Just over a year ago, on the last day of its 2001 fiscal year, the company inked a multimillion-dollar contract with the state of California. While the salespeople associated with the deal likely toasted their good fortune at the time, apparently no one at the company predicted the storm of negative publicity the deal would generate in subsequent months--or they would have kept the bubbly on ice.
The $95 million, no-bid contract has been panned by state auditors, hastheir jobs, and has drawn harsh criticism from a legislative audit committee. This week, the crisis erupted anew when that an Oracle lobbyist encouraged the company to line the pockets of key state politicians to keep the contract intact.
In January, as questions mounted about the contract, Oracle lobbyist Ravi Mehta asked Robert Hoffman, director of legislative affairs at the company, to "make contributions to a number of individuals who are presently in office or running in safe seats and will be elected to the California legislature next year."
Specifically, the memo lists nine state politicians, summarizes why they are important to Oracle, and recommends how much money they should receive. For example, the memo notes that one candidate for the assembly will "be an ardent supporter of Oracle when elected."
The company responded that it never acted on the memo and has severed ties to Mehta. "I think in hindsight it was probably a mistake" to have Mehta doing sales and lobbying work for the company, said Oracle vice president Ken Glueck.
Meanwhile, Mehta was subpoenaed to testify on Thursday but he, citing a state statute based on the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Earlier in the week, the audit committee released a stack of documents,discussing how to present now controversial cost-savings estimates.
While Oracle was deflecting critics in its home state, the company was busy extending its global operations: Itan additional 2,000 engineers in India and it a Chinese version of its popular online resource center.
Covered in bugs
Another week, another spate of patches, hacks, flaws, bugs and viruses.
Microsoft started the week by acknowledging it willold code in its Windows operating system and other software as a result of the company's four-month-old "trustworthy computing" initiative.
The move followed last week's warning that ain Microsoft's Internet Explorer occurred in the software supporting a decade-old protocol called Gopher that has rarely been used since the World Wide Web became popular.
More bad news came later when the company Web site detailing several recently discovered flaws, one of which was deemed critical for Windows NT and 2000 servers.on its
Andof a new virus that communicates through digital images. Dubbed the first "JPEG infector" by security company Network Associates, the W32/Perrun virus has two parts: infected JPEG images that contain the virus' payload and a viral program that extracts the code from the images and infects other JPEGs on the system as they are opened.
On a more benevolent note,won the race to discover the password to a Norwegian history museum's database. The password had been lost when the database's steward died without revealing it.
It's in hand
Remember when convergence was a technology buzzword? Well, guess what--in the handheld market, it still is. Handheld makers, faced with sinking sales, are searching for the next best thing to get consumers interested in spending more for meatier devices.
Handspring recently released its line ofcommunicators that can make phone calls, surf the Web and send e-mail. A start-up called is following that theme with its own all-in-one device called the . Expected in late July, the device will be priced around $200--much less than most combination devices on the market.
But the start-up has got its work cut out for it--even the leading handheld makers are struggling. Palm this week was looking for a boost following the release of theof its handheld operating system. Palm OS 5 is designed to pave the way for hardware makers to create Palm OS handhelds using more powerful processors based on chip designs from England's ARM. The OS also adds improved security, sound and networking features.
Price is still a sticking point with many consumers, as handhelds increasingly incorporate flashier features but still remain somewhat expensive. Palm CEO Eric Benhamou, however, says Palm is working on a new line of devices that could include a handheld that. Benhamou said Palm can design a product to be sold at that price and still meet its profit-margin targets.
CIOs: Their hopes, needs and fears
What keeps your chief information officer up at night? In a series of exclusive interviews, CNET News.com talked to the technology chiefs of a number of Fortune 100 companies to discover what they think will bring the market back around. The future of technology--who buys it, and how it's used--is in their hands.
Also of note
The future of KPNQwest's European network was as of Friday, as employees threatened to walk out if a buyer was not found...Investors in online payment service PayPal decided to in a secondary offering, while battling legal suits on the side...Microsoft and state trustbusters delivered their in a hearing designed to determine remedies in the case. The judge in the case is expected to submit her own versions of the filings for her ruling, expected late this summer...And eager to get Web services developers to conform to one of its key recommendations, the Web's leading standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium, for XML processors.
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