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Volume 2, Issue 119:  Wednesday, October 18, 2000

  • "A High-Technology Festival Takes a High-Anxiety Turn"
    New York Times (10/18/00) P. A1; Markoff, John

    A somber mood prevailed yesterday at the opening of Agenda, the annual conference for the computer industry, as executives and analysts acknowledged the damage caused by the recent downturn in tech-related stocks. "I think the big problem is not where stock prices are," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who has seen the value of his company's stock fall more than 50 percent since last year, in his the keynote address. "The big problem, from an employee perspective, is where stock prices were." Still, Ballmer said the industry's sudden realization that not every startup will become a multibillion-dollar success story is a positive development. However, attendees heard more bad news yesterday, as both IBM and Intel announced revenue shortfalls and mutual fund Fidelity Magellan removed Microsoft and Intel from its group of top 10 holdings. Although some analysts defended their previous support for many struggling tech firms, others argued that the downturn is affecting e-commerce companies more than other firms and that there are still many strong performers in the tech market. New developments in technology could easily send the market back on the upswing again, these analysts said.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "More Web Workers Claim Unfair Labor Practices"
    Wall Street Journal (10/17/00) P. B1; Greenberger, Robert S.

    Several tech firms are facing lawsuits alleging violations of labor laws, and observers say the number of suits could increase further as workers tire of sacrificing their well-being for the promise of dot-com riches. In a case already settled out of court, Jasmine Hakki sued America Online after the company fired her without cause less than one month after the death of her mother. AOL was reluctant to grant her time off while her mother was ill, repeatedly asked her to attend meetings out of town, and never informed her she could ask for up to 12 weeks of personal leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Priceline and MicroStrategy are among the tech companies currently facing labor-law-related suits. A former employee alleges Priceline did not pay him for overtime, while MicroStrategy is accused of sexual discrimination. Observers say the suits represent a growing disaffection within the tech industry, as the recent struggles of both startups and established tech firms have frustrated employees who had willingly worked long hours believing that future success would lead to large raises or increases in the value of their stock options. A spokesperson at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission acknowledged that "some Internet startup and dot-com employers may not be taking antidiscrimination policies seriously enough and not implementing effective policies to prevent discrimination."

  • "Tech Titans Show Achilles' Heels"
    Los Angeles Times (10/17/00) P. C1; Hamilton, Walter

    Investors are fleeing from the stocks of several tech-industry giants, leading many analysts to believe the market is experiencing a significant shift. "It used to be 'new economy' versus 'old economy.' Now it's old-economy tech vs. new-economy tech," says Bob Turner of Turner Investment. The stock value of Microsoft has dropped 58 percent since December, while Intel stock recently fell 12 percent in one day after Salomon Smith Barney downgraded it. Investors have instead turned to new firms such as Juniper, Broadcom, and EMC. Many of the new favorites represent the latest technology driving the economy, such as business-to-business e-commerce, Internet infrastructure, and fiber-optic networks. For example, analysts forecasted 53 percent growth for Juniper in 2001, causing investors to trade its stock at 800 times the company's earnings. Established firms such as Microsoft, Dell, and Apple have seen the market for PCs and more traditional technology slow, and while analysts expect many of these firms will recover from current losses, few think they will once again dominate the market. Analysts say the impact could be greatest on individual investors, who continue to buy based on the name-recognition value of the largest tech firms. Analysts also warn that the high valuation of startups such as Juniper carry a great deal of risk considering the recent volatility of the tech market.

  • "Sun to Debut Developers Community"
    InternetNews (10/17/00); Boulton, Clint

    Sun Microsystems will introduce a new Web site on Tuesday to provide a forum for software developers to discuss issues and problems related to their field. Sun intends the site to focus on building and growing e-business sites. The site will present case studies from dot-com Web architects and provide discussion groups on basic issues such as infrastructure and scalability, as well as more specific topics such as XML, Linux, Apache, and Sun's Solaris and Java technologies.

  • "Scientists Envision a New Electronics, Based on Plastic"
    New York Times (10/17/00) P. D1; Chang, Kenneth

    Plastics and other organic materials will be applied more and more in electronic devices over the next few years, according to scientists. Although Princeton University's Stephen R. Forrest claims that organic materials will not replace silicon, their lightness, malleability, and low cost offer distinct advantages. "You can vary function with composition in a much more facile way than, for example, with an inorganic semiconductor where you're stuck with a couple of compounds in the middle of the periodic table," explains Forrest. Organic light-emitting diodes produced by Kodak are already being used as video displays, while a light-emitting polymer created by Cambridge researchers can be printed into circuits through an inkjet printer. Ohio State University's Arthur J. Epstein has created magnets from carbon-based material that could conserve energy if applied to electric motors and transformers. Meanwhile, Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs is working on printable semiconductor circuits and has constructed the first electrically driven laser from carbon-based molecules. Organic material could also be used as computer memory, hard disks, and electronic insulation, Epstein postulates.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "More Homes Online, But Usage Stays Flat"
    USA Today (10/16/00) P. 3D; Miller, Leslie

    U.S. home Internet access penetration levels jumped significantly during September, according to a new report from Nielsen/NetRatings. The report finds that 19 of the top 35 markets now boast home access penetration rates of 50 percent or more, with San Francisco leading the way at 65.6 percent, followed by Seattle (63.6 percent), San Diego (61.9 percent), Portland, Ore. (59.5 percent), and Washington, D.C. (59 percent). Baltimore (55 percent) rounded out the top 10, followed by St. Louis (53.2 percent) at the 15th spot, and Los Angeles (49.9 percent) at No. 20. New York, at No. 19, showed the largest gain of any city, with a 21.7 percent jump to 50.3 percent. Philadelphia's home access rates also rose dramatically, by 21.6 percent, and Denver and Houston also posted gains of more than 20 percent. The increasing number of PCs priced at under $1,000 helped spark the increased rates, as did inexpensive "plug-and-play" devices, according to Allen Weiner of NetRatings. Despite the gains, active Internet user rates dropped to 60 percent, down 3 percentage points from March. Low bandwidth and a lack of exciting Web content are holding down active user rates, says Weiner.

  • "Washington Debates Ergonomics Rules"
    Associated Press (10/16/00); Abrams, Jim

    The Clinton administration is determined to implement workplace rules this year to protect against repetitive motion injuries, despite Congress' objections--but the Republican majority in Congress is just as determined to delay the rules until next year on the chance that there will then be a Republican president in place. This past summer the House and the Senate voted mostly along party lines to keep the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from releasing its final repetitive-motion injury standards; the agency says that 1.8 million workers suffer from ergonomic injuries each year and that costs related to the disorders total one-third of all workers' compensation costs. OSHA says the rules would cost businesses some $4.5 billion to implement but would save them $9 billion per year, but business groups say that the rules would actually cost over $90 billion a year for 10 years. Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) says the rules could cause job losses, hiring freezes, and lower salaries. AFL-CIO health and safety director Peg Seminario counters that Republicans are opposed to regulation on principle.

  • "New Role for Sun: Linux Booster?"
    TechWeb (10/17/00); Darrow, Barbara

    Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNealy announced Tuesday at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo that the company aims to be the top Linux firm, despite Sun's seemingly indifferent attitude toward the open source operating system in the past. Sun is acquiring Cobalt Networks and offering middleware for Linux, McNealy said, noting also that Sun is a Unix leader and that Linux is a form of Unix. However, some observers believe Sun's objective with the Cobalt deal is to move Solaris and UltraSparc technology into Cobalt boxes to replace Linux and Advanced Micro Devices chips. Although McNealy did not remark on the Cobalt deal, he said server appliances are usually "iron-wrapped single function devices" that hide the technology's complexity from the user. Server appliances depend on powerful servers to run back-end applications, so the brand of chips and type of instructions in the device are irrelevant, McNealy said. Sun is supporting Linux by providing Linux versions of StarOffice, Forte for Java, and Java 2, said McNealy. However, Sun's support for Linux on its workstations and servers is questionable. Although Sun's Web site says its UltraSparc workstations and servers support several Linux variants, the posting includes a disclaimer saying technologies created by companies other than Sun come with no technical support or warranty of any kind. Despite Sun's open source StarOffice software, McNealy said open source will not be a main strategy for any of the company's key products.

  • "On Creating Digital Dividends"
    Wired News (10/16/00); Frishberg, Manny

    Although the digital revolution has done wonders for the economies of Europe and America, it has made no impact on the lives of some 4 billion people across the globe, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), which is hosting a meeting in Seattle this week on using technology to help close the digital divide between industrial and developing nations. The three-day, invitation-only meeting kicked off on Monday and will be attended by 300 world and industry leaders, including Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Internet pioneer Vinton G. Cerf, U.N. administrator Mark Malloch Brown, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Norm Mineta. Providing an idea of just how expansive the scope of the global digital divide really is, WRI research shows that London is home to more Internet accounts than the entire continent of Africa. WRI CEO William D. Ruckelshaus called upon free-market institutions to work toward closing the global digital divide, warning that the institutions "will be discarded and no longer embraced" if they fail in this endeavor.
    Readers interested in the digital divide and related issues may wish to learn more about ACM's upcoming Conference on Universal Usability: http://www.acm.org/sigs/sigchi/cuu

  • "Global Web Crime Agency Mooted"
    Financial Times (10/18/00) P. 7; Grande, Carlos

    Cybercrime and online privacy will top the agenda at the World E-Commerce Forum, to be held in London today by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Representatives from world governments and the Internet industry, including British Telecom and RSA Security, will attend the meeting. The OECD is urging world governments to fight cybercrime through greater regulation of the Internet. Risaburo Nezo, head of the OECD's Science, Technology, and Industry directorate, says the number of security attacks in the U.S. and Japan are on the rise. "The global nature of the Internet means that there will have to be harmonized security standards," says Nezo. International Data predicts that expenditures on information security services across the globe will jump from $4.8 billion in 1998 to $16.5 billion in 2004.

    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "An Outsider Looks in on ICANN"
    ZDNet (10/15/00); Charny, Ben

    Andy Mueller-Maguhn intends to use his position on ICANN's board to dismantle the organization and re-build it from scratch. All Internet users should be permitted to create top level domains and all ICANN board members should be elected, according to Mueller-Maguhn. Further, ICANN should move its offices, which are now in California, to Europe in order to remove itself from its current policies, which favor the United States, says Mueller-Maguhn. "What I think is missing is the realization that what [ICANN] does is affecting not just ISPs but also a public space," says Mueller-Maguhn. The French government only allows businesses and government agencies to possess the rights to new country-code TLDs, and a policy addressing issues such as this must come from ICANN, says Mueller-Maguhn.
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Slicing Up the Domain Name Pie"
    Wired News (10/16/00); Cisneros, Oscar S.

    The proposals submitted to ICANN suggesting various top level domains could impact who is allowed to register domain names, as well as the content of Web sites. ICANN's entire board of directors, including its recently elected board members, will chose the new TLDs. Anyone online can comment on the TLD proposals. The various proposals suggest diverse registration policies for the new TLDs, including allowing trademark holders to register new TLDs before others, protecting Internet free speech rights, sharing domain names, and resale restrictions. Name.Space would prohibit the registration of domain names consisting of other people's trademarks, require the domain to be used within a year of registration, and place limits on the reselling of domain names, says Name.Space CEO Paul Garrin. The Afilias consortium of domain name registrars that includes Network Solutions and Register.com wants to utilize a three-step process that permits trademark holders to register the new TLDs first. Initially, there will be a 60-day period where only trademark holders can register domain names followed by a 30-day period to work through competing claims before the general public is permitted to register the new TLDs, says Afilias spokesman John Kane. Others are not so keen on this idea. "The last thing that needed to be done was to provide more rights to trademark holders," says Domain Name Law Reports publisher Zak Macovitch. Other proposals suggest TLDs such as .kids, .xxx, or .union that restrict use to a particular portion of the population. Restricting who can register domain names and the content that can be posted on sites with a particular TLD is actually content regulation, says law Professor Michael Geist.
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Increasing Number of H1-B Visas Bad for America and American Businesses"
    InfoWorld (10/09/00) Vol. 22, No. 41, P. 95; Biggs, Maggie

    Bringing in more temporary foreign workers on H-1B visas will damage U.S. companies, American workers, and visa holders in the long term, writes InfoWorld Test Center director Maggie Biggs. The H-1B visa bill offers a quick fix to the high-tech labor shortage, but fails to support the growth of a permanent skilled workforce, Biggs says. As temporary workers fill high-tech vacancies, U.S. companies will be unlikely to invest in the long-term solution of training and education for American workers, Biggs says. Furthermore, American workers could lose jobs as companies seek to increase profits by replacing existing employees with H-1B visa holders who will work for lower salaries. This hiring practice is also unfair to visa holders, who are forced to accept lower salaries and are not given permanent immigration status, Biggs says. Solving the labor shortage requires a commitment to ongoing worker education as well as an improvement in permanent immigration strategies, Biggs says. The U.S. needs to embrace continuing education by providing training not only for the next generation, but also for today's workers. Investing in educational technology could help spread knowledge to a diverse potential workforce. In addition, immigration processes should be revised so more skilled foreign workers can become a permanent part of the high-tech industry and the nation overall, Biggs says, noting that the U.S. only issued slightly more than half of the green cards available last year.

  • "Tech Law Gridlock in D.C."
    Interactive Week (10/09/00) Vol. 7, No. 41, P. 70; Brown, Doug

    The only consumer online privacy law that Congress has passed so far is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. All other Internet issues seem to be bogged down, as many bills have been drafted but nothing passed. Lobbyist Stan Sokul says taxation will be a big Internet issue next year, with a battle between the large, organized, pro-tax lobby and the anti-tax forces. He say Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's staff says Internet taxation will not be dealt with before Congress adjourns for the year. State governments and big retail companies are fighting an Internet tax moratorium. Meanwhile, civil liberties advocates want more legislation to protect consumer privacy, but they are countered by industry, which does not want federal regulation. A number of major bills are still pending congressional review. The Consumer Internet Privacy Enhancement Act would require Web sites to clearly post information about what data they collect, what they do with it, and whether the data is needed for visitors to use the site. The Electronic Privacy Bill of Rights Act would make Web site operators post privacy policies and have "opt-in" consent before they could share any user information collected. The Online Privacy Protection Act would make the FTC regulate personal data collected from users by requiring Web site operators to let consumers "opt-out" of giving up data. The Collections of Information Antipiracy Act would allow organizations to own facts, creating new property rights for database owners.

    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "Research, Innovation, and Politics"
    Nature (10/05/00) Vol. 407, No. 6804, P. 561; Hart, David M.; Branscomb, Lewis M.

    The outcome of the upcoming presidential election will have far-reaching effects on scientific progress in the U.S. Republicans and Democrats share similar visions of the importance of science and technology to the U.S. economy and society, but possess fundamentally different views on the role of government in research and innovation. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore favors alliances between the private and public sectors, but Republican counterpart George W. Bush wants to keep the sectors separate and hand over research and innovation to entrepreneurs. Bush is firmly opposed to the Clinton administration's policy of using stem cells collected from human embryos in federally funded research, while Gore supports the policy. Bush advocates an increased budget for the Department of Defense and the implementation of a missile defense system, while Gore does not. In terms of global climate change policy, Republicans are expected to place a higher burden of proof on scientific findings than Democrats. The Department of Energy's (DOE's) leading role in U.S. global climate change policy may be seriously reduced, as some Republicans in Congress are calling for the disbandment of the DOE's R&D agency. The House of Representatives has already reduced R&D funding to the National Science Foundation and NASA. Neither Gore nor Bush is expected to block the international stream of knowledge, people, goods, or money, but Congressional Republicans' concern over national lab security and collaborative international projects could extend beyond environmental issues. Whoever wins the 2000 election will also face complicated issues such as online intellectual property rights and privacy rights.

  • "High Turnover of State CIOs Leaves Leadership Vacuum"
    Washington Technology (10/09/00) Vol. 15, No. 14, P. 38; Welsh, William

    More than a dozen states have had to hire new chief information officers over the past year because the previous holder of the post has moved on to join the industry. North Carolina is among those states, having lost Rick Webb in August to PricewaterhouseCoopers. The high turnover rate for CIO positions at the state level often has a negative effect on developing e-government initiatives. "If the person had a broad scope [of power], then the impact is substantial," says Iowa CIO Richard Varn. Many states have begun to place more emphasis on retaining their CIOs and ensuring a smooth transition for their new top information official. Before leaving, the CIOs in North Carolina, Missouri, and other states have worked with their replacements for months, and in some cases, years. The National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE), which reports that five to 10 CIOs leave state posts each year, also provides peer-to-peer mentoring to successor CIOs.

  • "UK Seeks High-Tech Talent"
    Europe (09/00) No. 399, P. 6

    The United Kingdom is trying to attract IT workers as many of its own skilled professionals have left to join other emerging digital economies. The U.K. high-tech industry is growing, but countries such as the United States, France, Germany, and Italy have recruited many British high-tech workers. The labor shortage in the U.K. high-tech field is estimated at 220,500 workers, and experts worry that the shortfall could limit the United Kingdom's growth and ability to compete in the tech sector. Over the next three years the labor shortage could cost the U.K. government $50 billion, according to the Computer Software Services Association. The government is addressing the problem by making it easier for companies to hire certain IT workers from outside the European Union. In addition, the government intends to lure back high-tech professionals who left the United Kingdom. This effort is likely to focus on the West Coast of the United States, which employs 900,000 workers with British passports, says one U.K. government official.

  • "Chemical Sector Leads E-Business"
    Computerworld (10/16/00) Vol. 34, No. 42, P. 1; King, Julia

    Though an industrial-age business like the chemical sector may seem an unlikely convert to the Information Age, the chemical industry is in fact making the greatest online strides of any industry. Six out of the top 20 online exchanges were serving chemical companies in April, according to AMR Research. AMR's Leif Eriksen says the chemical industry is well suited for e-commerce because it is "highly interrelated, complex, [and] fairly fragmented." Eastman Chemical receives 3 million hits a month and $200 million in orders a year on its Eastman.com Web site, and the company hosts a specialty additives exchange at Paintandcoatings.com and a chemicals-oriented logistics exchange at ShipChem.com. Pennsylvania-based chemicals firm FMC is using the Internet to integrate 16 of its corporate customers into its SAP AG R/3 enterprise system in order to automate orders from repeat customers. Meanwhile, Du Pont has set up 40 different Web sites for each of its branded products, such as Lycra and Tyvek, in addition to selling products on several digital exchanges; it has also added e-business and technology leaders and teams at each of its business units.

  • "2010: PC Odyssey"
    PC World (10/00) Vol. 18, No. 10, P. 135; Tweney, Dylan

    Sales of desktop computers and servers are slowing down, while wireless technology products appear to be gaining ground in the PC market, according to PC Data. Industry experts have formulated various predictions on the fate of PCs within the next decade. PCs will always be used for spreadsheets, email, word processing, photographs, Web access, and games, and could also function as command centers, predicts PC Data's Steve Baker. On the other hand, PCs could be replaced by myriad devices and appliances with embedded computing power, postulates Rich Gold of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Despite such differing predictions, experts do agree on a number of general trends. Operating systems will probably become less relevant thanks to users' increasing dependence on Web-based tools. Although Windows is now the dominant OS, changes already appear to be taking place, such as Microsoft's announcement of .Net. Easy-to-use, special-purpose interfaces that handle a few functions will probably become an essential component of future devices. Still, "the need for a general-purpose platform like a personal computer in the workplace will never go away," insists Hewlett-Packard Laboratories' Mark T. Smith. A growth of wireless satellite devices with PC connectivity is also likely to occur. Parallel to this development will be a growing need for communications standards across all platforms. This will be the most significant technological advance of the next five to 10 years, predicts Cooper Interaction Design President Alan Cooper. Also likely to emerge in the next decade are wearable devices such as IBM's head-mounted displays, context-aware computers, and digital ink/audio-integrated devices. But such devices must be customer-friendly and serve user needs above all else, Cooper says.

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