ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either Gateway Inc. or ACM.
To send comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 1, Issue 6: Monday, December 13, 1999
- "Concern Over Year 2000 Remains Low in Surveys"
New York Times (12/13/99) P. C10; Feder, Barnaby J.
Recent surveys conducted by the National Federation of
Independent Businesses and the National Association of
Manufacturers show that the huge majority of businesses are not
worried about Y2K. The Manufacturers survey reveals that 93
percent of its members think that the switch to 2000 will have
"no impact" on their companies, and that only 4 percent foresee
any "significant disruption" of any sector in the economy. Most
businesses are staying calm and are not stockpiling inventory,
according to the surveys. Many Y2K polls are reinforcing calm,
but those conducted by specific companies tend to be self-serving
advertisements, such as the one commissioned by Blockbuster Video
that found that 22 percent of respondents were planning to stay
in New Year's Eve and rent a movie. And many books and manuals
dealing with Y2K are way down on the book sales list, not only
because many people are not interested but also because much of
the same information is being offered in various quarters for
- "Net's Rise, Microsoft Case Feeding the Linux Frenzy"
Investor's Business Daily (12/13/99) P. A6; Crum, Rex
Enthusiasm for Linux is growing, fueled by an increasing shift to
the Internet as well as the antitrust suit that has exposed
Microsoft's weakness. Linux firms are increasingly appealing to
investors, as seen in VA Linux Systems' 698 percent stock gain in
its IPO on Thursday. Andover.Net, which manages Web sites
containing Linux news, also saw significant stock gains last
week. As more information is exchanged on the Internet, servers
become increasingly important. Companies are therefore looking
for inexpensive servers and are turning to Linux rather than Unix
or Microsoft server operating systems. Companies such as VA
Linux and Andover.Net are emerging to help businesses set up and
run Linux. However, Forrester Research analyst Matthew Nordan
says investors are not selective enough in choosing firms that
add value to Linux. Companies that are adding real value to
Linux include Cobalt Networks, which makes servers based on
Linux, and TurboLinux, which makers load balancing technology
that sends traffic to Linux servers, Nordan says. Although Linux
is perhaps being inflated by media hype, experts say Linux's
promising future is evidenced by the support of major players
such as Dell and IBM.
- "Online Sales Heating Up Tax Debate"
Washington Post (12/13/99) P. A1; Chandrasekaran, Rajiv
The debate over e-commerce taxes continues to shape up as a major
political battle. The pro-tax forces include traditional
retailers and many state and local government officials, while
those opposed to new Internet taxes include GOP leaders in
Congress, some business executives, and a handful of local
officials. The Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce will
meet tomorrow in San Francisco; there the two sides on the debate
will voice their concerns. Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III
(R), head of the commission and an opponent of new Internet
taxes, will call for a permanent ban on e-commerce taxes. On the
other side, Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt (R), chairman of the
National Governors' Association, will introduce a voluntary plan
urging that third-party clearinghouses and Internet retailers
work together to come up with the correct Internet taxes owed to
states. As a reward for their cooperation, certain tax audits
would not apply to those online retailers that decide to
participate with the plan. The governors' association claims
that e-commerce will cost state and local governments $10 billion
a year in lost tax revenues. Efforts to keep the Internet
permanently free of taxes are receiving increased support. The
issue has even been addressed in Republican presidential debates.
Presidential candidates John McCain, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer,
and Orrin Hatch all have said they oppose Internet taxes. On
Friday, the Clinton administration criticized Gilmore's plan over
concern that retailers would be encouraged to establish kiosks in
their stores to allow customers to shop online without paying
- "SAP Seen Creating at Least 10 Portals for Big Companies"
Wall Street Journal (12/13/99) P. B11; Boudette, Neal E.
SAP by the end of the year expects to announce deals to build at
least 10 portals for business-to-business e-commerce. The
portals will manage communications and transactions between large
companies and their suppliers, says SAP co-CEO Hasso Plattner.
One portal will serve as a marketplace for such German chemical
companies such as Bayer, BASF, and Hoechst to purchase
non-production supplies. SAP will manage the portals and collect
part of the revenue transacted. In five years the marketplace
business could account for 10 percent to 20 percent of SAP's
revenue, Plattner says. Although Plattner did not provide
specific details since not all of the agreements are final, he
said the deals involve major firms from Europe and the U.S.
Although SAP leads the market for software that runs internal
processes, the company is lagging in helping clients move to the
Internet. SAP was forgotten in October when Ford chose Oracle
and General Motors chose Commerce One to build portals connecting
the manufacturers to their suppliers. However, Hewlett-Packard
last week signed a $36 million agreement to use mySAP.com for
- "Video, Audio Add to Java Brew"
Interactive Week Online (12/10/99); Babcock, Charles
Java developers can now add rich-media handling capabilities to
their programs, thanks to the release of a new set of APIs for
Java Media Framework 2.0. Java Media Framework, developed
jointly by IBM and Sun Microsystems, enables developers to
support audio and video data, playback, synchronization and
transmission across different platforms. It can be integrated
with other media types, including IBM's HotMedia, Flash, and MP3.
The enhanced rich media support provided by Java Media Framework
will be useful in corporate training programs and Web and
customer relationship applications, says IBM's Bill Pence.
- "Standard Pitched for Linking E-Comm Apps, Directories"
Network World Online (12/13/99); Fontana, John
An industry alliance submitted a proposed standard that could
ease data exchange among corporate directories and e-business
applications. A group consisting of Bowstreet, IBM, Microsoft,
and others submitted the Directory Services Markup Language
(DSML) 1.0 specification to three standards organizations,
including the Organization for the Advancement of Structured
Information Standards (OASIS). DSML allows XML documents to read
directory information that could be crucial to
business-to-business transactions. Although DSML has gained
strong industry support, the specification has also attracted
some concern because it is largely unproven, much like its parent
language, XML. Nevertheless, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, and
Sun/Netscape have all pledged to support DSML in their upcoming
- "Scientists Explore Next Wave of Technology, Referred to as the Post-PC Era"
San Jose Mercury News Online (12/09/99); Claymon, Deborah
Scientists at IBM's Almaden Research Center are busy developing
the pervasive computing devices of the future. Projects in the
works include the "emotion mouse," a mouse that can detect a
person's emotional state and implement programs to improve it;
Blue Eyes, a camera that monitors the user's eyes to determine
what on the screen is most important; and Suitor, which would
personalize Web content based on a user's input. With the
pervasive computing initiative, IBM researchers are striving to
incorporate computers into things that are a transparent part of
everyday life, including cars, phones, refrigerators, walls, and
- "IBM to Boost Netfinity Availability and Scalability"
VNUNet.com (12/08/99); Everett, Cath
IBM recently unveiled an initiative to improve server
availability. Dubbed Onforever, the program provides users with
hardware and software to maintain and replace parts without
shutting down their systems. Using Hotadd technology, users can
add extra processors or replace adaptors while the server is
still running. Meanwhile, Hotscale allows users to plug in a new
port rather than install network cards or additional disk
storage. The initiative also includes Chipkill memory, which
features error correcting code for up to four bits of memory; PCs
can currently handle error build-up in only one bit of memory.
Also under the Onforever initiative IBM will release in two weeks
Software Rejuvenation, a failure management program that allows
users to plan and minimize their server downtime by scheduling
occasional server "rejuvenation." A second release due in the
third quarter of 2000 will also enable the software to predict
when a crash will happen, allowing users to take preventative
- "Byte-ing Into Wireless Communication: Bluetooth Ties Laptops, Cell Phones"
USA Today (12/09/99) P. 3B; Della Cava, Marco R.
The Bluetooth standard for wireless communications, developed by
a consortium consisting of IBM, Nokia, Ericsson, Intel, and
others, could give a tremendous boost to the new era of
computing. Imagine a refrigerator that keeps tab of the number
of soda cans consumed and automatically orders more online when
all are gone. Once the Bluetooth silicon chips are small and
inexpensive enough, the Smart Fridge will become a distinct
possibility. Bluetooth relies on radio waves to enable
communication between any number of devices equipped with the
Bluetooth chip. Although the most likely first market for the
chips is in mobile phones, the possibilities are enormous.
Dataquest predicts there will be 61.2 million Bluetooth-enabled
devices in circulation by 2003. Among the potential users are
airlines, which are considering the technology to eliminate the
miles of cable they currently use.
- "Run for Coverage"
Industry Standard (12/20/99) Vol. 2, No. 38, P. 116; Menduno, Michael
Insurers are facing numerous challenges as they
move toward online insurance quotes and selling. The insurance
industry, unlike other financial institutions, is regulated on a
state-to-state basis, meaning different states have different
insurance regulations, which makes selling insurance online more
difficult. Another problem is that companies must spend a large
amount of money to update their technology to support online
sales; Allstate plans to spend more than $1 billion in the next
two years on technology. Regardless, insurance companies are
moving toward the Internet for sales. Almost 75 percent of
carriers that were surveyed by the Gartner Group will provide
insurance quotes over the Web by the end of 2000, and 39 percent
will actually sell policies online. New Internet companies are
also forming that provide quotes from carriers to potential
customers. InsWeb, founded in June of 1995, offers comparison
insurance shopping and will soon offer online purchasing of auto
policies to its customers. InsWeb receives a small transaction
fee for each quote it provides and a small commission of the auto
policy sales it generates. Comparison-shopping sites seem to
appeal to the consumer because of one-stop shopping and
availability of quotes from a wide range of carriers. However,
Forrester Research analyst James Punishill says sites such as
InsWeb and Quicken are struggling because they have failed to
simplify their products or make the process easier for consumers.
E-businesses should focus on automating the core processes,
elimination of the intermediaries, and outsourcing as much as
possible, says Punishill. State Farm is attempting to merge the
agent into the Internet process by offering agents' advice in
real-time on the Web. State Farm's agents are also linked to the
company through the corporate Intranet, which speeds up paperwork
- "Shakeout Ahead"
Interactive Week (12/06/99) Vol. 6, No. 50, P. 84; Cone, Edward
This holiday season could serve as the moment of truth for most
Internet companies that are striving to position themselves as
leaders in their markets. Those that are not able to rise to the
top of their markets could find indifferent venture capitalists,
steadily declining stock prices, and recurring offers of mergers
or acquisitions. "I don't foresee that many bankruptcies," says
Henry Blodget, a retail analyst at Merrill Lynch. "Some
companies will just die, but a lot will get acquired or limp
along with their stock at a tiny valuation." As many as
three-fourths of all Internet public and private companies could
be gone within five years, adds Blodget. Other observers, such
as Todd Carter, director of investment banking at BancBoston
Robertson Stephens, do not put the figure that high. Carter, who
expects many consolidations, says one-third of the Internet
companies will disappear. The top three competitors in a market
are likely to make it, but there are some sectors that will be
able to accommodate several players. Some markets, such as auto
sales, have already succumbed to the shakeout. Internet Service
Providers, books, toys, and home furnishings could be next. What
is more, existing Internet companies will have to compete for
capital with the latest companies in some hot, new market that
are trying to establish an online presence.
- "Outage Disrupts E-Business"
InfoWorld (12/06/99) Vol. 21, No. 49, P. 1; Jones, Jennifer
AT&T's recent dial-up service outage, which highlighted the
instability of some forms of Internet connectivity, may have an
impact on the success of its VPN offerings. The outage showed
that Internet services are susceptible to failure despite
carriers' claims that the services are appropriate for business
customers. Although some corporate customers of AT&T's VPN
service were affected, AT&T officials said the problems were not
severe. A day-long, nationwide outage like AT&T's is atypical,
particularly for a carrier of its size, said International Data
analyst Stephen Harris. Service outages may be responsible for
the jump in subscriptions to cheap or free ISPs. People are
turning to ISPs as a backup measure, according to Harris.
- "Wireless Consortium Meets With W3C"
Computer Reseller News Online (12/08/99); O'Hanlon, Charlene
At this week's WAP Forum meeting, the more than 250 Forum members
met together with the WorldWide Web Consortium to discuss
wireless data exchange. The two groups want to define and
promote Internet access by wireless devices. They want to put
into place standards that will facilitate the operations of cell
phones, laptops, handheld organizers, and other wireless devices
to receive data from the Internet as well as intranets. At the
meeting, Australian telco Telstra announced that it would use
Phone.com's WAP-enabled UPLink server in their handsets.
However, analysts say that WAP technology does not provide
complete Internet access. The carriers control the content
because they must use specialized equipment, says analyst Jane
Zweig. Microsoft and Ericsson also announced this week their
plans to develop WAP technology that would use Microsoft's Mobile
Explorer, a cell phone version of the popular PC software.
- "CRM Offers Promise, Peril"
Bank Technology News International (11/99) P. 1; O'Connor, Anthony
European retail banks have zeroed in on customer relationship
management (CRM) software as the key to making the most of
customer information when developing marketing campaigns. The
goal: stem the loss of business to foreign banks, insurance
companies, and other rivals. The CRM market is growing quickly,
with 80 percent of retail banks now basing their marketing plans
on the use of the software, according to a survey by Datamonitor.
CRM spending by European banks totaled $945 million in 1998, a
number expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2003. The main payoff
from CRM software is the reduction in marketing expenses. With
80 percent of the typical bank's business coming from 20 percent
of its customers, the bank logically should focus its marketing
efforts on its best customers. CRM allows banks to identify its
best generators of revenue, by sifting through the large amount
of information banks collect through the many transactions it
handles annually. Datamonitor analyst Adam Hill says, "A current
account holder may have several interactions with its retail bank
in a week. This generates a large amount of data which can be
used for marketing purposes."