Did You Hear?

A report by International Data Corp. (IDC) says the number of electronic boxes that can handle all types of unified messages will grow drastically over the next couple of years, from 35,000 in 1998 to 25.4 million in 2003. The report says the demand for unified messages, which refer to scenarios in which users retrieve messages through a phone or Web-connected PC, is growing as more people are doing their work on the road or at home. IDC expects end-user revenues will increase from $7.6 million in 1998 to $1.9 billion in 2003. Although IDC says free messaging services will still be around, it expects that only 15 percent of messaging boxes will be free in 2003, compared with 30 percent this year.

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Although more and more effort is being placed on making sure Internet transactions are secure, a published report says a team of international researchers has managed to break the security code to report Internet transactions. RSA Data Security Inc. a division of Dynamics Technologies Inc., says the team used a network of 292 computers at 11 different locations over seven months to break the code, and required approximately 8000 MIPS-years of CPU effort. RSA issued the challenge that required the team to determine the two prime factors in a 512-bit encryption key, which is used to decode encrypted data. In a statement after the code was broken, RSA officials said the breakthrough "reconfirms its ongoing recommendation for using 768-bit keys as the minimum for achieving reliable security." Currently, the 512-bit encryption system is the highest level allowed for export in the U.S.

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According to a published report, a Boston-based technology management consulting company says that unless users of Microsoft Corp.'s Excel download scanning tools from their company's Web site, their spreadsheets could go haywire when they open their files on January 1. The study by Horizon Information Group says that an Excel year 2000 error causing drastic math errors went undetected by a handful of Y2K analysis tools. The report says the core of the problem is that Excel versions through Excel 2000 have a DATE() function that treats all two-digit years as 20th-century dates, regardless of how Excel is configured to handle two-digit dates. As a result, spreadsheets that use the DATE function are particularly vulnerable to Y2K. According to the report, Microsoft says it has documented the bug and how the date function is designed to handle four-digit numeric parameters on its Y2K Web page and in Excel Help within Excel.

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According to an RHI Management Resources poll of 1,400 chief financial officers (CFOs) in U.S. firms, the Internet has been regarded as a tool for expanding a company's market reach, as well as a medium to improve customer service. While one-in-three CFOs said they looked to e-commerce to expand their client base, one-fifth believe that value-added service to customers will be the primary benefit. Seventeen percent of the CFOs cited reduced operational costs as the chief advantage. RHI indicates that e-commerce enables businesses to meet ever-increasing client expectations for easier access to product information, accelerated ordering and fulfillment, and more competitive pricing. Web-based business-to-business transactions can also result in significant savings, according to RHI, particularly within a company's purchasing department. Handling orders via e-commerce can promote better inventory control and enhanced cash flow.

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