If you can’t beat them, join them. After years of trying to wean businesses off spreadsheets and on to full-blown business intelligence software, Cognos has decided the spreadsheet is a pretty good tool – as long as you use it with a BI back-end.

Cognos 8 BI Analysis for Microsoft Excel 8.2 promises business and financial analysts the best of both worlds: the familiarity of spreadsheets with the power and functionality of BI.

Challenge to hackers
Hackers like a challenge and Dell has thrown them one by boasting it has the world’s most secure notebooks. Two models, the Latitude D630 and D680, now come fitted with encrypted hard drives and the Embassy Trust Suite of security software from Wave Systems. The complete solution includes a remote administration server so if a notebook gets lost, IT managers can check to see if the data were safely encrypted – or not.

Banking transactions
SAP has released an integration package to link its enterprise resource planning software into Swiftnet, the IP-based payments network.

The package lets companies manage banking transactions that originate from SAP ERP systems and then format them for transmission via Swiftnet. The aim is to replace the hotchpotch of leased lines and proprietary protocols that have been traditionally used for corporate-to-bank communications.

Managing ideas
IP.com of the US has launched InnovationQ version 3.0 to help businesses better manage their intellectual property. The software uses workflow techniques and a secure document repository to ensure ideas reach the right people in an organisation and protect potential trade secrets from being inadvertently revealed to outsiders. InnovationQ is available both as software-as-a-service (Saas) and as on-site software.

Website workspace
Office Live Workspace is Microsoft’s reply to the clutch of rival web-based productivity software offerings. Instead of sending PowerPoint decks or draft Word documents to colleagues by e-mail, Office Live Workspace lets them read or comment on the document in a password-protected website. Unlike Google Docs and similar online services, the files have to be prepared offline on a PC running Microsoft Office.

Windows XP reprieve
A short, largely symbolic, reprieve for traditionalists who prefer Windows XP: Microsoft has extended the cut-off date beyond which all new PCs will be sold with its successor operating system, Windows Vista, to June 2008, five months later than originally planned.

Vista has been criticised for being resource-hungry and containing bugs. Most off-the-shelf PCs now come factory-installed with Vista although Dell, for example, offers some models with XP.

A successor to Treo
Is there life after the Treo? Palm hopes so and it is called Centro, its first non-Treo smartphone.

Designed to be smaller and cheaper than the Treo, the Centro runs Palm OS rather than Windows and has a touch screen, full keyboard and 1.3-megapixel camera. It is so far only available in the US and costs just $99 if you take a two-year contract with Sprint, the only operator offering it at present.

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