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Survey Finds Outsourcing Hurts Supply Chain Visibility

The prevalence of outsourcing in electronics has resulted in companies losing control and visibility across their extended supply chain, creating increased risks, according to the results of a survey by Industry Directions Inc. and the Electronics Supply Chain Association (ESCA).

The survey results, released Wednesday (Nov. 16), indicate that both "outsourcers" original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and fabless semiconductor companies and service providers have suffered a serious loss of visibility over their supply chain activities.

The research was conducted in July through October by Industry Directions, an independent industry analyst firm based in Boston . The firm conducted the research by means of an online quantitative survey of 121 electronics industry participants plus qualitative telephone interviews with a group of industry leaders. The effort was guided by an industry council of top executives from Amkor, ConSentry Networks, Flextronics, LSI Logic, On Semiconductor and Palm.

Among the findings, 69 percent of respondents said they have less control over at least five of their key supply chain processes since the outsourced model has taken hold, while 66 percent of providers feel their aggregate risk with customers is high or very high.

Thirty-six percent of providers responded that they feel an increased risk of uncertainty compared to their uncertainty risk prior to the rise to prominence of the outsourced model. Sixty-two percent of respondents described as "problematic" at least two core trading partner management practices, which include performance management and simply agreeing on results.

While the largest portion of respondents indicated that shared risks and objectives are the most effective form of trading partner agreements, they are the least used. In fact, outsourcers perceive increased cost from sharing risk. Some 40 percent of all respondents encounter resistance to sharing risk, according to the research.

Cellphone Signals Help Fight Traffic

While many citizens think that cell phones and driving don't mix, several state transportation agencies, such as Maryland and Virginia , would disagree and are monitoring traffic with cell phone signals. The New York Times reports that agencies are starting to test technology that can track cell phone signals and map them against road grids. However, the technology has raised the hackles of privacy advocates because it means that government agencies, private companies and law enforcement can use cell phones as tracking devices. In its current state, the system can monitor large clusters of phones, not individual ones, and provides a constantly updated picture of traffic flow across an entire region.

Mobile music on demand

Sony Ericsson has launched the Walkman-branded FM Music Transmitter MMR-60. Attached to a Sony Ericsson mobile phone it can transmit music files from the handset over the FM radio frequency band. This means that you can now to listen to your favorite MP3/AAC tracks from your mobile, through any radio receivers within range.

The transmitter attaches to any Sony Ericsson mobile phone incorporating the new system connector Fast port. Menus in the mobile phone allow you to control the transmitting frequency at a range of up to 10 meters.
Since the MMR-60 remembers the last used frequency, it's easy to reconnect to the radio whenever you like. When a call comes in, the music stops playing and continues when you hang up. Small and easy to carry around, the MMR-60 offers a simple plug-and-play solution for people who want to share their favorite music with others.
"This Walkman phone accessory is an essential item for anyone wanting to unleash the music from his or her phone and it's great when sharing with friends; to play at a party or even in the car," says Philippe Kubbinga, Sales Director of Sony Ericsson Southern Africa.
The MMR-60 is the newest addition to the strong portfolio of Sony Ericsson music accessories. The range includes, among other products, the Stereo Portable Handsfree HPM-70 and the Music Cable MMC-60.Available in limited markets during December 2005, the MMR-60 will be released according to the legal requirements of each country.

iPods to support copy-protected CDs?

The EMI Group record label said music from its copy-protected CDs will soon play on Apple Computer's iPod digital music players, but the iPod maker disagrees.

For more than a year, the anti-copying technology loaded on some major label compact discs has been compatible only with Windows-based computers. Those CDs have allowed listeners to move digital files onto the computers, but they have not been able to transfer those songs to iPods. EMI's upcoming copy-protected CDs, which will use technology from Macrovision, and will at last be compatible with iPods, a change nearly a year in the making, the label said.

However, Apple disputed EMI's characterization of its plans.

If true, the agreement would mark a substantial step forward for advocates of copy-protecting CDs, even as the ongoing controversy over Sony's actions has cast the practice into controversy.

EMI and Sony BMG each have committed to sharply increasing the number of CDs that are protected with technology that limits the number and type of copies that can be made. Each label has been experimenting with different varieties of this technology for several years, in the United States and overseas.

While CD copy protection as a whole has triggered some criticism from fair-use advocates, it is only the latest release from Sony, using technology from British company First 4 Internet, that has become a mainstream controversy.

That software used a powerful programming tool called a "rootkit" to hide virtually all traces of its presence on a hard drive, using a technique favored by virus writers that instantly triggered suspicion from many computer developers. Worse, that tool wound up exposing computers to a variety of dangerous security risks, some of which have already been exploited by virus writers. EMI said its CDs will have usage rules similar to songs purchased from the iTunes music store. Consumers will be allowed to "rip" one full copy-protected version of the album to their computer, from which it can be transferred to MP3 players. Three copies of the full disc can be made on blank CDs, and each individual track can be burned to CD seven times. The discs will also include additional content, such as artwork, artist bios and videos, the label said.

Security Innovation Finds Microsoft Windows Platform More Reliable Than Linux

At the IT Forum 2005 event in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft Corp. announced findings from a report it commissioned from Security Innovation Inc. (SI), a leading independent provider of application security services, which concluded that as requirements evolved over time, the Microsoft(R) Windows(R) platform was more consistent, predictable and easier to manage than Linux. Microsoft also announced that industry-leading customers, including Teleflora and Tommy Hilfiger Corp., have cited reduced complexity and greater reliability as driving their decision to deploy the Microsoft Windows platform over Linux.

To compare reliability and manageability differences between Microsoft Windows- and Linux-based solutions, SI delved into the true extent that maintenance, patch application and system failures contribute to IT pain and cost as business requirements evolve over time. Simulating a real-world enterprise e-commerce environment over the course of a year, SI compared two teams of experienced IT administrators as they maintained and enhanced on Windows Server 2000 and Novell SUSE Enterprise Linux 8, then upgraded to Windows Server 2003 and Novell SUSE Enterprise Linux 9, respectively:

The Windows platform was more reliable as enterprise needs change over time. - The Linux administrators took 68 percent longer to implement new business requirements than their counterparts. The Novell SLES solution experienced 14 critical breakages while the Windows Server solution experienced none. The Novell SLES solution required 4.79 times the number of patches. The Windows platform was more consistent and predictable. Only one of the three experienced Linux IT administrators successfully met all business requirements, while all three Windows administrators succeeded in meeting requirements.