Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Three Network+ writers shortlisted for BT award

Three contributers to Network+ have been shortlisted for the 1997 BT Technology Journalist Awards, which will be presented by Dr Alan Rudge, BT deputy chief executive, tomorrow evening at a ceremony at the Cafe Royal.

Steve Homer, who won the 1996 Technology Journalist of the Year Award, is again nominated in the national and regional newspaper category for his "PC Buyers' Guide". Homer is also nominated in the specialist and trade publications category. Dorothy Walker is nominated for her article "A nod, a wink and a Web site", and Tony Newton is nominated for an article on the Science pages, "Can we trust hydrogen again?".

The national and regional newspaper shortlist also includes Andrew Baxter of the Financial Times, Steve Farrar of the Cambridge Evening News, Max Glaskin of the Sunday Times, Roger Highfield and Robert Uhlig of the Daily Telegraph and David Whitehouse of the Times.

Sun sues Microsoft over Java in IE4.0

The war of words between Sun Microsystems and Microsoft over how to implement Java has moved into court. Sun examined Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 and software development kit for Java and said they failed to pass Java compatibility tests. Sun fought shy of carrying out its threat to revoke Microsoft's Java licence, but last week sued the software giant and asked for an injunction to prevent Microsoft from using the Java Compatible logo and from delivering Java code that is less than fully compatible with other implementations of the Sun-created programming language.

The lawsuit filed in San Jose, California, charges Microsoft with trademark infringement, false advertising, breach of contract, unfair competition, interference with prospective economic advantage and inducing breach of contract. Sun said its intention is not to revoke Microsoft's Java licence but to pressure the software giant into complying with the terms of the licence. Precisely what those terms are is not clear.

"We challenged Sun to make the contract public," Steve Ballmer, executive vice-president of Microsoft, said. "Sun explicitly requested when they filed the complaint that the contract be kept under seal. We don't understand why." Microsoft denies that its products fail the Java tests. "Microsoft has delivered the most compatible implementation of Java and is well within the terms of the agreement," Cornelius Willis, director of platform marketing, said. "Sun says we are not being compatible - that is just not factual," said Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates.

The scarcely hidden agenda behind the legal battle is Microsoft's near monopoly of operating systems sales and Sun's ambitions to make inroads into that market. "Ultimately, the law is stronger than any monopoly,'' said Eric Schmidt, CEO of Novell Inc, and a former Sun executive. "There's now a third party involved - the judicial system. This is the beginning of the real soap opera."

Apple closing down research centre

Steve Jobs, the interim Apple Computer CEO who might or might not be dropping the interim part of the title, has closed down the Apple Research Labs (ARL) as part of his quest to reposition the company. The ARL, formerly known as the Advanced Technology Group, was where QuickTime, the widely used cross-platform multimedia tool, originated. Although the group was responsible for much innovative technology, commentators point out that it also fostered a reluctance by Apple to buy in technology, leading to excessive in-house research bills on projects that could have been accomplished more easily by buying companies and licensing technology.

"Even the biggest companies have a limited budget. Research has to be initiated by a requirement that is based in market reality," Richard Zwetchkenbaum, an industry analyst, said. Some research on ARL products such as QuickTime, AppleScript, QuickDraw 3D and voice recognition software will continue in other product groups.

EC takes stance on encryption

The European Commission last week urged governments, including the United States, to take a hands-off approach to regulating the technology needed to ensure that Internet transactions are confidential. "If regulation is needed at all, it should be very light," Martin Bangemann, Telecommunications Commissioner, said, presenting a report on how the EC should promote security on the Internet. The EC will not support US plans to allow law-enforcement agencies access to encrypted messages.

"If citizens and companies have to fear that their communications and transactions are monitored with the help of key access, or similar schemes unduly enlarging the general surveillance possibility of government agencies, they may prefer remaining in the anonymous off-line world, and electronic commerce will just not happen," the report said. "We must engage in a debate with the Americans at an international level," Bangemann said.

The report urged the EU to take a common approach to encryption and digital signatures, saying otherwise cross-border Internet trade could be hampered. It said it would propose legislation on digital signatures in the first half of 1998.

Innovation in communications award

Saatchi and Saatchi have launched an award for innovation in communication with a prize of $100,000. The winner will be the most innovative entry that helps to improve, revolutionise or make possible communications between individuals or groups of any size. Entries are sought from others besides software and hardware specialists - innovations may be linguistic and artistic as well as technological.

The closing date for entries is 1 May 1998. Ten entries will be shortlisted in May 1998, with the winner being announced in September of the same year. The panel of judges includes Buzz Aldrin, Edward de Bono, James Burke, Laurie Anderson and William Gibson. More details are available at or by post at Saatchi and Saatchi Award for Innovation in Communication, 80 Charlotte Street, London W1A 1AQ.

Andy Oldfield