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Volume 2, Issue 28:  Friday, March 10, 2000

  • "Dell to Replace Defective Chips in Notebooks"
    Wall Street Journal (03/10/00) P. B3; McWilliams, Gary

    Dell Computer intends to replace a defective memory chip in an estimated 400,000 of its Latitude and Inspiron notebook PCs manufactured between February 1999 and November 1999. Notebooks with the defective chip are unable to resume work after being in "sleep" mode and instead must be restarted to proceed. Dell has posted a notice on its Web site and plans to fix defective PCs free of charge to the owners. Micron Technology, supplier of the original chips, will provide Dell with replacement chips and says the trouble stems from the interaction between the chip and the BIOS hardware-control software installed in some Dell computer models. Dell and Micron are currently involved in negotiations regarding replacement costs and reimbursement.

  • "With Two New Chips, the Gigahertz Decade Begins"
    New York Times (03/09/00) P. E1; Lewis, Peter H.

    Advanced Micro Devices this week introduced Athlon, the computing world's first 1 GHz microprocessor chip, and Intel unveiled its own 1 GHz Pentium III a few days later. The biggest consumer effect the chips will have is to lower prices for existing PCs, since many people use their computers mainly for applications that do not require vast quantities of processing power, and therefore are unlikely to notice a difference between PCs running older processors and those running 1 GHz processors. The new PCs will be expensive, ranging in price from $2,499 for Compaq's new Presario 5900Z, featuring AMD's Athlon and expected to ship at the end of the month, to around $6,000 for Dell's Special Edition Dimension, featuring Intel's Pentium III and still in the developmental stages. Perhaps the biggest influence the gigahertz processors will have is upon expectations for the future. Engineers and designers are now closer to developing chips with enough processing power to run computers that operate on voice commands and IBM is working to create the Power4 processor system that combines several 1 GHz processors on a single chip. The Power4 will be able to transfer as much data in one second as is contained in 20 full-length DVD movies and has the potential to dramatically increase the performance and capabilities of servers.

  • "UN Could Set E-Com Standard"
    Journal of Commerce (03/08/00) P. 12; Zuckerman, Amy

    The United Nations Standard Product and Services Classification Code (UN/SPSC) is quickly becoming a worldwide standard by enabling businesses and individuals from any language background to conduct e-business with complete understanding among trading partners of what exactly is being traded. Using the specification, every product and service available on the worldwide market will be assigned a code number that will be embedded in the enterprise computing systems of every company engaging in e-business, enabling fail-safe understanding of the goods and services being traded. For example, Title 39 covers Lighting and Electrical Accessories and Supplies and includes the sub-category of light bulbs and lamp components. The code provides for further specificity with regard to lamps and continues to label specific types of lamps, such as halogen, medical, fluorescent, and more. UN/SPSC is the first system to classify both products and services for worldwide use, according to author Amy Zuckerman.

  • "Thin Clients Getting Fat"
    ENT Magazine Online (03/08/00); Costanza, Alicia

    Thin client shipments will rise to nearly 1.3 million by the end of this year, with a large part of the increase stemming from Microsoft's integration of Terminal Server into Windows 2000, according to a recent International Data (IDC) report. IDC expects 80 percent growth in thin clients this year. "Terminal Server becoming an integrated part of Windows 2000 is a definitive renewal by Microsoft of the company's commitment to the thin client approach to computing," says IDC's Eileen O'Brien. Terminal Server will contribute to thin client growth by providing a way to spread Windows applications to thin clients using a thin client architecture or a server-based method. Thin client services will now be included in Windows 2000, while users have traditionally had to use third-party vendors. IDC also predicts strong growth this year for Linux-based thin clients, which are now available from IBM, Netier Technologies, and Compaq.

  • "Could Linux Outdo Windows?"
    USA Today (03/09/00) P. 1B; Solomon, Deborah

    Linux in only two years has grown from an obscure operating system to a major phenomenon that some experts say poses a threat to Microsoft's dominance. Linux now runs 31 percent of all Web servers, and will become more widespread over the next two years as it makes its way onto Internet-enabled devices and back-end systems. Major high-tech companies such as IBM, Sun, Dell, and Intel are investing in Linux businesses and releasing products with Linux support. The popularity of Linux stems from the fact that it can be downloaded for free online, works on any system, can be altered for a user's specific purposes, and is stable. IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky says Linux could eventually replace Windows as the most popular operating system. However, Linux first has a few obstacles to overcome, including last month's release of Microsoft's Windows 2000. Windows 2000 offers improved reliability over past versions of Windows, reducing the appeal of Linux's stability. In addition, Linux does not have many of the applications users want, such as Quicken or Microsoft Office, while Windows 2000 supports 7,000 applications. Users might also find Linux technically difficult, and companies that install Linux will have to hire workers trained in the technology. Nonetheless, experts predict that Linux will continue to grow in coming years, benefiting from the move toward Web-based computing, which will make Web site infrastructure more important than a PC operating system. Kusnetzky believes that Linux will become the most common operating system for Internet appliances. Already, Tivo and Replay TV are basing devices on Linux.

  • "Is Russian E-Commerce Ready to Explode?"
    E-Commerce Times (03/06/00); Dembeck, Chet

    Judging by a variety of factors, Russia appears to many analysts to be well poised to enter the information age. The Russian Internet Technologies Center recently reported Russian e-commerce sales totaled $160 million in 1998. Russia has the highest Internet usage figure, nearly 7.8 million adults, for any country in Central and Eastern Europe. The Russian workforce is well educated and contains a large number of engineers and technical experts. Some American companies, including Cisco Systems, Intel, Compaq Computer, Lucent Technologies, and IBM have offered advice to the Russian government on ways to encourage the rapid growth of e-commerce. Of course, not everybody is convinced. Some Russian officials fear online expansion will dramatically increase the country's already high tax-evasion rate and inhibit the growth of new brisk-and-mortar businesses in the country. Others, including American experts, predict a large portion of Russia's tech force will head West toward Europe and America, creating a serious deficit of technical know-how that could prove devastating to the development of the Russian Internet. Also, Russia's reputation for being unable to make timely loan repayments may discourage the influx of the Western venture capital required to expand the Russian Internet infrastructure.

  • "The Bots That Bind: Digital Age Contract Law"
    Upside Today (03/07/00); Jolish, Barak D.; Reyna, Jeffrey W.

    The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), aimed at changing contract law by defining standards that apply to transactions in "computer information," is a controversial proposal that has been enacted by Virginia and is being considered by other states. UCITA includes many provisions that critics say give the software industry too much control over their products. The law could have a broad impact even if all 50 states do not approve the measure, because "choice of law" clauses would allow software firms to pick any state's laws to govern their contracts. UCITA would make mass market licenses (MMLs), also known as shrink-wrap licenses, enforceable. In the past, no law formally validated shrink-wrap licenses, although some courts found that the licenses were enforceable. Consumer advocates and other critics say UCITA's shrink-wrap laws give software firms too much freedom, allowing them to disclaim responsibility for known glitches. Meanwhile, UCITA advocates say the law benefits consumers by forcing vendors to prominently display such disclaimers. Another controversial aspect of UCITA is a provision that would let vendors remotely shut off software if the user is in "material breach" of contract. Opponents say this provision would allow vendors to abuse their power over customers by threatening to disable their software, while proponents note that vendors must follow a strict set of rules before shutting off access. Another concern about UCITA is that it would let vendors write contracts that would prohibit reverse engineering of their products, making it difficult for developers to build compatible products.

  • "The Great Amazon Patent Debate"
    Newsweek (03/13/00) Vol. 135, No. 11, P. 74; Levy, Steven

    Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and his company are finding themselves the targets of criticism due to Amazon's patent on its "1-Click" technology and the patent infringement lawsuit it filed against barnesandnoble.com. Amazon is following the model of traditional businesses in patenting its concept, but many Internet observers believe that, in the open-system tradition of the Internet, Amazon should share its innovations. Internet expert Tim O'Reilly, along with others, thinks that the government gives unwarranted protection to unoriginal ideas, and he believes that companies should share conceptual innovations instead of patenting questionable breakthroughs. Bezos counters this idea with the fear that other big companies will get an edge and crush the online bookseller. O'Reilly insists that giving 1-Click away would gain Amazon public approval; as it is, thousands of people agree with O'Reilly as expressed on various Web sites, and some have decided to boycott Amazon. Bezos insists that 1-Click was not obvious when it was patented, and points out that there are other companies that are much more possessive of innovations.

  • "CIOs Join Fight to Kill UCITA"
    Computerworld (03/06/00) Vol. 34, No. 10, P. 1; Thibodeau, Patrick

    CIOs in Virginia are working to fight the adoption of the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), a law that critics believe favors software vendors at the expense of consumers. Virginia's governor is expected to soon approve UCITA, making the state the first to pass the law in an effort to become a high-tech leader. UCITA outlines buyer and seller rights on issues such as shrink-wrapped licenses and vendor liability for faulty software. Critics such as Reynolds Metal CIO John Rudin, who mobilized Virginia's CIOs against UCITA, say the law provides vendors with too much control over contracts. Rudin's efforts succeeded in postponing the law's implementation until July 2001, after a group of users and vendors examines the law. One way UCITA favors vendors is with a "self-help" provision that permits vendors to turn off software remotely, essentially allowing vendors to hold users hostage with the threat of shutting down programs, Rudin says. UCITA supporters note that UCITA is merely a set of default rules that companies in special circumstances are free to change. However, Principal Financial Group director of corporate purchasing Randy Roth says he is already restricted in his ability to negotiate with large vendors once the vendor knows that its product is mission-critical. Meanwhile, UCITA supporters say the law provides uniformity to software licenses and gives early adopters a high-tech edge since vendors will need to establish a physical presence in the state to apply UCITA's provisions. However, UCITA opponent and lawyer Cem Kaner says the way the laws will be applied is unclear and likely subject to judicial interpretation.

  • "ATM Advances; Do Customers Care?"
    InternetWeek (03/06/00) No. 803, P. 8; Zimmerman, Christine

    The ATM Forum's technical committee is making strides with ATM technology, but this may not matter to customers. DSL Voice over ATM, frame-based ATM transport over Ethernet, and a control protocol for ATM are among the new developments. Despite service providers' wide use of ATM in the WAN, ATM's importance is slipping within the enterprise. Gigabit Ethernet is displacing ATM in the LAN, and ATM adapter sales are dropping, said Laurie Gooding, a Cahners In-Stat Group analyst. ATM is not as easy to design, troubleshoot, and maintain as packet-based network technologies, according to Keith Price, network services system director at Samaritan Health System. Although forum officials admit that ATM has had trouble establishing itself in the enterprise, they say the new functions should boost the attractiveness of the technology.

  • "Would-Be Cyber-Champions in Web Frenzy"
    Hill (03/08/00) Vol. 7, No. 10, P. 18; Porteus, Liza

    Members of Congress are becoming more responsive to a growing public clamor for federal regulation of the Internet, partnering with one another to determine how best to ensure the security of Web transactions without dampening the entrepreneurial spirit of the Internet. Republican congressional politicians have formed the House Republican Cyber-Security Team to work with the House Subcommittee on Crime and the House Republican Conference's Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology to educate communities on Internet security issues and guarantee that any federal laws passed include sufficient punishments for Web hackers. Also, the House passed a measure to give the government a larger role in technology-related research projects. Congressional senators have held hearings to discuss the security of the federal government's information systems; introduced the Government Information Security Act, designed to place more responsibility for Internet regulation in the hands of the Office of Management and Budget; and lobbied for greater FY2000 budget funds for programs to protect federal computers. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee said that although most hacker activity to date has been relatively harmless, cyber attacks "could be the greatest threat we face."

  • "Mind Your Business"
    InformationWeek (03/06/00) No. 776, P. 22; Whiting, Rick

    Consumer privacy has become a precarious issue for online firms, which are trying to improve marketing efforts by collecting customer data while remaining sensitive about privacy concerns. Privacy fears have increased as a result of recent incidents in which online firms have broken user trust by exposing private information. For example, Intuit last week admitted that its Quicken.com site transmitted data about users' income, assets, and debts to DoubleClick due to a software flaw. Meanwhile, H&R Block's policy says all information on its site will remain confidential, but the company last month revealed users' financial data to other customers when an effort to upgrade its tax-preparation system went awry. Such leaks not only damage consumer confidence, but also pose the threat of lawsuits and the loss of financial backing from investors. Online companies are now reconsidering their privacy policies and the use of cookies. Online brokerage firm BuyandHold.com is considering gathering data for marketing purposes, but would implement an opt-in policy that would obtain permission from users before collecting information. Other online companies such as E-Loan.com and TowerRecords.com have limited their use of cookies in response to privacy concerns. Overall, online companies are collecting more user information than ever before and the trend is likely to continue due to the success of targeted marketing. However, the possibility remains that the U.S. government will step in with laws dictating how online firms can gather and use customer data.

  • "Can You?"
    Economist (03/04/00) Vol. 354, No. 8160, P. 63

    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in Cairo will be an important gathering because it could determine how technology regulators will address the growing problems regarding domain names. The Internet has grown so much in recent years that some critics contend that there are no more recognizable domain names to claim. Furthermore, a company doing business on the Internet cannot share the same name with another e-commerce firm, as can be done in the brick-and-mortar world if companies are doing business in different markets. Ultimately, a lack of name space could hurt the growth of e-commerce. To address this concern a working group within ICANN has come up with a strategy to add new "top-level" domains to the domain name system, an idea not too far off from what Internet pioneer Jon Postel had in mind. However, creating new top-level domains is opposed by owners of trademarks, primarily because they have fought cybersquatters and have invested a lot of money in their domain names, and because new domain names might dilute their brands. Trademark owners insist that all names in current domains should be used before new top-level domains are created. For ICANN, the organization could become an important part of Internet governance if it is able to bring the two sides to an agreement. On the other hand, ICANN is likely to be seen as a tool of business if there is a fall out. At the same time, ICANN must not forget about the Internet user, as too many domains could make the Internet too confusing for users to navigate.

  • "Fed E-Commerce Numbers Leave Little Wiggle Room"
    Interactive Week (03/06/00) Vol. 7, No. 9, P. 14; Trager, Louis

    The Department of Commerce last week released its first official figures on e-commerce. However, department Secretary William M. Daley warned that the results should not be directly compared to the findings of private research firms because the federal government used a different methodology to come up with its numbers. The government's figures were on the low end of private firm's estimates, which ranged from about $4 billion to $13 billion for the holiday season. The government found U.S. retail e-commerce sales reached $5.3 billion during the fourth quarter of 1999. In relation to total quarterly retail sales of about $821.2 billion, e-commerce sales were barely two-thirds of 1 percent of that. The government figure does not include travel, financial services, or sports and entertainment tickets. Some private researchers have these categories totaling more than the government's total online retail number. BizRate.com and Forrester Research had numbers below the government's at $4.4 billion and $5 billion, respectively. Those with figures above the government's were Harris Interactive at $6.6 billion to $7.2 billion, Jupiter Communications at $7 billion, Boston Consulting Group at $10 billion to $10.5 billion, and Ernst & Young at $10 billion to $13 billion. Some 8,000 brick-and mortar retailers and online companies responded to the department's survey, and 15 percent indicated they were involved in e-commerce.

  • "Courts Set Cyberstandards for Two Key Areas"
    Washington Technology (03/06/00) Vol. 14, No. 23, P. 16; Cain, Jonathan

    Recent appeal rulings in two court cases demonstrate the importance of choosing a domain name carefully and how the use of trademarks on the Internet is different from using them in the brick-and-mortar world. One case involved a trademark infringement claim against Disney for using the mark that identifies its Go Network. Another company had been using a similar logo as its trademark for about a year before Go was launched, and the court of appeals agreed that the Disney logo was confusingly similar to the earlier mark. The appeals court affirmed the lower court's injunction against Disney's use of its mark, employing a trademark infringement analysis tailored to Internet commerce. In the context of the Internet, the three most important factors in deciding whether a trademark infringes on another are the apparent similarity of the marks; the relatedness of the goods or services; and the "simultaneous use of the Web as a marketing channel." The Disney decision recognizes the difficulty that consumers have in determining who is sponsoring an e-commerce Web site--on the Internet, marks are nearly the only way for a consumer to distinguish among sellers. The likelihood of consumer confusion among trademarks is judged from the viewpoint of the least sophisticated consumer. U.S. registration is essential when adopting a mark for use in e-commerce, and foreign registrations are important as well; a company must search thoroughly for potentially similar marks. The second case was the first time a federal appeals court has considered the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). The act allows a federal court to award an injunction and damages if it finds that a cybersquatter has registered or used a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to a distinctive or famous mark, with the intention of profiting from the mark. Prior to the ACPA, famous marks could be protected under anti-dilution sections of the federal trademark law, but other marks were not.

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