January 29th, 2010
07:35 PM GMT
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As the great Davos conflab nears its end I can honestly say it’s been a fantastic experience - despite what a group of jaded journalists led me to believe on the train ride from Zurich.

While I've watched some impressive guests including Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Jacob Zuma, it’s the more offbeat aspects of the week that stick most in my mind.

On entering the airport-style security checkpoint on my first day, I witnessed an engineer attempting to fit a set of TV flood lights into the X-ray scanner at the request of a stern-looking policeman. A CNN colleague later told me she was asked to send four freshly-baked pizzas through the same scanner as she returned on a lunch run.

Not really sure what kind of security risk hot chillies provide.

Once inside the fortified congress center I was ushered down to the basement where CNN's "work area" was located. The musty, green-colored room almost had me running back towards the glamorous ski resort I arrived at.

To make matters worse, the local fire brigade was called on my final day here to help stem the tide of waste water from the nearby toilet seeping into our bunker.

But that’s life in the field.

In between filing stories I decided I would also "tweet" during my time here. Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen in the bunker but I quickly became obsessed with what "celebrities" at Davos were tweeting.

It may be no surprise that Twitter's young co-founder was using his own service. But I was still interested to learn what preoccupied Evan Williams during a debate about the future of social media with fellow Silicon Valley bigwigs. Between questions he tweeted: "About to do my Davos panel in jeans and tennies. @unitedairlines says we might see our luggage tomorrow."

I thought the "geek chic" look was intentional.

In any event you’ll be glad to know Evan was reunited with his luggage the following day.

I also learned the glamorous Queen Rania of Jordan was diligently keeping her followers in the loop about her trip. "Scarf: check. Gloves: check. Warmest coat: check. Secret hand warmers: check. I’m ready for the World Economic Forum at Davos," she tweeted shortly after arriving.

Bill Gates was also a prolific tweeter… And so my obsession went on.

I'm not sure exactly how much rethinking, redesigning and rebuilding was done at Davos this year, but I would certainly endorse its value as a spectacle.



January 29th, 2010
02:52 PM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – A great deal can unfold in the span of 24 hours in Davos. That certainly was the case on the issue of banking regulation. The annual meeting of the forum opened with a panel of financiers pulling out their crystal balls for 2010/11. One in particular stood out, Bob Diamond, CEO of Barclays, who takes issue on the effort by the Obama administration to separate out or govern proprietary trading by banks who collect deposits. He says it will stifle innovation and the economic recovery.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy was on the other end of the financial spectrum and sounded like he wants to ban market making forces altogether. Again President Obama made it a central issue of his State of the Union address, right along job creation. The news cycle was rounded out when Diamond came on CNN today sounding almost like a statesman when he noted, “creating an environment conducive to economic growth and job creation is critical.”

See CNN's full Davos coverage

One needs to read between the lines here. These power players are marking their turf. Diamond did not borrow money from G-7 governments to get bailed out during the crisis – he took investments from Middle East sovereign funds in Qatar and Abu Dhabi instead. As a result, he feels freer to speak his mind about what banking might be faced with after the high profile bonuses being paid out in the shadow of the worst downturn in 60 years.

As one high profile banker said to me before we took the stage on a plenary session, don’t forget these ideas have to become law. The banking sector is already marshalling forces against such a move – as the multi-trillion dollar showdown gets underway.

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January 28th, 2010
06:46 PM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – Day two of the World Economic Forum in Davos and the issues being talked about in the hallways are truly global. The number one talking point remains the need for new regulation and the new definition of capitalism. Bankers continue their fight against harsh new regulations – Bob Diamond told CNN, “I think it’s really important that the U.S. tries to integrate as closely as they can with the G-20 initiatives, particularly around capital, around leverage and around liquidity.” While John Mack of Morgan Stanley bemoaned the fact there wasn’t a proper forum for government and banks to come together to sort out a solution.

But also the shift of power towards Asia is high on the agenda. The prospective next Chinese prime minister is here – and I assure you every word he says is analysed, dissected and followed with much interest no doubt by the prime minister and finance minister of Greece. In true Davos fashion I have now been able to hobnob with some pretty big players.

The prime minister of Greece had a moment to chat about the financial crises hitting his country. I interviewed the CEO of Pepsico, Indira Nooyi. Like other great thinkers she is determined that there needs to be a sea change in the way CEOs regard their companies and stakeholders (and in her case, she is also pushing hard for Pepsico to introduce more healthy chips, drinks and snacks.)

Ms. Nooyi did have one caution to offer – she reminded me that some of the issues had been on the Davos agenda over many years. It was time to deal with them and move on. Quite.

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT (or your local time) to watch Richard Quest on ‘Quest Means Business’.

For more information on Davos please visit www.cnn.com/davos

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January 28th, 2010
11:56 AM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – The runners are off… Davos has begun. The agenda is clear: how to do things differently in the future, especially when it comes to the banks.

The discussion has been galvanized by U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposals to split the big Wall Street firms and ban proprietary trading. Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC, told me reform of the banks is needed but cautions against doing it in haste. And he doesn’t like Obama’s proposals for banning prop trading by banks, which he says is unworkable.

There are big thoughts being raised here today. Ben Verwaayen the CEO of telecom company Alcatel-Lucent is promoting cohesive capitalism. He explained that companies need to set policies around a much bigger agenda than earnings per share. "I'm talking about issues... whether that's health, whether that's climate change, whether it has to do with the cohesion of society because of diversity. And companies need to contribute."  This is true Davosian thinking.

Verwaayen knows stating the principle is part of the process at Davos. Tom Glocer, the CEO of Thomson Reuters - a seasoned Davos hand – knows, "Ideas are generated independently. They begin to be socialized. They are essentially repeating what they’ve heard in the corridors here. The idea picks up traction."

In the cold winter of Switzerland there is, as always, hot debate of these issues and these conversations will eventually lead to change.

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT (or your local time) to watch Richard Quest on ‘Quest Means Business’.

For more information on Davos please visit www.cnn.com/davos

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January 28th, 2010
10:36 AM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – As the serious business of rethinking, redesigning and rebuilding the world’s battered economy got started at Davos, I found myself wandering into a debate about how social media is changing the world.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman

Everyone that’s anyone in this rarefied world was there, including MySpace chief Owen Van Natta, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was represented by his sister, Randi.

It’s standing room only in the ridiculously small conference suite deep in the fortified congress center, such is the interest in what these new kings of Silicon Valley have to say.

See CNN's full Davos coverage

The idea is that each panelist gives his or her view on the most interesting issues in social networking, from privacy to how it’s being used as a newsgathering tool. The discussion is also going out live on the Internet - at one stage Zuckerberg reveals almost 6,000 questions have been filed by Facebook users within minutes.

Williams, in his jeans and hooded top, seems to be tweeting between questions, while Hoffman comes out with one of the most provocative statements when he calls privacy an “old person’s” issue that young people aren’t interested in.

Tell that to the huge number of bloggers that complained when Facebook altered their privacy settings recently. Interestingly, Zuckerberg isn’t keen to discuss privacy as she hides behind her laptop.

Don Tapscott, a veteran tech writer, chimed in about Facebook profiles being open to scrutiny by potential employers. “Someone could miss out on that job due to content in their Facebook account that doesn’t necessarily represent their true character.”

An interesting point. Are you worried about where your personal information is going? Let us know below.

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January 27th, 2010
05:58 PM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – They often say flight time is quality thinking time. That was my experience on the transfer from Riyadh to Davos last night. I had the pleasure of sharing that flight on the invitation James Turley the Global Chief Executive of Ernst & Young.

It was Turley’s first Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh and mine as well so we shared insights into the effort by King Abdullah to transform the Kingdom’s economy and its people. It was not his first visit to the Saudi capital. Like many smart, leading global chief executive, he spotted the opportunity early.

Since we had more than five hours together in our transfer from “Sand to Snow”, I took the opportunity to get his insights on leadership. Turley has spent 33 years at E&Y, the last decade as CEO for 145,000 people all over the globe.

See CNN's full Davos coverage

He is your classic Davos Man, on the road and in the air 75 percent of the time, spending as he noted more of his energies in the East than in the West because that is where the growth is. I asked how he avoids being caught in the CEO bubble, where the boss is insulated from information. The answer was quite simple, by traveling at 40,000 feet and getting insight from clients, government leaders and his employees.

Sometimes in this BlackBerry, all wireless-world, I wonder if values are lost along the way since leaders like Turley are moving so fast. But that concern was quickly wiped away. When asked what his most important leadership traits are, he listed three that drive his day-to-day life: Integrity based on a solid foundation, mutual respect with his employees and listening. He called the latter “vital” since one has to be open to ideas from the young talent rising through the organizations.

For Turley (and me) the quality time is over, as Davos just begins to rev up.

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January 27th, 2010
03:15 AM GMT
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All eyes will be on Apple on Wednesday. Most will be watching to see just what the company unveils at San Francisco. Others will watch for signs of a growing rivalry between Apple and Google.

At a glance, they don’t make obvious competitors. Apple doesn’t have a search engine and Google doesn’t make computers. But the two companies are slowly encroaching on each others’ turf, from phones to web browsers.

It wasn’t always this way. The two used to be close allies. The proof is in the hands of millions of people around the world: The iPhone. The default search engine on the iPhone is Google. The built-in Maps application runs on Google Maps. And every iPhone has a dedicated application to access Google’s YouTube. Google CEO Eric Schmidt appeared at the iPhone’s unveiling in January 2007 to tout these features and the close ties between the two companies.

(Just before launch, Schmidt was seen in this video proudly showing off the iPhone he received for sitting on Apple’s board of directors.)

By November, the first real signs of competition appeared. Google announced that it was partnering with mobile manufacturers like Motorola and HTC to build Android, an open software platform for mobile phones. It culminated in the launch of the Nexus One: An Android phone from Google itself, sold on Google.com.

It’s not just in phones that Google is challenging Apple. Google’s Chrome web browser passed Apple’s Safari in market share at the end of 2009 according to Net Applications. And while an open-source, lightweight operating system designed for netbooks doesn’t sound like a competitor to Apple’s Mac OS X, Chrome OS was specifically cited as a reason for Schmidt’s resignation from Apple’s board by CEO Steve Jobs.

“Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest,” said Jobs.

While Google’s moves are fairly public, Apple’s moves against Google are cloaked in the company’s trademark veil of secrecy. Reports across the web say that Apple bought a mapping company called Placebase in 2009. The source? Tweets and the apparent relocation of much of Placebase’s staff to Apple — according to their profiles on LinkedIn. Good luck trying to verify that: Neither Apple nor Placebase has said anything, and Placebase.com was effectively taken offline

Perhaps Apple’s boldest move came earlier this month when it bought Quattro Wireless, which specialises in delivering ads over mobile phones. Advertising is where Google makes its money. And Apple’s acquisition comes two months after Google bought a mobile ad company of its own, AdMob.

Why the sudden interest in mobile ads? Google’s latest acquisition points the finger, ironically, at Apple. On the company blog, AdMob founder Omar Hamoui said that through the iPhone, Apple “showed all of us the way forward and their efforts have led to a landslide of rapid improvements in our space.”

Still, the most surprising sign of the rift came just last week. BusinessWeek reported that Apple was in talks to replace Google as the default search engine of the iPhone... with Microsoft’s Bing.

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January 26th, 2010
03:54 PM GMT
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We were taken around for our television shoot today by a communications executive who works with a global public relations firm out of Riyadh. While awaiting clearance, he asked about my shuttle journalism between my London base and the Middle East, which this week will include Davos. That discussion led to analysis of “Davos Man” as depicted by historian Samuel Huntington.

The premise is that about 2000 people belong to a global village and they gather at meetings such as the Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh where I am now. “Why Riyadh?” you may ask. It is a new destination for Davos Man because the government is spending about a half trillion dollars over the next five years to rebuild its economy. Chief Executives like those sort of numbers no doubt.

The problem according to Huntington is that it is difficult for new ideas to emerge because this club of people is sharing the same information. While it is partly true, the other side to that premise is that one gathers a lot of intelligence in the field.

A top tier Davos Man is Tony Blair, as a member of the World Economic Forum Foundation Board. The former British Prime Minister gave a thoughtful hour long speech here in Riyadh, especially impressive since he will be facing a tough grilling Friday before the Iraq enquiry Friday in London. He seemed pretty “zen-like” during our interview yesterday.

See CNN's full Davos coverage

Since Blair is in the air a great deal, as Middle East envoy and business consultant to an array of companies and governments, he does have his finger on the global pulse. Blair talked about the seven lessons for developing countries eager to participate in the global economy.

At the forefront of this effort says Blair is that the attitude of mind has to be opened not closed. This is especially intriguing in Saudi Arabia. The ruler, King Abudullah, is introducing quite radical change in the country, but he continues to meet resistance from religious conservatives. They see globalization as a threat not an opportunity. Blair talked of bringing in new ideas. The government is doing so, but will they filter out beyond the major economic hubs of Riyadh and Jeddah? That is still to be determined.

Blair also noted that it is not a race. One needs to learn before they teach others how to open up. He points to the Singapore model of development where they adopted the best global practices. It did not happen overnight but over a three decade span. Singapore now has a great deal to share with others – although it only had a small population to turn around.

Blair spoke of the changing paradigm in the world, that the shift to the East is both economic and geo-political. On our program we often look at what I like to call The New Silk Route, the rebuilding of business ties between the Middle East and Asia. You can feel the rebuilding of that route in Riyadh, as the Kingdom looks to become a much more influential player as it uses its role as the number one oil exporter to diversify and open up.



January 26th, 2010
03:27 PM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – The fire is out. It is time to build the new house. That is the underlying theme of Davos 2010, or more elegantly expressed in Davosian-speak as Rebuild, Redesign and Rethink. The founder of Davos Klaus Schwab defines these three Rs as rethinking values, redesigning financial systems and rebuilding institutions.

Of course this is much easier said than done. Last year few sat around and hesitated over preventing financial Armageddon. Now there are plenty of arguments about what should come next. Lots of these different agendas will be up for debate at the World Economic Forum.

Klaus Schwab admitted in his interview with me, “everybody will try to push his own interests.” I guess there is nothing wrong with that. However, to build something that will withstand the next financial hurricane, it is essential that it has strength and depth. Everyone needs to guard against weak plans simply because they are acceptable to all. That is not rebuilding, redesigning and rethinking; it is a recipe for ruin.

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT (or your local time) to watch Richard Quest on ‘Quest Means Business’.

For more information on Davos please visit www.cnn.com/davos

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January 26th, 2010
01:21 PM GMT
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