Intellect claims an even bigger slice of Europe

At the risk of sounding like Intellect's advertising agency it is only fair that we report that the West Australian smart card specialist has chalked up yet another export order - this time worth a stunning A$12 million. The deal calls for the provision of secure smart card payment terminals to Austrian card-issuing organisation Europay Austria. The terminals will be installed in large and small retailers and other locations where they will be used for combinations of payment functions with loyalty and smart card-based applications.

The latest deal follows Europay's order for 10,000 Intellect terminals in September and will lift the installed base of Intellect systems in Austria to more than 50,000.

Francis De Vrieze, Intellect's chief marketing officer, said security is a high priority for Europay, which is owned by banks and is responsible for issuing Austrian Eurocards, Mastercards, Maestro and Cirrus cards, as well as private label cards for the banks. "This is the reason Intellect is the preferred supplier to Europay," De Vrieze added.

The latest contract caps a busy period for Intellect in Europe. Last week the company clinched sales in Germany and Belgium, and it has also recently sealed deals in Croatia and with the Dutch and Austrian railway systems.

Yambay to build mobile White Pages accessSoftware developer Yambay, which was until recently known as Palm Solutions, has been awarded a contract by Pacific Access to develop Palm Query Applications for the White Pages Online and the Yellow Pages Online. The applications will allow users to access the Internet services from a Palm handheld computer, a mobile phone or the new Palm Mobile Internet Kit.

"In the past handheld computing has been about portability. Now we are going to enable much more by using wireless communications to create new applications for mobile commerce," explained Leon Levit, CEO of Yambay. "We wanted to deliver real value to the consumer and that is what drove us to create this special feature which enables you to store downloaded address details into your Contacts on the Palm."

Steve Metlitzky, Yambay's chief technology officer, added that although the company has been developing software for handheld computers for more than three years wireless technology is only now reaching the stage where it is capable of enabling mobile commerce.

NAB offshoot ready to offer e-procurementA subsidiary of O2-e, the "new economy" business incubator and accelerator of the National Australia Bank, is gearing up to offer electronic procurement services to an array of businesses in Australia and the UK. The hosted services will be built on software developed by Commerce One and will be hosted by Concert, the joint venture of British Telecom and AT&T.

A spokesman said that accessing the software through the hosted environment will eliminate the need for business users to develop and manage their own e-procurement technology and infrastructure. He added that the e-procurement service has successfully completed a series of trials and will be formally launched before the end of the year.

TelstraSaturn looks to optical network

Kiwi broadband service provider TelstraSaturn - which was formed by Telstra and Austar United Communications - plans to extend its New Zealand network with optical transmission and switching equipment from Nortel Networks. The equipment will be used in a submarine backbone that will span the North and South Islands from Auckland to Christchurch.

TelstraSaturn will also implement a Nortel DMS-100 switching system in Christchurch, where it expects to deliver telephone, high-performance Internet, data and cable TV services to more than 100,000 homes.

"TelstraSaturn is taking true advantage of our next-generation optical platform by laying a solid foundation for future evolution to the high-performance Internet and telecommunications," noted Reg Bird, President of Nortel Networks for Australia and NZ.

Pettifogging continues as outsourcing row drags onThe amount of time for the recently-announced review of the Federal Government's outsourcing strategy has been called into question by Labor's Senator Kate Lundy, who said the period allowed for the whole process was "incredibly limited". Lundy said that Richard Humphry, who will conduct the review, has called for submissions to be received by Monday December 11, and the review, which is being overseen by a steering committee headed by Max Moore-Wilton, will then have just 20 days to produce its findings.

"The $A5 billion Outsourcing Initiative encompasses over 50 Commonwealth departments and agencies," Lundy noted. "The incredibly short time frame places Mr Humphry under unreasonable pressure to produce a considered and proper assessment."

John Fahey, Minister for Finance and Administration, and Richard Alston, Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts, then made the most of the launch of EDS's SME partnerships program in Canberra to talk-up about the benefits outsourcing brings to the Australian IT industry.

Alston claimed that 120 Australian SMEs are working with EDS on the Australian Tax Office outsourcing contract, and Fahey claimed their services were worth $A77 million in the first year.

"These are the type of initiatives and business developments that should be applauded; they provide an example of how win-win outcomes for Australia can be achieved from a working partnership between government, IT companies and SMEs," Fahey added.

Mixed fortunes for Optus

Cable & Wireless Optus won some points on the business front this week and then lost them again in the regulatory arena.

On the business front the company opened its first dedicated data centre in Melbourne from which it will offer IP hosting and colocation services to corporate and government customers. "Our Victorian business customers are increasingly demanding services to assist them with the explosion of the data market," noted John Filmer, director of enterprise for Optus. "Success in this market will derive from the speed and ease with which information can be accessed, exchanged and shared," he said.

At the same time the company received a rap over the knuckles from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over advertisements for its Optus@Home cable Internet service. The ACCC reacted to complaints from customers who had claimed that while the advertisements offered unrestricted downloads, Optus@Home was effectively capped by an acceptable user policy. The ACCC ruled that all references to "unlimited" be removed from ads and that Optus compensate all customers terminated from the service under the previous AUP. "Other industry players should take this opportunity to alter their own conduct if necessary," warned Professor Allan Fels, chairman of the ACCC.

News briefs

Australian Internet domain registrar Melbourne IT and NeuStar have had their submission for a new top level domain known as .biz accepted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. However, as the pair begin negotiations for the establishment of a new registry, analysts have queried the need for the .biz domain. "If .biz just becomes a mirror image of .com, then I don't know what real purpose it will serve," noted one US observer. A spokesman for Gartner Group said the seven new domains are not created to make business life easier. Obtaining URLs in the new domains will be expensive, and Gartner estimates that companies will spend an average of about $US70,000 to maintain a domain name strategy that will include registering all variants of the names they want to protect.

In its first 12 months of operation the Federal Government's Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) program has provided funding worth $A14.7 million to 270 eligible businesses, according to Nick Minchin, Minister for Industry, Science and Resources. "Demand for the COMET program has far exceeded our expectations and this is reflected in the large number of applications from across a broad spectrum of the business community," he explained.

Baltimore Certificates Australia has been the first company to be granted full accreditation as a certification authority under the Federal Government's Gatekeeper Public Key Infrastructure strategy. A spokesman for Baltimore said the use of Gatekeeper will enable a significant expansion of online government services, including those related to health, revenue and social services.

CSIRO has set itself up as an independent evaluator of middleware, which it believes has become critical as companies move into e-commerce. The organisation has released the first two of what it claims will be a continuously updated set of reports with assessments of Iona's OrbixOTM and Forte 4GL. Reports on BEA WebLogic Enterprise; Inprise's Visibroker ITS, Fujitsu's Interstate Application Server and Microsoft's COM+ are scheduled for release before the end of this year. "By facilitating the choice of suitable products for business needs we hope to eliminate the risk of critical failures and increase the overall satisfaction level of customers with the products they buy," explained CSIRO's Dr Ian Gorton. Details can be obtained from www.publish.csiro.au (go to Select A Category/Computer Science.

The National Office for the Information Economy is undertaking a trial of an electronic tendering system known as Commonwealth Electronic Tender System (CETS). The system will allow potential suppliers to search advertised government tenders, download tender documentation, and submit bids to a secure electronic tender box, a spokesman explained. The trial involves the Department of Communications, IT and the Arts; the Department of Veterans' Affairs; Centrelink; the Australian Tax Office; and the Department of Finance and Administration. Details from www.govonline.gov.au

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