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Tech Industry

The week in review: Who's the boss?

Several companies named new CEOs with the intention of injecting energy into an ailing sector afflicted by closures and plummeting stock prices.

Several companies named new leaders with the goal of giving fresh life to an ailing sector afflicted by shutdowns and sinking stock prices.

Net giant Yahoo appointed former Warner Bros. executive Terry Semel as its new chairman and chief executive, just a little over a month after Tim Koogle decided to step down from the top spot. Semel, a 24-year veteran of Warner Bros., is taking on the CEO role effective May 1. Former CEO Koogle will become vice chairman, a role he is expected to keep until August, after which he will remain on Yahoo's board.

Taking responsibility for Yahoo at this time presents a formidable task, as the company has seen revenue projections plunge and has endured a string of senior executive departures.

Ending a yearlong search, Covisint, a giant auto industry e-commerce exchange, named Wall Street veteran Kevin English as its first chief executive. English, 48, previously was managing director at Credit Suisse First Boston and chief executive of TheStreet.com, an online financial news site. The Covisint exchange, announced with great fanfare last February by automakers General Motors, Ford Motor and DaimlerChrysler, is one of the highest-profile business-to-business marketplaces.

Many analysts and industry executives questioned the wisdom of appointing English, an executive who has little experience in heavy manufacturing or the auto industry in general.

Outpost.com, an online retailer of technology products, replaced CEO and President Katherine Vick and cut 30 percent of its work force. The retailer has fallen on tough times and recently announced it would seek strategic options to help it secure badly needed cash.

It's in the e-mail
If an e-mail arrives in your in-box, and you don't know who it's from, can that message be considered spam? A recent court case may throw a new light on unwanted e-mail and the companies that are working overtime to grab your attention by sending thousands of messages a day.

Last month, a New York state judge granted bulk e-mailer MonsterHut a temporary restraining order forcing ISP PaeTec Communications to allow the company to send commercial e-mail over high-speed Internet pipes. The MonsterHut case highlights gray areas that are opening up in the world of commercial bulk e-mail as some in the industry seek to cast off their shady pasts and go legit. The dispute also illustrates the sensitivity surrounding bulk e-mail and the mounting tensions between e-mail marketers and the Internet service providers that are essential to their livelihood.

Employees waste nearly an hour a day managing work e-mails. A new survey finds that workers spend an average of 49 minutes per day managing e-mail and that 24 percent spend more than an hour per day on this task. The survey, which asked workers about their e-mail and instant messaging habits, found that 34 percent of the internal business e-mail they receive is unnecessary. The survey also said that only 27 percent of the e-mail that workers receive demands their immediate attention.

And then the bizarre: "Star Wars" fans in the United Kingdom have been stung by an e-mail suggesting that the forthcoming U.K. Census would recognize "Jedi" as a religion if enough people put it on the form. The Office of National Statistics has confirmed that the stunt, which had raised hopes among "Star Wars" fanatics across the country that they would be recognized as Jedi Knights, will not work.

Gaining the upper hand
Dell Computer surpassed Compaq Computer in the first quarter to become the world's largest PC maker, the first time the rankings have shifted in about seven years. Dell achieved 12.8 percent market share worldwide in the first quarter, surpassing Compaq for the first time on a worldwide basis. Compaq ended the quarter in second place with a 12.1 percent share of the world market. Dell saw shipments of desktops, notebooks, and Intel-based servers grow by 34.3 percent worldwide and 30.7 percent in the United States.

It's not yet a case of evolve or die, but the supremacy of the venerable notebook computer could be threatened by more nimble handhelds such as the BlackBerry e-mail pager. A study found that when corporate workers are given the handheld devices from Canada's Research In Motion, their use of laptops declines markedly. Time spent on a notebook dropped by an average of 45 percent after workers were given BlackBerry pagers, according to the survey. In addition, 19 percent stopped using their laptops.

And on the labor front, a California judge may be close to issuing a final ruling on behalf of an Indian computer programmer who sued over a restrictive work contract--a decision that could result in a flood of similar suits targeting labor practices that are pervasive in the tech industry. If the judge stands by his initial ruling, which is still under submission, it would mark a major victory for foreign professionals who work in the United States--mainly computer programmers and engineers from India, Russia and Taiwan who hold H-1B visas.

Not the plan
A TiVo software glitch is causing some set-top boxes to reboot repeatedly, though the company says it recently began uploading fixes to customers. The problem affects only TiVo subscribers who have DirecTV receivers and service. TiVo confirmed the problem with its digital video recording software and said it began uploading the fix to customers earlier this month. This is the second time in less than a week that reports have surfaced of problems with digital video recording software.

Less than a month after releasing the 1GHz mobile Pentium III processor, Intel has told PC makers it cannot meet demand. Several PC makers said Intel contacted them to deliver the bad news: Supplies of the new 1GHz chips will be tight until late May. The shortage is surprising, as it comes during an industrywide chip glut, analysts say. Notebook makers are scrambling to manage the supply crisis, which is affecting manufacturers in different ways.

Also of note
A federal judge rejected an Internet company's request to broadcast over the Web the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh...A CNET News.com special report titled "Taming the Web" finds new filters and tracking programs are putting limits on what you see over the Internet...Blue-chip and technology stocks posted huge gains after the Federal Reserve Board surprised investors with a half-point cut in short-term interest rates...After remaining virtually unchanged for the past several years, the cost of monthly Internet access via high-speed cable modems could be headed higher...Networking component start-ups were one of the last safe havens for venture capitalists as the economy sputtered, but now the future is less certain.

View all this week's News.com headlines.