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The week in review: IM everywhere

Already one of the most popular and fastest-growing Internet technologies, instant messaging is maturing with plans to send online messages more securely. But there's much more in the works.

Already one of the most popular and fastest-growing Internet technologies, instant messaging is maturing with plans to send online messages more securely. But there's much more in the works.

The freedom to send secure messages while at work is a big issue for many instant messaging users. Yet executives and other employees routinely chat via notoriously insecure connections. This issue has opened a niche to a crop of start-ups that are beginning to address IM's rapidly growing corporate audience, adding security features and other improvements to make instant messaging more palatable to executives and information systems managers. Corporate IM users are expected to rocket to 181 million in 2004 from a meager 6 million last year, according to an August 2000 report by IDC.

Real-time chatting isn't the only benefit to instant messaging. In a few weeks, a new technology for instant messaging lists will arrive that could substantially change the way information is distributed and retrieved on the Net.

ActiveBuddy is developing technology that lets popular software for trading short text messages be used to grab information stored on Web sites and computer databases. Rather than visiting a Web site for stock market information, for example, a person could send an instant message with the text "IBM stock" and instantly receive a response with the current price of IBM shares.

Instant messaging, already mobile, is looking to speak a common tongue. Three of the world's top four handset makers are joining forces to create a way for cell phone users to send instant messages to each other, regardless of the make, model or software inside the phone. Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson are involved in a joint effort they are calling "Wireless Village" to create a set of specifications for handset makers and carriers to follow. The world gets its first peek at the specifications by year's end.

Coming soon
AOL Time Warner is quietly testing software that could end exclusive support for Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser in future versions of its online services, signaling a growing fissure in an already strained relationship. The software, code-named Komodo, would allow AOL Time Warner's America Online and CompuServe services to support multiple Web browsers, including AOL Time Warner's Netscape products. "Komodo will reduce AOL's dependence on any single provider of browser technology," one document reads.

Sun Microsystems released new software that it claims can help Web users tap into computing devices and services that today's Internet doesn't accommodate. Sun has chosen the slogan, "find it, get it, use it," to describe the software, called "Jxta" and pronounced "juxta." Sun said Jxta will let people tap into an "expanded Web" that extends beyond today's Internet.

The long-anticipated marriage between television and PCs will soon take a step forward when Compaq Computer comes out with a new series of PCs and devices tweaked for video and television. The PC maker is working on a new class of products made for playing video and delivering it via the Internet, said Mike Winkler, executive vice president of Compaq's global business unit. "As (carriers) move broadband into the home, you will continue to see the PC evolve. You can now do video on demand or video storage applications," he said.

A tough call
NTT DoCoMo won't introduce its high-speed wireless phone network until October, a four-month delay that analysts believe will help U.S. carriers win the race to offer so-called 3G phone networks first. Though the United States has long been viewed as lagging behind the launch of third-generation phone services, analysts now think such companies have an advantage.

As industry stalwarts Motorola and

Hits and misses
Following are some of the earnings reports scheduled for the week of April 23. For a full list, please see's weekly calendar.
Company Per-share estimate* Earnings or date
Compaq +13 cents +12 cents
SBC +51 cents +51 cents
Qwest +13 cents +13 cents
AT&T +5 cents +6 cents
EarthLink -36 cents -27 cents
JDS Uniphase +14 cents +14 cents
Lucent -23 cents -37 cents -25 cents -21 cents
LSI Logic +3 cents +3 cents
Qualcomm +29 cents +29 cents
WorldCom +25 cents +25 cents
Webvan -19 cents -18 cents
PurchasePro +8 cents -2 cents

* Source: First Call

Nokia are seeing cell phone sales plummet, handset makers are feeling more pressure than ever to find ways to generate revenue and shake out of the telecommunications slump. One answer seems to be to sell mobile phones packed with new features such as Internet access and other interactive services. But some in the phone industry worry that these companies, in their rush to sell these steroid-injected phones, are neglecting potentially troubling problems--especially in the relatively unfamiliar realm of software.

And on the battery front, German researchers are developing new types of power cells that could eliminate the need to recharge mobile devices. Casio, Siemens and other manufacturers of handheld computers and cell phones are already building prototype devices that use the new power cells. The plan is to replace rechargeable batteries in mobile devices with a miniature version of the hydrogen fuel cell used to power electric cars.

Who's the boss?
Troubled online grocer Webvan appointed a new chief executive and a plan designed to keep the company in business. Webvan said COO Robert Swan has been named CEO, succeeding George Shaheen, who stepped down earlier this month. Swan joined Webvan in October 1999.

Patti S. Hart, the former CEO of Telocity until its recent acquisition by Hughes Electronics, has been named chairman and chief executive of Excite@Home, the world's largest provider of high-speed Net access.

Larry Ellison said he plans to remain Oracle's chief executive for at least another five to 10 years before handing the company's reins to a successor. When asked who the current No. 2 executive is at Oracle, Ellison, 57, named Executive Vice President Safra Catz, who has been at Oracle for two years after a stint as managing director of investment firm Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette. But in the same breath, Ellison quickly mentioned Chief Financial Officer Jeff Henley.

Those comments came a day after Ellison predicted the software market will consolidate, including the potential demise of Commerce One and Ariba.

Also of note
Intel released a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 processor; the company also will slash the price of the Pentium 4...In parallel efforts to cut costs, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard are requiring employees to take vacation time...A California judge has ruled that a consulting firm specializing in finding foreign technology workers must pay the attorney fees for an Indian programmer who sued over his restrictive work contract...Gateway is hoping that the abolishment of what it calls 15 "stupid" policies will bolster sagging customer satisfaction and revenue.

View all this week's headlines.