Look Whos Talking: January 29, 2001

A cooling economy is the perfect time to put your competitors on ice.

A cooling economy is the perfect time to put your competitors on ice. Sure, CFOs are watching every penny this year. But savvy IT managers are pushing forward with cost-effective business projects. Just ask the folks at DirecTV. The satellite TV giant is working with Agency. com to overhaul its Web site. The new site, slated to launch late this summer (translation: fall 2001), will allow customers to access account information, order movies and pay bills online. DirecTV hopes to divert many of its customers from phone support—which is expensive to operate—to its new Web site.

> EDS has found a new way to get cozy with its business partners and customers. The company is installing eRoom Technologys software to manage employees, partners, customers and suppliers. Its difficult to describe eRooms technology in a constrained space like this, but think of it as a platform for extended supply-chain management, sales force automation and client-engagement management.

> Covad Communications is down but not out. The struggling DSL provider is partnering with Reliant Energy Communications to push DSL services into Texas businesses. Maybe Covad should spend more time focusing on its existing customer base—especially in Manhattan. Two good sources (OK, theyre relatives of mine) say theyre fed up with Covads unreliable DSL services. One of the sources is exploring alternative broadband options for his office. If you have a suggestion, Ill send it along.

> IBM Global Services veteran Thomas Howie has joined OAO Technology Solutions as senior VP of sales and marketing. Howie joins a company in transition (like just about everybody else this quarter). OAO Technologys HealthCare Solutions business, for instance, is moving from a perpetual license model to an ASP subscription model.

> Janus Fund, the massive mutual fund operated by Janus Capital, is betting the house on Steve Cases new media empire, AOL Time Warner. As of September, the fund owned nearly 200 million AOL Time Warner shares, giving it a 4.6 percent stake in the media giant. (Full disclosure: My wife has owned the Janus Fund for more than a decade.)

As a high-tech journalist, I cant purchase individual shares in PC-related companies. Yes, I missed out on Cisco, Dell, EMC and all of the other tech empires that came along in the 1990s. But at least mutual funds are fair game.