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Dell Computer Corp. has fended off the combined might of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. to regain its spot as the world’s leading PC vendor, according to data published recently by two research firms. Dell is unlikely to give up the crown any time soon, one analyst said. Both Gartner Inc. and International Data Corp. place Dell at the top of the PC market based on worldwide shipments for the third quarter. Dell fended off competition from HP, which is now merged with Compaq, and IBM Corp. to become the only top-tier vendor to gain market share in the quarter, according to Gartner.

“(Dell) is executing better than anybody else, and their prices are very competitive,” said Todd Kort, principal analyst at Gartner. IDC analysts echoed that claim in a statement, noting that Dell, “the perennial U.S. leader, showed no signs of slowing its relentless pace.” Dell now holds 15.9 per cent of the PC market, up from 13.8 per cent in the same quarter last year, according to Gartner. HP’s share dropped from 17.1 per cent in 2001 to 15.8 per cent this year. IBM rounded out the top three with 6.2 per cent of the market, a slight drop from a year ago.

Investigation into Microsoft hack launched.

A criminal investigation was under way last month into a break-in on a Microsoft Corp. Web site for beta testers, Microsoft said recently. The site,, is aimed at people who test Microsoft products. Available at BetaPlace are unreleased versions of Windows and other Microsoft products, as well as keys to activate the software, said one beta tester, who asked not to be named. Log-in credentials for at least one BetaPlace user were leaked and posted on the Internet, allowing nontesters to download unreleased versions of Microsoft software, according to the beta tester.

The download server was shut down shortly after Microsoft discovered the leak and the passwords for all BetaPlace users were reset, according to the tester. All BetaPlace users were contacted by Microsoft via e-mail and discussion groups, Microsoft said.

RIM unveils global BlackBerry devices

In an effort to widen its appeal with mobile professionals, Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) recently introduced two new BlackBerry wireless handhelds that can operate overseas. The 6710 model is a world-band handheld that operates on global system for mobile communications (GSM)/general packet radio service (GPRS) networks allowing it to function in Europe, Asia, as well as North America. The 6720 model is a dual-band handheld also operating on GSM/GPRS networks for use strictly in Europe and Asia.

Alex Slawsby, a Framingham, Mass.-based research analyst with International Data Corp. called RIM’s release a “natural and strong evolution of the BlackBerry line.”

Aliant service guided by voices

Aliant Telecom Mobility announced last month it is casting its VoiceNet voice recognition e-mail technology over Atlantic Canada.

The service allows Aliant wireless users to configure an existing POP3 e-mail account to listen to, forward and respond to e-mail messages over a digital cell phone using voice commands. The service uses a “friendly voice” to read messages and content in English or French via speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies, said Frank Fagan, president of Halifax-based Aliant Telecom Mobility in a prepared statement. The user enters the recipient’s name in his or her address book so that later the customer can speak an assigned nickname to send an e-mail, Aliant said. Pricing will be $5 per month plus airtime, Aliant said.

Save big bucks with VoIP: Study

Enterprises could save millions of dollars by migrating their traditional private branch exchange (PBX) voice systems to packet-based systems based on IP (Internet Protocol), according to a report published by the Cambridge, U.K.-based consultancy Analysys Ltd. Companies with 500 or more employees can save up to 32 per cent in capital expenditures and operating costs by investing in an IP-based PBX system. The savings would be up to 15 per cent when opting for a hosted IP-PBX system, the report said. The savings were based on the 10-year life of a traditional PBX.

In addition to cost savings, the report lists several other incentives for enterprises to take the risk of migrating their voice systems to new IP-based technology: increased mobility, integration of voice system and databases and unified messaging.

NAI offers new professional services

Network security company Network Associates Inc. (NAI) has created a new professional services group to offer consulting and educational services to its customers. Network Associates Expert Services will specialize in helping companies address networking and security-related issues and will offer courses on using NAI products, according to a company statement.

The announcement marks a shift in the company’s business plan from a product-focused model centered on network and security products such as Sniffer Technologies and McAfee antivirus to a model that blends products and services into customized business solutions. Under the banner of Expert Network Services, NAI is offering a variety of packaged and custom consulting services. Depending on their needs, customers can hire NAI consultants for on-site or remote analysis of a set number of network segments, according to information posted on NAI’s Web site.

Microsoft unveils support plans

Corporate IT managers planning for the long term received good news from Microsoft Corp. recently when the software maker clarified how long it would provide support for its products. For most products, Microsoft vowed to provide support for at least five years. But it didn’t extend the support end date for Windows NT 4 Server beyond the end of next year. That could put some corporate users at risk, according to Mike Silver, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. Silver said Gartner had expected Microsoft to extend that date.

Instead, Microsoft merely waived the fees that were due to be charged next year for nonsecurity hot-fix support, which is designed to address specific customer problems. Mainstream support for Windows NT 4 Server is set to end Dec. 31, and the extended support phase, which typically carries a fee, is due to expire at the end of next year.

Bigger is better, say customers

With IT budgets tight, most CIOs are consolidating purchases with larger vendors with strong brands and the ability to provide a variety of products and services, a survey has found. The main beneficiary of this trend is IBM Corp., followed by Dell Computer Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., according to a survey of 100 CIOs conducted by the research department of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. Eighty per cent of respondents said they are consolidating purchases with larger vendors, while five per cent said they were shifting purchases to smaller vendors. The remainder reported no change in their purchasing strategy. Areas in which respondents said they are spending more this year than originally planned are security, consulting and outsourcing. Respondents are spending less than planned this year on computer hardware, communications equipment and software.

Sun announces massive layoffs

Sun Microsystems Inc. announced last month that it will lay off close to 11 per cent of its workforce, as the company continues to be punished by a slowdown in technology spending. Sun reported revenue of US$2.7 billion for its first fiscal quarter, which ended Sept 29, the company said in a statement. This marks a four per cent drop from the same quarter a year ago when Sun pulled in $2.9 billion in revenue. Sun plans to reduce its workforce by approximately 11 per cent from its current level of close to 39,000 workers.

Sun, one of the main providers of Unix servers, has been punished by the downturn in the economy. In particular, the company lost large amounts of business as telecommunications companies pulled back on IT spending.

Security flaw found in Symantec firewall

A flaw discovered in a common component of Symantec Corp.’s firewall technology leaves a number of that company’s products vulnerable to denial of service (DoS) attacks, according to a bulletin released by the company and by Advanced IT Security AS, a security services firm with headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. The security hole was discovered in the Web proxy component of Symantec’s Enterprise Firewall product, also known as “Simple Secure Webserver 1.1.”

The vulnerability concerns the way the Web server handles requests for URLs (uniform resource locators), addresses used to access Web pages and other resources on the Internet.

Symantec issued a bulletin and patch for the affected products on its Web page and notified its customers on Sept. 30, 2002 and advises its them to keep their products and operating systems updated with the latest software patches

CITA show focuses on the here and now

Gee-whiz wireless technology took a back seat to projects that quickly deliver bottom-line results at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) Wireless IT and Internet 2002 Conference in Las Vegas last month.

Tom Wheeler, president and CEO of the Washington-based CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade association, kicked off the conference with a session focused on wireless projects that show a quick and demonstrable return on investment (ROI). Gone was the emphasis on overhyped technologies, such as mobile commerce, that have characterized past CTIA conferences. Adel Al-Saleh, general manager of IBM Corp.’s Global Wireless e-business unit, said in his keynote speech that technology companies must demonstrate a clear ROI to customers planning to deploy wireless systems..

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