News in brief

Short takes from this week's news

Short takes from this week's news

Europe lags behind US and Asia for innovation

European IT suppliers are more expensive and less innovative than their counterparts in the US and Asia, according to research conducted by KPMG. "This will have alarm bells ringing in Europe's IT industry," said Crispin O'Brien of KPMG's technology practice. He said European firms were particularly vulnerable to competition from Asia, but still rated most highly for attending to local business needs.

Self-learning service to deal with Xmas queries

Otto Group, which operates the Freemans, Grattan, Look Again and Kaleidoscope websites, is using Metafaq, a service from Transversal eService, to handle customer questions during the Christmas period. Metafaq is designed to provide instant online answers to questions, avoiding the need for customers to e-mail or call the contact centre. The Metafaq product builds the questions asked by customers into an up-to-date, self-organising, self-learning knowledge base of answers without requiring any programming.

LDA aims for better system integration

The London Development Agency is to work with IMGroup to implement SQL Server 2005, with the aim of improving its local government agency reporting and better integrating business systems. "Our vision is for users to come to a single place for all their information needs," said Linda Chandler, head of IS and knowledge management at the agency.

Less software piracy could boost economy

Cutting software piracy in the UK by 10% could boost the country's economic growth by £11bn, according to the Business Software Alliance. A study by the organisation concluded that reducing software piracy from 27% to 17% would create 34,000 jobs and generate £2.8bn in tax revenue. The BSA is pressing the government to tighten the enforcement of software copyright law.

Siemens poised to sell business unit to Fujitsu

Siemens Business Services is poised to sell its product-related services (PRS) unit to Fujitsu, according to the Financial Times. The PRS unit accounts for about a fifth of the IT services unit's revenues of £3.5bn. The supplier has major contracts with Transport for London, the Office for National Statistics and National Savings and Investments, plus a £2bn deal with the BBC.

Internet Explorer 7 beta ready in four months

Microsoft is planning to distribute a beta of its more secure Internet Explorer 7 browser within four months. The beta will be made available to users of the company's Windows XP operating system from next March, ahead of the launch of its next-generation Vista operating system. As well as new anti-phishing and anti-spyware features, the browser is expected to offer users tabbed browsing, in the same way as the open source Firefox browser does.

Police force extends emergency call system

West Midlands Police has extended its emergency call handling system to provide details of the location of a call coming from a mobile phone. The system, developed by Northgate Information Solutions, links geographical information system terminals and the command and control system to ensure operators can quickly access the information they need.

M&S uses mobiles to improve efficiencies

Marks & Spencer has equipped employees at 400 UK food stores with mobile devices that enable them to replace shelf labels as mistakes are spotted. Store workers are using Symbol PDT8142 devices to draft replacement labels and Zebra QL320 mobile printers to print them while on the shop floor. The devices have enabled the retailer to abandon a five-stage manual process for changing shelf labels.

Firefox threatened by malicious code

Exploit code to crash the open source Firefox browser has surfaced on the internet. It is designed to take advantage of a bug in the history.dat file of the recently launched Firefox 1.5. The history.dat file stores information from websites that the user has visited using Firefox. Users who visit a malicious site loaded with the code could find that their browser will crash.


We would like to clarify that Voca's new £100m IP-based payment system featured in Computer Weekly on 6 December will run in parallel with its existing system until both produce reconciled output. This is expected to occur in the third quarter of 2006.

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