April Fool's Day fell on this week, a very confusing time for many IT journalists -- particularly the type who specialise in linking to apparently important stories on other Web sites. Some of the hoaxes going around were just plausible enough, and just enough lacking in humourous content, that they passed as real news, like the erroneous report that the next Lord of the Rings film would be postponed to May. But on the other hand there was the TRS-80 Web server, the 1,000GB MP3 player and the mobile phone that stops you from making those drunken calls...
April launches fuel tech industry Unfortunately for Microsoft, this report came out just around April Fool's Day, but in fact wasn't a joke: new research shows that the Redmond company is massively increasing its investment in search technology, and could launch a paid search product by the end of next year. Goodbye Google? Maybe not just yet, since so far Internet Explorer's favouritism toward MSN search hasn't had much effect on the fortunes of any of its competitors. A further challenge Microsoft will have to overcome: when you type "the worst search engine" into Google, MSN is at the top of the list.
Microsoft increases search focus The prices of BT's wholesale business ADSL products were cut by more than 50 percent this week, while rural areas will soon have the opportunity to get their local exchanges upgraded by joining together in a high-tech daisy chain. Consumer broadband as sold to ISPs got a wholesale price cut too -- but before you start a petition to canonise Ben Verwaayen, keep in mind that the consumer price cuts are unlikely to affect what users actually pay.
Business wins with BT broadband price cuts
BT broadband price cut 'unlikely' to benefit consumers
BT expands broadband-trigger scheme British broadband users were flattered this week to discover that their PM has their concerns firmly in mind, apparently asking for updates on the state of "broadband Britain" every quarter year or so. After winning a second term in office, Blair resolved to do something about the broadband crisis, according to the man who was his senior policy advisor on media and telecommunications. And we didn't think you cared, Tony.
Revealed: Blair's broadband wake-up call World events have had an unusually strong impact on the tech industry of late. Of growing concern is the outbreak of SARS, a flu-like illness that has affected more than a thousand people in China and has no treatment -- although it is not always fatal. Intel has cancelled events in Asia-Pacific and Motorola has two-thirds of its Singapore night-shift workers under quarantine. More bizarre was a Web site-generated rumour that Hong Kong would be isolated as an infected area, which caused a food buying panic and forced the government to reassure citizens. The government effort apparently included sending out six million text messages.
SARS illness disrupts Asian business plans
Motorola & HP ruffled by flu-like virus
Teenager's Web site hoax sparks Hong Kong panic And then there's the other big world event du jour, the war in Iraq. Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news agency, was foiled in by sustained denial-of-service attacks its initial attempt to put English-language news online, but has now come back with a reinforced site and will distribute text-message headlines to 130 countries.
Al-Jazeera to offer mobile alerts In the current economic environment, it's good to know that some technical ability is in demand. We speak of Linux skills, which are in short supply, according to our new survey. We also found that tech workers are moving away from the South East, no doubt due to the ever-higher cost of living there.
Linux skills in short supply