October 12, 2001

Open Source stock report: The consumer confidence rollercoaster

Author: JT Smith

- By Dan Berkes -
Borland gives a sneak preview of its third quarter numbers, IBM takes its big iron Linux to Finland, and MandrakeSoft deals with shipping problems. Also: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a few things to say about Sun's new Liberty Alliance Project.The markets made impressive gains this week, but concerns over continuing weakness in the retail sector and American defenses against bioterrorism attacks probably curbed investor enthusiasm today.

The Nasdaq composite ended the week at 1,703.14, up 96 points for the week and gaining six points over its previous recent high of 1,695.38 on Sept. 10. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rang the Friday bell at 9.344.02, losing 66 points from Thursday's close, but still ends this week in better shape having gained a total of 225 points since last Friday.

The bigger picture
While major U.S. retailers, including Home Depot, posted major losses for their most recently concluded quarters, consumer confidence is actually better than in previous months. The University of Michigan's preliminary October consumer sentiment index rose to 83.4 in October from 81.8 in September, but still remains at its lowest levels since 1992.

That sentiment, however, was tempered by Americans' heightened fears for their personal safety. The recent FBI reports warning the nation to brace for further terrorist action and the discovery of a fourth case of Anthrax -- this time an NBC News employee in New York -- may erode this new-found optimism.

Big Blue sells big iron
IBM this week announced that it had sold yet another European Internet service provider on the merits of mainframe Linux. Finland broadband provider Sonera Entrum replaced its 60 servers running NT and various Unix flavors with a single, Linux-powered mainframe from Big Blue. Sonera Entrum's new big iron runs 500 virtual servers, each using Red Hat's Linux distribution.

Next week, the company is expected to announce a new low-power processor designed to extend the battery life of portable devices, like cell phones and handheld computers. Using special circuitry that shuts off portions of the chip when not in use, IBM executives say the new PowerPC 450LP processor cuts overall power consumption by as much 90 percent. More details about the new chip will be known next week, when IBM unveils its latest creation at the 2001 Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, Calif.

Business is booming right now for IBM, but analysts don't think the company's immediate future is all that bright. Following the Sept. 11 attacks that had weakened an already stagnating economy, IBM watchers revised their earnings forecasts, predicting that companies will eventually stop making major technology purchases and upgrades. Analysts are expecting the computer giant to post earnings of 90 cents a share on $20.76 billion in revenues, leading earnings down by 17 percent from the last quarter and 35 percent from the same quarter one year ago. The moment of truth will arrive on October 16, when the company makes its formal announcement.

Borland announces preliminary third quarter results
Borland Software International today announced its preliminary results for its fiscal third quarter, which ended on September 30. The company figures its revenues for the quarter will be between $54 million and $56 million, compared with $47.6 million for the third quarter of 2000. Borland expects to post earnings in the range of five to seven cents per diluted share. BORL closed down 44 cents to 9.21 following Monday's announcement, but rebounded to close Friday at $10.40, eliminating that loss and then some.

Shipping delays for MandrakeSoft
Customers waiting for their Mandrake-Linux 8.1 CDs to show up in the mail will have to wait for a few a more weeks. The packaged version of the popular Linux distribution should have shipped by the end of September, but MandrakeSoft encountered problems with setting up its new manufacturing facilities in the United States. Citing extremely high software import tariffs, the company decided to move its North American production to the United States, beginning with production of version 8.1 of Mandrake-Linux. According to the company's Web site, the two-CD packaged version will start shipping next week, with the Power Pack version to be mailed at the end of the month. The latest version of Mandrake-Linux is available for download from the company's Web site.

Ballmer blasts Sun's Liberty Alliance
Sun Microsystems made headlines a few weeks back when it announced the Liberty Alliance Project, a gathering of high-tech companies with the aim of creating an open alternative to Microsoft's .Net framework. Microsoft was invited to join the new coalition, but at the time of the announcement said it wasn't sure what decision it would make. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had a few things to say about Liberty this week, telling reporters, "I think the Sun thing has absolutely no probability of mattering to the world." Sounds like the answer is no.

Sun also plans to cut pricing on its iPlanet Web Server Enterprise Edition 6.0 to $940 per computer/processor from $1,495 for any customer changing from a competing platform. The company also plans to debut software that allow pages written for Microsoft's server software format on Sun's platform without modification. The company is hoping the move will attract users dissatisfied with the security and licensing issues of Microsoft enterprise solutions.

EBIZ names new CEO
An abrupt changing of the guard at EBIZ Enterprises Inc. has led to Bruce Parsons taking on the duties of CEO at that company. Parsons joined EBIZ as president in January, when the Linux commerce provider and systems builder acquired his former company, Jones Business Systems. On Friday, former CEO Dave Shaw resigned from the EBIZ CEO post, but remains a company employee and retains a seat on its board of directors.

Shaw's proven formula of pumping up companies and selling them at a tidy profit didn't work this time. The company never saw promised financing and credit commitments become reality, trades over the counter for fractions of cents, and in early September finally sought protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 filing. Perhaps with Parsons at the helm, EBIZ can take a better look at its situation and maybe, eventually, even make it out of the pink sheet gutter.

Milking the wireless spectrum
Some udderly ridiculous non-Open Source news to end the week: Citing a Finnish newspaper, CSFB's technology group told investors that a group of dairy farms have started using text-messaging robots to milk cows. The robots alert farmers via text alert if there's a problem with the milking machines.

"As current CSFB estimates only take into account the human population, the inclusion of the cow, and perhaps even more importantly the reindeer population, significantly increases the addressable market in Scandinavia," the team wrote in its note to investors.

Here's how Open Source and related technology stocks ended the week:

Company Name Symbol 10/12 Close 10/05 Close
Apple AAPL 18.01 16.14
Borland Software Int'l BORL 10.40 9.65
Caldera International CALD 0.30 0.25
EBIZ Enterprises EBIZ.OB 0.018 0.02
Hewlett Packard HWP 18.35 16.45
IBM IBM 100.84 98.02
MandrakeSoft 4477.PA e3.10 e4.25
Red Hat RHAT 3.94 3.55
Sun Microsystems SUNW 10.04 9.87
TiVo TIVO 3.80 3.69
VA Linux Systems LNUX 1.11 1.13
Wind River Systems WIND 14.56 12.25

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