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Tech Industry

Week in review: Cellular buzz

The future for cell phones means a host of new features, thanks in part to an all-in-one chip from Intel, an Opera browser, zippier networks and more.

Consumers can soon expect a host of options when it comes to cell phones, thanks in part to a new all-in-one chip, a revamped browser, and new networks and devices.

Intel aims to expand its reach in the market for portable devices with the release of its all-in-one processor for smart phones, code-named Manitoba. More cell phones are beginning to sport advanced capabilities such as built-in digital cameras, Web surfing, e-mail and color screens; Intel's new chip is intended to make those features available to the mainstream market.

The components that make up the "Internet-on-a-chip" are also offered separately and in other packages, but combining the components saves space and power, allowing phone makers to design smaller and more feature-rich phones.

Motorola will begin selling its first cell phone based on Linux this year and says most models will follow suit. Motorola's Linux-powered A760, an elaborate color-screen phone with a digital camera, MP3 audio player, video player and the ability to run Java programs, will go on sale in Asia in the third quarter, with introductions in North America and Europe to come.

Linux is available for free, but cost wasn't the reason Motorola made the move. Instead, the company believes it can develop products sooner by tapping into the fast pace of the open-source community that cooperatively produces Linux. Microsoft, which advocates the use of software such as its Pocket PC Phone Edition and .Net Compact Framework for use in mobile gadgets, said it perceives no threat.

Research In Motion is extending its presence in the all-in-one market too, winning FCC approval for a combination cell phone, organizer and two-way messaging device that operates in the 900MHz and 1900MHz radio frequencies for Global System for Mobile Communications and General Packet Radio Service cellular networks. RIM is also adding wireless synchronization to its BlackBerry pagers, a move that puts the company in step with key rival Good Technology.

Beginning next week, people who use Sony Ericsson's P800 mobile phones can download a browser from Opera Software that will let them see bulky Web pages on their tiny screens. The deal between Sony Ericsson and Opera utilizes the browser maker's Small-Screen Rendering technology introduced in October.

For the past few years, cell phone makers have hyped services that allow mobile users to access the Web on their cell phones. Opera touts Small-Screen Rendering as a breakthrough because its browser reformats the design of pages made for desktop displays to fit on a smaller screen.

Lucent Technologies says it's ready to license new cell phone technology the company says will let carriers build telephone networks that are 10 times faster than anything now commercially available. The new Lucent silicon is meant for steroid-injected versions of present-day digital cell phone networks, which break calls and other data into bits and bytes and send them along.

Lucent's "turbo decoder" for cell phone handsets can translate those bits and bytes back into voices or Web pages at about 24mbps--a quantum leap from the 2.4mbps speeds managed by the fastest commercial wireless network around.

Targeting piracy
The copyright fight popped up in a new arena this week when a federal grand jury invoked the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act to indict six people on charges of developing software and hardware designed to hack into paid TV satellite transmissions. The defendants allegedly created software and hardware designed to unscramble transmission signals sent by satellite TV operators, such as DirecTV and Dish Networks.

Seventeen defendants were indicted in all, but only six were charged under the criminal antidecryption provisions of the 1998 DMCA. The DMCA-related charges marked only the second time a grand jury has issued indictments involving the act.

Trade groups for the record and film industries turned up the heat in their efforts to get corporations to crack down on music and video piracy conducted on workplace networks. The Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry are jointly distributing a brochure warning of the dangers of Internet piracy to hundreds of corporations around the world.

The brochure, which is going out to the Fortune 1000 companies in the United States, urges the companies to crack down on employees' copyright infringement--or face legal consequences. Late in 2002, the U.S. organizations sent similar letters to Fortune 500 executives and legal counsels at universities around the country, warning them that their high-speed networks could be used for piracy.

Sharman Networks, one of the main targets of the antipiracy effort, released a new version of its Kazaa file-trading software, adding new features and advertising partners the company hopes will aid in its legal struggle for its life. The new software adds little to the basic functions of the Net's most popular file-swapping program, but Kazaa users will see an increase in the proportion of advertiser-paid, copy-protected search results as they hunt for their favorite artists or movies.

Sizzling servers
The economy may be chilly but servers are hot. IBM has sold 5,000 "blade" servers since launching its BladeCenter product less than three months ago, and the computing giant plans to announce several new, more powerful models this year.

Models with four Xeon processors and models with two of IBM's own Power processors will come out later this year. The Power blades will use the PowerPC 970 processor; the 1.8GHz processor is expected to arrive later this year.

IBM was also the big winner in U.S. sales of servers running Linux, which nearly doubled in last year's fourth quarter from a year earlier. Total Linux server revenue was $384.6 million in the fourth quarter, up 90 percent from $202.2 million. Linux servers made up more than 14 percent of all servers shipped in the United States in the first quarter, but accounted for just 7.6 percent of total server revenue.

That momentum is expected to build in light of Red Hat's high-end version of Linux receiving a certification that clears the way for broader use of the operating system in government. Red Hat's Advanced Server version received the Defense Department's Common Operating Environment certification running on an Intel-based IBM server, the first version of Linux to pass the milestone.

Other server makers jumped into the fray with price cuts and product announcements. Sun Microsystems debuted a faster 1.2GHz processor and lowered prices for its top-end and midrange servers. Apple Computer announced an upgrade to its line of rack-mounted servers and unveiled a line of storage gear. Meanwhile, hard-drive maker Western Digital launched the Raptor line aimed at servers and storage systems.

Buyer's market
Only a few years ago, companies rushed to buy whatever technologies were considered hot, simply to keep pace with competitors. Although those days are long gone, even the most frugal customers must upgrade their equipment and at least consider purchasing new technologies to avoid obsolescence--as long as they can see a clear return on their investment. A three-part special report focuses those considerations and examines how sales veterans are closing the deal.

Also of note
A security flaw at left private information open to harvesting this week, one of the busiest of the year for the online florist?TiVo is allowing lifetime subscribers to transfer their memberships to new recorders when they purchase a Series2 set-top box with 80 hours of storage capacity?The Bush administration is supporting an international proposal to map telephone numbers to Internet addresses?News and information sites are joining the commercial search craze, adding paid links to their query results and pushing the boundaries of the Web's hottest advertising format?Microsoft is set to offer a long-awaited upgrade to the Macintosh version of its Office suite, including access to corporate calendar and contact information stored on a server running Microsoft's Exchange software?Twice in the past two weeks, online vandals broke into the Web server of the former hacker Kevin Mitnick's security start-up.