More, Better, And Even More

Go ahead, be the glass-half-empty kind of person. Look at all that IT has made possible and dwell on the limitations. That's the kind of restless dissatisfaction that drove a lot of news last week. EBay? Not good enough, not until we can search deeper and compare more prices. Medical data sharing? It's just starting to show promise at regional levels, but we need national data exchanges. Security and server and network reliability can always be improved. Even emerging technology such as RFID is

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

June 3, 2005

8 Min Read

The eBay Way: Buy More Buyers
EBay Inc. isn't exactly stuck in the mud--year-over-year revenue grew 36% in its most-recent quarter. But there are worrisome signs for this growth machine, like the total number of unique visitors to eBay during April was up only 6% from a year earlier. That's part of the reason the auction site said last week it's buying comparison-shopping site Ltd. for $620 million in cash.

The move is expected to give eBay sellers a wider audience by letting visitors using's price-comparison engine see items up for auction on eBay. And it's likely to result in comparison-shopping capabilities appearing on eBay in the future. also is growing fast; unique-visitor traffic grew 15% during the same April-to-April period, according to market-research firm comScore Networks. "EBay's really smart to take advantage of the network effect of the eBay experience," comScore VP James Lamberti says.

Another plus: emphasizes advertising, bringing a new kind of revenue stream to eBay. To get it, eBay offered a 20% premium over what shares were trading at before the deal.

-- Tony Kontzer

Better Health, On The Road
If all goes as planned, sometime this fall a hospital on the outskirts of Boston will electronically share data on a patient's medication history, while a facility in Indiana provides lab results with a hospital in rural Mendocino County, Calif. The fact that they can't yet do that shows a lot about why it's so much work to make the practice of medicine more efficient.

Last week, the nonprofit Connecting for Health launched a prototype project to demonstrate how regional health-information networks in individual states or cities potentially can interconnect into a national highway of health-information exchanges via the Internet. The Connecting for Health prototype, funded with $1.9 million from two foundations, will link via the Internet regional health-information networks being developed in Boston, Indianapolis, and Mendocino County. The regions were chosen for the diversity of their communities--Mendocino has limited broadband capacity, for example--and progress they've already made developing local electronic clinical-information networks.

The prototype exchange doesn't create a centralized repository of clinical information, but rather allows authorized clinicians to use the exchange to access patient information wherever it resides. John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup HealthCare System, which operates several Boston-area hospitals participating in the project, notes that it's standard emergency-room practice to give aspirin to someone suffering a heart attack. With this, doctors treating a patient from Boston who has a coronary while vacationing in California will know if that person is allergic to aspirin.

-- Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Knowing Who's Who On The Net

Howard Schmidt

Howard Schmidt has opinions on Internet security, having led IT security in stints at eBay and Microsoft and served on the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board. Schmidt spoke with InformationWeek last week and had this big-picture take on how Internet security will change in the coming two to three years: "We will have better segmentation in the online world, very similar to what we see in the physical world, relative to what you can do anonymously as opposed to what you need to have nonrepudiation for, such as doing stock transactions. We'll have better granularity around that and will better protect privacy because we'll have better identity management in the online world." Schmidt joins the board of IMlogic Inc. this week.

-- Thomas Claburn

A Bad Day At The I.T. Mill ...

John ThainPhoto by Reuters

You can be pretty sure it's going to be a bad day when you see the CEO of your company on television explaining your IT problems. Last week, New York Stock Exchange CEO John Thain went on CNBC to explain that the NYSE stopped trading for four minutes just before the closing bell because of a "network storm." An error message "was created and then duplicated millions of times," overwhelming both the system's primary and backup network routers, Thain said.

The last major trading interruption at the exchange occurred on June 8, 2001, when trading was stopped for about 90 minutes because of what an NYSE spokesman called a "computer connectivity" problem. Trading resumed normally at 9:30 the next morning.

-- Steven Marlin

HP Has Itanium On The Brain
It was bring in the new, usher out the old at Hewlett-Packard last week.

The company continued its strategy of migrating its high-performance servers to Itanium processors when it introduced the first NonStop system based on the Intel processor architecture. And it stuck firm to its plan to drop PA-RISC chips, disclosing availability of its last PA-RISC-based server.

HP's effort to persuade customers to switch from HP systems based on Mips and PA-RISC processors to ones based on Itanium hasn't been a runaway hit. But its statement that it will offer Integrity NonStop by July shows its commitment. HP isn't doing internal development of the Itanium processor anymore, leaving that to Intel, but says it plans to invest about $3 billion during the next three years to improve system-level design, software, and services to support Itanium-based server lines. "We're providing good value [by enticing] customers to move to Integrity NonStop," says John Miller, director of portfolio marketing for enterprise servers and storage at HP.

Integrity NonStop servers aren't for the meek: The first will scale up to 4,080 Itanium 2 processors, and the price tag begins at around $400,000.

-- Darrell Dunn

RFID Readers Up Their Smarts
RFID tag readers play a critical role in radio-frequency ID strategies, but as far as technologies go, they're not that thrilling. They pick up signals from RFID tags and transmit the data to applications sitting elsewhere.

Well, get ready for a whole new genre of "intelligent" RFID readers with much more important jobs. Symbol Technologies Inc.'s XR400, to be rolled out this week, runs the Windows CE mobile operating system, which will let customers use applications such as inventory management in retail warehouses and baggage tracking in airports, eliminating the need for a server or PC to do that job. Symbol is talking with software companies about porting their applications to Windows CE to enable that, says Justin Hotard, director of RFID market development at Symbol. But Hotard expects some customers will build custom applications for the reader.

ADT Security Services Inc. expects to release a reader in August with enough intelligence so work still gets done even if a connected network fails. Software will collect, buffer, and store more than 10,000 files, the typical amount of data an RFID reader collects in a day.

The common goal of intelligent readers is speed. Says Randy Dunn, national sales and marking director for RFID at ADT: "Slowing the supply chain even milliseconds matters when you have a highly choreographed network."

-- Mary Hayes and Laurie Sullivan

Hilton Takes On Travel Sites
Hilton Hotels Corp. is tightening the screws on online travel agencies with an accreditation process that sites such as Orbitz and Travelocity must conform to by the end of the year in order to sell Hilton rooms.

The chain won't allow practices such as travel sites purchasing search keywords that divert traffic from Hilton .com sites or undercutting Hilton's online prices. It's not an effort to cut those sites out, Hilton says. "Anybody who can abide by our terms is free to compete," says Bala Subramanian, senior VP of distribution and brand integration.

Many chains are getting more customers to buy direct, avoiding the commissions to third parties. Direct bookings at sites are up 30% year over year and make up 14% of all bookings, Subramanian says, whereas third-party site bookings grew in the single digits and represent less than 2% of the chain's bookings.

-- Tony Kontzer

What You Really Care About
INtel and TiVo are planning to improve their "TiVo To Go" program so that customers can wirelessly download television programming to Centrino notebooks, Sean Maloney, executive VP and general manager of Intel's mobile platforms group, said at the company's wireless and mobile conference in San Francisco last week. That could make it that much easier for TiVo customers to take their TV programs with them on the road.

The big question: Do you really want to watch Lost while flying on a plane?

-- Darrell Dunn

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