Coop's Scoop: Cheap chips and AOL's last mile

Summary:Intel wields the ax as Steve Case waits for the FTC. Also: Meet BillG -- poacher extraordinaire. And will Oracle spark the market?

The transcontinental wrangling between America Online and the Federal Trade Commission is nearing a merciful end. The Feds are due to announce yea or nay on the megamerger by late in the week. For what it's worth, the folks at AOL believe they'll receive the green light.

In the aftermath of its surprise earnings warning, Intel is going to slash prices by up to 11 percent -- including its just-introduced Pentium 4 line -- good news to anyone who has been planning to buy a cheapo PC for the holidays.

On the eve of Palm's big developer shindig, Microsoft is crashing the party. The plan is to be in the vicinity -- though not in the same conference hall (which would be too gauche) -- and poach as much development talent as possible. They say all's fair in love and war, but this one is really dirty pool.

Motorola will debut an update to its Dragonball processor for personal digital assistants. But who's going to use it? Not Palm and not the PocketPC camp.

A big week is in store for Oracle, which will announce its alternative to Microsoft's .Net strategy. Also, quarterly earnings from Larry's legions are due on Thursday. Remember that almost a year ago, Oracle was one of the first tech bellwethers to stun investors with bad news. Will it now be one of the tech bellwethers to stun with good news?

There's more court jousting in the Sun vs. MS Java lawsuit. Dunno if you're as sick of this thing as I am, but how about Gates and McNealy just finishing the damn business with pistols at 20 feet?

A dozen companies will gather for a proof-of-concept demonstration of the Electronic Business XML (ebXML), a new specification designed to create a standard framework for businesses exchanging data over the Internet. A big bonus is that companies using Electronic Data Interchange won't need to junk their existing systems in order to take advantage of ebXML.

As any self-respecting day trader will attest, PC stocks are radioactive, and the sector is simply going to hell. You hear it on the television, you read it in the news. But in the spirit of our fellow citizens down in Flori-duh, I think it's time to demand a recount. PC sales are still expected to grow some 20 percent this quarter, compared to the year-earlier period. That may not herald a return to the salad days of the last few years but it ain't chickenfeed, either. The fact is that the sackcloth-and-ashes bit is as much of an overreaction as the irrational exuberance that once passed for sane behavior.

Paul Allen, the accidental billionaire, is pouring some $100 million into Oxygen. For the sake of the folks employed by Oxygen, let's hope this one fares better than the usual Allen investment.

A Meta Group survey says tech workers are laboring longer while productivity is dropping -- all the while as they try to catch up with ever-longer learning curves. No wonder then to learn that tech employee turnover in the U.S. soared to 11.4 percent from 8.4 percent last year.

Opera Software A/S made it official: The company is marketing a free Windows version of its Internet browser. But this will remain very much of a minor affair unless the Norwegian company can convince at least a handful of significant computer OEMs to bundle the Opera browser with their systems. Fat chance of that.

The denial-of-service attacks earlier this year have finally galvanized sundry companies to band together in self-defense. The Information Technology Information Sharing and Analysis Center -- IT ISAC just rolls of the tongue, doesn't it? -- may not qualify as ambitious an effort as the Atlantic Alliance, but it's a good starting point. Hopefully, the membership will quickly grow past the original 18 signatories.

Speaking of security, online customers of Charles Schwab & Co. should be screaming bloody murder after the disclosure that a scripting vulnerability could compromise personal data residing on a client computer. Schwab dismissed the risk as a "very, very narrow possibility."

Oh, and before closing the books on security, it should be noted that Mafiaboy, the pseudonym of the teenager charged by Canadian authorities with launching denial-of-service attacks earlier this year, was rearrested after violating his bail by playing truant.

Steve Jobs maintains Apple can bounce back to profitability by its fiscal second quarter, but Wall Street remains in a show-me mood. I think here's one instance where the number crunchers have it right. Apple failed to win business -- and this despite offering a grab bag of price cuts, rebates, and promotions. And now the company claims it can generate sustained profitability just as PC demand is slowing down? Fuggedaboutit!

Spinway.com and AltaVista are shutting down their free e-mail services. Is anybody really shocked that folks who wanted something for nothing also ignored banner ads? The geniuses who thought the free ISP business model would flourish by appealing to, um, penny pinchers, should be hung out to dry.

IDC: PC sales still healthy
Leading analyst lowers MS estimate
Tech consortium: Security in numbers
MS to Palm developers: BillG wants you!
Intel warning: Tip of the iceberg?
Dealers weigh in on Apple's woes
Finding a fix for Bluetooth
IBM scores memory breakthrough
Schwab site vulnerable to hackers
Free Opera: Start of something big?

Topics: PCs, Apple, Browser, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Security, Software

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