THUMBS UP Entrepreneurs have wasted no time in seizing the business opportunity created by the Florida chad debacle. On Capitol Hill last week, Identix and EDS demonstrated a voting system that works only after you've verified your identity with a fingerprint scan. Since most voters haven't been fingerprinted, the first users are likely to be the roughly 2.5 million military personnel whose prints are on file.
PAY FOR NAPSTER? When Bertelsmann boss Thomas Middelhoff announced that the free music service would start charging a subscription fee by summer, a lot of people were surprised--including Napster CEO Hank Barry. "We haven't decided on a time schedule at all," Barry told Reuters. So what's holding it up? Before Napster can charge for downloads, it has to cut licensing-fee deals with most of the record companies (not just sugar daddy Bertelsmann), many of which are still suing Napster for "pirating" their music. As long as the labels prefer punitive damages to a piece of the MP3 pie, the free-music party will rage on.
PRETTY SHARP The Sharper Image, that glitzy mail-order purveyor of talking chessboards and ionic hair dryers, has a new item that may actually be of some use, especially in counties that prohibit dialing while driving. The cleverly named Car Cell Phone System ($130) is a plug-and-play speakerphone for Nokia and Motorola models that doubles as a handset recharger. Not sharp enough? It comes with a built-in digital recorder that, when activated, grabs the previous 20 seconds of your conversation or message.
--By Wilson Rothman