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European IT sector lagging, Japanese support
for the NetPC, and more

By Torsten Busse, Elizabeth de Bony, Rob Guth

December  1996
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European IT sector still lagging behind

Brussels -- The IT industry remains concerned about Europe's capacity to adapt to the needs of the information society, a senior IBM official said. "We are very disturbed about Europe's ability to adapt to the new environment," said Christian H. Thommessen, general manager of IBM Global Network for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in the opening speech November 25 to the annual European Information Technology Conference sponsored by the European Commission.

Speaking to some 1,800 politicians, users, manufacturers, telecommunications operators and service providers, Thommessen urged European policy makers "to get going" regarding harmonized network security standards, common rules for the protection of intellectual property and adapting social legislation to the needs of the information society. Europe should move faster to adapt its legal, social and marketing environment, another European executive involved in business strategy for a major European firm told the IDG News Service on the sidelines of the meeting.

Both men pointed to Europe's poor performance in the fast growing Asian markets as an indication of Europe's failure to keep up with its U.S. and Japanese competitors. Europe's share in investments in these countries has fallen sharply at a time when return on investments there is very high, Thommessen said.

Moreover European investments in Asia are in low-technology sectors such as petrochemicals rather than in cutting edge technology, he said. Europe's failing competitiveness is also reflected in the fact that major exporters such as France, Germany and Italy are now investing some 46 percent of their funds in each other rather than abroad. --Elizabeth de Bony, IDG News Service, Brussels Bureau


Top Japanese computer vendors support NetPC

Los Angeles -- On the heels of October's announcement by Microsoft Corp. and partner Intel Corp. of their NetPC concept, eleven Japanese companies will back the specification for the low-priced, network-based PC, spokesmen familiar with the companies' plans said in late November. Exactly what will come of the Japanese backing remains unclear but at least two vendors said they will likely market NetPCs next year.

To be finalized sometime before year-end, the NetPC specification currently calls for a machine powered by an Intel Pentium 100 MHz or greater with 16 megabytes of memory and a hard drive. The unit is designed to minimize systems administration costs and is positioned against the Network Computer, a network-based computing device without a hard drive that was defined by Oracle Corp. and is being built and marketed by other vendors.

Already supported by a host of U.S. PC makers including Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., and Hewlett-Packard Co., the NetPC now has the backing of Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., NEC Corp., Oki Electric Co. Ltd. Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., Seiko Epson, Sharp Corp., Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp.

Fujitsu Ltd. will also start up its NetPC effort next year and may revamp an existing thin client sold by its UK-based subsidiary Fujitsu ICL Computers Ltd. to make it fit the Microsoft-Intel specifications, a Fujitsu spokesman said. Available only in Europe, Fujitsu's ErgoWin is based on an Intel-compatible processor, has 512 kilobytes of flash memory and can be connected to a server through serial cable, Ethernet network or a modem. --Rob Guth, IDG News Service, Tokyo Bureau

European Information Technology Observatory
doesn't see much growth in IT market

Brussels -- The European information technology market will grow by 6.6 percent in 1996 -- down from the 7.1 percent growth rate forecast earlier this year, according to the most recent update of the Frankfurt-based European Information Technology Observatory (EITO). "Expectations for 1996 IT market growth have been downgraded and postponed to 1997," the 27-page update states. In 1997 growth in the IT market should increase slightly to 6.9 percent, the report said.

EITO is the established yearbook for the information and communications technology industry in Europe. The full EITO is published in March of each year with an update issued in the third quarter. The booklet points to the downturn in general economic growth across Europe and particularly in Germany during the first six months of 1996 as the principle cause of the slower growth in the IT sector.

Growth performance in the telecom market will however be strong with the EITO predicting an increase in activity of 8.6 percent in 1996 and 9.1 percent in 1997. As a result the combined information and communications technology (ICT) market will grow by 7.6 percent in 1996 and 8.0 percent in 1997, according to the update. --Elizabeth de Bony, IDG News Service, Brussels Bureau

European Commission to issue copyright directive

Brussels -- The European Commission will propose draft legislation early next year to standardize copyright protection laws in the European Union, a senior EC official said. The EC revealed its planned directive in a 30-page document, "Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society." The communique, approved late last month, calls for action in such areas as so-called reproduction rights of protected works.

The planned directive will introduce a ban on the use and production of mechanisms designed to circumvent anti-copying devices on a new generation of digital systems. It also will establish "a new balance between the rights of the copyright owner and the general interests of the consumer and service provider," according to an EC official who asked not to be identified.

The planned directive reflects concerns that the arrival of online services is bringing an explosion in the transmission of copyrighted data, as well as the capacity for illegal copying. Faced with this threat, data highways will remain empty of content, unless the EU adapts copyright protection to the new services, the communique said. One of the aims of standardizing European laws is to give copyright owners exclusive control over the reproduction of protected work, according to the communique. This would allow them to be paid, whether their work appears in printed form or on the Internet.

The directive will also clarify whether someone must pay for downloading a protected work and digitally storing it. --Elizabeth de Bony, IDG News Service, Brussels Bureau

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