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The week's news: Blackout!

A San Francisco power outage wreaks havoc on the Internet's ground zero.

One of the worst blackouts in San Francisco's history disrupted power to nearly 1 million people on Tuesday, snarling online operations at the Internet's ground zero.

The blackout affected vast numbers of wired companies and Netizens, many of which rely on communications with the Bay Area and operations based here, regardless of where they themselves are physically located. Web and e-commerce companies either went dark or were forced to use back-up power systems when the blackout struck.

Simple human error
"Simple human error" stemming from construction work in the city of San Mateo checked cyberspace's daily routine. Some companies had backed up their servers outside the Bay Area, allowing them to weather the outage better than others. Excite, Yahoo, Netscape Communications, @Home, and online agency Preview Travel were not affected.

Electricity at the offices of CNET: The Computer Network was out for a time, temporarily disabling the company's servers, including those used by

Big bucks
In a deal that has been rumored since September, AT&T will acquire IBM's Global Network business, which provides business applications for networked companies, for $5 billion in cash. AT&T Solutions expects the move to provide sorely needed global capacity as well as $2.5 billion in new revenue in the first year of operation and added ability to compete with archrival MCI Worldcom.

Computer Sciences Corporation beat out aerospace giant Lockheed Martin for a 15-year, $3 billion contract to revamp the Internal Revenue Service's internal computer systems.

Give us a click and we'll give you the week! CNET Radio newscasts from the week of December 7-11.
Electronic Data Systems named Richard Brown, the chief executive of Britain's Cable & Wireless, as its chairman and chief executive, effective January 15, 1999. The 51-year-old American with a 25-year background in the telecommunications industry brings credibility on Wall Street and with EDS's blue-chip customers.

Business application vendors up and down the spectrum are latching on to a once amusing programming fad and making Java an integral part of their multimillion dollar software systems.

Entrée or trojan horse?
PointCast may become a kind of lure attracting users to high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) Net access technology, via a plan calling for telcos including BellSouth to invest in PointCast and use the company's push technology and content partnerships.

Lycos will begin selling merchandise at its portal site as well as via subsidiaries HotBot, WhoWhere, and Tripod. The e-commerce rollout, intended to drive traffic to the main site, makes Lycos the first portal to directly assume the role of a retailer.

Infoseek will no longer accept sexually explicit advertising banners, unlike rivals Yahoo, Excite, and others. The step comes one week before the highly anticipated beta launch of Go, a portal jointly developed by Infoseek and Disney, which owns 43 percent of Infoseek.

Good week for giants
South Carolina dropped out of the high-profile antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, becoming the first state to withdraw. There is sufficient competition in the Internet market, South Carolina Attorney General Charles Condon said, citing America Online's proposed $4.2 billion purchase of Netscape Communications.

Later this week, the presiding judge surprised the court by interrupting proceedings to ask Sun vice president and Java creator James Gosling if Sun's chief complaint with Microsoft was that the software giant had been more nimble and created a better version of the programming language.

Speaking of licensing
Elsewhere, Sun announced Java 2 with great fanfare. Formerly called Java Development Kit 1.2, the updated version makes security, multimedia, and user interface improvements, Sun said.

Taiwanese company SIS may be close to a licensing agreement with Intel for rights to make Pentium II chipsets, another step toward opening the market to competition. Negotiations remain at a delicate stage, sources said.

Separately, Intel licensed its Pentium technology to the federal government for free, to aid the Sandia National Laboratories in designing a new version of the older-generation chip that can survive radiation in outer space.

Traditionally strong fourth-quarter computer sales will be unusually vigorous this year, growing by 12.2 percent, according to a research firm. Strong buying in Western Europe, the continued health of the U.S. market, and the expanding number of Internet users will chiefly benefit major PC makers such as Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM.

Under fire
A bipartisan group of influential members of Congress is preparing to challenge the Federal Communications Commission's authority next year, and may try to strip the agency of its regulatory powers, Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan) told a symposium. The group is unhappy with the slow pace of opening local phone service to competition.

An important Clinton administration official piled on. Commerce Department Assistant Secretary Larry Irving accused the Baby Bells of playing "stall ball."

Also of note
Auction site eBay suffered two power outages unrelated to San Francisco's blackout ... MSN is withdrawing from the Canadian Net access market, following similar retreats in Europe ... Apple released an update to MacOS 8.5 that fixes several minor bugs ... An infrared feature of the popular PalmPilot can be reprogrammed to break into cars with keyless locking systesm, according to New Scientist.