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In brief: No more IE for Apple

Jun 23, 20035 mins

Plus: FTC, Guess settle Web privacy case; Linus Torvalds joins enterprise Linux effort; Amtrak voice system can now do credit-card transactions; IDC throws water on Wi-Fi hot-spot hype; PeopleSoft rejects Oracle bid.

Microsoft will stop developing versions of its Internet Explorer browser software for Macintosh computers, saying that Apple’s Safari is all that Apple needs. Microsoft will no longer develop Explorer as independent software, only as part of its Windows operating system. “Browsers are now a generally established piece of the operating system, and it doesn’t make sense to keep developing them separately,” says Neil Laver, Microsoft U.K. desktop marketing manager. Microsoft’s development of Explorer for Apple’s computers was driven by a five-year agreement that has lapsed.

The decision will cause concern for Mac users who use Explorer to access sites that are not accessible using other browsers. Many site developers develop purely for Explorer, as it is the dominant browser worldwide.

The Federal Trade Commission has settled a case with clothing marketer Guess, stemming from complaints that since at least October 2000, has been vulnerable to commonly known attacks that let personal information including credit card numbers be exposed to hackers. Guess claimed its Web site “has security measures in place to protect the loss, misuse or alteration of information under our control.” The FTC said personal information was not stored in unreadable and encrypted format at all times and that Guess failed to protect against commonly known attacks. In February 2002, a visitor to the Web site, using a SQL injection attack, read in clear text the credit card numbers stored in Guess databases, according to the FTC, which was bringing such a case for the third time. The FTC settlement requires Guess to implement a comprehensive security program.

As Linux continues to make inroads into enterprise data centers, the developer of the open source software has joined Open Source Development Labs, a consortium focused on developing the Linux operating system for corporate use. Linus Torvalds, who created Linux in 1991 when he was a university student in Finland, is taking a leave of absence from chip maker Transmeta to move to OSDL where he will focus exclusively on Linux.

Torvalds will become the first fellow of OSDL, which is a nonprofit organization formed in 2000 to accelerate the growth and adoption of Linux in corporations. Its members include Cisco, Computer Associates, HP and IBM. Stuart Cohen, who took over as CEO of OSDL in April, says Torvalds’ decision to join OSDL lends credibility to the organization that is aiming to be the center of Linux development in corporations.

Last year, OSDL launched the Data Center Linux project to strengthen Linux as an enterprise computing platform.

The voice that answers the phone at 1-800-USA-RAIL, Amtrak’s reservation line – “Julie” – now is trained to process credit card payments for a reservation. What took Julie so long to learn credit card transactions? She is really a machine, eight of them to be precise. SpeechWorks, the system’s original developer, reused an existing voice-enabled credit card module tweaked for Amtrak to help process reservation bookings and payment without the need for human intervention. The credit card service began rolling out in April and now is available nationwide.

The system accepts 20 million incoming calls annually, of which 25% to 33% are handled without the need for a human agent. Amtrak estimates it has saved $13 million since the service came online in April 2001.

IDC threw cold water on the hot spot hype this week, predicting that although worldwide commercial Wi-Fi locations are set to grow 57% annually over the next five years, the market is still young and rife with uncertainty. In a report summary, IDC analysts likened the hot spot market to a “technology gold rush” and warned that despite promises, it is still in the early phases of deployment. Most business models are not yet proven, and the competitive landscape is very unclear. The firm predicted that the Wi-Fi market would evolve in two stages, with an emphasis on network expansion over the next two years, followed by three years of relationship building among carriers.

Still, the market could offer some sizzling revenue opportunities. IDC estimates that Wi-Fi revenue streams would grow 143% annually over the next five years, while the number of users is expected to double each year over that same period.

PeopleSoft’s board of directors on Friday again rejected Oracle’s bid for the company, and recommended that its shareholders shoot down the $6.3 billion offer, saying the deal is not in the best interest of the company and would likely run afoul of antitrust laws. The rejection came two days after Oracle sweetened its original $5.1 billion offer for the Pleasanton, Calif., enterprise software provider, which sparked the firestorm between the companies. Oracle’s initial bid, on June 6, came just days after PeopleSoft announced it was acquiring J.D. Edwards, putting the merger in jeopardy.

PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards sued Oracle over its aggressive pursuit, and Oracle shot back earlier this week, increasing its offer for PeopleSoft and suing the company for “eliminating” shareholders’ ability to accept the offer.