Saturday, November 22, 2008
But even Google has decided to scale back its holiday celebrations this year due to a global economic downturn and an ever-expanding workforce that had grown to 20,000 in October, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Silicon Valley has few reasons to celebrate this year as companies, including Hewlett Packard Co, Yahoo Inc, Sun Microsystems Inc and Applied Materials Inc, have cut over 140,000 jobs in the last few months because of the bleak economy, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas consulting group.
Google has fared better than most tech companies, but departments at the Internet company will have smaller events this year to encourage camaraderie between employees and celebrate more economically, said the source. Team holiday activities will include spending an afternoon volunteering followed by evening social activities such as dinner parties and museum outings in San Francisco.
This is a striking difference from previous years, when Google holiday parties included ice sculptures of the company's logo, virtual reality video game stations, karaoke booths, sushi buffets and burlesque dancers.
Last year a party crowd of 10,000 spread throughout the Shoreline Amphitheater, near Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, said workers -- called Googlers. A handful used the Web to find dates.
But this year only one looked for a companion in a recent search on Craigslist. Google declined to comment on this year's change.
Abraham Biggs, 19, from Pembroke Pines, near Miami, killed himself hours after announcing his plan on his blog.
His father said it was "unimaginable" that neither the website's operators nor any viewers alerted the police.
Biggs took an overdose of anti-depressive drugs, but remained comatose online for hours before he died.
His father, Abraham Biggs Sr, said he had no idea his son was contemplating suicide.
''We were very good friends,'' Mr Biggs said of his son, adding: "It's wrong that it was allowed to happen.''
Biggs Jr, who was studying to be a paramedic at the college where his father is a maths professor, suffered from mental illness which his mother said had finally claimed his life.
''My son, Abraham Biggs Jr, was well-loved and cared for. However, the mental illness of bipolarity and depression got the better part of him,'' she wrote on MySpace.
The sense of disbelief at the teenager's death was heightened by the realisation that his end was drawn out and, most likely, preventable.
He began the process by posting messages telling people he was going to kill himself, and then started streaming live pictures from his home.
Reports say that some of viewers who logged in to watch began to encourage the teenager to kill himself, while others tried to dissuade him.
After several hours, when he had not moved some viewers finally notified the site's moderator, who then called the police.
The boy's sister, Rosalind Biggs, denounced the website, Justin.tv, which allows people to broadcast themselves online: "They got hits, they got viewers, nothing happened for hours."
It is unclear how many people watched Wednesday's suicide unfold, although reports suggest that some viewers thought it was a hoax.
The last transmission from the webcam was of a police officer bursting into Abraham Biggs's room, where he discovers his body and then places his hand over the camera.
Michael Seifert, chief executive of Justin.tv, said the company and its staff would "take a moment to recognise and reflect upon the tragedy that occurred within our community" and offered condolences to the Biggs family.
The footage has since been taken down and his father is now calling for more regulation of chatrooms.
Replacing Pandit – an enthusiastic defender of the company's existing mix of businesses – is one of the options being considered by Citi executives, along side selling all or part of the company, a public endorsement from the government or a new financial lifeline to stabilise the banking behemoth, after its shares took a sharp plunge this week.
In a series of tense meetings and telephone calls, the executives weighed several options, including whether to replace Citigroup's chief executive Vikram S Pandit or to sell all or part of the company, the New York Times reported.
The paper reported that the company's executives on Friday entered into talks with federal officials about how to stabilise the struggling financial giant.
The report came amidst some analysts saying that infusion of $50 to $100 billion might be needed to bail out the bank.
The course of action, however, remained uncertain on Friday night, the people involved in talks were quoted as saying, and other options may yet emerge. But after a year of gaping losses and an accelerating decline in share price, Citigroup, which has $2 trillion in assets and operations in scores of countries, is running out of time, analysts were quoted by The New York Times as saying.
The paper said, Citigroup's management and some board members held several calls with Henry M Paulson Jr, the Treasury secretary, and with the president of the Federal Reserve of Bank of New York, Timothy E Geithner, who later emerged as President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be Treasury secretary.
Citigroup’s $2 trillion of assets dwarfs companies such as American International Group Inc. that got support from the U.S. government this year. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may favor a rescue to avoid the chaotic aftermath of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy in September.
“Citi is in the category of ‘too big to fail,’” said Michael Holland, chairman and founder of Holland & Co. in New York, which oversees $4 billion. “There is a commitment from this administration and the next to do what it takes to save Citi.”
One option is for the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury to create a special vehicle to purchase bad assets from Citi. The Fed has already erected several such funds, such as the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, to provide liquidity to the financial system. Typically, the Treasury would provide some first-loss equity or insurance fee, such as $50 billion provided to the CPFF, to protect the central bank and give the fiscal authority a stake.
The arrangement allows the Fed to leverage the money provided by the Treasury with loans, enabling the purchase of assets worth a multiple of the money. Funding the purchases with loans makes them less onerous to the U.S. budget.
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American workers will rebuild the nation's roads and bridges, modernize its schools and create more sources of alternative energy, creating 2.5 million jobs by 2011, Obama said in the weekly Democratic address, posted on his Web site.
"These aren't just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis," he said. "These are the long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long."
Details of the plan are still being worked out by his economic team, Obama said, but he hopes to implement the plan shortly after taking office January 20.
He referred to figures out this week showing that new home purchases in October were the lowest in 50 years, and that 540,000 new unemployment claims had been filed -- the highest in 18 years.
"We must do more to put people back to work and get our economy moving again," he said. More than a million jobs have been lost this year, he said, and "if we don't act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year."
The plan will be aimed at jump-starting job creation, Obama said, and laying the foundation for a stronger economy.
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"The situation is very grim," Hu told world business leaders gathered in the Peruvian capital ahead of an Asia-Pacific economic summit.
"The sound and steady growth of the (Asia-Pacific) economy is threatened by the grim world economic situation."
Hu stressed that China's main contribution to world efforts to address the global financial crisis was to maintain steady economic growth at home.
"The steady and relatively fast economic development in China is in itself a major contribution to upholding international financial stability and promoting world economic development," he said.
China's growth, which soared by more than 11 per cent last year, slowed to 9.0 per cent in the third quarter this year, dragged down by economic slowdowns in key export markets such as the United States, Europe and Japan.
China has put together a four trillion yuan (586 billion dollar) stimulus package to shore up the economy, which for years had shown no signs of letting up as the country turned into the world's manufacturing hub.
China has repeatedly said it must focus resources on maintaining domestic growth amid rising expectations overseas that its 1.9 trillion dollars in foreign exchange reserves could be put to use fighting the world financial
However, Hu vowed China would step up its activity on the international financial scene. China "will play a more active role in international economic cooperation," he said, without offering details.
The closure of a truck factory in Oshawa, Ontario, is also being moved up by two months to May 14, Tony Sapienza, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM, said yesterday. The plants that will have the extra shutdown week in January are in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas and Missouri.
GM, which has said it may run short of operating cash by the end of this year, acted a day after Democratic leaders in Congress put off deciding on loans to automakers until next month. Congressional leaders want GM, Ford and Chrysler LLC to make a case for the help.
``At this point, GM is not thinking about 2015, they are thinking about 2009,'' said Mike Robinet, an analyst at CSM Worldwide Inc. in Northville, Michigan. ``Ninety percent of their decisions are focused on what they need do to bolster revenue and save cash.''
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Duke has led Wal-Mart's foreign operations since September 2005 and oversees operations in more than a dozen countries and global procurement, crucial experience as the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer that began as a five-and-dime looks overseas to fuel its growth. Duke is also expected to continue Scott's initiative to transform Wal-Mart into a more sustainable business, and he helped lead a meeting last month with 1,000 vendors in China to announce new sourcing standards.
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Friday, November 21, 2008
But after weeks of virtual silence by state media about the effects the crisis has had on Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev has suddenly acknowledged the extent of the damage.
"In all likelihood, the crisis is going to spread. Here we have to face reality," he said.
Top bankers and businessmen say Medvedev's words amounted to an official acknowledgement of what they have sensed in recent weeks -- a sudden, dramatic slowdown of the economy as credit dried up, sales slumped and factories laid off staff.
"We had thought that Russia would be far less badly hurt by the crisis than other major economies," said one leading Russian banker, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Now it is clear that Russia will be much worse affected by the crisis than other major economies and will be affected for much longer."
The government is still officially predicting growth of 6.7 percent next year but the World Bank this week halved its growth forecast for Russia to 3 percent and many businessmen and bankers say privately growth will be at best zero.
Underlining the fresh sense of urgency felt in the government, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced a $20-billion package of tax cuts and extra spending to help pensioners, companies and the unemployed. This was on top of $200 billion of financial aid already pledged by the Kremlin.
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The second-largest U.S. bank by assets is looking at options now, including a sale of parts of the company or a merger with another firm, after its stock fell 50 percent this week, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
Discussions so far have been internal, and some options --such as entering into a merger where other executives end up running the company -- are unpalatable to managers at Citigroup, the person said. The bank's board of directors is set to meet on Friday, and Morgan Stanley is not considering a possible bid, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Citigroup did not comment on the report, repeating that it has a "very strong capital and liquidity position" and is focused on a strategy that will generate benefits "over time." Morgan Stanley did not immediately return a call for comment.
Earlier Thursday, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said he plans to increase his stake in Citigroup to 5 percent from less than 4 percent, calling its shares "dramatically undervalued."
Alwaleed expressed "full and complete support" for management, including Pandit, who said this week the bank will slash 52,000 jobs and 20 percent of expenses.
Investors were unimpressed, and drove the bank's shares below $5, a level not seen since 1994. The market value of Citigroup has fallen $48.7 billion this month alone.
Citigroup is not seeking any government financial aid, and is not seeing any unusual business activity, a person close to the bank said.
But government aid may have to be part of any deal for Citigroup, investors said. Raising capital, whether through a share sale or selling businesses, would be difficult in the current environment.
Citigroup "will get bailed out, and that's another unfortunate strain on the U.S. government," said Saj Karim, an investment adviser at Cannacord Capital in Waterloo, Ontario.
The government may look to augment the $25 billion it injected last month from a $700 billion industry rescue package. The bank has raised another $50 billion since the middle of 2007.
Analysts said the bank could face more than $20 billion in losses in 2009 on commercial real estate, credit cards and emerging markets, as the world economy sinks into recession.
"How much capital is Citi going to need?" said Keith Davis, a bank analyst at Farr, Miller & Washington in Washington, D.C. "I don't think anyone knows, and so the knee-jerk reaction is to sell first and ask questions later."
The bank has asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to reinstate a ban on the short-selling of financial stocks, in an attempt to arrest their downward spiral, a person familiar with the matter said. A prior ban expired Oct 8.
Other banks' shares also tumbled on Thursday, with JPMorgan Chase & Co falling 17.9 percent and Bank of America Corp closing down 13.9 percent. Along with Citigroup, the banks are components of the Dow Jones industrial average, which shed 5.6 percent.
JPMorgan is eliminating about 3,000 investment banking jobs, or 10 percent of that unit, to cope with the deteriorating economy, people familiar with the matter said. Bank of New York Mellon Corp announced 1,800 job cuts.
And KeyCorp, a Midwest regional bank, reduced its common stock dividend for the second time in six months.
Citigroup's market value, which once topped $270 billion, fell to $25.7 billion on Thursday. The bank was overtaken in market value this week by U.S. Bancorp and Bank of New York Mellon, despite being more than four times larger by assets than those companies combined.
Five-year credit default swaps for Citigroup rose to 395 basis points, meaning it would cost $395,000 annually to protect $10 million of debt, according to Phoenix Partners Group. That's up from $357,000 of annual payments on Wednesday, according to Markit.
But those levels are not as high as they were for other banks just prior to failure. Combined with the low share price, markets seem to be implying that either Citigroup will raise capital without government help, or it will receive government help that does not hurt bondholders and derivatives trading partners.
Earlier this year, the government has rescued giant insurer American International Group Inc and mortgage giants Fannie Mae Freddie Mac.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson declined to comment on Citigroup.
Despite its troubles, Citigroup is one of three final bidders, along with JPMorgan and Capital One Financial Corp for Chevy Chase Bank, a Bethesda, Maryland, lender with $11.4 billion in deposits, people familiar with the matter said.
Pandit suffered a setback last month when Wells Fargo & Co agreed to buy Wachovia Corp, trumping Citigroup's bid to buy much of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank and add $418.8 billion of deposits.
Alwaleed said the bank is "taking all the necessary steps to position the company to withstand the challenges facing the banking industry and the global economy."
The Saudi billionaire, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, said he is "fully confident that Citigroup's universal banking model and global franchise will make it a long-term winner in the financial services industry."
Alwaleed also came to the bank's aid in 1991, when he invested $590 million in Citigroup predecessor Citicorp, which at the time needed cash as it struggled with Latin American loan losses and a collapse in U.S. real estate prices.
Citigroup has lost $20.3 billion in the last year and taken tens of billions of dollars in writedowns on mortgage and other toxic debt. Analysts expect it to lose money in the fourth quarter, and some don't see any profit in 2009.
Philips has stepped up its focus on emerging markets by creating an emerging markets structure which has become operational since spring this year. Focusing on emerging markets allows the company to accelerate growth in developing countries such as India, China, Latin America and Russia.
“Executing on our strategic decision to scale up our presence in emerging markets has been an important element of Philips’ transformation into a focused, less-cyclical company in recent years,” said Gerard Kleisterlee, President and Chief Executive Officer, Royal Philips Electronics. “We are committed to continue this course of action by increasingly redirecting resources to help fuel growth in emerging markets, and build out our industrial footprint in this cost-effective and high-quality manufacturing environment - for Healthcare, but also for our Consumer Lifestyle and Lighting sectors.”
Thirty percent of Philips’ sales in FY 2007 were from emerging markets, also representing a 10% sales growth over FY 2006. This geographical spread contributes to the resilience of Philips’ portfolio.
Philips has said that it is redirecting Euro 250 million of innovation spend from mature to emerging market to drive growth and (original) product & market development, and that it is also redirecting Euro 250 million to emerging markets to align marketing spend with innovation to ‘embed’ its product & solution simplicity message with customers; increase the dialogue with stakeholders to allow them to experience the brand.
Philips is committed to delivering affordable healthcare solutions in emerging markets. And the acquisition of Meditronics is its second in recent months of a healthcare equipment maker in India specialized in manufacturing products for the economy segment - one of the fastest growing market segments in the global healthcare equipment market.
Said Murali Sivaraman, CEO, Philips Electronics India Limited, “Meditronics’ high-quality and clinically proven economy segment product portfolio complements Philips’ existing high-end General X-Ray range and further strengthens Philips’ leading position in India’s high-growth imaging and monitoring equipment market. This also allows us to gain access to local manufacturing platforms at emerging markets cost levels.”
Analysts estimate that the General X-Ray segment of the Indian market will show annual growth rates of 10% or higher. This acquisition gives Philips access to strong sales and distribution channel for the economy segment. Meditronics has dealer network of 25 dealers with large geographical coverage, focused on mid/low end X-Ray business.Lighting
Philips in India is now a key production, research and development (R&D) hub for the company’s global lighting operations.
Philips has recently set up a global research and development centre for lighting electronics at Noida, India. It is its third such unit in the world. The facility will develop advanced lighting solutions, will be scaled up and linked to the global development centre in Shanghai. The centre will cater not only to the specific needs of the Indian market but also the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and North America. The centre currently employs 35 engineers and the headcount will increase with the unit taking up more work.
Philips aims to lead the Indian industry in Green initiatives and create awareness about Energy Efficient Lighting solutions. Solid State Lighting is the next wave of energy efficient solutions and Philips became the first company to introduce LEDs for the home segment last year. The company now plans to introduce the Consumer Luminaire range in India in the next few months.
In India, Philips drives innovation by actively combining its global expertise with local consumer insights to deliver offerings designed for Indian audiences. After the successful launches of the Intelligent Food Processor (hands-free mixer grinder) and the Intelligent Water Purifier last year, Philips introduced Rip-all AZ1856 Sound machine in India early this year. Philips now plans to introduce in India some of its innovative global offerings from the Consumer Lifestyle stable such as Aurea TV, Ambisound and high end beauty and personal care range.
AT&T Inc. announced the launch of the first super Internet Data Centre (IDC) in Asia, located in Singapore.
The super IDC, an expansion of AT&T's existing facilities, would act as a regional gateway to the Internet and the AT&T network to deliver AT&T Synaptic HostingSM, its next-generation utility computing services.
This launch is part of AT&T's $1 billion planned global network investment in 2008 to increase global data centre hosting capacity throughout the 38 data centres in AT&T's global Internet protocol (IP) network.
Other super IDCs are located in Piscataway, New Jersey; San Diego, California; Annapolis, Maryland and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which will form the regional hubs in the US and Europe.
Bernard Yee, vice president, AT&T Asia Pacific, said: "AT&T continues to invest in growing its business to support customers and to meet the demands of multinational corporations for next-generation services and solutions. To help customers in this challenging economic environment, the first super IDC in Asia, combined with our Synaptic Hosting platform, will offer them much greater flexibility to scale their information technology resources up or down to meet their business requirements."
"The super IDC will enable us to offer information technology and infrastructure service as turn-key managed infrastructure solutions on demand," Yee added.
"In addition, AT&T is going to offer managed application services within the sectors of enterprise resource planning software, eCommerce, web services, messaging and unified communications services to enhance our value proposition and managed services proposition for our customers in Asia and globally."
"Our goal is to allow them to focus on running their businesses while achieving greater flexibility, improved performance and further cost-savings," Yee said.
The AT&T IDCs allow AT&T to deliver consistent, highly scalable, enterprise-class information technology (IT) services around the globe. In addition to the hosting services available in all other centres, the super IDC supports large-scale computing and application infrastructure on demand that can be combined with other AT&T hosting services, such as managed networking, virtualised security, application acceleration and storage.
Companies can deliver end-user applications infrastructure whenever and wherever they are needed on a pay-for-use model. The new services can be accessed from anywhere in the world and combines technology acquired by AT&T from application service provider US inter-networking.
According to the media reports, the project would use the latest technologies to allow users anywhere access to films, paintings, photographs, sound recordings, maps, manuscripts, newspapers and documents as well as books kept in European libraries.
The source mentioned that the prototype that was launched today and would contain around two million digital items, all of them already in the public domain, as the most recent items are plagued by problems linked to copyright.
Europeana is a Thematic Network funded by the European Commission under the eContentplus programme, as part of the i2010 policy.
Originally known as the European digital library network – EDLnet – it is a partnership of 90 representatives of heritage and knowledge organizations and IT experts from throughout Europe.
By 2010, the date when Europeana is due to be fully operational, the aim is to have 10 million works available, though this is very negligible compared to the 2.5 billion books in Europe's more common libraries.
Around one percent of the books in the EU's national libraries are now available in digital form, with that figure expected to grow to four percent in 2012.
And even when they are digitalized, they still have to be put online. Google, one of the pioneers in this domain, claims to have seven million books available for its 'Google Book Search' project, which had gone online in 2004.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Christmas being just round the corner, as always mobile phones are a popular gift choice. Reevoo.com gives you the low-down on mobiles; examining what's hot, what's not, what people are actually buying and which phones are the best value for money.
What's hot? The iPhone 3G of course! But it's not highly ratedDespite being one of the most talked about phones of the year, the iPhone 3G has failed to beat its 2007 predecessor.
The original iPhone is rated 8.3/10, just pipping this year's 3G offering to the post, (the iPhone 3G scores 8.2/10). According to owners, the major issues with the 3G model are its battery life and application crashes, meaning that other phones have been able to storm ahead of the iPhone. So, what really is the hottest mobile phone this season?
Revoo recommendations: Top five Christmas mobile phones
Top five most popular in last 30 days:
1. Nokia N96
2. Samsung F480 Tocco
3. Blackberry Storm
4. Sony Ericsson C902
5. Samsung Omnia
Top five highest rated phones of 2008:
1. BlackBerry Bold 9000
2. Sony Ericsson W980i
3. Apple iPhone 3G 8/16GB
4. Samsung F480 Tocco
5. Sony Ericsson K660i
Reevoo reviewers pick the BlackBerry Bold 9000 as the best phone released in 2008.
Reviews on Reevoo for the BlackBerry Bold 9000 include:
+ Great keyboard for e-mailing and texting. Cracking screen which is nice and bright and videos look lovely on it. The sound from the internal speaker is really good. Just a great phone overall.
+ The Bold is undoubtedly the most impressive Blackberry yet. One of its greatest advantages is that in spite of many new features, it feels very familiar. Web browsing is almost broadband speed.
– Out of the box battery life is bad but gets better with regular charges
- The hyped-up phones usually get all the attention but it's interesting to see how the most popular phones differ from the most highly rated:
The Nokia N96, whilst being the most popular phone on the market, gets marked down by reviewers for poor battery life and software problems. At around £500 for Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) customers, it's no surprise that it also gets rated below average for value for money.
However, it does impress with its design and features. One reviewer writes "great picture and video quality, very easy to find your way around, fantastic features...looks good".
So who wins the race?
When it comes to value for money, the stylish Samsung F480 Tocco is a great buy. It scores highly for design and features and gets much higher scores for battery life than the Nokia N96, both iPhones and the BlackBerry Bold 9000. It's around £150 PAYG or free on some contracts.
Here are some of the reviews from owners of the Samsung F480 Tocco:
+ Easy to use, good haptic technology feedback from the touch screen, excellent camera, fair battery life, smart, compact, stylish.
+ It's easy to use and has a very good memory and has good features that I would have expected.
- No Wi-Fi capability.
- Should come with a ball point touch screen pen, can be hard to press the right keys sometimes.
Intel has filed a criminal complaint against Biswamohan Pani, former design engineer for chipmaker Intel, in the US district court in Boston. The case is that Pani made off with information valued by Intel at more than $1 billion. He is due to appear in Boston federal court today.
Intel filed the complaint formally, after the FBI sleuths searched his house in Worcester in July, which recovered some top-secret files with details of future Intel chip designs, said a report.
Pani had resigned from Intel in May but he said the company that he could continue to work at Intel till June 11. But he started working with AMD on June 2 while he still continued with Intel.
During this period he allegedly remote-accessed the secret files with an intention to pass it on to AMD. But FBI has ruled out AMD's involvement in Pani's conduct.
On the other hand, Pani pleaded innocence in the incident and said that the design files were meant to help his wife who still works with Intel and were not intended for sale. Networking major Cisco in its recent report on data leakage had pointed to the 'insider threat' to corporate information.
How do you evaluate this kind of 'insider threat' as far as maintaining the security of data is concerned? Do you think the corporates are making serious efforts to ensure the security of their data in a highly networked environment?
Moreover, NASSCOM conducted a survey of 50 companies and found that 11% of leaders in the industry were women. These roles were in senior management mostly for decision-making. Also two year’s back, three or four companies formally followed gender diversity programmes, but now there are about 80 companies that have some initiative to handle issues for women and take care of gender diversity and inclusiveness.
Companies ranging from PC maker Dell Inc to storage equipment maker NetApp are increasingly turning to outside blogs, viral videos and websites such as FaceBook, Twitter, FriendFeed and Digg — and their tens of millions of users — to reach consumers.
These social networking sites harness the age-old power of the word-of-mouth recommendation and can be potent marketing tools. If nothing else, they demand a higher level of consumer engagement than conventional ads.
“This is 180 degrees from that sort of advertising,” said Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at eMarketer. “Having a conversation with them (consumers) is a very new skill.”For tech companies with big marketing budgets, the shift to social media is an implicit acknowledgment that television and print are not necessarily the most effective ways to reach buyers, particularly younger ones.
In addition, with a recession looming, corporate budgets are being slashed. UBS has forecast global ad spending will fall 3.9 per cent in 2009. In such an environment, social media could prove to be a cost-effective way to sell to consumers.
But the strategy is not without some risk. While every company wants to generate buzz, online backlash can be brutal.
Consumer healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson learned that the hard way with a recent Web video ad for its Motrin painkiller. While apparently trying to be irreverent about the pain of wearing a baby in a sling, the ad offended many mothers who savaged it on Twitter, the wildly popular “micro-blogging’’ site where users communicate with short “tweets’’ of 140 characters or less. J&J was forced to apologize on Monday.
Brian Keeler, a vice president at media consultancy VShift, said the key to social media is credibility and enlisting consumers in the act of marketing itself. But if you upset your audience, it can mean trouble. “With the online media, things can go viral and spin out of control really fast,’’ he said.
Dell has a dedicated team of around 40 people that interacts with consumers through its blogs, community forums and third-party sites. The company began its social media push last year as it moved to repair its public image.
“There’s been a realization over the last several years that your customers are going to talk about you online and you have a choice to join that conversation,’’ spokeswoman Caroline Dietz said.
Computers built with innovative NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs) are capable of handling calculations typically relegated to expensive supercomputing “clusters”, a technology breakthrough the company says could soon bring lightning speeds to the next generation of computers aimed at the consumer market.
NVIDIA’s Tesla Personal Supercomputers deliver approximately 250 times the processing power of current computer workstations for similar prices, according to the California-based company. “This changes everything. This supercomputing power is being brought to the workstation,” Tesla computing products general manager Andy Keane said.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other universities and research facilities are already using GPU-based personal supercomputers. “GPU-based systems enable us to run life science codes in minutes rather than the hours it took earlier,” said Jack Collins of the Advanced Biomedical Computing Centre in the US state of Maryland. “This exceptional speedup has the ability to accelerate the discovery of potentially life-saving anti-cancer drugs.”
NVIDIA, founded in 1993, became renowned for GPUs that drive sophisticated computer game and video hardware. While CPUs typically handle tasks in a linear style, zipping from start to finish in series, GPUs work on tasks simultaneously in order to do things such as get colour pixels together on screens to present moving images. Sets of NVIDIA chips built for speed, power, and superior graphics production are built into upgraded Macintosh notebook computers recently rolled out by Apple.
GPUs that could do parallel computing mathematics at lightning speed were engineered by NVIDIA to make Tesla chips that put desktop workstations on par with supercomputers at one 100th of the price. “You can’t ignore the GPU; you can’t say it is just a game chip,” Keane said.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The awards, which recognize outstanding practices to promote gender empowerment and women leadership development, were declared at the 3rd Annual IT Women Leadership Summit opened here on Wednesday.
It would be presented at the gala award nite being organized as part of the summit tonight. The 'gender inclusivity' awards recognize the efforts made by the company through policies, procedures and systems to foster inclusivity and innovative programs that are targeted at strengthening gender inclusivity at the work place.
Infosys Technologies walked away with the award for excellence in gender inclusivity from the IT Services and Product Companies sector, while IBM India Pvt ltd bagged the award for the most innovative projects in gender inclusivity.
Among the BPO sector IBM Daksh Business Process Services emerged winner whereas Ajuba solutions and ADP private limited walked away with the laurels in the best emerging company sector.
The award criteria includes five parameter namely business rationale, senior leadership support, communication, accountability and measurable results. "These awards recognize companies who are doing outstanding work enabling inclusivity and we hope that other companies will emulate the best practices," said Som Mittal, president, NASSCOM, while addressing the media.
This service would be available across all operators on both GSM and CDMA mobile phones at cheaper rates, even to those who have mobile phones but do not have Internet connections.
Google has come up with a newer version of Google SMS Search at the price of regular SMS. The product has been reincarnated, with a new number and several features. Users can SMS query to 9-77-33-00000 and get automated answers on cricket scores, Indian Railways, stock quotes, local business search, movie showtimes, currency conversion, flight status, weather, horoscope, taxi service and ATM.
Vinay Goel, products head, Google India, said, "The latest offering is part of our mobile strategy in the sub-continent, where text messaging has become a part of daily life."
In an interview with Manu Sharma of CIOL Bureau, Sampath Kumar, CEO of Zenith Software talks about the new business foray and its recruitment drive in India. Excerpts.
CIOL: What has been the impact of recession on Zenith Software?
Sampath Kumar: The US recession has not affected us so far. The only problem is that the US companies want to push the dates. No one wants to decide immediately but business has not affected us in any way. But they are keen on outsourcing the work to India. It is a ‘wait n watch’ situation to gauge its impact in 2009.
CIOL: What has been your recent expansion plans?
SK: Since we are foraying into the information technology enabled services (ITES) in a big way, we are expanding our office by moving into a new campus of 25,000 sqft of built-in space located in Koramangala. The building will comprise of four floors and can accommodate 400-500 employees per shift and we can be further expanded to accommodate 1,500-2000 if necessary.
CIOL: What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), why has Zenith forayed into this space?
SK: Zenith has signed up with NovusSTS (pioneers in the newly defined recruitment process optimization business) for providing RPO services. RPO is a form of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) where an employer outsources or transfers all or part of its recruitment activities to an external service provider.
CIOL: What are the work involved in RPO and its benefits?
SK: RPO involves the outsourcing of all or just part of recruitment functions and process. RPO providers manage the entire recruiting/hiring process from job profiling through the on boarding of the new hire, including staff, technology, method and reporting. A properly managed RPO will improve a company's time to hire, increase the quality of the candidate pool, provide verifiable metrics, reduce cost and improve governmental compliance. The RPO service provider is the source for in-scope recruitment activity.
CIOL: What is the future of RPO industry in India?
SK: Since only about 20-25 companies are into this pace in India, we see a bright future. Our policy is not to target the big players but instead found a partner for the delivery.
CIOL: What is Zenith role in the LPO industry?
SK: Zenith has been in this sector for the last three months and has entered into a joint venture with a law firm based in US. We have started with the training process and have about 10 employees, who are corporate lawyers and LPO professionals involved in document reviews, immigration services and contract drafting.
CIOL: Explain the travel software developed by Zenith?
SK: The company has developed a travel software similar to IBS. It is a total integrated software for the tour operators operating across the country. This is the first product by Zenith and was earlier exhibited in Mumbai in a travel expo called – Travel Eye. The product is likely to hit the market by 2009. In respect to the pricing of the software, we have planned to price it between Rs 5-10 lakh, depending on the module, we will customize it as per your requirements. The product was developed over the last two years and about 10 software engineers were involved in the product.
CIOL: What are the other software developed by Zenith?
SK: Following our success with the travel software, we are also developed a software for a retail company in Australia. Similarly also developed a automobile product for the Norwegian market expected to be rolled out in 2009.
For the insurance sector, we have signed up with a UK-based company for the development and support of large US insurance firms. This is for the life insurance products and we will handle the customisation, maintenance and the enhancement of the product. Similarly, we have also signed up with a Swiss company for non-life insurance. We have completed the prototype of the product using Java and the product will be out by end of 2009.
CIOL: What has been the attrition in your organization?
SK: The attrition in our company is only 8-10 percent much lesser than the industry standards of 25-30 percent in BPO industry. Presently we have a 50:50 mix of developers and ITES (BPO) employees. I feel ITES will outdo IT and already we have employed 35 members in the last one-month and will hire another 25-30 in the next few months.
CIOL: When has Zenith forayed into the Scandinavian market?
SK: Zenith has forayed into the Scandinavian market through a partnership with Norway-based Software Offshoring Consulting (SOC). SOC is part of the Norwegian Data-Invest Group that has been providing progressive and market oriented solutions and services. This partnership will expand Zenith Software Ltd’s (ZSL) footprint in the European market.
ZSL and SOC have been working together on joint product development for the automotive industry. This product will also be maintained by ZSL for all the clients across the globe. This relationship has now matured into partnership wherein ZSL-SOC would jointly market and provide offshore development services. This is an exciting phase in ZSL’s growth plans. With SOC’s strengths we will be able grow in the Nordic.
CIOL: How do you see the future of Zenith Software shaping up?
SK: With our foray into BPO/KPO space and from the present turnover of $6 million, we had anticipated a jump of $10-12 million by 2009. But do the present industry scenario we may now expect only a 50 percent growth from the initial target of 75 percent. The only problem we are facing is that things are not happening and projects are getting delayed. The trend is not only in the US market but also in UK and European markets as well. ”US is creating a ripple affect on other countries.”
By 2012, Zenith expects the company to have 2000 plus employees with major revenues from UK, European countries and a 10 percent decline from the US markets. The company will strongly look at analytics, insurance, claim processing, medical billing and market research in the future. We are in talks with insurance and healthcare industries.
CIOL: Any IPO plans in the pipeline?
SK: We have seen a good growth so far which has been totally debts free. We see inorganic growth growing faster than organic growth. We plan to roll out an Initial Public Offering (IPO) when the company reaches a turnover of about $50 million and with over 3000 employees.
CIOL: What are your plans for expansion into Tier II cities?
SK: The company is also targeting at Tier II cities like Mysore, Mangalore. But we find a number of problems like poor resource stain, poor infrastructure is another major problem. In fact, we initially looked at a SEZ in Salem, but later withdrew the idea.
Time said access to LIFE's photo archive, a total of more than 10 million images, would be available on a new hosted service from the Internet search giant at ages.google.com/hosted/life.
The images from LIFE, a Time subsidiary, can also be found by conducting a search on Google.com or through Google Image Search.
The collection includes pictures from renowned photojournalists such as Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks and W. Eugene Smith.
The LIFE photo archive also includes the Zapruder film of the assassination of President John F Kennedy, The Mansell Collection from London and Hugo Jaeger's pictures of Nazi-era Germany from 1937-1944.
Time said 97 per cent of the photographs have never been seen by the public. "Millions of images have been scanned and made available on Google Image Search today with all 10 million images to be available in the coming months," Time said in a statement.
"LIFE will now reach a broader audience and engage them online with the incredible depth and breadth of the LIFE Photo Archive from serious world events, to Hollywood celebrities to whimsical photographs." LIFE president Andy Blau said.
R.J. Pittman, director of product management at Google, said "bringing millions of never-before-seen offline images online aligns with Google's mission to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
Time said the photos are available for free for personal and research purposes. The copyright and ownership of all images remains with Time.
In September, Time and the Getty Images photo service announced the launch early next year of a new website, LIFE.com, featuring photos from the LIFE archives and Getty Images.
"This is the first step in creating a totally new space communications capability, an interplanetary Internet," Adrian Hooke, NASA's manager of space-networking architecture, technology and standards, said in a statement.
The US space agency said Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers used software called Disruption-Tolerant Networking, or DTN, to transmit dozens of space images to and from a NASA spacecraft some 20 million miles (32.4 million kilometers) from Earth.
NASA said the software protocol, which must be able to withstand delays, disruptions and disconnections in space, was designed in partnership with Vint Cerf, a vice president at Internet search giant Google.
DTN sends information using a method that differs from the normal Internet's Transmission-Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, communication suite, which Cerf co-designed, NASA said.
Unlike TCP/IP, DTN does not assume a continuous end-to-end connection, NASA said, noting that glitches can happen when a spacecraft moves behind a planet, or when solar storms and long communication delays occur.
It said the delay, for example, in sending or receiving data from Mars takes between three-and-a-half minutes and 20 minutes at the speed of light.
NASA said that if a destination path cannot be found, data packets are not discarded but kept by each network node until it can communicate safely with another node.
Eventually, it said, the information is delivered to the end user.
"In space today, an operations team must manually schedule each link and generate all the commands to specify which data to send, when to send it, and where to send it," said Leigh Torgerson, manager of the DTN Experiment Operations Center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"With standardized DTN, this can all be done automatically."
NASA said engineers had begun a month-long series of DTN demonstrations in October using NASA's Epoxi spacecraft, which is on a mission to encounter Comet Hartley 2 in two years, as a Mars data-relay orbiter.
It said there are 10 nodes in the early interplanetary network -- the Epoxi spacecraft itself and nine on the ground at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory simulating Mars landers, orbiters and ground mission-operations centers.
NASA said a test of DTN software loaded on board the International Space Station would begin next summer.
It said an "Interplanetary Internet" could enable many new types of space missions including complex flights involving multiple spacecraft and ensure reliable communications for astronauts on the the moon.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Japan’s economy shrank at an annual pace of 0.4% in the July-September period after a declining an annualised 3.7% in the second quarter. That means Japan, along with the 15-nation euro-zone, is now technically in a recession, defined as two straight quarters of contraction.
“What we’re starting to see is the extent of deterioration in external demand start to weigh more heavily on the Japanese economy,” said Glen Maguire, chief Asia economist at Societe Generale. “And I think looking forward, there’s every indication that dynamic is going to continue.”
The result was worse than expected. Economists surveyed by a news agency had predicted gross domestic product would gain an annualised 0.1%. Japan’s economy minister Kaoru Yosano said following the data’s release that “the economy is in a recessionary phase.”
But the worst may be yet to come, especially with dramatic declines in demand from consumers overseas for Japan’s autos and electronics gadgets. Hurt also by a strengthening yen, a growing number of exporters big and small are slashing their profit, sales and spending projections for the full fiscal year through March.
The cuts announced by Chief Executive Vikram Pandit on Monday affect 15 percent of Citigroup's workforce, and are in addition to 23,000 jobs eliminated between January and September.
Citigroup plans to slash expenses by as much as 20 percent, and spend a total of $50 billion to $52 billion in 2009. That compares with $61.9 billion over the last four quarters.
The cuts will be global, affecting many regions and business lines, including the retail and investment banks, a person close to the matter said. About one-half will come from layoffs and attrition, and the rest from the sale of units, such as the German retail banking business.
Pandit became Citigroup's chief executive last December, and has faced much criticism from investors and others for failing to implement a workable turnaround plan. The New York-based bank has lost $20.3 billion in the last year, and some analysts do not expect it to make money before 2010.
"As the economy continues to weaken they will have greater credit losses," said Michael Holland, founder of money manager Holland & Co in New York. "Cuts will lessen the losses, but they in no way guarantee profitability."
Pandit told employees in a memo that Citigroup has spent the last year "getting fit," and projects a "difficult" 2009 for clients and customers.
Citigroup's latest cuts are the most by any U.S. company since the global credit crisis began last year. They are also the second most ever, trailing the 60,000 that International Business Machines Corp IBM announced in 1993, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
The latest cuts would leave Citigroup with about 300,000 employees, down 20 percent from the end of 2007 and about the same number it had at the end of 2005. People at the bank said the cuts should be made by the first couple of months of 2009.
'There is no question of layoffs. The prime minister has given us the assurance that the government would do whatever it takes to address the problems of the aviation sector,' Kingfisher chairman Vijay Mallya said in an address at the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his interaction with industry leaders Nov 3 asked them to refrain from large-scale layoffs, and advised them to bear in mind their social obligations.
Soon after, he also intervened to ensure state-run oil firms gave more time to domestic carriers to settle their fuel dues.
But Mallya said the aviation industry was being 'overtaxed'.
'The basic airfares are lower than fuel surcharge for many Indian destinations. Taxes should immediately be rationalised to make flying affordable,' he said.
Mallya, who is also member of parliament, earlier indicated that if the slump in the market continues, the industry would witness more layoffs.
Jet Airways last month sacked 1,900 employees only to reinstate them a day later, reportedly on government pressure. Carriers including Kingfisher Airlines have over the past month retrenched some staff.
Kingfisher has now sought permission from the government to sell a part of its equity to international carriers, saying a change of policy on foreign investment would help the industry that was facing turbulent weather.
Monday, November 17, 2008
China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket, after the former Soviet Union and the United States. It sent two more astronauts on a five-day flight on its Shenzhou VI craft in October 2005.
China launched its third manned space mission in September, with live-to-air footage of its first space-walk captivating the nation.
Its first lunar probe, the Chang'e-1 satellite, named after a lonely goddess who lives with a rabbit on the moon and pines for her husband, finished its mission last month after orbiting the moon thousands of times.
"China will send a moon-lander and moon-buggy around 2012," the Beijing News said, citing state television.
Before the moon-lander, China will send Chang'e-2 satellite to fulfil another circumlunar mission, CCTV added.
China said its lunar mission would include three steps of "orbiting, landing and returning", but has not disclosed schedule of any manned moon mission so far.
"France, on behalf of the European Union, warmly congratulates India for the successful landing of the Moon Impact Probe and the launch of the lunar exploration programme," the French embassy said in a statement here.
"This remarkable success of the Indian space vehicle confirms anew India's eminent position among the world-class scientific and technological powers," it said.
"France and the European Union look forward to the strengthening of the existing scientific cooperations with India in the field of space, which are particularly promiseful for the development of science and knowledge worldwide," the statement underlined.
In a milestone for the country's space programme, India planted its national colours on the moon Thursday as the foil-wrapped Moon Impact Probe landed in the Shakelton crater near the lunar South Pole.
The Moon Impact Probe, dropped from the larger, unmanned Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, sampled the thin lunar atmosphere during a half-hour free fall.
Chandrayaan-1, India's first unmanned lunar probe, was launched Oct 22. After the US, then USSR, and Japan, India is the fourth country to land a probe on moon.
The company’s revenue increased 40% through the first six months of its fiscal year, with GlobalLogic exceeding $100M in revenue for the first time. In addition, GlobalLogic grew its employee base nearly 20% during the quarter, reaching 3,000 employees worldwide. Despite the global economic slowdown, its business outlook remains promising and robust. GlobalLogic expects to continue its quarter over quarter growth.
“Considering the current downturn in the economy and its potential effects on global markets, GlobalLogic’s specialization in full software product development lifecycle services is a relatively strong sector to be in,” explained GlobalLogic CEO Peter Harrison. “Our technology clients, both early stage and established, are able to utilize their GlobalLogic partnership to attain product quality, economy and time-to-market benefits through access to our product engineering centers in the US, India, Ukraine and China.”
Other key milestones for GlobalLogic in the first half of its fiscal year, April-September, 2008 included:
* Expansion including Ukraine, where GlobalLogic is the largest technology employer, China and Israel
* Significant new client wins with Microsoft, Yahoo, Qualcomm, JDSU, Genband and Avid
* Industry recognition for GlobalLogic’s Agile-based Version 1.0 service at innovation conferences such as Demofall2008; Dataquest and Hewitt Associates for Top Employer in India and Ukraine; and Microsoft partner of the year in Central and Eastern Europe
* World-class, public markets experienced executive team additions including CFO Wayne Grubbs, and President Shashank Samant
Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc, a Chicago-based global consulting firm which tracks job-cut announcements, said telecommunications, electronics and computer industry companies had cut 140,422 jobs through October 31.
It said 69,654 tech-sector jobs had been cut in the third quarter of the year alone. That did not include major layoffs announced since October 31 such as the 5,000 to 6,000 job cuts at Sun Microsystems.
"At the current pace, the year-end total could reach 180,000, which would be the largest annual total since 2003, when technology firms announced 228,325 job cuts," it said.
A total of 107,295 tech-sector jobs were cut in 2007.