Thursday, September 15, 2005

BizzBlog TechAlert for September 16, 2005

Microsoft and future - Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman, made a major push on Tuesday to get software developers to build programs for the next versions of the company's Windows operating system and its Office productivity software, saying new features could drive a fresh wave of personal computer sales.
Microsoft has promised to introduce Windows Vista - formerly known by its code name, Longhorn - in the second half of 2006. The next version of Office is expected around the same time. Windows and Office combined account for more than $33 billion of Microsoft's annual revenue, which last year totaled $36.8 billion. At a developers' conference in Los Angeles, Gates said that Windows Vista would be designed to better connect and exchange data with corporate databases, find information buried in hard drives, and offer better graphics.
In a demonstration of Vista, semitransparent windows on the computer desktop allowed users to see objects underneath, including moving video, while search results were displayed in real time as queries were typed in. Microsoft also unveiled a new interface for Microsoft Office, a collection of programs that includes word-processing, spreadsheet and e-mail applications. Microsoft has been trying to turn Office into a platform for custom-designed applications that can handle business tasks like accounting, customer service and business planning.

Patents and trademarks in China - China must deliver on its promises for better protection for patents, trademarks and other intellectual property, Washington's newly appointed official in charge of combating commercial piracy said Wednesday.
Chris Israel, a former Time Warner executive who in July was named U.S. coordinator of intellectual property enforcement, described Beijing's antipiracy penalties as "fairly minuscule punishments."

"My honest assessment is that we need to focus on results. We need real deterrents that provide lasting and meaningful punishments," Israel said.

China risks facing trade sanctions or other measures if it does not follow through with real action, Israel said, noting that the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative's office were watching closely.

Yahoo hopes sleek is chic - Yahoo is testing a sleeker version of its free e-mail service, shifting to a more dynamic design that mimics the look and feel of a desktop application like Microsoft's Outlook. The company plans to invite a "sizable" portion of its current e-mail users to experiment with the retooled service, said Karen Mahon, a Yahoo spokeswoman. Yahoo imported most of the changes from Oddpost, an e-mail startup the company bought for an undisclosed amount last year. For the past two years, Yahoo and its main Internet rivals - Google, AOL and Microsoft's - have been introducing upgrades aimed at attracting and retaining their Web audiences so they remain appealing outlets for advertisers.

Microsoft targets graphics - Microsoft introduced three products for designing graphics and layout in software programs and Web pages to compete with Adobe Systems and Macromedia.
Microsoft Expression will be released beginning in 2006, said Forest Key, group product manager. The company has been stepping up competition with Adobe and in April announced a technology that would rival Adobe's PDF format for sharing digital documents.

Smart cards pay off - Oberthur Card Systems, a French maker of smart cards for mobile phones and bank cards, said its first-half net profit rose 39.4 percent to €16.1 million, or $19.8 million, driven by new business in telecommunications and finance and a onetime gain of €4.9 million. Oberthur said it expected growth in the second half of the year to be powered in part by contracts with telecommunications companies in the United States and Europe.

High-class calling - Bang & Olufsen, the Danish up-market electronics maker, is joining forces with Samsung Electronics to introduce a mobile phone this year. The phone will have basic communications features and little in the way of high-tech extras, the companies said, adding that they would target the high end of the market in terms of price and quality.
Torben Ballegaard Sorensen, chief executive of B&O, said only one model was being introduced but that others might follow.

Cisco calling - Tandberg, a Norwegian maker of video conferencing equipment, said its U.S. partner, Cisco Systems, had begun shipping a co-branded telephone with Tandberg video technology. The new product is a Cisco Internet protocol phone, which will be sold as a Cisco product through Cisco marketing channels but will also bear the words "video technology by Tandberg."

High tech mug shots - Viisage Technology, a maker of fingerprint- and facial-recognition systems, said that it was sharing technology with Motorola to create better identification equipment for law-enforcement agencies. The system stores mug shots and fingerprints for use in databases. Law enforcement officials can sort, search and manage the data for use in border control, identity fraud and other investigations. Facial-recognition technology also is used to verify the authenticity of drivers' licenses.

Katrina costs tallied - Sprint Nextel said Hurricane Katrina would cost it between $150 million and $200 million after insurance payments. It also said portions of its wireless network in the U.S. Gulf Coast remained out of service. The telecommunications company said it had restored wireless service to all regions in Alabama affected by the storm; over 90 percent of its network in Mississippi and more than 70 percent in Louisiana.

Vimpelcom deal approved - Shareholders of the Russian mobile phone company VimpelCom approved a plan to buy Ukrainian Radio Systems. The vote marked a victory for Alfa Telecom, VimpelCom's largest shareholder, over the Norwegian company Telenor, VimpelCom's No. 2 investor.

Partial victory for Google - Google won a court ruling that allows a former Microsoft executive to recruit staff at the company's research center in Beijing. But a Washington state judge, Steven Gonzalez, said the executive, Kai-Fu Lee, could not perform other tasks at Google's planned facility in China, including setting budgets and compensation levels or work on research and development projects at the facility. Microsoft had asked for a preliminary injunction, saying that Lee should not be allowed to work at Google while he is still bound by a noncompete contract that he signed with Microsoft. The contract is binding until next July, but Microsoft filed a motion for a preliminary injunction ahead of the trial, scheduled for January.

Misys shares skid - Shares of Misys, a British provider of software for large financial institutions, dropped 17.4 percent after the company said first-half earnings would decline "significantly" because of delayed payments from banks. Misys hired Lexicon Partners in June to advise on the sale of its Sesame unit, whose sales to financial advisers are falling. The shares fell to 197.25 pence, or $3.59, down 41.5 pence, the steepest drop since December 2003 and the lowest level since last September.

Playstation part recalled - Sony Computer Entertainment will recall certain AC adapters sold worldwide with the slim version of its PlayStation 2 following cases of overheating and melting. About 3.6 million adapters manufactured between August 2004 and December 2004 are subject to the recall. They include about 960,000 units sold in North America, 2.3 million units in Europe and 60,000 units in Japan.

Squeezing sound - Victor Co. of Japan, or JVC, said it had developed music compression technology that retains a sound quality similar to that of a compact disc. JVC's technology, called "Net K2," is compatible with formats like Apple Computer's AAC and Sony's ATRAC, according to the company. The company is a unit of Matsushita Electric Industrial.

Speeding up data - France Télécom is testing a technology called VDSL2 that lets data be sent five times faster that the speediest technology now used for Internet hook-ups via traditional phone lines. The company said the technology would allow users to download 90 minutes of video in three minutes.
Separately, France Télécom said that its Viaccess unit and Musiwave, a French company that specializes in providing music over mobile phones, would join forces to provide a variety of mobile music services to customers across Europe that are served by its Orange mobile unit and Wanadoo, its Internet unit.

Ticket takers - Thales, the leading European defense-electronics maker, and the consulting firm Accenture won a €200 million, or $245 million, contract from Denmark to provide an electronic ticketing system that would let passengers pay for public transport, like rail and bus, with one card. TDC, the Danish phone company, is also involved.
Separately, Hewlett-Packard and Philips Electronics said they would work together on a new standard of radio frequency identification technology that helps consumer-goods makers and retailers manage their inventory.