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IT Channel News Briefs, Oct. 15

PC shipments up 15% over last year; Microsoft releases Silverlight 2; may be forced to cut prices.

Information technology (IT) channel news in brief for Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008.

Gartner: Worldwide PC market up 15%

Driven by strong sales of mini-notebooks, worldwide PC shipments hit nearly 81 million units in the third quarter, up 15% over the year-ago period, according to Gartner Inc. Sales growth of these small computers was particularly strong in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), according to Gartner principal analyst Mika Kitagawa.

Things were not so rosy in the U.S., where the economic downturn took its toll, especially in professional PC sales. Dell retained the top slot in domestic PC sales with 29.5% market share in the U.S. Hewlett-Packard was second at 25.7% share and Apple third with 9.5%. HP remained the top-selling PC vendor worldwide for the quarter, but its tardiness getting into the mini-notebook category cost it the top slot in EMEA.

Microsoft updates would-be Flash killer 2

Microsoft made available the second release of its would-be Flash killer toolset this week. Silverlight 2 includes built-in DataGrid, ListBox, Slider, ScrollViewer and other controls, support for REST, WS*/SOAP, RSS and standard HTTP service calls. Developers can write multimedia apps in Visual Basic, C#, JavaScript, IronPython and IronRuby, preserving their current skill sets, Microsoft said. Silverlight 1 for Mac and Windows shipped in September 2007. says prices could tighten

Software as a Service (SaaS) bellwether warned this week that it might have to cut prices on its hosted customer relationship management (CRM) software, according to Reuters. pioneered the hosted (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) market, but it's seeing mounting pressure from traditional on-premise software vendors like Microsoft and Oracle coming into its space. These vendors now offer hosted versions of their software as an option. "It would not surprise me if going forward … we see much more aggressive pricing," CFO Graham Smith told investors Tuesday.

Cisco Systems to close Texas broadband telephony unit

Cisco will lay off 129 employees -- said to be mostly programmers and software developers -- from its broadband telephony services unit in Richardson, Texas, over the next two months, The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday. The company filed a letter with the Texas Workforce Commission Friday explaining that it would cease operations of the unit. According to SEC filings, Cisco has 66,129 employees total. Cisco said in a statement that it "continuously evaluates its business to align human and capital resources to address key growth opportunities and improve efficiency," reported Tuesday. The company did not comment on whether the cuts were due to flagging broadband telephony equipment sales. Cisco has acquired a number of companies in the Dallas area, so cuts could be related.

Calling all developers: Cisco launches design contest

Cisco called for developers worldwide Tuesday to enter a contest that will judge the most innovative applications for the Cisco Application Extension Platform that runs on the Integrated Services Router (ISR). The vendor also released the AXP Network Module 502, which provides additional performance for the 2800 and 3800 Series ISRs. The "Think Inside the Box" contest opened Tuesday and will accept proposals through Jan. 12, when 10 finalists will be chosen to enter the second phase and actually develop the applications. Winners will be announced in May 2009. First prize will be $50,000, the second prize will be $30,000 and the third prize will be $20,000. Cisco opened its access routing platform to third-party developers in April 2008 with the introduction of the Cisco AXP, an open Linux-based hardware module for the Cisco ISR.

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