New Pairings

When big companies go a-courting, it's always informative to keep an eye on who they're dancing with. It tells a lot about their priorities. Apple last week joined the rest of the PC world when it decided to pair up with Intel. AT&T and Microsoft are partnering to deploy a platform for the delivery of new services over IP networks. Computer Associates picked up a software company it hopes will let customers make better use of the information provided by CA's Unicenter systems-management suite. T
Target On Track With RFID

Suppliers have begun shipping cases and pallets of goods affixed with radio-frequency identification tags through Target Corp.'s Tyler, Texas, distribution center to 10 regional stores. The rollout follows a trial deployment earlier this year that involved 19 suppliers, including Hewlett-Packard, Kimberly-Clark, and Procter & Gamble, two participants say.

Target installed readers and antennas at storage-room doors leading into stores, at shipping and receiving dock doors, and near trash compactors, participants say. Equipment from ADT Security Systems Inc. was installed at the first five stores, and gear from Symbol Technologies Inc. at the remainder.

To get the effort going, Target assembled a board of experts. Physicists from RFID service and consulting companies such as Extra Prize, Oden, and R4, which VeriSign recently acquired, were brought in to assess and address frequency interference from other technologies deployed within stores and the distribution center. "If Target starts with a core group of RFID experts and consistent methodology with a plan and a blueprint, they should be able to install the required RFID infrastructure in 40 stores weekly," says Peter Regen, VP of global visible commerce solutions at Unisys Corp., who's familiar with the project but not directly involved. "Target has about 1,500 to 1,600 stores, and they could finish the rollout in about a year." Target declined to comment on the project.

--Laurie Sullivan

Microsoft Wants Its Buzz Back

In the 10 years since the launch of Windows 95, Microsoft has stopped being the coolest company in the industry to work for. Apple Computer and Google Inc. have the buzz today, and Microsoft wants it back.

And it's not just about pride and ego. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in an interview last week that getting in tune with the times will help the company with its recruiting troubles. Young workers talk differently and compute differently than even those who've reached the not-so-advanced age of 35. Microsoft is finding ways to weave instant messaging and other new tools into its jobs, for instance. Ballmer says IM is a "basic communications medium" for people in their early 20s entering the workforce, and "a good example of trying to make the job more natural--you could say more fun."

--Aaron Ricadela

CA Makes Another Acquisition

In buying its fourth company in a year, Computer Associates went after one that offers software that will help make its Unicenter systems-management framework more useful to customers. Unicenter, which generates $1.5 billion annually in sales and maintenance fees, is designed to monitor and manage most parts of a company's IT infrastructure, generating alerts when things go wrong and reports on how systems, applications, and networks are performing.

CA last week said it will pay $350 million for Niku Corp., which offers a product called Clarity IT-MG that can take advantage of the information provided by Unicenter to help IT managers make better decisions about IT investments and projects. "The great strength of Unicenter is in telling how the network is doing," says Josh Perkins, Niku's president and CEO. "We'll attach business perspective to that data, reveal how IT is doing for the business, and help ensure dollars are spent the right way."

Perkins will become a senior VP in CA's business-service optimization unit, where Niku's software will become part of a line of products to help companies make better use of technology to improve business processes. Clarity IT-MG helps companies make better technology-investment decisions, track the execution and delivery of technology initiatives, and assess the results.

The two companies have had a reseller agreement in place since January, and "CA will deepen Clarity integration with its business optimization products," says Melissa Webster, an analyst at IDC. "That should lead to better alignment between business and IT."

In the past year, CA has acquired Pest Patrol, an anti-spyware company; Netegrity, a networking company; and Concord Communications, a network-management company.

--Martin J. Garvey

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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