Global Dispatches

An international news digest

EC Critical of Microsoft Antitrust Response

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission this month repeated its criticism of Microsoft Corp.’s response to a 2004 antitrust ruling, opening up the possibility of further fines for the company.

Since the ruling, the EC has fined Microsoft ¬497 million ($652 million U.S.) and ordered it to disclose interoperability information “on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms” to rival makers of server operating systems.

The commission said it doesn’t believe that the information in the 1,500 pages of documents Microsoft has submitted since December 2005 is worth the price the company is proposing to charge for it.

“Microsoft has spent three years and many millions of dollars to comply with the EC’s decision,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s top lawyer. “We submitted a pricing proposal to the commission last August and have been asking for feedback on it since. We’re disappointed that this feedback is coming six months later, but we’re committed to working hard to address the [EC issues].”

In a statement, EC Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said, “Microsoft has agreed that the main basis for pricing should be whether its protocols are innovative.” However, she added, “there is no significant innovation in these protocols.”

-- Paul Meller, IDG News Service

Stolen Laptop Held Staff’s Personal Data

WORCESTER, England -- The Worcestershire County Council has confirmed that a laptop containing sensitive information on more than 16,000 of its employees has been stolen from IT vendor Serco Solutions.

The laptop, which contained employee names, addresses and national insurance and bank account details, was stolen in late February, according to a council spokeswoman. She said the data security breach “potentially affected a little over 16,000 staff.”

The council was “not completely sure of the level of encryption” on the stolen laptop, “but our understanding is there was security on the machine,” the spokeswoman said.

Hook, England-based Serco had the staff data because it is building a new payroll system for the county, the spokeswoman said. However, she added, “that doesn’t explain why they were keeping it on the laptop.” Serco officials were unavailable for comment.

Patrick Birch, Worcestershire council corporate services director, said the council has notified all staff members who could be affected and has set up a help line for them.

-- Tash Shifrin, Computerworld U.K.

Dell Opens Call Center In the Philippines

QUEZON CITY, Philippines -- Dell Inc. this month opened its second call center in the Philippines and disclosed plans to increase its workforce in the country.

The company said that the new center, in Quezon City, will provide technical support and other services to Dell customers in the U.S. The facility includes training labs that simulate networked home and office environments. The call center will initially employ about 200 people, the company said.

Dell opened its first Philippine call center, in Pasay, about a year ago. About 1,400 people work there, according to the company. Dell said it plans to hire about 1,000 more people in both facilities, increasing its total employment in the country to about 2,600.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attended a ceremony marking the opening of the facility. During the event, Dell announced that it is donating a computer lab to Quezon City High School.

-- Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

Budget Plan Decreases Outsourcer Tax Breaks

NEW DELHI, India -- India’s federal government has proposed a budget that would likely reduce tax benefits for the country’s outsourcing industry.

In his budget speech before the Indian parliament late last month, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram proposed eliminating exemptions to the country’s minimum alternate tax (MAT) that have aided the outsourcing industry in recent years.

Chidambaram also did not call for an extension of the country’s Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) export-promotion scheme, which entitles outsourcing firms to tax breaks under the Indian Income Tax Act. In his speech, Chidambaram did not respond to a request by the National Association of Software and Service Companies for a 10-year extension of STPI.

Some executives in India’s outsourcing business, including N.R. Narayana Murthy, chairman of Infosys Technologies Ltd., have said that the industry is large enough to pay taxes at the levels charged to other industries.

N. Ramachandran, chief financial officer of outsourcer iGATE Global Solutions Ltd., noted that the tax changes are unlikely to affect pricing by outsourcers but said they could cut profit margins.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

EMC to Invest $100M In Russia by 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- EMC Corp. late last month announced plans to invest $100 million (U.S.) in its Russian business operations over the next four years.

The biggest investment will be made in the EMC Excellence Center, a software development center being set up in St. Petersburg, according to EMC.

Luc Brunet, general manager of EMC Russia/CIS/Baltics, said that the company’s business in Russia grew by 50% during 2006.

The Russian investment represents about 10% of the $1 billion that EMC plans to spend in what it calls the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China — by 2010, the company said.

The EMC Excellence Center is expected to open in July. The company said it expects the center to employ about 100 workers by year’s end.

Employees at the center will work on developing new products and on adapting current EMC products for the Russian market, said Rona Newmark, senior vice president of EMC Excellence Center design and commissioning.

-- Dmitriy Zhelvitsky, Computerworld Russia

Briefly Noted

The British Broadcasting Corp. plans to use IBM technology to create a new video-search system. Under an agreement announced last week, the BBC will use IBM’s video-search system, code-named Marvel, to first offer a search service for users of its CBeebies and CBBC children’s Web sites. The technology can categorize content based on appearance as well as analyze images and video, the BBC said.

-- John Blau, IDG News Service

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore has qualified 12 bidders for the government’s Next Generation National Broadband Project. To qualify, companies had to show that they have the financial resources and the skills needed to build a network that can offer speeds ranging from 100Mbit/sec. to more than 1Gbit/sec. and connect to all homes, schools and businesses in Singapore by 2012.

-- Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

Microsoft’s Japanese unit has named former Hewlett-Packard Japan Ltd. President Yasuyuki Higuchi as its new chief operating officer. Higuchi was most recently president of Kobe, Japan-based retailer The Daiei Inc. Higuchi will be responsible for Microsoft’s commercial and enterprise business in Japan, reporting to Darren Huston, president and CEO of Microsoft’s Japanese unit.

-- Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

Intel Corp.’s investment arm plans to invest $65 million (U.S.) in PowerTech Technology Inc., a Taiwan-based chip assembler that specializes in flash memory and dynamic RAM technology. Intel Capital said the funds will support the continued growth of PowerTech’s operations. Intel is a customer of PowerTech.

-- Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service

UKvisas, the joint Home Office and Foreign Office directorate that runs Britain’s visa service overseas, has signed a $271 million business process outsourcing deal with Computer Sciences Corp. CSC will establish three regional visa application centers covering 15 countries. CSC will also be responsible for capturing biometric data on all U.K. visa applicants.

-- Tash Shifrin, Computerworld U.K.

Compiled by Mike Bucken.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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