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5/7/2004
07:00 PM
John Soat
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IT Confidential: EBay's Whitman Tells Feds: Read My Lips

Meg Whitman, president and CEO of eBay, the online auction site, addressed the National Press Club in Washington last week to extol the virtues of entrepreneurship on the Web and blast a proposal for collecting taxes on Internet sales known as the Streamlined Sales Tax Project. "The success of E-commerce is the success of millions of invisible pioneers in garages and spare bedrooms from New York to St. Louis, from L.A. to Sioux City," Whitman said, according to the text of her remarks from the company. EBay estimates more than 430,000 Americans make a substantial part of their incomes by selling products on its site. Government policy makers threaten the future of small business on the Internet with tax proposals like SSTP, Whitman said. SSTP is not a new tax law, but a uniform way for the states to collect sales taxes from online businesses for items purchased over the Internet. "The red tape would be enormous," she said. For instance, "were SSTP adopted, it could double or even triple the nation's taxing jurisdictions." Prior to Whitman's appearance at the National Press Club, eBay sponsored what it called its first "United States of eBay Small Business Summit," flying in 51 of its top entrepreneurs, representing the 50 states and Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress about E-commerce issues, including taxes.

When Sun and Microsoft revealed their détente last month, EDS CIO Charlie Feld was more than an interested observer. The former IT chief at Delta Air Lines and Burlington Northern says he helped coax Scott McNealy and Steve Ballmer to the negotiating table. A bargaining chip: EDS pledged to make Sun and Microsoft its preferred partners for servers and software, respectively. Now EDS techies are looking at ways to integrate Sun's Java technology with Microsoft's .Net environment. "We have in our labs some of the first instances of Microsoft and Sun technology working in tandem," Feld says.

Larry Olson had no intention of returning to government service until he was contacted by a search firm in March. Olson, the new CIO of the state of Texas, moved back to the Lone Star State a year ago to be near his parents, both in their 80s, after spending a dozen years in Pennsylvania, where he served as that state's first CIO from 1995 to 1999, then as a partner at Aligne, a management consulting firm. Born in Houston and raised in San Antonio, Olson studied architecture at Texas Tech in Lubbock. He lives in Austin, about 30 miles from the family farm his grandparents owned. "If any other state had called, I wouldn't have even bothered to return the call," Olson says. "Being Texas, I did."

I know better than to make jokes about the state of Texas. Anybody who would live in such a godforsaken place earns my respect--sympathy, at least. You can also earn my respect by sending an industry tip to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about Internet taxes, Sun-Microsoft interoperability, or the demands of government service, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

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