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article archives at abelard's news and comment zone topic archives:
2004-XI : 13th 15th | 2004-XII : 4 I-2005: 14 III-2005: 24 | IV-2005: 15 | V-2005: 28 | IX-2005: 20
X-2005: 20 XII-2005: 08 27 28 30


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apple retail store using internet tools

“ [...] the Apple "Geniuses" behind the table had wireless gizmos for scanning credit cards, and Apple had worked out a totally wireless, paperless checkout process, called EasyPay. Once scanned, they advise you that the receipt will be in your inbox within an hour (since I'm already a registered Apple customer, they didn't even need to take my email or other information).

“I'm no expert in retail operations, but this experience certainly made me wonder why this wouldn't, or shouldn't, be the future of retail. Given the pace at which folks were leaving that store with products in hand, clearly the increased velocity of order-taking was a good thing for Apple. There was only a short-line in back, and the store had the busy but uncrowded feel that Apple stores seem to usually have.

“And EasyPay is certainly a no-brainer in terms of improving the customers' experience. If you're an online shopper, as most people are (certainly, most Apple customers), then most of them will be fine with getting a receipt via e-mail. It's certainly a vast improvement over standing in line and signing your signatures [...] ”

Note that it is not clear whether this sales-processing technique was a temporary rig for the winter holiday rush, or whether it will continue to be used.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#apple_ipod_sales_301205



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anti-trust investigation of download ‘cd’ pricing

“The New York attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, is investigating whether the four record companies that dominate the industry have violated antitrust laws in the pricing of songs that are sold by Internet music services, according to people involved in the inquiry.

“Mr. Spitzer's office recently began serving subpoenas on the major record companies - the Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi Universal; Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a joint venture of Sony and Bertelsmann; the EMI Group; and the Warner Music Group, according to people involved.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#antitrust_281205

exploding growth of flash memory

“That makes them like miniature hard-disk drives, only much more durable because they lack moving parts. The newest flash-memory chips are the size of a fingernail and can store 2 gigabytes, the equivalent of every word and image printed in nine years of a newspaper.”

“ The chips allow people to store hundreds of songs on pocket-size portable music players, like the Nano or the U10 from iRiver, provide the storage for digital cameras and form the heart of flash drives and memory cards.”

Chang-gyu Hwang, chief executive of Samsung's chip business, caused some skepticism in September when he predicted that the chips would soon hold enough data to make hard-disk drives obsolete, paving the way for lighter, thinner and tougher laptop computers.

“NAND chips are "the backbone of the mobile electronics era," Hwang said.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#nand_chips_271205

sony at it again - the auroran sunset

Sony’s behaviour should be nothing new those who pay attention. I decided in 2002 to stop buying cds on the Sony BMG label because of their behaviour. In the last week or so, a possibly serious backlash has started to appear. The State of Texas is prosecuting Sony:

“The complaint alleges that Sony BMG violated the Texas Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware (CPACS) Act, which includes provisions that punish those who hide software from a computer's owner. The focus of the legal action is a copy-protection program created by software firm First 4 Internet and used by Sony BMG to guard 52 CD titles.

“The Extended Copy Protection (XCP) software hides itself and controls basic functions of the Windows operating system - tactics employed by the rootkits commonly used by online attackers. The software was included on some 4.7 million discs produced by Sony BMG, of which about 2.1 million were sold.”

This is software secretly included on Sony ‘cds’ that, should you be so foolish as to use a Sony ‘cd’ on your computer, installs itself and gains control over some basic functions in an attempt to stop you using your own property (that cd you just bought) in ways of which they do not approve (eg. making a backup). The software is also suspected of secretly contacting Sony-owned servers.

Sony’s behaviour is clearly criminal. First there is the fraud: what they are selling are not audio cds:

“Still, despite the easily defeatable DRM system, an entire swath of buyers noted their plan to return their purchases to Amazon, saying “this is not an ‘audio CD’ as defined by Philips two decades ago”. Phillips denounces these discs, as they do not adhere to the standard Compact Disc Digital Audio specification due to their copy protection mechanism.”

Then there is the deliberate damaging of private property - Sony’s software removes capabilities that your computer had when you bought it, and their software also introduce bugs, such as reporting on your behaviour, that were not there when you bought the computer. This is what is normally known as vandalism.

Then there is stopping people using their own property, a clear form of theft. There are probably further easy charges, but this is more than enough for a start. This assumes any government would be serious about taking Sony to task, a not very plausible assumption (look at the Electronic Freedom Frontier’s [EFF] efforts to increase entertainment industry powers).

Now Sony are getting problems because their cds are also compromising the security of the computers that Sony are deliberately damaging:

“According to the EFF, the vulnerability centres on a file folder installed by the MediaMax software shipped on some Sony CDs, “that could allow malicious third parties who have localized, lower-privilege access to gain control over a consumer’s computer running the Windows operating system.” ”

(The last linked page has a large number of links to related Sony stories at its end.)

There are more reputable companies out there. There is no good reason to buy from Sony.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#sony_081205

government interference in markets - bio-fuels

“ "The combination of high energy prices and government interference - tax exemptions for biofuels - has created a severe imbalance that will gradually unfold repercussions in the world market," it said.”

Note that producing bio-fuels requires substantial fossil fuel inputs.

related material
Replacing fossil fuels—the scale of the problem

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#biofuels_201005

report on growing carbon pressures on large corporations [154-page pdf]

A mass of data on business implications of growing ecological pressures on major corporations, which businesses are cooperating, share and insurance pressures discussed, as is pressures for data disclosure.

“The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a coordinating secretariat for institutional investor collaboration regarding climate change. Its aim is twofold: to inform investors regarding the significant risks and opportunities presented by climate change; and to inform company management regarding the serious concerns of shareholders regarding the impact of these issues on company value.

“ Summary of Sector Risks

“Among top auto manufacturers, there is a 25% difference in average fuel efficiency for the line of passenger cars sold in 2004.

“Certain banks have upwards of 50% of their commercial loan portfolio directed towards "high risk" sectors with exposure to both the regulatory and weather risks of climate change.

“Assuming a price of $50 per tonne of carbon, a 20% emissions constraint and a 7 year compliance period, the most exposed company in the Chemicals sector could face annual compliance costs of nearly 4% of net income. Conversely, given the same assumptions, the least exposed firm faces less than 1.5%.

“Assuming a price of £40 ($50) per tonne of carbon, a 20% emissions constraint and a 7 year compliance period, the most exposed company in the Electric Utilities - International sector could face annual compliance costs of nearly 8% of net income. Conversely, given the same assumptions, the least exposed firm faces less than 1%. Some large emitters could see financial windfalls from carbon pricing scenarios.

“Assuming a price of $50 per tonne of carbon, a 20% emissions constraint and a 7 year compliance period, the most exposed company in the Electric Utilities - North America sector could face annual compliance costs of over 20% of net income. Conversely, given the same assumptions, the least exposed firm faces less than 1%.

“Assuming a price of $50 per tonne of carbon, a 20% emissions constraint and a 7 year compliance period, the most exposed Metals & Mining company could face annual compliance costs of nearly 22% of net income. Conversely, given the same assumptions, the least exposed firm faces approximately 2%.

“Assuming a price of $50 per tonne of carbon, a 20% emissions constraint and a 7 year compliance period, the most exposed Oil & Gas company could face annual compliance costs in excess of 2% of net income. Conversely, given the same assumptions, the least exposed firm faces less than 0.5%.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#carbon_pressures_200905

nuclear power more likely to be revised with new german government

The daft 'plans' by the German socialist government to close nuclear power stations by 2021 is unlikely ever to come to pass anyway, it was only ever political posturing.

“Investors snapped up top utilities E.ON and RWE on Monday as they bet that a change in Germany's national government in an early election could also lead to a revision in nuclear energy policy.”

“ French nuclear plants are given a lifespan of 60 years, nearly twice that of German ones because of the German decision to scrap nuclear. Scandinavian plants have a lifespan of about 45 years.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#german_nuclear_280505

bottleneck in silicon supplies for solar cell panels

“The solar market currently supplies a fraction of 1 percent of the world's energy needs and is worth an estimated $7 billion annually. The industry may increase that proportion to 8 percent by 2030, according to the European Renewable Energy Council.”

“But prices for solar-grade silicon, which have leapt from around $9 per kilo in 2000 to $25 last year and $60 this month, are threatening to put the brakes on the annual growth rates of 30 to 40 percent the industry has seen since 1997.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#silicon_140405

the energy centre of gravity is changing

Nuclear power can play a key role in the 21st century in helping nations meet their energy needs and reduce the spread of greenhouse gases, a statement backed by nearly all 74 states at a nuclear conference said.”

“Renewable energy like wind and solar power and hydrogen fuel cells could blossom into a $100 billion a year global market in less than a decade as technology costs fall, according to a study. ”

Including conservation; in my view, the global market for ‘alternative energies’ will be as large as that in the USA alone and in less than the predicted decade.

But none of that irrational exuberance bit, please!

“ Shares in wind turbine maker Vestas fell as much as 13 percent on Tuesday after it warned late on Monday it would report a 2004 core loss next week after restructuring costs rose sharply.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#us_alternatives_market_240305

photo-voltaics

“According to Reuters Research, the stock trades at 34 times 2005 estimated earnings, while solar-related firms such as Tokuyama in Japan and Evergreen Solar in the United States trade at 21 times and 19 times respectively.”

“Industry body UVS said there was more solar power installed in Germany last year than any other country, with installed capacity rising some 300 megawatts to 700 megawatts -- about the size of a small nuclear or coal-fired power plant.

“Despite strong growth, the share of solar power in the country's energy production remained below 1 percent.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#photovoltaics_140105

wind power players

“At the end of 2003, Vestas commanded a 32 percent share and has said it plans to raise that to 35 percent.

“US giant General Electric has 18 percent of the global market, Germany's Enercon commands a 15 percent share while Spain's Gamesa has 11.5 percent.”

Siemens, at 6.6%, wants to crash into the market.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#wind_power

uranium prices rising

Uranium is suddenly the hottest topic in the high-stakes mining industry in the mineral-rich country that is home to the world's richest deposit.

Its price has doubled to above $20 a pound and the shares of producers and junior explorers have soared as analysts predict that the metal will become an increasingly important energy source for producing electricity around the world.


related material
Reserves, part of the Nuclear power - is nuclear power really really dangerous? briefing document

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#uranium

bp claims solar division now profitable after 30 years

“He said the turnaround was being sustained by an ongoing decrease in production costs alongside a sharp increase in global demand, largely driven by Germany.

A report by analysts CLSA Asia-Pacific confirmed that solar experienced industry-wide profits for the first time in 2004 and that market growth was some 40 percent.

With growth projected to continue at 30 percent per annum for the foreseeable future, Westwell said BP Solar planned to expand capacity in both its U.S. production plant in Frederick, Maryland, and in its European headquarters in Madrid, Spain, as it strives to compete with other major players entering its traditional markets.

"We are aiming to reach 200 megawatts capacity, up from 90 megawatts, within the next 18 months," he said.

Westwell acknowledged that Japan-based Sharp's entry into the European market in 2004 generated additional competition for BP Solar in a market traditionally dominated by European solar companies.

Sharp, the world's largest solar company, opened a 200 megawatt capacity facility in Wales in mid 2004.”

related material
Replacing fossil fuels—the scale of the problem

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2004.php#bp_solar


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