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Channel Reg Weekly

By | Billy MacInnes 12th July 2007 11:09

If no news is good news, why do we have so many stories every week?

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A failure to communicate

Big news of the week is that Reg readers have decided communication is not something they want in their world.

When given the option of changing the term for our industry from IT (information technology) to ICT (information communications technology), 57 per cent voted to consign ICT to the fires of hell and the dustbin of history, whichever was closest at hand. Only 12 per cent said they wanted to keep communicating.

Google buys someone else

Okay, so I lied, that wasn't the big news of the week. But then neither was the announcement that Google planned to buy on-demand web security firm Postini for $625m cash. Let's face it, hardly a week goes by without Google buying someone.

Not so assuring on Software Assurance

So, the big news of the week must be the survey by Forrester Research of 63 enterprise customers that revealed many were thinking twice about renewing their subscriptions to Microsoft's Software Assurance scheme.

Of the 63 firms interviewed by Forrester, 26 per cent said they would not renew maintenance contracts, and a third were undecided. The timing of this uncertainty is important because many firms are evaluating the second renewal of three-year contracts.

$1bn hit on box is not so clever

But then, maybe not, because surely of more immediate concern to Microsoft was the announcement it would take a $1bn hit to extend the warranty on its Xbox 360 from one year to three to cover a hardware crash that generates a trio of red warning lights, branded "the red ring of death".

Microsoft is also reimbursing customers who've previously paid for repairs. Microsoft admitted it had failed to hit its revised target of 12 million units sold by the end of June. The company had already reduced the target from an initial figure of between 13 million and 15 million in January.

Take that from the bank

A more suitable contender, given the fact that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, could be the story concerning plans by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to automatically take money owed by tax dodgers from their bank accounts.

If the proposals are given the go ahead, officials would be able to seize cash immediately, eliminating the need to chase people through the courts. The HMRC said approximately 95 per cent of taxpayers paid up on time as of March 2006, but a balance of £22bn remained outstanding.

This gadget switches off the planet...

If taxes are big news, what about the future of the planet? A report from British NGO the Energy Saving Trust (EST) claimed 45 per cent of the UK's electricity could be used to feed the nation's love of gadgets by 2020. The report, entitled The Ampere Strikes Back, warns that the UK will need the equivalent of 14 average-sized power stations to keep our laptops, LCD TVs, iPods, mobile phones, and gadgetry powered and charged.

Capellas is back...

One thing's for sure, the big news of the week was not the announcement that Michael Capellas, former chief of MCI and Compaq, will become chairman and CEO of credit card transaction processor First Data Corp when the company is acquired by a private equity firm. Private investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co announced its intentions to buy First Data for $27bn in April and the deal is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.

...and Tatham is out

As Capellas prepared to return, Alex Tatham was leaving distributor Bell Micro after 10 years at the company. The former UK commercial director was perhaps best known for his appearance on Blind Date. He chose Sue, who later became his wife in the first Blind Date wedding.

Bad news for Computacenter

From a channel perspective, a potential challenger to the Forrester survey on Software Assurance could be the news that Computacenter experienced a "disappointing" trading performance for the first half (H1) of 2007.

The reseller reported its product and services infrastructures failed to deliver and showed no sign of improvement on 2006 figures. The good news was its German division had performed particularly well, reporting record first half profits, and the French operation had also improved, although it was still making a loss. Computacenter also revealed executive chairman Ron Sandler had become non-executive chairman with immediate effect.

Time up for Evesham?

Meanwhile, Evesham Technology was reported to be on the brink of a buyout and The Reg was reporting rumours that TimeUK was the strongest candidate to take over the firm.

TimeUK founders Tahir Mohsan and Tariq Mohammed had reportedly been sighted at Evesham over the past few weeks and a number of managers have left Evesham in the past month, including managing director David Hards, financial director Brad Walker, procurement director Shaun Morris, and non-executive director Bill Joss.

Shock news! Dell targets SMEs

Our friends at Dell have belatedly discovered the SME market, launching a range of desktops and laptops targeted at small businesses under the Vostro label. Dell is also focusing on services such as a data security service DataSafe, which will allow customers to backup 30Gb of data and is expected to be priced at £19 to £38 per month. Other services include Dell Automated PC Tune-Up, which will automatically keep customers' machines running at an optimum level. Dell has also updated its support and warranty offerings for the programme and is offering a separate accidental damage policy.

Intel splashes out for virtual share

On the subject of money, we have to congratulate EMC on getting Intel to stump up $219m to acquire a 2.5 per cent stake in all outstanding common stock in VMware, the virtualisation company bought by EMC for $635m in December 2003. Intel is paying $23 a share for nearly 10 million shares and a seat on the board. VMware, which is heading for an IPO (initial public offering), has doubled its revenue nearly every year.

NEC puts a lid on it

Meanwhile, NEC sought to provide a splash of colour to a pretty monochrome summer so far with the launch of a coloured casing for its LaVie compact notebook that has a special 3D optical effect. The coloured casing uses a special metallic paint which, when surrounded by a magnetic field, takes on a hologram-style criss-cross diamond pattern. Users can customise their machine with a red, blue, or yellow front.

Making life easier for cheats

Aside from trying to make products more colourful, vendors are always talking about making them easier to use. Plug and play is a popular term in this context so it's perhaps no surprise cybercriminals are taking the concept to heart as well.

Apparently, they have created a "plug and play" phishing kit that makes it easier to attack servers. The toolkit - contained in a single file - makes it possible for even technically-illiterate would-be fraudsters to create phishing sites on a compromised server within the the blink of an eye (or two seconds, to be more exact).

Making life hard for cheats

Perhaps of equal significance to many people is the revelation that Intel is turning its attentions to trying to stop online gamers from cheating. The chip giant is developing specialist software and hardware to try and keep gamers on the straight and narrow despite the fact cheating has been around since the dawn of gaming.

Blast from the past

One of our favourite stories of the week came from an eagle-eyed Reg reader who spotted that Ebuyer.com appeared to be using near-prehistoric technology in its operation.

According to internet monitoring company Netcraft, the e-tailer is using a Toshiba HX-10, built in 1983, two Commodore 64s (which debuted in 1982), a Dragon32, and three ZX Spectrums.

High flying Couch is no potato

But undoubtedly the most amazing news concerned Oregon man Kent Couch who spent eight hours and 45 minutes travelling suspended beneath 105 four-foot helium balloons, reaching a maximum altitude of 11,000 feet.

"It's scary," he admitted. "There's this sense of, 'What the heck am I doing? Are you crazy or what?'. But I played with my mind, I told myself, this is a good thing." Well you would, wouldn't you, if you were sitting on a deckchair 11,000 feet up suspended beneath helium balloons. ®

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