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8/8/2003
02:45 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: I Wouldn't Want Forman's Job

Mark Forman, the highest-ranking IT chief in the Bush administration, abruptly resigned last week. Forman was the Office of Management and Budget's associate director for information technology and E-government, and was generally considered the government's CIO. OMB's recently appointed chief technology officer, Norm Lorentz, will fill Forman's position temporarily. Forman, a former Unisys E-business exec, was appointed to his OMB post by President Bush in June 2001. Forman advocated the development of a governmentwide IT architecture and helped generate 24 major E-government initiatives. An OMB spokesman says support for the programs will continue. Forman was also chairman of the CIO Council, a group of senior federal departmental and agency CIOs charged with developing governmentwide IT programs, systems, and standards. No word on where Forman will pop up, but rumor has it a private-sector job with a tech startup may be in the offing.

This patent stuff is getting serious. Last week a federal judge ordered eBay to pay Merc Exchange, a three-man holding company, $29.5 million as settlement for a jury verdict in May that found the online auction house had violated two E-commerce patents owned by Tom Woolston, founder and CEO of Merc Exchange. Those patents deal with methods for fixed-price bidding and online comparison shopping, and the 10-member jury found that eBay had willfully violated them in connection with its "buy it now" option and its Half.com subsidiary. Another patent owned by Woolston that described online-auction technology was thrown out by District Court Judge Jerome Friedman earlier this year. The judge could have tripled the jury's award of $30 million because of the finding of willful infringement. EBay is appealing the verdict.

The software piracy rate in the United States dropped 2 percentage points last year, according to the Business Software Alliance, a watchdog group sponsored by such software powerhouses as Cisco Systems and Microsoft. The percentage of unlicensed software used in the corporate environment dropped to 23% from 25% in 2001, based on a state-by-state survey conducted by International Planning and Research for the BSA. The BSA also revealed settlements for unlicensed software from 37 organizations throughout the country totaling more than $3.1 million, garnered through its third annual "Sweeps" campaign, which targets corporate software piracy.

Talk about friends in high places! Marc Benioff, the irrepressible CEO of Salesforce.com, is sponsoring a party for industry analysts and press next month to celebrate reaching 100,000 subscribers to his hosted customer-relationship-management software (he said it, I didn't). The star attraction: the Dalai Lama himself. His holiness will speak on "The Human Approach To World Peace" at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall. Afterward, more material fare (food and entertainment) will be available at the recently renovated Asian Art Museum. Benioff has an in with the holy man: He's one of the sponsors of the Tibet House in New York.

Somehow, spiritual values and the software industry don't immediately come together in my mind. What's next? Larry Ellison and the Vatican? Bill Gates and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? How about me and an industry tip? Send them to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about government's revolving IT door, E-commerce patents, or software piracy, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: http://www.informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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