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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

Week in review: Intel looks ahead

Chipmaker talks up its plans for dual-core and wireless tech, and sketches out "the Internet of tomorrow."

Intel took the stage to talk up its plans for dual-core chips and wireless gadgetry and to sketch out "the Internet of tomorrow."

At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week, the chipmaker gave the first demonstration of its much-anticipated dual-core desktop processor and revealed details of Sonoma, the next version of the Centrino wireless technology, and of its successor, Napa. Dual-core chips are central to mainstream chipmakers' efforts to boost performance, as new manufacturing technologies permit more circuitry to be etched onto a slice of silicon.

Intel is looking to dual-core chips, along with new mobile platforms, wireless notebooks and entertainment PCs, to create demand from existing business customers and to open up consumer markets. Intel has pledged to deliver its first dual-core processors during 2005.

The Sonoma version of Centrino is scheduled for release in the first quarter of next year, likely to be followed by Napa later in 2005 or 2006. The Napa edition will contain a chipset code-named Calistoga and next-generation wireless technology code-named Golan. Intel recently introduced Calexico 2, a Wi-Fi part for Sonoma that enables devices to connect to 802.11a/b/g networks.

Also at the forum was Intel's model digital home, which contained an all-in-one PC with a striking new design built around a white flat-screen monitor. Despite a strong resemblance, it's not the new iMac. It's a computer from Korean PC maker Lluon.

The all-in-one boasts a 17-inch-wide screen like the iMac, and it even touts new cooling technology for quieter operation--also a feature on the latest Mac. But of course, this is a Windows-based computer with an Intel chip, not a Mac with IBM's G5. Unfortunately for Americans and Europeans with Apple envy, the machine is slated to be available only in Korea.

Meanwhile, Intel is turning its sights on improving the Internet, saying that it needs to be upgraded with a new layer of abilities that will deal with imminent problems of capacity, security and reliability. Intel Chief Technology Officer Pat Gelsinger pointed to PlanetLab, an experimental network that sits on top of the Internet, as a step in the right direction.

Gelsinger described two current research efforts that he said demonstrate the potential of PlanetLab to improve the Internet. The first is a project based at the University of California at Berkeley to combat malicious computer attacks. The so-called Public Health for the Internet project has developed a system for monitoring network attacks, and it can determine their source, Gelsinger said. Such information could be sent to firewall applications at companies or Internet service providers to bolster security, he suggested.

Another example of PlanetLab in action is work at Carnegie Mellon University to improve broadcasting over the Web. By setting up media proxy servers, the project takes the strain off the primary computer streaming out content and allows for a better-quality transmission, Gelsinger said.

Oracle's big win
Oracle may have a shot at acquiring PeopleSoft after all.

The company cleared a major hurdle Thursday when a federal judge ruled that its hostile bid for its rival posed no threat to competition in the corporate software market. The Justice Department took Oracle to court in June, charging that a PeopleSoft buyout would empower Oracle to illegally raise prices and would impair innovation in the industry. Oracle argued that it couldn't raise prices with Germany's SAP and a raft of other rivals competing against it.

The verdict allows Oracle to pursue its $7.7 billion bid to buy PeopleSoft. Oracle has been chasing its unwilling target for nearly 15 months and has spent the last six months fighting the government's antitrust efforts.

Oracle wasted no time putting PeopleSoft under siege after Thursday's decision, sending a letter urging PeopleSoft's board to accept its latest offer. PeopleSoft responded to the ruling by saying it was weighing the implications. Observers say several scenarios are possible, but a quick or tidy outcome is not expected. Among Oracle's next hurdles are the potential for an appeal by the Justice Department and a review of the deal by European regulators. Each potential obstacle buys PeopleSoft time to stall the fight. But as a whole, the hurdles are unlikely to permanently sideline Oracle's takeover attempt, experts said.

Oracle's quest for PeopleSoft has fueled negative perceptions of the software company among corporate computer buyers, which could sap demand for its products. According to a report issued by market research firm Techtel, one in four IT professionals with an opinion on Oracle has a low regard for the company. Less than 50 percent of the 765 survey participants said they trust Oracle, compared with 80 percent declaring trust in IBM.

The survey indicates that Oracle's corporate image is in the worst shape it's been in the 12 years that Techtel has been measuring it. The research firm surveys hundreds of IT buyers each quarter to measure their perceptions of numerous computer companies.

Blocking and tackling with Microsoft
Microsoft is doubling the number of months that corporate customers can block automatic delivery of Windows XP Service Pack 2. The company altered its policy for preventing the automatic download of SP2 through Automatic Update or Windows Update, two services for automatically downloading important Windows updates to PCs via the Internet.

Corporate customers now have about eight months--or until the middle of April--to prepare for the security-related update, which may require testing for compatibility with other business applications before installation.

Microsoft is also looking at allowing companies to block the use of iPods and other portable storage devices. In the next version of Windows, Microsoft plans to give big companies an easy way to block use of such devices, while making it easier for consumers to connect their home systems to them.

Much has been made of the security risks posed by portable storage devices known as USB keys, or flash drives, music players like the iPod, and other small gadgets that can store vast amounts of data. Some fear that such tiny devices can be used to quickly copy sensitive data off business PC hard drives, or to introduce malicious software onto corporate networks.

Gadget focus
Sony plans to launch a new camcorder in November that can record and play back high-definition video. The device, part of the company's Handycam line, records and plays back video with a resolution of 1,440 pixels by 1,080 lines, the highest in any consumer camcorder.

Dubbed the HDR-FX1, the device uses MPEG2 compression, which is the same type normally used for digital broadcasts and DVDs. It also features a 3.5-inch, wide-screen LCD display. The camcorder will sell for about $3,700, Sony said.

Meanwhile, Panasonic announced a DVD recorder that takes requests from the road. The machine has a 400GB hard disk drive and is designed to let consumers program recording remotely over the Internet--including via cell phones.

The new product, dubbed the DMR-E500H, and related devices with smaller hard drives, are slated to be available in Japan beginning Sept. 21. The DMR-E500H, billed as allowing for more than 700 hours of recorded video, demonstrates the growing capabilities of devices combining DVD recording with hard drives.

Also of note
Microsoft launched a new line of keyboards and mice, including models with built-in fingerprint readers...Apple Computer released an update to its Mac OS X operating system to fix 15 security issues in the software...After undergoing surgery in late July for a rare form of pancreatic cancer, Apple Computer Chief Executive Steve Jobs is on the road to recovery and plans to return to full-time work later this month...German police said a 19-year-old has admitted to hijacking the domain of the eBay Germany Web site and is likely to face charges of computer sabotage.