Features

Writers on the block

National | The market for high-tech cheats, small market for high-tech phones, and high-tech market giants marry

Issue: "Hail to the Fox," Sept. 15, 2001

DEJA VU
The school year may be new, but all too often the essays may be old: Teachers and administrators will have to be on the lookout as more and more students use their computers to copy, paste, and plagiarize. Even though selling term papers is illegal in 17 states, about 600 websites offer prewritten essays for sale. A recent Rutgers University survey reported that more than half of 4,500 high-school students responding said they had downloaded an essay from the Internet, or copied at least a few sentences. One in five college students admitted the same thing. Educators say they have a hard time stemming the tide-and lectures on taking pride in one's work are frequently ignored. "It's the same thing we were doing 20 or 30 years ago-it's just that the Internet wasn't an option," said Dean Vogel, chairman of the Web Site Advisory Committee for the California Teachers Association. But that option makes lying easier. Some sites such as turnitin.com compare students' papers with other essays and Web pages, looking for similarities. Yet they require time and resources, plus the hassle of filing academic charges against violators. Those who sell and even ghostwrite term papers often claim the responsibility for plagiarism falls only on the students. California-based Research Assistance, for example, warns that "while there are many positive and valuable ways in which Research Assistance reports can be used, they should NEVER be turned in as your own work." WHAT COMES FIRST: THE SERVICE OR THE CUSTOMERS?
The next wave of wireless phone service is jumping off the drawing board and into regular use-at least in Japan. NTT DoCoMo launches the first 3G, or third-generation, service in Tokyo and Yokohama on Oct 1. The technology comes closer to high-speed Internet access; users can send pictures and data as well as sound at speeds up to 40 times faster than current phones. With a 3G connection, users will eventually be able to download music, watch videos, surf the Web, and even shop online. Many of the technology's backers hope it will do for wireless phones what online services did for desktop PCs. Converting that dream to reality is a hard business. High costs and technical glitches have slowed 3G's rollout. DoCoMo, which plans to spread the service to Europe and the United States, says it won't make a profit from the new service for four years. America's wireless industry plans a slow evolution to 3G, but one problem is finding ample spectrum space for high-speed data. Industry lobbyists asked Congress to allow airwaves currently used for military communications to be privatized for the new service. Pentagon officials responded that such a move would harm national security. The wired Internet boom relied on existing tools, such as PCs with modems, phone lines, and institutional networks. 3G requires a new infrastructure, which creates a Catch-22. New services can't succeed without customers and customers won't come unless there are services. I TAKE THEE, COMPAQ
Call it a royal wedding. Hewlett-Packard and Compaq are the Chuck and Di of the computer industry, and their marriage may be just as tumultuous. Their union will rival mighty IBM in size and may be a turning point in high-tech business-for better or for worse. Sometime next year, HP plans to absorb Compaq with a $25 billion stock swap. The merged company will keep the Hewlett-Packard name, but shed 15,000 jobs. Both companies have been hammered by the economic slump and some observers see the plan as an attempt to avert disaster. "This is just a couple of frightened passengers on the Titanic crowding into a lifeboat and huddling together for warmth," avid supply-sider and former mutual fund manager Donald L. Luskin said on his Luskin Report website. He said the real winner in this arrangement may be market leader Dell, which will now be competing against a behemoth that is searching for a game plan. Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who will head the new company, was naturally upbeat in making the announcement. "Together we will shape the industry for years to come," she said. Ms. Fiorina herself may soon become one of the business world's most recognized names, like Dell's Michael Dell and Apple's Steve Jobs. HP and Compaq combined have $87 billion in revenue. The merged company at the moment would beat Dell in worldwide PC sales, and Compaq leads the server market. Yet the computer world is changing and many believe such machines will not dominate the tech world of the future as they did in recent years. Financially, both companies look seasick. Compaq lost $279 million in the most recent quarter. HP posted a net profit of $111 million in its last quarter, but that was an 89 percent decline from the previous year.

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