Top 10: Google and Oracle boldly go to new markets

This week's roundup of the top tech news stories includes the first Android-based smartphone, news from OpenWorld, IBM's threats, Apple's NDA, and more

Google entered the mobile phone market this week when T-Mobile rolled out the first handset running the search engine's Android mobile operating system. Oracle also ventured into new territory by announcing that it will sell a hardware product -- a database server the company developed with Hewlett-Packard. IBM threatened to leave the standards bodies that determine software interoperability regulations over concerns that the standardization process is unfair. And Microsoft is still searching for a search strategy to compete with Google.

1. T-Mobile, Google and HTC introduce first Android phone: The first cell phone running Android, Google's mobile operating system, debuted Tuesday. U.S. customers can purchase the G1 from T-Mobile on Oct. 22 for $179. The handset, which HTC manufactures and calls the Dream, will appear in the U.K. in November and other T-Mobile European markets in the first quarter. The G1 comes with a touchscreen display, as well as a slideout keyboard. Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, and GTalk are all featured applications on the phone. Users can purchase music from the Amazon MP3 store and applications from the Android store. The phone can read Word, PDF, and Excel documents but cannot sync with Microsoft's Exchange e-mail program. Google spun this as a perfect chance for developers to take advantage of Android's open source model and create an application for the task.

[ InfoWorld's Tom Yager  got a  hands-on first look at the G1 |  Special report:  All about Google's Android ]

2. Oracle pushing new application grid, Ellison pitches high-speed data warehouse server, Oracle puts its 11g database in Amazon's cloud, and Oracle aims to get Fusion to some by next year: Oracle used its OpenWorld conference in San Francisco to announce assorted news. The biggest headlines came on Wednesday when CEO Larry Ellison announced two high-speed servers that the company developed with HP. This marks Oracle's first entry into the hardware market. Information on the debut of Fusion Applications, long-awaited software that combines the best features from Oracle's many acquired product lines, proved limited. One executive said the suite may not arrive until 2010, while another deflected questions on the product. Yet another person said that early adopters will start testing the apps in 2009. Oracle provided more details on its cloud computing strategy, announcing that it will offer the 11g database through Amazon's cloud computing service. Oracle also said that it is partnering with Intel and eventually AMD to ready businesses for computing in the cloud.

[ Special report: Oracle OpenWorld 2008 ]

3. How IT could have prevented the financial meltdown: The U.S. financial crisis has extended to virtually all industries, and IT could suffer severe setbacks, particularly in the area of R&D. Ironically enough, IT could have played a major role in heading off this crisis before it happened. IT offers plenty of tools to help detect problem areas, but they need more visibility for bankers and regulators in order to make a difference.

[ The financial meltdown may not slow IT innovation, as InfoWorld blogger Bill Snyder explains. | After-the-fact BI doesn't help identify problems early. Read how operational analytics could help flag issues so that you can act before they blow up. ]

4. IBM threatens to leave standards bodies: IBM threatened to leave the standards bodies that determine software interoperability regulations over concerns that the standardization process is unfair. IBM released guidelines it plans to follow, including a provision that standards bodies draft rules that protect decisions from "undue influence." IBM said that leaving a standards group is a last resort and that the company wants loopholes that allow a company to abuse the standardization process closed. IBM's stance stems from its opposition to a document format that Microsoft submitted for expedite approval as a standard. Office Open XML became a standard earlier this year, despite concerns that the process was too rushed and that Microsoft pressured countries to vote for its format.

5. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer talks search, virtualization: Microsoft possesses the money and commitment to challenge Google in the online search business. The company just needs to figure out how to contend, CEO Steve Ballmer said Thursday. Competing with Google requires reinventing the search business model, a task that could take five years and cost Microsoft five percent to 10 percent of its operating income for several years, he said. Microsoft attempted to acquire Yahoo this year to better compete against Google, a contentious courtship that failed to yield a merger. Microsoft has work to do: Search data for August showed that Google was used to conduct 63 percent of U.S. searches compared to Microsoft's 8 percent.

6. Will the iPhone NDA mean "Never Develop Apps"? Apple has deemed all developer communication as being covered by its NDA (non-disclosure agreement) -- a policy that even extends to App Store rejection notices. While the policy will not have much effect on larger businesses that are developing iPhone apps, it could serve to alienate the independent developers who have helped push the iPhone's popularity by designing sought-after apps.

[ Which platform is more developer-friendly, iPhone or Android? Read Neil McAllister's related blog "SDK shoot-out." ]

7. Politicians push for net neutrality, broadband policy: In other Internet news, two U.S. politicians called for a comprehensive broadband access policy and net neutrality at a conference on Monday. A U.S. representative claimed that broadband service wasn't available in her suburban Washington, D.C., town. She also said that students in her neighborhood school suffer a competitive disadvantage because of limited Internet access. A member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said a lack of net-neutrality laws could hinder political debates if carriers select what content their networks carry. Some studies have claimed that the U.S. is falling behind in broadband deployment and capacity. Government reports counter and state that 99 percent of the country's ZIP codes have broadband access.

8. Senate approves extension to expired R&D tax credit: The U.S. Senate approved an extension to an R&D tax credit that many IT businesses support. The credit, which expired in December, was tacked on to a bill that the U.S. House of Representatives approved. The House now must pass the Senate version before U.S. President George Bush signs the bill. The credit covers up to 20 percent of R&D spending and has expired 13 times since 1981. The $7 billion that the tax credit costs makes Congress reluctant to enact a permanent version. Tax credit supporters called the measure essential to keeping R&D jobs in the country and maintaining U.S. innovation in a time of increased global competition. The Senate's version of the bill extends the credit until the end of 2009. Most of the 18,000 companies that use the credit apply it to employee wages, an IT trade group said.

9. No charges as grand jury investigates Palin hack: A federal grand jury investigating the hacking of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account did not deliver an indictment after its first week of reviewing evidence. Bloggers named David Kernell, a University of Tennessee student, a suspect after they linked him to the online name "rubico," the moniker used by the hacker who alleged to have accessed Palin's Yahoo account last week by resetting the password. Local press claimed that U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents searched Kernell's apartment last weekend. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on if Kernell is a suspect and on the grand jury proceedings, which are secret until an indictment is reached.

10. McAfee to buy Secure Computing: McAfee purchased its second IT security vendor this year by acquiring Secure Computing for approximately $465 million. The purchase is the latest in a string of buys for the company, which acquired a risk management tool company in August and bought businesses in 2007 and 2006. McAfee wants to expand its security-as-a-service offerings and sell its products to Secure Computing's 22,000 customers. A McAfee executive said that the company wants a portfolio that makes it an enterprise's single security source. Mergers will reflect this aim and not sway off the IT security track.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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