FRAMINGHAM (01/21/2000) - The growth of wireless and digital subscriber line technologies and the potential for broadband cable is creating "a virtual Cuisinart of convergence" that is helping to make the Telecommunications Act of 1996 a success, Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard said last week in his annual start-of-the-year press conference. The resulting "network of networks" is helping the country move through a period of mergers that might otherwise reduce competition, Kennard said. He declined to divulge his personal position on the America Online/Time Warner deal, saying only that the deal "will raise some interesting new issues because it's a different kind of merger." But he promised to speed up the FCC's merger review process, saying he expects the pure telecom megadeals - including that of MCI WorldCom/Sprint - to be decided in the first half of the year.

IBM Corp. has 180 days to do a 360-degree turn. The second half of 1999 was so dismal the company's steely CEO Lou Gerstner sent out an urgently worded memo to employees urging "a fast start" in 2000, says news agency Reuters. The firm posted gloomy fourth quarter results last week, with net profits dropping 10% on a 4% reduction of overall revenue. On Wednesday, Gerstner issued a call to arms: "As I see it, we have two quarters - 180 days - to prove that the second half of 1999 was an aberration, not the beginning of a trend." The company's leaders will talk to IBM's personnel about "how we will roar through the first half of the year," Gerstner says.

Last week, e-commerce software vendor Ariba Inc. joined with Chevron Corp. and venture capital firm CrossPoint Ventures in Woodside, Calif., to set up a new company called PetroCosm. The goal of the new company is to invite oil exploration, transportation and services companies to subscribe to PetroCosm to buy and sell products and services. Chevron is already a customer of the Ariba ORMS desktop procurement software, and the PetroCosm network will grow out of Chevron's Ariba installation. Chevron also plans to have the largest online catalog of gas-industry services and products for sale. PetroCosm expects to earn revenue by completing online transactions between buyers and sellers. The PetroCosm founders have invited any oil or gas company to join as a founding member to obtain shares in the venture.

Microsoft Corp. last week emphatically stated it did not break the law as alleged in the government's antitrust case against the software developer. In a 70-page legal filing submitted to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, Microsoft said it "respectfully disagrees" with Jackson's Nov. 5, 1999 findings that Microsoft is a monopoly. In the filing, known in legal terms as conclusions of law, Microsoft said it did not illegally tie the Windows operating system to Internet Explorer or unlawfully strike exclusive deals with its partners. The U.S. Department of Justice filed its conclusions of law last month and will file a reply to Microsoft's conclusions this week.

Concord Communications Inc. CEO Jack Blaeser told Network World he was going to make acquisitions this year, although he didn't say when. Just before our deadline, however, Blaeser put $104 million where his mouth was, and Concord revealed it will buy FirstSense Software in a stock deal. Located in Marlborough, Mass., Concord plans to combine its network performance reporting tools with the Burlington, Mass., FirstSense's application and service-level management software. In exchange for 1.9 million shares of the firm's common stock, Concord will acquire all of FirstSense's outstanding stock. The transaction is expected to close next month.

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More about America OnlineAribaChevron AustraliaConcord CommunicationsDepartment of JusticeFCCFederal Communications CommissionFirstSense SoftwareIBM AustraliaMCIMCI WorldComMicrosoftPetroCosmReuters AustraliaSprintTime WarnerTransportationWorldCom

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