The week's news: Stocks, e-commerce down

High tech's week began and ended with falling stock prices.

3 min read
High tech's week began and ended with falling stock prices.

Is that a bear?
Monday the Dow Jones dropped 512 points, lowering the bellwether index close to its starting point at the beginning of the year. High-tech execs were drubbed.

The next day the market regained about half of its lost ground, but by the end of the week the situation was deteriorating again.

Looking on the bright side, three optimists announced they were leaving corporate posts to head start-ups.

E-commerce under fire
Notwithstanding last week's exemplary performance of online traders, European executives remain hesitant about e-commerce. Business leaders are enthusiastic about its potential but wary of early spending, according to Arthur Andersen, which believes the wavering could jeopardize the continent's long-term competitiveness.

A second survey agreed e-commerce causes security problems on corporate Web sites.

Pioneering Internet firm DigiCash is losing its toehold as the only U.S. bank testing its eCash micropayment system is closing the trial September 14. Some analysts think the company's travails demonstrate the current state of electronic money. "Micropayments are all pretty much dead in the water," said one.

Microsoft is slowly eliminating provisions for "concurrent licensing" and other price breaks in its BackOffice products, which could result in corporations paying much bigger bills than they anticipated. Separately, a federal judge ordered the company to turn over evidence relating to business dealings with Intel and Apple, but put off ruling on the company's requests to exclude the evidence from the antitrust case or on delaying the trial, set to start in three weeks.

Brighter days for the PC
Citing growing demand, several analysts upwardly revised earnings projections for Intel. The PC industry has done away with its surplus inventory, they believe, and will enjoy stronger-than-expected second half sales.

In 1999, low-income households will be the leading category of first-time PC buyers, enticed by the lure of low-cost PCs and the Internet, a research firm said.

Gateway is increasingly relying on company-owned retail stores to sustain its success in the consumer and small business market, racking up impressive sales figures at these single-brand storefronts.

Apple rolled out new G3 PowerBook notebooks with 266- and 300-MHz processors and 14.1-inch screens as standard equipment, but the portables could be hard to come by. Manufacturing is "turned up full blast" to meet demand, acting CEO Steve Jobs said during a major trade show address touting forthcoming operating systems. Mac OS 8.5 is due next month.

What to do?
The Federal Communications Commission unveiled a paper exploring whether budding cable Net access services such as @Home and Time Warner's Road Runner should be regulated or forced to open their high-speed networks to competitors, while behind closed doors, Congress will next week consider two spending bills that could institute Internet content controls similar to the failed Communications Decency Act.

A federal judge ok'd a tax previously paid by millions of Internet domain name registrants, clearing the way for the government to resume collecting a fee of $15 to $30 per address.

About 100 people in 12 countries were arrested in what police called the biggest-ever worldwide swoop on pedophiles operating on the Internet. Free email and online service Juno said it has finally tracked down one of the digital domain's most notorious spammers.

Also of note
IBM became the first company to release a copper-based processor? Spurred by the home run race and the start of football season, ESPN followed FOX Sports Online in launching a redesign, while CBS SportsLine said it would produce a television show? Wired Digital introduced Hotwired 5.0, its fourth revision since 1994? Internet Entertainment Group launched Sexquotes.com, which combines real-time stock ticker information with erotic images of women.