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The week in review: Palm VII kicking off wireless era

When Palm Computing introduces its eagerly anticipated Palm VII handheld, it may well kick off the era of wireless computing.

When Palm Computing introduces its eagerly anticipated Palm VII handheld, it may well kick off the era of wireless computing.

The first Palm computer able to connect directly to the Internet will be unveiled Monday in New York, according to people familiar with the company's plans. Along with the new device, Palm will debut its Palm.net wireless Internet service, the first of a bevy of data services.

Palms away
The Palm VII will initially be sold at major electronics retailers for $599, but it won't be available nationwide: the company is still testing the device and its complementary "Web clipping" service, which offers pared-down Internet content for the small-screen device, according to one retailer.

Even on a limited basis, however, the rollout of the newest Palm device is sure to cause excitement, and not only in the large and fiercely loyal Palm community. Companies that have already announced plans to develop for the Palm.net service include UPS, Bank of America, MasterCard, Visa International, E*Trade, ABCNEWS.com, ESPN.com, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, The Weather Channel, and Yahoo.

The Palm VII's debut will mark 3Com's latest move in the wireless space: Last month the company created a division dedicated to wireless projects, and last week at a trade show Palm announced plans to develop technology that links all manner of devices with radio transmitters and receivers.

More and more
Microsoft's long-term strategy depends on the availability of higher-speed connections to the Internet, according to chief executive Bill Gates. "A lot of this vision really requires that you're always connected," Gates said at a press conference during this week's CEO Summit.

Xerox and Microsoft will integrate each other's software so that printers, faxes, and copiers can better communicate across a network, the duo announced. Xerox will license Windows NT Embedded, a version of Microsoft's corporate operating system. Microsoft plans to license a Web-based user interface technology being developed in Xerox's renowned Palo Alto Research Center.

IBM and Microsoft demonstrated technology that quadruples the number of Windows NT servers which can be "clustered" together to improve the configuration and reliability of computer services.

Hewlett-Packard unveiled its "E-speak" technology, software intended to knit together different computers and software used in e-commerce and further HP's grand plan to make money off sophisticated transactions on the Internet. The software will eventually be available on an open-source basis.

SGI released another component of its operating system software to open source developers, a step that should make it easier to restore Linux-based computers after a disaster. Linux lacks a journaling file system, a feature that helps to get a Unix computer up and running after a system crashes.

Dropout
Apple's popular iMac dropped out of the top-five retail sellers as customers continued to flock to low-priced machines in April, according to a study. Amid robust sales, PC makers' overall revenue was down 2 percent as the average price of a so-called Wintel machine fell to $928, down from $987 in March, he said. Inexpensive computers based on Intel's Celeron or AMD processors also outsold high-end Pentium III systems despite a high-profile campaign touting the new chip.

Bargain PC manufacturer Emachines will begin to market its own brand of Internet service in June, a move which will pave the way for the company to get into the subsidized or "free" PC market. Initially, the start-up will likely sell its ISP services as an option and charge a monthly fee independent of the purchase price. Later, the company may offer discounts on PCs if a customer agrees to long-term ISP contracts, similar to the way cell phones are sold.

Some users of Micron Electronics' slim Gobook and Gobook2 notebooks are reporting their computers are melting. Micron has recently alerted customers about a manufacturing problem with an external battery.

Intel rolled out a 550-MHz Pentium III chip, and most major PC makers introduced high-end desktops ranging in price from $1,800 to $2,300, as well as new workstations and servers. Along with the new chips, Intel cut prices on existing Pentium III and Pentium II processors. Rival AMD matched the price drops.

Getting ahead
Hush Communications announced HushMail, a Web-based email service that encrypts and decrypts messages on senders' and recipients' computers. The service only works with other HushMail accounts, but users can set up anonymous accounts, and the new product could raise the ire of law enforcement officials.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer has taken a commanding lead over Netscape's Navigator--by 59 percent to 41--as the primary browser in use in large corporations, according to a study. The results sharply contrast with an October 1998 study, which showed Microsoft's IE trailing Netscape's browser by 20 percentage points.

In a related matter, AOL president Steve Case this week testified that the leading ISP purchased Netscape without regard for its browser, saying it thinks that market is "dead." But the newly released version 4.6 of Netscape's includes changes which show that the online giant aims to leverage its browser to drive traffic to one of its key online properties, Digital City.

Meanwhile, AOL said it is revamping its e-commerce strategy to induce users spend even more than the whopping $1.8 billion they forked over in the first three months of 1999. For its online retail partners, the biggest boost is the decision to drop the proprietary Rainman format in favor of HTML.

Following its January 15 purchase of a small company called Log-Me-On, Yahoo has been developing Yahoo Companion, software that attaches popular My Yahoo personalization features--such as stock quotes, email, or news--onto a browser toolbar.

Healtheon confirmed a long-anticipated merger with privately held WebMD and vowed to use an infusion of new investments to build the biggest site devoted to health care on the Web.

Change of plans
MTV parent Viacom and Liberty Media struck an Internet music alliance: Liberty's TCI Music unit will buy a 10 percent stake in a new MTV online division, while MTV will acquire The Box, a customer request music cable service considered a threat to the MTV music empire, as well as three online music sites. No cash will change hands.

Network Computer landed a $50 million financing round from corporate and cable investors, changed its name to Liberate Technologies, and filed to go public. After failing to fulfill its original mission of unseating the PC, the company has refocused on supplying software for information appliances and has lately scored some big contracts.

Technology product distributor Tech Data won an outsourcing agreement with GE Capital IT Solutions worth nearly $2 billion. Under the three-year agreement focusing on the U.S. market and projected to generate about $2 billion in annual revenue for the distributor, Tech Data will become GE Capital's IT procurement, configuration and assembly, and logistics services provider.

In the Capital
The federal government doesn't match political donations made by credit card, but spurred by former New Jersey senator and Democratic White House contender Bill Bradley, the Federal Elections Commission is considering a proposal to change that rule, accommodating the recent burst in cyberdemocracy.

Distributing bomb-making information on the Net would be illegal in most cases under Senate legislation being debated in the wake of the Littleton, Colorado, shootings. By a 85-13 vote, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) successfully tacked an amendment onto the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act.

Just hours after officials unveiled a new Web site indexing millions of government documents, the Commerce Department temporarily suspended the service's fee structure to review whether it violates the Clinton administration's policy on open access to government information.

Claiming it was bombarded with junk email, a Net service provider has filed a $6 million lawsuit against a subsidiary of Fortune 500 company Centex under Washington's antispam statute.

Democrats survived a motion to end debate on a bipartisan Y2K bill, and the White House again threatened to veto any bill with caps on punitive damages.

Also of note
The liquid crystal display industry is in the midst of a sharp price rebound, good for Asia-based electronics manufacturers but not so good for buyers of notebook PCs ... The force of Star Wars enthusiasts brought online credit card traffic to peaks rivaling the Mother's Day and Valentine's Day rushes ... eToys stock nearly quadrupled following its highly anticipated initial public sale ... CDnow-N2K launched its combined music site, aiming its efforts squarely at Amazon.com ... In a broadband drag race between cable modem and DSL access, even low-grade DSL is as much as 12 percent faster than cable--at least during consumers' prime-time evening hours.