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Volume 2, Issue 24:  Wednesday, March 1, 2000

  • "Fresh Technologies Will Create Myriad Functions"
    Financial Times--IT Review (03/01/00) P. 3; Gibson, Marcus

    Mobile computing is likely to advance significantly due to new technology such as Transmeta's Crusoe chip and Embedded Solutions' (ESL's) Handel-C software. Transmeta announced the Crusoe in January, noting the chip's ability to meet the needs of mobile computing. Crusoe's low power, high performance, and full PC compatibility allow manufacturers to produce truly mobile products, says Transmeta founder and CEO Dave Ditzel. By translating blocks of code only one time, Transmeta's software allows a system to optimize the code to execute instructions as quickly as possible. The Crusoe will have a battery life four to five times longer than regular chips, and the chip will be included in Web pad appliances and handhelds, Transmeta says. Meanwhile, ESL's Handel-C software and ConfigR toolkit can convert any mobile phone into a device that can change functions in seconds, allowing a single handset to become a videophone, database, Web surfer, or music delivery device. ESL's technology uses field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) that can process thousands of instructions on each clock cycle, unlike microprocessors that can process only a few instructions per cycle. ESL intends to develop software that will enable the creation of inexpensive Internet-enabled mass access devices with voice and data functionality as well as digital media features. ESL's new technology will simplify software design by allowing software providers to deliver new functions by remotely reprogramming digital devices, says ESL's Ian Page.

  • "Online Tech PC Support Finally Stands Up to Test"
    Investor's Business Daily (03/01/00) P. A6; Turner, Nick

    Online technical support is becoming easier to use as technology improves, allowing even beginning users to solve problems with their PCs over the Internet. Although online support has been available for many years, the technology usually benefited only sophisticated users since less experienced users often resorted to calling a help desk. Software now exists that can automatically find problems and apply a patch without the user even being aware of the problem. Support Web sites have also become more user-friendly, allowing users to ask questions using natural language rather than special commands. In addition, PC makers are adding hardware features, such as keys that link to support sites, that encourage users to seek online help. Dell and Compaq, for example, have both added help keys to their computers. Companies such as Motive Communications and Support.com are working with PC makers to offer online support to businesses and consumers. Motive and Support.com offer e-support products that can link a user's computer to the support staff system as a last resort, if preventative measures and online help are inadequate. E-support products allow the support staff to quickly see what the problem is and reduce call time. Major PC makers such as Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Gateway use software from Motive, which has focused mostly on home PC users. Motive's software is tailored to specific applications, and the company says its software reduces call volumes by 25 percent to 35 percent. Meanwhile, Support.com targets corporate customers, and its software is compatible with any system using any type of software. Compaq's corporate services division has announced plans to use Support.com.

  • "Retailers to Form Online Market"
    San Jose Mercury News Online (02/28/00); Tessler, Joelle

    Sears Roebuck on Monday announced that the company plans to partner with French retailer Carrefour to create a joint online marketplace for their products. The business-to-business Internet venture, known as GlobalNetXchange, is designed to eliminate purchasing errors and increase efficiency throughout all stages of the supply chain, thereby generating savings that can be passed on to consumers in the form of reduced prices. GlobalNetXchange will automate some purchasing processes and eliminate the need for Sears and Carrefour to conduct business with suppliers via telephone, fax, or private computer networks. The site will also allow retailers to electronically exchange sales and inventory data with suppliers, and will enable suppliers to expand their retailer base. Oracle will provide software products and services to build and maintain the exchange site. GlobalNetXchange is expected to go public, but no specific time frame has been set. Portions of the site that operate the features of online buying, selling, and bidding are scheduled to be running within the next 30 days.

  • "U.S. Government Moves to Online Procurement"
    E-Commerce Times (02/28/00); Romeo, Jim

    The U.S. government is increasing its use of e-business through the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA). This measure, which was passed by Congress in 1994, requires that the federal government use e-commerce in its procurement activities. Many different departments in the government are using e-business technology. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has established contracts that allow government agencies such as the CIA, FBI, DOD, and NASA to purchase goods and services via the Internet. In a manner of speaking, GSA has created a portal for government buyers. GSA's Federal Technology Service (FTS) attends to the software, hardware, and wireless technology needs of the government's agencies. In 1999, the FTS spent $4.2 billion on contracts. The government is also using the Internet to arrange conferences more quickly. Under GSA's partnership with AllMeetings.com, secretaries and administrative assistants who attend the agency's conference/meeting planner course in April will learn how to plan low cost, highly effective meetings online. Internet searches on AllMeetings.com are easier and less time consuming because the Web site contains information on thousands of hotels in more than 250 cities. Private businesses are also interested in helping government agencies with their e-commerce needs. FedCenter.com, a privately owned company, has established online catalogs of goods produced by businesses that have contracts with government agencies. Using FedCenter.com, individuals who buy products for the federal government can create RFQs and place purchase orders with contracted companies.

  • "Black Colleges Arrange Large Purchase of Computers"
    Chronicle of Higher Education Online (02/29/00); Olsen, Florence

    The predominantly black colleges and universities of the U.S. have entered into a three-year deal to purchase nearly $250 million in discounted hardware and software from Gateway and Microsoft. Approximately 370,000 students at 118 campuses will benefit from the contract, which education officials say will be a significant step toward eliminating the digital divide. According to the terms of the agreement, the educational institutions will obtain licenses for Microsoft software, be provided with resources for an Internet portal and will receive Internet server hardware and services donated by Gateway. The schools will also be given a scholarship trust fund set up by Gateway and maintained by portions of the company's revenue from the contract, and will enjoy special internship and employment opportunity privileges with Gateway.

  • "It's Just Another Day in the Bizarre World of Dot-Coms"
    San Jose Mercury News Online (02/28/00); Gillmor, Dan

    Some things in today's exploding information economy just do not make sense, writes San Jose Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor. Recent newcomers to the high-tech field are managing to elbow their way into the market simply because of the skyrocketing value of their stocks, while the more established and profitable Internet businesses, the ones with the lion's share of buying power, sit back and seem to watch opportunities pass by. For instance, nine-month-old Pacific Century CyberWorks has signed a deal to buy Cable & Wireless HKT, Hong Kong's premier telephone company, despite the fact that the only real assets Pacific Century appears to have are an ambitious executive with connections and faith in its bright future. Pacific Century's shareholders are the driving force, enabling a company devoid of profits to land such an unexpected deal. On the other hand, online auction company eBay says that despite rumors to the contrary it is not planning to buy struggling auctioneer Sotheby's. Many are puzzled by this apparently counter-intuitive strategy, since eBay has bought businesses before and certainly has the strong, profitable track record traditionally needed to make acquisitions successful. The new Internet economy is certainly making its presence known, albeit in a frequently confusing manner.

  • "For Online Businesses, Alliances With Bricks-and-Mortar Retailing Chains Promise Many Benefits"
    New York Times (02/28/00) P. C10; Tedeschi, Bob

    Pure online retailers are beginning to ally with physical stores of all kinds in order to lower customer acquisition costs and provide customers with product exchange and return services. Traditional stores with new online divisions have a distinct advantage in these important areas, leading the pure-play online stores to work hard to establish a physical customer service presence. Convenience store chain 7-11 is experimenting with Internet-enabled ATM machines, and may also begin to hold product return services for select online stores. UPS is building a number of new storefront locations to test the waters of e-commerce company support. Online delivery company Kozmo.com has inked a five-year, $150 million deal with Starbucks Coffee to set up product return centers in Starbucks stores. "The need for this is huge," says Tim Washer of market research company NFO Interactive. Washer says that by providing a physical retail presence for consumers, Internet stores will increase the public's overall confidence in shopping online.

  • "Bluetooth Gleams at CeBIT"
    Red Herring Online (02/28/00); Aragon, Lawrence

    The Bluetooth wireless communications standard, supported by IBM, Intel, Lucent Technologies, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, and more than a thousand others, will enable computing devices such as mobile phones and handhelds to communicate wirelessly with each other over a 2.4 GHz radio frequency band. At Europe's CeBIT tech show this week analysts predicted that the market for Bluetooth-enabled products will take off next year, once chip costs have been lowered and operating systems have been developed for the various devices. One area where Bluetooth is expected to be very popular is in the home networking segment. "All homes will have their own local area network, not only for PCs but for all these new devices that are going to be built," says Yogen Dalal, general partner at the Mayfield Fund. "Most people will not want to plug these things into the wall, and that's where Bluetooth comes in." Also, analysts and investors expect the Bluetooth market to be a good target for smart, aggressive startup companies. "Even with larger players out there, there are always interesting places for startups to make a contribution," says Rich Shapero of investment firm Crosspoint. Palm Computing's David Christopher agrees. "There will be an opportunity to do a wide variety of things, and Palm won't be able to do it all," he says.

  • "Crypto Confab Heats Up"
    Wired News (02/26/00); McCullagh, Declan

    Conversations at the Financial Cryptography conference, recently held in Anguilla, British West Indies, focused on how keys containing personal information could be developed to prevent the piracy of digital films. IBM's Keven McCurley believes the music industry's SDMI technology, currently being developed to prevent illegal copying, is not effective. He says the industry should create digital libraries to prevent copyright laws from being violated. Digital cash issues were also discussed at the conference. Two German researchers, Birgit Pfitzmann and Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi, presented a proposal for a "anonymity-revocable cash system" that would not cause blackmail and extortion to become rampant on the Internet. One cryptographer, Ian Grigg, believes that a seven-part system that incorporates cryptography, governance, and finance should be the basis for financial cryptography.

  • "I.B.M. to Introduce Advance in Chip Manufacturing"
    New York Times (02/28/00) P. C2; Markoff, John

    IBM has developed a way to use electrons to etch circuits onto chips in a process that might replace the current method of etching with light waves, and the company will report on its technological advance this week at an industry conference. By using electrons rather than light waves, IBM believes circuits can be reduced almost to the size of an atom. IBM has been working with Nikon on the new chip-making system, as concerns grow that lithographic systems that use light-wave etching are reaching their physical limits. As scientists have found ways to use shorter light waves to make increasingly small circuits, the cost of light-wave etching has continued to rise and the process might soon be infeasible. Researchers have long experimented with electron-beam systems, but none have been able to process silicon wafers rapidly enough to be practical. The IBM-Nikon system, called Prevail, uses a pattern of electrons that etches many lines of circuits at the same time, whereas previous systems have etched only one line at a time. IBM says the system could mature fast enough to affect the next two generations of chip-making equipment.

  • "Protected or Locked Out?"
    USA Today (02/29/00) P. 3D; Haring, Bruce

    More and more people, both in the technology and the entertainment industries, are questioning the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)--passed in 1998--arguing that it may be inhibiting the growth of the Internet. The DMCA was the U.S. version of the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty and the Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and it passed with little fuss. It includes a clause that makes it illegal to thwart copyright protection methods in hardware and software--without which, advocates say, technological advances could put companies that sell copyrighted material out of business. Recently, the entertainment industry has begun using the law as its primary weapon against infringement, and the law is beginning to redefine the future of online entertainment. Alex Fowler of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the anti-circumvention clauses tie the rights to the work to the system it is shown or distributed on, which will affect users and hinders the Internet's growth. Other provisions in the law keep Internet service providers from being liable for their customers' copyright infringements so long as they act to remove offending materials once they are aware of them; Internet radio stations may broadcast music, but must pay royalties to record companies. This last provision is already on its way to arbitration. As Internet entertainment evolves from audio to visual, the DMCA will probably play a growing role in determining how and when the entertainment is enjoyed. The basic question is whether users have the right to shape their entertainment experience. Entertainment lawyer Whitney Broussard says the DMCA was intended as a balance, but ends up tilting toward copyright holders. Former Forrester Research analyst Mark Hardie says there should be a universal right distinguishing between personal enjoyment and commercial intent.

  • "Imported IT Workers May Grow If Lawmakers' Bill Gets Nod"
    Washington Technology (02/21/00) Vol. 14, No. 22, P. 18; Gallagher, Anne

    A Senate bill (S.2045) was introduced to Congress on Feb. 9--sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), and Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas)--that would increase the number of H-1B visas granted to skilled, foreign IT workers. The Information Technology Association of America estimates that there are 346,000 IT job openings across the U.S. without enough IT workers to fill them. Such shortages could have negative impacts on the U.S. economy since the high-tech industry is the prime driver behind the recent economic boom, says William Archey, president and CEO of the American Electronics Association. More foreign IT workers would fill positions in the IT industry for a temporary period before returning home. Opponents of the bill believe the solution is not temporary IT workers, but U.S. citizens that have the opportunity to fill permanent positions in the IT industry, says Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers President Merrill Buckley. Congress is also considering legislation that would place a hold on the implementation of taxes on sales done via the Internet. Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) proposes that the Internet Non-Discrimination Act, which forbids taxing jurisdictions to tax the Internet, be made permanent. Not taxing the Internet will allow it to continue growing, which could mean benefits in revenues for all levels of government, says Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Boxer says sales taxes on the Internet are not needed, because most of the 50 states benefit from the Internet; most of the states ended 1998 with surpluses in their budgets due to the high-tech industry's growth.

  • "CRM: The Cutting Edge of Servicing Customers"
    Computerworld (02/28/00) Vol. 34, No. 9, P. 78; Goff, Leslie

    CRM practices, while certainly not new to business, are becoming increasingly fundamental due to such general trends as rising cost pressures, the Internet, and globalization. Effective CRM technology and practices enable a business to know its customers, which leads to providing customers with faster, personalized service at a lower cost. "Given the complex world we live in, [CRM] has evolved to be the driving force behind how companies market goods and services," says Dave Towers, director of CRM at J. Crew. The ideal CRM candidate must possess excellent programming skills because developing CRM applications often involves the modification and integration of different prepackaged software solutions. The CRM professional also should be able to apply technical expertise to the context of their firm's overall marketing strategy. An ideal candidate must be "comfortable doing hard-core programming one minute and going into a marketing meeting to discuss the content of [the] next outbound email the next," says Towers.

  • "Life After the Hacks"
    Telephony (02/21/00) Vol. 238, No. 8, P. 10; Quinton, Brian

    The attacks on major Web sites earlier this month have catapulted network security to the top of many companies' priorities. Although "denial of service" attacks do not damage data, they do damage consumers' confidence in the Internet as a vehicle of commerce. A recent survey by PC Data shows that 45 percent of Internet users say that they are less likely to reveal their credit card numbers on the Web after the attacks; 37 percent say the attacks altered their opinions on Internet security as a whole; and 50 percent say the attacks changed their view of the Web sites that were hit. Experts contend that infrastructure companies will have to change spending priorities and purchase top-of-the-line security products. This is even more essential because hacking programs readily available on the Internet allow even the most rudimentary computer user the ability to launch an attack on a Web site. Security professionals say hacking software exploits the Internet's greatest attribute, which is its ability to connect huge networks of users, and that computer security needs to be improved so that every individual computer owner has complete control over the machine. This would effectively stop the hijacking of third-party computers to launch attacks. Analysts say that this goal may be facilitated by the recent liberalization of U.S. export rules on security hardware and software, which could bring computers around the world up to the same level of security that some American computer users enjoy. Regardless, while consumers may be demanding that Web sites practice greater security, and companies may be beefing-up defenses, experts admit that there is little that can be done currently to dissuade a determined hacker from launching an attack due to the structure of the Internet.

  • "Blueprint for the Flexible Enterprise"
    Intelligent Enterprise (03/01/00) Vol. 3, No. 4, P. 46; Everidge, Tony; Perks, Col

    Companies must adopt an architectural framework to design scalable, long-lasting e-commerce systems. One standard methodology for designing such a framework is the Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF), a guideline to promote interoperability, scalability, and portability. TOGAF is not an architecture; rather, it provides the tools with which to design one. TOGAF first recommends an architecture continuum, an outline of the components in the framework. The architecture continuum begins with the foundation architecture to provide a framework for the entire system, then moves to the common systems architecture to emphasize a specific technology subject area. Companies such as IBM, EDS, and Microsoft provide common systems architectures that can be customized for a particular organization. The next step is the industry-specific architecture, which should be based on published recommendations from each industry; for instance, the petrochemical industry offers a number of key architectures that must be considered by companies operating within this space. Last is the organization architecture, which addresses the specific e-business needs of the company. After designing the architecture continuum, TOGAF recommends that companies follow a solutions continuum to implement the architecture that has been agreed upon.

  • "At Ford, E-Commerce Is Job 1"
    Business Week (02/28/00) No. 3670, P. 74; Kerwin, Kathleen; Stepanek, Marcia

    What started out last year as a study on how the Internet could improve auto manufacturing has turned into an e-business strategy that will reinvent manufacturing at Ford Motor. In two years the automaker expects its new build-to-order auto business to reach high volume. Moreover, Ford plans to use the Internet to allow dealerships greater communication with plants so problems can be addressed more quickly, and to allow suppliers to control inventories in a manner that is similar to the way Wal-Mart lets vendors stock its stores. The model of efficiency that Ford sees in making use of the Internet has made it the most ambitious old-line manufacturer when it comes to the Internet. Although General Motors has also announced plans to connect suppliers and dealers and offer ties with consumers at their PCs and in their cars, unlike Ford, GM has no plans to wire all its employees. Ford's major e-commerce plans have Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft, UUNet, Hewlett-Packard, PeoplePC, Yahoo!, Priceline.com, and TeleTech all working with the automaker. Dain Rauscher analyst Jonathan Lawrence says Ford could reap savings of about 25 percent of the retail price of a car by using the Internet to offer more efficient connections for suppliers and distributors. The newly created AutoXchange is part of the e-business strategy, and the online trading mart for some 30,000 Ford suppliers is expected to deliver to Ford a hefty cut of the $3 billion that the service is estimated to generate within five years. Analysts say this could save Ford $8 billion in procurement prices and about $1 billion in overhead, paperwork, and other transaction efficiencies each year. Ford is also considering offering Internet access in its vehicles, which could bring in monthly fees of up to $25 a month from its buyers. Although Wall Street estimates AutoXchange will have more than $500 million in revenue when Ford takes it public in 2001, some analysts do not appear to be impressed with the e-business strategy thus far. Concerns remain about whether Ford will neglect designing and building cars and trucks, whether consumers want cars with all sorts of extras that could be problematic, and whether the big savings could hurt suppliers and others.

  • "Dangerous Liaisons"
    CIO (02/15/00) Vol. 13, No. 9, P. 58; Gray, Edward W.

    Despite the increasing frequency of companies asking courts to limit the future employment possibilities of employees who are leaving with company secrets, most courts have shown great reluctance to do so. Legal analysts contend that trying to legally stop an employee from working at certain jobs or with specific companies is almost never worth the risk of having to reveal proprietary information at a public hearing, which is often necessary when requesting a preliminary or permanent injunction. Therefore, most experts suggest that companies obtain a consent order from a court, a document that most legal analysts contend is the best solution for both a company and a departing employee. Experts suggest that employers interview an employee when they learn that the person is looking for another job, in order to gauge the nature of the new job, as well as to see if the employee's functions will be similar to the job he or she performed with the company that they are leaving. Experts say that employers should record any incidents of dishonest behavior or any removal or copying of information from the workplace. This may win sympathy in a courtroom when seeking a consent order. Regardless, most courts will not prohibit an employee from seeking employment wherever they choose, and the general legal consensus is that employees own the knowledge and skills that they leave a job with. Even if a non-compete agreement has been signed, most jurisdictions only enforce them for one year. Therefore, most lawyers suggest that employers try to gain a consent order that certifies that an employee cannot use specific knowledge gained from a previous employer to benefit a new employer for a certain period of time, usually for six months to two years.

  • "Gas Stations"
    Business 2.0 (02/00) Vol. 5, No. 2, P. 81; Kuusela, Sami

    Conventional chips made of silicon-based transistors may be a thing of the past now that Berlin-based scientist James La Clair has developed a computer switch the size of a molecule driven by carbon dioxide and nitrogen. In the next few decades gas-powered computers could usher in the next stage of major development in computer sciences. La Clair's breakthrough in molecular computing means that there will be a smaller, faster, and cheaper switch that can be used like a transistor. And the vision of switches driven by common atmospheric gases has experts considering that one day we will not only have computers on our desktops but in our bodies as well. However, more work needs to be done at this time to address the control of the gas environment and the speed. Ralph C. Merkle, a principal fellow at the molecular nanotechnology startup Zyvex, says the best way to develop the technology is now the chief concern of the industry. "This isn't going to be resolved by debates and papers, it's going to be resolved by new companies that enter this field and take their best shot," he says. "We'll see a wild diversity of approaches, and we'll know in 20 years or so which of those approaches were right."

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