IT Channel News Briefs, Aug. 29

Today's headlines: Dell earnings take hit; Cisco buys PostPath; VoIP pays.

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News for the week of Aug. 25-29, 2008 -- in brief, updated daily, on topics important to the information technology (IT) channel.

Friday, Aug. 29

Dell earnings fall 17%

Despite revenue that topped the $16 billion mark -- an 11% increase -- Dell's earnings fell 17% last quarter, according to financial results released yesterday. CFO Brian Gladden said Dell's margins fell because of "strategic actions" to expand the company's consumer product lines and move into more overseas markets. Dell shares fell 10% in after-hours trading upon announcement of the results.

Cisco buys into email with PostPath

Filling in more application checkboxes, Cisco Systems will buy PostPath Inc., a maker of email and calendaring software. PostPath gives Cisco another weapon in its arsenal against Microsoft, because PostPath competes with Microsoft Exchange. It even bills its email as the "Exchange Alternative." The two companies, while allies, are also competing more and more in unified communications and other areas. The $215 million deal, announced Wednesday, is slated to close by July 2009.

PostPath will become part of Cisco's Collaboration Software Group (CSG), which already includes the company's IOS network operating system, unified communications, policy management and Software as a Service offerings. PostPath is based in Mountain View, Calif., with R&D in Sofia, Bulgaria.

x86 server growth slows

The x86 server's market dominance may be waning, according to a new IDC report. The Server Farming blog reports that IDC's numbers for the second quarter of 2008 showed the slowest growth rate for x86-based systems in nearly six years. Market growth for x86 servers slowed to 3% in the most recent quarter, marking the first time non-x86 systems have grown faster since 2000. IDC blamed the slowdown on pricing challenges, as average sales values have dropped 8.4%.

VoIP skills pay best

VARs with expertise in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony commanded the highest hourly rates of all IT service jobs during the second quarter of 2008, according to the latest market report from OnForce Inc., an online jobs mart where employers and workers meet on the Internet and agree on an hourly rate. Tech jobs related to point-of-sales systems and printers paid the least -- about a third of what VoIP-related jobs paid, according to SearchCIO.com.

"Where there is mystery, there's margin. VoIP is an emerging technology compared to more mature categories like printers," said Paul Nadjarian, vice president of marketing for Lexington, Mass.-based OnForce.

Thursday, Aug. 28

Oracle names new CFO

On Wednesday, Oracle Corp. named Jeff Epstein its new chief financial officer and executive vice president.

Epstein was executive vice president and CFO of Oberon Media, a privately held Internet game company. He will report to Oracle co-president Safra Catz, who has been CFO for the past few years. Since Oracle chairman Jeff Henley ceded that position in July 2004, the position was held by Harry You, Greg Maffei -- each of whom stayed for less than a year -- and Catz.

Ricoh to acquire IKON

IKON Office Solutions will be acquired by Ricoh, the Japanese copy equipment giant, for $1.6 billion in cash, or about $17.25 per share, the companies said Wednesday.

IKON is one of the biggest sellers of document management systems and related equipment and was already a big Ricoh VAR. It also sells and supports equipment from Canon and Xerox and it is unclear what this buyout would mean for those suppliers.

IKON's board formally vetted the bid and approved the transaction, according to a statement from IKON CEO Matthew J. Espe.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2008, at which time IKON will become a subsidiary of Ricoh and maintain its Malvern, Pa., headquarters.

Avnet promotes Miller

On Wednesday, Avnet Technology Solutions tapped Gavin Miller to lead the sales and marketing of software, hardware and services related to storage, data management and networking.

Miller will be vice president and general manager of Avnet's Technology Infrastructure Solutions Group for the Americas, reporting to Jeff Bawoll, president of Avnet Technology Solutions. Miller joined the company four years ago as general manager for the ATS Canadian group.

SAP skills shortage helps Oracle, Microsoft

The shortage of SAP skilled professionals is hurting the company's business, according to AMR Research. SearchSAP.com reports that AMR has found new ERP customers looking at Oracle and Microsoft more and more because of the shortage. But there's some good news for SAP partners: AMR predicts that existing customers will have to rely more on third-party service providers, who will be able to charge more for their work. SAP said last month it needs to add at least another 30,000 SAP consultants to the market over the next few years.

Wednesday, Aug. 27

Oracle ties CRM systems together

For solution providers who support hybrid on-demand and on-premise Oracle CRM implementations, there's a new product to ease that coexistence. Oracle CRM On Demand Integration to Siebel CRM -- yes, that is the official name -- is now available. It will give customers who field both CRM types a complete view of the sales pipeline.

It is unclear from Oracle's statement what the pricing model is, and the new product is not yet listed on the voluminous Oracle price lists. Oracle acquired Siebel three years ago, and Oracle CRM On Demand is actually an evolution of Siebel On Demand.

HP-EDS: Done deal

Hewlett-Packard completed its $13.9 billion acquisition of Electronic Data Sytems on Tuesday. EDS, a systems integration powerhouse, gives HP a powerful boost in enterprise-focused IT services and integration.

The deal, announced in May, was seen as a powerful countermove in response to IBM and its gigantic IBM Global Services arm. In 2000, then-HP CEO Carly Fiorina tried and failed to buy PriceWaterhouseCoopers' consulting business, and some see the EDS deal as the realization of a plan deferred. The HP-EDS buyout faced some bumps in the road, but it closed pretty much as planned. HP's inclusion of EDS could cause some angst among other large integrators aligned with HP.

Data breaches still rising

There are still four months to go in 2008, but this year has already seen more data breaches than all of last year. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has tracked 449 breaches this year -- three more than the 446 reported in 2007, according to our sister site, SearchSecurity.com. The center said the number of breaches this year is likely even higher than 449, because those that affect multiple companies are only counted once.

Information architects top hot jobs list

Demand for business intelligence and data warehousing jobs is still high, according to a new Forrester Research report on IT jobs. The report named information and data architects as one of the two hottest jobs in IT, according to SearchDataManagement.com. Content and data analysts were also high on the list.

Tuesday, Aug. 26

Microsoft partner subsidies return

Microsoft's Big Easy Offer for partners is back. When a customer makes a qualifying purchase through a partner, Microsoft gives the customer a check, payable to a partner for additional products and services. When Microsoft first launched the Big Easy Offer in January, the company said it would drive new business through partners and strengthen customer-partner relationships. This second go-round, called the Big Easy Offer 2.0, went live yesterday.

Citrix updates server, application virtualization products

Citrix Systems' next version of XenServer, dubbed Project Orlando, will compete and coexist with Microsoft's Hyper-V and VMware. In fact, it will be even more compatible with Hyper-V and more interoperable with storage products, helping it against VMware, according to SearchServerVirtualization.com. Project Orlando, now in beta, is due in September.

In application virtualization, Citrix also refreshed its XenApp 5.0, aka Project Delaware. XenApp was also once known as Presentation Server, and it's the latest update to the company's venerable flagship product. The new version improves app performance running virtually on PCs, adds support for Windows Server 2008, sports a new user interface and integrates with XenDesktop, the company's desktop virtualization offering, according to SearchWinIT.com

Nokia unveils two high-end phones

Nokia today announced two new multimedia cellphones to help the company compete with Apple and Samsung as the holiday sales season approaches, according to Reuters. The Nokia N79 and N85 models both feature cameras and preloaded games, and they will hit shelves in October. Retail price is $662 for the N85 and $514 for the N79.

Monday, Aug. 25

SAP seeks higher margins

SAP plans to curb its investment strategy to become more profitable, according to an interview with co-CEO Henning Kagermann in The New York Times. Although SAP has a bigger share of the business software market, its 2007 profit margin of 26.7% lagged behind Oracle's 35%. Now, to reach Oracle-like levels, SAP plans to spend less on research and development.

The strategy shift comes about as Kagermann plans to cede his role to co-CEO Leo Apotheker in March. The Times interview also talks about Kagermann's rise through the ranks at SAP, where he started as a software developer in 1982, and his love of heavy metal music.

It's good -- and profitable -- to be Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison, the CEO and co-founder of Oracle, tops the list of best-paid U.S. executives in new Associated Press rankings. For Oracle's 2008 fiscal year, Ellison's pay package weighed in at a whopping $84.6 million, according to the AP. That includes 7 million stock options, valued at $71.2 million, which will vest in the next four years. The 2008 figure does not include the exercise of options awarded in the past, but if it did, Ellison would be well served: He exercised 36 million options worth $544 million last year.

Palm releases BlackBerry competitor

Palm last week released a new Treo smartphone designed to compete against the BlackBerry. Palm has no agreement with a U.S. wireless carrier to sell the Treo Pro, but the company said there is a growing market for unlocked phones that work on any carrier network, according to the Associated Press. The Treo Pro features Wi-Fi and GPS, and it comes with a $549 price tag.

IBM claims nanotube breakthrough

IBM says its researchers have made a huge breakthrough in nanotechnology that could revolutionize the development of microprocessors. In a paper published by the Nature Nanotechnology journal, IBM researchers describe how they were able to control light emissions from carbon nanotube transistors. Each carbon nanotube comprises a series of extremely tiny tubes -- a fraction of the width of a human hair. IBM says the development could lead to a new generation of nantobue-based electronic devices that could boost microprocessor and computer memory performance.

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