese and South Korean rivals. Ditto the way it ceded dominance of the portable music market to Apple's iPod. "We take pride in the fact that the portable audio market is a market that Sony created so we must rebuild our presence in this market," CFO Katsumi Ihara said. Q3 electronics sales were down 0.9 per cent year on year but income plunged 23 per cent to ¥49bn ($475.7m) from ¥64.4bn ($625.1m) Falling demand and price reductions helped cut Sony Computer Entertainment's operating income to ¥44.6bn ($432.9m) down 37 per cent on the year-ago quarter's ¥70.5bn ($684.3m). However, Sony's media interests, in particular Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), boosted the bottom line. Spiderman 2 DVD sales were particularly strong, the company said. SPE's Q3 operating profit more than tripled to ¥18.6bn ($180.6m) from ¥5.6bn ($54.4m) the previous year. Sales jumped 12 per cent over the same period. Music operating income fell 26 per cent to ¥12bn ($116.5m) from ¥16bn ($155.3m), in part due to August's merger of Sony Music Entertainment and Bertelsmann Music Group into Sony BMG. Improved results from its mobile phone JV, Sony Ericsson, helped too. The company pledged to revivify key consumer electronics lines the better to compete with its rivals. "We are resolutely working to ensure a revitalisation in the profitability of the Sony Group," said Chief Executive Nobuyuki Idei. Sony maintained its full-year profits forecast: ¥150bn ($1.46bn), up from ¥88.5bn ($859.1m) last year. ® Related stories Nintendo's Q3 income falls 43% Sony PSP outships Nintendo DS EA sales, profits slide Transmeta licences low-power tech to Sony Sony PSP ship total hits 800,000 Sony slashes FY2005 profit forecast
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 2005

Sony preps PlayStation 'music download service'

Sony is to make a second attempt to challenge Apple's lead in the digital music download market and the Mac maker's almost-ubiquitous iPod courtesy of the PlayStation Portable. According to a Marketing magazine report, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) plans to launch a music service specifically for the PSP, which is expected to arrive in Europe and the US in March. SCEE will put the delivery mechanism in place in time for the handheld console's launch, using it to allow users to download game levels and software updates. However, the system will be extended to music in the summer. Given the PSP's multimedia focus, it's entirely possible the service could subsequently be used to deliver video downloads. Sony already runs a music download service, Connect. Launched in the US in May 2004 and in Europe in July, the service was criticised for failing to match the likes of Napster and Apple's iTunes Music Store for easy of use. Certainly, the service does not appear to have grown to the extent that its rivals have, and Sony has said little about Connect in the intervening months. Whether the PSP music service will leverage Connect or use an entirely separate system is not yet known. ® Related stories Sony Q3 profits plunge as sales slump Sony PSP outships Nintendo DS Apple iTunes sales tally hits 250m Sony PSP to ship in UK on 18 March - Amazon Apple iTunes sales tally hits 250m Napster UK song sheet passes 1m mark Apple's Jobs 'offered iTunes team-up deal to Sony' Sony turns to video to boost music service Sony Connect to launch 5 July, late Sony US music service an 'embarrassment'
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 2005

'Brave' BitTorrent hub coyly looks for suitors

The BitTorrent hub that has been begging users to fund its legal fight with the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has put its domain up for sale. Interested suitors can currently bid on LokiTorrent.com at domain registration site sedo.com. This might shock many of you who have contributed to LokiTorrent's MPAA legal fund. The site started asking for donations in December after it was hit with a lawsuit from the major movie studios. So far, LokiTorrent has raised over $40,000. The sale was first noted at the Computers and Junk web site. Any good will that LokiTorrent gained from some BitTorrent backers by fighting the pigopolists may evaporate given the For Sale sign at sedo.com. The ad for the LokiTorrent.com reads, "Complete working peer-to-peer website. Includes: 680,000 registered *active* (within 6 months) members. Complete source code of www.lokitorrent.com and forums.lokitorrent.com Completely automated opt-in mailing list (daily mailings). "Fully automated donation system with donor-only features. Completely optimized for heavy loads. Extremely loyal user base." The user base, however, has quickly become less loyal after learning of the potential sale. LokiTorrent's operator rushed today to assure users that the site will continue on and battle the MPAA. "As some of you may have noticed (judging by the evil messages we've received!), we have posted the domain lokitorrent.com up for bidding at sedo.com," a message on the site said. "NO, this does not mean we are closing our doors and packing our things! I (Lowkee) simply wanted to know what kind of bids this website gets (as people keep telling me it's a 'gold mine'). ...That and it allows us to get free web stats (that normally cost $300/mo) by being listed on Sedo." Despite this assurance, "Lowkee" admits the domain may actually be sold if enough green stuff appears. "If someone offers us some huge amount for the domain name, we MAY accept and simply move this web site to a different domain name (most likely take over torrentstop.com), but I don't see that happening any time soon." The MPAA has moved to try and shut down BitTorrent hubs, which are popular sites for users looking to download software, movies and TV shows via P2P software. So far, most of the hubs have given in to the MPAA and pulled their links to content. It's unclear whether or not LokiTorrent would transfer the cash users have donated to the new owner of the domain. Such a move would surely not go down well. ® Bootnote : Since our story first appeared, LokiTorrent removed the message admitting that it would turn over the domain to a high bidder. The site's owner now contends that the sedo.com ad, which promised mailing lists and software, was simply a bluff. "It's common knowledge that most people that buy websites don't buy them to continue running them,"Lowkee writes. "They simply nab the mailing list, spam everyone, then make the site into one big sponsored search engine and pop-up gallery. ...The exact reason selling it would mean scrapping an entire year's worth of work that I and the entire volunteer team at LokiTorrent have put into making a worthwhile community site. "If some guy offers me $75K for the domain name, he's more than welcome to it, and I'll simply move the site to a different domain. Selling the entire site will never happen. I have way too much of myself in this site to sell it for any price (well, 2 million could get me to part with it, lol.. but let's live in reality). "As for the legal fund.. if I were going to run off, I would have already. That money is for the lawsuit, as stated. Only those who would run off with the money thought we would." Er, right. Related stories Supreme Court to probe P2P in March BitTorrent hub ready to rumble with Hollywood SuprNova.org ends, not with a bang but a whimper The BitTorrent P2P file-sharing system RIAA sues 754 more P2Pers MPAA to serve lawsuits on BitTorrent servers
Ashlee Vance, 27 Jan 2005

Verizon reports 'strong' growth

Verizon, the giant US telco, reported a strong set of results today boosted by double-digit growth in its wireless division. For the fourth quarter 2004, Verizon notched up earnings of $3bn compared to a loss of $1.5bn in the same period in 2003. For the full year, Verizon reported earnings of $7.8bn compared with $3.1bn in 2003. Before special items, earnings were $7bn in 2004, and $7.3bn in 2003. Consolidated operating revenues for Q4 was a record $18.3bn (£9.7bn) - up 6.2 per cent compared to $17.2bn (£9.1bn) in Q4 2003. Annual consolidated operating revenues were $71.3bn in 2004, up 5.7 per cent compared to $67.5bn in 2003, making it Verizon's "strongest annual revenue growth in three years", the company said in a statement. Verizon Wireless accounted for more than 40 per cent of group revenues in Q4, compared with less than 35 per cent in Q4 2003. It added 6.3m new punters over the last 12 months taking total subscriber base to 43.8m. Overall, Verizon's growth businesses - wireless, long-distance, broadband, data and enterprise services - accounted 55.2 per cent of Q4 revenues. Verizon chairman and chief exec Ivan Seidenberg said the company is "realizing value from [its] diversified asset base" and and is investing in "growth areas". Verizon also hit its debt reduction targets by paying off $6.1bn (£3.2bn) over the year taking its outstanding debt to $39.3bn (£20.8bn) at the end of 2004. ® Related stories Verizon faces lawsuit over email blocking Verizon and Yahoo! forge broadband alliance Verizon dangles cheap VoIP for US land grab Verizon launches VoiceWing Net phones
Tim Richardson, 27 Jan 2005

Spanish police arrest worm suspect

Spanish police have arrested an unemployed 20 year-old man on suspicion of creating and spreading the "Tasin" computer worm. The suspect (known only by his initials A.R.B.) from Ejica, near Seville, is being questioned by the Spanish Civil Guard over his role in the November 2004 virus outbreak, El Mundo reports. The Tasin worm (AKA Anzae) spread via email using Spanish-language subject lines and infected thousands of computers in Spain and South America, trashing critical Windows system files. The worm purports to offer pictures of Madrid party girl Nuria Bermudez, who claims to have slept with half of the Real Madrid football team. In a separate investigation, the Spanish Civil Guard last week arrested a man in Madrid on suspicion of creating a webcam Trojan. ® Related stories Webcam Trojan suspect arrested in Spain Spanish police arrest Raleka virus suspect Lawyers demand hard time for Blaster teen
John Leyden, 27 Jan 2005

Microsoft halves R&D spending, posts record profits

Microsoft recorded its highest-ever profits in the last quarter of 2004 (FY 2Q 2005), with net income doubling from $1.5bn a year ago to $3.46bn in the most recent quarter's earnings. Revenue was up slightly to $10.8bn from $10.15bn in the last three months of 2003. But belt-tightening measures - which included halving Microsoft's R&D outlay, saw the company's net income rocket. Research and development expenditure fell from $2.97bn a year ago to $1.437bn in the most recent quarter. The company also found savings on cost of sales of around $420m, and around $700m in lower from sales and marketing and general expenses costs. Microsoft said that its home division - which includes Xbox - turned a profit for the first time, as did MSN. Home and Entertainment turned a $397m loss into a $84m profit in the past quarter, on revenues of $1.46bn, $140m higher than last year. Microsoft cited the launch of Xbox live and the game Halo 2, in the Christmas season, with almost one in three Xbox owners snapping up a copy of the game. However CFO John Connors said that this was a Halo-powered one-off. He warned that Home and Entertainment would lose money in the forthcoming quarter, and said he didn't expect it to make a steady profit until fiscal year 2007. MSN turned a $130m profit on revenues of $588m. The Mobile and Embedded division, responsible for everything from ATMs to smartphones, is almost in the black: recording a $4m loss on income of $9m. Boosted by Windows 2003 and Exchange 2003 servers, the Server and Tools division saw income rise by $477 million over the same period last year, to $2.52 billion, of which $913 was clear profit. But as ever, the divisions responsible for the Windows desktop client and Microsoft Office, the latter Microsoft calls "Information Worker" - remain the breadwinners. The Office division cleared a cool $2bn profit in quarter for the first time on revenues of $2.77bn. Client recorded a net income of $2.53bn, up from $2.095bn in the same period last year, on revenues of $3.22bn, up from $3.059bn. ® Related stories Microsoft cruises in Q1 Microsoft's Q3 hurt by settlement costs Microsoft Q1 profits up
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Jan 2005

Services sling Veritas to steady Q4

Veritas today dealt a mixed bag to investors, reporting that its fourth quarter revenue increased, but that its net income fell 32 per cent. Veritas posted $574m in sales during the period. This compares to $502m posted in the same period one year earlier. The 14 per cent revenue gain was somewhat offset by a decline in net income. Veritas reported a profit of $129m in this year's fourth quarter, which compares to $191m reported in last year's Q4. This fall off is due to a one-time tax boost of $95m built into last year's Q4. "As a result of our outstanding fourth quarter performance, we achieved the highest revenue quarter in the company's history and exceeded our $2 billion goal for the year with revenues of $2.042 billion," said Veritas CEO Gary Bloom. The $2.04bn in revenue for fiscal 2004 was 17 per cent higher than the $1.75bn reported in 2003. For the full year, Veritas posted net income of $411m, which compares to $347m in 2003. In its fourth quarter, Veritas' services business made large gains. It posted revenue of $243m compared to $191m last year. User license fees increased as well from $311m one year ago to $331m. The company expects to post first quarter revenue between $525m and $540m. Veritas is currently in the process of being acquired by Symantec, pending standard approvals. Shares were down slightly in after-hours trading at $25.11. ® Related stories EMC aims 'switcher' campaign at Veritas users Symantec posts strong quarter Veritas CEO promises Symantec buy will be kind and gentle Veritas retools its Backup Exec baby
Ashlee Vance, 27 Jan 2005