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BREAKING: Netscape Sues Microsoft
1:42pm NZDT, 23 Jan 2002
AOL Time Warner Inc's internet browser unit Netscape filed a lawsuit today seeking damages from rival Microsoft, alleging anti-competitive behaviour
Note: This column represents the opinions of the writer and as such, is not represented as fact
Amazon Makes A Profit 23 January 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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I bet the originators of NZ's Flying Pig site will be running around shouting "I told you so" today after Amazon.com announced its first ever profit.

Flying Pig was modeled very closely on Amazon.com but failed to last long enough to realise anything other than significant losses.

After many long years however, Amazon has finally joined the ranks of the very few online ecommerce ventures to actually change the colour of the ink on its balance sheet.

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Apart from eBay and a few other minor players, most online etailers are still running at a loss so Amazon's transition into profit is no mean feat -- especially in the wake of the "dot-com crash."

So what's the secret of Amazon's success in such a tough marketplace?

Well it seems that they're just doing what so many other profitable real-world retailers do -- selling a wide range of products at competitive prices.

Sounds just like The Warehouse doesn't it?

Of course the etailing giant's profits are a fairly mediocre US$35 million on a massive turnover of US$1.12 billion -- not much of a margin there. You must also remember that it still has to make up the $3 billion of losses it's suffered since going public five years ago.

The effect of the last-minute Christmas shopping boom late last year was also probably a huge factor in the company's slip from red to black ink.

The profit is a milestone -- but we've still got a long way to go before we can declare the Amazon model to be an unqualified success. It's quite possible that it will slip back into loss during the first two quarters of this year -- now that the Christmas sales boom has passed.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • Voyager v Xtra... - Ian
  • Xtra's excuse sequence... - Peter
  • internet service providers... - Alan
  • A comment from the inside... - Michael
  • Have Your Say

    Hello, Help Desk?
    In the past few days I've found it impossible to get through to two of the news websites I use quite frequently (news.cnet.com and zdnet.com/zdnn)

    I've received emails from other readers who have advised that they're having no such problems -- so I rebooted all my boxes here -- and it's still broken.

    After some investigating I discovered that the problem is almost certainly with my XTRA dial-up connection.

    Whenever I try to access the sites in question, I get the standard XTRA proxy-server error screen which simply advises me that "There was a communication problem" and invites me to "Try connecting to this server later."

    After several days I figured that I might not live long enough to find out exactly when "later" might be -- so I did some investigation.

    For reasons known only to CNet/ZDNet, they use a series of redirects through servers (redir.com.com aka abv-sfo1-x-redirect.cnet.com) that are supposed to eventually deliver you to whatever server actually holds the content.

    As far as I can tell, one of XTRA's proxy servers appears to be having a hard time talking to that redir.com.com server -- at least when I'm on the other end of the line.

    I figured it was time to give XTRA's helpdesk a call -- so I went to the help section of the XTRA website to try and find a phone number. After several minutes of hunting for a phone number that doesn't appear to be advertised there, I emailed them with all the details.

    Fortunately the confirmation email provided me with the helpdesk phone number -- but why wasn't it on the page???

    Calling the help desk, I was emphatically told that the problem was because I live in the country and probably have noise on my line.

    No amount of pleading that I was getting ping times of just a couple of hundred milliseconds with no packet losses would convince the helpdesk guy that this wasn't a "rural problem." Nor would my observation that the error message was coming from the proxy server, or that no other sites were producing this message.

    Are XTRA using this "rural problem" as a universal scapegoat for problems that are simply too hard to resolve?

    At the moment, the problem remains unresolved -- and it's a head-scratcher. I've tried every browser I've got (IE, Netscape, Opera) and with/without my firewall and local proxy server.

    It is a worry that XTRA seem so keen to take the "easy-out" when it comes to hard problems though isn't it? No wonder they're less than keen to upgrade the rural network -- it would mean one less excuse with which to fob off customers having problems.

    I've received email from another XTRA user who has encountered the same problem.. but they're located in downtown Wellington (will XTRA now redefine Cuba St as "rural" I wonder?).

    As I type this, I'm sitting on the tail of a 10 minute queue to the XTRA help desk again ;-(

    Still no luck.

    I don't know if it is related (it is a caching proxy-server issue) but I notice now that Aardvark's pages are being more aggressively cached by XTRA. You have to hit reload to see if there's any changes -- even tough the no-cache meta-tag is being used in the header of this page. Bloody penny-pinchers!

    The problem is fixed -- and guess what -- it wasn't a noisy line, a faulty modem or a "rural problem", unless they sneaked in when I wasn't looking and upgraded everything.

    It appears that it might just have been related to CNet/ZDNet blocking access from a block of IP addresses being used by XTRA.

    Just why were those addresses blocked?

    Find out more in tomorrow's edition!

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    Security Alerts
    Admins asked to check buggy line printer daemons (AAP - 08/11/2001)

    New vulnerability exposes Excel and PowerPoint macros ZDNet - 29/10/2001)

    Microsoft tightens software security (CNet - 16/08/2001t)

    Code Red Worm A 'Runaway Success' (7amNews - 20/07/2001)

    Virus Alerts
    Gigger worm can format Windows PCs (The Reg - 11/01/2002)

    Happy New Year' worm hits Windows (ZDNet - 19/12/2001)

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