Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Microsoft Willing to Purge Search Data After Six Months

Microsoft told European authorities Tuesday that it is open to purging it's search caches after six months, assuming Google and Yahoo do the same. Currently, Microsoft holds on to search data for 18 months. Google currently keeps search data on hand for nine months, and Yahoo for 13 months.

The advisory panel of the European Commission recently put in a request that all search companies keep search data for six months only. Microsoft at first was hesitant to comply in their initial response to the European Commission stating, "that keeping search data on hand gives a company a competitive advantage."

The European Commission advisory panel was scheduled to meet either today or tomorrow. However, the members have decided to delay their decision on whether to take legal action against the companies until February. They have requested the three major search companies make presentations before the panel to plead their cases.

This comes just after Swiss and German officials expressed major concerns over Google's Street View map program, which puts photographs of landowners property on the internet without consent, which completely violates privacy laws in those two countries.

Google's use of IP targeting data has also come under scrutiny by the European Commission. Google committed to partial IP address anonymization, which involves deleting one of the four octets in a users IP address. For example, 301.8.2.555 would become 301.8.2.xxx. However, many believe this does not fully protect the users, as other data may be able to be gathered to piece together a particular user.

Monday, December 8, 2008

comScore Reports Online Shopping Spike in December

Web tracking firm comScore released a report today that claims online shopping for the first five days of December was up 9% from last year.

comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a released statement, "While this growth is certainly a positive development in this tough retail season, it also needs to be put into perspective. With the compressed time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year -- five days shorter than last year -- we need to see continued strong growth during the critical weeks between today and Christmas if this year's shopping season is to at least match that of last year."

Some of the growth online can be attributed to two websites extreme recent traffic spikes. Traffic to online retailer Amazon (AMZN) has been up 10% during the first week of December compared with last year. Apple (AAPL) has seen 29% more traffic to it's online store from this time last year.

ComScore also noted overall sales of Technology products last week rose 24%, trailing only sports and fitness products, which enjoyed 35% growth. Sales of video games, consoles and accessories rose only 9%, and sales of music, movies and videos plunged 24%.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Intel to Bring Free Energy to Mobile Phones

has announced it is researching technology to harvest free energy from the environment, which could lead to devices such as mobile phones having the capability to run for indefinite periods without recharging.

Intel is working on tiny sensors that can capture energy from sources such as body heat and sunlight. This type of energy could possibly be used to run cell phones and other personal electronic devices.

Intel's chief technology officer, Justin Rattner had this to say, "Wouldn't it be nice if, in fact, you were able to go almost indefinitely without charging the battery, if you were able to scavenge enough free energy from the environment?"

"It wouldn't have any batteries, you wouldn't have to come out and service them, and you don't have to run any power. They are completely self-contained, and most importantly, self-powered as a result of scavenging energy from the environment," Rattner said.

"I never have to ... come along with some sort of external fixture and have to recharge this. These become ... install-and-forget systems, because they can scavenge energy from the environment and power themselves up," Rattner said.

Wow, can you imagine if every major company took this type of initiative? I think they are really setting a great example to the rest of their industry.

To learn more about Intel's upcoming programs you can check them out here:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston - Windows 95

I ran across this old video today from the Windows 95 release. I remember watching this back so many years ago thinking how cool and new this system was at the time.

SanDisk Looking to Stop Production

Milpitas, Calif.-based SanDisk (SNDK) the world’s largest maker of memory cards used in digital cameras, has announced it will stop production over the holidays at it's plant in Japan due to a recent slowdown in the flash memory industry.

A spokesman for SanDisk had this to say regarding the stoppage Friday, "The joint venture is evaluating plans for operations over the holiday season, including a possible stoppage of some production lines." "We constantly consider manufacturing schedules in light of market requirements and this is particularly true during the holiday season," he added.

SanDisk shares their manufacturing plant in Japan with Toshiba, who also announced a likely stoppage in their production. Toshiba was rumored to be possibly staging a buyout of SanDisk earlier in the week. The purchase of SanDisk would give Toshiba access to a great deal of patents as it seeks to close the gap on Samsung Electronics in the $12 billion market for NAND flash chips. However, those rumors have not been confirmed by either company.

In October SanDisk Chief Executive Officer Eli Harari denied an unsolicited offer by Samsung for $5.85 billion.

Revenue for the NAND flash market is expected to fall 14%, according to October estimates by iSuppli Corp.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Google Releases Friend Connect To All Websites

The race to own your online identity is now heating up. With the success of Facebook's FB Connect, Google (GOOG) has now answered with their wide release of "Friend Connect." It was in a limited release for the past few months, but now any website can add Google Friend Connect as a login option.

Google Friend Connect and Facebook FB Connect allow you to create applications on your website which allows your users to engage with the site and their friends by logging in with their Google, Facebook, or OpenID credentials.

The main difference between the two is simply that Facebook is one social network, and on the other hand Google Friend Connect is available to any site, service or social network that uses OpenID for identification. If you are using Google Friend Connect your users are able to sign in using their Gmail login, so they aren't constricted to just one social network. Facebook Connect is only helpful if you are a Facebook member.

Google's Product Manager said in a blog post, "The goal is to facilitate an open social web. Using standards like OpenID and OAuth, FriendConnect makes it simple for people to instantly interact with one another on the sites they already love to visit. Additionally, web sites that use Friend Connect become OpenSocial containers capable of running applications created by the OpenSocial developer community."

It wouldn't be fair if we didn't let Facebook chime in on their service offering as well, so here's what Mark Zuckerberg said on in his blog post. "For example, you can use Facebook Connect with the reviews web site Citysearch. You can easily log in using your Facebook account, and from there you'll be able to interact with all of your Facebook friends. They'll be able to see some of the same profile information they can see on Facebook, which is fully controlled by your privacy settings."

"When you write a review for a restaurant, you'll have the option to publish that story back to Facebook where your friends can see it too. This makes finding your friends' reviews on Citysearch a snap. With Facebook Connect, it will be easier for you to share and connect with your friends across the web."

In terms of implementation, from my limited use with these two applications, it appears to me that Google Friend Connect is a much easier tool for the average user. Facebook's is aimed more to the savvy programming type. Google's FC is essentially just cut and paste, where Facebook's FB you actually have to do a little more work to create the application and get it live.

In my opinion, I think Google wins this round. What do you guys think?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Apple Announces Release of Netflix's Instant Video Feature

Apple (AAPL) announced today that it has released the Netflix (NFLX) "Watch Instantly" feature for all Mac users. This has been in the works for months and Apple released this service to a small group of users in October to test the program.

Netflix wanted to make this available sooner, however they said the lack of support from the Apple team slowed down the release considerably.

The only issue is if you do not have the minimum system requirements (Intel Mac running OS X 10.4.8 or higher, and at least one GB of RAM), then you are out of luck. You must also install the Microsoft Silverlight plugin if you haven't done that already. Watch Instantly works in Safari 3 or better and Firefox 2 or higher.

I myself have the Netflix unlimited plan and a Mac, so I don't see myself leaving the house anytime soon. This will most likely put the final nail in the coffin of my already unfortunate social life.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Twitter Turns Down $500 Million Offer From Facebook

Evan Williams the new CEO of Twitter as of October has really hit the ground running in his newly acquired position.

First his site Twitter made huge headlines thanks to the way their site was able to disseminate information about last week's terrorist attacks in India.

Now, they have been offered a dream buyout by Facebook for $500 million. Not bad for a platform many in the industry said "lacked a sound monetization strategy."

Not so dreamy! Twitter, which reportedly has brought in virtually no revenue since it's inception and raised $20 million in venture funding, is saying "no-go" to the behemoth. Evan Williams said the courtship between the two Web 2.0 companies could be rekindled in the future.

Williams also said in a statement, "Twitter decided that it had too much left to do, beginning with figuring out how to make money."

Well I have a great strategy for how to make money...sell your company for $500 million to Facebook!!

I guess this is why i'm blogging in my tity whities and not running a top social media company.

Juicy Day on Wall Street for Del Monte

I apologize for the title, I honestly couldn't help myself.

San Francisco based Del Monte Foods Co. released fiscal-year sales forecast, which states sales will be up 8% to 10%. This is up from their prior forecast in April that has sales gaining 6% to 8%. News of the optimistic forecast drove shares of Del Monte up 18%. Del Mote shares rose to $6.53 in early morning trading.

For the fiscal second quarter Del Monte reported a profit of $50 Million, or 25 cents a share. Last year Del Monte was reporting just $26 Million, or 13 cents per share.

Many had predicted a less sunny (there i go again) quarter after their sale of their Starkist Tuna business.

One reason many are attributing the sales growth is the recent $20 million online/print campaign called "Fruit Undressed." Del Monte has made major strides with the current campaign to boost their refrigerated fruit market share.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ford and Toyota Post Large Sales Declines

Toyota Motor Corp (TM) posted a huge decline in sales for the month of November, down 33.9%. Ford Motor Corp also posted a very substantial drop of 30.6%.

This may help US automakers make their case for the current brutal sales climate as they return to Capital Hill in hopes of gaining the $25 billion loan the are seeking.

Ford was the first of the US automakers to enter a second pitch for a federal lifeline. This morning they laid out plans to Congress to return to profitability by 2011. GM and Chrysler are scheduled to turn in their plans later today as well.

To put the Ford loss into hard numbers, November U.S. sales fell to 123,222 cars and trucks from 177,485 a year ago as the fragile economy made it difficult for consumers' to purchase new vehicles.

In a statement released by Jim Farley, head of Ford's marketing and communications team,"We believe the economy will continue to weaken in 2009, Our near-term production plan reflects this view, as we continue to align capacity with customer demand."

Monday, December 1, 2008

David Gregory Will Take Over "Meet The Press"

NBC has just announced that David Gregory will be taking over as the host of "Meet The Press." Gregory has been one of the front-runners for the post along with Chuck Todd (NBC), Gwen Ifill (PBS) and Andrea Mitchell (NBC).

Tom Brokaw who has been in the seat since Tim Russert died in June, will step aside after his interview with President-elect Barack Obama.

"Meet the Press" has been on the air for 61 years and is the longest running television show ever.

Tim Russert had served as moderator since 1991. Russert passed away at age 58 after suffering a heart attack at NBC's D.C. bureau.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trouble Again for Donald Trump and Trump Entertainment

Citing competition and the recent economic meltdown, Trump Entertainment will miss it's $53.1 million scheduled payment on it's 8.5% senior secured notes scheduled due 2015 in order to maintain required liquidity.

Donald Trump is the non-executive chairman and the largest shareholder of Trump Entertainment. Trump Entertainment owns and operates three Atlantic Casinos, The Trump Marina, Trump Taj Mahal and the Trump Plaza on the Boardwalk.

The company has about $1.25 billion in notes currently outstanding. In a statement Friday, Trump Entertainment said, "that it has a 30-day grace period to pay up and will meanwhile seek talks with its lenders to revamp its capital structure and improve its liquidity."

If they fail to make the payment in within the 30 day grace period, holders of a quarter of the notes and lenders could accelerate the maturities of those obligations.

If things looked like they couldn't get worse for the Donald, he is being sued by Deutsche Bank in a New York court for a $40-million personal guarantee he made to help get financing for the 92-story Chicago high-rise that is currently in development.

Deutsche filed the suit Friday, charging that Trump defaulted on the loan earlier this month by not paying off $334.2 million due to Deutsche Bank.

This after Trump filed suit accusing Deutsche Bank of denying extension of a Nov. 7 maturity date for a $640-million loan.

Trump is claiming the lenders are harming condo-hotel unit sales and that a "force majeure" clause in the loan agreement applies, since the world financial crisis is an extraordinary event that permits a loan extension.

Oh boy...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Airlines Have Nice Day on Wall Street as Crude Oil Drops 5%

It was a good day for the airline industry on Wall Street as crude oil dropped 5% due to speculation the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could wait until December before slowing down production.

The AMEX Airline Index climbed up 3.2% to 20.54 points. 12 of the 13 companies listed in the AMEX Airline Index were up on the day.

The big winners were Brazil's Gol Linhas up 11% to $3.92, and Delta Air up 4.6% to $8.81.

The Markets closed early today at 1 p.m. E.T.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

President Bartlet calls the Butterball Hotline

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Former UBS Executives Give Back $58 Million in Bonuses

A Statement was released today by Chairman Peter Kurer during a UBS shareholders meeting to vote on the bank's plan to accept government aid. In his statement Kurer said, "I would very much like to see more bonuses waived or returned in the interest of the bank. I am therefore continuing to hold discussions on the topic."

The exec's who have refused or returned bonuses is former CEO Peter Wuffli (12 Million Franc), the ex-chairman Marcel Ospel and former board members Stephan Haeringer and Marco Suter, have either returned or refused an additional 33 million francs.

Other former executives not mentioned have given up a further 22 million francs, Kurer said in his statement.

In a concession to shareholders Kurer also said the bank will allow another investigation into its losses and the role of former executives, including whether it should take legal action against any individuals.

Earlier reports from both UBS and the Swiss Federal Banking Commission found no evidence of individual breaches of duty by any current or previous senior executives, Kurer added.

"There is currently no actual or legal evidence that would lead one to believe a lawsuit regarding responsibility would be successful against former or present senior executives," he said.

Shares of UBS rose 3% in midday trading.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Borders' shares down 40% to 68 cents - Management Not Going to Sell to Eager Buyers

It was not a good day for Borders Group Bookstores. After reported massive losses and dwindling sales the company learned they would be kicked out of the S&P MidCap 400. After all this, they announced they are not even contemplating a sale offer from Pershing Square Capital Management.

After the close of the market Borders announced a third quarter loss of $172.2 million, which equates to $2.85 a share. This time last year they were reporting a loss of $40 million, or 68 cents a share.

Standard & Poor's announced that since Borders' market capitalization had fallen to around a tenth of its requirement, the company will be replaced by precision instrument maker Mettler-Toledo International.

Borders' also announced that it has updated its "strategic alternatives process" which have included the sale of company and/or certain arms such as Paperchase Products. But according to Borders' the sale is now off the table. And this was Borders' decision not Pershings evidently.

The company said in a statement, "With respect to the sale of the company, management is no longer contemplating a transaction."

I guess this is why I am a blogger that has a following of 6 people and not the CEO of a major market Bookseller. But I would be at least entertaining the idea of selling my sinking ship to enthusiastic private equity bidders.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feds Unveil Yet Another Super Cool Plan

This morning Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson introduced a pair of new programs that will give $800 Billion to help unfreeze the consumer debt market. Mr. Paulson calls this "vital to supporting the economy."

Paulson said in a statement this morning that consumer debt such as credit cards, auto loans and student loans essentially came to a halt in October. These new programs are aimed to get lending back to more normal levels.

Paulson said all the government programs have been aimed at supporting the lending that is vital to the economy.

This whole situation reminds me of the Thanksgiving Day pick-up football games we used to play back when I was a kid. My older brother who played all-time quarterback would bring us into a tight huddle and detail out this genius play which we were going to execute with fine precision. I would cut right, then left, then run for 20 yards, button-hook back and he would provide with a perfect pass right on the numbers. Without fail, my brother would call hike and then immediately abandon the long thought out plan and just run with the ball.

Mr. Paulson is just running with the ball.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Government Agrees to Become CitiGroup's Largest Shareholder

Citigroup shares have soured this morning to more than 60% after federal officials agreed to a $326 billion rescue. The government will invest $20 billion directly to Citigroup and will guarantee up to $306 billion of Citi's troubled assets. The deal will give the government control over dividend limits and executive bonuses.

This is the first time the government has absorbed bad assets rather than inject money directly into financials.

This also makes the US government the largest shareholder of the failing bank at a 7.8% stake, just behind Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal at 5% and the government of Abu Dhabi at 4.9%

It's crazy to think that at this exact time a year ago, the stock market valued Citi at $180 billion. Today its market capitalization stands at $20 billion and its share price has shriveled to just $3.75, a 16-year low.

This rushed design was put together this weekend with intensive negotiations involving the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

GM and Ford To Get Rid of Some Private Planes They Don't Like Totally Need...Maybe

Even though GM CEO Rick Wagoner and Ford CEO Alan Mulally are required by their companies to fly by private aircraft for security reasons, they think they may be able to part with their private jets.

Of course this has nothing to do with their recent excursion to Washington to beg for money. Wilkinson said the decision to return the leased corporate jets was made before this week's hearings and that the company in September returned two other of the seven jets it had at the beginning of the year.

It's interesting Wilkinson would not have mentioned this when he was being battered around during the hearing held by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee.

According to Ford's proxy, Mulally was required to use Ford aircraft for all business and personal air travel in 2007 for "security reasons" and his family and guests were allowed to accompany him.

The arrangement also covers travel by Mulally's wife, children and guests on company aircraft for personal reasons without him at company expense upon his request to "ease the burden" of moving to Michigan and away from family in Seattle, according to the proxy.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The 20th, 21st and 22nd Banks This Year to Fail Amid the Ongoing Financial Crisis

The FDIC said Friday evening that U.S. Bank (USB - 22.53, +0.41, +1.9%) , located in Minneapolis, has acquired the banking operations of Downey Savings and Loan Association, F.A., Newport Beach, Calif., and PFF Bank & Trust, Pomona, Calif.

Downey Savings currently has assets totaling $12.8 billion and total deposits of $9.7 billion. PFF Bank has assets of $3.7 billion and $2.4 billion in total deposits, according to the FDIC.

The 213 branches of Downey Savings and Loan and PFF Bank & Trust will reopen as branches of U.S. Bank.

Downey Savings and PFF are the 21st and 22nd banks to fail in the U.S. this year alone.

In addition Downey Savings and PFF Bank closures, the FDIC and Georgia regulators announced the seizure of Loganville, Ga.-based The Community Bank on Friday. It was the 20th bank failure this year amid the ongoing financial crisis.

The Community Bank's branches will reopen Monday as Bank of Essex, as deposits have been already transferred.

The Community Bank had total assets of $681 million and total deposits of $611.4 million as of Oct. 17.

GM Not About to Rule Out Bankruptcy

The Wall Street Journal Online has reported that GM's board has come to the conclusion that seeking government funding is the company's top priority but is not dismissing the possibility of a bankruptcy filing.

WSJ Online on Friday reported that the company said its board had discussed bankruptcy but didn't see that as a "viable solution to the company's liquidity problems." A GM spokesman, Tony Cervone, told the newspaper that management is considering doing everything in its power to avoid a filing. Wagoner declined to be interviewed and several board members could not be reached for comment on Friday.

On Friday, General Motors shares closed at $3.06, up 18 cents, or 6.25%. Last year at this time, the stock was trading around $42.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sent a note to the 3 chief executives of the Detroit automakers that details what the lawmakers mean by "viability" for their firms and accountability to taxpayers.

The letter said the companies must lay-out their current operating cash positions, provide estimates of the terms of the loan requested, bar the payment of dividends and excessive executive compensation and demonstrate the companies' abilities to achieve strengthened fuel efficiency requirements.

Pelosi also denied Chapter 11 bankruptcy as an alternative for the Big 3. "I just think that would be digging a hole far too deep," she said, adding that such a scenario would prove devastating for workers, the economy and the U.S. manufacturing base.

Stocks to Watch for Monday

Hewlett Packard (HPQ - 34.64, +2.83, +8.9%) is said to be reporting fourth-quarter earnings of $1.01 a share in the fourth quarter, according to analysts.

Campbell Soup (CPB - 36.27, +0.85, +2.4%) should report first-quarter earnings of 77 cents a share, according to analysts.

Target Corp. (TGT - 28.08, +0.08, +0.3%) said it has rejected proposals by the hedge fund firm Pershing Square regarding its real estate portfolio. Ackman had proposed that Target spin off the land it owns into a real estate investment trust in hopes of improving the company's value.

Sprint Nextel Corp.'s (S - 1.71, +0.34, +24.8%) John Garcia, who has been overseeing Sprint's CDMA business, has announced he is leaving the company. The reasons for Garcia's departure are not clear, according to reports. Keith Cowan, president of strategy and corporate development will take over as an interim replacement while Sprint searches for a successor to oversee the unit which controls 70% of Sprint's customer base.

CBRL Group (CBRL -11.64, -0.13, -1.1%) is projected to announce earnings of 50 cents a share in the first quarter, says a FactSet Research survey.

US seeks $300bn in Gulf

A report from Kuwait's daily Al-Seyassah has mentioned that the United States has asked four Gulf states for about $300bn to help it curb the global financial meltdown, AFP has cited. The daily has quoted 'highly informed' sources that Washington has asked Saudi Arabia for $120bn, United Arab Emirates for $70bn, Qatar for $60bn and $40bn from Kuwait.

Obama outlines plan to create 2.5M jobs

New York (CNN) -- Saying that moving quickly is imperative, President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday offered an outline of his economic recovery plan to create 2.5 million jobs by 2011, saying American workers will rebuild the nation's roads and bridges, modernize its schools and create more sources of alternative energy.

"These aren't just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis," Obama said in the weekly Democratic address, posted on his Web site. "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 sign the two-year, nationwide 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.

"We'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technology that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years head," he said.

He noted he will need support from both Democrats and Republicans to pass such a plan, and said he welcomes suggestions from both sides of the aisle.

"But what is not negotiable is the need for immediate action," he said. "Right now, there are millions of mothers and fathers who are lying awake at night wondering if next week's paycheck will cover next month's bills. There are Americans showing up to work in the morning, only to have cleared out their desks by the afternoon. Retirees are watching their life savings disappear, and students are seeing their college dreams deferred. These Americans need help, and they need it now."

Throughout history, he said, Americans have been able to rise above their divisions to work together, he said.

"That is the chance our new beginning now offers us, and that is the challenge we must rise to in the days to come," Obama said. "It is time to act. As the next president of the United States, I will." To top of page