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"Our responsibility, we believe, is to give folks the widest possible array of payment options." -- Steve Holden, national electronic program director at the IRS, which will begin accepting credit-card payments next yearEDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

WILL HP's ZORRO LEAVE ITS MARK?

IN SEPTEMBER, TECHNOPHILES WILL SEE the results of one of Hewlett-Packard's boldest efforts yet when it introduces an easy-to-use handheld scanner, code-named Zorro, that scans documents with the wave of an arm.

This little technical marvel, BUSINESS WEEK has learned, will cost under $1,000. It will boast the ability to store up to 50 images, which can be downloaded, says an industry consultant. While current scanners require users to adhere to strict rules to get a clear image, a special HP chip and slick software algorithms let Zorro take 75,000 pictures per second. That way, the device can offset the effects of random arm movements.

The unit will also likely feature Hewlett-Packard's JetSend software, so documents can be sent to compatible printers and other gizmos, rather than only to a PC. That way, for instance, a teacher could scan homework assignments and print them out without logging on to a computer.

In the future, HP may follow Zorro with a wireless version, so users could zip articles to friends right from their living rooms, and even a small printer, which could print as it moved across the page, says HP Labs chief Joel Birnbaum.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

SIDELINING SANDY ROBERTSON FOR A WHILE?

IT HAS BEEN ALMOST THREE DECADES since Sandy Robertson launched his high-tech investment bank Robertson, Stephens & Co. Now that its corporate parent, BankAmerica, is set to sell the unit to BankBoston, the 67-year-old industry veteran wants to start another firm.

There's just one hitch. And it could turn out to be a costly one for BankAmerica. A condition of the $800 million sale, expected to close on Sept. 1, is that Robertson won't work in investment banking for at least a year. A banking source says that if Robertson violates the noncompete agreement, BankAmerica would have to pay a penalty to BankBoston, possibly in excess of $75 million.

Both Robertson and BankAmerica decline comment. But the dispute, say sources, has been particularly uncomfortable for Bank-America Chief Executive David Coulter, a longtime friend of Robertson. So the two men, with their lawyers, have been working hard to reach a solution. And one source says they are finally close to a deal that would pay Robertson several million dollars--but would also keep him out of the banking business for at least a year.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

WELCOME TO THE VIRTUAL IVY LEAGUE

THE NATION'S TOP BUSINESS SCHOOLS have long scoffed at the idea that they could teach capitalism's secrets without a live, pipe-smoking professor in front of the class. No longer. Instead of denigrating companies that offer Internet-based courses, elite institutions such as Harvard business school are investing in them.

The object of Harvard's desire is two-year-old Pensare Inc., a Los Altos (Calif.) startup that will develop online business courses with the school's publishing arm. Pensare is also working with the Wharton School on executive education courses. Pensare CEO Doug Donzelli says he would eventually like to offer an online MBA to corporate employees. Harvard Business School Publishing is so impressed that, for the first time, it has chosen to receive stock options as partial payment. It hopes to cash in if Pensare, a business education software firm, goes public.

Pensare's technology is also part of Wharton's first distance-learning course, "Building a Business Case," which starts Sept. 10. Why pick a tiny startup over better-funded rivals such as Michael Milken's Knowledge Universe? Wharton believes Pensare's user-friendly approach makes online learning exciting. It's not just tweedy in-the-flesh profs who can be dull.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top


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