Global Dispatches

An international news digest

Barclays Unit to Outsource Call Center

LONDON -- Barclays PLC’s Barclaycard credit card unit has announced plans to close its customer contact center in Manchester, England, and transfer some of the jobs there to facilities in India.

The announcement comes just days after rival financial services firm Lloyds TSB Group disclosed plans to close its call center in Mumbai, India, and allow customers to directly contact local branches.

Barclaycard’s Manchester center will close in July, and 630 jobs will be transferred to facilities in Mumbai and Delhi, India, and in Teesside, England.

“Decisions like these are never easy, and we will be doing everything we can to support those affected,” said Barclaycard CEO Antony Jenkins. “Barclaycard’s business is becoming more global, and to stay successful, we must change how we operate to reflect this.”

A spokeswoman for the credit card operation denied that the move to India was strictly for financial reasons. However, she added, “it’s streamlining our operations, and the organizational restructure will ensure we are able to continue to operate effectively.”

-- Tash Shifrin, Computerworld U.K.

China Tightening Net Access Control, U.S. Says

SINGAPORE -- The Chinese government took steps during 2006 to increase its control and monitoring of Internet access by the country’s growing Internet population, the U.S. Department of State said in a human rights report released this month.

“While the government continued to encourage expanded use of the Internet, it also took steps to monitor its use, control content, restrict information, and punished those who violated regulations,” the report said.

The report cited several steps taken by the Chinese government, including establishing stricter requirements for Web site registration, greater official control over content and a wider definition of what constitutes illegal activity online.

China’s Internet users, estimated at 140 million by the China Internet Network Information Center, have not eroded the government’s ability to control access to content it deems undesirable, said the State Department.

The report noted that “tens of thousands of persons” monitor the Internet in China. The report also said that the Chinese government has enlisted the help of domestic and multinational companies to restrict access to information on the Internet.

-- Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

Microsoft Signs First EU Protocol License

BRUSSELS -- Microsoft Corp. earlier this month signed up the first licensee for the workgroup server protocols the European Commission ordered it to make available to competitors in a 2004 antitrust ruling.

The licensee, Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Quest Software Inc., said it plans to use Microsoft’s User and Group Administration protocol set in products based on Microsoft’s Active Directory. Quest said the protocols will improve links between its products and Unix, Linux and Java authentication systems.

Quest develops software for Active Directory administration and data recovery, along with tools for application, database and server administration.

The companies signed the licensing deal on March 1, the same day the EC sent Microsoft a “statement of objections” about the prices it planned to charge vendors to license the protocols. Quest nevertheless agreed to pay the full list price — 5.25% of net revenue on the products that use the protocols, according to a Microsoft spokesman.

The EC ordered Microsoft to create the Work Group Server Protocol Program in its March 2004 antitrust ruling that found Microsoft had abused its position in the desktop operating system market. It also ordered Microsoft to pay €497 million (about $600 million U.S. at the time) in fines.

-- Peter Sayer, IDG News Service

EDS to Buy Indian Software Testing Firm

BANGALORE, India -- Electronic Data Systems Corp. last week agreed to acquire RelQ Software Pvt., a Bangalore-based software testing company, for an undisclosed sum.

EDS said it is looking for the privately held firm to improve its applications testing, validation and verification, and quality assurance services.

The deal is expected to close in May.

RelQ’s 700 workers in India, the U.K., the U.S. and France are expected to join the EDS global testing organization.

RelQ offers testing of real-time and embedded applications for clients looking to deploy applications throughout a large organization. The company primarily targets the banking, financial services, telecommunications and consumer electronics industries.

The acquisition is the latest in a series of moves by Plano, Texas-based EDS to strengthen its position in India. EDS last year acquired a majority stake in Indian outsourcer MphasiS BFL Ltd. and then announced plans to merge its own Indian services subsidiary with that company.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

LogicaCMG Opens RFID Test Lab

SYDNEY, Australia -- LogicaCMG plc this month opened an RFID-based warehouse in Sydney that it said will allow businesses to simulate and evaluate radio frequency identification projects.

Its Innovation Warehouse, adapted from a similar LogicaCMG complex in the Netherlands, will simulate warehouse and transport scenarios using forklift, handheld and fixed-mount RFID readers to demonstrate the suitability of the technology, according to the London-based systems integrator.

LogicaCMG Australia CEO Colin Holgate said the company expects that the warehouse will boost RFID adoption in Australia by allowing businesses to experiment with the technology.

-- Darren Pauli, Computerworld Australia

Compiled by Mike Bucken.

Briefly Noted

Serco Group PLC, a Hook, England-based IT services firm, has apologized and agreed to pay any costs resulting from the theft of one of its laptops, which contained sensitive data on more than 16,000 Worcestershire County Council employees in England. The laptop held names, addresses, national insurance and bank account details of current and former municipal employees. Serco is building a new human resources and payroll system for the county.
-- Tash Shifrin, Computerworld U.K.

The Chinese government last week gave Intel Corp. permission to build a $2.5 billion (U.S.) chip manufacturing plant in Dalian. The plant will produce semiconductors, including microprocessors, according to China’s National Development and Reform Commission. The plant will have a monthly production capacity of 52,000 wafers, it said. An Intel spokesman declined comment on the company’s plans.
-- Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

Palm Inc. has announced plans to open a research and development center in Shanghai. Engineers at the facility will work to incorporate local language capabilities into Palm smart phones and to accelerate the delivery of next-generation smart phones to mobile operators, partners and customers worldwide.
-- Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service

Qualcomm Inc. and Samsung Venture Investment Corp. have each invested $8 million (U.S.) in Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc. (AMEC), a Shanghai-based developer of equipment used to manufacture semiconductors. The investments were part of $43 million in funding raised by AMEC since last October.
-- Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

Swisscom AG, Switzerland’s largest telephone company, has offered to buy Italian Internet company Fastweb SpA for ¬3.7 billion ($4.9 billion U.S.). Fastweb provides fixed-network service to more than 1 million customers in 130 Italian cities. Fastweb acknowledged receiving the offer and said it is interested but has not yet decided whether to accept it.
-- John Blau, IDG News Service

Global Fact


Projected rate of growth of the information and communications technology market in Europe during 2007. The European market is projected to total €668 billion ($887 billion U.S.) this year.

Source: European Information Technology Observatory, Frankfurt

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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