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Volume 2, Issue 21:  Wednesday, February 23, 2000

  • "New Hacker Software Could Spread by Email"
    CNet (02/23/00); Borland, John

    An anonymous hacker group has posted a new version of software called Trinoo, which is believed to have launched the recent denial-of-service attacks on major e-commerce sites such as Yahoo! and Amazon. The new version of Trinoo makes it easier for hackers to commandeer computers to send the attack data to targets. With the new version, hackers can infect a broader range of desktops with harmless-looking email attachments. Computers with DSL or cable modem connections are especially at risk, experts say. "(The previous attacks) took someone who knew what they were doing," says Trend Micro's David Perry. "This turns it into a kid-on-the-street problem." Antivirus firms are now working on tools to eliminate the new Trinoo software. Meanwhile, the FBI has pursued several leads in the attacks, but has not yet reported any significant breakthroughs.

  • "Building an Alternative to Windows"
    New York Times (02/21/00) P. C4; Markoff, John

    Four members of the original Apple Macintosh team--Andy Hertzfield, Mike Boich, Susan Kare, and Guy Tribble--have joined forces to redesign the Linux operating system and give it a whole new life in the consumer desktop market. In order to accomplish such a feat, the group formed Eazel Inc. in the fall of 1999, receiving financial support from two former Apple executives. Since its beginnings, Eazel has formed an alliance with a group of Linux programmers, a relationship both sides are hoping will bring their separate areas of expertise together to create a product so user-friendly that individual computer owners will prefer the new Linux over other operating systems, especially Microsoft's Windows. Eazel is to be responsible for the appearance of the new version of Linux, while Eazel's programmer partners will be in charge of restructuring the system's internal design to automate many of the system-configuration and management tasks that often give users trouble. This summer Eazel plans to introduce a free user interface, an icon-based software control system that can be downloaded from the Internet, designed to make their version of Linux much easier to use than Windows-based or Macintosh computers.

  • "Texas Instruments to Launch Web Access Chips"
    Reuters (02/22/00)

    Texas Instruments is expected to introduce two chips today intended to allow Internet access from wireless devices and residences. The two digital signal processors (DSPs), the C64x and the C55x, highlight robust growth in the rapidly expanding DSP market. The C64x can be used in wireless base stations for multimedia access to cell phones. It can also be used to boost data delivery for residential services via regular phone lines. The C55x is intended to supply an always-on connection to the Internet via next-generation wireless handsets, digital cameras, and digital music players. Nokia and Ericsson have selected the C55x chips for their third-generation wireless phones, according to Texas Instruments. The chips are expected to be shipped in the fiscal second quarter. Devices outfitted with the chips are likely to be on the market within a year, Texas Instruments said.

  • "Microsoft Chided as Antitrust Trial Draws to a Close"
    New York Times (02/23/00) P. A1; Brinkley, Joel; Lohr, Steve

    Closing arguments were heard Tuesday in the Microsoft antitrust case, and the situation does not look promising for the software giant. At one point Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson even likened this case to the 1906 suit brought against John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil company, the first major antitrust case ever tried, claiming he did not "really see a distinction" between the damaging business strategies of Standard Oil and those of Microsoft. Government attorneys argued that Microsoft is ruthless and monopolistic in its business practices, stifling competition and harming consumers, and pushed for harsh sanctions that ultimately could include the breakup of Microsoft. Attorneys for Microsoft insisted the corporation is merely a tough competitor in a fast-paced and aggressive industry, one whose products, including Windows, foster commerce and promote market growth. Many antitrust experts feel the Justice Department is the guaranteed victor and Microsoft is simply trying to minimize its losses in this case rather than attempting to turn the tide of sentiment in its favor. A final verdict in the 16-month-old case is expected within the next couple of weeks. If Judge Jackson rules Microsoft did indeed violate antitrust laws as is alleged by the federal government, separate hearings will probably be held to determine sanctions against the corporation. Mediation talks between the government and Microsoft still continue, a sign some take to mean there is still hope for the two sides to negotiate an agreement despite the heated court debates between them.

  • "Oracle, Motorola to Form Wireless Net Venture"
    Los Angeles Times (02/22/00) P. C2

    Database-software manufacturer Oracle will create a new business for developing wireless data access systems, and will announce a joint venture tomorrow with Motorola, according to the companies. Motorola expects to be the first firm to integrate Oracle's wireless data access technology into cell phones and other wireless devices, says Motorola's David Rudd. He says the new firm plans to combine Oracle's software with Motorola's voice-command technology. In January, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison announced his company will spin off its Portal-to-Go unit. This reflects Oracle's hopes of penetrating the wireless Internet-access technology market, which may grow to $13.2 billion a year by 2003, according to Yankee Group.

  • "Vendors Rally Round Mobile Sync Spec"
    Network World Online (02/23/00); Sykes, Rebecca

    A group of industry players announced an initiative to ease mobile communications through the development of an XML-based data synchronization standard. The project, called the SyncML Initiative, is backed by IBM, Lotus Development, Nokia, Palm, Psion, and Starfish Software. The group aims to synchronize data among various mobile devices using existing open standards and Internet standards, such as XML, MIME, the vCard, and the iCalendar. "SyncML will be a lingua franca for carrying synchronization requests," says Lotus' Frank Dawson. Noticeably absent from the SyncML project was Microsoft, though Motorola's Jonathan Ruff maintains that development of a standard compatible with Microsoft software is still possible.
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  • "B2B Outlook in 2004: A $7 Trillion Market"
    InternetNews.com (02/18/00)

    The business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce market will expand rapidly in areas outside of North America in coming years, with the global market expected to exceed $7.29 trillion in 2004, according to Gartner Group research. North America, with over $2.84 trillion in B2B revenue, will represent 39 percent of the market in 2004. By comparison, global B2B e-commerce hit $145 billion in 1999, with North America contributing 63 percent of the market with $91 billion in revenue. Europe will undergo the largest regional B2B growth, with the European market reaching more than $2.34 trillion by 2004, up from $31.8 billion in 1999, Gartner says. Major European firms such as BMW, Swissair, and British Telecom are already heavily moving into B2B e-commerce, says Petra Gartzen of Gartner Group's e-Business Services Europe. In the Asia Pacific region, B2B revenue is projected to rise to $992 billion by 2004 from $9.2 billion in 1999. Over the same time span in Latin America, B2B e-commerce will rise to $124 billion from $1 billion.

  • "Researchers Hail Advance in Nanotechnology"
    Financial Times (02/21/00) P. 8; Cookson, Clive

    Academic and corporate researchers worldwide reported on Sunday to the American Association for the Advancement of Science great strides in nanotechnology development. The researchers agreed that nanomachines--devices built on a molecular scale--will be in use within a few years in applications such as data storage and computing power. One of the driving forces in nanotechnology development is IBM, which has dedicated more than 100 of its scientists in the U.S. and Switzerland to the technology, says IBM Research's Thomas Theis. IBM's Zurich laboratory has developed a rotating molecule that can control the movement of fluids on solid surfaces, facilitating the development of a nanoscale motor. IBM is also focusing heavily on the impact of nanotechnology on computing devices, which have thus far increased performance by storing more components in an increasingly small space. "Nanotechnology is taking the opposite approach, starting from the atomic scale and building from the ground up," says Theis. Researchers agreed that in order for nanomachines to become commonplace, further developments must be made in "self-assembly," in which atoms and molecules arrange spontaneously to form devices.
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  • "Beyond the E-Commerce Shakeout"
    E-Commerce Times (02/18/00); Dembeck, Chet

    Web-based retailers should focus more on profitability, now that it appears that the e-commerce shakeout has begun, writes Chet Dembeck. Beyond.com in January announced its corporate restructuring, 20 percent reduction in work force, and search for a new CEO. At about the same time, Value America saw its stock slide to $5.75 per share from its April high of $74.25. The market appears to no longer be as enthusiastic about the likes of eToys, Theglobe.com, and iVillage, which are some of the more high-profile Web sites. However, when advising Web-based retailers on how to survive the ongoing shakeout, some industry observers do not suggest that e-tailers focus more on profits. For example, Forrester Research says Web-based retailers that cannot keep pace with the estimated 63 percent growth in online shoppers this year should look to establish a niche market or consider being acquired by a larger presence. Forrester says e-tailers can put off profitability for another year if their user base grows by at least 75 percent. Similarly, Forrester says Web-based retailers could focus more on development spending if the number of purchases per customer increases by at least 10 percent, and the amount each customer spends increases by at least 10 percent. Such growth would result in a 21 percent customer revenue increase in a year in which the average Web-shopping household is estimated to spend 17 percent more than it did in 1999. The mindset of Forrester is very similar to that displayed by Amazon.com and other online giants. "My advice to e-tailers that want to become winners instead of a shakeout statistic is to focus on making a profit," writes Dembeck. "Only then will all the other benchmarks really carry much weight."

  • "Intel Plans Ethernet Functions for PC Chips"
    Electronic Buyers' News Online (02/21/00); LaPedus, Mark; Hachman, Mark

    Intel recently announced that it will add Ethernet and home-networking functions to its PC chipsets in an effort to leverage the increasing importance of communications functions in PCs. Chipsets with Ethernet capability will be targeted at the low-end, consumer PC market, says Intel's Mark Christensen. Other companies, such as Taiwan's Silicon Integrated Systems, have marketed products that integrate PC, audio, modem, and LAN functions in the past, but Intel's approach is unique. Intel will integrate the media-access controller, one of the two main components of an Ethernet-based chip, into the PC core logic. Meanwhile, the physical-layer device, which is the second major part of an Ethernet-based chip, will be placed in a riser card, a standalone board that fits into a PCI slot in the PC. Intel recently unveiled an update to its riser-card architecture that offers audio, modem, and LAN functions. Experts say Intel's move to integrate Ethernet into chipsets could pose a threat to suppliers of standalone LAN chips and systems.

  • "Ethernet Wins Allies"
    Telephony (02/14/00) Vol. 238, No. 7, P. 28; Starr Miller, Elizabeth; Labarba, Liane H.

    Ten Gbps Ethernet, which was developed to handle bandwidth demands in the metro area network and in the WAN, may have difficulty thriving if a standard is not devised. However, the IEEE 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance was founded by companies including Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, and Sun Microsystems to promote a 10 Gbps Ethernet standard. The alliance intends to familiarize carriers with the technology, which is set to enter the market early next year, says 3Com's Edward Hopkins. Shifting Ethernet from the LAN to the MAN and WAN may allow it to compete with technologies like packet over SONET, according to Rod Wilson, director of Nortel's 10G Ethernet project. The prospect of inexpensive high-speed service also has led to the expected success of the technology. Another factor in 10 Gbps Ethernet's favor is its simplicity, said Kamran Sistanizadeh, network architecture vice president for Yipes.

  • "IT's Value in the Chain"
    Computerworld (02/14/00) Vol. 34, No. 7, P. 48; Keen, Peter G.W.

    The Internet has changed business practices and improved many companies' profits in the past 10 years. Online biding, for instance, has lowered the prices many companies pay for products by 3 percent to 5 percent. Prior to online business, even well managed firms accepted that one in five of their invoices would be incorrect. However, once these companies began using e-business, the ratio dropped to 1 in 100. Businesses save money and receive more prompt deliveries by ordering goods online. Still, corporate logistics remain neglected because these activities are usually scattered throughout different departments of a company. In the book, "Dot Com to Dot Profit," Peter G.W. Keen and co-author Nick Earle discuss how attention to logistics can greatly benefit companies and increase their profits. The author believes that corporate IT divisions should develop teams of five to 10 people who work with the Internet and logistics. Keen believes the implementation of their ideas can save companies large amounts of money and increase their business-to-business activities.

  • "Data-Broadcast Spec Advances"
    Broadcasting & Cable (02/14/00) Vol. 130, No. 7, P. 62; Brown, Peter J.

    The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) this week plans to consider a draft of the ATSC data-broadcasting standard, which covers details of MPEG-2 data transmission. The standard, developed over the past three years by companies including Sharp Labs, IBM, Sony, and DirecTV, was to go to the ATSC Technology Group on Distribution (T3) Friday. The standard covers synchronous, synchronized, and asynchronous data. The T3/S13 working group, which is presenting the draft standard, has overcome concerns with a previous draft of the standard that some said might differ unnecessarily from the earlier Digital Video Broadcast standard. Creating the standard was difficult, said Sharp technical staff member Dr. Regis Crinon, who said one problem was developing a data-delivery model creating a minimum standard for receiver complexity. Crinon, ATSC Executive Director Mark Richer, and Intel senior staff engineer Don Newell all believe there will not be serious opposition to this draft. Richer expects the standard to be finished by early April.

  • "How to Be Perfect"
    Economist (02/12/00) Vol. 354, No. 8157, P. 82

    Perfect.com, an Internet startup, promises its customers a perfect market--something that economists usually find only in textbooks. A perfect market, according to economists, would allow all buyers and sellers to meet together, with complete supply and demand information. No barriers would exist to entering or leaving, and every buyer would be matched with a supplier that could best meet the buyer's needs. Prices would be at the level required to keep supply and demand in equilibrium, and there would be no transaction costs. The closest that real-world markets come are some of the liquid financial markets, but they frequently have restricted access and other flaws. Competitive auctions have limited usefulness. The Internet promises better efficiency, lower cost, more information and processing power, and huge numbers of buyers and sellers. EHubs have been created to exchange goods and services for business-to-business markets. The University of Chicago's Steven Kaplan and Northwestern University's Mohanbir Sawhney say there are two ways that such eHubs can enhance economic efficiency: aggregation, or bringing together buyers and sellers with a fixed menu of prices; and matching, letting buyers and sellers interact until they find the best match. Stanford University economist Paul Milgrom helped Perfect.com devise its patented technology--an automated "request-for-quote" process that permits competition on many factors, not just price. Perfect.com wants to let buyers describe what they want in a number of respects--within 30 seconds. Suppliers can detail their capabilities in the same amount of time, and then the technology will find the best match. The technology has not yet been proven, and customers may not like the way it operates, but competition is inherently imperfect, and Perfect.com could be very efficient.

  • "Holes in the Net"
    Newsweek (02/21/00) Vol. 135, No. 8, P. 46; Sandberg, Jared; Hayden, Thomas

    Computer security experts say the denial-of-service attacks launched last week against several major commercial Web sites were elementary, and that true hacking pros could cause much worse damage. Experts contend the real problem is the inherent insecurity of the Web, which was originally designed for a small group of trusted users to share information. High-tech firms admit that they are unable to write software that does not contain bugs, which are used by hackers to break into Web sites and filch personal data. In last week's attacks, hackers exploited well-known bugs that allow unauthorized users to write commands. Bugs can also be used for identity theft, which is much more serious than denial-of-service attacks. Thieves who commandeer bank and credit accounts can wreak havoc on victims' lives, and the resulting damages can take years to undo. This problem is compounded by the fact that many financial-service firms demand that users display their Social Security numbers to get onto their Web Sites, meaning that a smart hacker could "sniff out" this information. Computer security professionals say with all the new nightmare scenarios that are proliferating, there is a serious dearth of skilled computer experts who can help protect the Internet from predators. More students graduated from college with computer-science degrees 12 years ago than today. This often leaves the security of the Internet in the hands of Web site administrators and ISPs, who must keep up to date with the latest antivirus and security products. However, many administrators do not do this, either out of a lack of knowledge or because they do not want to spend the time and money required. Experts say such negligence is a major part of many recent security incidents, as the technology to guard against most of these attacks is on the market.

  • "Dr. E-Mail Will See You Now"
    Technology Review (02/00) Vol. 103, No. 1, P. 42; Shapley, Deborah

    Email is an important way for e-commerce companies to manage customer relationships, and several businesses are now offering products that automatically respond to customer inquiries or send the messages to the appropriate department. For example, General Interactive offers EchoMail, which uses algorithms to categorize basic properties of email. EchoMail sorts email according to five fundamental properties--issue, request, products, customer type, and attitude. Based on these categories, EchoMail can either automatically respond with a prewritten message or direct the email to a specific department for human attention. JCPenney, which uses EchoMail, always has a person reply to messages that are grouped in the negative attitude category to ensure that irate customers get appropriate responses. JCPenney has worked to make its Web site interactive and responsive to customers. The best way to draw customers to a Web site and promote customer loyalty is email, according to Forrester Research. JCPenney says email helps it establish a type of dialogue with customers and turn them into repeat buyers, noting that email promotions receive two to three times the response rate of online ads. General Interactive CEO V.A. Shiva says EchoMail saves users about $3 per message on the average $4.23 it costs for humans to read and respond to a single email. Although General Interactive now holds about 22 percent of the automated email response market, rivals Brightware and Kana Communications also look promising. However, major phone companies such as Nortel and Lucent might ultimately have the most success as email managers, with their ability to integrate email with call centers as well as paper mail.

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