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Volume 1, Issue 4: Wednesday, December 8, 1999

  • "Sun Abandons Bid for International Acceptance for Java"
    Financial Times (12/08/99) P. 21; Foremski, Tom; Kehoe, Louise

    Sun yesterday announced that it is revoking its application to European standards group ECMA to have Java accepted as an international standard. The move follows months of conflict with industry competitors, and an abandoned attempt earlier in the year to have the International Standards Organization ratify Java. Sun's withdrawal is a large setback for the company, and a win for rivals such as Microsoft that were threatened by Java's promise to make software run on any platform. Although Sun tried to gain industry support for Java by encouraging other firms to join in the development process, other companies have criticized Sun for maintaining too much power over Java. Sun says it needs to keep tight reins on Java to prevent the development of various versions of the technology. "ECMA told us that it had no way to enforce copyrights and if we turned over the specification for Java and then they published it, the standards group could not prevent others from creating their own incompatible versions," Sun says. Despite the setback, Sun says it will continue to develop Java with its industry partners. Still, Java might be barred from certain market segments such as European government contracts without official approval.

  • "Cap Gemini's Data Systems Frustrate Some Big Clients"
    New York Times (12/08/99) P. C2; Johnston, David Cay

    Cap Gemini Group, Europe's largest IT firm, has recently failed to satisfy several large clients and has lost a number of contracts as a result. United Way of America last month canceled a contract with Cap Gemini America and abandoned a $12 million project after the new data system failed to work properly. The system was supposed to consolidate United Way's collection process by handling contributions from workers through payroll deductions. When the system was unable to process donations in its initial test, United Way hired consulting firm Deloitte & Touche, which found 400 large problems with the system. In August the United States Chamber of Commerce terminated a $75 million Cap Gemini contract, saying Cap Gemini "consistently and systematically had been unable to deliver what we required." Cap Gemini and the chamber are now suing each other in a Virginia federal district court. In addition, the French government has taken Cap Gemini off a $62 million project to build research and tracking software for the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Cap Gemini's software did not work, according to French newspapers, and this was the primary reason for a worker strike at the library, according to both the library and its employees. Finally, International Micro Systems sued Cap Gemini America for backing out on a contract to develop a custom software system. International Micro says Cap Gemini backed out because it thought the project was unprofitable. International Micro, United Way, and the Chamber of Commerce all note that a steady exodus of Cap Gemini workers harmed their projects.

  • "Intel to Announce It Ships Computers With 64-Bit Chips"
    Wall Street Journal (12/07/99) P. C17

    Intel today plans to announce the availability of prototype computers based on its 64-bit Itanium chips. The announcement indicates that Intel is on track for its general release of Itanium in the middle of next year, says Intel's Ronald Curry. The company is now sending hundreds of prototypes to computer manufacturers, operating system vendors, and software makers in order to encourage other firms to develop 64-bit software and to fix any bugs in the next-generation chip. Itanium-based systems are expected to significantly speed up programs such as large databases and encryption applications.

  • " Disguise Crack Pension Computers"
    New York Times (12/08/99) P. C21; Johnston, David CayAuditors in Deep

    A group of auditors recently broke into the computer system of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal agency that guarantees pensions. The auditors said that they had the ability to create a fictitious person to whom pension benefits could be sent, and that they had infiltrated the site for three months and had never been found out. However, the agency's executive director David Strauss says that the auditors would have been tripped up by other security measures if they had actually tried to issue checks to their newly-created beneficiaries. Still, the auditors maintain that they had the power to change or delete files pertaining to various individuals, and could have also altered the internal systems used by the agency to manage its day-to-day operations. The auditors say that they broke into the system by using dial-up modems and using hacker software to discover passwords that gave them access. The auditors also pretended to be agency employees who needed new passwords or help logging on to the system. The Senate's Select Committee on Aging has said that it will hold a hearing on the matter in February.

  • "When Computers Fail"
    USA Today (12/07/99) P. 1A; Strauss, Gary

    Although the Y2K bug has attracted significant media attention, everyday technology glitches cost U.S. firms as much as $100 billion a year in lost productivity, experts say. As e-commerce and the global market mature, problems are likely to intensify with complex, intertwined systems multiplying the effects of a single flaw. Glitches can stem from many causes, including technology flaws, human error, and unstable configurations of software, hardware, and networking equipment. One of the many companies that recently suffered a high-profile glitch is Nasdaq, whose computerized trade reporting and quotation systems failed last month. Meanwhile, Intel on Thursday reported that some computers based on its Coppermine Pentium III chip are flawed and will not boot up. Hershey Foods suffered shipment delays as a result of problems with a new $115 million supply and inventory system, which the company says caused a 19 percent decrease in third-quarter sales from the previous year's quarter. The Pentagon's $100 million attempt to computerize security investigations has kept over 600,000 workers waiting for clearance. Meanwhile, Gore-Tex maker W.L. Gore recently brought charges against PeopleSoft and Deloitte & Touche for implementing a $3.5 million system that is believed to have cost Gore $1 million to debug. In addition to being expensive, glitches can compromise consumer privacy, as was the case last week when a British online mortgage bank service called Halifax offered a system upgrade that gave customers access to other accounts. Finally, computer bugs have postponed child support payments in several states and have kept up to 3,000 Alaska residents from receiving their annual Alaska Permanent Fund checks.

  • "SAP Chooses an IBM Platform Over Rival System From Oracle"
    Wall Street Journal (12/07/99) P. B7; Delaney, Kevin J.

    SAP will make IBM's DB2 its preferred database development platform in an agreement worth an estimated $400 million or more to IBM. In October IBM announced DB2 will be the preferred database development platform in an agreement with Siebel Systems as well. Both deals are viewed to be a blow to Oracle, which is the current market leader in the database market. Under the agreement, SAP will design future software packages to work best with IBM's DB2, leading to an expected jump in IBM's SAP-related market share and increased sales of hardware and services.
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  • "Next Time You Talk to Your PC, It May Listen"
    Investor's Business Daily (12/08/99) P. A13; Benjamin, Matthew

    Although not a new technology, speech recognition software is now beginning to attract widespread attention. Companies such as Lernout & Hauspie, Dragon Systems, and IBM offer programs that allow users to dictate documents and make commands using their voices. Speech recognition technology was previously held back by low accuracy rates and high computer power requirements. Yet now, as 64 MB hard drives have become standard and technology advancements have led to greater accuracy, speech recognition software has become a feasible supplement, if not an alternative, to the keyboard and mouse. While most programs now boast 95 percent accuracy rates, dictation can still be a problem as factors such as regional accents, high-pitched voices and homonyms continue to cause frequent mistakes. Yet accuracy can be improved continuously, as some programs learn from their mistakes the more often they are used. As speech recognition technology gains momentum, its uses will become more varied. Next year, upscale gyms will feature exercise bikes that allow users to surf the Web by voice, while a new application by Mindmaker will allow gamers to substitute voice commands for keystrokes.

  • "Net Hackers Develop Destructive New Tools"
    USA Today (12/07/99) P. 4A; Zuckerman, M.J.

    Several versions of a new type of Internet hacking tool that could severely disrupt e-commerce have been discovered, the most recent just last week, according to security analysts. The new hacking tools coordinate the use of potentially thousands of "slave" computers and target large Unix-based private and public computer systems. Mike Higgins of computer security firm Para-Protect says, "This takes a single computer operator and increases his power by a factor of several hundred or perhaps thousands, enabling him to bring e-business to its knees." Two versions of the tools, similar to "denial of service" attacks, were discovered in August, known as Trinoo and TFN, after they were used on a West Coast university system. The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Carnegie Mellon University met in early November to discuss solutions, and the results of that unprecedented meeting will be released this week. However, CERT apparently has found no easy answers and will recommend increased vigilance.

  • "Compaq Boosts Role of Internet Sales, Plans Single Pricing for Firms in Europe"
    Wall Street Journal (12/08/99) P. B2; Delaney, Kevin J.

    Compaq has announced that it will change the way it sells computers to European businesses by standardizing prices and reducing the number of intermediaries that handle products. The move is aimed at improving Compaq's ability to compete with Dell, which increased third-quarter PC sales in Europe 16 percent from the previous year's quarter while Compaq's sales dropped 10 percent in the same period. Compaq's prices on the same system vary widely in Europe depending on the reseller, because the company's resellers are allowed to determine the final cost of a computer. As a result, Compaq has had difficulty advertising and offering competitive prices. By the end of 2000 Compaq will list a single European price on its Web site. In addition, Compaq will use the Internet to streamline its distribution by finding out online what customers want and customizing systems at the original manufacturing point rather than at separate warehouses. Compaq's plan could further complicate relations between the company and its distributors and resellers, which have been distancing themselves from Compaq products as the company increasingly moves toward direct sales.

  • "New Projects Should Rise After 2000"
    New York Times (12/07/99) P. C16; Feder, Barnaby J.

    Many companies, expecting few disruptions as 1999 gives way to 2000, are planning to return to deferred projects in the first few months of the new year, according to a new survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers. The survey found that for companies with over $100 million in annual sales, 40 percent plan to begin work on major software projects that were put aside to focus on Y2K issues. Pricewaterhouse's Lynn Edelson says, "What we are seeing here is pent-up demand." However, consultant Howard Rubin says the Pricewaterhouse data is more reflective of smaller and mid-size companies, as the larger companies he tracks are already moving away from Y2K and working on e-commerce projects. He says those companies, most with sales of $2 billion or more, spent just 8.4 percent of their budget on Y2K this year, with only 14 percent planning to spend 30 percent or more of their budget on Y2K, according to his latest research, down from 20 percent in September.

  • "Fiorina Moves to Put Hewlett-Packard Back Together"
    Financial Times (12/07/99) P. 26; Kehoe, Louise

    Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is working to improve HP's competitiveness and financial performance by unifying the company's fractured divisions and eliminating inefficiencies. The company's revenues from continuing operations grew a disappointing 7 percent in fiscal 1999, compared with rival Sun's 20 percent growth. Over the past five years HP's earnings growth has averaged 15.1 percent, compared with an industry average of 25.6 percent. Furthermore, experts forecast a drop in HP's earnings in the first half of fiscal 2000. Fiorina attributes some of HP's problems to decentralized management, which she says has led to redundancy and inefficiency. As an example of the lack of unity among HP's divisions, Fiorina notes that HP has 750 internal Web sites for employee training, as each unit developed individual sites without leveraging the work of other divisions. In addition, separate product groups have formed their own brands, undermining HP's marketing initiatives. To help bring separate units together, Fiorina restructured HP into four divisions, with two units devoted to customer issues and two devoted to computer and printer products. The new divisions will also work closely with one another, says Fiorina, who seems to have the support of HP workers. Fiorina has also launched a $200 million marketing campaign for the HP brand that will largely take the place of advertising for individual product units.

  • "Some Web Sites Try for Crashes"
    USA Today (12/08/99) P. 3B; Solomon, Deborah

    The IBM National Testing Center is a required stop for the IT departments of many retailers working to ensure their e-commerce sites are capable of handling considerable site traffic without incident. The testing center allows firms to set up their entire e-commerce site for IBM engineers to test until the breaking point is reached. IBM engineers will then give advice on what needs fixing. The center employs 350 people and is lined with enough fiber-optic cable to stretch from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific and back. "If a site is performing slowly or goes down, a large percentage of customers are likely to go elsewhere and never return," says Jupiter Communications' David Schatsky. For that reason IBM National Testing Center clients are willing to spend the week to three months it usually takes to find the weak link. "There's always a glitch someplace in the network," says the center's director, Jeff Gore. Over 15 million people are expected to shop online this holiday season.

  • "Frustrated Shoppers Still a Problem for E-Tailers"
    E-Commerce Times (12/07/99); Greenberg, Paul A.

    Consumers are more apprehensive about making purchases over the Internet because the process is irritating, than they are about concerns of releasing their credit card numbers and personal information, according to research from Jupiter Communications. Jupiter found that 27 percent of Web buyers fail to complete an online purchase out of frustration with the process, while 19 percent abandon a possible online purchase due to security concerns. Online shopping malls, by aggregating purchases, could make online buying easier. Digital wallet technology would also help, by making it possible for users to enter shipping, payment, and contact information once, and then be able to use that data wherever they shop. Another option that e-tailers would do well to look into is the "e-Port" device, which IBM recently reported that it is ready to introduce. E-Port is a non-PC device that's designed to provide e-commerce access to those who are offline. In removing the PC from the e-commerce experience, more consumers could be attracted to purchasing goods electronically. With the e-Port, which was conceived by IBM and USA Technologies, users get a device that features a credit card reader, speakerphone, and a touch screen. Users will be able to place orders online, and make purchases from vending machines and gas pumps with e-Port.

  • "Two Makers of Communications Gear to Announce Products"
    New York Times (12/08/99) P. C20; Schiesel, Seth

    Sycamore Networks and Ennovate Networks today plan to unveil products being developed to make large communications networks more flexible. Sycamore Networks is set to announce plans for a communications switch that may be the first to use light rather than electricity. Sycamore's offering may allow carriers to use optical technology more easily. Sycamore also plans to announce that European carrier iaxis will begin testing the new offering. Ennovate Networks is expected to unveil a plan for Psinet to become the first user of its main product, which uses virtual private networks to connect remote offices. The product enables a business user to deploy a national or international network using private, dedicated communications lines. PSINet has formed a four-year, $15 million agreement to purchase equipment from Ennovate, executives familiar with the deal said.

  • "Proposed Directory--XML Spec Submitted to Standard Bodies"
    InternetWeek Online (12/07/99); Drucker, David

    A group of six directory vendors has submitted the directory services markup language (DSML) 1.0 to standards bodies the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the World Wide Web Consortium for their approval. Supporters of DSML aim to use the standard as a catalyst for e-commerce, freeing information from directories and allowing it to be used by applications. DSML promises to enable Web directories to store and share data on Web applications and business processes, allowing higher levels of business-to-business and business-to-consumer interchange over the Internet. Member directory vendors are IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, and the Sun-Netscape Alliance. Lotus, Nortel, Oblix, Red Hat, and Mission Critical Software have also pledged support for DSML.

  • "Viruses to Crash New Year's Bash"
    Network World (12/06/99) Vol. 16, No. 49, P. 1; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

    Viruses and electronic greeting cards are likely to abound this holiday season, causing many email managers to take special precautions. Viruses contained in attachments are the largest threat, and the FBI and other agencies have already identified over 30,000 potential Y2K viruses, according to Gartner Group. While most of these potential risks are not expected to result in damage, Gartner says if just five or 10 viruses are launched simultaneously, productivity is likely to suffer significantly. Some companies are responding to these threats by shutting down email systems for several days around Christmas and New Year's. Other firms, such as Phoenix-based electric utility Salt River Project, plan to keep email systems running but will quarantine email attachments until updated antivirus software is able to detect Y2K viruses. Electronic greeting cards, which will increase around the holidays, are likely to carry viruses and to slow servers because they are very large. Experts suggest that firms might want to limit employee use of email around the holidays to avoid overwhelming the company network, especially while important Y2K testing is being done. Several email-filtering vendors are offering special deals to companies for New Year's weekend. For example, email scanning service provider Allegro is offering new users a month of its filtering service for free. Allegro's service scans a customer's email for viruses and gets rid of large attachments before sending the email to the company. Meanwhile, Worldtalk this month is offering a special promotion called MailScrooge, a free 90-day trial of its WorldSecure/Mail filtering software. MailScrooge allows managers to scan incoming email and to isolate or block certain types of messages.

  • "Win 2K Migration"
    Computerworld (12/06/99) Vol. 33, No. 49, P. 76; Morgan, Cynthia

    Windows 2000 migration is likely to be a slow process, and most IT managers in a recent Computerworld survey say they will not begin migration for at least six months after the product ships. About 62 percent of respondents say Windows 2000 is an improvement over Windows NT 4.0, citing stability as the main benefit. Other migration advantages listed by respondents are the new Active Directory Services feature, increased security, improved user experience, improved connectivity, and enhanced remote access. However, 38 percent of respondents were not convinced that Windows 2000 will offer the promised benefits, and 6 percent of beta testers say the new OS is worse than Windows NT 4.0. Critics say Windows 2000 is too large and lacks features such as clustering that users favor. Nonetheless, all managers that responded to the survey plan to move users or servers to at least one version of Windows 2000 within two years. Only 19 percent of those deploying Windows 2000 Professional plan to start migrating within six months of the product's release. About 67 percent will not begin implementation until Windows 2000 has been commercially available for six to 18 months. Reasons given for postponing implementation include past unreliability of Microsoft products and the cost of migrating. Most companies are likely to have a lengthy implementation, with only 31 percent expecting to finish within three months and about 45 percent planning to spend up to 18 months migrating to Windows 2000 Professional. On the server side, most of those migrating to Windows 2000 Server Edition also plan to wait at least six months before implementing, but 35 percent plan to finish implementation within three months.

  • "Don't Get Spiked"
    Internet World (12/01/99) Vol. 5, No. 34, P. 59; Carr, David F.

    Online vendors often focus on drawing large crowds to their sites, but sometimes these efforts backfire when traffic overwhelms a site, leaving visitors disappointed. For example, online electronics store 800.com last December offered three CD or video titles for $1 to the first 100,000 people who registered. Heavy demand caused the company's Web servers to slow or stop working. Since then, 800.com has increased servers, redundancy, and bandwidth, and the company now conducts tests to ensure site efficiency. Site failures are not always caused by large volumes of traffic, and sometimes stem from software, hardware, or personnel problems. For example, eBay's site went down a number of times, once for 22 hours in July, after the company failed to add a patch to its Sun Solaris operating system. The company lost an estimated $3 million to $5 million in revenue, and was heavily criticized for not having a backup system ready to take over. As for its backup plan, 800.com last October was planning to deploy three fractional T-3 connections from separate ISPs, and to implement database clustering. The company had not decided whether to geographically distribute its infrastructure in the event of a disaster destroying its physical site. Replicating the company's server farm at another location would cost about $3 million, while co-location fees and a high-speed link to a separate facility would further increase costs. The company was leaning toward more basic measures such as offsite backups and a supply of spare parts. While established sites sometimes are unprepared for spikes in demand, experts say large retailers in general have learned to handle varying levels of demand. The sites most likely to fail this holiday season are those of new vendors, says Keynote System's Gene Shklar. Rather than investing in infrastructure capable of handling peak traffic, some companies are opting to show users a message asking them to try the site again later if the site is too busy. Another technology used in handling traffic is load testing, which ensures that servers will not buckle under strong demand.

  • "Knowledge Management: Myths & Realities"
    InformationWeek (11/22/99) No. 762, P. 42; Whiting, Rick

    While knowledge management has become an important aspect of IT and business operations for many companies, the concept is surrounded by misconceptions. Often, companies believe that knowledge management is a new idea, and one that may simply be a passing fad. Yet while knowledge management has fallen under many different labels over time, the basic concept has existed for decades, and analysts expect that it will soon be integrated into the basic strategy of every successful company. "Knowing what you know and what you need to know can't be a fad," says Larry Prusak, executive director of the Institute for Knowledge Management, an industry consortium. Companies often believe that knowledge management can only be implemented on an enterprise-wide basis, and only within one enterprise. Yet knowledge management can be applied to a specific division or to an entire supply chain. Pillsbury proved this when it implemented the Tech-Know-Bank knowledge management initiative in its research and development division. The system is based on a Lotus Notes intranet that can be used to share information among researchers. The system has been successful within the division, allowing new products to be launched more quickly. This success has encouraged the company to begin implementing the system throughout the enterprise.

  • "Optical: Moving Past Big Pipes"
    Interactive Week (11/29/99) Vol. 6, No. 49, P. 14; McGarvey, Joe

    Qwest Communications International and Williams Communications recently unveiled plans to incorporate optical technology into their core networks. Their plans suggest that the carriers see optical networking technology as more than a tool for expanding bandwidth capacities. Williams has formed a four-year, $400 million contract with Sycamore Networks, which supplies optical networking equipment. Williams announced that it also will test Corvis' optical transmission technology. Corvis' CorWave technology is meant to boost the power of an optical signal moving along a network backbone. Qwest is also considering Corvis' gear. Further, Qwest, which recently revealed plans to deploy a completely optical backbone, will collaborate with Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, Qtera, and Siara Systems.

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