Who says Aussies don't have what IT takes?

It is surely time to put a stop to the incessant criticisms of the Australian IT industry that began with the flying visits of a few US bigwigs during the Olympics and have continued in a marathon gold medal performance ever since. For every week that the critics have been allowed to sell down the local industry, they have remained oblivious to the ongoing high-profile export orders being chalked up by Australian players. This week has been no exception. The winners this week include a couple of old favourites, plus some surprises:

Recently listed developer of telecommunications software CommSoft Group has won a £500,000 sale of its CallMaster office communications management tool to Cap Gemini Ernst & Young in the UK. A spokesman said CallMaster was developed to enable office managers to monitor telephone costs, the speed of response to calls, and the numbers of abandoned calls from customers who gave up waiting. The software has already been installed by some of Cap Gemini's large clients in the UK, including Honda Motor Corporation and LeasePlan UK. "The sheer scale of the deal is very pleasing, but we are also delighted with the credibility it gives CommSoft," noted the company's COO Rodney Martin. "This is a global partnership with one of the world's top-tier management consultancies. It is a terrific endorsement of the product's value and gives us added leverage for the product rollout in new markets."

Better known as a midrange outsourcing company, KAZ Computer Services has set up a joint venture in Thailand to develop a superannuation administration fund. KAZ's partners are the Thai Government Pension Fund and the Thai Farmers Bank, and the system will be used initially to administer the Thai Government Pension Scheme and three superannuation schemes operated by the bank. KAZ has extensive experience with superannuation, and administration systems it has developed are currently used to manage funds for more than 5.5 million Australians, a spokesman claimed.

ERG, one of Australia's listed smart card specialists that have been on a roll this year, has won three further deals to implement automated fare collection systems for the French cities of Grenoble, Rennes and Greater Angouleme. The total value of the contracts is estimated to be $A19 million. A spokesman noted that the contracts complement four contracts that ERG picked up in France in July and take the total number of smart card projects ERG operates in that country to 16.

Intellect too has maintained its export momentum with its second electronic ticketing contract in Europe within a month. The latest deal is for the provision of electronic ticketing systems for trains and railway stations throughout Austria. The contract requires the provision of about 800 Intellect terminals in railway stations to allow passengers to pay for their tickets electronically. In small locations where there are no stations, passengers will be able to buy a ticket from a wireless-enabled system installed on the trains. "Transport ticketing systems are one of the areas where our expertise in secure data transmission is being recognised and we expect to leverage this in other business opportunities around the world," noted Francis De Vrieze, Intellect's chief marketing officer.

Sydney company Lake Technology, which began life as a pure research operation, has had its Dolby Headphone technology included as standard on DVD-equipped models of Dell's new high-performance Inspiron 8000 laptops. The technology is claimed to provide "a truly cinematic experience from DVDs played on a notebook computer". The Inspiron 8000 range was released in the US on October 26.

Powerlan signs big name for portal

Colliers Jardine Holdings (Australia) has signed up as the first user of Powerlan's real estate ASP portal. A spokesman explained that the service is based on the Property Information Knowledge Systems (PIKS), which was developed by Colliers Jardine as an inhouse application with input from Powerlan. The software is described as a client/server real estate agency and property management system that is fully Web-enabled. Powerlan has now acquired the PIKS software.

"Colliers Jardine has been developing inhouse, state-of-the-art systems for years to help us maintain our competitive advantage in the fast-changing marketplace," explained Tony Brasier, managing director of Colliers Jardine. "Fast-paced technology changes, the high cost of inhouse software development, and IT services delivery told us to consider the merits of trading off the advantages of a proprietary system against a more cost-effective service provided by a strong technology partner."

Theo Baker, managing director of Powerlan, said the real estate portal is the first of a suite of ASP services Powerlan intends to launch over the next few months. Others in the pipeline include an ERP portal based on the Axapta mid-tier application and a freight forwarding portal based on Powerlan's F/AMS software.

ComOps system drives Berri and distributorsSydney software developer ComOps has won a multi-million contract to implement its Sales and Account Management (SAM) software for juice and beverage supplier Berri Ltd and its national network of some 300 owner-operator distributors. A spokesman explained that SAM will be used to automate Berri's van-sales distribution network and streamline the order-to-invoice process. The capture of sales information, definition of customer profiles and other distributor-related processes will also be undertaken.

The system will be required to interface with Berri's existing systems in order to minimise interruptions to the business, the spokesman added. The first phase of the distributor automation project will be to supply the foundation systems needed to automate Berri's non-grocery distribution business, which constitutes about 20 per cent of its total business.

Never a dull moment in Microsoft case

Microsoft continues to generate smoke screens (or is it really done by smoke and mirrors) as it tries to twist its antitrust appeal to its own advantage. After the giant developer had squealed about the Court of Appeal's decision to be tutored by an expert, the court decided to forgo the lessons. Its one line announcement did not clarify which of Microsoft's complaints about its proposed teacher - Dr Michael Hites of the Illinois Institute of Technology - had swayed the judges. Microsoft had claimed Hites would lead them up the legal garden path, was incompetent, or was biased against Microsoft because of a project he had undertaken in June for Sun Microsystems.

Having got its own way with the tutor, Microsoft then turned on the witnesses and filed a request that its competitors not be allow to file briefs as friends of the court. Such filings allow parties that aren't directly involved in a case, but have a direct legal interest in it, to provide some unique information. The Association for Competitive Technology and the Computing Technology Industry Association (of which Microsoft is a member) have applied to file a brief in support of Microsoft and Microsoft supports their applications. Opposing briefs have been filed by Sun Microsystems, IBM, Oracle, America Online and several industry groups and organisations.

Microsoft claimed its competitors had already testified at the trial and, beyond that, don't have a compelling interest in the case. It suggested that if they are allowed to file they should do so in a single brief.

It came out during the week that Microsoft and its employees contributed $US3.5 million to US presidential and congressional candidates this year. According to figures released by the Centre for Responsive Politics, 44 per cent of the donations went to Democrats and 53 per cent to Republicans. America Online was the second highest contributor at $US1.3 million (Republicans 58 per cent, Democrats 42 per cent) followed by Cisco Systems at just $US688,510 (Republicans 62 per cent, Democrats 37 per cent).

News in brief

Computer Associates has been pouring software into the Australian Stock Exchange in recent weeks. Late in October the exchange announced it would undertake a multi-million dollar deployment of data warehousing and systems management software based on CA's DecisionBase Transformer and Platinum Repository. It has since been revealed that the ASX has extended its use of the Unicenter TNG Enterprise Management Suite, which it has been using for three years, to "ensure the reliability and stability of its new online ventures".

Listed company Peg Technology has scored two solid wins - to use its Evolution Web Editor product to provide an e-commerce solution for the Telstra Web Shop, and to provide a 2000 seat CRM solution for the ANZ Private Banking Group.

Online Trading Systems (OTS) has been granted an application number by the Australian Patent Office for its Internet Broadcasting Technology. "This project was the masterpiece of our recent R&D program," explained Albert Dadon, CEO of OTS. "The IBT will become the building block of all OTS's data transmission." The application provides provisional protection for the technology for 12 months, by which time a complete patent application must be lodged.

Geelong company Breeze Software has been awarded a Federal Government grant of $A676,800 to develop is ASP management system for petrol and chain-store retailing. The R&D Start grant will be used to develop applications for retailers using Internet technology to minimise the costs and complexity of running a retail business.

When you're hot, you're hot - as IBM showed in spades last week. Big Blue picked up a 10-year outsourcing agreement worth about $US15 billion from Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, and put the icing on the cake by winning an order for 15,200 Linux servers to be supplied to Japanese convenience store chain Lawson Inc. Lawson will connect the servers to existing Loppi kiosks, which are equipped with touch screens, to allow shoppers to download music, movies and other Web content, as well as to book tickets for travel and entertainment.

Was it any wonder that NASDAQ began to look positive after Intel gave a presentation noting that its Pentium 4 processor is expected to hit clock speeds of 2GHz by the third quarter of 2001.

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