September 29th, 2010
01:08 PM GMT
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September 28th, 2010
09:34 PM GMT
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Southwest Airlines just announced it will acquire rival company AirTran. So airlines are merging and making money, but is what’s good for airlines ALSO good for passengers? Have no fear, Quest and Ali are here and back with their Q & A-style news quiz. You choose the topic here on our blog, then every Thursday Richard and Ali have a go at it to see who can outsmart the other in the world of business news. Tune in Thursday to watch and leave us ideas for next week’s Q & A in the comments section (right underneath here).

Filed under: Q&AQuest Means Business

September 27th, 2010
12:43 PM GMT
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Where were Quest and Ali? No, that’s not this week’s Q&A quiz question… both were away from the set for the past two weeks, but they’re back and ready to answer your questions. What business topic would you like to see quizzed this week? Share your requests here and then see it on air Thursday.

Filed under: Q&AQuest Means Business

September 27th, 2010
04:28 AM GMT
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(CNN) – Are Web 2.0 applications money makers or time wasters?

The results of a global survey by computer anti-virus giant McAfee suggests it’s both.

A survey of 1,000 executives from 17 countries stretching from Japan to India, the UK to Brazil, found that three of four organizations use social media sites for marketing and customer service, or for “crowdsourcing” instead of outsourcing projects and tasks.

Developing markets such as Brazil, India, the United Arab Emirate and Mexico are more likely to view Web 2.0 as a potential revenue stream.

However, nearly half the companies surveyed prohibited Facebook use during company hours  –  the larger the corporation, the more likely the prohibition. About a quarter of companies monitor employee use of social media site for inappropriate behavior.

One reason companies are leery of employees using social networking sites is the growing number of malicious software that is transmitted on Web 2.0 applications. Seven of 10 organizations surveyed lost around $2 million last year  because of  security problems, the McAfee report said.

While IT specialists in the survey favored blocking social media sites due to security risks, Web 2.0 industry analysts think such policies place companies at a competitive disadvantage. In the report, consultant Shel Holtz argued that social connections are important for marketing, recruitment, testing ideas and getting quick feedback. Blocking access “is the laziest way around the problem,” Holtz said in the report.

Executives usually suspect that new technologies will result in employees slacking off.

“When American businesses after WWII started thinking about rolling out telephones on everyone’s desks, the biggest objection that was raised by senior managers, who already had telephones, was that everyone was going to use these phone for personal use,” Analyst Stowe Boyd said in the report. “They were going to call mom; they were going to gossip.”

Still, does posting the latest photos for Mom on Facebook help productivity? Does Facebook and Twitter distract or add to your working life?

September 23rd, 2010
10:26 AM GMT
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London, England (CNN) – By the end of Thursday, Britain will have the ability to get four percent of its electricity consumption from wind, thanks in part to the addition of 100 turbines 11 kilometers off the coast of Kent.

The new site is Vattenfall’s "300 MW Thanet Offshore Wind Farm," a major renewable energy initiative spearheaded by the previous British government. It could supply more than 200,000 homes.

The four-year-old project has been delayed by two years, and at one point was owned by a hedge fund. But now, under Vattenfall, it’s ready.

It seems to me that Britain is getting less praise than Denmark and Germany, or less notice. And today changes that. Britain is so windy it’s estimated an offshore turbine in the UK generates 50 percent more power than a turbine in Germany.

Of the 16 offshore wind farms now under construction around Europe, half are in Britain according to the European OffShore Wind Industry.

That translates to much more wind farm capacity being constructed in the UK (2.4 gigawatts) during the first half of 2010 than the rest of Europe combined (1.5 gigawatts).

In total, wind is close to supplying energy to nearly three million British homes, according to UK energy association RenewableUK.

The challenge is to find places where locals won't complain, which is why offshore wind farms are so desirable. The wind there is also stronger.

Of course, the farther offshore you go, the more it costs to construct and carry power back to shore.

Thanet will not keep its crown as the world largest operational offshore wind farm for long though.

In late 2012 or 2013, the London Array wind farm - a project being funded by energy companies E.ON, DONG Energy and Masdar - is scheduled to start generating electricity just north of the Thanet site.

The owners say the 300 proposed wind turbines could become the world's first one gigawatt offshore wind farm.

When up and running, the London Array will go a long way to helping Britain reach the UK government’s target of providing 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

How does that compare to where you live?

September 22nd, 2010
11:06 AM GMT
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Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, has said that he would rather be “occupying space than throwing stones from outside.”

However, Tsvangirai has been criticized, even from within his own party, for compromising too much in order to “occupy” some of Zimbabwe’s political space. His party, the MDC, have been in a coalition government with Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF for the past two years, but key points in the 'power-sharing agreement' have still not been implemented.

Sticking points are the new constitution, targeted Western sanctions and the timing of new elections, among other issues.

Many worry that the MDC is a 'junior member' in the coalition and that Robert Mugabe has outmaneuvered Tsvangirai and his party.

Tsvangirai denied this when I put it to him in an interview. He said he shared equal executive power with Mugabe. He also stressed that Zimbabwe was a far more stable country since 2008 and, with that in mind, he is trying to drum up foreign investment to help boost the country’s fragile economy.

So the questions I have are: Would you invest in Zimbabwe? Do you agree with Tsvangirai that it’s better to be inside government, working for change from within? Or do you think he has 'sold-out?'

September 21st, 2010
04:57 PM GMT
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New York City (CNN) – Twenty-three years ago Oliver Stone introduced us to the notion that greed is good. Or at least that is what his villainous character Gordon Gekko famously told a group of shareholders in “Wall Street.” For the sequel it is “banksters” that Stone shines a bright light on.

“What Gekko was doing in the 1980s became legitimate in the 2000s,” he explains. “The banks became Gekko. The Securities and Exchange Commission did nothing, these buccaneers, these pirates – 'banksters' you could call them - were running rampant, selling junk securities to the world. There is a lack of trust between us and the banking class, we’ll never trust them again.”

Known for his thorough research, Stone and his stars once again immersed themselves in the subject. They spent months talking to Wall Street insiders who explained the complex world of derivatives and credit default swaps. Shia LaBeouf, who stars as the young hero of the movie Jake Moore, even passed his Series 7 exam and is a licensed dealer broker.

Though critical of the actions of banks during the crisis, Stone is not completely anti-Wall Street.

“My father was a stock broker for 50 years,” he says. “ think there is a reason for free markets. Markets do define things, they distribute well. At the end of the day we need some version of Wall Street to work… The system has to be reformed.”

I talked to Stone just hours before the film’s New York premiere and it was clear that two decades after the success of the first Wall Street, he is still passionate about finance. “The 2008 crash was like a triple by-pass to capitalism and everything is in question.”

In our interview he talks about the lust for money, the damage this episode has done, leadership in Washington. But the most interesting part for me was our discussion about Shia LaBeouf’s character Jake Moore and whether it is possible to be truly ethical and rise to the top in business.

You can see what Stone says in the video above - but I want know what you think?

Can good guys rise to the top in finance or do you have to be part shark to swim with them? Can the Gordon Gekko’s of the world truly reform?

September 19th, 2010
10:31 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) - Where's the best place to sit at work? It's a simple question. But when I asked a local feng shui expert, I didn't get a simple answer. More on that in just a moment.

Feng shui literally means "wind water" in Chinese. It's the ancient belief that energy flows through your surroundings and it is up to you to harness the "good energy." Several years ago, I was intrigued enough by this philosophy that I took a beginner's feng shui class in Texas, where I was living at the time.

I quickly realized it was complicated. Not only do you have to use your birthday and a formula to determine your element, there was also something about a tortoise shell, compass directions and  more calculations. I don't remember anything from that class except that my element is "wood" and I need to avoid placing fire elements (e.g. red vase or red carpet) in my home. Red symbolizes fire and fire burns wood.

Fast forward to today. I live in Hong Kong, where people take feng shui pretty seriously. You only have to look around the city to see that architects often include feng shui in their design. In Repulse Bay on the island's south side, there's a well-known apartment building with a large hole in the center. The hole is to allow the dragon (the Chinese symbol of good fortune) access to the sea to drink water.

You can also apply feng shui to your office.

That brings us back to the question, where's the best place to sit at work? Feng shui Master Raymond Lo says that first, a feng shui expert needs to come to your workplace to evaulate the energy flow. He emphasizes the boss needs to sit where the best energy is.

"If the boss is happy, the company makes money," Lo says. Then the middle managers should be assigned the next most "auspicious" spots in the office. Lastly, the rank and file take up the remaining floor space. Lo also says there is also something called "money energy" - and no one should place their desk where money energy intensifies. This is where the conference room should be - a place where strategy is planned out.

To make things even more complicated, Lo says good energy is dynamic and moves around. So over time, the most auspicious energy can migrate to different locations in your office. I told you, feng shui isn't easy.

September 17th, 2010
06:36 AM GMT
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Beijing, China (CNN) – I’ve never really understood the whole obsession with Apple. Like today in Beijing, where it has been gently raining overnight and outside the Apple store (one of two in China, the other is in Shanghai), there they were – the Mac Heads, not a lot, maybe a hundred lining up to buy the iPad.

Technically this was the official launch, but in reality I could have bought one in April in what’s known as the gray market. My “dealer,” who’s name is also John, told me for a fee flight attendants deliver iPads from the U.S.; he then adds his costs so a gray market iPad costs about US$800 for the basic model. I guess for John, today’s official launch means he’s out of the iPad business.

But the point is – for a few hundred dollars extra, a true Mac Head in China could have had their own iPad months ago, yet there was something special about buying the tablet gizmo from the official Apple store. A point not lost on Han Ziwen, a 35 year old book store owner, who stood in line for three days.

“I don’t support smuggling, although some Chinese people got to use this product before me, they’re not like me, because I purchased this product in China,” he said.

Seems like a pretty fine point to me.

But Mac Heads are not like ordinary people, which may explain why they have their own online dating service – at first I thought it was an internet hoax, but the web site ( seems real enough (iPhone 4 girl seeks older iPhone2 guy, must be in good condition?). And it may explain why in the movie “Mac Heads” – one woman says: “I’ve never knowingly slept with a Windows user.”

That must narrow down the playing field. Hence, the dating service – just don’t mention Adam and Eve and the Apple thing. Another telling point in the movie is the man who says “Muslims have Mecca, we have Macca.”

But getting back to China, such is Apple’s status in this country that Mac Heads here are willing to pay more than American Mac Heads – almost twenty per cent more mostly because of higher Chinese taxes. That’s a lot in a country where wages are a lot lower. One woman told me just spent a month’s wages on an iPad and thought it was a bargain.

And for Apple, launching in China means the company may now be on track to sell 12 million iPads this year, maybe 20 million next year. That’s a lot of Mac love.

Final disclosure, I use Windows, while my wife and daughter both love Mac (Mac Heads don’t just use it they loooove it) so we’re a divided family. I often warn them “We are Microsoft, resistance is futile”.

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Filed under: BusinessChinaTechnology

September 16th, 2010
04:39 PM GMT
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