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Volume 3, Issue 219: Monday, June 25, 2001
- "Telecommuting Gets Stuck in the Slow Lane"
USA Today (06/25/01) P. 1A; Armour, Stephanie
Telecommuting has not fulfilled its promise, industry observers say, with fewer employees interested in working at home, and fewer employers wanting to offer the opportunity. The U.S. Department of Labor says there were roughly 21 million telecommuters as of 1997, an increase of only 1.5 million from 1991. This slow growth is disappointing to many, especially politicians, who had hoped that increased telecommuting would reduce traffic congestion. Observers report that many employers are reluctant to offer the programs because having employees work on potentially sensitive projects at home creates a security risk and also because they have a difficult time monitoring the productivity of telecommuters. It can be very expensive to distribute necessary IT systems to employees spread out over large areas, and it can be very difficult to upgrade those employees with new technology. Telecommuters say working at home can compromise their opportunities for career advancement and can cause them to work harder than they would at the office because they must prove to managers that they can, in fact, be productive from home. However, telecommuters are less satisfied with their overall life than those who work at an office, according to a recent Boston College Center for Work & Family study. Observers say this is likely because the boundaries between work and home life blur, causing stress among telecommuters and their immediate family.
- "I.B.M. to Announce Plans for Fast Transistor"
New York Times (06/25/01) P. C6; Markoff, John
IBM will reveal Monday that it has developed what could be the fastest silicon-based transistor yet. The transistor, based on a unique method of silicon manufacturing called silicon germanium, uses 50 percent less power and runs 80 percent faster than current transistors. It is rated at a speed of 210 GHz and will be able to run communication systems as fast as 100 GHz. Analysts say the transistor will most likely be used in next-generation wireless phones and fiber optic systems. IBM scientists say the transistor's performance could be even further improved if they can reduce its thickness; at the moment, the transistor is 100 atoms thick. IBM's announcement follows the news earlier this month that Intel had developed the fastest transistor using silicon. However, analysts say the two devices are not directly comparable because their designs as well as their applications are different.
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- "Tech Industry Seeks Salvation in High-Speed Internet Connections"
Wall Street Journal (06/25/01) P. B1; Thurm, Scott; Simpson, Glenn R.
Tech companies are lobbying Washington for assistance in building out nationwide high-speed Internet networks that could stimulate tech markets. Last week, the Computer Systems Policy Project--a consortium of tech giants such as Intel, Motorola, and IBM--met with members of Congress and officials from the National Economic Council to discuss possible bills that would enable a faster broadband rollout. Industry observers feel that broadband access in every home would revitalize the flagging tech industry because new hardware and software updates would be needed. Executives such as John Chambers of Cisco and Andy Grove of Intel have broached the subject of enlisting government and even the Baby Bells in building nationwide broadband networks. Some technology companies still chafe at the thought of repealing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which prevented the Baby Bells from entering local broadband markets, but others see it as a necessary evil. Big telecoms have the deep pockets to invest in these networks but need economic incentive to do so, many observers believe. Intel's Grove, whose company invested in local broadband companies competing with the big telecoms, recently spoke up in favor of opening up the market to the Baby Bells.
- "Electronic Government Has a Long Way to Go, OMB Chief Says"
GovExec.com (06/22/01); Dean, Joshua
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Mitch Daniels Thursday reported to the House Government Reform Committee on federal agencies' progress in e-government. Specifically, he addressed each agency's strategy for making all forms available in digital form by October 2003, as the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998 mandates. The Departments of Defense, Justice, and Health and Human Services were especially lacking in their proposals, probably because of little long-term planning, remarked Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), the committee chair. Burton also commented on agencies' use of obsolete computer systems and their inability to communicate with one another. Daniels noted that cutting out the duplication of recorded data through information sharing helps reduce the federal government's workload and will be actively pursued by the OMB.
- "U.S.: Fear Countries, Not Hackers"
Wired News (06/22/01); McCullagh, Declan
Lawrence Gershwin, a technology specialist for the CIA, told members of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee that hackers and terrorists pose only "a limited cyber threat" and that the real danger comes from nations such as China and Russia, which are investing heavily in resources that could be used to attack government, telephone, transportation, electrical, and banking computer networks. This comes despite a 1998 warning by Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre that attacks by an Israeli hacker, who breached dozens of Defense Department computers, were highly troubling. For years, the government has been debating the threats that cyber attacks pose on U.S. infrastructures, prompting former President Clinton to sign Presidential Decision Directive 63, which stressed the importance of protecting American computer systems. Some officials have even proposed that the military should be used to guard civilian networks, especially at Internet peering points and central providers.
- "Even When Jobs Are Plentiful, Experience Is a Must"
Washington Post (06/24/01) P. L1; Johnson, Carrie
Despite the woes of the dot-com sector, Internet-related jobs are still booming. U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao last week said, "The economy is still producing thousands of service and technology jobs that go unfilled, even with the recent downturn in the dot-com sector." Many jobs are being generated as more and more brick-and-mortar firms go online. In fact, the five fastest-growing professions in the United States are computer-related, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At last week's 21st Century Workforce Summit in Washington, D.C., firms were similarly optimistic about future tech jobs. The event was hosted by the Department of Labor and attended by such firms as Microsoft and Monster.com. Most tech firms, however, are difficult to break into without prior experience. Today's IT job seekers need to be highly motivated and have excellent skills, said attendee Roberta Booker Fauntroy. Jobs are available, she said, for individuals who seize opportunities presented to them.
- "Firms Find New Uses For Web"
Investor's Business Daily (06/21/01) P. A6; Bonasia, J.
Business portals let workers receive all the information required for their job on a personalized Web page, increasing efficiency and creating better business methods. The U.S. National Institute of Standards found that business portals increase efficiency by as much as 73 percent. Depending on how complex a company's IT system is, the portal can track sales, production, inventory, and customer and vendor relationships. Human resource departments are also less strained because employees can use online forms and find information independently. Giga Information Group estimates that 60 percent of business portal sales go toward smaller providers, but larger firms such as Microsoft, IBM, and Sybase have also entered the market. SAP recently acquired TopTier Software for $400 million and announced plans to couple that company's software with IBM servers to provide an integrated solution for its customers. TopTier, renamed SAP Portals, will offer a solution that will allow companies to set up three times the support infrastructure for the portal on the IBM machines. Overall, the business portal market is expected to grow to $10.2 billion in 2003, up from only $1.8 billion last year, say Delphi Group analysts.
- "Slew of New Domain Names Released in Europe"
NewsFactor Network (06/20/01); Gill, Lisa
On June 19, New.net announced that 10 new alternative top level domain names will be available in Europe, including .arts, .school, .church, and .love. The names will cost $25, and will be available for registration later this week. New.net understands that there is a potential for conflict with TLDs that ICANN introduces in the future, according to Steve Chadima, New.net's chief marketing officer. Although ICANN might be able to make technical decisions pertaining to the Internet, "the subject of which domain names get to be used is a political and economic question that ICANN is ill-equipped to deal with," says Chadima. ICANN does not police the Internet, rather it works to provide online stability, counters ICANN's Mary Hewitt. New.net has not released any Internet addresses that conflict with current ICANN-approved domain names or those addresses that will be introduced in the near future, says Chadima, noting that the company intends to continue offering "more meaningful Web extensions" to Internet users.
- "Chemists at UC Berkeley Produce the World's Smallest Laser"
Philadelphia Inquirer (06/21/01) P. E2; Widener, Andrea
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have developed a laser one-tenth the width of a human hair. Such a tiny instrument could give rise to microchip-aided chemical analysis, enhanced eye surgery, or increased CD storage capacity. The miniature laser tubes were created by combining slices of sapphires with gold and zinc oxide vapor. This led to the formation of millions of tiny crystal tubes, each with a polished surface on both ends. Scientists then aimed another laser at the minuscule tubes, which caused them to release ultraviolet light. Usually, lasers release visible or infrared lights, which have much longer wavelengths than the new laser. This was the first instance where a nanowire was used to make a miniature laser, says professor of chemistry Peidong Yang, head of the Berkeley research team. "We think we can make all sorts of different lasers with this concept," says Yang.
- "SimDesk's Software-Over-Net Plan Has Blowout Potential"
USA Today (06/20/01) P. 3B; Maney, Kevin
SimDesk, a small, Houston-based startup, is offering software that could challenge the desktop applications market that Microsoft now dominates. SimDesk's software provides the basic applications that Windows users receive from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. However, SimDesk makes these applications available over the Internet, which means users could pay to download them to their PCs or pay a monthly subscription fee to operate them over the Internet. This is not a new approach--Microsoft itself is planning Web-based subscription software--but what makes SimDesk's software unique is its size and simplicity. Unlike most ASP software, SimDesk's program is not bandwidth intensive, meaning it will not cost a great deal nor require a large amount of server space to operate--these savings can then be passed on to the consumer. SimDesk itself does not plan to distribute or market its software. In fact, it is seeking a large firm that could license its technology and offer it over the Internet. Its target may include Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and AOL Time Warner. Tech analyst Kevin Maney suggests that if SimDesk is able to sell this package to AOL, it could completely change the dimensions of competition in the market for PC applications.
- "Electronics Makers to Launch Recycling Study"
CNet (06/21/01); Skillings, Jonathan
Electronics manufacturers are preparing an extensive pilot program to evaluate the recycling of used computing and electronics equipment. Thursday, the Electronics Industries Alliance announced that it will conduct a one-year project to focus on three different models for electronics recycling. These models will involve local governments, consumer fees, retailers, manufacturers, and third-party recycling centers. Each model will combine the participants in a different manner, and the study should help illuminate which method is best. Scale is key to the success of the pilot, says Hewlett-Packard's Renee St. Denis. HP and IBM are frontrunners in pioneering recycling programs, with both having implemented fee-based services for their customers. Sony, Canon, JVC, Eastman Kodak, Panasonic, and other major manufacturers are also part of the project. One impetus for the creation of the Electronics Industries Alliance was recent European Union legislation requiring manufacturers to be responsible for employing take-back recycling programs on that continent.
- "Insiders Are Main Computer Security Threat-Survey"
Reuters (06/19/01); Abreu, Elinor
Authorized users are the biggest threats that U.S. companies face to their computer systems, according to a survey by Digital Research. Of the 548 businesses polled, 57 percent said that their worst security breaches were from workers accessing unauthorized information, while the second biggest concern was accounts that were left active after an employee was terminated. Only 21 percent reported that hacker attacks were their biggest worries. The survey also found that about half of the companies plan to increase their budgets for computer security software and hardware.
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- "Internal Threats Justify Increase in Security Spending"
CyberAtlas (06/19/01); Pastore, Michael
Gartner research shows that firms will spend up to 4 percent of their total revenue on security by 2011, up from just 0.4 percent currently. By 2004, 80 percent of all enterprises will use the Internet for integral business processes, according to Gartner. Managed security service providers are emerging to meet the market demand to protect those systems, according to Frost & Sullivan. Once the managed security service market reaches maturity in 2007, it will be worth more than $2 billion, up from $165.8 million today. Frost & Sullivan says the financial sector is one early adopter of this outsourced service, followed by the government, health care, and insurance. Security software company Camelot and eWeek magazine report that nearly half of all companies are increasing their network security expenditures and plan to upgrade their systems.
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- "Tech Firms Alter Furlough Plans to Avoid Legal Questions"
SiliconValley.com (06/18/01); Neidorf, Shawn
Several tech firms in Silicon Valley have changed unpaid-leave plans for employees after receiving notice of possible litigation by the state. Adobe Systems, Network Appliance, Sun Microsystems, and Xilinx told staff to take off the week of the July 4 holiday, with each instructing employees to use vacation time or, alternatively, to go unpaid. However, the California state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement sent a note to the firms on May 30th stating that such a move could violate a complex state overtime rule that would require the firms to pay employees for each hour worked per day beyond the initial eight hours. However, some employment lawyers and a state commission are not sure whether the May 30th note applies to the current situation. In any case, the tech firms have now made the leave optional for salaried workers or have reworked the mandatory vacation plans to avoid the issue, although Sun is still reviewing the matter.
- "Execs Become Hackers to Learn How to Stop Snoopers"
USA Today (06/19/01) P. 6B; McCoy, Kevin
Corporate IT officers attending Ernst & Young's eXtreme Hacking class learn the details of sophisticated attacks on their networks. Executives taking the five-day class eventually are able to mount an attack against a mock system and steal payroll information. "It helps if you think like your opponents and try to anticipate what they might do," says Ron Nguyen, a security trainer who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy. The training is so popular that it has turned into a small industry. Demand for the class--and similar ones offered by SANS Institute, VeriSign, and Global Knowledge--is high given the increasing number of hack attacks security officials are reporting. The FBI and Computer Security Institute recently surveyed over 500 security experts and found that the number of attacks had risen this year over last, with 85 percent of respondents reporting breaches in their systems, and 64 percent of those attacked saying the breaches inflicted financial damage.
- "The Challenge of "Customerization" in Financial Services"
Communications of the ACM (06/01) Vol. 44, No. 16, P. 39; Wind, Yoram
The financial services industry can offer far more customer-centric advantages than what is currently being offered. Through mass customization, tailoring products or services to individual tastes is no longer as expensive or time-consuming as it once was; the next step is "customerization," whereby customer interfaces and marketing processes such as price determination are shifted from a seller-centric to a buyer-centric architecture. Customerization is especially lucrative in the financial services sector, as products and services can be customized cheaply and quickly, and customers desire a high level of customization. To successfully implement a customerization strategy, firms must take three critical steps: They must increase the digital content of all company operations, close the gap between market supply and demand by tying up the value chain and becoming a customerizer, and integrate traditional and new marketing strategies. Firms must view customers as active participants in every step of the exchange process as well as the design of products and services. By leading customers through a design and discovery phase, customerization targets both articulated and unarticulated customer requirements; individual offerings and products can be tailored in different ways through database marketing, which translates into rising levels of customer loyalty, repeat purchases, and dollar volume of purchases; new technologies make pricing more flexible and customer-driven; education influences customer decision-making; and digital warehouses can lower inventory costs and offer customers more direct channels. Web and Web-based technologies are essential for the deployment of customerization.
- "Personal Networks"
Internet World (06/15/01) Vol. 7, No. 12, P. 28; Cohn, Michael
The next step of the Internet's development will likely be the rise of personal area networks (PANs), which will let individual users have seamless and wireless access to other devices and the Internet from their PDAs, cell phones, and other devices. This vision is behind the development of two new standards, Bluetooth and 802.11b. These standards are not in competition with each other, as experts believe that Bluetooth will concentrate on bringing connectivity to users within a very close range, while 802.11b will connect users to LANs and other, larger networks. However, Bluetooth has suffered several delays, with vendors learning only after building Bluetooth devices that the standard did not ensure interoperability; once those interoperability issues had been solved, a public display of Bluetooth's ability to connect devices from 100 vendors at a German trade show failed, causing more worry among vendors and skepticism from the broader tech industry. Vendors are also working on ways to ensure that the two standards, which share the same spectrum band, do not interfere with each other and that individual users can protect the security of Bluetooth devices. The upshot of the rise of PANs is that users will be able to access information from a wide range of locations--already, 802.11b-based LANs in public areas such as airports and Starbucks cafes are allowing users in these places to access the Internet wirelessly from their laptops. The growth of PANs is also creating competition among software vendors offering platforms; the leading vendors are Microsoft, which has its .Net framework, and Java.
- "Software Firms Search for Great Young Minds"
Far Eastern Economic Review (06/14/01) Vol. 164, No. 23, P. 39; Wilhelm, Kathy
Software firms in China are suffering from a lack of management talent in the domestic market. Managerial talent will be crucial to the nation's desire to become a key player in the global marketplace of software products. Software firms will need to be run by individuals with experience in plotting strategies for bringing products to market and developing strong relationships with corporate customers. Patrick Benzie, chief strategy officer and founding partner of mobile-software firm Intrinsic Technology, says Chinese firms cannot expect to flip on a switch and realize what they need to do to run a software-product firm that can compete with Microsoft. Some observers expect domestic software firms to benefit from the experiences Chinese tech workers are gaining as they manage projects at the research and development centers of multinational tech companies in China. Moreover, observers say Chinese expatriates who have gained valuable experience in Silicon Valley could come home and lead domestic firms. Even though this means that many Chinese firms are likely to be led by foreigners or foreign-trained workers, entrepreneurs believe China to be an ideal location for setting up businesses. Ling Hai of Shanghai-based software company Sinofusion says China offers lower overall costs and a huge market.
- "Tech Needs More Women Says IBM Exec"
Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal Online (06/21/01); Mullins, Robert
IBM executive Janet Perna, addressing the Women in Technology Summit in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, urged fellow IT professionals to bring more women into the industry. Perna, general manager of IBM's data management solutions division, told attendees, "We need each of you to reach one other woman or girl and bring them along." She stressed that girls should be encouraged to take math and science courses to relieve the shortage of skilled tech workers in all fields. In addition to Perna, two other women were inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame: Dr. Darlene Solomon of Agilent Technologies and Duy-Loan Le of Texas Instruments.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.