Tech Talk

January 11, 1999

February 12, 1999

February 22, 1999

Tech Week

Despite all the thunder made by Qualcomm Inc. at the annual Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association trade show in New Orleans last week, San Diego's success in the wireless business is not held exclusively by the Sorrento Valley-based giant.

Rather, another little-noticed tidbit emerged from the show highlighting the accomplishments of Denso Wireless, a Vista-based firm that manufacturers digital phones based on Qualcomm's popular code-division multiple access (CDMA) standard. The company won an extension of its joint venture with Sprint PCS on the manufacture of the Sprint PCS Touchpoint digital phone, the carrier's flagship product stocked in retail outlets like RadioShack and The Good Guys.

According to the two companies, the Touchpoint proved to be a popular item during the holiday shopping season, which is typically a hot season for wireless products. In the spirit of bringing together cell phones with personal computers, the Touchpoint so far is the only phone to sport its own built-in mouse control. This allows Sprint to market the device as both a phone and a "personal digital assistant."

Under the joint venture, the phone is manufactured in Denso's North County facilities and marketed by Sprint PCS under its own brand name. Financial terms of the arrangement never have been publicly disclosed. In a statement issued last week, however, Sprint executives praised Denso's ability to keep up with the booming demand of the product.

The companies also released at the trade show new Windows-based software allowing Touchpoint users to transfer data such as scheduling information and phone numbers to and from their PCs via a data cable.

A national lobby group made up of pharmacists said last week that it will begin "approving" drug-selling Web sites that meet its criteria for operating a pharmacy.

The announcement by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) marks the first effort made by the industry to get its arms around the booming Internet pharmacy business. Thanks in large measure to the introduction of the impotence-busting Viagra drug last year, the idea of going to the Web to fill prescriptions has gained immense popularity in recent months. Although no exact number is known, there are thought to be thousands of drug-selling Web sites in operation -- some perfectly legal and others operating in the gray areas of the law.

What the NABP intends to do is verify the authenticity of an online pharmacy and make sure the business meets the group's standards. The association will provide links to approved sites from its own Web site. Sites that are not listed on the NABP list should not be used by patients, according to the association.

The move is part of a broader effort by the medical community and the Food and Drug Administration to get on top of the online drug-selling business. Both medical professionals and regulators are concerned about stories of patients getting so-called "physician consults" via e-mail, then using them to buy prescription drugs, often from the same site. Both the American Medical Association and the Federation of State Medical Boards are working on standards for the industry that would somehow try to limit electronic prescriptions without a previously established patient relationship.

More news from the Y2K beat: Republican Senator and presidential hopeful John McCain (R-Arizona) is trying to push through a bill limiting the exposure of companies facing possible lawsuits stemming from year-2000 problems. The Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act, as it is now called, was heard last week at a hearing for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which McCain chairs.

McCain, citing estimates putting Y2K litigation costs at nearly $1 trillion over the next several years, says such a measure is necessary to protect the economy from a possible recession stemming from the high corporate costs to defend against such lawsuits. His opponents, mainly plaintiffs' attorneys, contend it is unfair to grant immunity to companies that are negligent in preparing for the problem.

Whatever the outcome, Y2K-readiness has not yet reached high levels. According to a recent story by the Wall Street Journal, a survey by the Securities and Exchange Commission found about 1,200 companies failed in their third-quarter filings to disclose any efforts to bring themselves to compliance. A separate survey of 400 filings found that half made no disclosures about Y2K costs or backup plans.

January 11, 1999

February 12, 1999

February 22, 1999