Google and Oracle Boldly Go to New Markets
Google entered the mobile phone market this week when T-Mobile rolled out the first handset running the search engine's Android mobile operating system. Oracle also ventured into new territory by announcing that it will sell a hardware product -- a database server the company developed with Hewlett-Packard. Three major U.S. ISPs (Internet service providers) claimed that customers will have to opt-in to receive targeted advertising, eliminating the need for government regulation. And Microsoft is still searching for a search strategy to compete with Google.
The first cell phone running Android, Google's mobile operating system, debuted Tuesday. U.S. customers can purchase the G1 from T-Mobile on Oct. 22 for US$179. The handset, which HTC manufactures and calls the Dream, will appear in the U.K. in November and other T-Mobile European markets in the first quarter. The G1 comes with a touchscreen display, as well as a slideout keyboard. Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube and GTalk are all featured applications on the phone. Users can purchase music from the Amazon MP3 store and applications from the Android store. The phone can read Word, PDF and Excel documents but cannot synch with Microsoft's Exchange e-mail program. Google spun this as a perfect chance for developers to take advantage of Android's open-source model and create an application for the task.
Oracle used its OpenWorld conference in San Francisco to announce assorted news. The biggest headlines came on Wednesday when CEO Larry Ellison announced two high-speed servers that the company developed with HP. This marks Oracle's first entry into the hardware market. Information on the debut of Fusion Applications, long-awaited software that combines the best features from Oracle's many acquired product lines, proved limited. One executive said the suite may not arrive until 2010, while another deflected questions on the product. Yet another person said that early adopters will start testing the apps in 2009. Oracle provided more details on its cloud computing strategy, announcing that it will offer the 11g database through Amazon's cloud computing service. Oracle also said that it is partnering with Intel and eventually AMD to ready businesses for computing in the cloud.
AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon will develop policies that require customers to opt-in before the ISPs track their online activities, according to corporate representatives who spoke before a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday. The ISPs currently do not practice behavioral advertising programs that serve ads to users based on their Internet activities. While concern has grown over recent reports that Web tracking and targeted ads are imminent, the ISPs told Congress that the industry will draft best practices to ensure privacy. Broadband competition will ensure that these practices are followed, negating the need for government regulation. However, the president of a consumer advocacy group questioned that pledge, claiming that competition in the market is limited.
In other Internet news, two U.S. politicians called for a comprehensive broadband access policy and net neutrality at a conference on Monday. A U.S. representative claimed that broadband service wasn't available in her suburban Washington, D.C., town. She also said that students in her neighborhood school suffer a competitive disadvantage because of limited Internet access. A member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said a lack of net-neutrality laws could hinder political debates if carriers select what content their networks carry. Some studies have claimed that the U.S. is falling behind in broadband deployment and capacity. Government reports counter and state that 99 percent of the country's ZIP codes have broadband access.
Internet regulation also appeared on European politicians' dockets this week. Members of the European Parliament postponed a vote to consider if an IP (Internet Protocol) address is private data. The vote was slated to come as politicians review Europe's telecommunication laws. One politician said that the European Commission needs to issue a report on the matter and define an IP address. He went on to say that he considers an IP address personal only if personal data is connected to it, citing that several IP addresses are not attached to personal computers. Another privacy issue being reviewed involves the placement of cookies on Web browsers. Current law mandates that Web sites ask visitors permission before they download cookies, which can be used to track Web activities. This law may be changed to better protect privacy, the politician said.
The U.S. Senate approved an extension to an R&D (research and development) tax credit that many IT businesses support. The credit, which expired in December, was tacked on to a bill that the U.S. House of Representatives approved. The House now must pass the Senate version before U.S. President George Bush signs the bill. The credit covers up to 20 percent of R&D spending and has expired 13 times since 1981. The $7 billion that the tax credit costs makes Congress reluctant to enact a permanent version. Tax credit supporters called the measure essential to keeping R&D jobs in the country and maintaining U.S. innovation in a time of increased global competition. The Senate's version of the bill extends the credit until the end of 2009. Most of the 18,000 companies that use the credit apply it to employee wages, an IT trade group said.
A federal grand jury investigating the hacking of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account did not deliver an indictment after its first week of reviewing evidence. Bloggers named David Kernell, a University of Tennessee student, a suspect after they linked him to the online name "rubico," the moniker used by the hacker who alleged to have accessed Palin's Yahoo account last week by resetting the password. Local press claimed that U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents searched Kernell's apartment last weekend. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on if Kernell is a suspect and on the grand jury proceedings, which are secret until an indictment is reached.
IBM threatened to leave the standards bodies that determine software interoperability regulations over concerns that the standardization process is unfair. IBM released guidelines it plans to follow, including a provision that standards bodies draft rules that protect decisions from "undue influence." IBM said that leaving a standards group is a last resort and that the company wants loopholes that allow a company to abuse the standardization process closed. IBM's stance stems from its opposition to a document format that Microsoft submitted for expedite approval as a standard. Office Open XML became a standard earlier this year, despite concerns that the process was too rushed and that Microsoft pressured countries to vote for its format.
McAfee purchased its second IT security vendor this year by acquiring Secure Computing for approximately US$465 million. The purchase is the latest in a string of buys for the company, which acquired a risk management tool company in August and bought businesses in 2007 and 2006. McAfee wants to expand its security-as-a-service offerings and sell its products to Secure Computing's 22,000 customers. A McAfee executive said that the company wants a portfolio that makes it an enterprise's single security source. Mergers will reflect this aim and not sway off the IT security track.
Microsoft possesses the money and commitment to challenge Google in the online search business. The company just needs to figure out how to contend, CEO Steve Ballmer said Thursday. Competing with Google requires reinventing the search business model, a task that could take five years and cost Microsoft five percent to 10 percent of its operating income for several years, he said. Microsoft attempted to acquire Yahoo this year to better compete against Google, a contentious courtship that failed to yield a merger. Microsoft has work to do: Search data for August showed that Google was used to conduct 63 percent of U.S. searches compared to Microsoft's 8 percent.