Saturday, October 31, 2009

Canada Ford plant to shutdown in 2011, layoff 1,400 jobs

US automaker Ford Motor Co. will shutter one of its manufacturing plants in Canada in 2011, a move that will cut 1,400 jobs, the Canadian Auto Workers said Friday.

As part of a cost-reduction agreement between the company's US headquarters and the CAW, the plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, will close in the third quarter of 2011, the powerful union said in a statement.

Some 1,400 employees will be dismissed, CAW spokeswoman Shannon Devine told AFP. Canadian media put the number of jobs eliminated at 1,600.

As part of the tentative agreement the union said it obtained a commitment by the US automaker to keep at least 10 percent of its North American production in Canada.

"During the negotiations, Ford threatened that if we didn't come to an agreement, the company would begin shifting investment out of Canada," said Ken Lewenza, president of the CAW.

"In today's globalized economy where companies attempt to bypass community commitments, it's crucial that we don't allow this to happen."

The agreement, which expires in September 2012, is expected to be voted on and approved Sunday by the CAW's 7,000 Ford workers in Canada.

The St. Thomas plant produces the Ford Crown Victoria -- a model routinely chosen by US police forces and New York taxis -- as well as the Mercury Grand Marquis.

Although Ford did not accept bailout money from the US government like Chrysler and General Motors did, the CAW said Ford followed the pattern set out earlier in the year by its US rivals to cut significant portions of their Canada operations as part of restructuring.

Chrysler and GM both filed for bankruptcy and received billions of dollars in US government aid. Canada's government also pumped billions of dollars into the companies as part of packages to keep their auto manufacturing operations here afloat.

As part of the new deal, the CAW agreed to a reduction in holidays and a requirement for workers to contribute to the company's pension fund at the rate of one dollar for every hour worked, Devine said.

Ford for its part made new production and investment commitments in several manufacturing locations in Canada, including production of "at least two new-generation vehicles in the next product cycle" at its Oakville plant outside Toronto.

"This footprint commitment was an important achievement for the union," Lewenza said.

But Ford stood firm on closure of the St. Thomas plant.

"Nothing was harder... than coming to the realization that regardless of whatever suggestions the union came up with to save the St. Thomas facility, Ford would be closing the plant," said Mike Vince, chairman of the CAW-Ford bargaining committee and president of CAW Local 200.

Ford committed to funding and opening a center to assist workers unemployed after the plant closure.


Will Nokia close its gaming service N-Gage?

Nokia will close its battered gaming service N-Gage next year, acknowledging failure in its first major services offering.

The handset maker's mobile gaming push has encountered major challenges over the years, with consumers first shunning its dedicated gaming phones.

The online gaming service, opened last year, never moved beyond a niche audience.

Nokia has started to look for new revenues from online services as its traditional handset market is maturing, with games and music being the first focus areas of the cellphone maker.

"We will no longer publish new games for the N-Gage platform," Nokia said on its N-Gage blog.

It said the games from its first major services offering can be purchased until the end of September 2010, and the community site will remain in operation throughout 2010.

After closing the N-Gage service it will continue to sell mobile games at its Ovi Store, a smaller rival to Apple's popular App Store.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Syntel's Q3 results outshines Wall Street expectations

Syntel's revenue for the third quarter increased one percent to $104.7 million (Rs.506 crore), compared to $103.8 million (Rs.502 crore) in the prior-year period, and increased five percent sequentially from $100.1 million (Rs.484 crore) in the second quarter of 2009.

Sequential revenue improvement was driven by its Applications Outsourcing service offering, and growth was broad-based across all verticals. During the third quarter, Applications Outsourcing accounted for 74 percent of total revenue, with Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) at 18 percent, e-Business contributing six percent and Team Sourcing at two percent.

The Company's gross margin improved to 49.3 percent in the third quarter, compared to 44.3 percent in the prior-year period (500 bps increase) and 48.2 percent in the second quarter of 2009 (110 bps increase). Selling, General and Administrative (SG&A) expenses were 18.1 percent in the third quarter, compared to 19.1 percent in the prior-year period and 20.8 percent in the previous quarter.

Syntel's income from operations expanded to 31.2 percent in the third quarter as compared to 25.2 percent in the prior-year period (600 bps increase) and 27.4 percent in the second quarter of 2009 (380bps increase).

"Increasing stability in the business environment and a gradual improvement in customer confidence had a positive effect on our top line during the third quarter," said CEO and President Keshav Murugesh. "While our clients remain comfortable in moving forward with cost reduction initiatives, they are now increasingly willing to discuss longer-term business plans and strategic technology investments."

"The strong financial and operating discipline at Syntel has been evident in our financial performance during a very difficult nine month period. We expect that as demand for offshore services improves, costs of doing business in India will increase resulting in margin pressure. Syntel continues to invest in the people, infrastructure and new services necessary to drive long-term sustainable value for all of our key stakeholders."

Based on current visibility levels and an exchange rate assumption of 47.0 rupees to the dollar, the Company is updating 2009 guidance from Revenue of $395Mn (Rs.1,910 crore) to $415Mn (Rs.2,007 crore) and EPS of $2.40 to $2.50 to Revenue of $405Mn (Rs. 1,959 crore) to $408Mn (Rs.1,973 crore) and EPS of $2.60 to $2.65.


Web address get oked for Hebrew, Hindi, others scripts

The nonprofit body that oversees Internet addresses approved on Friday the use of Hebrew, Hindi, Korean and other scripts not based on the Latin alphabet in a decision that could make the Web dramatically more inclusive.

The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to allow such scripts in so-called domain names at the conclusion of a weeklong meeting in Seoul, South Korea's capital. The decision follows years of debate and testing.

The decision clears the way for governments or their designees to submit requests for specific names, likely beginning Nov 16. Internet users could start seeing them in use early next year, particularly in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts in which demand has been among the highest, ICANN officials said.

``This represents one small step for ICANN, but one big step for half of mankind who use non-Latin scripts, such as those in Korea, China and the Arabic speaking world as well as across Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world,'' Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's CEO, said ahead of the vote.

Domain names _ the Internet addresses that end in ``.com'' and other suffixes _ are the key monikers behind every Web site, e-mail address and Twitter post.

Since their creation in the 1980s, domain names have been limited to the 26 characters in the Latin alphabet used in English _ A-Z _ as well as 10 numerals and the hyphen. Technical tricks have been used to allow portions of the Internet address to use other scripts, but until now, the suffix had to use those 37 characters.

That has meant Internet users with little or no knowledge of English might still have to type in Latin characters to access Web pages in Chinese or Arabic. Although search engines can sometimes help users reach those sites, companies still need to include Latin characters on billboards and other advertisements.


New music search from Google

Google stepped onto the internet music stage, unveiling a service for finding, listening to or buying songs online. Google announced an alliance with and MySpace-owned iLike at Capitol Records headquarters in Los Angeles that could cut down on the number of mouse clicks it takes to sample or purchase a song on the web.

“We are very excited today to be introducing a music search feature,” Google vice president of search Marissa Mayer said before a demo of the service called OneBox. “The search results will allow you to do a whole song play to verify it is the song you are looking for,” rather than just the 30-second stream typical of most major online music providers.


iGate expands Whitefield campus; To hire 1,500 by 2010

iGate on Thursday inaugurated the fourth phase of its global delivery facility at its campus in Whitefield, Bangalore. The new facility, set up at a cost of Rs 65 crore, provides 115,000 sq ft of additional workspace and can seat 1,050 people.

Phaneesh Murthy, CEO of the outsourcing solutions company, said iGate plans to hire about 1,500 people in 2010. The $220-million company currently has around 3,500 employees in Bangalore.

Murthy said he expected IT budgets to be up 2-4% in 2010.

“Discretionary project spends are starting to happen. The pricing environment is largely stable,” he said.

iGate’s campus has in the past sought to differentiate itself through the adoption of a host of environment friendly measures. The latest phase makes further advances on this front. It has LED lighting throughout and the lighting is solar powered. There’s an ozone-friendly air conditioning system, organic waste converter and a wastewater recycling system.

“We also made special efforts to procure green IT equipment,” the company said. The company has taken on a carbon footprint estimation study to determine the green house gas (GHG) inventory across all its global delivery facilities in India, Australia and Mexico.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cisco to strenghten Web security with ScanSafe acquisition

Cisco Systems has announced to buy the privately held Web security company ScanSafe for about $183 million, a move that will intensify its battle with security giants Symantec and McAfee. ScanSafe sells Web-based services that protect business computer networks and PCs from hackers, saving companies the cost of buying and installing software on their own equipment.

The top two security software companies, Symantec and McAfee, already sell such products, which are known as "cloud" services and whose sales are growing at a far faster clip than traditional software. As reported by Reuters, Cisco announced the deal on Tuesday, saying that the transaction is expected to close in its fiscal second quarter that ends in January 2010. The $183 million price tag includes cash and retention-based incentives, as per Cisco.

The deal helps Cisco expand its security portfolio, which includes email and Web security software company IronPort that it bought in 2007. San Jose, California-based Cisco has recently stepped up its pace of acquisitions. It announced deals for wireless equipment maker Starent Networks for $2.9 billion and Norwegian video conferencing maker Tandberg for $3 billion. Chief Executive John Chambers has said that he was looking to do more.


Will Infosys rural BPO centers in Andhra payoff?

Infosys BPO, a subsidiary of IT major Infosys, has signed an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh government to open rural BPO centres in 22 districts of the Andhra Pradesh (AP) state. Infosys BPO CEO and Managing Director Amitabh Chaudhry and State Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty CEO T Vijaya Kumar signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard in the presence of AP Chief Minister K Rosaiah.

"The first such BPO centre will be set up in the next six weeks, which will provide a testing ground for this model. The capital expenditure and other details will be worked out subsequently," said Chaudhry. He also added that all the 22 districts would have one BPO each. "Over 1,000 people would get direct employment through the rural BPO centers in the next 12-15 months. Statistics suggests that direct employment generates 1.4 times indirect employment as well," said

Noting that Andhra Pradesh would be the first state where Infosys would be setting such facilities, Chaudhry said, "We are in talks with some other states as well for similar ventures but I can't disclose the names at this stage."


Can supercomputers unravel universe's secrets?

Scientists are using the world's fastest supercomputer to model origins of the unseen universe including dark energy. Understanding dark energy is the number one issue in explaining the universe, according to Salman Habib of the Laboratory's Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology Group.

Even though it's looking at only a small segment of the 'accessible' universe, Habib's 'Roadrunner Universe' model requires a petascale computer because like the universe, it's very large, reports ANI. The model's basic unit is a particle with a mass of approximately one billion suns (in order to sample galaxies with masses of about a trillion suns) and it includes more than 64 billion of those particles.

The model is one of the largest simulations of the distribution of matter in the universe, and aims to look at galaxy-scale mass concentrations above and beyond quantities seen in state-of-the-art sky surveys.

According to Habib, as the universe is expanding and at the same time accelerating, either there is a huge gap in our understanding of physics, or there is a strange new form of matter that dominates the universe - 'dark energy' - making up about 70 percent of it. "In addition, there is five times more of an unknown 'dark matter' than there is ordinary matter in the universe, and we know it's there from many different observations, most spectacularly, we've seen it bend light in pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, but its origin is also not understood," he added.

The Roadrunner Universe model relies on a hierarchical grid or particle algorithm that matches the physical aspects of the simulation to the hybrid architecture of Roadrunner. Habib and his team wrote an entirely new computer code that aggressively exploits Roadrunner's hybrid architecture and makes full use of the PowerXCell 8i computational accelerators.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nasscom sees great opportunity for SaaS in product cos

Nasscom believes that cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) provide excellent paradigms for software product companies to reach out to the mass of small businesses that require IT solutions.

SaaS allows small businesses to pay for what they need at the time they need it, instead of spending large sums upfront on IT solutions that are implemented onsite. This could substantially reduce the costs of IT, as also increase the ability of small businesses to access IT solutions.

Som Mittal, president of Nasscom, urged software product companies to rework their business models to provide their solutions as services.

Sharad Sharma, chairperson of the product forum of Nasscom and part of VC fund Canaan Partners, said the small business segment was opening up “really well”. “There’s a lot of opportunity for Indian software product companies in this because many of these companies have solutions that are world class,” he said.

He also noted the growing eagerness of large system integrators to work with software product companies to add value to their offerings. Product companies, he felt, could use such partnerships to reach global customers.