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Volume 3, Issue 194: Wednesday, April 25, 2001
- "Signs Point to Further Slowing For Tech Spending"
Investor's Business Daily (04/24/01) P. A4; Prado, Antonio A.
Corporations are continuing to hold back on technology investments, according to a CIO Magazine/Deutche Banc Alex. Brown poll of 900 CIOs of major firms. The monthly poll is indexed to show current trends. Last month, one index of tech spending fell 5.56 percent from February while another indicator showed yearly growth rates slowing from 11 percent for the year to only 9 percent for the year beginning in March. A majority of CIOs say they intend to boost e-business software investments during the next year. On average, CIOs also plan to put 17 percent of their budgets toward either B2B or B2C initiatives. Some analysts point out that the sensitivity of the tech sector to the overall economy shows the pervasiveness and maturity of the markets. InterMarket Forecasting President Richard Salsman says that, unlike in the past, small businesses and individuals play just as important a role in tech spending as large tech buyers. Another indicator of corporate insecurity is a softening of the job market--the Information Technology Association of America says new tech hires will fall 44 percent this year.
- "Senators Pitch Tech Training Tax Credit"
Newsbytes (04/24/01); McGuire, David
New legislation introduced this week would give companies an up-to $2,000 tax credit for each worker they put they put through technology training courses. Sen. Kent Conrad (R-N.D.) led a group of colleagues to introduce the bill, which is meant to make the U.S. workforce more competitive globally. Overall, the legislators expect that the tax credit will cost the country $700 million over five years, though they admit that is only a small fraction of technology training costs. Conrad says $700 million is a "relatively modest of money for something so important to our economy." And though big business would likely train employees regardless, the tax credit could greatly influence small companies to go ahead with technology training, according to Technology Association of America President Harris Miller. A companion bill was introduced in the House. Conrad introduced a similar bill last session, but believes the currently legislative climate gives the bill a better chance to pass this time.
- "PC Market Appears to Be Rallying"
USA Today (04/24/01) P. B1; Iwata, Edward
Compaq Computer announced poor performance for the last quarter, with sales down 21 percent and revenue falling 3 percent. In addition to the 5,000 layoffs announced last month, Compaq officials said they plan to cut 2,000 more jobs in order to lower expenses. However, several analysts spotted good news in the PC sector, citing falling inventory levels as a sign that the market may again be on the rise. Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Eric Ross said that inventory levels of chip manufacturers and PC makers are down to only one to four weeks, compared to the three months of overstock companies had at the end of last year. He said the PC industry might be the first in the technology sector to regain traction, after being the first to fall. Analysts are predicting that PC sales will increase 5 percent to 7 percent by the end of the year.
- "Why Combo Gizmos Don't Cut It"
Wall Street Journal (04/25/01) P. B1; Sandberg, Jared
Technology firms continue to test the market for hybrid devices, amalgamating two devices that end up being less usable or less desirable as a result. Microsoft's WebTV, PDA/cell phone combinations, and PC-TVs such as Gateway's Destination set or the MacTV all have received tepid consumer response. Yet all the major cell phone manufacturers have introduced Web-enabled phones into the market despite low customer acceptance. One user in New York, Bill Westcott, says that he has not used his Web-enabled Sprint phone to connect to the Web in six months because it's hard to use. "It's more painful than it is useful," he says. The convergence of technology is often a good idea, if the new technology enhances the original purpose and does not complicate operation. TiVo and ReplayTV, for example, have been relatively successful in merging computer hard drives with TVs in order to digitally store programs.
- "Lean Times For Sellers of Corporate Software"
Financial Times (04/24/01) P. 10; Grande, Carlos
E-business software sellers easily sold their wares to corporate buyers during good economic times, but now that the economy is souring, large firms are scrutinizing cost-saving software. The situation is a bit absurd, according to Commerce One executives, who posted a lowered sales projections for the next quarter. Analysts say that companies could afford to blithely accept the promise of e-business software before, but now want quantifiable proof of cost-savings before investing. Nike CEO Philip Knight crystallized corporate fears when he blamed i2 Technology's software for $100 million in lost revenue. I2, Ariba, and other vendors maintain that their software does cut costs and i2's third-party auditor, Miller-Williams, has verified that i2's clients have significantly reduced overhead, but realize savings in the long term, rather than seeing short-term benefits as promised. Other e-business providers such as Web services firms and e-marketplace companies have some support from early adopters. Guy Allen, IT procurement director for GlaxoSmithKline, says that e-procurement, for example, does work, but many businesses underestimate the hidden costs of changing internal processes.
- "Survey: Age Bias Seen by Over-45 Techies"
Network World Fusion (04/23/01); Cowley, Stacy
More than two-thirds of tech professionals over the age of 45 say age discrimination is a major problem in the industry, according to a survey by techies.com. However, discrimination affects both ends--almost 75 percent of tech workers ages 18 to 34 said younger workers are just as likely to be targeted as older workers. The survey, which questioned 1,027 IT workers in January, touched on the issue of whether a gap exists between younger and older workers. Younger workers were six times as likely as older workers to maintain that older workers almost always make more money than younger workers, while those aged 55 and older said that management's reluctance to promote older workers contributed to the salary gap. Another issue working against older workers according to them, was the idea that older workers are most familiar with outdated, low-demand technologies. Age discrimination drew the attention of the U.S. Department of Commerce during the peak of the dot-com boom, which issued a report last June that found that about 80 percent of programmers were under the age of 45. Overall, 40 percent of respondents to techies.com's survey said age bias is a serious problem in the IT industry, and 31 percent said they had either witnessed or experienced an age bias-related incident.
- "Women Who Think Differently"
Wired News (04/24/01); Mayfield, Kendra
San Francisco Women on the Web (SFWoW) will honor the contributions of 25 women at an awards function Tuesday night. In comparison to last year's focus on prominent CEOs, this year's "Top 25 Women on the Web" gives recognition to women in a variety of fields. For example, programmer Mala Chandra, Web design director Ardith Ibanez Rigby, and political activist Evelyn Pine were all honored. Janette Bradley won acclaim because of her work in developing Web infrastructure. She says we should be "using the Web to improve how we live or work...it's about accountability now, it's not about hype." SFWoW executive director Lara Thurman hopes that her awards program will soon become obsolete, when the widespread presence of women in the Internet will not necessitate a separate awards function. Thurman says, "The Internet has opened a lot of doors for women." A recent Collaborative Economics and Community Foundation Silicon Valley survey of 826 women living in Silicon Valley found that over half have technology-related jobs, although the top spots are still harder for women to get. The current market downtown could also make it harder for women to gain top management positions, some women fear.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "The Paperless Office? Not By a Long Shot"
New York Times Online (04/21/01); Brooke, James
The paperless office remains an elusive goal. Although many have predicted the demise of the use of paper in the workplace, Canada's paper industry is booming. It is the world's largest seller of office paper, exporting 31.5 million tons of white paper in 2000. Pierre Trudel of Domtar paper mills attributes the demand for paper to people who "print out everything they see--Web sites, email." Surveys reveal that people are prone to print emails that are longer than half a page. Hewlett-Packard says that 1.2 trillion sheets of paper will be used in laser printers this year, up 50 percent from five years ago. Dataquest says the number of fax machines in the U.S. jumped 22-fold in the 1990s, while the number of laser printers shot up 12-fold. A Morgan Stanley report says, "The paperless office never did develop out of the silicon revolution of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. The proliferation of high-speed photocopiers, personal computer printers, and plain-paper copiers has helped keep offices flooded with paper." Online businesses also drive paper use since orders must be shipped in boxes made of paper along with account documents, parceling, and so on. However, Web-based e-reading appliances such as Microsoft's TabletPC and those by Xerox and E Ink may make inroads into paper use. Analyst Francois Perron of Merrill Lynch Canada believes that younger generations will be more likely to adopt such electronic appliances.
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- "The Charity Slowdown"
Financial Times (04/25/01) P. 11; Kehoe, Louise
The effects of the dot-com bubble burst are two-fold as corporate businesses reevaluate their technology strategies. When anything Internet was worth money, spending on IT was seen as a way to implicitly tell investors that a business was still tech-savvy, and many companies even capitalized on the dot-com boom by launching spinoffs. But now corporations are punishing e-business software makers by cutting spending, leading Larry Ellison of Oracle to predict that his company and SAP will be the only two enterprise-class business software makers around. The effects of the e-business and technology downturn are felt heavily in other areas as well, especially at organizations that received charitable donations from the tech sector. Not only are wealthy contributors' established funds shrinking along with stock prices, but individual donations amounting to only $1,000 or so are drying up. Many universities, hospitals, and endowments also were capital investors in dot-coms or put money on the stock market. One example of the financial loss to the charitable sector is seen with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, set up by the Intel co-founder. It was based upon a promise of 170 million Intel shares, but the value at the time of the pledge--about $12 billion--has since dwindled to near $5 billion today.
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- "Report Urges Tech-Export Policy Overhaul"
Newsbytes (04/24/01); Krebs, Brian
The United States is only hurting itself by imposing restrictions on high technology and other goods that fall under "dual-use" export controls, according to a congressional study. The report suggests that the United States instead form an export control coalition with close allies such as Sweden, Britain, France, Germany, and others in order to curb the market for a lesser number of potentially dangerous technologies. Current U.S. export law prohibits the sale of high-technology considered "dual-use"--meaning they can be applied to both military and civilian purposes--to rogue states, but the study argues that the system simply limits U.S. companies abroad while the targeted technologies proliferate via other countries. Reform is already underway with bills such as The Export Administration Act supported by the Senate Banking Committee. The bill has received help from the White House and would virtually eliminate restrictions on sales of super computers, except by presidential veto.
- "A Miniature World of Tubes, Balls and Locusts"
Financial Times (04/23/01) P. 16; Harvey, Fiona
Scientists continue to make tremendous strides in the field of nanotechnology, which involves manipulating atoms and molecules to form new shapes and structures too small for the human eye to see. Just this month, scientists from IBM were involved in research published in the journal Science about the creation of straight nanotubes--the tubes tend to form knots and tangles that resemble spaghetti. And such tubes could form the "nanowires" that link the innards of computers. While IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and other high-tech companies are in the process of developing nanoscale computers, other experts envision other possibilities for the technology, including building tiny robots or machines that could construct and repair structures invisible to the eye. As a result of nanotechnology, one day tiny machines could enter the body and deliver drugs or repair tissues. Some nanotechnologists even have hopes that manipulating machines at the atomic level could one day lead to self-assembling machines. The first industrial use of nanotechnology may not appear for another 10 to 20 years. Meanwhile, experts still have to determine whether constructing machines with nanotechnology will be cost-effective.
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- "Survey: Women in Tech More Likely to See Gender as Obstacle"
A study of 826 women employed in Silicon Valley reveals that many women there feel their sex can be a barrier to promotion at the workplace, according to Collaborative Economics and Community Foundation Silicon Valley, which jointly conducted the study. The majority of women polled were employed in high-tech jobs. Of these, 41 percent believe they need to conform to male-oriented standards at the workplace in order to get better jobs, as opposed to 23 percent of the women in non-technology careers. Twenty-eight percent of the women in high tech say that their gender hinders their getting promoted, in comparison to 15 percent of women in other careers. Professor Debra Myerson, a consultant for the study, believes that tech firms' support of staying long hours to solve problems unfairly punishes those with limited schedules. Usually, women have duties in their personal life that may limit their ability to stay overtime at work. The women also said they also encounter gender prejudice by those who believe that men are better at high tech jobs than women.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Michigan Aims to Own Biotech"
SiliconValley.com (04/21/01); Gillmor, Dan
Michigan is bidding to become the focal point for the emerging biotechnology field and has pledged $50 million per year for 20 years to developing a "Life Sciences Corridor" stretching from Grand Rapids to Detroit. The state wants to become to life sciences what Silicon Valley has been to IT and is taking cues from that example by integrating academic and business interests. University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger, who helped promote the life sciences initiative, also plans to devote $700 million over the next few years to build a Life Sciences Institute that will serve as a incubator for innovations with the promise of commercial application. Other regions around the country already are poised with the right mix of research and business prowess, such as the Bay Area, where local universities--Stanford, UC-Berkley, and UC-San Francisco--have begun biotechnology efforts. However, political and academic leaders in Michigan are hopeful that the livability of the area, plus the economic initiative--funded by tobacco settlement monies--will give their state an edge.
- "WIPO Says: Keep Whois Open (And Keep It Accurate)"
Newsbytes (04/20/01); Bonisteel, Steven
WIPO last week released a report called the "Second WIPO Internet Domain Name Process" that touched on a variety of domain name issues including the use of the Whois database. Privacy advocates have expressed concerns that marketers use information in the Whois database including contact information such as email addresses, phone numbers, and fax numbers, to solicit users whose information is listed in the Whois database. Further, domain name registrars have been fighting over how the Whois data is used. Whois "is used by various users for multiple purposes--including to identify online infringers for enforcement of intellectual property rights, to identify and verify online merchants, to source unsolicited email, and to investigate illegal activity, including consumer fraud," according to WIPO's report. Whois data can be used to track cybersquatters, and can also be used to inform cybersquatters when legal action will be taken against them, notes WIPO. Whois was originally intended to offer network administrators a source when network problems have to be fixed or when a hacker or spammers need to be tracked, and these needs have not changed, says WIPO. The issue is not the openness of Whois, but the lack of harmonization between registries and registrars and the lack of controls to make sure that Whois data is accurate, according to WIPO.
- "Telecommuting Incentives Considered"
Associated Press (04/24/01); Marx, Claude R.
Employers in the metro areas of Denver, Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Houston will be able to participate in a government credit program designed to promote telecommuting and reduce air pollution. Because the traffic and industries in those regions make them prime targets for telecommuting, the Environmental Protection Agency expects to eliminate car emissions through the incentive program originally created for power plants. Companies will receive government credit according to information logged into a special program that tracks the amount of pollution reduced. The National Environmental Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., says that 20 million workers telecommute at least one day per week already and estimates that, for every 100,000 people in the program, 2,613 tons of emissions will be eliminated per year.
- "Nations Head for Global Clash"
CNet (04/19/01); Konrad, Rachel; Jacobus, Patricia
Although cyberlibertarians are becoming more concerned about multinational efforts to create worldwide laws for the Internet, academics and high-tech experts do not believe the Internet will be tamed anytime soon. The latest examples of governments coming together to address their concerns about technology include the Council of Europe's discussions regarding an international treaty on crime and the adoption this summer of a treaty that enforces foreign judgments in intellectual property disputes, libel, and other claims. Internet regulation is gaining momentum because the Web is becoming more popular in countries that have few protections for free-speech, global cooperation is increasing, and technology is available to pinpoint the exact location of people using the Web. Villanova University School of Law professor John H. Murphy sees some good in the global efforts, such as unifying laws and bringing cultures together on the Web. For example, the World Intellectual Property Organization adopted a copyright treaty in 1996 that made way for an international arbitration forum for resolving disputes over domain names, as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Nevertheless, tech experts believe the increase in use of the Internet worldwide will only make policing efforts more difficult. They do not experts see U.S. Marshall to fly overseas to crackdown on patent and copyright violations, or other forms of cybercrime involving hackers. Gartner research director Alan Weintraub says bootleggers will always be around, but eventually acceptable rules for distributing content online will emerge, just as legalized drinking resulted from the days of Prohibition.
For information regarding ACM's work on matters of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "IT Slowdown 'Hitting Europe'"
Financial Times (04/25/01) P. 23; Foremski, Tom
Europe's technology spending is down, according to Merrill Lynch's TechStrat poll of 50 U.S. and 15 E.U. technology chiefs. The study, released Tuesday, shows that approximately a third of American and EU firms have stopped budget transactions. About 50 percent of the firms intend to reduce technology spending, while 40 percent of the European firms decreased technology expenditures in March. The IT executives also expect technology spending to be on par or marginally higher this year, in comparison to a 12 percent increase last year. Although companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Oracle said demand is likely to pick up by the second half of 2001, 90 percent of the firms polled said they have no plans to increase spending in the fourth quarter. The survey also revealed that most IT spending reductions were in hardware, personnel, and advising.
- "Old Tricks for New Chips"
Economist (04/24/01) Vol. 359, No. 8218, P. 75
Two microchip technologies from the early days of computing are resurfacing as appliances demand more powerful rates of output. One classic technology is simultaneous multi-threading, or SMT, which boosts power by allowing a chip to oversee the actions of many programs at once. Increased hardware provides a bigger area to process instructions for each program going through the microchip. As incoming programs pass through, they carry labels that make processing easier for that part of the chip that does the mathematical computing. Asynchronous logic, on the other hand, eliminates the traditional clocklike action of the majority of today's chips. Instead, various parts of the chip operate at distinct velocities. In dual rail asynchronous chips, two wires per bit are used to denote ones and zeroes based on electrical flux, while in bundled data chips, the last of 33 wires shows where voltage should be used on the other 32. SMT is useful for increasing PC application speeds by three to four times, whereas asynchronous chips would increase power and reduce static for mobile devices, and make smart cards more secure.
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- "No Bots Allowed!"
Interactive Week (04/16/01) Vol. 8, No. 15, P. 62; Luh, James C.
The Robot Exclusion Standard was created seven years ago to govern the operation of bots--software that scours the Internet for specific data, creating databases that search engines, among other things, employ. Many site operators, especially those who run commercial sites, oppose bots because they are able to access data without viewing ads and can even interfere with a site's operation because they sometimes work more quickly than a site's server can. The standard works by having the bot, upon entering a site, request that the site provide it with a .txt file explaining where in the site it can and cannot go. The catch to the standard, and the reason it is emerging once again as a disputed issue in cyberspace, is that it has no governing authority, nor is it even required. It is a matter of courtesy, its developers say-- bots can and do access all areas of Web sites, either ignoring the .txt file or willfully disobeying it. However, a recent court case involving online auction site eBay may give the standard more legal force. A judge agreed with eBay that the standard is akin to a "No Trespassing" sign, letting site operators dictate where bots may not enter. In the eBay case, now settled, the auction site's operators wanted to keep out bots from an auction aggregator site.