Cyber Ramblings - Apr 24, 2001

24 April 2001
Compiled by Kevin Smith

Microsoft, NBC Merge Financial Sites
Microsoft Corp. and NBC are merging their financial websites, MoneyCentral and, into a personal finance site expected to launch this summer. Financial terms weren't disclosed. Microsoft and General Electric Co.'s NBC unit already have a 50-50 partnership in MSNBC, a six-year-old cable news channel that also has a website that has drawn high traffic ratings. The new site, CNBC MoneyCentral, will become part of MSN, Microsoft's family of online sites that also includes Slate and Hotmail, the companies said in a joint statement Monday. The deal follows close on the heels of NBC pulling back from its main Internet initiative by shutting down NBC Internet, a publicly traded subsidiary that pooled together a number of online businesses. CNBC had a small role in NBC Internet. CNBC MoneyCentral will operate out of Microsoft's offices in Redmond, Wash., as does The editorial staff will be split between there and Fort Lee, N.J., where CNBC is based.

Ericsson Slashing 12,000 Jobs
LM Ericsson, the world's largest maker of mobile phone systems, said it plans to slash an additional 12,000 jobs in an effort to reshape the telecommunications giant into a more nimble, manageable and profitable company. Company spokeswoman Aase Lindskog said that the cuts come in addition to the 3,300 cuts announced last month, bringing the total cuts to just over 14 percent of the work force as part of an effort to save $2 billion by next year. Ericsson's planned restructuring takes place against a backdrop of a world economic slowdown and abruptly reduced demand for telecommunications equipment and cell phones. Ericsson's news came as Nordic rival Nokia, the world's No. 1 cell phone maker, recorded a strong first-quarter result and predicted 20 percent growth for the rest of the year.

Nortel Struggles Through Q1
Nortel Networks met its twice-reduced financial forecasts for the first quarter, but refused to discuss the current outlook, and now plans to cut 5,000 more jobs on top of the 15,000 already announced since February. On Thursday, the battered Canadian manufacturer of communications equipment suffered a net loss of $2.58 billion or 82 cents per share during the first three months of 2001. In the same period a year ago, Nortel lost $730 million, or 26 cents a share. Excluding acquisition-related costs and some one-time gains and charges, the company had an operating loss of $385 million, or 12 cents a share, in the first quarter, compared with an operating loss of $347 million, or 12 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

E-commerce Sites Create Seal of Approval
Hoping to ease consumer fears about buying on the Internet, three prominent business organizations joined Monday in an initiative to create an international seal that online companies can use to show they adhere to voluntary standards. "The worldwide success of e-business depends on consumer trust," Ken Hunter, president of the U.S. Council of Better Business Bureaus and BBBOnLine, said in a statement. Worries about the security of sending personal data or credit card information through cyberspace have long served as a drag on e-commerce, especially for Internet startups with no bricks-and-mortar presence. The bursting of the high-tech bubble has also resulted in a string of virtual businesses going belly-up, adding to what European Union Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne last month termed the "confidence deficit." The BBB, which already operates a "trustmark" program in the United States, is developing the international seal with the Federation of European Direct Marketing and Eurochambres, the association of European Chambers of Commerce. They hope to have the new initiative ready by early next year.

British Government Giving TV Sets Away
The British government is looking at a multi-million-pound scheme to get more U.K. citizens using digital TV by giving away the sets for free. The government, along with technology firms and Internet industry leaders, feels that the interactive televisions are the wave of the future. While some business leaders have been quick to jump on board, the public has been less than receptive. An estimated one in three homes switching from analogue sets to digital is believed to be a liberal guess. However, the current analogue system of TV broadcasting is due to be turned off completely in five years, and the government foresees a PR nightmare when millions of people switch on their sets one day to find nothing but static. Because of this, it is looking at ways of promoting digital TV and getting people to switch over in the next few years. One of these schemes involves providing large areas of the country with free digital TVs in return for monitoring rights over what they use them for.

Ford Sues Over Vulgar Domain Name
Ford Motor Co. is suing a company for combining an obscene word with General Motors Corp.'s name in a website address that links to Ford's website. Ford's trademark-infringement lawsuit, filed in a federal court last week, asks a judge to order 2600 Enterprises Inc. to stop using the questioned domain name, saying the redirection is "confusing the public into believing that somehow Ford has approved (of the tactic) or is somehow involved." The U.S. District Court suit names not-for-profit 2600 Enterprises, which lists a Middle Island, N.Y., post office as its address, and Eric Corley, the business' administrative and technical contact (also known as Emmanuel Goldstein). According to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, an Internet user searching for a strident, vulgar criticism of GM might type in or stumble upon the questioned domain name, then be "catapulted" to Ford's official website. "As a result, Ford is inevitably linked not only to the vulgar, strident criticism of a competitor, but also associated with the offensive, obscene word that is used in the domain name," the suit alleges.

CNN Converting Videotape Library to Digital
CNN will convert its vast videotape library to digital over the next five to seven years at a cost of $20 million. Using a newly designed and engineered digital asset management system, the project will put CNN's videotape archive online, providing better protection for CNN's footage from the past 21 years, and making it more easily accessible to journalists and the public worldwide. The joint IBM and Sony Electronics system is helping change the way CNN stores and distributes content and marks the beginning of the transformation of CNN's traditional news production methods from analog to digital, the companies announced Monday at the National Association of Broadcasters convention. The newly designed system will digitize, catalog, store, distribute, and retrieve more than 120,000 hours of archived material.

Two Russian Hackers Busted by FBI
Two Russians were indicted on computer crime charges stemming from a rash of intrusions into the networks of banks, Internet service providers and other companies, a U.S. federal prosecutor said Monday. The two alleged network intruders, identified as 20-year-old Alexey Ivanov and 25-year-old Vasiliy Gorshkov, were indicted earlier this month on counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and violations of the Computer Crime and Abuse Act, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Schroeder. The duo allegedly broke into the computer systems of several e-commerce companies, stole credit-card information and then returned to the companies as "consultants" to charge for fixing the flaw. Among the victims in the case are Internet service providers of Seattle and San Diego-based CTF as well as the Los Angeles-based U.S. subsidiary of South Korea's Nara Bank. Evidence also linked the two to the theft of 15,700 credit-card numbers from Western Union last September.