DID YOU HEAR?

‘Tis the season to shop online. Jupiter Communications (New York City) predicts consumers will spend $2.3 billion online this holiday shopping season, up from $1.1 billion last year. More than 40 percent of Americans with home computers are expected to shop online this year, compared with just 10 percent last year. A survey by Boston Consulting Group and shop.org pegs total Internet retailing revenues at $13 billion for the year.

+

If a PC is on your shopping list this holiday season, you're in luck. Never before has the PC been so inexpensive and easy to buy, with most PC manufacturers now offering direct sales online. While the average PC price has dropped to $1,200 from $1,600 at the beginning of last year, about 30 percent of PC buyers are expected to buy a sub-$1,000 machine, according to International Data Corp. (Framingham, Mass.) The Emachine, a product of Korean companies TriGem and Korean Data Systems, leads the way at just $400. For that, you get a PC with a 266 MHz processor, 2.1 GB hard drive and 32 MB of RAM, plus Windows 98 preloaded.

+

Thanks in part to falling PC prices, Oracle's personal network computer never really caught on. But Larry Ellison hasn't given up in his crusade to circumvent Microsoft. The Oracle CEO is now pushing a PC server that doesn't require Windows NT. The server would do nothing but run Oracle database software.

+

Perhaps we should have listened to Ellison the first time around, because we could all someday be paying for Windows. An internal Microsoft memo introduced as evidence at the company's antitrust trial, revealed that Microsoft executives had considered charging customers an annual license fee for Windows as early as 2001. The December 1997 memo, sent to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates by Joachim Kempin, Microsoft's senior VP for sales to PC makers, recommended the charge as a way to offset declining license revenues caused by falling PC prices. Kempin predicted PC makers would develop their own operating system if Microsoft didn't lower the Windows license fee it charges them to match the drop in PC prices. Microsoft could then pass a license fee on to consumers to restore the Windows revenue stream. A Microsoft spokesman said the plan was only an idea.

+

With the final stretch run to the Year 2000 about to begin, the Federal Government continues to lag in its Y2K remediation efforts. In a quarterly report card issued last month, the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology gave the Feds a "D" for its overall Year 2000 progress. That grade is up slightly from the "D-" of the previous quarter. The report card grades the status of government agencies and departments' efforts in making their crucial applications and systems Y2K compliant. U.S. banks are also having problems and have raised their Y2K cost estimates by the tens of millions of dollars from the previous quarter. Analysts say banks had underestimated their Y2K problems in the first place.