Computerworld took a few weeks off over the holiday period, an eternity in the life of an internet business. Here's what some of them have been up to in the past month. Week ending: December 22
- Forestry-company-turned-e-tailer E-force announces it is in dire financial difficulties and says it intends to put forward a restructuring proposal to its creditors and shareholders early in the New Year. Only the week before, E-Force had closed its portal operations to focus on retail supply chain management.
- Financial services portal E-loan says it is restructuring into two units: B2B and B2C, with the B2C side to be run in conjunction with retail chain The Warehouse. The B2B side will focus on selling E-Loan’s “[loan] comparative engine”, developed here, in Asian countries where it holds licences.
- IT Media, owner of Flying Pig, is sold to Wilson Neill for $17 million ($2.5 million cash and rest in shares). Chairman Tim Connell gains a 30% stake and becomes Wilson Neill's new managing director.
- beenz.com, an internet currency backed by $US89 million of venture capital including funds from Oracle founder Larry Ellison, says a large proportion of of its 260 staff will be made redundant.
- Australian web developer Zivo is picked up by Sofcom for a meagre $A50,000 in the aftermath of Liberty One, its parent company, facing financial ruin.
- The government's response to the telecommunications inquiry findings was released. As expected, the government will appoint a telecommunications commissioner within the Commerce Commission, to be funded by an industry levy. All the major telcos grumbled but concluded it was a good outcome. First issues for the commissioner to address: wholesaling the local loop and interconnection.
Week ending December 29
- Advantage says it is to sell its stake in venture capitalist Strathmore as part of its policy to shed non-core assets.
- A pirate disk of computer games bought in New Zealand is found to contain “hardcore child pornography” and a link to a Russian child-porn website, according to anti-child prostitution campaigners Ecpat. A National Radio reporter says authorities would now “block” the website in question, but ISPs and seasoned internet users branded such a measure impractical. Spokespeople for Police and the censorship compliance team at the Department of Internal Affairs agree that websites cannot practically be blocked. DIA spokesman Steve O’Brien says the best the agenices can do is to put pressure through Interpol on the Russian authorities to close the site down. The Interactive Software Association of New Zealand seizes on the story to highlight the dangers of buying pirated software.
Week ending January 5
- E-Toys announces it is to lay off 700 of its 1000 US workers, sparking reports that e-tailing is doomed.
- Free ISP i4free announces it will downgrade its free internet service after being told by Clear Communications on Christmas Eve that it will no longer receive interconnection revenues. Customers will be redirected to paid-for-service at www.slingshot.co.nz, owned by sister company Attica, both in turn owned by CallPlus. Customers are told if they choose to stay with i4free they may face busy signals as modems are transferred to the paid service over time. Industry sources predict at the time that freenet, an ISP whose parent company, Compass Communications, is listing on New Capital Market, will announce a similar plan the following week.
Week ending January 12
- News Corp says it is to lay off up to half the staff in its American online division and give the management of Fox TV sites back to the networks. The New York Times lays off 69 online staff, around 17% of its total workforce.
- Portal Mercata, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, shuts down.
- Yahoo posts fourth quarter results matching expectations but says a weak online advertising market will hurt its first quarter results. Looking ahead, it says it sees revenues coming down and lower margins.
- Telco Newcall says it is to divest itself of its New Zealand telco operations, which include ISP Iprolink, and focus on offshore dealings.
- The Federal Communications Commission approved America Online's $US103 billion buyout of Time Warner, imposing conditions to boost competition in instant messaging. The merger cleared its final regulatory hurdle a year and a day after it was announced, uniting the biggest provider of internet service, with 26 million subscribers, and the nation's largest media company. The deal lost $US57.7 million off its value over that time.
- Microsoft announces it is to make a version of the new Office for Apple's Mac OS X operating system.
- Cisco’s boss says the fiscal second-quarter was more challenging than expected, but said the company would hit its revenue growth targets
- Time Warner's CNN News Group is expected in several reports to announce as early as next week significant layoffs amid a broad reorganisation of its sprawling TV and internet operations.
- Twenty US states file a case against the airline industry's co-joint online airline reservations system.
- Hewlett-Packard warned that fiscal first-quarter earnings will miss expectations amid deteriorating business and consumer demand: co-founder William Hewlett dies in his sleep.