Global Dispatches

An international IT news digest

Microsoft Promises to License Source Code

BRUSSELS -- Microsoft Corp. last week agreed to license the source code for some of the communications protocols in its Windows server software, in an attempt to avoid daily fines of 2 million euros ($2.4 million U.S.) by the European Commission.

"I don't believe any decision to implement a fine is warranted," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said at a press conference in Brussels following the announcement. Smith added that the source-code licensing plan should remove "any doubts" among European officials about Microsoft's compliance with the EC's March 2004 antitrust ruling against the vendor.

However, a spokesman for European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that the licensing offer is "not necessarily enough" to head off the fines. "It would be premature to conclude [that] access to the source code would resolve the problem of the lack of compliance with our decision," the spokesman said, adding that Microsoft needs to provide "the right information to allow competitors to make Microsoft-compatible workgroup server products."

As part of the antitrust ruling, the EC ordered Microsoft to license the protocols for its workgroup server software so other vendors can develop products that interoperate smoothly with Windows. Last month, the commission charged that Microsoft wasn't complying with the ruling and threatened to start fining the company.

Before Microsoft announced the licensing plan last week, the EC agreed to extend the compliance deadline that it set in December from last Wednesday to Feb. 15.

--Simon Taylor, IDG News Service

Tokyo Exchange Hires CIO, Boosts IT Capacity

TOKYO -- Tokyo Stock Exchange Inc. last week named a new CIO in the aftermath of an early shutdown of trading that prompted the exchange to shorten its trading hours indefinitely and led to widespread criticism of its IT management.

The operator of the world's second-largest stock market tapped Yoshinori Suzuki, formerly an executive at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., to oversee its IT strategy. Suzuki, 57, will assume the CIO post on Feb. 1.

The move came just a week after the exchange was forced to halt trading 20 minutes early on Jan. 18, when its computer systems nearly reached their daily limit of processing 4.5 million trades. Officials then decided to shorten the trading day by 30 minutes for what they described as "the foreseeable future."

Since then, the exchange has boosted the processing capacity to 5 million trades per day, and it plans to begin using a new trade-clearing system today. However, that won't provide any further capacity boosts.

Exchange officials have announced vague plans to increase the daily volume of the new system to as much as 8 million trades later this year. Suzuki will have to determine how much the system should be expanded and set a time frame for the upgrade.

--Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

CEO, Other Top Execs Arrested at Portal Firm

TOKYO -- Three top executives of Internet portal operator Livedoor Co. were arrested last week for allegedly violating Japanese securities laws.

The arrests came a week after law enforcement officials raided the offices of Tokyo-based Livedoor and several affiliated companies. The raids caused investors to panic, leading to a flood of online trading that played a major role in stressing the systems at the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The Tokyo District Prosecutors' Office arrested Livedoor CEO Takafumi Horie as well as the company's chief financial officer and the president of its Livedoor Marketing Co. subsidiary. Horie stepped down after his arrest and was replaced as CEO by Kozo Hiramatsu, who had been a senior vice president at the company.

--Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

CDC Drops Onyx Bid, Buys Another Vendor

HONG KONG -- CDC Corp., a Hong Kong-based company that owns a variety of software and IT services firms worldwide, has withdrawn its bid for a majority stake in Onyx Software Corp. The decision ends the specter of a drawn-out struggle for control of the Bellevue, Wash.-based CRM vendor.

Separately, CDC reached an agreement to buy JRG Software Inc., a San Mateo, Calif.-based provider of hosted supply-chain management software for packaged goods manufacturers. The purchase price wasn't disclosed.

CDC said on Jan. 20 that it was discontinuing its attempt to win over Onyx's board of directors, citing the board's resistance to further discussions as well as Onyx's climbing stock price. The announcement came two weeks after the Onyx board rejected CDC's offer to pay up to $50 million for a majority ownership position.

Steven Chan, CDC's acting CEO, said in a statement that the company will continue to seek willing acquisition targets in the business applications market. Since 2003, CDC has acquired vendors such as Pivotal Corp. and Ross Systems Inc.

--Stacy Cowley, IDG News Service

Google Offers Censored Search Service in China

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Google Inc. last week said it was launching a search service aimed at users in China that will block them from seeing results deemed likely to offend the Chinese government.

The site will notify users that rejected searches are being blocked because the information being sought is politically sensitive, Google said. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has been operating a search engine aimed at Chinese users from the U.S. but decided to open a server center inside China in an attempt to speed up searches.

"While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information -- or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information -- is more inconsistent with our mission," Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel, said in a statement.

--Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service

Briefly Noted

  • Microsoft Corp. said it worked with investigators from the Bulgarian National Service for Combating Organized Crime in an investigation that culminated last week with the arrest of eight people for allegedly stealing financial information by using a variety of fake Web pages carrying Microsoft logos. The thefts netted the group at least $50,000 U.S., according to Microsoft.

    --Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service
  • Hynix Semiconductor Inc. in Kyoungki-Do, South Korea, will be hit by the Japanese government with countervailing duties of about 27% on its dynamic RAM chips. Japan alleges that low-cost loans from state-controlled Korean banks have amounted to unfair subsidies for the chip maker. The U.S. and the European Union have imposed similar duties on Hynix, which denies receiving illegal subsidies.

    --Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service

  • Yahoo Inc. last week disclosed plans to open research facilities in Santiago, Chile, and Barcelona, Spain, to tap into engineering resources in Latin America and Europe. The offshore operations will research the relevance of search-engine results, text mining and categorization of documents.

    --Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service
  • Asianux, a consortium of Linux vendors, will set up a joint-venture company this year to promote and further develop its version of the open-source operating system, according to an executive familiar with the plans. The three members of the group -- Red Flag Software Co. in Beijing, Haansoft Inc. in Seoul, South Korea, and Miracle Linux Corp. in Tokyo -- hope that the Beijing-based venture will attract more customers for the Asianux software.

    --Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service
  • Swisscom AG said CEO Jens Alder has resigned, citing government opposition to his expansion strategy for the Bern, Switzerland-based telecommunications carrier. Carsten Schloter, who was previously in charge of Swisscom 's mobile phone division, was named to replace Alder. In November, the Swiss Finance Ministry forced Swisscom to halt efforts to acquire foreign firms.

    --John Blau, IDG News Service

Global Fact: 33%

  • The percentage of Western European companies that run open-source databases.

Source: IDC, Framingham, Mass.

Compiled by Mike Bucken.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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