Computer Weekly News in Brief

This week's news in brief

This week's news in brief

Government expected to unveil Universal Bank
The Government and leading high-street banks will be announcing the launch of the Universal Bank service this week, according to reports. The service, due to be launched in 2003, will allow benefit claimants to withdraw money from local post offices. Customers will have a magnetic card and can receive benefit payments from post office counters. The Post Office platform will be based on an ICL system called Horizon, which links post office counters.

E-envoy attacks introduction of RIP Act
E-envoy Andrew Pinder has criticised the Government's introduction of its Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act. Speaking at the government computing GC2001 event in London, he said, "The Act was a clumsily introduced and unfriendly piece of law enforcement, which caused quite an outcry. I am glad to say modifications have been made to make it friendlier." Pinder stressed the importance of local government in the move to e-government but admitted that his lack of power at a local level was a problem.

Cash machines to top up pay-as-you-go phones
Mobile phone users will be able to top up their pay-as-you-go phone accounts at cash dispensers, under plans from the cash machine network Link and mobile operators. One option for the link-up would be for customers to register their phone number against a bank account, according to reports. The option for a mobile top-up would then be shown on the cash machine screen when making cash withdrawals.

Microsoft warns of delays to XP roll-out
Microsoft's forthcoming PC operating system, XP, could be held back until 2002 instead of its scheduled release date of autumn this year, according to PC manufacturers and analysts. Microsoft has been warning PC companies that its schedules are tight and XP's launch could be pushed back to 2002 if it misses its own deadlines. The possibility of a delay is being blamed on Microsoft not wanting to be involved in a big push for XP when it is planning to launch its Xbox gaming system.

Wessex Water ditches mainframe for Web system
Wessex Water is to replace separate mainframe systems for metered and unmetered customers with a Web-enabled front-end to allow self-service billing to customers. The water company hopes billing technology from The Progress Company will save costs in its dealings with its 1.1 million customers in the South-West.

IBM launches enhanced processor chip
IBM has launched an enhanced PowerNP network processor chip which, it claims, offers more efficient data and resource management. It also unveiled hardware and software development tools and building blocks for customised chips. The chip building blocks are targeted for high-growth market segments and offer customers a convenient one-stop shopping experience. IBM is working with Cisco Systems to integrate the chip into its next-generation networking product.

DTI to spend £42m researching telemedicine
The Department of Trade & Industry is investing £42m over the next three years on research into the use of computers to help doctors conduct diagnosis and keyhole surgery via the telephone and Internet. The cash will go to a series of telemedicine research projects to allow doctors to make medical judgments based on a television image of a patient.

Wal-Mart installs Broadvision applications
US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, which owns supermarket Asda, has signed a global deal to standardise on software provider Broadvision's suite of e-business applications. Wal-Mart will continue to use Broadvision for its existing online retail initiatives and the software will also be used for new developments, including an extensive associate portal due to go live in June. The retailer will use Broadvision's technology to set up an associate intranet designed to offer interactive and personalised services to associates and ensure the portal site is capable of supporting a high volume of transactions.

Intel announces chip price cuts
Chip maker Intel this week announced further aggressive price cuts on its Pentium 4 processor, with the 1.5GHz version dropping by 51% and the 1.4GHz by 49%. At the same time, the price of the 1.3GHz P4 was cut by 28%. This was the third cut Intel has made on the 1.5GHz P4 since March and is part of its strategy to ensure that transition to the new chip is the fastest to date.

Lloyds of London unveils brokers portal
Lloyds of London insurance market has launched an Internet portal for its brokers and intermediaries around the world. The portal,, will give brokers access to thousands of products and analysis on insurance issues.

Government to set up girls-only computer clubs
The Government has announced an initiative to encourage more young girls to take up IT as a career. A series of all-girl computer clubs will be set up in schools from August, to make IT more attractive to them. Employment minister Tessa Jowell said girls are turned off computing when they are at school because it is seen as boring.

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