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Volume 1, Issue 4: Wednesday, December 8, 1999
- "Sun Abandons Bid for International Acceptance for Java"
Financial Times (12/08/99) P. 21; Foremski, Tom; Kehoe, Louise
Sun yesterday announced that it is revoking its application to
European standards group ECMA to have Java accepted as an
international standard. The move follows months of conflict with
industry competitors, and an abandoned attempt earlier in the
year to have the International Standards Organization ratify
Java. Sun's withdrawal is a large setback for the company, and a
win for rivals such as Microsoft that were threatened by Java's
promise to make software run on any platform. Although Sun tried
to gain industry support for Java by encouraging other firms to
join in the development process, other companies have criticized
Sun for maintaining too much power over Java. Sun says it needs
to keep tight reins on Java to prevent the development of various
versions of the technology. "ECMA told us that it had no way to
enforce copyrights and if we turned over the specification for
Java and then they published it, the standards group could not
prevent others from creating their own incompatible versions,"
Sun says. Despite the setback, Sun says it will continue to
develop Java with its industry partners. Still, Java might be
barred from certain market segments such as European government
contracts without official approval.
- "Cap Gemini's Data Systems Frustrate Some Big Clients"
New York Times (12/08/99) P. C2; Johnston, David Cay
Cap Gemini Group, Europe's largest IT firm, has recently failed
to satisfy several large clients and has lost a number of
contracts as a result. United Way of America last month canceled
a contract with Cap Gemini America and abandoned a $12 million
project after the new data system failed to work properly. The
system was supposed to consolidate United Way's collection
process by handling contributions from workers through payroll
deductions. When the system was unable to process donations in
its initial test, United Way hired consulting firm Deloitte &
Touche, which found 400 large problems with the system. In
August the United States Chamber of Commerce terminated a $75
million Cap Gemini contract, saying Cap Gemini "consistently and
systematically had been unable to deliver what we required." Cap
Gemini and the chamber are now suing each other in a Virginia
federal district court. In addition, the French government has
taken Cap Gemini off a $62 million project to build research and
tracking software for the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Cap
Gemini's software did not work, according to French newspapers,
and this was the primary reason for a worker strike at the
library, according to both the library and its employees.
Finally, International Micro Systems sued Cap Gemini America for
backing out on a contract to develop a custom software system.
International Micro says Cap Gemini backed out because it thought
the project was unprofitable. International Micro, United Way,
and the Chamber of Commerce all note that a steady exodus of Cap
Gemini workers harmed their projects.
- "Intel to Announce It Ships Computers With 64-Bit Chips"
Wall Street Journal (12/07/99) P. C17
Intel today plans to announce the availability of prototype
computers based on its 64-bit Itanium chips. The announcement
indicates that Intel is on track for its general release of
Itanium in the middle of next year, says Intel's Ronald Curry.
The company is now sending hundreds of prototypes to computer
manufacturers, operating system vendors, and software makers in
order to encourage other firms to develop 64-bit software and to
fix any bugs in the next-generation chip. Itanium-based systems
are expected to significantly speed up programs such as large
databases and encryption applications.
- " Disguise Crack Pension Computers"
New York Times (12/08/99) P. C21; Johnston, David CayAuditors in Deep
A group of auditors recently broke into the computer system of
the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal agency that
guarantees pensions. The auditors said that they had the ability
to create a fictitious person to whom pension benefits could be
sent, and that they had infiltrated the site for three months
and had never been found out. However, the agency's executive
director David Strauss says that the auditors would have been
tripped up by other security measures if they had actually tried
to issue checks to their newly-created beneficiaries. Still, the
auditors maintain that they had the power to change or delete
files pertaining to various individuals, and could have also
altered the internal systems used by the agency to manage its
day-to-day operations. The auditors say that they broke into the
system by using dial-up modems and using hacker software to
discover passwords that gave them access. The auditors also
pretended to be agency employees who needed new passwords or help
logging on to the system. The Senate's Select Committee on Aging
has said that it will hold a hearing on the matter in February.
- "When Computers Fail"
USA Today (12/07/99) P. 1A; Strauss, Gary
Although the Y2K bug has attracted significant media attention,
everyday technology glitches cost U.S. firms as much as $100
billion a year in lost productivity, experts say. As e-commerce
and the global market mature, problems are likely to intensify
with complex, intertwined systems multiplying the effects of a
single flaw. Glitches can stem from many causes, including
technology flaws, human error, and unstable configurations of
software, hardware, and networking equipment. One of the many
companies that recently suffered a high-profile glitch is Nasdaq,
whose computerized trade reporting and quotation systems failed
last month. Meanwhile, Intel on Thursday reported that some
computers based on its Coppermine Pentium III chip are flawed and
will not boot up. Hershey Foods suffered shipment delays as a
result of problems with a new $115 million supply and inventory
system, which the company says caused a 19 percent decrease in
third-quarter sales from the previous year's quarter. The
Pentagon's $100 million attempt to computerize security
investigations has kept over 600,000 workers waiting for
clearance. Meanwhile, Gore-Tex maker W.L. Gore recently brought
charges against PeopleSoft and Deloitte & Touche for implementing
a $3.5 million system that is believed to have cost Gore $1
million to debug. In addition to being expensive, glitches can
compromise consumer privacy, as was the case last week when a
British online mortgage bank service called Halifax offered a
system upgrade that gave customers access to other accounts.
Finally, computer bugs have postponed child support payments in
several states and have kept up to 3,000 Alaska residents from
receiving their annual Alaska Permanent Fund checks.
- "SAP Chooses an IBM Platform Over Rival System From Oracle"
Wall Street Journal (12/07/99) P. B7; Delaney, Kevin J.
SAP will make IBM's DB2 its preferred database development
platform in an agreement worth an estimated $400 million or more
to IBM. In October IBM announced DB2 will be the preferred
database development platform in an agreement with Siebel Systems
as well. Both deals are viewed to be a blow to Oracle, which is
the current market leader in the database market. Under the
agreement, SAP will design future software packages to work best
with IBM's DB2, leading to an expected jump in IBM's SAP-related
market share and increased sales of hardware and services.
(Access for paying subscribers only.)
- "Next Time You Talk to Your PC, It May Listen"
Investor's Business Daily (12/08/99) P. A13; Benjamin, Matthew
Although not a new technology, speech recognition software is now
beginning to attract widespread attention. Companies such as
Lernout & Hauspie, Dragon Systems, and IBM offer programs that
allow users to dictate documents and make commands using their
voices. Speech recognition technology was previously held back
by low accuracy rates and high computer power requirements. Yet
now, as 64 MB hard drives have become standard and technology
advancements have led to greater accuracy, speech recognition
software has become a feasible supplement, if not an alternative,
to the keyboard and mouse. While most programs now boast 95
percent accuracy rates, dictation can still be a problem as
factors such as regional accents, high-pitched voices and
homonyms continue to cause frequent mistakes. Yet accuracy can
be improved continuously, as some programs learn from their
mistakes the more often they are used. As speech recognition
technology gains momentum, its uses will become more varied.
Next year, upscale gyms will feature exercise bikes that allow
users to surf the Web by voice, while a new application by
Mindmaker will allow gamers to substitute voice commands for
- "Net Hackers Develop Destructive New Tools"
USA Today (12/07/99) P. 4A; Zuckerman, M.J.
Several versions of a new type of Internet hacking tool that
could severely disrupt e-commerce have been discovered, the most
recent just last week, according to security analysts. The new
hacking tools coordinate the use of potentially thousands of
"slave" computers and target large Unix-based private and public
computer systems. Mike Higgins of computer security firm
Para-Protect says, "This takes a single computer operator and
increases his power by a factor of several hundred or perhaps
thousands, enabling him to bring e-business to its knees." Two
versions of the tools, similar to "denial of service" attacks,
were discovered in August, known as Trinoo and TFN, after they
were used on a West Coast university system. The Computer
Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Carnegie Mellon University met
in early November to discuss solutions, and the results of that
unprecedented meeting will be released this week. However, CERT
apparently has found no easy answers and will recommend increased
- "Compaq Boosts Role of Internet Sales, Plans Single Pricing for
Firms in Europe"
Wall Street Journal (12/08/99) P. B2; Delaney, Kevin J.
Compaq has announced that it will change the way it sells
computers to European businesses by standardizing prices and
reducing the number of intermediaries that handle products. The
move is aimed at improving Compaq's ability to compete with Dell,
which increased third-quarter PC sales in Europe 16 percent from
the previous year's quarter while Compaq's sales dropped 10
percent in the same period. Compaq's prices on the same system
vary widely in Europe depending on the reseller, because the
company's resellers are allowed to determine the final cost of a
computer. As a result, Compaq has had difficulty advertising and
offering competitive prices. By the end of 2000 Compaq will list
a single European price on its Web site. In addition, Compaq
will use the Internet to streamline its distribution by finding
out online what customers want and customizing systems at the
original manufacturing point rather than at separate warehouses.
Compaq's plan could further complicate relations between the
company and its distributors and resellers, which have been
distancing themselves from Compaq products as the company
increasingly moves toward direct sales.
- "New Projects Should Rise After 2000"
New York Times (12/07/99) P. C16; Feder, Barnaby J.
Many companies, expecting few disruptions as 1999 gives way to
2000, are planning to return to deferred projects in the first
few months of the new year, according to a new survey from
PricewaterhouseCoopers. The survey found that for companies with
over $100 million in annual sales, 40 percent plan to begin work
on major software projects that were put aside to focus on Y2K
issues. Pricewaterhouse's Lynn Edelson says, "What we are seeing
here is pent-up demand." However, consultant Howard Rubin says
the Pricewaterhouse data is more reflective of smaller and
mid-size companies, as the larger companies he tracks are already
moving away from Y2K and working on e-commerce projects. He says
those companies, most with sales of $2 billion or more, spent
just 8.4 percent of their budget on Y2K this year, with only 14
percent planning to spend 30 percent or more of their budget on
Y2K, according to his latest research, down from 20 percent in September.
- "Fiorina Moves to Put Hewlett-Packard Back Together"
Financial Times (12/07/99) P. 26; Kehoe, Louise
Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is working to improve HP's
competitiveness and financial performance by unifying the
company's fractured divisions and eliminating inefficiencies.
The company's revenues from continuing operations grew a
disappointing 7 percent in fiscal 1999, compared with rival Sun's
20 percent growth. Over the past five years HP's earnings growth
has averaged 15.1 percent, compared with an industry average of
25.6 percent. Furthermore, experts forecast a drop in HP's
earnings in the first half of fiscal 2000. Fiorina attributes
some of HP's problems to decentralized management, which she says
has led to redundancy and inefficiency. As an example of the
lack of unity among HP's divisions, Fiorina notes that HP has 750
internal Web sites for employee training, as each unit developed
individual sites without leveraging the work of other divisions.
In addition, separate product groups have formed their own
brands, undermining HP's marketing initiatives. To help bring
separate units together, Fiorina restructured HP into four
divisions, with two units devoted to customer issues and two
devoted to computer and printer products. The new divisions will
also work closely with one another, says Fiorina, who seems to
have the support of HP workers. Fiorina has also launched a $200
million marketing campaign for the HP brand that will largely
take the place of advertising for individual product units.
- "Some Web Sites Try for Crashes"
USA Today (12/08/99) P. 3B; Solomon, Deborah
The IBM National Testing Center is a required stop for the IT
departments of many retailers working to ensure their e-commerce
sites are capable of handling considerable site traffic without
incident. The testing center allows firms to set up their entire
e-commerce site for IBM engineers to test until the breaking
point is reached. IBM engineers will then give advice on what
needs fixing. The center employs 350 people and is lined with
enough fiber-optic cable to stretch from the Atlantic coast to
the Pacific and back. "If a site is performing slowly or goes
down, a large percentage of customers are likely to go elsewhere
and never return," says Jupiter Communications' David Schatsky.
For that reason IBM National Testing Center clients are willing
to spend the week to three months it usually takes to find the
weak link. "There's always a glitch someplace in the network,"
says the center's director, Jeff Gore. Over 15 million people
are expected to shop online this holiday season.
- "Frustrated Shoppers Still a Problem for E-Tailers"
E-Commerce Times (12/07/99); Greenberg, Paul A.
Consumers are more apprehensive about making purchases over the
Internet because the process is irritating, than they are about
concerns of releasing their credit card numbers and personal
information, according to research from Jupiter Communications.
Jupiter found that 27 percent of Web buyers fail to complete an
online purchase out of frustration with the process, while 19
percent abandon a possible online purchase due to security
concerns. Online shopping malls, by aggregating purchases, could
make online buying easier. Digital wallet technology would also
help, by making it possible for users to enter shipping, payment,
and contact information once, and then be able to use that data
wherever they shop. Another option that e-tailers would do well
to look into is the "e-Port" device, which IBM recently reported
that it is ready to introduce. E-Port is a non-PC device that's
designed to provide e-commerce access to those who are offline.
In removing the PC from the e-commerce experience, more consumers
could be attracted to purchasing goods electronically. With the
e-Port, which was conceived by IBM and USA Technologies, users
get a device that features a credit card reader, speakerphone,
and a touch screen. Users will be able to place orders online,
and make purchases from vending machines and gas pumps with
- "Two Makers of Communications Gear to Announce Products"
New York Times (12/08/99) P. C20; Schiesel, Seth
Sycamore Networks and Ennovate Networks today plan to unveil
products being developed to make large communications networks
more flexible. Sycamore Networks is set to announce plans for a
communications switch that may be the first to use light rather
than electricity. Sycamore's offering may allow carriers to use
optical technology more easily. Sycamore also plans to announce
that European carrier iaxis will begin testing the new offering.
Ennovate Networks is expected to unveil a plan for Psinet to
become the first user of its main product, which uses virtual
private networks to connect remote offices. The product enables
a business user to deploy a national or international network
using private, dedicated communications lines. PSINet has formed
a four-year, $15 million agreement to purchase equipment from
Ennovate, executives familiar with the deal said.
- "Proposed Directory--XML Spec Submitted to Standard Bodies"
InternetWeek Online (12/07/99); Drucker, David
A group of six directory vendors has submitted the directory
services markup language (DSML) 1.0 to standards bodies the
Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information
Standards (OASIS) and the World Wide Web Consortium for their
approval. Supporters of DSML aim to use the standard as a
catalyst for e-commerce, freeing information from directories and
allowing it to be used by applications. DSML promises to enable
Web directories to store and share data on Web applications and
business processes, allowing higher levels of
business-to-business and business-to-consumer interchange over
the Internet. Member directory vendors are IBM, Microsoft,
Novell, Oracle, and the Sun-Netscape Alliance. Lotus, Nortel,
Oblix, Red Hat, and Mission Critical Software have also pledged
support for DSML.
- "Viruses to Crash New Year's Bash"
Network World (12/06/99) Vol. 16, No. 49, P. 1; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy
Viruses and electronic greeting cards are likely to abound this
holiday season, causing many email managers to take special
precautions. Viruses contained in attachments are the largest
threat, and the FBI and other agencies have already identified
over 30,000 potential Y2K viruses, according to Gartner Group.
While most of these potential risks are not expected to result in
damage, Gartner says if just five or 10 viruses are launched
simultaneously, productivity is likely to suffer significantly.
Some companies are responding to these threats by shutting down
email systems for several days around Christmas and New Year's.
Other firms, such as Phoenix-based electric utility Salt River
Project, plan to keep email systems running but will quarantine
email attachments until updated antivirus software is able to
detect Y2K viruses. Electronic greeting cards, which will
increase around the holidays, are likely to carry viruses and to
slow servers because they are very large. Experts suggest that
firms might want to limit employee use of email around the
holidays to avoid overwhelming the company network, especially
while important Y2K testing is being done. Several
email-filtering vendors are offering special deals to companies
for New Year's weekend. For example, email scanning service
provider Allegro is offering new users a month of its filtering
service for free. Allegro's service scans a customer's email for
viruses and gets rid of large attachments before sending the
email to the company. Meanwhile, Worldtalk this month is
offering a special promotion called MailScrooge, a free 90-day
trial of its WorldSecure/Mail filtering software. MailScrooge
allows managers to scan incoming email and to isolate or block
certain types of messages.
- "Win 2K Migration"
Computerworld (12/06/99) Vol. 33, No. 49, P. 76; Morgan, Cynthia
Windows 2000 migration is likely to be a slow process, and most
IT managers in a recent Computerworld survey say they will not
begin migration for at least six months after the product ships.
About 62 percent of respondents say Windows 2000 is an
improvement over Windows NT 4.0, citing stability as the main
benefit. Other migration advantages listed by respondents are
the new Active Directory Services feature, increased security,
improved user experience, improved connectivity, and enhanced
remote access. However, 38 percent of respondents were not
convinced that Windows 2000 will offer the promised benefits, and
6 percent of beta testers say the new OS is worse than Windows NT
4.0. Critics say Windows 2000 is too large and lacks features
such as clustering that users favor. Nonetheless, all managers
that responded to the survey plan to move users or servers to at
least one version of Windows 2000 within two years. Only 19
percent of those deploying Windows 2000 Professional plan to
start migrating within six months of the product's release.
About 67 percent will not begin implementation until Windows 2000
has been commercially available for six to 18 months. Reasons
given for postponing implementation include past unreliability of
Microsoft products and the cost of migrating. Most companies are
likely to have a lengthy implementation, with only 31 percent
expecting to finish within three months and about 45 percent
planning to spend up to 18 months migrating to Windows 2000
Professional. On the server side, most of those migrating to
Windows 2000 Server Edition also plan to wait at least six months
before implementing, but 35 percent plan to finish implementation
within three months.
- "Don't Get Spiked"
Internet World (12/01/99) Vol. 5, No. 34, P. 59; Carr, David F.
Online vendors often focus on drawing large crowds to their
sites, but sometimes these efforts backfire when traffic
overwhelms a site, leaving visitors disappointed. For example,
online electronics store 800.com last December offered three CD
or video titles for $1 to the first 100,000 people who
registered. Heavy demand caused the company's Web servers to
slow or stop working. Since then, 800.com has increased servers,
redundancy, and bandwidth, and the company now conducts tests to
ensure site efficiency. Site failures are not always caused by
large volumes of traffic, and sometimes stem from software,
hardware, or personnel problems. For example, eBay's site went
down a number of times, once for 22 hours in July, after the
company failed to add a patch to its Sun Solaris operating
system. The company lost an estimated $3 million to $5 million
in revenue, and was heavily criticized for not having a backup
system ready to take over. As for its backup plan, 800.com last
October was planning to deploy three fractional T-3 connections
from separate ISPs, and to implement database clustering. The
company had not decided whether to geographically distribute its
infrastructure in the event of a disaster destroying its physical
site. Replicating the company's server farm at another location
would cost about $3 million, while co-location fees and a
high-speed link to a separate facility would further increase
costs. The company was leaning toward more basic measures such
as offsite backups and a supply of spare parts. While
established sites sometimes are unprepared for spikes in demand,
experts say large retailers in general have learned to handle
varying levels of demand. The sites most likely to fail this
holiday season are those of new vendors, says Keynote System's
Gene Shklar. Rather than investing in infrastructure capable of
handling peak traffic, some companies are opting to show users a
message asking them to try the site again later if the site is
too busy. Another technology used in handling traffic is load
testing, which ensures that servers will not buckle under strong
- "Knowledge Management: Myths & Realities"
InformationWeek (11/22/99) No. 762, P. 42; Whiting, Rick
While knowledge management has become an important aspect of IT
and business operations for many companies, the concept is
surrounded by misconceptions. Often, companies believe that
knowledge management is a new idea, and one that may simply be a
passing fad. Yet while knowledge management has fallen under
many different labels over time, the basic concept has existed
for decades, and analysts expect that it will soon be integrated
into the basic strategy of every successful company. "Knowing
what you know and what you need to know can't be a fad," says
Larry Prusak, executive director of the Institute for Knowledge
Management, an industry consortium. Companies often believe that
knowledge management can only be implemented on an
enterprise-wide basis, and only within one enterprise. Yet
knowledge management can be applied to a specific division or to
an entire supply chain. Pillsbury proved this when it
implemented the Tech-Know-Bank knowledge management initiative in
its research and development division. The system is based on a
Lotus Notes intranet that can be used to share information among
researchers. The system has been successful within the division,
allowing new products to be launched more quickly. This success
has encouraged the company to begin implementing the system
throughout the enterprise.
- "Optical: Moving Past Big Pipes"
Interactive Week (11/29/99) Vol. 6, No. 49, P. 14; McGarvey, Joe
Qwest Communications International and Williams Communications
recently unveiled plans to incorporate optical technology into
their core networks. Their plans suggest that the carriers see
optical networking technology as more than a tool for expanding
bandwidth capacities. Williams has formed a four-year, $400
million contract with Sycamore Networks, which supplies optical
networking equipment. Williams announced that it also will test
Corvis' optical transmission technology. Corvis' CorWave
technology is meant to boost the power of an optical signal
moving along a network backbone. Qwest is also considering
Corvis' gear. Further, Qwest, which recently revealed plans to
deploy a completely optical backbone, will collaborate with
Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, Qtera, and Siara Systems.