Timely Topics for IT Professionals
About ACM TechNews
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 email@example.com.
Volume 2, Issue 105: Wednesday, September 13, 2000
- "Hewlett Introduces a Powerful Computer"
New York Times (09/13/00) P. C6; Feder, Barnaby J.
Hewlett-Packard yesterday previewed its new Superdome server, which the company says will compete with Sun Microsystems' Unix-based servers. Hewlett-Packard has targeted the server at e-commerce sites, Internet service providers, and large, multinational firms. The basic Superdome server will cost $400,000, but HP stressed that customers would be able to modify the server's options and price based on their needs. The Superdome will improve the performance of Sun servers by as much as 30 percent, HP said. Early customers have applauded Superdome's power and speed, but observers doubt whether HP can catch up to Sun. "HP will have a six- to nine-month window of high-end performance leadership," said Meta Group analyst Brian P. Richardson. Other analysts noted that Sun's servers have remained strong, even though it has new servers on the way, while sales of HP's servers have been sluggish. Investors have frowned on HP's recent sales numbers and have questioned the company's plans to acquire consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- "Gartner Predicts .Net and Java Will Rule"
Computer Reseller News Online (09/11/00); Rooney, Paula
Microsoft's .Net platform and Sun's Java will dominate the market for Internet application development, Gartner analysts predicted at the analyst firm's Application Development 2000 conference yesterday. The analysts said .Net and Java will operate over 90 percent of large and midsize firms' systems within the next five years. The appeal of both platforms is their interoperability between multiple languages. The analysts noted how Microsoft has worked with IBM to bring .Net up to Internet standards including XML, UDDI, and SOAP, but an IBM official questioned why Sun has not brought Java up to the same standards. Gartner analysts forecast that within five years manufacturers of handhelds will stop using Java as their main development platform. The analysts also predicted the growth of IBM's S/390 application integration platform.
- "IT Companies Woo Consultancies"
Financial Times (09/12/00) P. 22; Foremski, Tom; Michaels, Adrian; Peel, Michael
Two important trends have become clearer with the confirmation that Hewlett-Packard (HP) is in talks with PricewaterhouseCoopers over the purchase of PwC's consulting arm. One trend is the desire of big information technology groups to expand in IT consulting. The other trend is the selling of consulting arms by professional services firms, such as PwC and Ernst & Young. Computer companies have turned their attention to IT consulting as a means to generate additional revenues, since customers have a growing interest in finding solutions to business problems rather than buying hardware and software packages. The decision of PwC to split from its consulting arm is in response to pressure on the Big Five from the SEC to separate consulting and auditing operations. If the HP and PwC deal does not go through, other companies, including Sun Microsystems and Unisys, will most likely look to buy PwC's consulting arm, as both have expressed interest in expanding their consulting services.
- "High-Tech Cheap Labor"
Washington Post (09/12/00) P. A35; Matloff, Norman
The high-tech industry routinely cites a shortage of skilled workers in its quest to raise the H-1B visa cap, but some companies appear to be rejecting qualified Americans in favor of visa holders who accept lower salaries, writes University of California, Davis computer science professor Norman Matloff. H-1B workers are often paid 20 percent less than their American counterparts, according to several university studies. Even companies that pay fair salaries to H-1B workers, whose average age is 28, are cutting costs by not hiring Americans over the age of 40, who would demand higher salaries. Meanwhile, a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post cited the shrinking number of electrical engineering students in the U.S. as an argument in favor of H-1Bs, despite the fact that the vast majority of H-1B visa holders are computer science graduates, not electrical engineers. Computer science enrollment in the U.S. has doubled in recent years, but students who graduate from these programs are displaced into customer support and other jobs while H-1B workers receive programming positions, Matloff says. Meanwhile, few high-tech companies seek U.S. citizens over age 40; only 2 percent of high-tech hiring managers look for workers with more than 10 years of experience, surveys show. In addition, major tech firms that complain of a labor shortage reject an overwhelming majority of applicants without interviewing them; Cisco hires 5 percent of applicants, Inktomi hires just 1 percent, and Microsoft hires 2 percent. Only studies funded by the tech industry and its supporters have verified the existence of a labor shortage, and the Department of Commerce has withdrawn its earlier report of a shortage, saying it lacks sufficient data to support the claim.
- "ICANN Ballot Set, One-Month Campaign Begins"
Newsbytes (09/11/00); McGuire, David
ICANN concluded a significant portion of its election process and now a complete ballot of the candidates who will compete for the five available seats on ICANN's board of directors is available. Voting for the election will begin Oct. 1, which leaves the candidates less than one month to campaign. Of the roughly 150 self-nominees, nine had the support of at least 2 percent of the active at-large voting membership--a requirement to join those already chosen by ICANN's nominating committee. Karl Auerbach, Emerson Tiller, and ACM's past president Barbara Simons are the North American candidates who garnered enough support and will compete with the four ICANN-chosen candidates already on the ballot. One at-large member will be elected from each of the five global regions. The candidates included on the final ballot are listed at members.icann.org/nominees.html, and ICANN recommends that voters look at the nominees' bios posted at the site. More information on the candidates picked by ICANN's nominating committee can be found at www.icann.org/nomcom/#report.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Legacy of the 106th Congress"
InternetNews.com (09/08/00); Fusco, Patricia
The 106th Congress has but less than a score of business days left before the elections produce turnover in its ranks. With time winding down, lawmakers are preoccupied with major appropriations bills, and despite intense lobbying efforts by the high-tech industry, some 50 or more Internet bills that were introduced this session may be left untouched. The American Electronics Association (AEA) is pressing Congress to focus its attention on a handful of technology bills, including one in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), that would permanently normalize trade relations with China. The AEA would like to see China opened so that high-tech companies have another market to sell their products and services. The AEA would also like to see Congress raise the number of H-IB visas granted to foreign workers, as high-tech companies are hamstrung by a shortage of capable workers. The AEA also strongly favors a moratorium on e-commerce taxes, an issue that will impact the industry far and wide. The AEA is pressing the Senate to extend the moratorium another five years, as the House has already done, and wants both chambers of Congress to examine Internet tax simplification. The growth of the tech industry and the jobs it produces could suffer if the 106th Congress does not pass the e-commerce tax moratorium.
- "Fine-Tuning the Wireless Net"
International Herald Tribune (09/11/00) P. 12; Shannon, Victoria
With the auctions of 3G licenses ongoing and new wireless standards being approved, many telecom companies are seeking additional agreements and purchases to strengthen their potential for boosting their wireless market share. But chip manufacturer Intel has taken a different approach. The firm is seeking to strengthen its position by forming the Mobile Data Initiative-Next Generation, which will promote seamless interoperability between all wireless devices and networks. The group names BT Cellnet, Sonera Oyj, and France Telecom among its members. Besides promoting seamless interoperability, the group will be involved with packet-switched technology, which is anticipated to be used by 3G networks for transferring data. Intel has a substantial interest in promoting interoperability. The company believes that the more computer devices are able to link to one another, the more their popularity will increase among consumers and businesses. And any increase in demand will also result in more revenue for chip manufacturers. Gartner Group estimates that the sale of wireless devices will grow by 800 percent this year, and mobile phone penetration in Europe will surpass 65 percent in three years.
- "Reno Urges Drive Against Software and Music Piracy"
Financial Times (09/13/00) P. 6; Despeignes, Peronet
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno yesterday called for more coordination and cooperation between the U.S. and foreign governments in the battle against intellectual property theft, claiming that current law enforcement efforts were "fragmented and diffuse." Reno said law enforcement agents must change their views on copyright protection law, traditionally a low priority, and also urged young people to realize that pirating software and other digital media is a crime, not harmless fun. Reno requested the creation of new criminal statutes and tougher bilateral extradition treaties so that no country would develop a reputation as being lax on piracy. The U.S. Business Software Alliance estimates that 50 percent of software currently in operation in Latin America is pirated.
Click Here to View Full Article
For information regarding ACM's work in the area of intellectual property, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Can Robots Rule the World? Not Yet"
New York Times (09/12/00) P. D1; Chang, Kenneth
The possibility of robots supplanting humans was rated a zero on a scale of zero to five by researchers at the Humanoids 2000 conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Robots lack the mechanical dexterity, brainpower, energy supply, emotional capacity, and autonomy to challenge humanity, said Dr. Alois Knoll of Germany's University of Bielefeld. But the most critical factor is robots' inability to reproduce themselves. The announcement of self-replicating robots developed by Brandeis University researchers fueled speculation, but the creators themselves considered a robot takeover far-fetched. Although robots that can assemble themselves out of ready-made parts will eventually be developed, robots that can build themselves from raw materials are an impossibility, said Dr. Rodney Brooks, director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. Nevertheless, Sun Microsystems chief scientist Bill Joy harbored enough concerns of a robot takeover to write an article in Wired magazine suggesting that scientists avoid pursuing such research. Dr. Hans P. Moravec of Carnegie Mellon University predicts that robots will eventually automate all industries. Ninety percent of the Humanoids 2000 participants found Moravec's predictions unbelievable, said Knoll. Still, developments such as nanotechnology and robots that can theoretically forage like ants have sparked concern. In the nanotechnology sector, officials at Zyvex claim the company will never produce anything dangerous, while the Foresight Institute has proposed guidelines to minimize risks in nanorobot research.
- "Europe Might Lead Internet Race in Unexpected Ways"
Reuters (09/11/00); Van Grinsven, Lucas
High-tech executives from both sides of the Atlantic recently attended a conference in Monaco to discuss the future of the Internet. The consensus from many of those in attendance was that European Internet users will outnumber those in the United States in just a couple of years. International Data's (IDC) John Gantz says the amount of time Internet users spend online goes a long way toward determining how well a country will be able to leverage the power of the Internet. Pim Bilderbeek, IDC's vice president for European eBusiness and Networking Research, advises Europe to focus its efforts on mobile phones and "innovative services and language integration" rather than traditional U.S. strengths such as hardware and software. Europe also would do well to concentrate on the security and voice encryption field, according to Bilderbeek. Ernesto Schmitt, cofounder of the U.K.'s PeopleSound.com, said U.S. rivals in Europe have turned their nose up at creating local Web sites, giving his company an advantage in local markets.
- "Industry Leaders Descend on Hill"
Internet.com (09/13/00); Mark, Roy
A number of lawmakers in Washington will meet today with industry executives to discuss Internet regulation during the Third Annual AIM Advisory Board Capitol Hill Day. The event, sponsored by the Association for Interactive Media (AIM), includes talks on Internet privacy, taxation, and email. Congressman expected to participate include Sens. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Reps. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), and Chris Cox (R-Calif.). Representatives from such AIM members as Juno Online Services and AltaVista will also participate in the talks. "Congress needs to hear suggestions and thoughts from the business people that would be affected by any new legislation," said AIM Executive Director Ben Isaacson.
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit
- "Managing the Risks of Going Online"
American City & County Online (09/00); Sterling, Tomaysa
Many local governments are increasingly facing an array of IT security and liability issues, and are often unaware of such dangers due to the rapidly changing IT security and legal environment. For example, the city of Issaquah, Wash., was recently charged with software piracy because it added users based on an old licensing agreement without realizing that the agreement had changed. Other issues municipal governments face include equal-access issues, such as the digital divide and enabling the handicapped to obtain online government services, as well as security problems relating to the use of email to discuss official government business. Experts maintain that local governments must first decide what falls into the category of sensitive information, and then define what constitutes a security breach and a privacy violation, before they can start to tackle security and liability exposures. Local governments often use firewalls, encryption devices, security alert software, and system auditing to secure their Web sites and networks. Some governments choose to centralize their systems in order to minimize access and secure data and technology. As for privacy liability issues, many local governments now post official privacy policies on their Web sites that explain what customer data will be taken and how it will be used.
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Online Transactions, Security Top Government Priorities"
Computer Reseller News (09/04/00) No. 910, P. 38; Roberts, John
Many state and local governments cite transaction processing, Web security, intranet development, and the creation of an online payment system as their top Internet priorities. Security concerns are an offshoot of the desire to create an online payment mechanism, and research shows that state and local governments are especially fearful of hackers infiltrating Web sites and seizing private financial data and other personal information. State and local governments also increasingly view applications hosting as a viable way to improve productivity, increase efficiency, and cut costs. Therefore, many governments are trying to establish relations with private-sector entities to build and maintain applications.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Users with Disabilities Push High-Tech Limits"
InfoWorld (09/04/00) Vol. 22, No. 36, P. 37; Jones, Jennifer
The National Federation of the Blind's lawsuit against America Online, which aimed to force AOL to make its software accessible to people with limited vision, might lead to improved Internet access for everyone. The suit, filed in 1999, raised awareness about Internet accessibility not only for the blind, but for people with a range of disabilities. Since the suit was filed, many Web developers have visited the NFB technology center to learn how to make Web sites available to users with limited sight. Meanwhile, the federal government is rewriting the Rehabilitation Act of 1998 to require federal agencies to make their internal and external technology accessible to those with disabilities. The new rules will apply to vendors that sell products to the federal government, but will not extend across the entire high-tech industry. Nonetheless, vendors that do not want to lose out on the government market are likely to start making their products accessible to the disabled, observers say. Another incentive for vendors to make their products more accessible is the growth of wireless technologies. As vendors simplify Web site displays for wireless access, they can incorporate the needs of disabled users at the same time, says Judy Brewer of the World Wide Web Consortium.
- "Digital Copyright Growing Pains"
Broadband Week (09/00) Vol. 1, No. 1, P. 1; Goroch, Antonette
Technology, particularly broadband, is forcing the issue of digital media copyrights and accompanying legislation. Broadband Internet usage is spreading from college students to the residential market, and digital media transmission is becoming common. The number of broadband residential users in North America will reach 6 million by the end of the year, according to Digital Technology Consulting. New technologies to aid the transmission of files are appearing, and digital media file portability has increased. But the speed at which content transmission and playback capability has become available has left copyright laws behind. Internet broadcasters have fairly clear rules about streaming audio on the Internet, thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, and although traditional broadcasters currently have an edge, Spinner.com's Jim Van Huysse says the difference is shrinking. Digital downloads and file sharing present more difficulties, with lawsuits serving only to generate more interest in the non-sanctioned distribution of digital music. A compromise must be reached, Angry Coffee CEO Adam Powell says, or all parties could lose their music consumers to untraceable search systems. Unicyclerecords.com CEO Dean Martucci says that given the global nature of file sharing, encryption or similar technology would be a better solution than legislation.
- "Long-Distance Outsourcing"
Washington Techway (09/11/00) P. 25; Daniels, Alex
The Indian government and industry officials are starting to view India as a major player in the information technology marketplace. India's National Association of Software and Service Companies says software exports, having grown by more than 50 percent each of the past three years, reached $4 billion last year. India's software exports reached 95 countries last year, with nearly two-thirds of the applications heading to North America. And India's National Taskforce on Software & IT Development adds that more than 160 Fortune 500 companies now outsource computer tasks to workers in India. Indeed, U.S. companies are clamoring for skilled foreigners from places such as India because of the shortage of high-tech workers in America. By the end of March, the 65,000 H-1B visas available for foreign-born high-tech workers were all accounted for. Arlington, V.A.-based entrepreneur Amir Hudda cites the huge savings on salaries as one of the reasons companies are eager to tap Indian workers. Hudda says companies can pay Indian workers about four times less than high-tech workers in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Tata Infotech CEO Nirmal Jain says it costs 34 percent less to produce software in India than in the U.S., and Thomas Cunningham, president of Fairfax, Va.-based TechBooks, which has 1,100 employees at a site near Delhi, estimates that it costs 20 times more to do business in the U.S. However, observers say doing business in India has its hurdles, such as communication and cultural differences.
- "The Decline of the Roman Empire"
Industry Standard (09/11/00) Vol. 3, No. 35, P. 136; Yamada, Michele M.
The online address system is finally starting to work with languages that do not use the Roman alphabet. Some top registrars, such as Network Solutions, have acted slowly in addressing a need for non-English Web addresses. Last month, Network Solutions started to test the registration of non-English top level domain names and also recently started working with i-DNS International, which claims to have registered at least 120,000 multilingual domain names. This move is late in coming. Approximately 20 percent of Internet users who do not read languages based on the Roman alphabet or Arabic numerals find the deficiency a noticeable setback. Within three years, 27 percent of all Internet users will be people that speak languages not based on the Roman alphabet, according to market-research firm Global Reach. There is also no standard for compatibility between the new technologies that enables users to register domain names using non-English characters. The lack of a standard prevents these users from jumping from one online address to another. "So many who do not speak English are afraid of the Internet because of their perception that the Internet is an English-language experience," says Jarallah Aljarallah of the Arabic language domain name working group. Although it is moving cautiously, the Internet Engineering Task Force is attempting to develop a standard for online addresses in languages other than English.
- "Buy Now or Cry Later: Shortages Loom for Hot Products"
PC World (09/00) Vol. 18, No. 9, P. 72; McLaughlin, Laurianne
The launch of many high-tech products has been delayed by shortages of vital components that will probably last through the holiday shopping season, much to the frustration of customers. Palm handheld personal desktop assistants (PDAs) are in short supply thanks to a lack of handheld-size displays and flash memory. The shortage is so bad that shoppers have been buying PDAs at auction on eBay for $30 to $50 higher than the list price. AMD and Intel claim to be sold out of flash for the rest of the year. Rising sales of cell phones and digital cameras are largely to blame for the current shortage, say analysts. The most likely consequences of the shortage will be a jump in flash card prices and reduced memory in upcoming digital camera shipments. A shortage of 12- and 13-inch notebook displays will probably cause consumers to turn to the larger, more expensive 14- and 15-inch models. The display crunch has caused some companies to delay the launch of Internet appliances, while a tight supply of capacitors could also delay the launch of Web-enabled cell phones. However, a cell phone shortage is not expected. Major PC manufacturers have been forced to hold back shipments of their newest, fastest CPUs. Intel announced its 1 GHz Pentium III chip in March, but will not begin shipping in volume until September. These shortages could encourage consumers to buy products sooner but also with caution.