All posts on May, 2016

Emerging Tech

The Rise of Drone Racing, Part 2

With lucrative broadcast deals and cup competitions now crowding calendars, drone racing has become one of the primary factors driving the surge in demand for consumer drones. Mountain Dew and DR1 Racing earlier this month announced a special DR1 Invitational presented by Mountain Dew. The one-hour broadcast will air on Discovery Communication’s Discovery and Science channels in August.

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Business and financeGulliver

There is no good reason to fly business class on short-haul flights

YOUR correspondent received a rare treat last week. On travelling to speak at a conference, it emerged that the client had stumped up for a business-class flight. This in itself is not a surprise. After all, there is a point to travelling at the front of the plane beyond merely quaffing better quality food and drink: being able to stretch out and sleep or work comfortably in transit can be invaluable in helping you arrive sharp and ready for action the moment you reach your destination.

Still—and without wishing to sound churlish—on this occasion, it seemed like a perk too far. The posh tickets were for a flight of barely 90 minutes from London to Norway, the evening before the conference. No chance of jetlag hampering my performance in this instance. Which invited the question of what utility business-class travel brings to short-haul flights.

The answer is very little. Fast-tracking passengers through security is all well and good, but in reality saves precious little time for additional work. Equally, a few inches more legroom and metal cutlery are pleasant, but not essential for a flight that lasts such a short time. And beyond…Continue reading

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Tech Buzz

What Will HPE Sell Next?

I joined a bunch of analysts in discussing Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s next move at a secret conclave last week. The company had just announced the sale of its IT services, which basically undid much of Mark Hurd’s work as CEO. It already had sold off PCs and printers, more than undoing Carly Fiorina’s earlier efforts. Granted, HPE spun it like it was an acquisition.

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Microsoft’s Intolerable Windows 10 Aggression

Microsoft seems to have gone off the deep end with its tricks to get unwilling customers to upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8 to Windows 10. Doesn’t the company realize this will hurt it? Does Microsoft think it can be abusive and win? Users are complaining loudly. Why doesn’t Microsoft care about the disruption it is causing?
A slice of the Microsoft marketplace wants to move to Windows 10. Fine. Many of them absolutely love it. That is not the problem.

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Tech Law

Coalition Wants FCC to Look Into Data Cap Exemptions

A coalition of technology companies and advocacy groups earlier this week wrote to the Federal Communications Commission, urging it to open a public investigation into zero-rating practices, in which mobile providers allow some video or music providers to be excluded from data caps. The group called on the FCC to examine the zero-rating practices to determine whether they harm competition.

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Social Networks

Facebook Tweaks Trending Topics Out of Abundance of Caution

Facebook this week said it would make several procedural changes to its Trending Topics feature to quell concerns that the results could be steered in a particular political direction, even though it has found no evidence of bias. The company will retrain workers in the Trending Topics department and institute additional oversight and control to make sure trending stories are selected fairly.

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Tiny HopperGo Neatly Stashes Loads of Mobile Entertainment

Dish Network continues to change the way we view recorded TV. It made location-shifting as easy as time-shifting via its Sling technology, and its Hopper let users transfer recordings to a mobile device. Now it has introduced another option for taking recorded content anywhere: the HopperGO, a compact DVR hard disk drive that lets users transfer content from a set-top box to the portable unit.

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Upward mobility

Rivals in the pink

CAR companies have long talked a good game when it comes to harnessing technology that threatens to undermine the business of making and selling vehicles. In the 1990s, as the dotcom boom was in full swing, Jac Nasser, then boss of Ford, said that the new business models the internet would enable meant that his firm would outsource the dull task of assembling cars and reinvent itself as a mobility company, selling transport as a service. Mr Nasser was too early with this insight. Only now are most big carmakers teaming up with tech firms that offer transport services, on the road to becoming mobility providers. But they in turn may have left it too late.

In the scramble to reinvent themselves, conventional carmakers have turned their attention of late to ride-hailing apps. These services allow people to use smartphone apps to summon a car and driver to ferry them to their next destination. On May 24th both Toyota and Volkswagen announced tie-ups with taxi-hailing apps. The Japanese firm has made a small, undisclosed investment in Uber, the world’s biggest ride-hailing firm, with operations in over 70…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Proof positive

AVENUE PÉTAIN, a tree-lined boulevard of grand mansions and Art Deco towers in Shanghai’s old French concession, was once one of the city’s most prestigious residential streets. Hengshan Road, as it is now called, is today full of bars and restaurants. The most intriguing used to be the Moutai club, a secretive outfit catering to political bigwigs that decorated its walls with pictures of Deng Xiaoping and other luminaries quaffing firewater. Their glasses may have contained a special blend of Moutai, an expensive brand of baijiu, a liquor distilled from sorghum.

Alas, this pleasure palace has since shut down. A crackdown on corruption by the government of President Xi Jinping has made it risky for officials to schmooze with businessmen over bottles of baijiu. Sales of China’s national spirit (and the world’s most popular hard liquor), which rose at double-digit rates from 2007 to 2012, were dealt a big blow. Annual growth in sales plunged to barely 3% in 2014 as purchases for official banquets and other forms of ostentatious boozing plummeted.

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Striking it rich

Keeping a close eye on the barrels

TWO lines of business have stood out of late for their inability to make money: journalism and oil. So when it emerged on May 23rd that Argus Media, a British firm that reports global commodities prices, is to be sold to an American investment firm for $1.4 billion, it aroused a variety of emotions. One was surprise. “Data about oil markets now seem to be worth more than oil itself,” exclaimed one executive of a commodities exchange. Another, in the words of an employee at S&P Global Platts, Argus’s main rival, was “jealousy”. The sale has turned some of Argus’s 750 scribblers, a quarter of whom are said to own shares or options, into millionaires.

Argus began in 1970 as a newsletter reporting on petroleum-product prices in the Netherlands. General Atlantic, which is buying out the family of Jan Nasmyth, its late founder, has made the most aggressive move so far in an industry that is fast consolidating. Its leaders, Platts and Argus, are battling for dominance over reporting prices of the most widely used oil benchmarks, such as Dated Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI),…Continue reading

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