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Monday, August 31, 2009

WiMax making an imprint in RP

Initiatives are underway to make the Philippines ready for the widespread deployment of WiMax from Luzon to Mindanao, according to top tech executives who attended the recent CyberPress Forum held at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at the A.Venue in Makati City.

WiMax, short for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is the latest fixed wireless broadband technology to emerge in the market. Backers tout it as a robust vehicle for the wireless transmission of text, audio, and video over the Internet.

Intel Philippines business development manager Carlo Subido said during the forum that WiMax chips are slowly being integrated by the world’s top PC markets.

He emphasized that Intel now has the products to support WiMax connectivity and is coordinating efforts with partner hardware vendors for its smooth and widespread introduction in the Philippines.

On the other hand, Globe Telecom demand management and capacity planning head Bong Gonzales said the company would make WiMax available in most parts of the Philippines by end of 2009.

The exec did not reveal the specific schedules for the rollouts, but listed the various areas where the service would be available: Metro Manila, Rizal, Benguet, Nueva Ejica, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Southern Luzon, Bataan, Cebu province, Bohol, Iloilo, Leyte, Guimaras, Capiz, Negros island, Cagayan de Oro, Compostela Valley, the Agusan provinces, Lanao,Surigao, Cotobato, and General Santos City.

As this developed, Smart Communications public affairs head Ramon Isberto said the Philippine’s biggest cellular mobile operator would support all forms of Internet connectivity as long as it will benefit their subscribers.

In fact, he said Smart has already announced its own deployment of WiMax technology in the country.

This, he added, will complement the HSPA upgrade it just announced for its wireless network.

On the other hand, Lenovo Philippines country manager Vicky Agorilla said a number of their mobile units already support WiMax. She said Lenovo would be ready to meet any surge in market demand for computers once WiMax becomes more widely available throughout the country.

Acer Philippines marketing manager Agnes Espino also told reporters that the PC maker would soon introduce into the country its own set of WiMax-enabled products. She explained that even now, their company now manufactures in various parts of the world hardware that are WiMax-capable.

Logitech opens Manila store amid strong peripheral sales

Logitech, the Swiss company known for its peripheral products for PCs that include mice, keyboards, game controllers and webcams, opened last week its first brand store in the country amid positive sales performance for accessories that defy recession.

Market watchers have noted that sales of PC peripherals tend to go up in a down economy and the products fly off dealers’ shelves faster during penny-pinching days as customers take to these small items for a quick and affordable way to update their tech assets while they postpone and save up for the more costly major upgrades.

Against this backdrop, Logitech opened its first store at the Cyberzone, the technology section at SM Megamall, with the intention of letting local consumers see and actually try their latest offerings and give them a better idea of the quality of Logitech products.

In a video call to members of the local press in Manila, Moninder Jain, Logitech director for Asia-Pacific and South Asia business markets, said having a Logitech brand store in the Philippines will allow customers to touch, feel and try the products and get guided help in choosing the peripherals they need.

Because accessories have become integral parts to complete a PC set-up, Logitech seizes the opportunity to extend its product portfolio that now also includes computer speakers, headphones, wireless audio devices, and attachments for digital music players and mobile phones.

To mark its store opening, Logitech also unveiled several new products such as a Comfort Lapdesk, Cooling Pad and Notebook Riser, a new-fangled wireless mouse and stereo speakers, and new Logitech keyboards. The peripheral maker also introduced its first Logitech Vid Software for streamed video calling.

The Logitech Comfort Lapdesk takes the place of a pillow or a book that people often use to balance their notebooks on their laps as they work.

Made of air-mesh fabric, the Comfort Lapdesk features a four-layer, heat-shielding design and has an air-flow chamber between its top and base to minimize the heat that users feel emanating from their notebooks.

The Logitech Cooling Pad N100 and Logitech Notebook Riser N110 both improve user comfort by improving airflow around the notebook and providing ergonomic improvements by elevating the notebook display to an optimal viewing position and also allowing the hands to rest better on the notebook as the user types.

Logitech added to its popular brand of computer mice a new wireless model, the Logitech V550 Nano, featuring a Click-and-Go-Dock and a tiny Plug-and-Forget Nano receiver.

This cordless laser mouse for notebooks has an unobtrusive dock that could be clipped to a laptop so users can freely carry both notebook and mouse together with ease.

Also, the V550 Nano receiver, when plugged into to a notebook, extends out only eight millimeters so it could be left on the slot even when the notebook is stowed.

For speakers, Logitech announced the new Z-5 Omnidirectional stereo speakers for PC and Mac computers. Using technology previously found only in expensive home-theater systems, the omnidirectional acoustics on the Logitect Z-5 speakers use forward- and backward-firing drivers to transmit sound evenly in all directions.

A brand strongly associated with keyboards, Logitech has released new keyboards, including the Logitech Illumi-nated Keyboard that makes typing easy even in the dark.

The company is also making available its first keyboard designed specifically for the notebook PC, the diNovo Edge, which offers a full-size layout with matching Logitech Alto notebook stands.

Finally, Logitech comple-mented its line of video cameras with its own free software that offers video calling. Called Vid, it sets up automatically with a Logitech webcam. It does away with third-party software and simply uses the e-mail details of a person’s contacts to connect them.

As PC peripherals increa-singly become objects of fashion, Logitech’s Jain believes the more they have to let their customers experience their products up close.

Jain said in the brand store, consumers will actually experience and test their products as they will not have dummy units on display.

He also said Logitech will open other brand stores in Southeast Asia following the one in Megamall.

Logitech currently has two key distributors in the country with their own sets of dealers that separately focus on the IT and appliance/consumer electronics segments.

The Logitech brand store, which is being managed by Villman Computer, is only a showroom and consumers who wish to buy the products on display will be referred to the sales channels.

Big Blue to expand RP services hub

With several hundred employees – many with business management skills -- at its disposal, the Philippine office of technology firm IBM is being positioned to become a global hub for experienced services providers.

IBM Philippines recently started re-expanding their local Global Business Services (GBS) to complete a network of multisite solutions offices that can offer 24x7 assistance to global clients.

The Philippines would be one of the eight such GBS locations worldwide. The others are Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Romania and Vietnam.

During a visit to the Philippines, IBM GBS Vice President for Global Delivery Richard Patterson said they are hiring skilled workers to serve as the local pool that can be tapped for specific projects in offshore locations.

Patterson said adeptness to English is one of the key factors why the Philippines was again chosen to become part of the GBS, aside from its geographical proximity to other countries where IBM has a presence.

He noted GBS offers its services to a variety of industries such as telecommunications, travel, industrial manufacturing, financial and retail.

After the economic downturn, Patterson sees a return to "normalcy" in global industries, particularly those with multiple locations that need to ensure full operational capabilities.

“They would need to have the right people working with them to optimize their business and build relationships,” Patterson said, adding that the improved global business climate would fuel IBM’s offshore services business.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

As Internet turns 40, barriers threaten its growth

Goofy videos weren't on the minds of Len Kleinrock and his team at UCLA when they began tests 40 years ago on what would become the Internet. Neither was social networking, for that matter, nor were most of the other easy-to-use applications that have drawn more than a billion people online.

Instead the researchers sought to create an open network for freely exchanging information, an openness that ultimately spurred the innovation that would later spawn the likes of YouTube, Facebook and the World Wide Web.

There's still plenty of room for innovation today, yet the openness fostering it may be eroding. While the Internet is more widely available and faster than ever, artificial barriers threaten to constrict its growth.

Call it a mid-life crisis.

A variety of factors are to blame. Spam and hacking attacks force network operators to erect security firewalls. Authoritarian regimes block access to many sites and services within their borders. And commercial considerations spur policies that can thwart rivals, particularly on mobile devices like the iPhone.

"There is more freedom for the typical Internet user to play, to communicate, to shop — more opportunities than ever before," said Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor and co-founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. "On the worrisome side, there are some longer-term trends that are making it much more possible (for information) to be controlled."

Few were paying attention back on Sept. 2, 1969, when about 20 people gathered in Kleinrock's lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, to watch as two bulky computers passed meaningless test data through a 15-foot gray cable.

That was the beginning of the fledgling Arpanet network. Stanford Research Institute joined a month later, and UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah did by year's end.

The 1970s brought e-mail and the TCP/IP communications protocols, which allowed multiple networks to connect — and formed the Internet. The '80s gave birth to an addressing system with suffixes like ".com" and ".org" in widespread use today.

The Internet didn't become a household word until the '90s, though, after a British physicist, Tim Berners-Lee, invented the Web, a subset of the Internet that makes it easier to link resources across disparate locations. Meanwhile, service providers like America Online connected millions of people for the first time.

That early obscurity helped the Internet blossom, free from regulatory and commercial constraints that might discourage or even prohibit experimentation.

"For most of the Internet's history, no one had heard of it," Zittrain said. "That gave it time to prove itself functionally and to kind of take root."

Even the U.S. government, which funded much of the Internet's early development as a military project, largely left it alone, allowing its engineers to promote their ideal of an open network.

When Berners-Lee, working at a European physics lab, invented the Web in 1990, he could release it to the world without having to seek permission or contend with security firewalls that today treat unknown types of Internet traffic as suspect.

Even the free flow of pornography led to innovations in Internet credit card payments, online video and other technologies used in the mainstream today.

"Allow that open access, and a thousand flowers bloom," said Kleinrock, a UCLA professor since 1963. "One thing about the Internet you can predict is you will be surprised by applications you did not expect."

That idealism is eroding.

An ongoing dispute between Google Inc. and Apple Inc. underscores one such barrier.

Like some other mobile devices that connect to the Internet, the iPhone restricts the software that can run on it. Only applications Apple has vetted are allowed.

Apple recently blocked the Google Voice communications application, saying it overrides the iPhone's built-in interface. Skeptics, however, suggest the move thwarts Google's potentially competing phone services.

On desktop computers, some Internet access providers have erected barriers to curb bandwidth-gobbling file-sharing services used by their subscribers. Comcast Corp. got rebuked by Federal Communications Commission last year for blocking or delaying some forms of file-sharing; Comcast ultimately agreed to stop that.

The episode galvanized calls for the government to require "net neutrality," which essentially means that a service provider could not favor certain forms of data traffic over others. But that wouldn't be a new rule as much as a return to the principles that drove the network Kleinrock and his colleagues began building 40 years ago.

Even if service providers don't actively interfere with traffic, they can discourage consumers' unfettered use of the Internet with caps on monthly data usage. Some access providers are testing drastically lower limits that could mean extra charges for watching just a few DVD-quality movies online.

"You are less likely to try things out," said Vint Cerf, Google's chief Internet evangelist and one of the Internet's founding fathers. "No one wants a surprise bill at the end of the month."

Dave Farber, a former chief technologist at the Federal Communications Commission, said systems are far more powerful when software developers and consumers alike can simply try things out.

Farber has unlocked an older iPhone using a warrantee-voiding technique known as jail-breaking, allowing the phone to run software that Apple hasn't approved. By doing that, he could watch video before Apple supported it in the most recent version of the iPhone, and he changed the screen display when the phone is idle to give him a summary of appointments and e-mails.

While Apple insists its reviews are necessary to protect children and consumer privacy and to avoid degrading phone performance, other phone developers are trying to preserve the type of openness found on desktop computers. Google's Android system, for instance, allows anyone to write and distribute software without permission.

Yet even on the desktop, other barriers get in the way.

Steve Crocker, an Internet pioneer who now heads the startup Shinkuro Inc., said his company has had a tough time building technology that helps people in different companies collaborate because of security firewalls that are ubiquitous on the Internet. Simply put, firewalls are designed to block incoming connections, making direct interactions between users challenging, if not impossible.

No one's suggesting the removal of all barriers, of course. Security firewalls and spam filters became crucial as the Internet grew and attracted malicious behavior, much as traffic lights eventually had to be erected as cars flooded the roads. Removing those barriers could create larger problems.

And many barriers throughout history eventually fell away — often under pressure. Early on, AOL was notorious for discouraging users from venturing from its gated community onto the broader Web. The company gradually opened the doors as its subscribers complained or fled. Today, the company is rebuilding its business around that open Internet.

What the Internet's leading engineers are trying to avoid are barriers that are so burdensome that they squash emerging ideas before they can take hold.

Already, there is evidence of controls at workplaces and service providers slowing the uptake of file-sharing and collaboration tools. Video could be next if consumers shun higher-quality and longer clips for fear of incurring extra bandwidth fees. Likewise, startups may never get a chance to reach users if mobile gatekeepers won't allow them.

If such barriers keep innovations from the hands of consumers, we may never know what else we may be missing along the way.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How lifestyle shapes technology, vice versa

MOBILE PHONE manufacturers are constantly upgrading devices to enable people “to experience a wide variety of features that complement their personalities and lifestyles,” says Sandeep Khanna, Nokia Philippines marketing head.

“All handset brands, Nokia, in particular, are bringing technology that fuses seamlessly into people’s lives. If you get them to do more with their device, they will stay loyal to you.”

So how does Nokia make its hardware more attractive to consumers?

Khanna cites key trends:

Smartphones or mobiles with IT features are the next big thing. Wide access to multimedia information is available on hand, literally. “It’s adding more function to a small device. The N97 has 32 gigs of storage. My laptop has 37 gigs,” says Khanna.

According to the New York Times, “The great promise of a smartphone is that it can be just about anything you need it to be in a given moment.”

Traditional features are getting more sophisticated yet made accessible with lower price points. In the past, a 5-megapixel camera-phone would fetch P25,000. Today, the popular Nokia 6700 classic offers this feature at P16,570. The mobiles are slowly replacing the MP3 player. The 6700 can store 325 songs using the +eaac (high-efficiency advanced video coding) format.

But with its expandable memory of up to 8 gigabytes, it can store 3,000 songs. For the audiophile, the Nokia 5130 Xpressmusic stores 750 songs and is priced at P5,840.

Materials are getting more refined. The new phones are made of high-tech materials such as carbon fiber, titanium and burnished steel, which lend lightness, durability and elegance to the product.

With its constant evolution, Nokia is also blurring the lines between manufacturing handphones and providing mobile data services., the Finnish word for “portal,” is going the way of Microsoft, Apple and Google.

“It is our door to the Internet. Through we will bring a range of services and solutions to the Philippines – e-mail, maps, games and music. It will consist of a fairly rounded repertoire of services that people need today,” says Khanna.

The local launch is still under wraps. However, you can check out and even open a free e-mail account with 1 gigabyte of storage.

New products

The marketing executive adds that Nokia will present new products that will enable users to open an e-mail account on the phone and access their e-mail in just three clicks. The range will be available from the lower and mid-range phones, which cost between P2,500 and P15,000.

“It’s a very clear strategy for us to make e-mail accessible to the widest mass of users,” he says. These features and services will augur well in remote areas where people don’t own a computer or have access to an Internet café. (Users will pay for Internet charges).

As added feature, Nokia owners can personalize their phones with the company’s latest application outlet, the Ovi Store. Most of the apps are free of charge in the Philippine market, such as games and media entertainment.

Khanna points out the potential of Ovi Share. “You can upload photos and videos in an unlimited storage for free... More than just devices, we have to present services and solutions to people. That’s the way to encourage usage [of Nokia], the way to build brand equity and live by our mission of connecting people.”

Meanwhile, Nokia is strengthening ties to its market segment through the 6700 classic.

“To connect, you need to go beyond the traditional feature-benefit type of communication. This audience requires a sensorial connection. This is where marketing is important. This segment leads to a fuller, richer and more well-rounded life. We need to be a part of that life,” he adds.

Prestige events

Nokia recently tied up with a society magazine for the launch of its restaurant guide. An event highlight was a photo exhibit of foods by Alex Van Hagen, taken with the 6700c camera.

Nokia also collaborated with Inquirer Lifestyle and Look magazine for the Manila debut of Australian-based Filipino designer Leonardo Salinas.

On September 7, Nokia, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Look will hold a style photo exhibit at Ayala Museum. In October, Nokia and Inquirer Lifestyle will hold an art exhibit.

“Lifestyle trends are changing and you need to have your ear to the ground to see what’s new. For example, no-name branding is what connects more with this market profile than the in-your-face branding. Understatement is a big statement by itself. Basically we live through the different facets of our customers’ lives. Fashion was the starting point.

“But it was also important to connect to other dimensions such as food and gourmet. The upcoming events are on beauty/style and art. We thought of presenting all of these in a well-rounded and cohesive way. Today, every brand likes to have a lifestyle dimension because people are realizing there is more to products than just features and benefits,” explains Khanna.

“In Nokia, we live through our brand values and personality. We are very sociable, curious and authentic. Those are our brand values. In the way we present ourselves, we stand out uniquely because we’ve always been a leader in the Philippines. The 6700 is sensorial and a piece of affordable luxury. Hence, the Lifestyle and Look event aims to present style as it’s never been done before. It’s all about the look and invoking the senses.”

ATM cards may soon be used to pay for MRT fares

Philippine banks may soon issue cash cards that can be used to pay for Metro Rail Transit (MRT) fares.

That is if talks between the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) and BancNet, an electronic banking consortium, push through, an executive said on Monday.

Under the proposed partnership, BancNet members will be allowed to issue cards that can also be used to pay for MRT fares.

In turn, RCBC is expected to earn from settlement fees to be collected from BancNet lenders since it has an exclusive five-year agreement with the MRT’s ticket provider, Omniprime Marketing Inc.

“Bancnet would like to tie-up with us since we have the franchise," RCBC executive vice president Ismael R. Sandig said during the launch of its MyWallet-MRT Card.

Besides being a regular card for automated teller machines (ATMs), MyWallet-MRT Card can also be used to pay for MRT fares, the first such card in the industry.

“All banks are trying to find ways to duplicate us," he added. “If they will invest on system, it is a huge amount. The market is so huge. There is no way you should stop other banks from issuing. They just have to share some fees with us."

Settlement fees for the proposed arrangement are expected to contribute more than 20 percent to RCBC’s fee-based income for the next two to three years, Sandig said.

The RCBC MRT MyWallet is a prepaid stored value card that allows cardholders draw cash over the counter or ATM, pay bills via RCBC, make balance inquiries, among others.

It is a new variant of the RCBC MyWallet cash card that can be bought through any RCBC branch for disbursement requirements. Unlike a regular ATM account, there is no maintaining balance required.

By December, the RCBC MRT MyWallet will be used in the 13 stations from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, RCBC first vice president Remo M. Garrovillo Jr. said

When it was launched last month, the card was only available in North Ave. and Taft stations.

By 2010, the MRT is looking at a unified cashless and cardless ticketing system and the bank is “positioning for that," he said.

RCBC will be also be tapping universities as reloading stations.

Sandig said the bank would share earnings with them. This is better than entertaining a lot of people in the branches just to reload.

Light Rail Transit Authority wants to see the success of the MyWallet-MRT Card before RCBC can come in.

The tie-up is expected to increase RCBC customers by two million, said Sandig, who is responsible for creating 10 retail banking products in Philippine National Bank.

“This is more of a breakthrough. Most Filipinos cannot afford to maintain P2,000 or P5,000. The only way you can tell them to use the bank is lower the price of doing business with them. There is a big business for my wallet card with our affiliates," he said.

FIRST LOOK: New Mac system not a dramatic upgrade

While Microsoft Corp. prepares to release the next incarnation of Windows on Oct. 22, Apple Inc. is cutting ahead, launching a new version of its operating system for Mac computers on Friday.

Apple's new Snow Leopard software isn't as big of a step forward from its predecessor as Windows 7 will be from Windows Vista. The most important changes in the Apple operating system are under the hood, allowing software developers to rewrite their programs to run much faster.

Snow Leopard is a relatively cheap upgrade, costing $29 for an individual user who has Leopard, the previous operating system. A "family pack" for five users costs $49.

For Mac owners using the older Tiger operating system, switching to Snow Leopard costs $169, or $229 for a family pack. That "box set" includes the latest iLife and iWork software for such tasks as movie editing, photo organizing and word processing. Buying the DVD is the only upgrade option for consumers — you can't download the software.

What's the catch? Well, part of the reason Snow Leopard can promise faster, better applications is that it's designed for Macs with Intel chips, which Apple started using in early 2006. It won't run on older Macs with the previous PowerPC family of chips. The launch of the new operating system is a hint to get a new computer.

In an Apple's demonstration of the software to The Associated Press, these were some of the most obvious changes that stood out in Snow Leopard:
  • The built-in e-mail, calendar and address book applications will support Microsoft Exchange servers, the kind used by most companies. That means it will be easier to get company e-mail without using dedicated programs like Entourage or Outlook, which Microsoft is releasing for Macs late next year. However, Snow Leopard supports only the most recent release of Exchange.
  • Moving the mouse cursor over a program icon in the "dock" at the bottom of the screen reveals all the windows open in that program, tiled side by side. This is an extension of the "expose" feature, which shows all windows in all programs side by side.
  • Right-clicking in a window should bring up more relevant choices, bringing this function closer to its Windows equivalent.
  • The new standard version of the QuickTime video-playing software will now convert clips for playing on iPhones or iPods, or upload them to YouTube. You will also be able to trim clips. Previously, you had to buy QuickTime Pro to convert videos or fire up the more time-consuming iMovie.
  • You can make the file thumbnails even bigger, giving you a better idea of the contents of your hard drive at glance.
  • The operating system is more compact, freeing about 7 gigabytes of hard drive space previously claimed by Leopard.
  • Ejecting disks should be easier. Sometimes, Macs won't let you eject a disk or disconnect a drive because the operating system believes it's reading or writing to it. Apple says Snow Leopard will be better about freeing up the disk, or if it can't, it will give a reason.
  • Web browsing and image and document previews should be noticeably faster. This is because more of the software now processes data in 64-bit chunks, twice as big as before. Other applications should benefit from this change as well, once developers start writing them in 64-bit versions.
  • Developers will also be helped by a new system called Grand Central Dispatch, which makes it easier to take advantage of the multiple "cores" in today's processors, boosting the speed of heavy-duty applications like video editing. It will also be easier to take advantage of more system memory.
Lastly, Apple is making it easier to tap into what can be the most powerful computing engine in a desktop PC: the graphics chip. While the central processing unit does most of the heavy lifting, the graphics chip is mostly called upon to generate screen images. Developers will now be able to expand the uses of the graphics chip, which could make for smarter enemies in video games and more realistic simulations of real-life objects.

So how does Snow Leopard compare to Windows 7? Snow Leopard's benefits will be most apparent down the road, while Windows 7 promises more of an immediate payoff.

Windows 7 combines a bigger revamping of the user interface of Microsoft's last effort, Vista, with a series of smaller under-the-hood changes. It even can work on many older PCs — in fact, Windows 7 is supposed to run better on modest hardware than Vista did.

Apple's share of the US personal-computer market nearly tripled from 2004 to 2008 but hasn't gone up significantly since then, and now stands at around 8.5 percent, according to IDC. So Apple could use a fresh reason for buyers to get excited about Macs.

Snow Leopard is unlikely to provide that. People already have a high opinion of Apple's software. What holds them back from switching from Windows is still the relatively high price and limited selection of Macs and third-party software. Coming in as the underdog in the public-perception contest, Microsoft has more to gain from these software revamps.

For most Mac users, Snow Leopard will likely be a no-brainer upgrade, given the low price. But early upgraders often face minor bugs and installation problems, so unless you're dying for one of the new features, waiting a month or so is a safer course.

Sun absorbs $147M loss as Oracle deal looms

Sun Microsystems Inc. recorded a $147 million loss while sales eroded 31 percent in the April-June period, likely the server and software maker's last full quarter as an independent company.

Sun's latest numbers, reported Friday in a regulatory filing without the usual news release and conference call with analysts, highlight the uneven financial performance that forced the Santa Clara-based company to put itself up for sale.

In April Oracle Corp. outbid IBM Corp. and agreed to buy Sun in a $7.4 billion deal. It is scheduled to be completed this summer, and still needs approval from European antitrust regulators, which could come any day now.

The deal will give Oracle more control over development of the Java programming language, which Sun invented and is a key ingredient of the Internet. It also moves Redwood Shores-based Oracle, a business software maker, into the hardware market. Sun is one of the world's biggest sellers of computer servers, which power Web sites and corporate back offices.

Sun said after the market closed that it lost $147 million, or 20 cents per share, in the three months ended June 30, which is Sun's fiscal fourth quarter. That compares with a profit of $88 million, or 11 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding employee stock-based compensation and other expenses, Sun said its loss would have been 3 cents per share.

Sales in the latest period fell to $2.63 billion from $3.78 billion last year.

Revenue from server sales fell 36 percent over last year to $1.1 billion. Revenue from support services fell 15 percent to $886 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a loss of 19 cents per share and sales of $2.37 billion.

For the full fiscal year, Sun lost $2.23 billion, versus a $403 million profit last year.

Sun's shares fell 2 cents to $9.32 in after-hours trading. The stock is still selling below the $9.50 per share that Oracle has agreed to pay for Sun, a sign that indicates some investors fear the deal might still be scuttled.

The latest results mean that Sun has lost $5.6 billion since 2002. It had only two profitable years — 2007 and 2008 — in that period.

Kaspersky, ColdSpark ink OEM agreement

Kaspersky Lab, a leading developer of secure content management solutions, and ColdSpark, a BakBone Software company, and leader in next-generation enterprise messaging infrastructure, announced that they have entered into an OEM agreement. ColdSpark will leverage the Kaspersky Anti-Virus Engine to provide end-to-end anti-virus protection for enterprises’ messaging infrastructures.
In recent years, spyware, adware, rootkits and other hostile programs have grown at an alarming pace. Protection from these threats is essential given that they pose significant security and legal risks. Currently, in addition to award-winning detection of viruses, Trojans and worms, the Kaspersky Anti-Virus Engine provides superior protection from spyware, adware and other potentially hostile programs. Additionally, the Kaspersky Anti-Virus Engine provides advanced protection from all types of mobile malware, all through a single scanning engine.
ColdSpark’s flagship product, the SparkEngine Mail Transport Platform, enables customers to enhance the power of their email to drive revenue, build customer relationships and improve business efficiency while ensuring security, compliance and performance.
“Extending Kaspersky Lab’s anti-virus technology to our customers will provide large enterprises with automated anti-virus protection to close any potential windows of vulnerability,” said Scott Brown, senior vice president and general manager, ColdSpark. “We feel that the Kaspersky Anti-Virus Engine is a strong fit with our SparkEngine technology based on its high level of protection, performance, manageability and simplicity.”
“Viruses and worms can penetrate hundreds of thousands of computers in just a few hours, making response time to new threats crucial for effective protection from malware. Kaspersky Lab’s reliance on proactive technologies is supported by industry-leading, signature-based protection that yields accurate and timely detection of malware,” said Petr Merkulov, vice president, Technology Alliances, at Kaspersky Lab. “We are excited to be working with ColdSpark to deliver integrated anti-virus protection for secure e-mail communication.”

Nokia unveils its first Linux phone

The world's largest handset maker Nokia unveiled on Thursday its first high-end phone running on Linux software.

The Finnish firm has dabbled with Linux since 2005 using it in "Internet tablets" -- sleek phone-like devices used to access the Web that have failed to gain mass-market appeal in part due to their lack of a cellular radio.

The new N900 model, with cellular connection, touch screen and slide-out keyboard, will retail for around 500 euros ($712), excluding subsidies and taxes.

Nokia's workhorse Symbian operating system controls half of the smartphone market volume -- more than its rivals Apple, Research in Motion and Google put together.

Nokia said Linux would work well in parallel with Symbian in its high-end product range.

"This is in no way putting Symbian in jeopardy," Anssi Vanjoki, head of sales at Nokia, told Reuters.

"Open source Symbian is going to be our main platform, and we are expending and growing it the best we can, both in terms of functionality as well as distribution ... populating more and more of our product line with Symbian," he said.

The new model will use ARM's Cortex-A8 processor.

"If you look at the energy management properties we have in ARM, at least today, they are clearly better, miles and miles better, than what we have in Intel architecture," Vanjoki said, adding the company would not count out using Intel processors in the same product range later.

Linux is the most popular type of free, or so-called open source, computer operating system available to the public. It competes directly with Microsoft Corp, which charges for its Windows software and opposes freely sharing its code.

Friday, August 28, 2009

ISM to join consortium in acquiring European IT firm

Listed ISM Communications Corp. wants to participate in a consortium that will acquire up to 100% of an information technology firm based in Europe.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock exchange, the company said its board has given the go signal to negotiate and conclude an agreement with the consortium that will own the foreign IT firm engaged in the business of providing in-room guest entertainment services for the hotel industry.

For investments in IT-related opportunities, ISM said it will utilize funds raised in its recently concluded P655-million stock rights offering and the $10 million private placement of the Ashmore Group in 2007 as well as the remaining P91.7 million proceeds of its P300-million stock rights offering undertaken the same year.

Earlier, ISM chairman Roberto Ongpin said the company is financially liquid. "ISM now sits on a pile of money. We have P1.2 billion in retained earnings. We are looking at a number of very important investment opportunities in the ICT (information and communications technology) arena," said Ongpin at the company's annual meeting last May.

These possible investments include an international stock trading mobile applications provider and a media technology service provider. Both companies have successful track records and have significant technological innovations that can be leveraged into a critical first-mover status in the country, said Ongpin.

ISM's principal asset is Eastern Telecommunications, the country's oldest phone company.

In 2008, ISM recorded P301.1 million in net income, of which Eastern Telecom contributed P120.4 million.

CICT leads Cebu Convergence 2009

Aimed to give awareness in enhancing the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in local governance, general community, and the future workforce, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) in cooperation with the government and local ICT stakeholders, conducted the Cebu Convergence 2009 at the Cebu International Convention Center last August 25-26, 2009.

This was learned from Claire P. Fernandez, coordinator, National Computer Center, who informed that the activities lined up for the said convergence include Industry and local ICT updates, track sessions on cyberservices, ICT infrastructures, human capital development, and eGovernment development, among others.

According to Fernandez, the Convergence 2009 tackleed an eGovernance track by the National Computer Center (NCC) that featureed three CICT projects and programs, eLGU Project, Philippine Community eCenter (PhilCeC) Program, and Philippine Community eCenter (PhilCeC) Program. eSerbisyo and eBayad Project offered NCC free services to national and local government agencies that enabled them to include their eservices into a common online portal as well as a government epayment facility and infrastructure without the need to worry about the cost of setup and maintenance.

eLGU Project offers local government units with access to free open source-based revenue generating system for real property, business and other collections, capacity building programs and training for LGUs, Fernandez said.

Philippine Community eCenter (PhilCeC) Program is the government’s answer to meeting the challenges of bridging the digital divide. LGUs in particular were oriented on all aspects of this development-focused program and how to tap it to avail of free equipment, training and other support to jumpstart the establishment of a community eCenter in their respective municipalities, Fernandez further said.

Other activities, Fernandez informed, include site tours to Business Process Outsourcing – IT centers, career talks, education consultancy, job fairs and English assessment intended to benefit academic heads, teachers, exhibitors, IT/BPO-related companies and students mostly from colleges and universities in Cebu.

The Philippines in its aim to be globally competitive, has become a front-runner in developing the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry in accordance with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s vision of creating interconnected centers of I.T. enabled services all over the country, Fernandez concluded.

Proposed nuclear body gets Congress nod

The proposed Philippine Nuclear Regulatory Commission (PNRC) is gathering steam as the congressional committees on government reorganization and science and technology approved House Bill 03254 for plenary debate.

The proposal aims to form the PNRC and consolidate all agencies involved in nuclear energy research and regulation.

Among those that would be absorbed if the bill becomes law are the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) - Nuclear regulations, Licensing and Safeguards Division (NRLSD), and the Radiation Regulation Division (RRD).

The PNRI is under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) while the RRD is under the Department of Health's (DOH) Bureau of Health Devices and Technology.

The PNRC will also be led by one commissioner and two associate commissioners and will have five technical divisions and two non-technical divisions.

Like most government commission, the PNRC would be directly attached to the Office of the President.

Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya (1st District, Cavite), who chairs the committee on science and technology, explained that the PNRC would be tasked to regulate and control the use of nuclear energy and ionizing radiation sources.

Abaya, who co-authored HB 03254, added that the PNRC will also create guidelines for regulatory actions related to nuclear technology in the Philippines, in particular, public health concerns and environmental issues.

Abaya is also one of the proponents to re-commission the controversial Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which has been at the center of numerous debates over its technical and commercial viability after being mothballed for 25 years.

A Google model for mobile advertising?

The week is not over yet but it seems I've already exceeded my quota of interviews with IT executives. Most of them are mobile officials who came over to the country to attend the recently concluded IMMAP (Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines) conference.

I picked up a number brilliant ideas from these guys who all argued that the next battleground in digital marketing is in the mobile sector. While Google has undoubtedly made the most money out of the Internet, its competitors, including archrival Yahoo, are locked in a race to conquer the mobile space.

One of the most interesting comments I got from my interviews is from a Dutch guy named Boudewijn Pesch, who is the managing director for Asia-Pacific of Acision. I almost did not attend my session with Pesch because my interview schedule was mixed up with that of another reporter and the venue was the company's office in the opposite end of the metropolis. The late-afternoon gig became messier when strong rains made traveling doubly hard.

But, I'm glad I dragged myself to the Pesch interview since the guy was not the typical executive I usually encounter. He was quite stingy with his answers and responded with a single sentence for each of the questions I threw at him. Thus, I had to constantly ask questions to keep him talking.

At the start of the interview, Pesch proudly pointed out that Acision, a Netherlands-based tech company, is the inventor of SMS or text messaging. Since I had no idea who really invented this technology service, I didn't dispute his assertion and accepted it at face value.

Pesch also admitted that his company developed the Duo service offered by Globe Telecom. The innovative offering allows mobile phone users to make unlimited calls to landlines and other Duo-ready phones at a fixed subscription fee. Pesch stressed, however, Globe had first broached the idea and Acision only provided the technology.

One interesting comment he made was on the issue of mobile advertising. Acision, he said, has actually developed a technology that allows advertisers to insert their ads in the text messages sent by subscribers.

Pesch this is similar to the Google model in which ads that are related to the queries of users are placed alongside the search results. As we all know, Google has extended this model to its Gmail service wherein ads related to the e-mail sent by its subscribers also appear inside their inbox.

The exec said they already presented this service to local operators, which, I'm sure, will thoroughly study it first before deploying it commercially. Pesch didn't mention any pricing scheme, but the only reason I can think of that consumers would agree to have ads in their text messages is for operators to give free subscription service in return.

It would be interesting how this thing will pan out.

Rigodon Update
Internet firm Yahoo has just appointed a new guy to lead its Philippine operations. Jonathan "Jack" Madrid, former head of technology incubator iAyala and managing director of MTV Philippines, will replace tech pioneer Jojo Anonuevo, who will take up a regional post at Yahoo in Singapore.

Madrid also had a short but uninspiring stint as a manager at Dell Computer's call center before the facility was sold recently to Teleperformance. But, I guess the company had to put in a marketing man in charge after Anonuevo, a technology guy, was done setting up the local office.

Also, veteran IT exec Nilo Cruz has reportedly taken up a new post as head of the joint venture of Smartmatic and TIM, the consortium that won the 7 billion pesos (US$144.2 million) 2010 automated elections contract. Cruz's experience and network as former country manager of Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and BT will surely come in handy in his new job.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

IBM to get workers for ‘delivery center’

TECHNOLOGY GIANT IBM Corp. yesterday re-launched a "delivery center" in a bid to bring more job opportunities to local talents.

Richard A. Patterson, vice-president for global delivery at IBM Global Business Services, said the Philippine strategic center aims to provide more information technology careers in the country as the company brings its clients near their target markets.

The Manila delivery center, which was established in 2003, is the fourth fastest growing center in eight strategic hubs globally, he said in a press conference.

Mr. Patterson said the Philippines was chosen as a location for the delivery center because of the stability of the peso and the "high level of support" from the government.

Moreover, "good quality" education, language proficiency, and the technical capacities of local talents make the Philippines an ideal place for a global delivery center, he added.

The Manila delivery center is part of IBM’s "globally integrated enterprise approach," adopted by the technology giant to give corporate clients an option to provide services close to their target markets.

Mr. Patterson explained that global delivery centers cater to both large companies and small and medium enterprises by providing consulting and applications services.

IBM’s delivery centers worldwide are focused toward the transportation, banking, telecommunication and industrial sectors, Mr. Patterson said.

RP mobile marketers eye $60M ad pie

Local mobile marketers are targeting a larger piece of the local advertising pie as consumers continue to give more attention to digital media, the president of the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) said Tuesday.

IMMAP president Arthur Policarpio said the trade group's vision is to capture 2%-3% of total ad spend in the Philippines, amounting to $60 million-$90 million, in the next three to five years. The IMMAP is currently composed of 86 member companies, including 37 mobile companies, as well as advertisers, agencies and publishers.

He said that while some companies have spent money on Internet and SMS advertising, a large portion of their budgets still goes to traditional print, TV, radio and outdoor media platforms.

One platform that remains largely untapped by local advertisers is mobile marketing. From less than a million subscribers in 1996, the Philippines now boasts of over 70 million mobile subscribers this year.

Policarpio said one challenge faced by marketers is lack of understanding of mobile's potential and potency as a marketing tool. "The mobile phone is the only device that you have on you almost 24/7. It's a marketing platform just waiting to be tapped," he said at a digital marketing summit at SM Mall of Asia.

He said that beyond SMS, marketers could also look at other mobile marketing initiatives such as bluetooth advertising, mobile Internet advertising and mobile applications.

He noted that Yahoo! Mobile's site receives 1.2 million unique users per month and 128 million page views as of August 2009. He said separate data supplied by Admob showed that local mobile sites logged in 380 million page views a month.

Admob statistics also show a rise in sales of smartphones in the Philippines such as the Nokia N70 and Nokia 3110c, which is fueling the increase in mobile Web browsing.

Policarpio acknowledged though that there are some barriers into increased adoption of mobile marketing including the abuse of consumer privacy and rights, lack of industry-specific research, lack of knowledge on the part of the advertisers and lack of industry-wide metrics and measurement.

"This is the vision of IMMAP - to become the recognized thought leader and center of mobile marketing innovation in the Asia-Pacific region and to leverage global best practices, standards and consumer guidelines," he said.

The IMMAP recently partnered with the Mobile Marketing Association and established the MMA Philippines Local Council. The objective of the partnership between MMA and IMMAP is to foster the mobile advertising and marketing industry in the Philippines.

A shift to digital media

MMA president and CEO Mike Wehrs said advertising companies in many parts of the world have exhibited a shift in brand thinking by seeing mobile as an essential and not just an experimental platform for marketers.

He said that with over 4.8 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, the platform has outpaced the growth of Internet and fixed-line users.

He said he expects spending on mobile messaging to rise to $2.9 billion in 2010. For this year alone, he said advertisers are reallocating $65 billion of their ad budgets from traditional media channels to digital channels including online, mobile, viral and search engine optimization (SEO).

He also noted trends in some countries such as mobile banking, alerts, mobile vouchers and coupons, as well as customer service application, which can be done via mobile phone.

"[Mobile marketing] delivers on the promise of one-to-one marketing. There's a higher level of engagement and interaction controlled by the consumer. Empowering the consumer makes the ad more effective," he said.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

BPO firm won’t hike workforce to cut costs

A UNIT of Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Co. said it would not increase its workforce this year amid efforts to reduce costs, but would spend money on technologies to boost productivity.

Peter S. Maquera, chief executive officer of SPi Global Solutions, said in an interview late last week that the PLDT business process outsourcing (BPO) unit is looking at 10%-15% growth in revenues this year.

The company’s local workforce, which stands at 11,000 in 10 contact centers nationwide, is not expected to post a significant growth this year as SPi Global is trying to cut costs. Instead, the company will focus on investments in technology to maximize productivity and to support its move into high-value services in areas such as health and education, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Maquera called for the passage of a law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology to allow the country to compete with larger BPO hubs like India.

Amid a greater consolidation of customers as well as vendors, an ICT department will serve as a powerful agency to market the high-value capabilities of Filipino talents, he added.

The establishment of such an agency will also strengthen the domestic market, thereby creating a long-term business opportunity for the local BPO industry, he said.

Six SPi Global contact centers are into voice services while four are in the non-voice services. The biggest site is in Parañaque, employing over 3,000 agents.

It merged with ePLDT last year when the latter acquired 100% of SPi Global in April 2008. SPi Global has a total of 14,000 employees in 29 locations in North America, Europe and Asia.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Comelec to open up automation source code

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) promises to make publicly available the source code of the automation software it will use in next year’s national elections.

But the poll body said it will need to have the source code certified first by an international organization.

Comelec chairman Jose Melo said the source code--or the program instructions that will define how the poll machines will operate--needs to be accredited first by an international certification body as prescribed by law before it becomes available for final review by interested IT groups, political parties and poll watchdogs.

Melo made the statement after several groups continuously prodded Comelec since last week to make the source code publicly available, saying the code review would take about three months to finish to ensure the program is sturdy against hacking.

The software will power the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) system Comelec will use next year. Smartmatic-Total Information Management will provide the system as the winning bidder.

Under the law, the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC), a body created by Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law, shall certify through an established international certification entity chosen by Comelec that the poll automation system is operating properly and securely according to provisions of the law, not later than three months before Election Day.

“We will make the source code available for review once it is customized and gets certified sometime in February,” Melo said.

“The source code review is a transparency measure to make sure the operating instructions are free of malicious programs that can cause electoral fraud and is stored in escrow [with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas],” he added.

Meanwhile, Ateneo de Manila professor Renato Garcia, who sits as consultant for the poll body's project management office (PMO) for the 2010 elections, said they have written letters to at least five of the international software certification bodies that can conduct a “formal, thorough review” of the poll automation system software.

“One of the five international software certification bodies, have already expressed interest to do the formal review of the customized automation software. This body, we found out, has been conducting a software review for Canadian-based Dominion, the software provider for Smartmatic's poll machines,” Garcia said.

“If we can get them, the certification will be easier and faster,” he added.

Monday, August 24, 2009

ISP Friendly BitTorrent Tracker Doubles Download Speeds

A new Open Source BitTorrent tracker set to be released in September promises to boost download speeds by up to 150% and decrease the load BitTorrent users put on ISP networks by 20 to 50 percent. Based on the widely used OpenTracker software, the new BitTorrent tracker aims to overcome many of BitTorrent’s current limitations.

Since it was first released by Bram Cohen back in 2001, very few changes have been made to the way BitTorrent works. It was a revolutionary invention and to date it is by far the most effective way to transfer large files online. However, BitTorrent does have its limitations.

On the one hand users sometim
es complain about slow download speeds, but most of all, Internet providers are not always happy with the heavy load BitTorrent transfers put on their networks.

The Swedish based company Peerialism hopes to tackle these problems and make BitTorrent future proof. Aside from their issues with GGF, they are currently working on the release of a new Open Source BitTorrent tracker based on the OpenTracker software currently in use at most of the larger public BitTorrent trackers.

Andreas Dahlström, the CTO and founder of the company explained to TorrentFreak that the key to solving BitTorrent’s main problems is to make the tracker location aware, so that peers first try to share files with other peers that are closer to them.

“In standard BitTorrent the tracker chooses a totally random number of peers for you. There are some good reasons for this since random actually gives some nice and robust network properties but in many cases this will force you to download for peers far away from you,” Dahlström said.

“This has two effects: slower download speed and unnecessary network traffic for the ISPs. And since BitTorrent traffic causes so much problems for ISPs many use traffic shaping, causing even slower download speeds,” he explained.

The solution to this problem according to Dahlström is to make the tracker select peers more intelligently, based on their geographical location. The initial tests of this new methodology are very promising, as they result in faster download speeds for BitTorrent users, and less traffic going outside the ISPs network.

“We have built p2p algorithms which actually map the entire Internet. We can use this to let a BitTorrent Tracker assign you to the peers closest to you. The effect for the downloader is 30-150% faster downloads and 20-50% less traffic for the ISPs,” Dahlström told TorrentFreak.

Peerialism localizes local peers
This sounds like a classic win-win situation. If it’s implemented by most of the leading BitTorrent trackers, ISPs will have less trouble handling BitTorrent traffic and thus less incentive to slow it down. On the other hand, BitTorrent users will see a boost in their download speeds.

There is a minor drawback to the plan though. The new trackers will use more CPU and memory, which means that more power is required than with the current setup. This means that the people who run the trackers will have to invest in new hardware.

“We work hard to together with Ergeist [the creator of the original OpenTracker software] to minimize the extra load,” Dahlström said. “We do believe the extra resources are well spent compared to the improved download speeds and less ISP traffic.”

If Peerialism can deliver what they are promising, their new tracker will be one of the most significant advancements to BitTorrent in years. Although they are not the first to come up with the idea of location based peer allocation, some might remember P4P, the solution they offer is superior since it requires no changes to the existing BitTorrent clients.

In addition, Peerialism is already working together with the developer behind the most widely used BitTorrent tracker software currently in use by The Pirate Bay, OpenBitTorrent and PublicBitTorrent trackers. Thus, they are as close to the fire as they can be.

The Open Source tracker, currently codenamed OpenTracker 2.0, is set to be released in September. If some of the larger trackers decide to use it we might see a huge drop in Global Internet traffic instantly, along with faster download speeds for most BitTorrent users.

Philips enters local LCD monitor market

A monitor fit to be my window to the world.”

This is how Philips wants consumers to regard its line of high-definition multimedia displays as it officially enters the Philippine LCD market.

A household name all over the world, Philips is confident it can quickly make a dent in the existing local market given the strength of its brand and the proven quality of its products.

To start off Philips is making available its E-line of LCD monitors targeted for home and multimedia savvy users. The E-line series is available in 16-inch, 19-inch, and 22-inch wide-screen formats with glossy finish and is Windows Vista-ready.

All three models are equipped with Philips SmartContrast, a video processing technology combined with unique extreme dimming and backlight boosting capability resulting in vibrant images.

Company executives also did a media preview of the Philips LightFrame LCD monitor that features a front screen bezel illuminated by a blue light designed to reduce eye fatigue.

Scientists looking to lessen the effects of jet lag found that light plays a major role in the body’s sense of well-being. Philips LightFrame monitor was conceived on this widely accepted scientific tenet that blue light passed through the eye’s receptor energizes viewers and enhances their performance.

Putting to work Philips’ leadership in ambient lighting, Philips Innovation Lab transformed the research to a practical product — a new generation of LCD monitors with screens that are surrounded by blue light-emitting modules. The light is said to help relax the user by lessening eye fatigue even after an extended period in front of the computer.

Among the Philips Brilliance range of monitors, the LightFrame monitor will also be made available in the Philippines sometime soon along with Philips’ professional line of LCD monitors, said Benjamin Wong, director and general manager of MMD Singapore, the exclusive marketer and seller of Philips branded LCD displays worldwide.

Meanwhile, MMD appointed Glee Electronics as the official local distributor of Philips LCD monitors.

Glee also distributes AOC monitors, which is a sister brand of Philips as they share the same manufacturer, TPV, which wholly owns MMD.

Jason Cheng, president and CEO of Glee Electronics, said they will be providing separate product teams for Philips and AOC but all their 28 service centers nationwide will be at the beck and call of customers of both brands should they need technical support.

Cheng likens Philips and AOC to Audi and Volkswagen cars that appeal to two different types of consumers due to their respective costs. In this regard, he sees no problem carrying two different brands of monitors as they have their own markets, he said.

Comelec urged to adopt cyber security amid hacking fears

A computer expert said Sunday that there is need for the Commission on Election (Comelec) to adopt cyber security amid fears of internet hacking as the Philippine is set to go for poll automation this 2010.

Speaking at the Balitaan sa Tinapayan news forum held in Sampaloc, Manila, computer expert Dante Mara raised the concern of hacking because the system to be used by consortium of Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. (TIM) may be susceptible to hacking of internal data system.

The Smartmatic will supply the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that the Comelec will use in automating the 2010 national elections.

Mara stressed that the Comelec should opt for a closed loop network that would not be open to outside influences.

“There is no assurance from Comelec and Smartmatic that there will be no problem on mode of connectivity and the outside influences as they will be using worldwide net,” he said.

“The Smartmatic will be using overlaying network using satellite so the data will be transmitted to the main from regional and provincial. The system is good but many factors can affect the transmittal like the clouds, the rains and most importantly the power supply. What if they encounter powers supply interruption?,” he asked,

Mara said another concern is the risk of hacking because Smartmatic will be using worldwide network (internet) as it is open to interference worldwide. “This is the reason why the Comelec should adopt cyber security and come up with a system for auditing,” he said.

Retired police general Virtus Gil, former Western Police District (WPD) director and is now into cyber security agency, echoed Mara’s concerns, saying that the he read the contract of Smartmatic with the Comelec and it did not touch much of the cyber security of the system.

Mara also said the Congress needs to allocate additional P7.2 billion for the cyber security. “This is also for the future of the government. In fact the system to be used should be owned by the government to avoid outside influences,” he said.

Meanwhile, Comelec Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento Sunday allayed fears that the automated election system can be hacked, the vote results altered during electronic transmission and the system programmed to favor specific candidate or group of candidates, even as he stressed that Republic Act 9369 or the Poll Automation Law squarely addresses these concerns.

In an 11-page study which he submitted to the Comelec en banc headed by Chairman Jose A.R. Melo coinciding with the publication of the statement attributed to Issues and Advocacy Center and the National Computer Center that the Philippine Automated Poll System can be hacked, Sarmiento cited at least 10 safeguards contained in RA 9369 which were precisely crafted to prevent hacking and abort automated cheating and tampering of results during transmission.

Sarmiento said these safeguards were formulated by lawmakers with the help of inputs from the private sector and information technology (IT) experts from nongovernmental electoral reforms groups who appeared during the public hearing on the legislative measure.

He said among the safeguards are the Source Code Review by any interested political party or groups and Field Testing of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines followed by a mock election event in one or more cities or municipalities. RA 9369 also provides for the examination and testing of PCOS by political parties and candidates or their representatives, Sarmiento pointed out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

RP in exclusive ePassport club

The Philippines now belongs to the exclusive club of countries issuing ePassports, joining the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo yesterday said the Philippines has improved its standard one level above the machine readable passport with the issuance of the state-of-the-art electronic passports.

The ePassport has an embedded microchip containing data essential in verifying the passport holder’s identity, including personal data, biometrics and digital signature.

“This chip is interoperable, that is to say, it can be read by any standard passport machine reader in border controls worldwide,” Romulo said.

The embedded microchip also contains a complex laminate that protects the datapage against tampering; customized invisible images on every page; and a hidden and coded technology that allows the encoding of the holder’s name and passport number on the passport photo.

“With the ePassport travel document, we join the exclusive club of countries issuing ePassports – among them Japan, South Korea, India, Hong Kong, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, the UK, Russia, the US, and other developed countries,” he added.

Romulo said Filipinos were first given the world-class machine readable passport (MRP) when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued 228,430 MRPs in 2007 and 2,097,383 MRPs in 2008.

From January to Aug. 9 this year, 1,500,402 MRPs had been issued and delivered. To date, the DFA has issued a total of 3,826,215 MRPs.

“The MRP has brought much benefit to our people. With a quick swipe of the MRP, immigration clearance is accomplished in less than 30 seconds,” Romulo said.

The DFA said applications for the ePassport through the online appointment system will be accepted starting Wednesday.

The DFA’s Office of Consular Affairs advises interested applicants to set an appointment through the DFA website

Until the DFA’s ePassport system has achieved full capacity, only 100 ePassports will be issued daily on a first-come, first-served basis. From Aug. 26 to Sept. 30, only passport applications for renewal will be accepted.

Before submitting their online appointment application, applicants are requested to fill out the required fields on the online appointment page on the DFA website.

Otherwise, the online appointment process will not proceed. After internal verification, the DFA will inform the prospective applicant of his/her schedule via email.

Subsequently, the applicant will confirm his/her availability by sending a reply.

Personal appearance is required for prospective ePassport applicants. Until an announcement is made, all ePassport applications during this period shall be filed personally by the applicants.

An applicant may use the current MRP application form for this purpose, which is also available on the DFA website.

Current MRP holders are advised that their MRPs are compliant with global standards and remain valid.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wonder Koreans visit Ateneo

Unlike the usual foreign visitors who come here to see the beauty of the Philippines, these student volunteers were exposed to the not-so-attractive aspects of the country as well.

"I want nobody, nobody but you!” Clap, clap, and point. (Admit it — you sang and even did the dance in your head.)

I don’t blame you. This song by the Korean girl group Wonder Girls has been invading radio stations and noontime shows. And once somebody starts singing or humming it — it’s quite hard to get it off your head. The dance steps aren’t very hard to follow, too!

But this past week, our knowledge and consciousness of the Korean world transcended beyond what we once could only watch in YouTube or Korean drama DVDs, as the Ateneo School of Government welcomed 10 student volunteers from Korea University.

These students are Kang Dong In, Won Sung Jun, Kim Woo Young, Kwon Yong Geun, Shin Hye Jin, Lee Kyong Eun, Choi Jong Min, Kim Jang Won, Kim Jong Kwan, and Lee Jae Yong, accompanied by their teacher, Shin Young Ran.

Now, their names may sound confusing for us, but these aren’t just ordinary Korean students — these are some of the best of Korea University, which is one of the top three universities in the whole of Korea. Yet these young people actually sacrificed a small part of their summer vacation to come here to the Philippines for nine days to work as volunteers in different NGOs.

This partnership was initiated by Prof. Kim Byung Ki, acting dean of the Korea University Graduate School of International Studies, andHarvey Keh, director of the Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program of the Ateneo School of Government. It is the first joint project between these two institutions that aims to provide training and practical experience for students in a global context.


Prof. Kim always stressed that Koreans should realize the big contibution of the Filipino people to their history as a democratic country.

During the Korean War, the Filipino soldiers fought side by side with the Koreans to fight for democracy and freedom against those who wanted to push for communism.

Now, as the Koreans have reached the First World, it is now time to pay back the generosity of the Filipino by volunteering their time, resources and talents towards helping uplift our country.

The students were assigned to different organizations within the network, specifically Gawad Kalinga, Pathways to Higher Education, Ateneo Center for Educational Development, Science and Technology Innovations for the Base of the Pyramid in Southeast Asia (iBoP Asia) and Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA).

Despite being a relatively close neighbour country, Korea has left the Philippines lagging behind in many aspects. So, it may have been quite a shock for them to learn about the poor state of our public education, the rampant corruption in our government, the brain drain phenomenon, among many other things.

But of course, we didn’t want to depress them too much—it is after all, their summer vacation. We treated them to lots of Filipino food, toured them around Metro Manila’s different malls, and took them out for karaoke and some drinks.

Last Sunday, we even let them witness the fierce collegiate rivalry of the blue and green: all of them got the chance to experience the Ateneo-La Salle basketball game at the Araneta Coliseum.

Incidentally, this was touted as the best game the Blue Eagles played this whole season, finishing with a lead of 18 points over the Archers.) We’ve never had such a huge and convincing lead before, so we reckon that our Korean volunteers brought some good luck to the team.

It was a privilege for us to work with such intelligent, well-traveled and engaging young Korean individuals. Aside from teaching us so many things about their home country, they made us realize a thing or two about our own culture that we sometimes tend to overlook.

More importantly, they serve as excellent examples of what it means to do more than what is expected of you. If young Koreans could come all the way here to visit and interact with public school students and their parents, experience living in Payatas, and help research and organize events for the betterment of the Philippine society—then all the more should we, young Filipinos, step up and do the same. No matter how globalized the world becomes, this is still our nation, and our nation is our business. It is we Filipinos who should be at the forefront of change. So to our Korean volunteers, maraming salamat and we hope to see you again soon!

No, they may not be the Wonder Girls, but our Korean friends had just about the same impact on us as the song ‘Nobody’—they’re going to be hard to forget.

Arriane Serafico graduated with honors from the Ateneo de Manila University-Loyola Schools and now works at the Ateneo School of Government.

She is also a big fan of Korean telenovelas.

Gov't creates Task Force to strengthen technology research and development

In efforts to strengthen the focus on research and development (RnD) and to align all related programs of various government agencies on research, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo created the Philippine Council for Research and Development task force.

According to Department of Science and Technology CAR regional director Ben Ladilad, the task force is chaired by the President herself, with DOST Secretary as its vice chair. Council members include the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, the Commission on Higher Education, and representatives from the academic institutions. The five members from the private sector, involved in science and technology research and development, are now being selected.

Ladilad also explained that the objective of the council is to assure that all output from research will really address a certain need or problem in the business sector, especially Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which is providing livelihood to many this hard times.

According to Ladilad, through the council, researches like that of the DOST's Philippine Council for Health, will be well considered and coordinated with similar (researches) from other government agencies, as well as from the private sector and that of the academe and by doing this, the President can also align various government projects and funding for such purpose.

Ladilad also stressed that through this council, the President, in line with her administration's program thrust to create more livelihood opportunities for the Filipino people or improve their quality of life, would like to set in motion such programs for the next administration to follow or continue.

PRC website hacked again

The website of the Professional Regulation Commission was hacked Friday night, the second such attack this year against the government-owned site.

An official of Defcon Philippines sent a screenshot of the hacked site, which was listed as "suspicious" by search engine Google as of posting.

Google said part of the site was listed for suspicious activity twice over the past 90 days.

"Of the 107 pages that we tested on the site over the past 90 days, six pages resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time that Google visited this site was on 2009-08-20, and the last time that suspicious content was found on this site was on 2009-08-06," the Google advisory said.

It noted that the site was distributing malicious software including trojans and scripting exploits. It said that while the site is not hosting the malicious software, third parties might have added malicious code to the site.

A blog site earlier said the PRC had been defaced and hacked last April 1, 2009. The site was restored in less than 12 hours.

Friday, August 21, 2009

PSE, Thomson Reuters ink accord on Makati eBoard

The Philippine Stock Exchange and Thomson Reuters signed a memorandum of agreement to redo the Makati eBoard located at the Insular Life building at the corner Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas.

Under the agreement, Thomson Reuters will have the exclusive right to publish real-time market prices, news and summaries on the electronic display board in Makati City.

“The PSE continues to seek effective ways to raise its investor base to a significant share of the population. We partnered with Thomson Reuters for a more dynamic form of communicating with the investing community to deliver a stronger, more visual message that the stock market is a viable alternative especially during these difficult times,” Francis Lim, PSE president said.

He added that “information and technology play crucial roles in investment decisions and we are improving on both these respect to help the market and its industry players make more prudent and accurate calls.”

News feeds of Thomson Reuters will be seen at the electronic screen from 6 in the morning until 12 am starting on August 19, 2009.

Thomson Reuters Philippines managing director Rainer Fuchsluger said “the financial landscape is constantly transforming. That’s why market professionals need reliable insight to feel confident in their trading and investment decision making.”

He added that Thompson Reuters and the PSE are mutually exploring future investor relations and education programs that will strengthen the local stock market going forward.

SAP gathers clients for RP leg in world tour

OVER 300 customers, partners and prospective clients of German business software company SAP gathered recently at the Philippine stop of the SAP World Tour, one of 27 stops of the 70-leg tour in the Asia-Pacific region and in Japan.

SAP Philippines country manager Jenny Ligones said the world tour “is a global event, but at every stop, it addresses the unique needs of companies in that particular region. In today’s business environment, our customers need to see clearly, think clearly and act clearly to thrive. Gaining clarity and then acting upon it, both within their organization and across their wider network, ensures our customers become best-run businesses.”

SAP’s clientele in the Philippines cuts across all sizes, from food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. to small and medium enterprises like Optical Works and food franchise business Rice in a Box. The solutions SAP offers its clients are, as Ligones said, “customized to their needs and are designed for transparency and real-time efficiency in their business processes.”

The SAP World Tour “takes place in over 100 cities across 50 countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America, and it is seen as a premium business and technology event that has reached over 240,000 of SAP’s customers, partners and influencers over the last five years, providing businesses with information on how SAP solutions can help companies of all sizes successfully transform business challenge into opportunity,” Ligones said.

The tour has an interactive format focusing on the SAP’s new, strategic initiatives, highlighting the power of SAP Business Suite 7, focusing on analytics and business intelligence, surviving the current market conditions with the SAP SME portfolio and best-run now packages, SAP customer relationship 7 and CRM in SAP Business All-in-One and a specific industry focus for each market.

The interactive format included industry- and product-specific breakout sessions where SAP World Tour Manila participants learned how the SAP business software solution portfolio can help companies adapt more quickly to changing market needs, differentiate against tougher competition, execute growth strategies in an international environment and maximize results with existing resources, while continuing to concentrate on core business competencies and maintaining close customer relations.

Ligones said this year’s SAP World Tour “comes at an opportune time, as best-run businesses have an advantage in coping with the current economic situation. The Philippines is indeed fortunate to be a part of such an event.”

SE Asia mobile users near half-billion mark

Mobile phone users in Southeast Asia is expected to hit 453.3 million subscribers by year-end, up 18.4 per cent from 2008, international consultant Frost & Sullivan said.

In its outlook for Southeast Asia, the company said billings were expected to grow 13.6 per cent, year-on-year, to US$32 billion in 2009.

The company estimated the region's mobile subscriber base to reach 606 million by 2014, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of eight per cent.

Company industry analyst Shaker Amin said based on the diversity of Southeast Asia markets, the growth would be driven by a mix of subscribers, including those in rural areas, who would receive mobile connectivity for the first time as networks continue to expand beyond urban areas.

He said the increase in data usage and higher-end services, brought on by 3G, was also expected to contribute to the increase in mobile users.

Amin added that growth in the saturated markets of Singapore and Malaysia would be marginal but it would be largely fuelled by user migration to 3G, mobile broadband uptake and higher consumer appetite for mobile content and data services.

He said mobile usage in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines would continue to be dominated by voice and basic text messaging services.

"Although 3G will be making its entry into many of these markets, it will be some years still before 3G services become commonplace," Amin added.

Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam each have no less than six mobile operators but Indonesia has the most with 11.

"As operators compete fiercely to enrol new subscribers, 3G will be the technology to eventually deliver mobile broadband to the rural communities that are not likely to ever receive fixed broadband access," Amin added.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mobile microfinance bank gears up

LOW-INCOME households may soon avail of loans with the aid of their mobile phones, with the mobile microfinance bank of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Globe Telecom, Inc. about to commence operations.

BPI President and Chief Executive Officer Aurelio R. Montinola III said the joint venture of the two Ayala firms had obtained central bank approval earlier this month, which will allow it to start operations in a month or two.

"We are going to have our first board meeting [this week or the next]. We will have our operating systems — loans and deposit-taking — [in place] within the next month or two," Mr. Montinola told reporters late last week.

The joint venture will use the banking license of Pilipinas Savings Bank, Inc., a BPI subsidiary, as vehicle for extending microfinance loans.

BPI, the country’s third largest bank, would transfer its microfinance business — it extended wholesale loans to microfinance institutions — to the mobile bank. It used to lend P500-P600 million annually to these institutions.

Globe, the country’s second largest telecommunication firm, is no stranger to the microfinance business either. It has been facilitating money transfers between rural banks and their clients using its G-Cash platform.

The mobile microfinance bank would use G-Cash’s network of over 3,000 outlets and initially extend wholesale loans to microfinance institutions.

Mr. Montinola said the mobile bank would start servicing retail customers next year.

"We will use the rest of the year to put things together. It’s really next year when we are going to concentrate on doing more things," Mr. Montinola said.

He added that aside from giving retail microfinance loans, the mobile bank would also offer deposit services to clients.

Details on how the retail microfinance loans will be distributed through mobile phone technology are still being ironed out, Mr. Montinola said.

"The bank knows certain things, and people from Globe are experts on technology. You put the two together and there are a lot of possibilities. We are hoping the synergy will be positive," he said.

The joint venture was hatched after Globe and parent firm Ayala Corp. bought stakes in Pilipinas Savings Bank from BPI.

BPI and Globe now each have a 40% stake in the thrift bank while Ayala Corp. has 20%.

Based on central bank data, Pilipinas Savings Bank, with a lone office in Greenhills, San Juan, has assets totaling P367.84 billion as of the first quarter.

The mobile bank will have a capitalization of P400 million.

The mobile microfinance bank will have Gerardo C. Ablaza, Jr., former Globe president, as chairman and Teresita B. Tan, currently senior vice-president and head of BPI overseas banking and channels services group, as president.

BPI’s move is consistent with those of other universal and commercial banks that are venturing into microfinance.

Yuchengco-led Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) bought Batangas-based JP Laurel Rural Bank in February, while mid-sized commercial bank Asia United Bank is acquiring the Rural Bank of Angeles to gain a foothold on the retail microfinance business, which has been very lucrative for rural banks.

In microfinance, loans not higher than P150,000 can be extended with relatively higher interest rates. Repayment can be done on a daily, weekly, bimonthly or monthly basis, making the turnaround of funds faster compared to providing consumer or corporate loans.

BPI’s mobile microfinance bank will also complement Globe’s business, said Rizza Maniego-Eala, president of G-Xchange, Inc. (GXI), Globe ’s wholly owned subsidiary running the G-Cash platform.

"GXI is the vehicle for providing financial services but there are some things we cannot do. That’s why we decided to invest in the bank," she said.

10 state colleges, universities to offer biotechnology courses

Sixteen state colleges and universities nationwide will soon include biotechnology in their existing curriculum in a bid to popularize the subject and eventually help the country benefit from the relatively new field.

The University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB), in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and the Commission on Higher Education, has developed the program instituting a General Education (GE) Biotechnology Course in the curriculum of selected state colleges and Universities (SCUs)

Dr. Cynthia Hedreyda, NIMBB director, said that while there is limitless information on biotechnology, there is not enough popular awareness of the subject.

Biotechnology is defined as “the use of living organisms, especially microorganisms, in industrial, agricultural, medical and other technological applications.”

She said biotechnology education in the country is disseminated primarily through workshops and symposia conducted by scientists, people from the academe, government agencies like the DA and the Department of Science and Technology.

“These attempts, are, however, not sufficient to make knowledge of benefits derived from products of the new technology, particularly the agricultural products of modern biotechnology, widespread,” she said.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the introduction of the biotechnology course is “one of the many initiatives that we are undertaking to vigorously promote the safe and responsible use of biotechnology is its inclusion in the college curriculum, initially in 16 selected state colleges and universities.

He said, “Our aim is to equip Filipino teachers, students and other interested individuals with the basic knowledge, and enable them to make informed decisions on biotechnology products and latest breakthroughs and developments, and related issues on human health and the environment, and ethical concerns.”

“Further, through this initiative we hope to encourage more Filipino youth to pursue a career in the field of biotechnology, either as researchers and scientists or entrepreneurs,” he added.

The Cavite State University and University of Southern Mindanao have begun offering three units of the biotechnology course to their students.

Segfredo Serrano, DA undersecretary for policy and planning, said the integration of the biotechnology course in the college curriculum “will help transform biotechnology education into something we can benefit more from.”

Biotechnology courses cover a variety of topics from the history of traditional and modern biotechnology, the use of biotechnology for health, environment and industry, legal battles, and ethical issues.