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Tech Industry

Week in review: New leadership at HP

Less than two months after the ouster of Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard has found a replacement to occupy its chief executive's office.

Less than two months after the ouster of Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard has found a replacement to occupy its chief executive's office.

HP selected Mark Hurd, NCR chief executive, to serve as president and chief executive, with Patricia Dunn retaining the chairwoman title. Hurd is expected to begin his new duties early next month. Hurd is probably best known for his work in helping rescue NCR--owner of Teradata and a maker of automated teller machines, point-of-sale terminals and other technologies.

Mark Hurd

During his tenure as NCR chief executive, the company preannounced higher-than-expected earnings for eight consecutive quarters--prompting some analysts to joke that he was "sandbagging" Wall Street. But once the bulk of the turnaround was complete, Hurd's NCR financial projections were roughly 95 percent in line with Wall Street's estimates.

Being a turnaround artist is just one of Hurd's talents. He also writes business management books. Hurd is co-author of "The Value Factor: How Global Leaders Use Information for Growth and Competitive Advantage," along with NCR Chairman Lars Nyberg. The subject of the slim 127-page volume, published last year by Bloomberg Press, is "how companies transform information into a competitive asset," according to the book's synopsis.

Hurd will get a $2 million signing bonus and a $1.4 million salary for taking the helm at HP, but he stands to make far more if he can successfully boost the company's flagging share price. Hurd will receive 700,000 HP stock options and stands to earn tens of millions of dollars more as part of short-term and long-term bonus programs.

Tech goes to court
Supreme Court justices cast a critical eye on entertainment industry proposals for quashing file swapping, while making clear they had little sympathy for ongoing piracy on peer-to-peer networks. Attorneys for the major record labels and Hollywood studios argued in front of the court in one of the most closely watched copyright cases in decades, which many observers say could help set the ground rules in the entertainment and technology industries for years to come.

The justices were clear that they were concerned about the effect of their ruling on the ability of technology companies to create future products like Apple Computer's iPod. However, several appeared to seek a way of holding file-swapping companies responsible for the piracy on their networks without endangering other technology companies.

As influential as the case is likely to be, few believe the issue will end with the Supreme Court, whose decision is expected in June. Many observers expect the losing side to take its case to Congress after the court rules.

Earlier in the week, billionaire Mark Cuban revealed that he would finance Grokster's defense in the case.

In another case--one that could help determine the viability of the independent ISP business--the Supreme Court took a close look at whether cable companies could keep other service providers off their networks. The case, which pits the Federal Communications Commission and the cable industry against a small Internet service provider called Brand X, revolves around a highly technical legal definition of cable Internet.

The FCC has said that cable companies can be the only ones to offer high-speed Net services over their broadband lines, while Brand X and other ISPs say that cable networks should be like telephone lines, on which any ISP can offer services.

Several of the justices appeared to scratch their heads over why the two industries should be regulated differently.

"I think you can just as intelligently say it for (telephone) wire as you can for cable," said Justice David Souter, addressing an explanation by the cable industry's lawyer of why the industry was not obligated to share its networks.

Threats, flaws and phishing--oh my!
Microsoft filed 117 lawsuits against people who it charges created phishing Web sites designed to look like pages hosted by the software giant. The suits are being brought against operators of Web sites that feature trademarked logos or images used by Microsoft on its official Web pages and products.

Every one of the sites named in the lawsuits, which were online sometime between October 2004 and March 2005, has already been taken down, said Aaron Kornblum, Internet safety enforcement attorney at Microsoft. One of the primary goals of the legal attack is tracking down the individuals responsible for creating the fraudulent sites, he said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft acknowledged that a security patch issued in January for its Windows 98 and Windows ME operating systems may cause performance issues for customers who have downloaded the update. Microsoft's KB891711 update, which was released to address a vulnerability related to cursor and icon format handling, fails to adequately protect users of Windows 98, Windows 98 SE and Windows ME.

Symantec offered a mea culpa of its own, reporting glitches in its antivirus software that could allow hackers to launch denial-of-service attacks on computers running the applications. Symantec detailed two similar vulnerabilities found in its Norton AntiVirus software, which is sold on its own or bundled in Norton Internet Security and Norton System Works.

The flaws, which could lead to computers crashing or slowing severely if attacked, are limited to versions of the software released for 2004 and 2005. One flaw essentially causes Symantec's software to crash when it is asked to inspect a file specifically designed to exploit the flaw. The file could be submitted either remotely from outside a system or internally by someone with physical access to a computer, Symantec said.

Playing to iPod
The first computer with a built-in spot for an iPod is on its way--and it's not a Mac. HP is planning to add a prime spot for Apple Computer's music player in its latest Media Center m7000 desktop PC. The computer doesn't have a dock itself, but rather features a molded piece of plastic that fits around Apple's own dock to allow the device to gracefully dock atop the PC.

HP's iPod

The move raises the question of when consumers will see a similar feature on a Mac. By some accounts, Apple itself had been planning to include some kind of built-in dock in the Mac Mini, but pulled the feature before the product was announced in January.

A small California software maker has developed a program designed to bring at least part of Apple's iTunes experience to the new Sony PlayStation Portable. The software, the latest in Information Appliance Associates' series of PocketMac tools to link handheld devices with PCs and Apple computers, allows consumers to sync music from iTunes playlists directly onto the PSP's memory cards.

The capability is unlikely to threaten Apple's iPod. The PSP is heavier, offers only rudimentary music-browsing capabilities, and Sony's Memory Stick storage doesn't rival iPods for capacity. But it could give dedicated gamers an extra jukebox and photo wallet in their pocket.

Also of note
eBay claimed victory in the first round of a patent re-examination that could rescue the auction giant from a costly patent infringement judgment...TiVo began testing interactive advertising tools as it looks to appease companies wary of users' ability to skip over ads...HP, the top seller of servers using x86 processors such as Intel's Xeon, has followed rival Dell with a decision to retreat from selling models using eight processors.