IT Channel News Briefs, June 13

Today's headlines: Microhoo saga nearing end? Centro boosts Palm shares. Mozilla previews Firefox Mobile.

News for the week of June 9-13, 2008 -- in brief, updated daily, on topics important to the information technology (IT) channel.

Friday, June 13

End of the Microhoo saga?

Yahoo said its talks with Microsoft are kaput and announced a deal with search rival Google. The reason, according to a published statement: "The conclusion of discussions follows numerous meetings and conversations with Microsoft regarding a number of transaction alternatives, including a meeting between Yahoo and Microsoft on June 8th in which Chairman Roy Bostock and other independent Board members from Yahoo participated. At that meeting, Microsoft representatives stated unequivocally that Microsoft is not interested in pursuing an acquisition of all of Yahoo, even at the price range it had previously suggested."

Yahoo, probably not coincidentally, also announced a "non-exclusive" search and advertising pact with Google. Under terms of the agreement, Yahoo can run "ads supplied by Google alongside Yahoo's search results and on some of its Web properties" in the U.S. and Canada. The non-exclusive agreement gives Yahoo "the ability to display paid search results from Google, other third parties and Yahoo's own Panama marketplace."

Verizon's launch of Centro pumps up Palm shares

Verizon Wireless will begin selling the Palm Centro smartphone today for $99. The announcement -- which could have been overshadowed by this week's launch of the $199 iPhone and a rivaling Samsung touch-screen smartphone -- actually boosted Palm's shares almost immediately.

The Centro was already available on Sprint and AT&T, but the deal with Verizon will make it available to another 67 million wireless customers nationwide. Shares of Palm were sent up 8% to $6.81 Monday morning, and by Friday morning they were trading at just over $7.

Palm has been struggling to improve its smartphone business, since Research In Motion's BlackBerry and the iPhone have dominated the market. The phone will include the largely trusted VersaMail 4.0 with Microsoft Active Sync support, as well as support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes and IBM Lotus Domino.

Congress dictates IT security for small biz

New bills introduced in Congress this week could ultimately help small businesses battle IT security concerns.

Bipartisan bills were introduced by the small business committees of both the House and Senate. They call for the founding of a private taskforce to study small business information security needs with the goal of making resources available to businesses needing help.

The Small Business Information Security Act of 2008, which was co-sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Olympia Snow (R-ME) and Representatives Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Donald Manzullo (R-IL), asks that the taskforce identify information security concerns, as well as services that address those concerns, and make recommendation to the Small Business Administration on how to assist small companies.

"Nearly one-fifth of small businesses do not use virus scanning for email, over 60% do not protect their wireless networks with encryption, and two-thirds do not have an information security plan," Snow said in a statement, as reported by SC Magazine.

Mozilla Labs cooking up Firefox Mobile

Mozilla Labs is working on a mobile version of the popular Firefox browser, one that will scale nicely to tiny screens. Mockups and videos about the work-in-progress are posted to the Mozilla Labs website. Mozilla posted a third release candidate for the big boy Firefox 3 browser earlier this week. It includes fixes for the Mac OS X operating system.

IBM enhances virtualization

IBM announced enhanced virtualization software this week that aims to provide more efficient management and consolidation of data. The company is pushing the software as part of its Project Big Green initiative.

SAN Volume Controller (SVC) 4.3 virtualization software promises to use disk space more efficiently. Disk space is taken only when data is written and for changes between source and target data. The software now supports Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Mac OS X Server.

Thursday, June 12

Municipal Wi-Fi on the rocks

While reports show that municipal wireless projects are proliferating, and the opportunities for VARs in that space are plentiful, a number of existing citywide wireless projects are stumbling -- the latest one in Philadelphia.

The city is desperately seeking a company to take over its municipal wireless Internet network as its current operator, EarthLink, abandons it today, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. EarthLink said it was pulling the plug on the project last month after subscriber numbers did not meet expectations -- mostly due to poor connection problems.

EarthLink couldn't find a buyer for the $17 million network and said talks to give it to a nonprofit group or even the city failed.

San Francisco and Tempe, Ariz., have also hit bumps in their road to Wi-Fi along with dozens of smaller cities and towns. Nevertheless, industry association MuniWireless expects the number of municipal and public-sector wireless projects to grow rapidly in the coming years.

Hardware OEMs to plug XP till the end

Three of the four biggest PC makers plan to sell Windows XP on machines right up to Microsoft's end-of-June deadline, Computerworld reports.

Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Lenovo will preinstall XP on at least some models until June 30. Dell has said it will stop taking XP orders after June 18. Microsoft does allow buyers of Vista-based PCs to downgrade to the more-popular XP.

As recently as last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer touted the company's two-for-the-price-of-one Vista-XP deals as a win-win for users.

Microsoft shows off Facebook clone

Microsoft Thursday will show off a model of an internal social network that provides employees with updates and reminders about their colleagues, according to Computerworld. TownSquare is a Facebook-like newsfeed page that lets users view updates including promotions, birthdays and company anniversaries and alerts them when documents are updated by colleagues. Developed by Microsoft's Office Labs, the network filters public information about employees from Web services that query the company's SharePoint system. Employees can customize feeds and track who views their information. Chris Pratley, general manager of Office Labs, plans to demo the prototype at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. Microsoft bought a small (1.6%) stake in Facebook itself last October for $240 million.

British lobbyists push for telepresence

Three influential British lobbying groups are calling for increased government use of telepresence and high-definition videoconferencing to reduce carbon emissions.

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) published new reports last week calling for telepresence to replace most business travel.

One report, "Breaking the Holding Pattern," calls for the British government to jumpstart telepresence uptake in private businesses by encouraging videoconferencing in the public sector. According to the report, a leading British financial firm eliminated the need for 300 transatlantic flights and 60 European flights in one year, saving $3.4 million and 450 tons of CO2 emissions.

IBM beats SOA drum

IBM on Thursday released a survey showing that deploying service-oriented architecture (SOA) is (surprise) a priority for business customers. The research, conducted for IBM by the Link Group, found that half of the 300 IBM customers surveyed now deploy SOA. Another 27% are piloting the technology, and 42% said SOA is a spending priority for 2008.

Wednesday, June 11

John Chambers for president? Not quite

Cisco Systems apparently hopes to boost its business interests politically. In the first quarter, the company spent $310,000 lobbying the federal government on cyber crime legislation, patent system reform, immigration and a number of broadband proposals, Forbes reported this week. Last year, the company spent a total of $1.4 million lobbying on the same issues.

Meanwhile CEO John Chambers is co-chairing Republican presidential candidate John McCain's national campaign, according to The Associated Press. Should McCain win, there will be an interesting twist since the candidate is being pressed to work for stricter immigration reform while Cisco is lobbying to allow more high-skilled technology-savvy immigrants into the country.

Cisco is also lobbying for heavier crackdown on computer security breaches and backs proposals for "net neutrality," which is the idea that all Web traffic should be treated equally by broadband providers.

ProCurve top exec leaves in a hurry

John McHugh, HP ProCurve's vice president and worldwide general manager, has left the company unexpectedly -- and HP officials are staying mum on his departure.

McHugh launched the ProCurve brand and brought the division to its current spot as the No. 2 networking company in terms of ports shipped -- worth more than $1 billion.

McHugh was with HP for 26 years. At ProCurve, he led global operations, strategic and tactical planning, business development and the creation of enterprise networking solutions and services.

There is speculation that McHugh was fired, but HP will not confirm that. McHugh's role will be temporarily assumed by Bret Cromwell, who was previously worldwide controller for HP ProCurve and for six years has been responsible for ProCurve's finance, accounting and IT activities.

Vertrees leaves HP for Bell Micro

Bell Microproducts Inc. this week named Daniel Vertrees vice president of enterprise sales. He will report to Jerry Kagele, president of North American distribution. Vertrees, an industry vet, most recently served as Hewlett-Packard's vice president of sales for Americas systems integrators, outsourcers and service providers. Vertrees came to HP via that company's purchase of Compaq. He also worked at Digital Equipment Corp., which Compaq subsequently acquired.

Avaya CEO steps down

Lou D'Ambrosio is stepping down as Avaya CEO due to health issues. Avaya has enlisted search firm Heidrick & Struggles to begin looking for a replacement. D'Ambrosio served as Avaya's president and CEO for two years. Before that he was president of global sales and marketing. He helped Avaya transition to a private company in 2007 through an $8.3 billion deal with technology investment firms Silver Lake and TPG. Charles Giancarlo, former executive vice president and chief development officer at Cisco Systems, will act as CEO until a successor is appointed. Despite handing over the role of president and CEO, D'Ambrosio agreed to remain with Avaya as an advisor while handling what he has called "a serious medical issue."

Tech Data signs SteelEye

Tech Data has signed SteelEye Technology, a developer of data replication and disaster recovery software for physical and virtual Windows and Linux servers. At next month's AIS Partner Summit, VARs can get trained on how server virtualization will help them implement efficient business continuity solutions. AIS already reps server, storage and virtualization goods from Fujitsu, HP, IBM and VMware. SteelEye is particularly suited to data centers running Linux.

Tuesday, June 10

Apple unveils 3G iPhone

Apple confirmed rampant rumors Monday morning when CEO Steve Jobs introduced a 3G version of the iPhone. The big news was the price: The phone will start at $199 in the U.S., half the entry-level price for the current iPhone. Apple fanboys should mark July 11 on their calendars, because that's the day the device will hit store shelves in 70 countries. Apple also demonstrated new MobileMe services, which are basically Web-delivered features and perks for iPhones, Macs and even Windows PCs.

SQL Server 2008 release candidate posted

Microsoft late last week posted SQL Server 2008 Release Candidate 0 (RC0). It is now available for download, at least for Technet plus subscribers. The database's release has been delayed in the past, but it is still slated for third-quarter availability.

Lenovo laptops track NBA Finals' stats

Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet laptops collect and distribute game statistics during the NBA Finals, according to SearchMobileComputing.com. The courtside touchscreen ThinkPads keep score, control the time clock and track player statistics through custom scoring software developed by Information & Display Systems Inc.

Statisticians update information instantly through a graphical image of the court on three laptops, to ensure accuracy and backup. These stats are transferred in real time on a T1 line to NBA headquarters in New Jersey and then circulated throughout the world. The NBA collaborates with Lenovo in a global marketing partnership to use Lenovo technology within the league, as referees are supplied with laptops to evaluate their own performances in the "officials' review system." Lenovo and the NBA work to keep this technology secure, with no other applications, wireless, or outside networks connected to the courtside ThinkPads.

Here's video, shot by SearchMobileComputing.com's Shamus McGillicuddy, of Celtics technology vice president Jay Wessel talking about how wireless technology helps keep the game clock accurate:

Microsoft sues alleged software pirates

Microsoft went on the offensive yesterday, filing 21 federal lawsuits against companies accused of selling pirated software. Microsoft said many of the companies sold PCs with preinstalled, unlicensed copies of Microsoft software, and some have even settled piracy lawsuits with Microsoft in the past. Some of these cases came to Microsoft's attention through its antipiracy hotline, (800) RU-LEGIT.

Motorola Enterprise Digital Assistant goes 3G

Motorola unveiled an updated Enterprise Digital Assistant (EDA) on Monday. The MC75 EDA provides high-speed access to both voice and data, supports 3G networks and can access both local and wide area networks.

The MC75 -- an upgrade over the MC70 -- has an Intel processor and uses the Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.0 operating system to provide interoperability with existing enterprise infrastructure. The handheld device includes location services, a 2 megapixel camera for data capture and GPS navigation, among other features. The device is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2008. The MC70 will receive continued support from Motorola.

Blue Coat completes Packeteer acquisition

WAN application delivery company Blue Coat Systems completed the acquisition of WAN optimization and bandwidth prioritization company Packeteer, the companies announced Monday. Blue Coat will now have 1,400 new channel partners, 50 additional sales teams and 10,000 more customers worldwide.

The $268 million deal, which was first proposed in April, is expected to give Blue Coat the kind of market penetration it will take to be a formidable challenger to Riverbed Technology, which dominates the industry segment. Blue Coat customers will now have a more comprehensive product to sell.

Monday, June 9

Samsung announces iPhone competitor

Samsung unveiled a new smartphone on Monday, just hours before Apple was projected to introduce the new version of its iPhone, according to The New York Times. Samsung's iPhone lookalike, called the Omnia, is a touchscreen phone with Internet, video, music and other computer-like capabilities. Apple released the original iPhone one year ago and expects its new version to run faster, on 3G networks. The Omnia, similar to the iPhone in color and shape, will be available in Southeast Asia the week of June 17, and in Europe in July.

Meanwhile, sales of smartphones doubled in North America in the first quarter, fueled by the popularity of the iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerry, according to a Gartner report. The Associated Press reported that the numbers, which are way ahead of comparable statistics in the rest of the world, are a good sign for the second-generation iPhone.

Smartphone sales in North America were up 106% from the first quarter of last year. RIM, with a U.S. market share of 42%, was the main beneficiary. Apple sold 1.73 million iPhones in the first three months of the year, taking a 5.3% share of the worldwide smartphone market. The iPhone was launched in the U.S. last June, and overseas markets have been added gradually. The phone is still not available in most European countries, or in Japan or China.

FTC launches Intel antitrust probe

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating Intel for possible antitrust violations. The commission has been informally looking at Intel for the past two years but recently upgraded to a formal investigation. The FTC will not say why it has stepped up its probe, and Intel has denied any abusive or illegal behavior, according to Reuters. Rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices sued Intel for abusive practices in 2005, and Intel has faced similar antitrust investigations in Europe and Asia.

HP settles with Acer

Hewlett-Packard Co. over the weekend said it had settled a patent lawsuit against Acer. No details were disclosed, but the settlement resolves all claims filed in three federal court lawsuits and two U.S. International Trade Commission investigations, according to Reuters. Last October, Acer sued Hewlett-Packard Development Co., alleging violation of seven patents. HP had already sued Acer the previous March for patent infringement, aiming to stop the Taiwan-based firm from selling some products in the United States. Acer filed a countersuit in July.

EMC Celerra gets SRM control

Northern has released storage resource management (SRM) for the EMC Celerra IP storage line. The Storage Suite V8 will let IT administrators manage storage through flexible disk storage quotas, reporting functions and a user portal, according to SearchStorage.com.

Storage infrastructure targets applications, policies

Storage administrators at the Storage Decisions conference in Toronto said they're finally managing storage according to what's needed for applications and policies, such as legal regulations, according to SearchStorage.com. Progress toward a "purpose-built IT infrastructure" will be gradual, because rapid equipment replacement is not feasible in a tight economy. Rather, administrators will likely use the natural replacement cycle to phase in storage products designed to support specific applications or policies.

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