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Week in review: Home electronics hype

Dell is the latest computer maker to jump into the home electronics business, setting the stage for a battle royal between PC makers and consumer electronics companies this holiday season.

Dell this week became the latest computer maker to jump into the home electronics business, setting the stage for a battle royal between PC makers and consumer electronics companies this holiday season.

"We're here to confirm our entry into the consumer electronics category," Dell Chief Executive Michael Dell announced in a conference call, confirming details about one of the industry's worst-kept secrets. Dell will offer a digital music player, an online music service, a 17-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) television and computer screen, a projector and a new handheld in time for the holidays. Pricing will be announced soon.

Dell will join the likes of Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Sony Electronics and Apple Computer in the already highly competitive home electronics market. Dell's legendary low-cost business model is expected to cause headaches for the weaker players.

AMD's 64-bit bet
Advanced Micro Devices launched its Athlon 64 processor, which it hopes will help it better compete against Intel. The chip lets PC buyers upgrade to 64-bit software, a feature Intel's Pentium doesn't offer. This software, which will be sold later this year, offers improved graphics capabilities.

The Athlon 64 is expected to run at higher-than-expected clock speeds, a measure that will help it compete with Intel, sources familiar with the chip said.

A Linux lawsuit grows
IBM expanded its Linux-related lawsuit against the SCO Group, this time by accusing the software maker of infringing IBM copyrights. IBM also criticized other companies' efforts to indemnify Linux users, contending that the plans are of limited value.

SCO filed a $3 billion lawsuit against IBM earlier this year, accusing the software maker of illegally incorporating SCO-controlled Unix code into Linux software IBM distributes. IBM countersued SCO in August, charging SCO with violating IBM patents and engaging in unfair trade practices, among other charges.

Governor eliminates Golden State spam?
California Gov. Gray Davis signed the most far-reaching bill yet to regulate spam. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2004, states that no person may send any advertisement "in an unsolicited commercial e-mail advertisement to a California electronic mail address." Violators could end up paying $1,000 per unwanted commercial e-mail received.

The law is likely to face court challenges, however, as is the national "Do Not Call" list, which lets consumers block unwanted telemarketing phone calls.

A little less chat
Microsoft said it would shut down its Internet chat rooms in 28 countries on Oct. 14, blaming spammers and pedophiles. The decision excludes the United States and Canada. Microsoft encouraged MSN users to switch over to its free MSN Messenger instant messaging service.

Analysts suggested that the software giant was trying to steer customers to services such as MSN that can generate more money, either from online ads or from being packaged with paid features.

Sun serves up more Java
Sun Microsystems announced that more PC makers will begin shipping machines that are loaded with its Java software. It struck distribution deals with Acer, Gateway, Samsung, Toshiba and Tsinghua Tongfang--that are meant to help counterattack Microsoft's reluctance to supply the PC market with the Java programming language and Sun's supporting software.

Open-source Java software company JBoss Group also said this week it would the Sun-controlled process that determines the technical direction of Java software. For years JBoss had been at odds with Sun

Also of note
IBM said Morgan Stanley and Hewitt Associates, among others, have bought grid computing products and services...@Stake dismissed employee computer security expert Dan Geer after he contributed to a report critical of Microsoft...Yahoo began blocking Cerulean Studios' Trillian software from communicating with its own instant messaging software in an effort to limit third parties from piggybacking on its service.