SAP makes a pitch, Apple gets the ditch

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless, Apple, Microsoft

Intel used its developer's forum this week to lay out its solid-state drive plans as well as talk up its Internet connectivity efforts. The partnership between Microsoft and Novell, once billed as an unholy alliance between enterprise server software rivals, was extended on Wednesday. SAP users listened to the company pitch its support service price hike. Apple and Amazon learned about doing business the Chinese way after the country's government supposedly blocked access to their sites.

1. Embedded chips to drive Internet adoption, exec says, Intel laptop platform to boost graphics, power use and Intel shows off PC, server solid-state drive road maps

Intel looks to have the first devices in a new line of SSDs (solid-state drives) ready in the coming weeks, the company revealed at the Intel Developer Forum. The 80G-byte model should debut in September, while the 160G-byte version is slated for the first quarter of 2009. Intel also used the event to promote its efforts in the Internet connectivity space, a market that the company hopes to capitalize on by offering chips that allow Internet access from assorted devices, including phones and cash machines. Intel the following day said that -- surprise -- its next low-power chip for mobile phones is being tested. Finally, look for Intel's next-generation laptop platform to offer better graphics and power management.

2. SSDs are hot, but not without security risks: Now, a word of caution on SSD security. A researcher claimed that the devices aren't as secure as imagined. While SSDs may have better data security than a standard hard drive, concerns arise with their physical security. NAND flash chips commonly found in digital cameras are used in SSDs. These chips lack fixtures that prevent them from being taken out of the casing, the researcher said. Hackers could unsolder the chips from the SSD and use a flash chip programmer and data recovery software to access the data. A chip hacker claimed to have discovered another breach by using an ultraviolet laser to disable encryption locks from fuses on chips that secure SSDs. Data arrays can then be read via traditional devices, such as ROM readers. While SSDs aren't commonly used, the technology is becoming more popular as their price decreases.

3. SAP, user group to shed light on enterprise support: Americas' SAP Users' Group held its first Web seminar this week on SAP's enterprise-level support service, which recently became mandatory for all customers, leading to cost increases over time for many. SAP claims that customer environments are growing more complex, so the additional services and cost could ultimately help enterprises and save money. Some businesses, however, question whether smaller organizations with less complex IT systems need more support. This session, hosted by an SAP marketing official, emphasized how enterprise support can foster innovation and protect a user's SAP software. As SAP gears up for future information sessions, third-party service providers are readying SAP support packages.

4. Microsoft to alpha test Office 14 before end of year: While Office 2007 may seem fresh to users, a Microsoft employee blog posting revealed that the company starts alpha testing Office 14, the successor to the current productivity suite, in November or December. The Monday posting, which was eventually pulled from the site, was recruiting people for a program that allows them to try out the monitoring and analytics components of Office PerformancePoint Server. Microsoft's public relations firm confirmed that the next version of Office is in the works but said that discussing its features and timing is premature.

5. Google Issues Long-Awaited Android SDK Update and Android phone could come in November: The first phone running Android, the Linux mobile phone operating system from Google, may debut in November if the hype around HTC's Dream phone proves accurate. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission released documents on Monday approving sales of the device, which is rumored to be the first handset using Android. At HTC's request, the FCC kept some of the documents, such as the manual, confidential until Nov. 10. The documents didn't reveal what software comes with the phone, and Google and HTC have been mum about the Dream's OS. In other Android news, Google released an updated SDK (software development kit) on Monday after developers criticized the slow progress. The update fixes bugs, includes user interface changes, and adds features like a camera, music player and picture viewer.

6. Judge dissolves gag order against MIT students: A U.S. District Court judge lifted a gag order that prevented MIT students from discussing security flaws in the ticketing system for Boston's public transportation network. The three students planned on presenting their research at the recent Defcon hacker conference until the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority obtained the gag order. Upholding the order would discourage scientists from publicizing research for fear of litigation, said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Freedom Foundation. The MBTA wanted a five-month extension of the order to fix the flaws. Despite the gag, the student's research was readily available. Defcon organizers included their work in conference material, MIT posted their research paper on its Web site and some material became public information after the MBTA filed its gag order motion.

7. Two years on, Microsoft and Novell extend partnership: Two years after forming a partnership that brought a Linux champion and foe together, Novell and Microsoft announced an extension of their interoperability pact. Microsoft will purchase up to US$100 million in coupons for Suse Linux support from Novell. An analyst said that the extension proves that customers have taken to the deal, which began with Microsoft buying $240 million in Novell coupons for its customers to purchase. The companies claim that $157 million of the coupons from the initial investment have been redeemed. The arrangement makes Microsoft look good for playing nicely with a rival. Meanwhile, figures from IDC indicate that Novell captured market share from Red Hat, its competitor in the enterprise Linux market, since entering the arrangement with Microsoft.

8. Comcast: No new traffic management plan yet: Reports circulated this week that Comcast has developed a plan to manage its network traffic. The method involves slowing traffic for heavy users for up to 20 minutes during busy periods of network use. The company said that this proposal is one of the leading options, but Comcast has yet to make a final decision. The telecom caused controversy last year when information emerged that it was slowing BitTorrent P-to-P (peer-to-peer) traffic in an effort to ease network congestion. The measure served as a rallying point for net neutrality advocates, and this month, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to ban broadband providers from blocking or slowing specific applications on its network. Comcast's traffic management approach wouldn't target a certain application, the company said, complying with the FCC's ruling.

9. Did Nokia pay for vulnerability information?: The IT industry tends to shun the practice of paying for product security flaw information, fearing scenarios where businesses are blackmailed to keep an exploit from hackers. However, Nokia's cagey answers on how it obtained details of a vulnerability in its Series 40 operating system raised the possibility that it cut a check. The security researcher who discovered the issue wanted €20,000 (US$29,500) to compensate for the six-months he spent collecting the data. The researcher also claimed that only reputable companies that paid would get the full research. He didn't reveal if Nokia paid him, but the Finnish phone maker said it has a complete copy of the research. Nokia said that the researcher performed a lot of research, so it understands why he wants the work monetized.

10. China Blocks Apple's ITunes, Amazon Over Tibet Songs: While China pledged Internet freedom during the Olympics, an album promoting peace in Tibet possibly irked Beijing enough to block Apple's U.S. iTunes Music Store and parts of Amazon.com. Internet users in China confirmed Wednesday that they received error messages when attempting to reach the sites. Apple doesn't run a China iTunes store, but people with a U.S. credit card can purchase merchandise from the U.S. store. While Amazon.com remains accessible, attempting to access the album's page and download page prompts a message that the server connection was reset. This message is common when attempting to reach blocked sites.

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