Thursday, October 1, 2009

Banks, social networks new target for computer viruses

Cyber criminals are increasingly focusing their attacks on the hundreds of millions of users of social networks and on loopholes in bank security systems, security software vendors said on Wednesday. At the same time, spam e-mail messages rose sharply in the third quarter, Symantec Corp said.

And as Facebook reached 300 million accounts in September, social networks and social media continued to attract criminals, smaller research firm F-Secure said in its quarterly virus report. "As Twitter has grown in popularity, it has been increasingly targeted by worms, spam and account hijacking," F-Secure said.

Cyber criminals choose targets that are widely used, allowing them to go after the largest number of potential victims. "Cyber criminals continue to follow the money," said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, technology chief at a small security software vendor Finjan, who on Wednesday revealed a new method criminals use to steal money from bank accounts and hide their tracks.

Finjan said it expects a growing trend of using new software that forges on-screen bank statements, concealing the true transaction amount to dupe account holders and their banks, and then sends the stolen money to money mules accounts.

"With the combination of using sophisticated Trojans for the theft and money mules to transfer stolen money to their accounts, they minimize their chances of being detected," Ben-Itzhak said.

The amount of spam in all e-mail traffic rose to 88.1 percent in the third quarter from 81 percent a year ago, said Symantec's MessageLabs in its quarterly report. MessageLabs said botnets are now responsible for sending 87.9 percent of all spam. Hackers take advantage of the PC vulnerability by booby- trapping websites with a malicious code that loads onto computers.

Infected PCs are commandeered into a botnet, a network of hijacked computers. They are used for identity theft, spamming and other cyber crimes. "Over the past year, we have seen a number of ISP's (Internet service providers) taken offline for hosting botnet activity resulting in a case of sink or swim and an ensuing shift in botnet power," MessageLabs analyst Paul Wood said in a statement.

"However, this won't always be the case as botnet technology has also evolved since the end of 2008 and the most recent ISP closures now have less of an impact on resulting activity as downtime now only lasts a few hours rather than weeks or months as before," Wood said.


Jobless Americans climb to 551,000 in September 2009

The count of Americans seeking unemployment benefits for the first time climbed unexpectedly by 17,000 to 551,000 for the week ended September 26, indicating that labour market remains strained despite easing economic conditions.

The figures come a day after official data showed that the US economy contracted less than expected at 0.7 per cent i the June quarter.

According to the US Labor Department, the number of initial claims for jobless benefits rose 17,000 to 551,000 for the week ended September 26.

In the previous week, the figure stood at 534,000. As per the data, the four-week moving average was 548,000.

However, the count of those receiving unemployment benefits dropped as much as 70,000 to 6,090,000 for the week ended September 19.

"The 4-week moving average was 6,154,500, a decrease of 39,250 from the preceding week's revised average of 6,193,750," the Labor Department said in a statement today.

Yesterday, payroll-processing firm ADP in its National Employment Report said that 254,000 jobs evaporated in the American private sector in September.

However, the report noted that the decrease was the smallest since July 2008.


Jobless rate in Europe touches 10 years high

The unemployment rate in the 16-nation euro zone soared to a ten-year high of 9.6 per cent in August, as the region continued to feel the tremors of the financial turmoil.

Euro zone -- a group of 16 nations that share the common currency euro -- has seen the jobless pace jump to 9.6 per cent in August, little higher than 9.5 per cent in July.

In August last year, the rate stood at 7.6 per cent. Eurostat, the official statistical agency for the European community, today said the unemployment rate is the highest since March 1999.

A staggering 15.165 million people were jobless in the region in August.

In the European Union region, the unemployment rate in August was at 9.1 per cent, the highest since March 2004. The same stood at nine per cent in July.

As many as 21.872 million people were without a job in the 27-nation European Union in August.

"Compared with August 2008, unemployment went up by 5.008 million in the EU and by 3.224 million in the euro area," Eurostat said in the statement.

Among the countries, the unemployment rate was the highest in Spain at 18.9 per cent and Latvia (18.3 per cent), while the lowest was seen in the Netherlands at 3.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, many of the major economies including France and Germany have exited recession and the region as a whole is slowly seeing signs of stabilisation.


Cloud computing helps organization to remain more secure

Today the biggest challenges for CIO’s are managing and securing the exponentially growing information in the IT infrastructure that supports their business and providing centralized access to multiple data centers across the globe, said Manjunath Kashi, Director, Enterprise Computing Group, Unisys. He said a secure cloud, whether private or public, can enable them to do both more effectively. Excerpts of the interview.

1. How does cloud computing help address CIO challenges?

The biggest challenges for CIO’s today are managing and securing the exponentially growing information in the IT infrastructure that supports their business and providing centralized access to multiple data centers across the globe. A secure cloud, whether private or public, can enable them to do both more effectively.

Unisys believes that cloud computing will revolutionize the way enterprises obtain business and IT services and change the kind of payback they get from their IT investments. In a severely constrained global economy, the prospect of de-capitalizing enterprise IT, deferring and avoiding operational costs, fixing the IT bottleneck and more effectively mapping availability of IT resources to fluctuating business demands provide powerful incentives to adopt cloud computing.

The major attributes and benefits of cloud computing are the following:

1. Multi-tenant –the capability to process the needs of multiple users with shared resources, dynamically and transparently;
2. Elastic and scalable –resources can be expanded and contracted as needed;
3. Metered/rented – to a certain extent, “pay only for what you use”;
4. Self-provisioned – “self-check-in,” at least to some degree;
5. Internet-based – accessible by using Internet technology, usually over the public Internet;
6. “X” as a service [with “X” being software or infrastructure, for example] – The details/concerns of implementation are abstracted for the customer.

Clients and prospects consistently tell Unisys that concerns about security is the major impediments to adopting cloud computing for business needs. Secure, then, is the additional benefit that differentiates Unisys’ strategy and solutions for cloud computing from other cloud offerings available in the market. The word “secure” refers to providing an overall reduction in risk due to greater security protocols and tools for data in motion (transiting the infrastructure), data at rest (in storage networks) and data in process. Unisys offers those through the Stealth data protection technology in its Secure Cloud Solution.

2. What kind of applications do you expect enterprises to host on the cloud? Why?

Most enterprises have until now been comfortable moving only test and development suites to the cloud, because they don’t involve transmission of sensitive data outside internal firewalls. Unisys Secure Cloud Solution – a managed public cloud service with an unmatched level of data protection based on unique bit-splitting technology called Stealth – enables enterprise clients to securely move conventional business applications into a managed, shared cloud service without costly, time-consuming rewrites or other alterations. Those applications often include secure or sensitive data, such as human resources, financial, customer and healthcare information. The Unisys Secure Cloud Solution can thus help clients reduce capital and operating expenditures and protect their investment in critical business applications.

3. Benefits of cloud computing to the large and small enterprises?

Cloud computing – especially as embodied in Unisys strategy and solutions portfolio – can benefit organizations of all sizes. The Unisys approach enables clients to choose the type of data center computing services that best meet their business objectives, from self-managed, automated IT infrastructures to Unisys-managed cloud services. Using Unisys services and technologies, organizations can create a private cloud within their data centers, a public cloud through secure Unisys-managed cloud solutions, or a hybrid cloud solution combining the best of both private and Unisys-managed cloud services.

Clients and prospects in organizations of all sizes tell Unisys that they see great operational and economic value in moving enterprise applications and data to the cloud. However, they have lacked the comprehensive security to make them confident in doing so.

Unisys cloud computing strategy and solutions focus on helping clients overcome those security concerns. We like to say that security is in Unisys DNA, data center transformation and application modernization are our heritage, and outsourcing services tailored to the client’s specific business needs are our forté. Unisys cloud computing strategy draws on all those core capabilities to help clients break through the barriers to adoption and gain a full range of options for cloud services while safeguarding their operations and lowering IT costs.

4. How secure are Unisys’s cloud computing offerings? What are the special features that Unisys offers on the cloud?

Most of the current cloud computing solutions lack the comprehensive security that gives clients the confidence in moving enterprise applications and data into the cloud.

Unisys’ cloud computing solutions provide the much-required extra layer of security. Underpinning our strategy is Unisys Stealth security solution, an innovative, patent-pending data protection technology, initially designed for government applications and now available to commercial clients too. The Unisys Stealth technology cloaks data through multiple levels of authentication and encryption, bit-splitting it into multiple packets so it moves invisibly across networks and stays secure in storage environments.

As I mentioned earlier, the Stealth technology also anchors Unisys Secure Cloud Solution, which is designed to provide the highest level of data security possible within a cloud environment today, while reducing clients’ upfront investments and ongoing operational costs for cloud computing. Using Stealth technology, the Unisys Secure Cloud Solution allows different clients in a multi-tenant environment to share the same IT infrastructure without the fear of exposing one client’s data to another.

In addition to the Stealth technology, clients of Unisys Secure Cloud Solution benefit from Unisys’ layered security infrastructure, which includes comprehensive capabilities, including intrusion detection and prevention service, security monitoring, advanced correlation and analytics, firewall management and logging.

5. How different are your offerings from other players in the same space?

Unisys cloud computing strategy is uniquely flexible. It draws on all the company’s core capabilities of security, data center transformation, application modernization and outsourcing services to help clients break-through the barriers to adoption and gain a full range of options for cloud services, while safeguarding their operations and lowering IT costs. As I said before, the Unisys cloud computing strategy enables clients to choose the type of data center computing services that best meet their business objectives -- from self-managed, automated IT infrastructure to Unisys-managed cloud services. Using Unisys services and technologies, organizations can create a private cloud within their datacenters, a public cloud through secure Unisys-managed cloud solutions, or a hybrid cloud solution, combining the best of both private and Unisys-managed cloud services.

The Unisys Secure Cloud Solution – a core component of Unisys cloud computing strategy – provides a global platform for delivering a full range of highly secure, managed IT infrastructure and application services available “as a service” through the cloud. This innovative solution enables enterprise clients to securely move conventional business applications – including those with secure or sensitive data, such as human resources, financial, customer and healthcare information – into a managed, shared cloud service without costly, time-consuming rewrites or other alterations. The unique Stealth technology, which delivers an unmatched level of data protection for the cloud environment, is a real differentiator for Unisys cloud computing strategy and solutions.

Also, Unisys portfolio of Cloud Transformation Services rounds out our cloud computing solutions. They provide clients a unique way to understand both how cloud computing can benefit them and what are the strategic and financial implications of adopting specific approaches.

6. What segment is Unisys targeting in India and why?

Unisys believes that our cloud computing strategy and solutions – with their unique emphasis on security – will have special appeal in market sectors such as federal government/public sector, healthcare and financial services, where data security, compliance with regulations for data management, and other security concerns are driving forces in decision-making.

In addition, industries or functions – e.g., financial reporting, benefits administration, and secure document management – that have weekly, monthly or even seasonal spikes in demand for IT resources to support business requirements could benefit from Unisys secure cloud solutions.

Unisys launched its cloud computing strategy and solutions on June 30th. We’re in the process of engaging with clients in a range of industries with our Unisys Cloud Transformation Services – a portfolio of advisory and implementation services that help clients assess potential cloud computing options and determine which option best suits their needs or financial objectives – and our Secure Cloud Solution, a managed, public-cloud service that multiple clients can share.

7. How much do you estimate the market size of cloud computing in India? What is the present growth rate?

Gartner says worldwide cloud services revenues are on a pace to surpass $56.3 billion in 2009, a 21.3 per cent increase in revenues from $46.4 billion in 2008. The market is expected to reach $150.1 billion in 2013. The Indian market, according to Springboard Research, will register a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 76 per cent between 2007 and 2011 and reach $260 million (around Rs 1,300 crore) in revenue by 2011. This presents a great opportunity for Unisys cloud computing solutions.

8. Despite being an old concept, why is this space picking up at the time of recession?

In the current economic scenario, the prospects of de-capitalizing enterprise IT, deferring and avoiding operational costs, fixing the IT bottleneck and more effectively mapping availability of IT resources to fluctuating business demands provide powerful incentives for enterprises to adopt cloud computing.

Go multilingual in 51 languages using Google gadgets

Google on Wednesday released free software that lets website operators automatically translate online pages into any of 51 languages.

A "translator gadget" powered by Google Translate offers to transform pages for visitors if the language settings in their browsers are different from the language of a particular website, according to Google product manager Jeff Chin.

"Automatic translation is convenient and helps people get a quick gist of the page," Chin said in a blog post.

"However, it's not a perfect substitute for the art of professional translation."

In August the Internet giant added automatic translation to Google Docs allowing users to translate documents into 42 languages.

The "Tools" menu on Google Docs now includes a "Translate Document" feature which provides a list of the various languages offered, which run from Albanian to Icelandic to Vietnamese.

The Mountain View, California-based company has already built automatic translation features into its popular email program Gmail and into services such as its blog reader.


Where is the $23-bn telecom Bharti-MTN merger heading?

The $23-billion deal for the merger of Bharti Airtel and South African giant MTN, which would have been the world's largest in the telecom sector, today fell through.

Sunil Mittal-led Bharti called off discussions with MTN citing the South African government's rejection of the proposed merger structure, which would have created the world's third largest telecom company with combined revenues of over $20 billion annually and a subscriber base of over 200 million.

The issue of dual listing of MTN to maintain its identity in the merged company appears to have been the deal-breaker during the tough negotiations lasting well over four months.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had strongly backed the deal which he took up with South African President Jacob Zuma at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh last week.

While announcing the calling off of the talks, Bharti in a statement expressed the hope that the South African government "will review its position in the future and allow both companies an opportunity to re-engage".

This is the second time in just over a year when Bharti has been forced to abandon talks for amalgamation of the two organisations in a complex deal that also hinged on Indian government's clearance for dual listing.

"This transaction would have been the single largest FDI into South Africa and one of the largest outbound FDIs from India," Bharti statement said, adding "the structure needed an approval from the government of South Africa, which has expressed its inability to accept it in the current form".

Senior management of Bharti, including Sunil Mittal, could not be reached immediately for comments as they are on a annual off-site, most likely in Pataya, Thailand.

After Bharti had called off negotiations with MTN last year accusing the South African entity of reneging on its commitment and presenting a different structure, Anil Ambani-led RCom had entered into negotiations with MTN for a deal.

This was also called off after Anil's elder brother Mukesh Ambani asserted the first right of refusal and

threatened a legal action. As per the proposed structure, Bharti would have acquired 49 per cent shareholding in MTN and in turn MTN and its shareholders would acquire about 36 per cent economic interest in Bharti.

The South African government had demanded dual listing of MTN in order to protect the character of MTN as a South African entity.

While starting the negotiations for the second time in May this year, Sunil Mittal had said "we see real power in the combination and we will work hard to unleash it for all our shareholders."

India Inc feels let down by deal failure Corporate India today felt let down by the failure of the $23-billion proposed merger deal between telecom giants Bharti Airtel and South Africa's MTN but said the south-south co-operation was still alive.

"In this particular proposed deal they (South African government) could have said they will make an exception in their law in terms of dual listing norms," Ficci secretary general Amit Mitra said.

He, however, said there was still scope in South Africa where Indian companies are preferred by "black administration" which today controls the country.

Assocham President Sajjan Jindal described the development as "the most unfortunate". He said the merger between Bharti and MTN would have provided a "golden opportunity" for India Inc to spread its wings in the global business space.

"It is most unfortunate. The MTN deal has been called off despite full support from the Indian government. It was a golden opportunity for India to globalise its wings," he said.

In a consolatory tone, CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee said the MTN deal not going through should not be seen as a dampener.

"India Inc has had many success in the past and in future too we can hope to see some large merger and acquisitions by Indian companies, including the likes of Bharti," he added.

PHDCCI president Satish Bagrodia, however, said: "Indian industry is quite disappointed with the proposed deal being called off. In future Indian companies will be over cautious."


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will $1-b BSNL outsourcing deal impact 30,000 jobs?

Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) is planning to outsource the management and maintenance of its towers and cable networks to compete more effectively with private players like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications, which dominate the booming industry and also unlock the value of its assets, reports the Economic Times.

The deal, which could be worth more than $1 billion (Rs. 5,000 crore) over the next five years, might receive stiff resistance from about three lakh employees as it will impact close to 30,000 jobs. "The company plans to train and redeploy a significant section of these employees to marketing roles," informed two executives requesting anonymity, as many employees are expected to be transferred to the IT firms that win the outsourcing deal.

Through this deal, BSNL will outsource more than 50,000 towers and over one lakh kilometers of optic fibre cable. "The telecom company is in process of finalizing tender conditions for inviting bids for the contract," said these executives.

"The move will help BSNL unlock the value from its towers and passive infrastructure as the once monopoly tries to play catch up with private rivals," said BK Syngal, Senior Principal, Dua Consulting.

"Successful bidders for this contract can share company's networks with private players for a fee and this could result in a revenue boost for BSNL," added Syngal, who is also a former Chairman of VSNL (now Tata Communications).

Reliance Communications had formed a joint venture with Franco American networks major Alcatel-Lucent last year and outsourced the management of its GSM and CDMA networks and infrastructure such as optic fibre cable in a deal worth $500 million over a five year period. The deal had crossed $750 million mark in July 2009.

Bharti Airtel also entered into a $500 million joint venture with Alcatel-Lucent to manage its landline and broadband business in April 2009. Around 4,000 Airtel employees were transferred to this new venture, which is a front runner to bag another $500 million contract from Airtel to manage and maintain its 80,000 kilometers intercity optic fibre cable network.

BSNL had recently postponed plans to hive off its towers and other related infrastructure into a separate company. The company felt it would be difficult to unlock value by merely hiving off its infrastructure and listing it due to falling valuations for the tower sector, said the executives.

Agencies/Economic Times

Increase of IT spending by 20-25%, says GE

General Electric (GE) may increase its IT spending by about 20-25 percent for 2010-11, a step that can turn out to be a boon for several Indian information technology (IT) vendors.

Software firms like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), HCL Technologies, Patni Computer Systems and iGate, who generate a significant amount of revenue from GE, are likely to benefit most from the increase in its IT budget.

A person close to this development said, "GE has allotted an additional $500-600 million for its IT budget during 2010-11. The firm may be looking to extend contracts with vendors like iGate and Polaris by three to four years and significantly increase its spending with large capital firms like TCS and HCL going forward."

GE has already extended its IT contract with Birlasoft, estimated to be worth $50 million and $100 million and with Mahindra Satyam, worth $100 million by three years. The existing contracts for iGate, Polaris Software Lab and Birlasoft will end in December this year.


Will HP merge its PC, print divisions?

Hewlett-Packard Co is considering a plan to reorganize the company and combine its printer and personal computer units, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A plan is being finalized that would put Todd Bradley, who leads HP's PC group, in charge of the combined division, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

An HP spokeswoman declined to comment on what she called "rumor and speculation."

PCs made up around 30 percent of HP's revenue in the July quarter, with the printing group accounting for roughly 20 percent.

The printing group boasted an operating margin of 17 percent, making it HP's most profitable division.

For fiscal 2010, HP forecast revenue growth of 3-5 percent in its PC business and zero to 2 percent in its printing group.

HP is the world's No. 1 PC maker, holding a roughly 20 percent share of the global market.

The Journal report said Vyomesh Joshi, a longtime HP veteran who leads the printing division, could potentially leave the company in the coming months.

He has been approached in recent years by other technology companies looking for a new chief executive, the report said, citing people familiar with Joshi's discussions.


Free computer security software from Microsoft released

Microsoft has released free software that people can use to protect computers against viruses, spyware and other malicious codes in arsenals of cyber criminals.

Microsoft Security Essentials is available for download at and is built on technology that the global software giant uses in computer security programs it designs for businesses.

"With Microsoft Security Essentials, consumers can get high-quality protection that is easy to get and easy to use, and it won't get in their way," said Amy Barzdukas, general manager for consumer security at Microsoft.

"Consumers have told us that they want the protection of real-time security software but we know that too many are either unwilling or unable to pay for it, and so end up unprotected."

Microsoft hopes that the free software will be broadly adopted, particularly by those who have not been vigilant about protecting computers from hackers, and thereby "increase security across the entire Windows ecosystem."

More than 90 percent of the computers worldwide run on Windows operating systems made by the US technology firm.

"Microsoft is helping to reduce some of the barriers that constrain consumers from running (anti-virus software)," said IDC security analyst Jon Crotty. "Microsoft is focused on the challenges that prevent consumers from running up-to-date anti-virus software today, particularly in emerging markets where there is a growing prevalence of malware."

Security Essentials is designed to run behind the scenes, defending machines against infection by malicious computer codes.

The real-time nature of the software means it is automatically kept up-to-date regarding viruses.

Computer security specialty firm Symantec downplayed the Microsoft offering, saying it is lightweight and isn't tuned for new forms of attack being used by hackers.

Symantec referred to Security Essentials as a stripped-down version of an old Microsoft OneCare product that got poor ratings.

"From a security perspective, this Microsoft tool offers reduced defenses at a critical point in the battle against cyber crime," Symantec said of the free offering that competes with Norton products sold by the firm.

"Unique malware and social engineering tricks fly under the radar of traditional signature-based technology alone -- which is what is employed by free security tools such as Microsoft's," it said.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Will Kyocera Wireless India be acquired by MindTree

MindTree Ltd said on Tuesday it would buy Bangalore-based Kyocera Wireless India Pvt Ltd and make an upfront payment of $6 million, while
further payments will be linked to revenue in FY11 and FY12.

The IT firm expects the acquisition to contribute about $9 million in revenues for the period Oct 2009 to March 2010, with profit after tax expected to be in the range of 13-15 percent, it said in a statement.


Is Xerox set to acquire ACS for $6.4 in 2009?

Xerox, the global copier and imaging giant, will pay $6.4 billion to acquire the outsourcing company Affiliated Computer Services, expanding its foothold in a growing industry, the companies said.

Xerox, based in Norwalk, Conn, is paying $63.11 a share in cash and stock for ACS, which posted revenue growth of 6% and new business signings of $1 billion in annual recurring revenue during its fiscal 2009.

“We’re creating a new class of solution provider,” Xerox’s chief executive, Ursula M Burns, said in a statement, adding that the deal was “a gamechanger for Xerox.” She estimated the company’s revenue from services would triple to $10 billion next year from $3.5 billion in 2008. Lynn R Blodgett, ACS’s chief executive, said in the statement that the deal was necessary “to expand globally and differentiate our offerings through technology.” ACS will continue to operate as an independent organization. Blodgett will remain as chief executive, reporting to Burns.
It was the first major deal for Burns, who took over Xerox in July with the retirement of Anne M Mulcahy.

Owners of ACS stock will receive $18.60 a share in cash and 4.935 Xerox shares for each ACS share. Xerox will assume $2 billion in ACS debt and issue $300 million of convertible preferred stock to ACS’s Class B shareholders. ACS had a market value Friday at the close of trading of $4.6 billion. Xerox said the transaction would add to profit in the first year on an adjusted-earnings basis.

ACS, based in Dallas, specializes in outsourcing processes for industries including telecommunications, retail and financial services and health care, and describes itself as the largest provider of managed services to government entities in the United States. The companies estimated the market for so-called business process outsourcing at $150 billion, growing at a rate of 5% a year.

JP Morgan Chase and Blackstone Advisory Partners acted as financial adviser to Xerox, while Citigroup Global Markets served as financial adviser to ACS


Monday, September 28, 2009

IT SEZ from realty firm in Ahmedabad

A city based realty developer Calica Construction and Impex pvt Ltd laid the foundation stone for an It and ITeS Special Economic Zone here on Sunday.

The SEZ will be spread over 20 acres of land on the outskirts of the city and would house small and medium sized information technology companies.

The developers have planned to complete the first phase of the project in two years with initial investment of Rs 300 crore while total estimated cost of the project is Rs 650 crore.

Union minister of state for small and medium enterprises Dinsha Patel and Gujarat minister of state for industry and energy Saurabh Patel were among those present at the foundation stone lying ceremony.

According to Bipin Shah, one of the developers of the new venture, the company has already got the notification from the Board of Approval (BoA) for SEZ and other clearances are in the process.

He said that over 30,000 square feet space will be created for the It and ITeS companies.

He added that they are also in the process of tying up with major IT firms to set up their centres in the SEZ which would offer world class infrastructural facilities.


India's $100-b defence pie eyed by American miliary contractors

Eyeing India's estimated $100 billion defence pie, major U.S. arms suppliers are wooing Indian defence agents and officials as New Delhi embarks on a major military shopping spree to modernise its Soviet-era arsenal, a US media report said.

At the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, defence contractors such as Northrop Grumman are sponsoring little league baseball teams, the companies' names stitched onto the uniforms, the Washington Post said in a report from New Delhi.

Almost every weekend, there are cocktails and closed-door presentations in the suites of New Delhi's five-star hotels, hosted by retired admirals and generals from the US armed forces who now work for defence firms, such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, it said.

"India will look back-generations down the road-at this period as a defining moment for its new, modern military," the Post cited Roger Rose, chief executive of Lockheed Martin India, which is renting half a wing of New Delhi's Taj Palace Hotel for a 12-person office.

"I think we can all see that there are a lot of threats shared between our two democracies."

With its growing military footprint, India is steering away from traditional ally Russia, its main weapons supplier, and looking toward the United States to help upgrade its weapons systems and troop gear, the Post said

India is also pushing the Obama administration to ease the acquisition of US weapons and technology. Already this year, a high-level US government group cleared the way for Lockheed and Boeing to offer India cutting-edge radar technology for fighter jets.

India now has a shopping list that includes 126 fighter jets, 155mm howitzers, long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, vast cargo planes used in long-distance conflicts, high-tech helicopters and deep-water submarines. Boeing is vying with Lockheed-along with French, Russian and Swedish companies and a European consortium-for a fighter jet deal worth about $10 billion.

India is holding flight tests for the fighter jets. Lockheed and Boeing have conducted demonstration flights for Indian celebrities and defence experts.

"America's relationship to India is maturing and expanding. India is an important global player now," the Post said citing William S. Cohen, a defence secretary during the Clinton administration who is a member of the US-India Business Council's board of directors.


Can mobile phones authenticate your identity?

Move over passport and PAN card! Now the mobile phone will be used to verify your credentials, for authentication at banks, gas connection centres or while providing rural jobs, Unique Identification Authority chief Nandan Nilekani said Saturday.

"Our project will provide a unique identification (UID) number not a card. The authentication will be made by using mobile phones," Nilekani said.

"Once the numbers are issued, we will go for online authentication. Lets say, you are asking for a job under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). The authorities will send your number to the designated points through mobile. A message will be returned saying 'Yes' or 'No'," Nilekani said.

"This will verify whether you are the person you are claiming to be," the former Infosys managing director said, delivering the Foundation Day lecture of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

"This will not require much details to be divulged. It will help provide portability to our farmers, labourers. When they move from state to state, this UID will help them get employment without hassles."

He said banks, mobile service providers, LPG gas connection counters and many more partner organisations can use this UID to verify their customer. "With the growing mobile phone network, this will become an easy process for authorities to verify people."

"It will cut down the fake or duplicate records. This will enhance the efficiency of flagship programmes like NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) and other such projects," Nilekani stressed.

He said his team will roll out the first batch of UIDs in the next 12 to 18 months. "In five years from now, we will issue at least 600 million UIDs," Nilekani said, terming it a Herculean task and a major challenge.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Did Microsoft loose $560 million on Windows Live?

Online services have been a financial drain for Microsoft, and the company said it has moved financial reporting for Windows Live from the Online Services Business to the Client division.

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Microsoft executives said Windows Live pulled in $520 million in revenue in fiscal year 2009, but posted a loss of $560 million. This is by no means a recent trend. Overall, the Online Service Business posted an operating loss of $2.2 billion during fiscal 2009, after racking up a $1.2 billion loss in fiscal 2008.

Tami Reller, Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Vice President, Windows Business Group, said Windows Live operates at a loss primarily due to data center construction costs, research and development, and sales and distribution costs.

"The investments in the data centers is one of the most significant investments in the Windows Live business, and really is a result of the large customer base and the strong competitive position that we have today across these services," said Reller.

Windows Live, which includes Hotmail, Live Messenger, and Skydrive, has more than 500 million users, and makes the bulk of its money through online advertising, according to Microsoft. As the user base grows, Microsoft will continue to invest in building out the data center infrastructure to support them, while also maintaining its investment in R&D, sales, and distribution, according to Reller.

"It is an organizational move, not new or changed investment," said Reller.

Microsoft will report its fiscal 2010 first quarter results on October 22, and Wall Street will be looking for some signs of improvement from several consecutive dismal quarters. Slowing PC and server sales have decimated Microsoft's business, and company officials have called the situation the most difficult economic environment the company has faced in its history.


Motorola's Android system banks on Google's Web power

Struggling phone maker Motorola unveiled its first device using Google's Android system Thursday, expecting it will power features that promise easier access to hot Internet sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The phone, called Cliq, will go on sale at T-Mobile before the end of the year. Pricing info has not yet been released.

Motorola has reorganized its handset biz around Google's Android system, hoping the partnership with the Web search leader can help it win back customers.

The centerpiece of Motorola's Android development is its MOTOBLUR software, which integrates contacts, e-mails and text messages along with postings and photos from social networks by feeding content from these sources into "easy-to-manage streams."

For example, Motorola's live "Happenings" application delivers updates posted by friends automatically on multiple social sites to one place, and gives the user a choice of ways to reply to those updates instantly.


New smart card technology by 2014, says MTA

Bus and subway riders will be able to abandon the MetroCard and use debit or credit cards to ride anywhere in the city by 2014, according to the MTA.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the first time set a target date for a no-swipe smart-card system to be in full use after years of studies and pilot programs.

With smart-card technology, riders simply waive or tap their credit or debit cards on readers when entering a subway station or bus.

Not having to swipe at turnstiles or dip a MetroCard into a fare box reader should speed travel and reduce MTA expenses, experts have said.

"I think it's great," Bill Henderson, executive director of the MTA's Permanent Citizens Advisory Council. "The technology is going help out the riders and the system."

The 2014 date is included in an MTA document detailing some of the major initiatives in the five-year capital plan recently approved by the authority's governing board.

If fully funded, the capital plan will allocate $220 million for a smart-card system, which also would include prepaid cards not linked to bank or credit accounts.


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