Weekend news roundup: Ulster Bank IT crisis heading into its second week

2 Jul 2012

In our trawl through some of the weekend newspapers’ tech coverage, the technology woes at Ulster Bank and its parent Royal Bank of Scotland continue to filter down to disgruntled customers, how the Wintel alliance is looking for a silver lining in the cloud, and 1Gbps broadband will serve Kansas City of two US states.

Ulster Bank IT crisis heading into its second week

The Sunday Independent reported that the IT crisis at Ulster Bank is heading into its second week, with no let-up for 150,000 customers across Ireland.

“IT problems continued at the bank yesterday for the eleventh day, with large numbers of clients complaining that their salaries are not showing up in their accounts due to the technical meltdown,” the paper reported.

“In one Dublin family alone, a father, mother and daughter paid on separate days last week said their salaries had not shown up in their accounts. In the case of the daughter, who is paid weekly, her salary had not been paid for two weeks. The father said he could access his funds if he went into a branch with a payslip and ID, but felt this was not satisfactory.”

Wintel alliance looking for a silver lining in the cloud

The New York Times reported on the ever-changing nature of IT as we know it and a world where new cloud services offering social media, content such as movies and music and much more for people’s digital lives on devices not made by the Wintel alliance spells tough times for Microsoft and Intel.

Quentin Hardy wrote that June 2012 was a pivotal time for cloud computing. For example, Apple showed its next operating systems for iPhones and iPads called iOS that offered maps and speech recognition, plus music and movies on iTunes, all tied via the Internet to Apple’s “cloud” of servers.

“A week later, Microsoft, known better for software, demonstrated the Surface tablet, its answer to the iPad. The Surface interacts with both the web and Microsoft’s cloud, called Windows Azure. And, last Wednesday, Google introduced its newest cloud-connected phone and tablet, as well as a media player called Nexus Q. The player works with the devices, the Internet and the Google cloud.

“Remarkably fast, a multi-billion-dollar industry is moving away from personal computers made mostly with Microsoft Windows software and Intel semiconductor chips. The combined revenue from these largely so-called Wintel desktops and laptops last year was about $70bn at Dell and Hewlett-Packard. But these companies played virtually no part in the June shows from Apple, Microsoft and Google,” Hardy observed.

Robber barons of technology

Continuing with the theme of change, The Observer’s John Naughton, focusing on the new tech moguls, asked: are today’s captains of industry – the wealthy and powerful figures who control the digital universe – any different from the ruthless corporate figures of the past?

He pointed out that 10 of the people on Forbes magazine’s tally of the 10 richest billionaires made their money from computer and/or network technology. Microsoft’s Bill Gates tops the list with a net worth estimated at US$61bn, followed by Larry Ellison of Oracle with US$36bn, Bloomberg’s Michael Bloomberg with US$22bn, while Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google have a net worth of US$18.7bn each. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of US$17.5bn, Michael Dell is worth US$15.9bn, and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft is worth US$15.7bn. When he died, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was worth US$9bn.

“What’s striking about this is not just the staggering wealth that these people have managed to squeeze out of what are, after all, just binary digits (ones and zeros), but how recent are the origins of their good fortunes. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, went from zero to US$17.5bn in less than eight years. Microsoft – the company that has propelled Gates, Ballmer and (Paul) Allen into the Forbes pantheon – dates only from 1975. Oracle was founded in 1977. Bloomberg turned a US$10m redundancy cheque from Salomon Brothers into his personal money pump in 1982. Dell started making computers in his university dorm in 1984. Bezos launched Amazon with his own savings in 1995. Brin and Page turned their PhD research into a company called Google in 1998. And Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004,” Naughton noted.

Google selects two states’ Kansas City to be fastest cities US

Imagine an entire city served with at least 1Gbps worth of broadband. Well, it turns out that Kansas City residents have won the hi-tech lottery with the news that Google plans to build its experimental high-speed fibre network in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, according to The San Jose Mercury News.

“In the most optimistic scenarios, Google Fiber – which will be one of the world’s fastest broadband networks with speeds of 1 gigabit, more than 100 times as fast as the average broadband connection – has the potential to make the two Kansas cities the most entrepreneurial places in the world, the centre of a healthcare revolution, and a leader in education reform.

“But along with frustration over delays in the launch, the project has also bred anxiety that it will widen the digital divide or overwhelm the cities with a flood of new high-tech immigrants who drive up the cost of living,” the paper reported.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years