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In the News

- Tech Rivals Cooperate to Battle Spam
- Dell Rockets to Commanding Lead in Education Market
- Microsoft Clarifies NT 4.0 Support Policy

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@winnetmag.com

Tech Rivals Cooperate to Battle Spam

Four of the largest ISPs--AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft/MSN, and Yahoo!--agreed this week to work together on technology to stop spam. The agreement puts at least a temporary halt to the development of the companies' competing antispam technologies. Instead, as part of the new Anti-Spam Technical Alliance (ASTA), the ISPs will collaborate and pool their resources to battle spam.
"Industry self-regulation is an important component to solving the problem \[of spam\]," Ryan Hamlin, general manager of Microsoft's Anti-Spam Technology & Strategy Team, said. "We're four fierce competitors getting together today and saying we have one common enemy--the spammer."
In the past, each of these companies pushed different antispam technologies, although AOL, Earthlink, and Microsoft agreed last month to pool their approaches. Now, these three companies will work with Yahoo! on a single standard called Sender ID (Caller ID for E-Mail was Microsoft's approach). After the four companies roll out Sender ID, they'll evaluate a second form of spam protection called DomainKeys, which Yahoo! originally proposed. DomainKeys uses cryptography technologies to establish whether an email sender's identity is valid.
ASTA hopes that other email suppliers will follow suit and adopt the Sender ID and DomainKeys technologies, specifically, and also spend time examining their networks for zombie applications that can send bulk mail to unsuspecting victims. Between 40 percent and 90 percent of all spam is sent from zombie-infected computers, according to AOL and Microsoft.
Identity theft is the single biggest spam problem. After spoofing legitimate users' email addresses, malicious spammers send email messages that appear to be from the legitimate users but direct victims to so-called phishing Web sites, which resemble genuine company Web sites. The victims are duped into providing private personal data, such as credit card numbers. "The biggest thing we can do to reduce spam is \[to implement\] sender authentication," Brian Sullivan, senior director of AOL's Mail Operations, said.

Dell Rockets to Commanding Lead in Education Market

Dell, the world's number-one PC maker, gets an A in the education market, in which the company's market share is three times greater than its nearest rival. But dominant Dell still wants more. CEO Michael Dell says that the company can still continue to grow in the education market and will continue lowering prices to make that happen.
"Sure we can grow it," Dell said this week. "I think it's fair to say we're going to be growing faster than the market." According to IDC, Dell already controls 44 percent of the market for computers and related products in the education market. Its nearest rival, Apple Computer, owns 14 percent of the market. The other top-five market leaders include HP (11.3 percent), Gateway (6.2 percent), and IBM (3.7 percent). Not only does Dell control the education market, the company has also experienced the market's largest growth spurt. According to IDC, from 1999 to 2003, Dell's shipments increased more than 300 percent whereas the other vendors experienced a combined 4 percent decline.
Dell's success in the education market should come as no surprise. As PCs become a commodity business, Dell's aggressive pricing policies draw in even more business. While the cost of PCs sold to schools dropped an average of 38 percent during the 1999 to 2003 time period, the cost of Dell equipment dropped 46 percent.
Schools are also increasingly looking to notebook computers rather than desktop machines. According to Dell, more than one quarter of the company's PC revenues now come from notebook computers. Analysts expect notebook sales to schools to jump 12 percent to 16 percent this year.

Microsoft Clarifies NT 4.0 Support Policy

A Microsoft representative contacted me yesterday to clarify the company's Windows NT 4.0 support position. According to the company, this most recent round of support changes doesn't represent a "third time" Microsoft has changed NT 4.0 support. "Microsoft isn't changing the strategy for NT 4.0 support," the representative told me. "The 'specialized support' mentioned in the release refers to a 'custom support' phase which Microsoft already made public for NT 4.0 and which customers have already been aware of as an option." Microsoft is partnering with BITS Financial Services "to provide Financial Services customers with the best security update support possible," the representative noted. "The end dates for no-charge NT 4.0 support remain the same as previously announced."

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