Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs unveiled a new version of the iBook laptop that is thinner, lighter and cheaper than its predecessor. The all-white unit bears more resemblance to the sleek Titanium G4 PowerBook than the curvy, bulky iBook it replaces. The new iBook has a 500MHz PowerPC G3 processor, weighs 4.9 pounds--2 pounds lighter than its predecessor--and is considerably slimmer at 1.3 inches thick. The entry-level iBook will sell for $1,299--$200 less than the previous low-end iBook.
Apple is aiming the laptop to make its home inside schools, as it lost the top spot in education sales to Dell last year. But Jobs said the company has actually seen its market share grow in the education market's laptop segment, which he calls the fastest-growing part of the school market.
Laptops got too hot for Dell Computer, which will recall about 284,000 notebook batteries due to a flaw that has caused at least one notebook to catch fire. The recall centers on a design flaw in batteries incorporated in Inspiron 5000 and 5000(e) notebooks, according to sources. The flaw resides in the battery packaging and can cause the notebooks to overheat. To date, one notebook has caught fire because of the problem, prompting the recall. Panasonic manufactured the batteries.
Despite an ailing market, Sony scorched its retail notebook competitors in March, a surge that allowed Sony to grab the top spot in revenue from Compaq Computer. It wasn't enough to topple Compaq from the No. 1 position in unit shipments, but Sony also managed to score the top-selling model for the first time. Sony's rapid climb is surprising, considering that the company has repeatedly failed to score a hit with its notebooks. Sony also bucked the low pricing gambit of competitors, with its average retail prices about $600 above its main rivals'.
File-swapping and instant messaging company Aimster opened a new front in the online music wars, asking for court protection as legal troubles threaten to send it down a path similar to Napster's. Aimster, one of the most high-profile file-trading services to launch in Napster's wake, asked a federal court for a "declaratory judgment" stating that its service doesn't violate U.S. copyright law. In its defense, the company is telling a court that it is primarily a service for private communications and that it should not be forced to dig into each subscriber message to determine whether it might contain copyrighted music.
A new tool piggybacking on popular file-sharing services such as Napster aims to help music fans ignore bogus files by letting them rate and review downloads. The software addresses one of the biggest problems apart from filters for people using file-sharing services: faulty or poor-quality files. It lets people avoid such files by reading reviews or ratings for downloads. Called SideKick, the tool is compatible with file-sharing networks such as Napster, BearShare, iMesh and Audiogalaxy. File-sharing program Aimster is testing a service similar to SideKick on its network that lets consumers rate files based on if they are "hot or not"--a parody of the popular Web site. Aimster President Johnny Deep said that the service will be available in the next couple of weeks.
Getting a grip on handhelds
Sony will begin shipping its second-generation Clie device early next month. The $499 device will be able to play digital audio and video files and will have a 320-by-320-pixel color screen. Details and photographs of the new model were inadvertently posted on Sony's Web site before the official launch. The first version of the Clie disappointed many analysts and followers of the PDA (personal digital assistant) market who expected more features from a Sony device. However, many of the capabilities expected in the first-generation device are included in the new Clie, which should help Sony's efforts in the handheld market.
When the BlackBerry e-mail pager makes its European debut later this year, it will be something to talk about. Soon afterward, it will be something to talk on. In Europe, the BlackBerry will run on the voice network known as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). As a result, adding the ability to make cell phone calls will be as simple as offering a software download and plugging in an earphone similar to the hands-free attachments for cell phones. The unit will use the emerging General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) standard, which moves data at high speeds over the GSM phone network.
Things appear to be going from bad to worse for Palm, the leader in the handheld market. The company sales at U.S. stores in April were down about 20 percent from those in January. By comparison, retail sales in March were roughly flat with January, which is typically one of the slowest months for handheld sales after the holiday buying season.
Looking at Windows
Microsoft announced a serious security hole in its flagship Web server software and raced to convince system administrators to patch their Web servers before online vandals compromise their systems. The flaw affects Windows 2000 server software running version 5.0 of Internet Information Server (IIS). The hole is in Windows 2000's Internet printing module but can only be exploited if IIS is activated. The vulnerability affects servers with Internet printing turned on, the default setting with the software. By sending a specially formatted string of characters, the printing module can be made to give the remote user full access to the Web server.
Microsoft is taking legal action against Web sites circulating a rogue version of Windows Media Player 8. The software maker started issuing letters demanding Web sites pull down a supposed beta, or trial version, of the software. "We first contacted all the Web sites that have the bits up there right now with (warnings) of legal action to remove it immediately," said Dave Fester, Microsoft's general manager for digital media. "We started doing that last night. I'm sure they will be more than eager to comply." But CNET News.com easily found, downloaded and tested a copy of the streaming and multimedia player program.
Also of note
Possibly sparked by a 10 percent price cut on Dell corporate desktops earlier in the week, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard fought back with sizable cuts of their own...Local phone providers Verizon Communications and BellSouth joined the parade of high-speed Internet providers that have raised rates on consumers in recent months...These announcements came after AT&T Broadband said it would increase its high-speed Net access rates next month to $45.95 for most of its nearly 1.3 million customers...In a move that highlights the clash between moral and commercial interests on the Web, eBay announced a global ban of all hate-related items on its site, even if they previously had been allowed because of their historical value...Webvan raised delivery fees in some areas, the latest move by the besieged Net grocer to reach profitability...The World Wide Web Consortium approved a new Web standard, called XML schemas, that make it easier to develop common vocabularies, so companies can communicate and exchange data...April saw a resurgence in dot-com shutdowns after a brief respite in March.