Global Dispatches

An international news digest

U.K. Schools Urged to Wait on Vista Rollouts

COVENTRY, England -- Microsoft Corp. must make a stronger case for schools in the U.K. to upgrade to Windows Vista and Office 2007, according to a report issued this month by a British educational advisory group.

The report, by the government-funded British Educational Communications and Technology Association (BECTA), says that users can get 27% of Vista’s new features without upgrading from Windows XP and that none of the 176 new features identified in Office 2007 are “must-haves” for educational institutions.

In addition, the report says that early deployments of Vista would be “high risk,” and it advises schools to wait until the operating system has “a demonstrably stable and secure track record.”

“What we are saying in the short term is that the case has not been made,” said Tom McMullan, a consultant for Coventry-based BECTA.

Steve Beswick, Microsoft’s director of education in the U.K., said Vista and Office 2007 received positive feedback from teachers and students at an education technology conference in London last week. “Clearly, we would like to think [the report] could have been better,” Beswick said. “We feel very confident that once customers see the technology and evaluate it correctly, upgrades will happen.”

-- Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service

EC Moves to Rein in Polish Telecom Agency

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission last week ordered Poland’s national telecommunications regulatory agency to withdraw its plans to regulate the domestic retail market for services such as Internet access.

The EC’s action came one week after the Polish agency, known as the Urzad Komunikacji Elektronicznej (UKE), issued draft plans to fine Telekomunikacja Polska SA (TP), the dominant carrier in Poland, 3% of its annual sales for overcharging end users for broadband Internet access.

The EC last year began considering whether to broaden its telecommunications regulations because many of the markets in European Union countries are still dominated by former public monopolies. However, the commission was critical of the UKE because it is focusing on regulating retail rather than wholesale markets, and because it views broadband and dial-up Internet access as a single market.

The EC said the agency’s plan to regulate TP’s retail broadband access services “on the basis of an incorrect market definition” may hinder the carrier’s ability to compete and discourage TP and other vendors from investing in broadband infrastructures.

-- Paul Meller, IDG News Service

Siemens Forms Single Unit for IT Services

MUNICH -- Siemens AG last week launched a new division that combines its IT and software development services, previously offered through five separate corporate units, into a single worldwide operation.

The company said the new unit, known as Siemens IT Solutions and Services GmbH, has combined annual revenues of about ¬5 billion ($6.5 billion U.S.) and employs 43,000 people.

A Siemens spokesman said SIS will be able to provide a comprehensive set of IT services from a single source. Outsourcing initially will account for nearly 60% of the group’s revenue, he said. Services such as systems integration and SAP software implementation will account for 35% of the business, with the remainder coming from software development.

Christoph Kollatz, former president of the Siemens Business Services group, will lead the new unit.

-- John Blau, IDG News Service

Asian Countries Test IT Security Responses

SYDNEY, Australia -- Computer security incident-response teams representing 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region participated in the equivalent of a war-game scenario in mid-December to test local and international re­sponses to Internet-based attacks.

The third annual test drill conducted by the Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team was chaired by the Australian CERT. Graham Ingram, director of AusCERT and chairman of the full Asia-Pacific group, said the drills are aimed at reviewing and improving procedures for responding to attacks. “Members are already very active in helping each other respond to Internet attacks within our respective economies,” Ingram said.

Also taking part in the test were the national security response teams from China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Brunei, India.

The Korea Information Security Agency developed and initiated the drill scenario. “The drill is basically intended as a cross-border incident handling scheme,” noted Woo-Han Kim, who heads the Korean agency.

-- Michael Crawford, Computerworld Australia

Insurer Shifts Staffers From Services Firm

BANGALORE, India -- London-based insurer Aviva PLC has transferred 1,600 employees from one of its business proc­ess outsourcing (BPO) providers in India to its own Aviva Global Services subsidiary in Bangalore.

The transfer of employees from Bangalore-based 24/7 Customer Inc. is part of a plan by Aviva to shift 5,000 BPO workers from three services firms in India and Sri Lanka to the Aviva Global Services unit this year. Another 2,800 staffers assigned to Aviva will continue to be employed by the outsourcers.

Under the plan, which was announced last summer, Aviva will be able to cut costs because it won’t be paying such large profit margins to the services firms, said Rajnish Virmani, CEO of Aviva Global Services. Aviva will also be able to modify and add business processes more quickly, Virmani said.

Aviva will continue contracts with Wipro Ltd. and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. to do IT outsourcing work for the firm, he added.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Briefly Noted

Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., India’s largest outsourcing vendor, last week reported revenue of 48.6 billion rupees ($1.1 billion U.S.) for the quarter that ended Dec. 31. That’s 41% higher than the revenue figure for the same period a year earlier. The Mumbai-based company’s profits increased 47% to 11 billion rupees ($249 million). TCS added 5,562 employees during the quarter, increasing its total workforce to 83,500.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

BSN Medical GmbH, a Hamburg, Germany-based maker of medical products for wound care, orthopedics and phlebology, has signed a five-year, $35 million outsourcing contract with Unisys Corp. Under the contract, Unisys will provide a comprehensive suite of IT services to BSN Medical’s 35 facilities worldwide, along with technical support for the company’s 3,500 employees.

Renesas Technology Corp. in Tokyo and Powerchip Semiconductor Corp. in Hsinchu, Taiwan, plan next month to launch a joint venture to design memory chips. Each company will contribute engineering resources to the new operation, which will be called Vantel Co. and will be based in Tokyo. Powerchip will own 65% of Vantel, and Renesas 35%.

-- Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

Avaya Inc. has agreed to acquire Ubiquity Software Corp., a Cardiff, Wales-based developer of software for fixed and mobile communications service providers, for about £74.3 million ($146 million U.S.) in cash. Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya said it plans to use the Ubiquity technology, which is based on the Session Initiation Protocol, to help its customers better integrate communications technologies and business processes.

-- John Blau, IDG News Service

Sophos PLC has bought Endforce Inc., a Dublin, Ohio-based developer of enterprise network access control software, for an undisclosed price. Abingdon, England-based Sophos said it will retain Endforce’s 60 employees and continue to develop and sell the acquired company’s products under the Sophos brand.

-- Peter Sayer, IDG News Service

Global Fact

  • 74M: Number of new mobile phone subscribers added in India last year, representing a 97% increase in the country’s total user base.

Source: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, New Delhi

Compiled by Mike Bucken

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon