High-Tech News Briefs

Privatization of computer system debated
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — While a state agency and a computer company continue to hash out a $1 billion contract to privatize the state computer system, lawmakers have begun to exert some control over the process. Bills approved in the Government Administration and Elections Committee aim to make sure the governor’s privatization plan will deliver on its promises, including saving $50 million, while preserving the privacy of sensitive state data. The bills were approved before lawmakers have even seen the actual contract. Electronic Data Services of Plano, Texas and the state Department of Information Technology are still at the bargaining table. “We’re trying to prudently protect the public interest, in the face of an unprecedented and extremely large privatization proposal,” said Rep. Alex Knopp, D-Norwalk, cochairman of the committee. Opponents of the bills said lawmakers should wait until they see the contract before trying to shape it and create unnecessary bureaucracy.

Firm’s growth plans to impact Northwestern Vermont
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP)– State hearings begin last week on a plan by IDX Systems Corp. to more than triple in size — a change that is expected to have a big impact on already fast-growing Chittenden County. Growing from its current 600 to a projected 2,000 jobs, IDX is expected to affect communities across northwestern Vermont, an area where the housing market already is tight. IDX is the nation’s third-largest maker of software for health-care providers, such as hospitals and doctor groups. It is already one of Vermont’s largest private employers. In the next decade, the company’s growth is expected to create 1,400 new IDX jobs and 1,020 spinoff jobs, bring 623 new school-age children to the area and create demand for 970 new homes. Hearings on whether the impact of the proposed expansion is acceptable under Vermont’s development control law, Act 250, get under way this week. Construction on a 240,000-square-foot, five-story building and a parking garage will likely start later this year once permits are approved.

Cabletron selling manufacturing unit to Canadian firm
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Cabletron Systems said it will sell its Rochester-based manufacturing division to Celestica Inc. of Canada, which will make Cabletron’s computer networking products in future. Cabletron, which is headquartered in Rochester and employs about 5,900 people worldwide, said the move would save it $50 million in the first year and help the company continue to reduce its losses. Cabletron recently announced a loss of $8.25 million, or 5 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Feb. 28. That compares to a loss of $263.37 million, or $1.67 per share, for the same quarter a year earlier. Cabletron expects to reduce its workforce by about 900 employees in the next nine months. It plans to close its Ironton, Ohio, plant and lay off 300 workers there. About 600 employees at the Rochester plant being bought by Celestica will get pink slips from Cabletron in the next 60 days and will be rehired by Celestica, Cabletron spokesman Darren Orzechowski said.

Internet auto dealers go public
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Two Internet auto sellers went public public with stock sales last week as shoppers on the virtual highway began to usurp neighborhood car dealerships, according to the Associated Press. In 1998, more than two million consumers used the Internet to research their new-car purchases. A report from Forrester Research Inc., predicts that by 2003 nearly eight million new-car purchases will be influenced by the Internet and nearly half a million new cars will be purchased entirely online. ”The rise of online car buying will radically alter the automobile and retailing landscape,” said James L. McQuivey, a senior analyst at Forrester. “Some of these changes will be wrenching, as manufacturers rethink their role. Other changes will come more naturally, like the increased emphasis on customer service.” This new way of shopping is spawning a thriving online auto sales business. Internet-based purchasing services Autoweb.com went public last Tuesday (Nasdaq: AWEB), and Autobytel.com went public o

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n Wednesday (Nasdaq: ABTL). Santa Clara-based Autoweb.com Inc. plans to sell 5 million shares at $10 to $12 (it reched $40 in its first day of trading), raising about $55 million. Autobytel.com plans to sell 4.5 million shares at $16 to $18, raising about $76.5 million.

No speed traps on the Web
BOSTON — First there was the CB radio. Then lead-footed motorists trying to avoid a speeding ticket used radar detectors and snazzy police scanners. Now they can just take a spin on the Web. The Atlanta-based Speedtrap Registry gives online visitors a heads-up on where traffic police and road hazards lurk for all 50 states and 40 countries. The site, developed by 22-year-old computer engineer Andrew Warner, includes trap locations, average fine, type of car the police use and the local scanner frequency.

Asia 10 to 14 years behind U.S. in e-commerce
SINGAPORE (AP) — Asia is lagging behind the West and needs to liven its pace in developing electronic Internet commerce, or “e-commerce,” experts meeting in Singapore said recently. Asia is seen as 10 to 14 years behind the United States in e-commerce development and use, said delegates at the Second Roundtable on E-Commerce in Asia. ”We have to get moving faster than that,” said Ian Craig of Arena, a speaker at the March 22-23 roundtable organized by the Economist Conferences.Barriers to e-commerce growth in Asia include unclear regulations and immature, inconsistent payment systems and banking rules, conference delegates said. But conference participants said the region was making some headway.

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