Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sky garages for the uber-rich

Residents of one New York building pay a premium to park their cars in private garages directly outside their apartment doors.

Google opens online music store and free storage locker

Google opened an online music store and a free Web storage locker on Wednesday for listening to tracks from computers, tablets and phones, the company announced at a news conference in Los Angeles.

The music store sells songs and albums for prices comparable to iTunes and Amazon MP3, but Google's catalog is smaller. The storefront can be found in the Android Market, an application and website where Google smartphone users can download apps.

Songs purchased from the store are automatically uploaded to Google Music, a locker that can be accessed from an app coming to recent Android phones and tablets in the next few days, or from a website. They allow users to stream songs from their various devices.

The Google locker service launched to a small group in May, and it opened to everyone in the United States on Wednesday. Google Music is free for storing as many as 20,000 songs.

More than half of all smartphones sold worldwide in the last quarter run Google's Android software, according to market research firm Gartner. Google said more than 200 million devices have been activated.

But in the music download market, Apple is king, selling more than half of all U.S. downloads through its iTunes Store, analysts say.

Apple took steps to broaden its offering with the launch of iTunes Match on Monday. ITunes Match is similar to Google Music in that it allows customers to store their music catalogs, up to 25,000 songs, on Apple's servers and access them from their computers, iPhones and iPads. Match costs $25 per year.

Google executives announce the Google Music store and locker at a news conference in Los Angeles."At Google, digital music has become fundamental to many things we care very much about," Jamie Rosenberg, Google's director of content for Android, said onstage at the news conference. "Other cloud music services think you have to pay to listen to the music you own. We don't."

ITunes Match has a technological leg up on Google because subscribers can upload their libraries much more quickly. That's thanks to Apple's deals with the music labels that allow it to provide customers with access to the high-quality versions of songs that iTunes sells. With Google Music or's Cloud Drive, users with a lot of music may have to wait several days for their entire catalogs to upload.

The iTunes Store has about 20 million songs, whereas Google has 8 million. Google has signed deals with three of the big four record labels. Warner Music Group, the third largest, whose musicians include Death Cab for Cutie, the Grateful Dead, Muse and T-Pain, is a holdout. Even without Warner, Google said it will add 5 million songs over the next several months.

Customers of T-Mobile USA's cellular network will be able to charge songs to their phone bills rather than setting up a Google account with a credit card.

After buying a song through Google Music, customers can share the track on the Google+ social network. Not surprisingly, Google Music will not integrate with Facebook Music, the aggregation service that launched recently from Google's social-network rival.

Google claims that, unlike other music stores, people who find songs through Google+ will be able to listen to each one in full for free one time before they buy. ITunes only provides 90-second previews. Google has also secured exclusive access to live records from popular bands including Coldplay and the Rolling Stones. Apple is still the only music-download store that has the Beatles.

The day's top showbiz news and headlines

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Quiz: Reported Speech

Gizmodo's Editor-in-chief Joe Brown reviews the Kindle Fire

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"Brazil cost" may dim Foxconn's iPad dreams

Sun, Oct 30 2011

If the officials in the industrial town of Jundiai get their way to build the road, it will soon be named Steve Jobs road -- in homage to the late Apple Inc co-founder.

Brazil's government has loudly proclaimed a deal it says is worth $12 billion for Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn to produce iPads and build a whole new industry based around screens used in an array of consumer electronics from smartphones to televisions.

But the infamous "Brazil cost" -- shorthand for the bureaucracy and high taxes that plague business in the country -- is already overshadowing the deal, complicating negotiations with Foxconn over the broader investment plan. The likely need for large state subsidized loans to lure Foxconn also revives concerns about the state's heavy hand in Brazil's economy.

The deal's transformative potential for Brazil is clear, yet critics say Brazil's shallow labor pool and poor infrastructure make it ill-prepared to make the leap to high-end work and that it risks being stuck at the low end -- assembling components designed and made elsewhere. At first, Foxconn will have to fly in most of the key components such as semiconductors, modems and screens from China, as Brazil attempts to raise its ability to produce more of them locally.

"We are selling our market very cheaply, giving tax incentives for a company to come and produce something that is already developed in the world market," said Joao Maria de Oliveira, a researcher at the government-linked Institute for Applied Economic Research, or IPEA. "It's not something that adds much value and it won't leave much here."

The amount of value added to Apple products by Foxconn's approximately one million workers in China is a mere $10 or so per device, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

Brazil has cut taxes and duties on tablet production in a move that should reduce the retail price by about a third and is phasing in production requirements to help a local components industry.

Separately, it is in talks with Foxconn on a package of incentives, including priority customs access, more tax breaks and subsidized loans from state development bank BNDES to secure the bigger investment in high-end screens.

It isn't hard to see what's in it for Foxconn, Apple and other foreign companies, including Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd that have expressed interest in making tablets here.

Apple will gain better access to Brazil's voracious consumers, who have faced high prices for its products due to high import tariffs, and will create a jumping point for other rapidly growing Latin American countries.

Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics company, with around a third of the global market, would gain a vital foothold in Latin America's largest economy and reduce the risks of having so much Apple production in China.

Producing in Brazil would also give Foxconn and Apple preferential access to Brazil's partners in the Mercosur customs union -- Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

But the "Brazil cost" raises doubts over whether Apple will be able to make the iPad cheaply enough for the Brazilian market and use it as a major base to export to the United States and Latin America.

Brazil's consumer market is a huge bet for companies such as Apple, but analysts say the domestic industry will likely take years to move beyond assembly to higher-end production.

"It will take at least five, six years to create the entire ecosystem there," said Satish Lele, vice president, consulting, Asia Pacific at Frost & Sullivan in Singapore.

The Foxconn factory near "Steve Jobs" road is rumored by Brazilian media to already be producing iPhones and is expected to start selling iPad tablets by December for sale to Brazil's growing middle class. The company, whose main listed vehicle is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, has already hired more than 1,000 people in Jundiai, a medium-sized city an hour away from Sao Paulo, to work at a new plant.

Jundiai is planning to build a technology park and nearby towns are also looking to draw more such investment.

But the starting monthly wage for members of the metalworkers' union in Jundiai is about 1,058 reais ($605) -- nearly double the 2,000 yuan ($315) minimum wage Foxconn paid in China as of last October.

Those wage pressures are likely to make it hard for the iPad price to fall any time soon to a range that would give it the mass-market appeal it enjoys in the United States.

Tablet sales in Brazil will jump to 450,000 this year from 105,000-110,000 last year, according to consulting firm IDC, surging to above 1 million next year. That is significant growth -- but the 60 percent of Brazilian households without a computer won't necessarily rush out to buy tablets, cautioned Jose Martim Juacida, an analyst with the company.

"The first computer purchase is usually a desktop or a laptop, because a desktop can be shared," he said.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Quiz: Framework Level 3 - Unit 1 to 6

Daily Chart


Nov 1st 2011 by The Economist online

Over the last two decades, thanks largely to government policy, the poverty rate in Brazil has halved. With this, income inequality (measured by the Gini coefficient) has also fallen sharply, declining on average by 1.2% a year. Brazil’s economy is forecast to grow by 3.6% this year. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist, this year Brazil will overtake Britain to become the sixth largest economy in the world. GDP per person, at around $11,000 (or 19,000 reais) has been growing at an average annual rate of 1.7% since 1990; closing the gap with high-income countries. And income growth is faster among the poorest (comparable to China’s GDP per person growth rates). Consequently by 2015 Brazil could reach its Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction, some ten years early. But further action is needed; 8.5% of Brazil’s population still live on less than 70 reais per month, equivalent to $1.50 a day.

Credit growth shows Brazil’s resilience

October 27, 2011

Credit growth shows Brazil’s resilience

By Joe Leahy in São Paulo

Credit in Brazil grew in September at its fastest monthly rate this year in a sign of the resilience of domestic demand in Latin America’s largest economy in contrast to weakness in Europe and the US.

The loan data from the central bank come as a separate study shows property prices in some of the biggest cities are continuing to rise at an average of 22-28 per cent a year in spite of cooling in the overall economy.

“There are no signs of an accommodation in the market, since what we are seeing is in fact a substantial increase in prices,” said Antonio Carlos Ruótolo, of Ibope Inteligência, the research firm that released the real-estate study.

Brazil’s economy has been slowing from an Asia-like growth rate last year amid a decline in industrial production and a weakening global economy.

Domestic demand has also been showing signs of easing but there is no indication of a collapse, with spending thanks to Brazil’s growing middle class, low unemployment, wage increases and a boom in the availability of credit.

“The Brazilian people are accustomed to spending. I think they are not feeling the crisis, no,” said Pedro Moraes, a customer at a news stand on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo’s central business district.

In a survey of the Brazilian economy released on Wednesday, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that Brazil’s gross domestic product would grow 3.6 per cent this year and 3.5 per cent in 2012 compared with 7.5 per cent in 2010.

“Domestic demand, spurred by strong investment, is likely to continue to sustain activity,” the OECD said.

The central bank said Brazilian credit in September received a boost from the depreciation of the country’s currency, the real, against the dollar in September.

Excluding the foreign exchange effect, which boosted the value of Brazil’s dollar debt in local currency terms, credit growth would still have risen 1.8 per cent in September, a growth rate comparable with August.

Total loans in the 12 months to September were up 19.6 per cent from a year earlier, with mortgage credit showing a rise of 45.3 per cent, although from a small base.

“Credit operations in the financial system in September had more pronounced growth in relation to the previous month,” the central bank said on Wednesday.

The central bank abruptly ceased a tightening cycle at the end of August and has since cut the benchmark Selic interest rate by 100 basis points to 11.5 per cent, citing its concern over the global slowdown.

But some economists are worried that if the sharp slowdown in growth does not materialise, Brazil’s tight labour market and still robust credit growth could lead to a resurgence of inflation, which was 7.12 per cent in the year to end-October.

The central bank has predicted that inflation will converge to the centre of its target of 4.5 per cent plus or minus 2 percentage points next year even with the interest rate cuts.

Other economists warned, however, that the economy is slowing faster than expected.

Goldman Sachs has repeatedly revised down its forecasts for real GDP growth and is now predicting 3.3 per cent for this year and 3.0 per cent in 2012.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011. You may share using our article tools.

Sotheby’s Impressionist art


The audience that packed into Sotheby's, New York was not disappointed. The auction house's autumn Impressionist sale was a roaring success, with top lot, Gustav Klimt's "Litzleberg am Attersee" selling at a hammer price of 36 million U.S. dollars -- well above its low estimate of 25 million. And the total for the auction was far above that for the same sale last year. Co-chairman for impressionist art for Sotheby's, David Norman, says he thinks the market is strong and that's reassuring buyers. SOUNDBITE: David Norman, co-chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art worldwide for Sotheby's, saying (English): "To reach a 200 million dollar (USD) total, well in excess of our last equivalent season, within our estimate and set a variety of records was just enormously gratifying and as one of my colleagues said earlier, the market, which was a little bit shaky yesterday, really roared back today." The sale's success came just 24 hours after rival auction house Christie's slumped with their Impressionist sale. Bidding for several top artworks including the sale's star, Degas' "Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans" was weak and the lot was eventually passed. Norman says he puts Sotheby's success down to accurate estimates. SOUNDBITE: David Norman, co-chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art worldwide for Sotheby's, saying (English): "I think it's a very savvy audience, very selective. I think they want to buy art, certainly like we saw tonight, but they won't tolerate estimates that are too high. When something was estimated correctly, the bidders were incredibly responsive. And if one day can make such a difference, art market followers are keen to see how next week's New York postwar and contemporary auctions will fare. Tara Cleary, Reuters
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