ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either Gateway Inc. or ACM.
To send comments, please write to [email protected].
Volume 3, Issue 183: Friday, March 30, 2001
- "Education for the Nation"
CIO.com (03/26/01); Lindquist, Chris
Columnist Chris Lindquist visited the recent ACM1 conference hosted by Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and was much impressed by the enthusiasm of the kids who were there. Lindquist observed that the kids showed interest in the gadgets on display--from Web-enabled robots to tech-equipped cars--as well as the software and computer tools being demonstrated. Lindquist saw kids requesting sample software from Microsoft and showing perplexed adults how Java programming works. The tech industry is well served by trying to gain kids' attention, says Lindquist, as they will one day become the industry's programmers and executives. Several companies at the ACM conference were showcasing tools specifically aimed at kids. Among them were ToonTalk, a visual programming environment for kids, and www.squeakland.org>Squeak, a programming language for kids.
For more media coverage of ACM1, visit http://www.acm.org/acm1/media/index.html.
- "Event Spotlights Women Trailblazers"
InformationWeek Online (03/26/01); Goodridge, Elisabeth
Next week's Comdex Chicago will feature "Women in IT: Succeeding in Tech," a forum and networking session sponsored by the online career resource center GirlGeeks.com. The forum follows a similar and highly successful event at the Las Vegas Comdex. While planners had prepared for 700 people, in total 1,600 people attended. GirlGeek director of marketing Natasha Zaslove says the forum is important because women still face challenges breaking into the field of IT, facing salary inequities and glass ceilings. The forum will have panel discussions on topics such as management strategies and career advancement. The featured speakers and panelists include IBM Life Sciences Solutions vice president Caroline Kovac and Michele Goins, vice president and CIO of Hewlett-Packard's Image Imprinting Systems. Officials at Comdex Chicago hope the forum will also boost the number of women attending the event. Although women represent 28 percent of U.S. IT workers, women have made up only 20 percent of attendees at recent Comdex shows.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "China Exacts Computer-Virus Samples"
Wall Street Journal (03/30/01) P. B3; Bridis, Ted
The Chinese government has been requiring several major vendors of anti-virus software to exchange samples of malicious viruses for access to the Chinese market, according to published reports. Network Associates, Symantec, and Trend Micro--collectively worth 75 percent of the $1.2 billion market for anti-virus software--have given samples of some 300 different viruses to China's Ministry of Public Security from 1999 until the end of 2000. Chinese officials told the three companies that the virus samples were necessary to run tests on software before the software was introduced to the market. "We've met with this organization, developed a certain level of trust, and believe they're doing what they're talking to us about," said Vincent Gullotto of McAfee, a unit of Network Associates. Reaction to the news among security and trade officials was greatly mixed. Some said the Chinese government was likely trying to save time in its research efforts, with others adding that China was likely trying to save money as well by taking the companies' research. Other officials were greatly upset by the news, saying the Chinese government could be stockpiling viruses for some sort of information warfare. However, McAfee's Gullotto disputes that the three companies gave the Chinese government any great advantage or comprised domestic computer security. He says Chinese researchers, with hard work, would have been able to learn 80 percent to 90 percent of the information that the companies provided.
- "U.S. High-Tech Exports Surge"
A new report from AeA, formally the American Electronics Association, reveals that U.S. high-tech exports last year totaled $222 billion, an increase of 22 percent. High-tech exports represented 29 percent of total U.S. exports in 2000, the highest level ever, rising from 26 percent in 1999. AeA CEO William T. Archey says, "This new data underscores not only the vital importance of trade to America's high-tech industry, but also the rapidly growing importance of high-tech to all U.S. trade." Archey argues that the data show the need to open those markets still relatively closed to U.S. exports. He points out that trade increased much more in Mexico, where the United States has a free-trade agreement, than in Latin American markets with much stricter trade barriers.
- "Palm Reports a Loss, Announces Cutbacks"
Washington Post (03/28/01) P. E3; Musgrove, Mike
Leading handheld maker Palm announced yesterday that it would post a loss of $1.9 million for its recently ended quarter and that it forecasts sales this quarter to be lower than previously expected. Analysts had predicted total revenue of $572.6 million for Palm this quarter, but Palm said its revenue will be between $300 million and $315 million. To compensate for the shortfall, Palm announced plans to reduce its workforce by 250 employees--between 10 percent and 15 percent of its total--and to stop building a new headquarters. "The sudden change in our business outlook has been jarring to us," CEO Carl Yankowski told investors. He blamed the souring U.S. economy for the company's sudden reversal of fortunes. At this time last year, Palm enjoyed 84.7 percent market share and posted a profit of $11 million. However, competitors have closed in on the company since then, with Sony and Handspring offering handhelds based on Palm's own operating system, and other makers providing handhelds based on Microsoft's operating system. Palm now has 63.4 percent of the market, NPD Intelect Market Tracking reports. International Data analyst Kevin Burden says Palm could still enjoy a strong year if it can convince corporate buyers to provide employees with handhelds in the same way most companies provide employees with PCs.
- "EC Sets up Task Force to Tackle IT Training Issues"
Total Telecom (03/26/01); Nuthall, Keith
The European Commission has assigned a special task force to study IT training and worker mobility within the European Union. The task force will "examine the characteristics and barriers within the European labor market, paying special attention to the need for ICT skills," according to a statement from the European Council, to which the Commission reports. Joining the task force will be leaders from labor, business, and education. Specifically, the group will examine the requirements and standards necessary to allow IT professionals to move freely between EU countries, including moving their pension funds from country to country. In the spring, the EC will submit an action plan to the European Council, which is made up of member governments' top leaders and the highest EU body.
- "Computer Associates Considers Severance for Some It Fired"
New York Times (03/28/01) P. C5; Berenson, Alex
Computer Associates, a maker of corporate computer-management software, is considering paying severance to some employees who were fired for alleged poor performance over the past few months. Fired employees say the company is covering up what amounts to a mass layoff by saying workers were underperforming. According to its employment contract, Computer Associates does not have to pay severance if underperformance is the reason for dismissal. Recently, three former executives have revealed that orders for the firings came from top management with directions to avoid admitting the cause was anything other than poor performance. Henry Crouse, a former sales manager with the company, said a group of regional executives met late last year to discuss orders that they find which sales people could be cut. "I could have fired myself, and it would have made as much sense," Crouse said of the decisions. On January 12, the day workers recall as "the day of blood" for the way the terminations were handled, Crouse says the managers received a call from company leaders to fire his sales people. Human resources led the managers in a tightly scripted dialogue in which terse answers were given, none of which implied weakness on the company's part. Computer Associates' Bob Gordon says, "We are reviewing the terminations of folks who left in January to determine if anyone who was eligible for severance didn't receive it." In all, 240 employees were fired due to poor performance in January, and 76 were laid off for other reasons and so did receive severance.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)
- "EC Says U.S. Privacy Rules Concerns Are Baseless"
InfoWorld.com (03/27/01); Meller, Paul; Perez, Juan Carlos
The Bush administration has raised concerns about rules related to the safe harbor privacy agreement between the United States and European Union, but a European Commission official says that the administration's concerns have no merit. "They expressed their concerns, but in our view these concerns are unfounded," said the official, speaking under condition of anonymity. The administration made its point in a joint letter sent to the EC by the Commerce and Treasury departments. The letter asked the EC to delay its consideration of clauses that would cover the financial industry, which was not included in the safe harbor agreement. The clauses "impose unduly burdensome requirements that are incompatible with real world operations," the letter said. The EC plans to respond to the letter when it has the time, said an EC press officer.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "An Inevitable Partnership"
Financial Times (03/30/01) P. 4; Madden, David
Technology product companies are making significant investments in IT consulting, which has emerged at the most lucrative segment of the consulting industry. Kennedy Information Research Group pegs 2000's IT consulting revenues at 57 billion pounds, compared to $20 billion in strategy consulting revenues. The CIOs of the United States' top corporations consider IBM and Accenture to be the best or most "strategic" IT consultants, according to a study by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. However, CAP Gemini Ernst & Young (CGE&Y) CEO Geoff Unwin maintains that such vertical integration is unviable because "the culture of hardware and software product companies is very different to services." IBM Global Services, arguably the largest IT consulting firm in the world, directly competes with CGE&Y. Nevertheless, technology product companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Novell are partnering up or acquiring IT firms; HP CEO Carly Fiorina, for one, is convinced that a much closer bond between these two industries is vital for their customers' e-business transformation. Technology buyers are more focused on solutions than hardware or software commodities, so technology firms are pouring more money into IT consulting initiatives or partnerships. However, some acquired consulting firms such as Novell's Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP) assert that they will retain a certain independence; CTP's Steve Loynes promises that the company will "steadfastly remain technology agnostic" and "not hold its clients hostage to anyone's technology."
- "UN Working Group Seeks Common Ground on Security"
InfoWorld.com (03/23/01); Verton, Dan
The United Nations on Thursday will host Global InfoSec 2001, a meeting of its 189 member countries and representatives from the U.S. tech industry to discuss matters of Internet security. "We want to sensitize diplomats to the importance of the implications of IT so that they are equipped to deal with the issues," says Percy Mangoaela, the UN ambassador from Lesotho and chair of the UN's Working Group on Informatics, which is co-sponsoring the conference. Among the issues to be highlighted at the conference is devising a framework for pursuing cybercrime across international borders. Tech executive Bill Crowell says this issue is highly problematic because no country wants to give up any of its national sovereignty. Other issues include the privacy of individuals online, with Mangoaela pointing out that developing countries can learn much from the struggles that the United States and the European Union are having with this issue.
- "Passing on PCs: What's Behind the Slump?"
NewsFactor Network (03/26/01); Gebler, Dan
The PC industry is facing its first-ever negative sales growth this quarter, leaving industry analysts searching for the cause behind the slowdown. Forrester Research analyst Jed Kolko says an influx of new enhancements is causing consumers to add on peripherals instead of buying a new machine outright, as in the past. Additionally, households often keep their old PCs for secondary uses, negating the need for more computing power in the home. Hewlett-Packard's Dave Zabrowski adds that the dot-com crash has deflated companies' tech budgets for establishing an Internet infrastructure. He says companies will pick up purchasing again in areas that add productivity, such as notebooks. Kolko points to the overseas market, where PC penetration is not as deep as in the United States, as a source of further growth. New applications that consumers feel are "must-haves" will also help spur sales, Kolko says.
- "Enterprise Data Centers Still Spending on E-Business"
Network World Fusion (03/27/01); Mears, Jennifer
AFCOM's Data Center Institute (DCI) recently conducted a survey of 278 members, the results of which indicate that large enterprise data centers are continuing to invest in e-business. According to the DCI study, "About 75 percent of large IT enterprises have adopted e-business in one way, shape or form," says AFCOM's vice president of marketing, Brian Koma. While respondents expected to purchase more e-business, storage management, and performance management solutions than any other application, they were unsure as to when the purchases would be made. "Those who did indicate when they were going to be buying say that their purchases were going to most likely be made in the second quarter or third quarter of the year," Koma notes. Eighty-two percent of those polled plan to have an e-business strategy ready by year's end; 20 percent anticipate implementation expenditures of $1 million to $3 million; and about 6 percent expect their e-business application spending budget for this year to top $10 million. According to the survey, 60 percent claim their data center budgets have risen over 5 percent in the last year, with 53 percent attributing such increases to data center expansion, 36 percent to e-business adoption, 34 percent to additional staff, and 28 percent to legacy application integration. The study also finds that about 25 percent of enterprise data centers possess wireless accessibility while over 40 percent should have instituted a wireless plan by the beginning of 2002. This development will entail additional software spending, according to 61 percent of the respondents, while 14 percent and 9 percent expect to purchase storage-related applications and raise their consultation budgets, respectively. "Despite the dot-com decimation that has gone on in the last several months, e-business within the large data centers is alive and well," insists Koma.
- "Hardwiring Copyrights"
CNet (03/23/01); Borland, John
Record companies continue to test different versions of digital rights management software in the hope that they will be able to prevent consumers from copying and saving songs or any other form of digital material. However, critics doubt that dedicated hackers will not be able to circumvent such technologies. Having anti-piracy protections built directly into storage drives, memory cards, chips, and other hardware parts ultimately may provide record labels and other entertainment industry companies with a better opportunity of realizing their dream. A group called the 4C Entity, which includes IBM, Intel, Matsushita Electronic, and Toshiba, has taken such a course of action. The group plans to license its technology, Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM), so that portable devices with copyright protections can be on the market this summer. An industry standards group plans to vote Apr. 2 on whether to support such technology. The entertainment industry still has some tough decisions to make. Companies would have to agree to release music and movies in formats that work with the technology. Still, analysts are not convinced that the entertainment industry will act because it has not been able to agree on a single format for digital rights management technologies. Some observers say Congress and the Supreme Court may have to get involved before the entertainment industry reaches a unanimous agreement.
- "Divided We Fall"
InformationWeek (03/26/01) No. 830, P. 38; Khirallah, Diane Rezendes
Although a recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 45 percent of U.S. children have Internet access of some kind, the report does not detail differences in the quality of access. Although some children have broadband access in their homes, others must share a creaky dial-up connection on a single PC in their school. The undeniable existence of this digital divide has many in the corporate sector concerned. A new survey by InformationWeek Research of 500 IT and business professionals reveals that 77 percent are worried about the divide, with 63 percent agreeing that businesses should do something to help remedy it. However, this desire to help correct the divide is not purely idealistic, the survey revealed. Most companies realize that the strength of the IT labor pool in the future is dependent on the quality of current IT education and whether IT is accessible to children. The impact for children and their future job prospects is also immense. "As companies reinvent business processes around technology, virtually every job will require a basic understanding of how IT works," says Cisco Systems vice president for strategic policy Christine Hemrick. The InformationWeek report found that the IT initiative most favored by those surveyed is more computers in the classroom. However, some businesses are taking even more dramatic steps to support technology in the classroom. Cincinnati Bell is working with a Cincinnati high school open an IT academy, designing a telecom curriculum, and San Francisco-based Salesforce.com supports 14 school-based community tech-centers as well as afterschool programs.
- "California Industry Readies for Summer Blackouts"
EBN (03/26/01) No. 1255, P. 1; Ristelhueber, Robert
Rolling blackouts in California last Monday and Tuesday have prompted many California-based tech firms to prepare for this summer, when blackouts could be "inevitable," as U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham predicts. Firms have begun making deals with energy providers to spare critical systems--for example, chipmaker AMD has arranged with Pacific Gas & Electric to black out its office building, not its manufacturing plant--or are scaling back manufacturing or are moving it to a different location. "We decided years ago that California is not the place to manufacture, for among other reasons the stability and pricing of the electricity supply," says Cypress Semiconductor vice president of technology and operations Chris Seams. Cypress does have its headquarters in San Jose and is considering building solar panels to meet its energy needs. AMD officials say the cost of a blackout can be significant. Restarting a plant after losing energy can require three days.
- "Patent Flap Slows Multilingual Domain Name Plan"
Network World (03/26/01) Vol. 18, No. 13, P. 9; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy
The Internet Engineering Task Force has been working on a method to support foreign language domain names online, but a company called Walid obtained a patent that includes a number of aspects found within the IETF's solution. Walid will want to receive licensing fees if the IETF uses the patented approach in its standard, according to paperwork Walid filed with the IETF. Last week, IETF officials requested that Walid rethink its intentions and license its patent to any interested party free of charge. Walid will likely respond within a month, says Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) working group Chair Marc Blanchet. I-DNS.net and VeriSign might test Walid's claim. The IETF will likely do away with the method entirely and start pursuing alternative options if Walid's demands do not change. Alternatives include running the Uniform Transformation Format (UTF) right over the Internet or developing a directory service on DNS that will manage name translation and offer context for complicated languages.
- "A New IT Agenda Sets Sail"
InfoWorld (03/26/01) Vol. 23, No. 13, P. 38; Jones, Jennifer
The IT policy of the Bush administration will likely have a very pro-business bias, say observers. Bush is unlikely to enact a widespread reversal of the Clinton administration's IT policy, observers say, but the president will definitely act to rebuke Clinton-supported rules and regulations judged too burdensome to business. Already, Bush and the Republican Congress have revoked tough new ergonomics standards ordered by Clinton, and the health-care industry is now pushing for the administration to take similar measures with Clinton's privacy standards for medical records. The Bush administration will also likely keep its hands out of the market, as evidenced by the appointment of Michael Powell to head the FCC. Powell is noted for his distaste for strong government involvement in the free market, having already complained that the conditions imposed by the FCC on the America Online-Time Warner merger were more like rules. Observers expect such involvement in industry, and the pursuit of Microsoft and other industry leaders, will be much less pronounced in the new administration. Indeed, IT issues may stay on the backburner for the initial months of Bush's term, as he focuses on what he views as his and the nation's most pressing issues--education and the need for a tax cut. Observers say Congress, already used to the growing importance of IT policy, will be a more active front, with the question of online privacy being a leading issue. Although various business interests have been working together to fight privacy regulation, there is a growing feeling among the corporate world, say observers, that one privacy standard enacted by Congress will be less harmful to IT and other industries than a different standard being enacted in each state.
For information regarding ACM's work on matters of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "These Five Trends Could Change Government IT"
Government Computer News (03/19/01) Vol. 20, No. 6, P. 37; McCarthy, Shawn P.
Columnist Shawn P. McCarthy has noticed five trends with the potential to change government agencies' IT practices. Peer-to-peer applications, such as those used by Napster, Gnutella, and Uprizer, could spark greater demand for bandwidth, which could cause the price of access to always-on connections to increase. Government-specific XML tag sets, which would allow for easier trans-departmental data shuttling and eliminate duplicate data sets, could become a reality. Federal sites, especially IRS.gov, Fedworld.gov, and USTreas.gov, are becoming more popular. More government sites are using third-party firms to handle transactions. For example, Official Payments accepts taxes for the IRS, 17 state governments, and 700 counties and municipalities. This scheme could benefit other functions, including court filing and licenses. Finally, more governments are turning to private-sector Web techniques such as online auctions. California's Department of Water Resources recently held a 27-hour reverse auction to find lower-cost energy sources.
© Copyright 2000 Information, Inc. This service may be reproduced for internal distribution.