News & Current Affairs

August 28, 2008

US GDP rebounds with 3.3% growth

US GDP rebounds with 3.3% growth

A US shopper

Tax rebates have encouraged consumers to spend more

The US economy grew at a revised 3.3% annually in the second quarter of 2008, the Commerce Department said, much higher than its first estimate of 1.9%.

The rebound was linked to strong US exports, helped by the weak dollar, while government tax rebates also boosted consumer spending.

GDP grew at a rate of 0.9% in the first quarter, after a 0.2% contraction in the last three months of 2007.

The Federal Reserve has warned the economy will remain weak this year.

“While we’re not out of the woods yet, maybe we’re beginning to see some sunlight,” said John Wilson, equity strategist at Morgan Keegan.

“At some point, the market will begin to look through the trough and gauge the strength of the coming upturn.”

‘No recession’

The data showed that exports grew at an annualized rate of 13.2%, higher than the government’s initial estimate of 9.2%.

Imports fell at a rate of 7.6% as the US economic slowdown reduced demands for goods made overseas.

The improved trade balance added 3.1 percentage points to second-quarter GDP, the biggest since 1980.

The slowdown in the housing market was evident, as builders cut back and businesses reduced their spending.

Consumer spending, boosted by the government’s $600 tax rebate payments, rose by 1.7%, slightly higher than the previous quarter’s 1.5%.

Some observers said that the figures lent support to the argument that the US was not heading for a recession.

“For a recession the economy is certainly growing very quickly,” said Avery Shenfeld, senior economist at CIBC World Markets.

“A lot of that growth is driven off exports and pessimists might say that can’t continue during slowing growth overseas.

“But I would say this happened precisely during the period of slowing growth overseas … this is still an economy that faces slow times but not a recession.”

16-year low

However recent data on the US housing market suggests a grim outlook for the sector.

US house prices were down a record 15.4% in the April to June quarter compared with a year ago, according to a closely-watched report released earlier this week.

The decline was recorded by the latest S&P/Case-Shiller survey of US national home prices.

The report said the fact that the falls were nationwide was the latest sign the US housing downturn is continuing.

Separate government data said sales of new homes were at an annual rate of 515,000 units in July, up slightly from June, but still near a 16-year low, and half the rate of new home sales one year ago.

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August 13, 2008

Digital nomad drives laptop sales

Digital nomad drives laptop sales

Courtesy BBC

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, San Francisco

Dell poster

One of the demands of the new digital nomad is constant connectivity

The demands of the digital nomad are expected to drive laptop sales to over one billion in the next five years.

The prediction by Dell came as it unveiled 10 new laptop models aimed at this emerging working class.

The new Latitude line boasts as much as 19 hours of battery life for the always connected 21st century worker.

“There is no business as usual in the connected era,” said Andy Lark, Dell’s vice president of global marketing.

“Boundaries for businesses are virtual. This is a new class of worker who maybe doesn’t have an office and who maybe visits 10 offices in a day and visits several different customers.”

Andy Lark of Dell

Andy Lark says Dell has shipped 53 million Latitude laptops since 1994

Mr Lark told BBC News that the ranks of the digital nomad were swelling as were expectations about the functions their laptops and notebooks could perform.

“The majority of people coming online and buying their first computer today are doing it in emerging countries like China, India and Brazil.

“If you look at India, about 67% or more of their workforce is going to be entirely mobile and that is driving the demand for new features in the laptop like all day connectivity, long battery life, high-level security and uncompromising design and durability.”

‘Performance leaders’

At a press launch in San Francisco, Jeff Clarke, senior vice president of Dell’s business group, showed off the new line to reporters and analysts.

The laptops include seven Latitude business laptops and three Dell Precision workstation laptops which Mr Clarke described as “performance leaders and something the tech community will absolutely die for”.

The computers have just under 10 hours of battery life which can be extended with a so called “battery slice” to total 19 hours.

Mr Clarke said the company spent more than one million man hours and two years designing the updated Latitude line which range in price from $800 (£400) to around $1,400.

The company also consulted more than 4,000 customers to find out what they wanted in their laptop. As well as battery life being a priority, security was the other big concern.

Dell's Jeff Clarke

Dell’s Jeff Clarke shows off some of the new ultra mobile laptop colours

Mr Clarke told reporters: “With 17,000 notebooks being lost, left unattended or reported missing at airports around the world, many with important information on them, our customers asked for the notion of a vault to secure their information.”

Dell said it had done that by including the ability to track down or disable the device if it was stolen.

The machines also have a fingerprint reader and a “control vault” processor that stores an owner’s identity and credentials on protected hardware.

‘Tiniest of differences’

Dell may have declared “freedom from business as usual”, but is it enough to regain market share and compete with devices made by rivals such as Apple and HP?

Mr Clarke certainly seemed to think so.

“We have defined mobility for the business computer. We are at that forefront of being different.”

Dell launch

In discussions with customers, security emerged as a major issue

Charles King of technology industry analysis firm Pund-IT told the BBC Dell had produced a product for today’s workforce.

“I think what it comes down to is that for most of those customers, highly mobile, highly robust and highly secure systems are critical for large organizations’ ease of management and administration.

“I think what Dell has done here is really very much focused on meeting the needs and wishes of this different class.”

Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat.com said he wasn’t totally convinced.

“I am not sure this is going to do it for Dell. The differentiation in this space is based on the tiniest of differences. Still it gives Apple, HP, Toshiba and Lenovo a target to strike at.”

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