Technology

Local Telcos Must Open Up

Plus Microsoft, Compaq, Dell, Unisys, Jesse Jackson recruits venture capitalists, and the Spice Girls' "intellectual" property.
Joseph RadiganJanuary 25, 2001

FCC Gets Tough

The Federal Communications Commission isn’t backing down from its demand that local telephone companies like BellSouth share their local directory assistance databases with competing providers of directory assistance, including Internet services, at reasonable rates.

The local phone companies maintain their databases through service orders processed. Reuters reported that since this gives them control over most local telephone listings, those listings must be shared. The FCC said it has extended access rights to publishers of Internet phone directories and concluded those services should not be limited in the way they present the data or how customers access it.

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Go Wireless, Young Man

Cisco Systems unveiled a high-speed wireless networking product and said Microsoft and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill have already deployed it in installations worth several million dollars apiece, according to a report from Reuters.

Microsoft is running an Aironet 350 wireless broadband network on its corporate campus, and the system gives employees equipped with a wireless card a fast Internet connection anywhere on the company grounds. The Cisco network allows 5,000 users to log in to the Internet simultaneously, a number Microsoft hopes to expand to 20,000.

UNC-Chapel Hill expects to make its wireless network available to up to 15,000 students by 2003.

While wireless networking is being touted as a potentially huge emerging market, demand has been sluggish. But Cisco plans to target businesses with Aironet’s features, including automatic encryption of data transmitted between users and servers.

Cisco also said it will invest $200 million in Japan’s Softbank Corp., the financially strapped investment company.

The U.S. firm will invest another $1.05 billion over several years in a new private equity fund run by Softbank that will target Asian companies in the broadband, optical, wireless, and Internet-based markets.

The $200 million investment amounts to a 1.65 percent stake and will make Cisco the eighth biggest shareholder in Softbank.

Power Outage

Several Microsoft Web sites, including the software giant’s main corporate site and its MSN Internet portal, were cut off to many users on Wednesday due to problems with the way Web traffic is directed to the sites, the company said.

The problems surfaced on Tuesday night and Microsoft technicians were diagnosing the problem and hoped to have the sites back up soon. By Wednesday afternoon, the company had not ruled out a hacker attack, but it had not traced the source of the problem either.

The affected sites included microsoft.com, the company’s main site, where customers can go for product news and updates, and the MSN.com portal. The Carpoint automobile buying service, Homeadvisor home buying site, Expedia travel service, and windowsmedia.com entertainment guide were also inaccessible.

Strong Demand for Compaq’s iPaq

Compaq Computer is also joining the wireless craze. The president of the computer maker’s European subsidiary, Rob Walker, told Reuters the company expects to sell $500 million worth of wireless computers in Europe in 2001, most of it through the recently introduced iPAQ pocket PC. The company received orders for 30,000 of iPAQs in the fourth quarter of 2000.

The iPAQ, which is sold with monochrome and color screens, can be bought in shops for between 500 euros ($465.10) and 800 euros, depending on features.

Compaq’s handheld computers, which look similar to Palm Pilots but use a Microsoft operating system rather than a Palm operating system, can be bought on the Internet at 30 percent premiums over the official retail price, Walker said, indicating that demand outstrips supply.

Rainbow Coalition

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, AOL Time Warner, Coca- Cola, and some other businesses launched a program Wednesday intended to boost opportunities for minority business owners by bringing them face-to-face with investors, according to the Associated Press.

“We do not know how good business could be until everybody can play,” Jackson said. “There is no talent deficit in the barrio and in the ghetto. There are opportunity deficits.”

The project, called i-DealFlow, also involves the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Telecommunications Development Fund, and Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition-Wall Street Project. The project is designed to match minority-led businesses from high-growth industries such as technology, E-commerce, telecommunications, and life sciences, with venture capitalists.

As part of this plan, i-DealFlow will sponsor training sessions during the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce annual convention in Atlanta in September. It will also sponsor a venture capital fair in November, also in Atlanta.

Tell Me What You Want,
What You Really, Really Want

European legislators Wednesday debated proposals to update copyright laws for the digital age, including a bid by music industry lobbyists to ensure that Internet music copying is tightly restricted to private use, the Associated Press reported. A European Parliament committee sifted through roughly 200 proposed amendments to a directive that has been fiercely debated for more than three years.

Musicians from around Europe, including the Spice Girls, Boyzone, Robbie Williams and Eros Ramazzotti, have signed a petition urging the European Union assembly to protect them from Internet piracy.

If the committee approves the text, the directive would be sent to the full 626-seat European Parliament. If the directive gains that body’s approval, it would be sent to the governments of the 15 EU member states.

Dell and Unisys Form an Alliance

Dell Computer and Unisys signed an agreement on Wednesday, focused on the sale of servers, desktop and notebook PCs, and consulting services, according to Cnet News.

The deal was initially announced last month and it calls for the companies to re-brand and sell each other’s Intel chip-based servers. Unisys will also sell Dell’s desktop and notebook computers, while Dell will market Unisys’ consulting services.

The companies say the agreement will be worth about $1 billion in revenue over the next three years, but other financial terms were not disclosed.

As part of the agreement, Dell will sell 16- processor and 32-processor servers based on the Unisys CMP (cellular multiprocessing) architecture under the Dell brand. The Round Rock, Texas-based company will handle customer service.

Unisys will market Dell’s mid-range two-, four- and eight-processor PowerEdge servers.