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IN ORBIT: World Wide Wire

IN ORBIT: World Wide Wire

WTC tragedy raises privacy concerns

The debate over privacy and security concerns is sure to take centre stage in the wake of the attacks in New York and Washington, as citizens, businesses, and lawmakers try to figure out how personal privacy and national security can coexist.

"I think what you're going to see is an awful lot of pressure from government to at least increase the ability of law enforcement to get access to private information," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group.

The US Government has already been discussing the collection of information for law enforcement purposes, including technologies such as facial scanning and biometrics, and it is this area of information collection that is to most likely see changes in the near future.

"Technology has enormously increased the collection capabilities of companies and government agencies. Those trends show no sign of abating," said Jason Catlett, president of US-based consumer privacy group Junkbusters.

Enderle added that "a lot of the money that is going to be spent on this ‘war' will be spent on the weapons that will allow relatively massive amounts of monitoring" of communications, ranging from electronic and analog voice to two-way pagers.

Bart Lazar, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago and an expert in electronic privacy and security law, expects to see efforts to make sure the US Government has keys to encrypted messages, as well as increased usage of the FBI's Carnivore technology.

"Americans have a natural aversion to Big Brother watching, [but] we also understand that if there is a justifiable need it is more likely to be permitted under law and public opinion," Lazar said. "We now have a substantial justification."

By Stephanie Sanborn.

Year-end PC selling season doomed

The financial repercussions of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington will result in a sharp drop in overall IT spending and wipe out the traditional year-end peak selling season for PCs, according to a Taipei-based market analyst, Market Intelligence Center (MIC).

"The short-term inflation of international oil prices, the depreciation of the US dollar, and the loss of confidence among consumers have all taken a heavy toll on America's domestic demand," MIC said in a statement. "A peak season in the fourth quarter is highly unlikely."

Worldwide PC industry growth estimates for 2001 have been revised downward from 1.8 per cent to as low as negative 5 per cent, depending on the long-term impact of the attacks, the statement said. Taiwan, which is one of the world's largest producers of PCs and related components, will be "severely affected".

The impact of the attacks on PC shipments is not expected to be felt immediately, despite a halt in product shipments and "a loss of control over the supply and demand of key components during the short term", MIC said. Most Taiwanese hardware companies maintain between two weeks and three months of inventory so there will not be an immediate shortage.

Of much greater concern for PC sales, according to MIC, is the long-term effect of the attacks on global capital markets and customer confidence. Insurance claims related to the attacks, which may exceed $US10 billion, will strain US capital markets and result in a reduction in high-technology investments, MIC said. In addition, corporations and consumers are less likely to purchase high-technology products, which they perceive as not essential to day-to-day operations and daily life.

The prospect of a slow year-end selling season would weigh heavily on Taiwan's tech sector, which has been hit hard by a global slowdown in IT demand. Many Taiwanese tech companies have pinned their hopes on a recovery at the end of the year, something that MIC now believes unlikely to occur.

Roughly 40 per cent of Taiwan's IT hardware exports go the US, including 39.8 per cent of all notebook PCs made in Taiwan.

Estimates that put Taiwan's notebook PC production value for 2001 at around $US12 billion have been revised downward in the wake of the terrorist attacks, MIC said.

By Sumner Lemon.

SingTel seeks stake in Indonesian mobile playSingapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has held talks with debt-laden Dutch telecommunication operator Koninklijke KPN NV (KPN) about buying its stake in mobile operator PT Telkommunikasi Selular (PT Telkomsel) of Indonesia. SingTel said that no definitive agreements have been signed.

KPN holds 22.3 per cent of

PT Telkomsel, whose majority shareholder is the national carrier, PT Telekomunasi Indonesia (PT Telkom). KPN's stake is valued at between US$500 million and US$ 600 million.

PT Telkomsel is the leading mobile operator in Indonesia with 2.2 million subscribers to its GSM (global system for mobile communications) network, a 46 per cent share of the market. The market is under-penetrated, with around 2 per cent of Indonesia's 210 million population owning a mobile phone.

Telkomsel has previously said it would like to attract further investment in its network infrastructure to improve coverage across the huge Indonesian archipelago, which stretches over three time zones from Sumatra in the west to Irian Jaya in the east, comprising over 14,000 islands.

SingTel, which has just completed an $8.6 billion takeover of Cable & Wireless Optus, has extensive mobile operations in Thailand and the Philippines, and a stake in PT Telkomsel would give it a Southeast Asian regional network lacking only a Malaysian operation.

Local Singapore media have suggested that SingTel is also in talks to buy Malaysian operator Maxis Communications.

Lotus changes name

IBM subsidiary Lotus Development has changed its name to Lotus Software Group as part of the "ongoing integration" of the two companies.

IBM said the name switch does not signal any radical changes at Lotus, but would not comment on whether Lotus Development is being dissolved as an independent legal entity. However, reports quoting Lotus executives in Italy and the Philippines indicate that Lotus will be completely absorbed by IBM by the end of this year.

An IBM spokesperson stressed that Big Blue remains committed to the Lotus brand and products.

EU delays spam vote

The European Parliament has failed to agree on a position regarding whether or not to outlaw spamming.

The debate was led by the civil liberties committee, which sought to overturn the opt-in clause called for by the European Commission. This clause would effectively prohibit unsolicited e-mail.

Opting in to a company's mailing list requires an affirmative, physical act on the part of the potential recipient of the spam. With the opt-out approach, the company assumes you will choose to sign up, and you have to click a box to remove yourself from the list.

However, attempts to persuade the full assembly of parliamentarians to switch away from opt-in to a more lenient opt-out approach failed, as the Parliament decided to return the whole dossier to the civil liberties committee for re-examination.

Home sweet home

A recent survey conducted by the online career exchange Techies.com revealed that 96 per cent of technology professionals want to work from home at least a few hours per week, and 39 per cent said they'd even take a pay cut to make it happen. The most popular reasons respondents cited: to avoid the commute and control their own hours. Interestingly, of the 48 per cent of tech professionals teleworking now, 32 per cent are entry-level workers, compared with 67 per cent who have 10 or more years of experience.

Oracle buys 3Cube

Oracle has announced the acquisition of 3Cube, a Californian maker of collaborative software.

Privately-held 3Cube has developed several Web-based communication services that allow customers to hold online meetings and collaborate on projects over the Internet.

The acquisition is expected to "augment the capabilities" of Oracle's collaborative meeting software, iMeeting.

Correction

In the last issue of Channel X, we inadvertently placed the photo of Liebert's UPStation GXT next to the Upsonic PC Power UPS product box (KitBag, Page 60). We apologise to Liebert and our readers for any inconvenience this may have caused.


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