Author: Linda Harrison

Pirates call for ACS:Law to walk the plank

The UK Pirate Party has called for ACS:Law to be investigated over the methods it used to gather evidence into alleged file sharing. 

The party said today that much had been done behind closed doors – and that the Digital Economy Act would be unlikely to change the situation in the future.

It suggested it might even be appropriate for the European Commission to launch an EU-wide investigation to see whether there was a conflict with the various European directives and regulations on the subject.

The comments came as ACS:Law announced it had stopped chasing file sharers as part of the court case on behalf of its client MediaCAT.

In a statement read to the court, ACS:Law solicitor Andrew Crossley is reported to have said he was withdrawing from the case after receiving death threats.

The BBC reported that, in the statement, read to the court by MediaCAT’s barrister Tim Ludbrook, Mr Crossley said: “I have ceased my work…I have been subject to criminal attack. My emails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats.”

He added that it had “caused immense hassle to me and my family.”

A spokesman for the Pirate Party, which is a campaigner for reform on copyright laws, commented: “While the Party is pleased that MediaCAT and ACS Law’s campaign of threatening people seems to have come to an end, this will be of little comfort to those people who have already been through this process.”

According to the party, many questions remain over how evidence was gathered for the case.

The Pirates spokesman added: “In the countries where these types of cases have gone to court, the methods have been heavily criticized and even declared unlawful.

“The Party would also like to see the level of evidence challenged in court as there have been serious concerns raised over wrongful accusations (some of which was discussed at the hearing on Monday, although was not investigated further).

“With regard to Mr Crossley’s claims of receiving bomb threats and being the subject of DDoS attacks; while the Party cannot condone any illegal activity against him, we feel he is unlikely to receive much sympathy from the many thousands of people who have been put under great stress by his firm’s actions and, in many cases, paid hundreds of pounds attempting to dispel the threats and accusations against them and those close to them.”

ACS:Law had brought 26 cases to the patent court in London on behalf of MediaCAT. This was after the firm had sent thousands of threatening letters to people suspected of alleged file sharing.

Its methods have been widely criticised.

In addition, the BBC reported that Judge Birss, who is expected to deliver his judgement on the case later this week, said he was considering banning MediaCAT from sending any more such letters until the issues raised by the cases had been resolved.

The Pirate Party stated that the fact that the cases had gone as far as they had demonstrates how badly equipped our copyright and privacy laws are for the twenty-first century.

It added: “It is likely the judge’s ruling will not prevent any new company doing exactly the same thing in the future, particularly once the Digital Economy Act is in full force, which is designed to make this process cheaper (for those making the claims) and give it an illusion of authority and legal backing.

“It was of little surprise to those who have been following this issue that ACS:Law and MediaCAT have pulled out of these actions as, so far, they have appeared to take every step they could to avoid any real judicial scrutiny.

“It seems that despite this hearing none of these cases will go to trial and there will be no investigation into methods of evidence-gathering, and the level of damages being demanded.”

Meanwhile, TechEye spoke to Terence Tsang, the former ACS:Law employee widely believed to be behind the ACS:Law letters.

Mr Tsang said he had received no death threats himself, and was unable to comment on the case due to being “bound by confidentiality agreements”.

He also declined to reveal where he was now working.

Thousands of new jobs in store for UK tech industry

Tech workers in the UK would do well to dust off their CVs and get their interview suits to the dry cleaners.

According to the latest research by industry body e-skills UK, over 500,000 new IT and Telecoms professionals will be needed in the next five years, working across all sectors of the economy.

And in the next decade, employment in the industry is expected to grow at 2.19% per annum, which is nearly five times faster than the UK average.

The Technology Insights 2011 report adds that the IT and Telecoms sector will underpin the majority of future job creation in the country.

e-skills states: “Technology is the UK’s key ingredient for driving private sector led economic growth, productivity, global competitiveness and wealth creation.”

The report also notes that:

• One in every 20 people (1.5 million) working in the UK is employed in IT and Telecoms. Of these, 40 percent are employed in the industry itself, while the rest are spread across every other sector of the economy.

 • The UK’s IT and Telecoms industry delivers an annual GVA contribution of £81 billion, nine percent of the total UK economy.

• Exploiting the full potential of technology could boost the UK economy by an additional £50 billion over the next five to seven years.

• This year alone, the IT and Telecoms workforce will require 110,000 new entrants to keep up with demand. Over half of these will be individuals employed in other occupations moving into the sector, while 17 percent will need to come directly from education.

• Since 2002, there has been a 33 pwexwnr drop in applicants to Computing degree courses. However, applicants to other STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses have increased by an average of 23%.

The report also highlights issues of age and gender. It says the IT professional workforce is getting older, with the proportion of workers under 30 falling to 19 percent in 2010 – compared to 33 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, the proportion of those over the age of 50 has almost doubled to 17 percent. And the industry is still male-dominated, with women making up just 18 percent of the IT professional workforce.

Karen Price, e-skills UK CEO, says: “With high levels of unemployment in the UK, this research shows that IT and Telecoms is one sector of the economy where employment is growing steadily with an immediate need for new entrants into the workforce to keep up with the demand.”

IBM sees profits soar

IBM has beaten profit forecasts for Q4, with net income rising nine percent to a record $5.3 billion.

Sales climbed seven percent to a record revenue of $29 billion, the company reported late yesterday, thanks to businesses spending more on outsourcing contracts and mainframes.

IBM, which has been concentrating on the services and software part of its business over the past decade and moving away from hardware manufacture, said it signed services contracts worth $22.1 billion during the quarter – an increase of 18 percent.

The new System z mainframe line also helped boost sales, with revenue up 69 percent compared to the previous year.

The New York-based tech giant reported a growing backlog of unfinished work in the services business – an estimated $142 billion worth, up $5 billion year on year.

It signed services contracts worth $22.1 billion in the quarter, up 18%, and 19 of these contracts were reported to be greater than $100 million.

“We completed an outstanding year, with record profit and free cash flow, and exceeded the high end of our 2010 earnings per share roadmap objective,” said IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer Samuel J Palmisano (pictured).

“We also capped a decade in which our shift to high-value businesses, our global integration of IBM, our investment in research and development of almost $60 billion and our acquisition of 116 companies have helped us to nearly triple our EPS and return more than $100 billion to shareholders.

“As IBM enters its second century, we will continue to focus on our long-term strategic initiatives –  growth markets, Smarter Planet Solutions, cloud and business analytics – as we drive to achieve our new roadmap target of operating earnings per share of at least $20 in 2015.”

The quarterly results meant net income for the full year ended December 31, 2010 reached $14.8 billion, up 10 percent on the previous year. Sales for 2010 were $99.9 billion, up four percent.

Meanwhile, AP reported that IBM’s chief financial officer, Mark Loughridge, was bullish about continued growth in Q1 of 2011.

During a conference call, Loughridge said: “If you look at the first quarter of 2011, I expect that as we’ve studied it, it will be very similar in nature to our fourth quarter.

“In other words, really driven by the hardware and software transactional elements of our business.

“So as we go from the fourth quarter to the first quarter, once again we expect to see double-digit revenue growth out of both the hardware and software sides of our business.”

South Korea reveals targets for rare earths

South Korea has set out its stall on rare earths – saying it intends to almost double its production of the valuable resource, plus lithium, next year.

According to Bloomberg, the South Korean government wants to ramp up supplies of both rare earths and lithium from Korean-owned mines from 5.5 percent of annual requirements this year to up to 10 percent next year. The emailed statement was sent from the Ministry of Knowledge, but anyone itching to find out more of the juicy details will just have to wait as it didn’t elaborate any further.

Bloomberg added that, separately, South Korea is planning to increase stockpiles of about 30 minor metals, including rare earths and lithium, to the equivalent of 13.5 days of consumption next year – compared to 8.1 days this year.

The statement followed news that South Korea, which currently imports almost all of its energy and minerals, had recently discovered its own reserves of rare earths. As we reported last month, a modern day gold rush started when the country announced plans to re-open an ore mine in Yangyang, Gangwon Province.

Meanwhile, other countries around the globe have been clamouring to either find their own reserves of rare earths – which are used to make electronic components for everything from cars to mobile phones – or forge alliances with others to produce them. This comes amid growing international concern over the monopoly perceived to be held by China, which currently controls more than 90 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth elements, and has been tightening export quotas. 

Last month, Toshiba signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mongolia for the co-development of its rare earth materials. Australia has also committed to a supply pact with Japan over rare earths. And the US has discovered its own significant deposits of rare earth scattered around 14 states, including California, Alaska and Florida.

And the EU? At a recent meeting, it pleaded with China to allow more exports of rare earths.

While everyone is desperately looking for a way to secure alternative supplies of rare earths, they may be scuppered by the practicalities of it all.

The problem is that, while the rare earth deposits might be there, extracting them is expensive and time consuming. It can take years just to build the mines.

As we reported recently, the US Geological Society has warned: “Many… nickel mines have required in excess of 10 years of process development plus delays because of market timing.

“A new REE mine would almost certainly fall into this last category for many of the same reasons — complex metallurgy and restricted opportunities for market entry.”

For example, Australia’s first mine is expected to be completed by 2013 at the earliest. And the next should begin in 2014. 

In South Korea, full commercial mining isn’t due to begin until 2012.

Taiwan aims high with flexible substrate technology

Taiwan is getting ready to lead the world in next-generation displays due to its focus on flexible substrate technologies.

According to a report in Digitimes, the country’s government-sponsored research organizations and companies, including AU Optronics and E Ink Holding, are feeling “bullish” about these fast-developing technologies.

It seems that lab test production results have shown that Taiwan-developed flexible substrates are comparable to those from Japan and South Korea, according to the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI).

The Digitimes report added that, although Taiwan has traditionally played second fiddle to South Korea in the large-size TFT LCD market, its development in electrophoretic displays (EPDs) “should enable it to gain a leading position in next-generation display markets”, with AUO and E Ink already introducing near market-ready products.

EPD is said to be the most suitable commercialized display technology to incorporate flexible plastic substrates.

Of the Taiwanese companies, AUO is reported to have partnered with ITRI on flexible plastic substrate development – with the launch of commercialized products due in 2011. And E Ink should start volume production in the same year.

Back in the summer, we reported how the market for flexible displays was forecast to see rocketing growth – and was expected to be worth $3.4 billion in 2015 and as much as $30 billion in 2020. The research, from Displaybank, found the main driver of growth would be e-books and advertising until 2011, and after that flexible displays would find an alternative use in mobile phones.

This did, however, depend on companies successfully developing display devices, backplanes, substrate, material, process technology and manufacturing equipment.

Meanwhile, LG Display revealed plans in August to start mass producing 9.7-inch colour and 19-inch flexible e-paper – the display used in e-readers on which text appears as it would on printed paper.

Apple takes another bite out of Silicon Valley

Apple plans to take another bite out of Silicon Valley by moving into Hewlett Packard’s old home.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that Apple has bought the 98-acre site near its own HQ in Cupertino, with the move expected to roughly double the size of Apple’s operations there.

The deal also makes Apple the city’s biggest landowner.

In the summer, HP announced it was leaving the Pruneridge Avenuesite, which it had occupied for decades, and move its employees and operations to its Palo Alto HQ over the next two years. The site is said to be across the street from a 50-acre site that Apple had previously bought and announced as the location for a planned second campus.

Cupertino Mayor Kris Wang said it was great news that Apple had decided to move in to HP’s old base, adding: “It’s not just a company. It’s the company.”

Wang and other officials have said they believe the bigger Apple HQ could make up for the $1 million or so in annual tax revenue that HP contributes to the city, the News reported.

Neither Apple nor HP gave any details on the financial side of the deal, but local estate agents told the News that HP’s asking price may have been around $300 million – but this could have been affected by the property market slump.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling was reported as saying: “We now occupy 57 buildings in Cupertino and our campus is bursting at the seams. These offices will give us more space for our employees as we continue to grow.”

Apple has been based in Cupertino, California, for more than three decades – Steve Jobs went to school there. 

Wang and other officials said they did not know what Apple intended to do with the site, or what they had planned for the ageing buildings currently there.

HP had used the site for parts of its PC division and commercial software and hardware units. It also houses an “Executive Briefing Centre” for meetings.

More details emerge over UNIX copyrights in Novell deal

More details have been emerging over who owns what in the Novell/Attachmate deal.

John Dragoon, Novell chief marketing officer, great name, issued a statement yesterday revealing that Novell would keep ownership of the UNIX copyrights. Some had feared that Microsoft owning them would be one step too far.

The three paragraph announcement stated: “On November 22, 2010, Novell issued a press release announcing a definitive merger agreement under which Attachmate Corporation (“Attachmate”) would acquire Novell for $6.10 per share in cash (“Merger Agreement”). Novell will continue to own Novell’s UNIX copyrights following completion of the merger as a subsidiary of Attachmate. Novell filed a Form 8-K/A with the SEC on November 22, 2010, with respect to the Merger Agreement.”

Short but to the point.

It went on to say that Novell would file relevant material with the SEC, including a proxy statement.

Speculation had been rife over who will have ownership of what since Novell announced the plans for the $2.2 billion deal earlier this week.

At the time of the original announcement, Novell said it would also sell “certain intellectual property assets to CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of technology companies organised by Microsoft Corporation”.

It also revealed that Atttachmate planned to operate Novell as two business units: Novell and SUSE; and would join them with its other holdings, Attachmate and NetIQ.

So watch this space.

Victory declared in Brazil over Windows XP

Rumblings from Brazil suggest that the mighty Microsoft may have lost out in a landmark Windows licence row.

A post on Techrights.orgsaid to be from Dr Roy Schestowitz, claims that a lowly consumer has gone to the small claims court in Brazil over not wanting to pay for a licence for Windows XP. And they’ve won.

The post links through to the original story in Portuguese on

From a Google translation (apologies in advance to our Brazilian and Portuguese readers), it states that the saga started with the consumer buying a Lenovo netbook in April. It appears the netbook was bought from hypermarket group Carrefour.

The customer didn’t want the Windows XP that came with it, and eventually the case reached the small claims court.

The post continues: “Before Judge, Carrefour admitted that it will reimburse the actual value of 229.00 concerning license unused Windows XP, contrary to what was offered before the conciliation.”

The poster then seems to go on to ponder whether they might donate some money that the Free Software Foundation, before adding: “Let it be a lesson to companies who deny reimbursement of the Windows license.”

They finish with the following observations:


“PS.1: The magic word is in the process of compensation: Sale Married

“PS.2: In front of the judge advocates are so humble …”

Forrester says HP and IBM are both fabulous at social media

Companies just love to shout about their successes in social media and social technology.

So a big pat on the back must go to HP, which has been named as one of the top businesses in this area.

HP issued a press release on Friday about the fact that Forrester Research had named it as a Forrester Groundswell Award winner “for excellence in achieving business and organizational goals with social technology applications”.

In particular, Forrester judges liked HP’s Consumer Support Forum – described by HP as “a free global interactive community where HP customers connect online with one another and exchange insights, tips and answers to each other’s questions”.

The forum received the accolades in the award category of “International Business to Consumer: Supporting”.

Well done to HP. It says its customers prefer online channels for finding answers to questions about its products, with more than 13 million of them resolving their issues via the HP Consumer Support Forum.

In addition, the forum is easy to navigate and discussion boards are broken out by helpful topic areas, such as Notebooks, Desktops and Printers.

Forrester experts were clearly impressed, adding: “Hewlett Packard wanted to improve customer service while reducing its own support costs. The HP Consumer Support Forum, which it built with the help of vendor Lithium, does just that by giving customers a chance to share tips and answer each other’s questions 24 hours a day.”

Other companies getting a mention in the awards included Microsoft and Orange.

But there’s nothing more annoying than one of your competitors getting the upper hand. 

Today another Forrester report popped up. This time it wasn’t HP being praised for its social media strategy – but IBM.

The report, entitled “Case Study: IBM Makes Social Media The Responsibility of Every Employee”, looked at IBM’s fabulous social media policy. And the productivity savings it’s made as a result – about £2.5 million per year ($3.98 million) for the past three years.

The report reveals that back in 2007, “IBM Software Group marketers made social media a part of each employee’s daily routine in order to energize the IBM employee, sales channel, and customer communities.” In other words, IBM encouraged all its staff members to get involved with the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn and other social networking opportunities.

And it worked, according to Forrester. Strategies included forming “virtual governance councils” of marketing and non-marketing employees, and training staff on new technologies.

As a result, there were more than 80 IBM-branded Twitter handles dishing out IBM news and messages, and more than 500 IBM groups on Facebook. The big savings were made from reduced travel and communications costs by moving dialogue to “virtual, more interactive platforms”.

And, Forrester adds: “IBM has received more than 30 social media marketing and communications awards for its innovation and social media results.”

So there you have it, not only is HP fabulous at social media, but so is IBM.

A Forrester press representative said that Forrester reports available to the media were never commissioned, but did not know why the company had chosen to do a report on IBM.

IBM was unavailable for comment.

Acer tipped to reveal tablet in New York tomorrow

Acer is expected to unveil a 10-inch IntelWindows 7 tablet PC at a press conference in New York tomorrow.

The Taiwanese company may also debut a 7-inch Android 2.2 (Froyo) model, according to Digitimes, which quoted Taiwan-based makers of notebooks and components as its sources.

According to the report, these sources also say there are two conflicting internal opinions at Acer HQ about the debut of Android tablet PCs.

The first camp believes the debut should be delayed until after Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and Honeycomb (Android 3.x) are launched. The second thinks that an early debut will help to compete with Samsung Electronics’ and Toshiba’s Galaxy Tab and Folio 100.

The report continued that its sources had indicated: “Viewing that Hewlett-Packard’s Slate 500 has not witnessed striking sales performance, Acer is expected not to focus its tablet PC business on Wintel models.”

And the fact that Acer has chosen New York for the event is seen as a clear signal that the company aims to challenge Apple for some global market share, especially in the run up to Christmas and New Year.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Acer plans to invest $150 million in its second major Chinese operations centre in Chongqing – it already has a centre in Shanghai.