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 3, Issue 178: Monday, March 19, 2001
- "Stressed-Out IT Women Tempted to Quit, Survey Says"
PCWorld.com (03/16/01); Melymuka, Kathleen
A new survey from GLS Consulting reveals that 41 percent of 265 women surveyed in the IT field are considering leaving their positions because of the stress of balancing their work with their personal life. Of the respondents, 68 percent said the work-intensive lifestyle of the IT field worries them, while 65 percent said working in the IT field has impacted their personal lives negatively. The survey should be an ominous signal to IT employers, its authors argue, as a high turnover rate brings a high cost. The survey's authors also contend that dissatisfaction with the IT lifestyle likely extends to men as well as to women and that the stress of the IT lifestyle is destructive and will eventually lead to lower efficiency and productivity. However, the survey did find that a majority of the women surveyed, 73 percent, find the IT field rewarding for its creative freedom and its opportunity for achievement and satisfaction.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Intel Rolling Out 1 Gigahertz Laptop Microprocessor"
Intel today will unveil its 1 GHz Pentium III microprocessor for laptop computers. The chip will be featured in over 20 laptop models from manufacturers that include Dell, Gateway, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and several others. "We expect a lot of [manufacturers] to standardize on 1 GHz as a base speed," said Frank Spindler, who is in charge of Intel's mobile chip line. The chips are meant for full-size and thin notebook laptops, which will average between $2,500 and $3,000 in cost. Intel will also introduce a new 900 MHz and a new 750 MHz processor today for less expensive laptop models. Intel's chief rival, AMD, is planning to release its 1 GHz chip, code-named Palomino, later this month.
- "Women Are Still Scarce in Top Media, Telecom, and High-Tech Jobs"
Washington Post (03/18/01) P. L1; Johnson, Carrie
Women hold only a sliver of top jobs at media, telecommunications, and tech firms, according to a University of Pennsylvania study. The study found that women fill just 13 percent of executive positions and only 9 percent of corporate board seats. A forum in Washington, D.C., featuring leaders such as FCC commissioner Susan Ness and Rep. Carolyn B. Mahoney (D-N.Y.), addressed the issues raised by the study. Pat Mitchell, CEO of PBS, argued that when women are in the lead of corporations, they can make a difference in the numbers and impact the culture of those companies. Discovery Communications President Judith McHale said bonus incentives for managers also helps them to think about diversity issues when selecting their teams. The Pennsylvania study, conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, collected information from Fortune 1000 companies and discovered that high-tech firms fared a little better in terms of gender diversity in their leadership. Of the companies surveyed, Yahoo!, Charles Schwab, and E-Trade had the highest percentages of women in top positions.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
New York Times (03/19/01) P. C14; Chartrand, Sabra
Amazon's patent on "one-click" Internet shopping recently came under fire as contestants in a contest sponsored by the Web site BountyQuest submitted "prior art" in an attempt to undermine the patent. However, publisher Timothy O'Reilly, who sponsored the $10,000 contest, admitted last week that none of the submissions filled all 12 requirements needed to invalidate Amazon's hold on the one-click process, which Amazon says it developed and claimed in a 1999 patent. O'Reilly even went so far as to say the results of the contest might "confirm Amazon's belief that they were doing something original." Critics of Amazon claim that the company is simply translating a common business practice to the Internet, and Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com are currently embroiled in a legal dispute over the one-click process, which allows the e-tailer to save previously entered customer data and display it in a specific manner. The results of the BountyQuest contest may come up in a September appeal to an earlier ruling in the Amazon-Barnesandnoble.com case. Both O'Reilly and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos are investors in BountyQuest, which they support as a market-based way to clean up the patent process.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)
- "In Congress, They've Got Mail--Far Too Much of It"
Washington Post (03/19/01) P. A5; Edsall, Thomas B.
Members of Congress cannot handle the vast amount of email they receive--a total of 80 million email messages a year, according to a study released Sunday by the Congressional Management Foundation and George Washington University. That breaks down to as many as 55,000 email messages for each Senator and up to 8,000 for each member of the House. The study cites spam email from lobbyists and corporations as a major cause for the rapid increase in email volume among members of Congress. However, the study says members of Congress make matters worse for themselves because they lack the capacity to filter and sort incoming email. "Neither office budgets nor office technological capabilities have kept pace with the demands, leading to a growing disconnect between Members of Congress and their constituents," the study states. The study finds that, even when a constituent's email is read by a member's staff, it is often ignored or responded to with traditional mail. Few members employ technology that can separate email from their home state from email from out-of-state senders, the study claims. Also, few members sort incoming email by subject or differentiate between spam email and individual email. Congressional Management Foundation executive director Rick Shapiro contends that steps such as sorting email by subject could greatly ease the workload for members and their staff and improve communication with their constituents. For example, members could establish a listserv of constituents considered about a given topic and send an email report whenever they cast a vote, speak, or in some other way address that topic.
- "Survey: PC Price Plunge Narrows Digital Divide"
E-Commerce Times (03/13/01); McDonald, Tim
As the cost of PCs and Internet access continues to fall, lower-income households have more opportunities to go online, narrowing the digital divide, a new survey finds. The latest Nielsen//Net Ratings survey shows that, among the different income brackets, those earning less than $25,000 per year were coming online the fastest--with 46 percent more people online this February than one year ago. Other income groups also staged gains, with the slowest-growing group being the wealthiest, those earning between $150,000 and $1 million per year, climbing only 28 percent. "Penetration or access to the Internet has evolved to the point where it's pretty much available to every sector of the economy," said T.S. Kelly, director of Internet Media Strategies at NetRatings. However, the survey reveals an actual contraction in the number of active Internet users from 111.1 million to 109.5 million, even as the number of connected houses increased from 169.3 million to 170.1 million. The survey also shows that users are becoming more discriminating, visiting less sites but staying longer at the ones they do use. Kelly also says the use of new Internet-enabled devices such as cell phones, PDAs, and video game consoles are changing the demographics of Internet usage.
- "Palm Is Next in Line to Unveil New Series of Hand-Held Computers"
Wall Street Journal (03/19/01); Tam, Pui-Wing
Handheld computer manufacturers are lining up to present consumers with more colorful, slimmer, and faster devices. The new handhelds are more expensive than their predecessors but boast new connectivity features, lighter designs, and the latest high-tech gadgetry, such as the audio playback capabilities of Sony's new Clie device. Palm is the latest among Sony, HandSpring, and Compaq to release new products to the growing market. The Palm m500 and m505, both out on Monday, cost $399 and $449 respectively, compared to a base Palm device, the m100 series, which runs about $150. Palm's m505 runs Palm OS 4, which lets the handheld connect to mobile phones to send messages and access the Internet. Compaq raises the bar for processing power on handhelds with its new iPaq ($649) that has 64 MB of memory and allows for two PC card expansions. Microsoft is working with Texas Instruments to streamline the design of its software, reducing the number of components it needs to function and allowing sleeker designs similar to the Palm m500 and Visor Edge. For now, handheld computers running Pocket PC software make up just 12 percent of the market and claim the support of vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Casio, and Compaq. Palm controls most of the remaining market and its operating system runs on Palm, Sony, and Handspring devices.
- "Is It Really That Bleak?"
ABCNews.com (03/14/01); Greenwood, Bill
A recent study suggests that the new economy's downturn may not be as bad as many analysts think. A University of Texas study finds that 20 new jobs in the Internet sector were created for every dot-com layoff last year. Pamela Rucker of the National Retail Federation agrees that, in general, things are not so bad for the sector, saying, "16 million new people logged onto the Internet last year, and Internet sales continue to soar." Internet sales last year were not quite $26 billion. Rucker argues that dot-coms must follow the principles that traditional businesses have been following for years: "Efficiency, customer service, and profitability." However, she contends that traditional businesses must also react to the new economy. Those that do not embrace the Internet are unlikely to survive, she argues.
- "W3C Accepts WSDL Specification From IBM, Microsoft"
Interactive Week Online (03/16/01); Babcock, Charles
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced Thursday that it had accepted the XML-based Web Services Description Language (WSDL) specification submitted by IBM and Microsoft. WSDL, which was also sponsored by Ariba, BEA, Commerce One, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle, among others, provides an XML-based grammar for defining and describing a Web service, essential if two different online systems are going to be able to communicate without human intervention. IBM and Microsoft also co-submitted Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), which WSDL is meant to supplement.
- "European Wireless-Internet Firms Expect Slower Connections, But More Customers"
Wall Street Journal (03/16/01) P. B6; Delaney, Kevin
A Wall Street Journal survey found that Europe's wireless industry remains optimistic about early adoption rates for 3G services. They expect 3G adoption rates to outpace analysts' forecasts. Eleven wireless carriers and eight manufacturers of wireless equipment in Europe participated in the study. The wireless industry has become shaky in recent days as operators and equipment manufacturers prepare to launch 3G products in Europe. Some companies have decided to delay product or service launches, while others have questioned whether the launch of 3G is worth the heavy costs. Most participants in the study acknowledge speeds offered by 3G technologies will not meet original expectations. The expected 3G connection speeds of 64K to 144K are far below what is needed for high-quality video, say experts. These speeds are not that much faster than the speeds offered by dial-up modems. Additionally, the survey participants say GPRS will offer speeds of 20K to 40K, far below the 118K advertised by some operators and equipment makers. Nokia had the most confident outlook among the survey participants. The company predicts that 3G services will become a huge market by the third quarter of next year. Other participants saw 3G services taking off in 2003. But handset makers had more optimistic forecasts than other survey participants.
- "Gov't Agencies Seen as Threat to Internet Privacy"
The police and other Indian government agencies are jeopardizing
the online privacy of Internet users, according to representatives of Indian Internet companies. Indian police contact the Web portal company Rediff.com about once a month asking for the personal data of the portal's email users, according to Rediff.com Chairman Ajit Balakrishnan. The company steadfastly refuses to comply with the police requests, says Balakrishnan. "We cannot give it to them unless they produce a magistrate's order," says Balakrishnan. A relatively new Indian law permits top-ranking law enforcement officers to arrest people suspected of a cybercrime, without the need for a warrant, provided that the police have enough evidence to open an investigation. Indian law forces ISPs to monitor their networks for criminal acts.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "E-Biz Shakeout Takes No Prisoners, Big or Small"
E-Commerce Times (03/14/01); Regan, Keith
The dot-com shakeout is not only about companies that splurged on borrowed VC money and frenzied IPO offerings, but it is also about small, relatively conservative companies such as Brandpoint. Founder Bradford Hudson says that his company did well during the boom times with its shopping portal site. Employing only four workers, having no stock offerings, and not taking any outside investments make this company seemingly impervious to any dot-com implosion. But that was when Brandpoint's customers, the e-retailers that paid to be listed on the site, were more than willing to spend enormous amounts of money to obtain just a few customers. The idea was that these would be their bread and butter in the future, the "early adopters" that e-commerce valued so much. However, the domino effect hit even the lean and mean Brandpoint unexpectedly. Hudson admits that his company's "business model was not sufficiently robust or sufficiently complex to survive the crisis in the dot-com world."
- "The Dot-Bomb Survivors Club"
U.S. News & World Report (03/19/01) Vol. 130, No. 11, P. 34; Fischer, Joannie
While San Francisco and the Silicon Valley area have been hit hard by recent dot-com layoffs, the idea that the industry is crumbling is as overblown as the days of sky-high stock prices, observers say. Rather, the tech industry is somewhere in the middle, and laid-off tech workers report finding jobs with ease, albeit in different sectors of the Internet economy. In Silicon Valley, for example, the rate of unemployment is at a miniscule 1.5 percent. Companies in the fields of computer hardware and software, wireless technology, as well as infrastructure issues such as security or business-to-business transactions are surviving or showing modest profits. In addition, the CEOs of Internet startups and the former CEOs of failed dot-coms all claim that investment capital is still available, although it is far more competitive to obtain it than in the boom days.
- "The New Immigration Wave"
Computerworld (03/12/01) Vol. 35, No. 11, P. 42; Watson, Sharon
Lew Wheeler, CEO of the Pittsburgh-based IT consulting firm Rapidigm, estimates that this year he will fill 700 of 1,000 open IT positions with those holding H-1B visas. These visas, granted to highly skilled foreign workers for up to six years, were a subject of much debate in the last Congress, as the tech industry successfully lobbied for the cap on the number of H-1Bs issued per year to be raised from 115,000 to 195,000. This new cap will extend from fiscal 2001 through fiscal 2003, after which it will drop to 65,000. The tech industry said the visas were needed to fill necessary positions, while critics charged that the program was hindering competition among U.S. workers while letting companies pay less for equal labor. However, tech-industry observers say no hard evidence exists to measure whatever impact the H-1B visa program is having, nor has the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is responsible for administering the program, kept extensive figures on it. The INS has said that approximately 54 percent of the H-1B visas it issued last fiscal year went to tech workers--about 78,000 individuals. However, an informal survey of corporations suggests that most of those workers are being hired by tech companies, consultants, and contractors to fill "hard-core" IT positions, such as programmers and designers. Observers suggest that the complicated procedure necessary to hire H-1B workers may be a reason for this. Employees must apply to hire H-1B candidates and must prove that a specific college degree is required to perform a certain task. This tends to restrict H-1B holders to "hard-core" IT positions, observers say, as it easier to prove that these positions require an advanced degree. The entire process can take months and be quite expensive, which observers say often dissuades small and mid-sized businesses from going through the trouble.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Redefining Business: Slow But Steady"
InformationWeek (03/12/01) No. 828, P. 97; Eric Chabrow; Heun, Christopher T.
More companies are achieving profitable e-commerce ventures by following a cautious, conservative business strategy that hinges on two key components: simple offerings and strict adherence to a company's particular specialty. Traditional brick-and-mortar companies also raise their chances for success by tightly calibrating their online initiatives with their offline business practices. Furthermore, measuring their Web business by the same yardstick as traditional commerce is vital. For sports equipment retailer Recreational Equipment (REI), the Web is a cheap testbed for new products before selling them in offline stores, and yielded revenues of $92 million last year, 13 percent of REI's total of $698.3 million. Companies such as Extendicare Health Care Systems are successfully adopting an application service provider (ASP) business model, again by exercising caution and staying within their domain of expertise. Virtual Care Provider (VCP) is a subsidiary ASP that Extendicare pays $7 million annually to service its workstations; since the end of January, VCP was two-thirds of the way towards its year-end goal of $1.8 million in recurring annual revenue. Southwest Airlines made the leap from offline to online business by offering both types of services through the same IT infrastructure and building an easy-to-use Web site interface for passengers. Southwest realized online sales of $1.7 billion--30 percent of total revenues--and a profit margin of 10.7 percent last year. While clothing retailer Lands' End has always been at the forefront of innovation, it adopted a more cautious attitude toward customer acquisition costs and reined in online consumer advertising. FTD.com was also able to cut online promotional costs thanks to wide brand recognition, and has branched out into online gifts sales that CEO Michael Soenen believes could account for as much as 30 percent of the company's total revenue.
- "What's the Big Idea"
Industry Standard (03/19/01) Vol. 4, No. 11, P. 30; Fallows, James
Net stocks went bust as the demand for startups that could make money eventually surpassed the supply of dot-coms that actually turned a profit. However, just as brick-and-mortar companies learned how to take advantage of electricity, the telephone, and airplanes, Internet startups will learn how to use network technology, and they will use this knowledge to make their companies profitable. The Internet industry will no longer be crowded with startups that have no concept at all, startups that are just concepts with the name "dot-com," or startups that are simply online retailers. Ultimately, dot-coms are likely to take off once Internet services are ubiquitous. Although Internet service is currently available in many homes and businesses, broadband wireless connections would make Internet access available everywhere. For example, ubiquity would be able to help Metricom, which has been building a wireless Internet system for about 10 years. Metricom's service is available in 15 cities but is far from being a full wireless system. Internet companies also will be able to take advantage of "intelligent" applications to grow their businesses. The search company Moreover, started by a British team, is already moving in this direction. The company has created an index that tracks down content on Weblogs, dirt-dishing sites like Vault.com, and discussion groups. The services has turned into a way for corporations to find out what is being said about them online.
- "10 Tech Trends to Bet On"
Fortune (03/19/01) Vol. 143, No. 6, P. 58; Nee, Eric; Lewis, Peter H.; Creswell, Julie
Fortune magazine has a mantra of "back to basics" as it considers the latest tech trends. As other observers continue to miscalculate the time it takes for consumers to embrace new technology, the magazine is ignoring the future and focusing on the here and now. Indeed, consumers have not taken to surfing the Web over cell phones, and investors continue to see the market beat down their tech stocks. The first trend that Fortune anticipates is that the state of the economy will convince consumers that they cannot afford any more computer-related gadgets. However, Fortune does expect new voice applications to take off. The market can expect voice-recognition software, click-to-call buttons incorporated into Web sites, instant messaging with voice, and technology that allows consumers to use the Web from a pay phone. After new voice applications, the next trend will emerge out of the investor demand for return on investment (ROI). Customer relationship management software will provide ROI. The issue of privacy continues to resonate, and many congressional leaders have given their word that they will address the issue this year. Ethernet will continue to be used to deliver high-speed data and Internet connections to businesses and schools. Meanwhile, computer makers will move into the new era of selling outside the box. Fortune sees other tech trends including the success of corporate storage stocks and wireless messaging.
- "IETF Chair Baker Examines His Legacy"
Network World (03/12/01) Vol. 18, No. 11, P. 21; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy
After five years as volunteer chairman of the Internet Engineering Task Force, Cisco fellow Fred Baker is relinquishing leadership of the organization that helped create standards for the Internet. In an interview, Baker details the situation the IETF is in now as well as reflects on his tenure. Besides authoring and editing 61 protocols governing the way the Internet functions, Baker also negotiated relationships between governments and other standards bodies, such as the International Telecommunications Union. He says that, in the past five years, the Internet has "gotten down to business" dealing with the commercialization of the Internet, which used to be more of an academic enterprise. Baker also said that he will hand the IETF chairman's position to Harald Alvastrand, a Norwegian Cisco employee, and will become a member of the Internet Architecture Board. Alvastrand, Baker notes, is especially well suited for the job because he will help dispel prejudices that the IETF holds an American bias. As for the future of the Internet, Baker sees a necessary move toward the medium becoming more of public utility, ubiquitous like the electricity that powers it.