Business and Tech Links and Notes #7

January 13, 2010

1-13-10

1. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a4tjrm_Hz8xI&pos=1

“Google’s China Exit Would Put Baidu in Charge of Biggest Market”

Google really has little to lose by leaving China, and Baidu has plenty to gain. Although China is a large country, Google never really made that much money from the Chinese. I think a (if not the) major reason why Google is leaving China is because the cyber attacks prove how little incentive Google has to stay in China. Why market to an audience that gives little in the way of income and plenty in the way of headaches? Google has tried over the years to appease the Chinese government, but China’s censorship policies really put a damper on Google’s business model. I think Google’s desire to leave has little to do with principles and everything to do with money.

2. http://www.walletpop.com/blog/2010/01/13/jackpot-how-much-contestants-really-take-home-in-game-show-winn/

“Jackpot? How much contestants really take home in game show winnings”

The only thing that really annoyed me about this article was the mention about annuities and how they are worth less if contestants take lump sums instead. The author never mentioned anything about the net present value of money or inflation. In reality, the lump sum may very well be worth more than the annuity, depending on the strength of the currency of the annuity. Moreover, lump sums can be invested earlier than annuities, creating more opportunities to make even more money.

3. http://www.infoworld.com/d/mobilize/lg-bets-android-despite-windows-mobile-deal-829

“LG bets on Android despite Windows Mobile deal”

LG excels in selling basic, inexpensive phones to people who have little need for advanced mobile features. Although mobile computing is gaining popularity, there are still many people who simply desire to have a mobile phone without too many bells and whistles. Although LG should build up its smartphone division, I think LG should milk the low-end market for all that it can. I think LG would be best served to hold up on getting too aggressive with smartphones and wait for a clear winner in the mobile software competition before committing too many resources.

4. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10434237-36.html?tag=newsLeadStoriesArea.1

“In urgent times, avoiding online charity scams”

I think the big thing to take out of this article is to give to someone reputable and not let emotions get in the way of good common sense. In the social networking age, anyone and everyone is suddenly a charity, and it is sometimes very difficult to tell who is for real and who is not. Like the article says, giving a basic donation to the Red Cross, UNICEF, and so forth is the best way to make sure the money is actually going to help disaster victims.

5. http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/antivirus/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222300863

“Facebook Partners With McAfee For Security”

This is a wonderful idea. Although I have a personal preference toward other antivirus companies, I think in an age where every John and Jane has a Facebook, malware protection needs to be a top priority. In particular, a number of people on social networking sites have limited knowledge or interest in computers beyond the use of those sites. For those people, Facebook’s blatant show on Internet security may prompt them to be more careful about viruses and such. Malware is not only a danger to one person’s computer, but it can endanger the computers of anyone that person associates with.

6. http://www.technewsworld.com/story/Wii-Completes-Netflixs-Video-Game-Trifecta-69097.html

“Wii Completes Netflix’s Video Game Trifecta”

This is another example of integrated entertainment. The video game console becomes a means of getting movies on demand. Personally, I am just waiting for all of entertainment to become part of the cloud, and then a person’s media console (TV + computing device) will allow users to watch all live and recorded audio and video media, as well as play video games. Like all consolidation concepts though, the biggest flaw is when something goes wrong with the unit. If the unit can do more things, if that unit breaks, a person is left without being able to do more things that were left for that unit to do. Regardless, this comment had only secondary specific relevance to the article, but it is the first thing that comes to mind whenever I read about these kinds of things.

7. http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=29392&tag=content;col1

“IT spending in U.S. to jump 6.6 percent in 2010; Will the optimism stick?”

I think IT spending will go up this year, due to the fact that the U.S. has to innovate to keep ahead of the world market in tech. We have outsourced so many of our less glamorous IT jobs that the only way we can remain competitive is to continue building new technologies. In particular, not only cloud computing and Windows 7, like the article mentions, but mobile technology as well, will be at the forefront of software developers’ minds in the coming year. In other words, I believe the optimism will stick, kind of like a forced march.


Business and Tech Links and Notes #5

January 9, 2010

1-9-10

1. http://www.entrepreneur.com/money/financing/article204410.html

“Launch Your Startup With Microloans”

This is some very sound advice that not everyone knows about. Most people think a bank is the first place to go for financing for any and all things, and that is simply not the best way. Microlenders are considerably more lenient on their approval and payback policies than banks, especially in this economic crisis. Microlenders are often nonprofits who get a large portion of money from philanthropists and the government. One day, I would like to start up my own business, and this is probably the very first place I will go for financing, assuming I am not independently wealthy by then.

2. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_03/b4163030932030.htm

“IMAX, the Box-Office Supercharger”

Although IMAX as a sustainable business model is still yet to be totally proven, there is definitely promise in the concept. I think IMAX is doing the right thing right now, just putting the biggest box office hits on IMAX. The company would go into the hole very quickly if it tried to put the majority of movies in IMAX format. What I think would be an interesting idea, at least on paper, would be to have partnerships with theme parks to have IMAX theaters in them and have tickets to whatever the newest movie is part of admission or as a heavily discounted add-on. Obviously, I have not done the math to see if that is actually a sound idea or not, but I think it is something worth considering.

3. http://www.foxsmallbusinesscenter.com/strategy/2010/01/08/whats-wrong-jewelry-business/

“U.S. Jewelry Business Under a Microscope”

To be quite blunt, any business that refuses to embrace the Internet these days is doomed to fail. That does not mean that jewelry stores need to flock to Twitter and start Tweeting about their merchandise. What that does mean is that the old days of strict brick and mortar selling are over, and owners need to use the Internet in a way that can meaningfully capture the new market. Like the article said, older customers may still have strong preferences to just going to the jewelry store in the mall or shopping center and shopping around, but younger, more tech savvy customers already know exactly what they want. Jewelers will have to understand that overhead needs to go down quite a lot, and their businesses will have to be creative. If one person’s jewelry store looks very similar another one a few hundred feet away, at least one, if not both, of those stores will fail.

4. http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/08/news/economy/jobs_december/index.htm?postversion=2010010811

“Jobs report: A gain in November but 85,000 lost in December”

First, I guess we are going to pretend this little thing called “the holiday season” never happened? But even if we ignore such a blatant oversight, it is undeniable that the huge stimulus package has done little to help the average American. That money needs to go into the hands of the privately owned businesses, especially small business. Large corporations will likely create layoffs as a first line of defense if (or when) things go sour again, while small businesses will try to retain their employees, because they are often needed to keep the businesses from totally collapsing.

5. http://www.cnbc.com/id/34775185

“Venezuela devalues currency for the 1st time since ’05”

This is a strange concept to me. I had never heard of a country having done a “two-tiered” exchange rate until just now, but Venezuela has apparently done it before, as well as Jordan. I do not know if other countries do this or not. It seems like a tricky little concept that can help a peripheral nation get back on its feet if foreign trade is unfavorable, but it does not sound like a sustainable long-term policy. It sounds like a policy that could easily annoy other nations, and make them not want to do business with said country. Then again, since this is so bizarre to me, there may be intricacies of this that may make this a better option that I just do not understand.

6. http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/app-security/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222002602

“Review: Google Wave An Experimental Ride”

I dislike Google Wave, and I am not sorry. I have tried it, and it appears to be what happens when developers go too far with consolidating technologies. Then again, it may be that the concept is not bad, but simply the interface is. I had trouble figuring out who could read my conversations, who could see me online, and many other things I took for granted in the various separate technologies I had used in the past, such as instant messengers, message boards, email, and so forth. I prefer these things to be separate, to be honest. I understand what is going on when I am using one of these functions, while everything becomes confusing when they are all mashed together. Then again, the idea may be sound, and the problem is just that the preview release interface is horrible (which I can say was very true for the Google Chrome beta, too). Perhaps things will be a lot more user-friendly when it comes out of preview.

7. http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/01/batteries-costs-report/

“Study: Batteries — and EVs — Won’t Get Cheaper Anytime Soon”

One thing the article didn’t mention, and only one commenter indirectly alluded to, was the fact that cars sometimes still burn petroleum, even if they do not do it with an engine inside the vehicle. Many power plants still use fossil fuels, including petroleum, to create electricity. So, even if the car does not burn fossil fuels in the engine, something is probably getting burned somewhere to create the energy. I would be more sold on electric cars if we created more power from nuclear, solar, and hydroelectric sources. Until then, electric cars are just another marketing scheme.


Business and Tech Links and Notes #2

January 4, 2010

1-4-10

1. http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jan2010/gb2010014_211008.htm

“Kraft May Lift Offer on Cadbury Stock Rise”

It does not seem surprising to me that a food (candy) company has become a hot target for takeover at this time. Even in the worst of times, people will still eat candy. It also does not seem surprising that Cadbury’s stock is pushing up as high as it can, considering the strength of the company, and considering how many other companies seem to have interest in buying Cadbury. Regardless of who ends up buying the company, I do think the Cadbury brand will still remain strong, and it will not get swallowed up by its parent company.

2. http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/04/news/economy/ISM_manufacturing/index.htm

“Manufacturing activity continued to grow in December”

According to the article, there has been steady growth for several months in manufacturing. Computer and electronic manufacturing is up, which is no shock. But I cannot see the greater correlation between manufacturing growth and general economic upturn. There was no mention in the way of sales or much of anything else further on the business chain. Also, not a peep was mentioned about job growth or manufacturing infrastructure increases. Although an increase in orders is not a bad thing, I think it would be unwise to believe it alone has any meaningful effect on the greater economy.

3. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0118/investing-eveillard-first-eagle-mutual-funds-calamity-insurance.html

“Using Gold as Calamity Insurance”

Although some may laugh at this notion, I think Ron Paul has a good idea when he says that we need to be able to have alternate forms of currency, because that forces the people who control the various forms of currency to be more vigilant in maintaining the value of said currencies. What does this have to do with the article? I agree that gold is not the end all, be all of financial value, but gold definitely has its place in any society that heavily relies on fiat currency and securities-based investments. In the article, the company uses gold to give stabilize mutual fund portfolios. What has helped gold throughout the years is that it is a tangible object that cannot go away. It changes in value mostly from mining circumstances and consumer and investor demand. This has been a viable, stable currency for many centuries. Why can it not continue to be a usable currency? It does not have to be the currency, but it can be one of many.

4. http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-10423524-265.html?tag=newsLeadStoriesArea.1

“Five New Year’s Resolutions for Google”

This article really hits the nail on the head. In particular, the comments about Google Books made a lot of sense. It seems surprising that Google has not tried to cash in on the e-reader craze yet, considering how dedicated they are about creating a comprehensive e-library. Then again, that may be part of what Google has in mind with their current mobile strategy. Google is one of those companies that tries to make everything tie into everything else. Although this strategy generally works, I do think people can be sometimes overloaded by having too much in one spot, such as in the example of Google Wave. I find it interesting that so much hype was made about the Wave beta testing just a month or two ago, and we barely hear anything about the project now.

5. http://www.informationweek.com/news/healthcare/EMR/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222100334

“U.S. Pushes For EMR Standards”

This makes sense, and I totally support this. If a person gets sick or injured, particularly somewhere not near his or her home, having standardized medical files could help people significantly by correcting the problems made by inconsistent forms, such as wasting time and making possibly incorrect assumptions in filling in gaps. I do not think paper files should be done away with, but they need to become backup files, as opposed to the main sources of information on patients. Consistency in electronic medical files is something I believe should be on the top of the list of tasks for improving health care in the United States.

6. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=am2z88Oy1kJs

“Housing Animal Spirits to Be Banished by Prime Foreclosures”

This article was a bit depressing to read. It is one thing when people who played the market and tried to live drastically beyond their means get hit, but it is quite another when people who did things in a reasonable, cautious way are in the hot seat. The current recession is quite the cycle, where people become less inclined to spend when they are getting laid off or otherwise having their employment decreased, but employment rates end up having a hard time increasing, because people are less inclined to spend. Such a skittish economy causes even the most responsible of people buying on credit to have problems, because the jobs they took for granted as being secure suddenly become not so secure. Something has to give, somewhere.

7. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a1cY88utRbZU&pos=7

“Commodities Back as Gurus Eschew Financial Assets (Update1)”

Although the U.S. stock market and the dollar appear to be in recovery for now, I think there will be a turn toward inflation once the stimulus money is weaned from companies. I could easily see the U.S. starting to print money if it cannot find another way to pay for the huge hole it has gotten itself into. I think it will be especially important to continue holding onto commodities and precious metals investments throughout 2010, because I do not think the dollar has seen its worst days yet, even if the Fed raises interest rates.