September 7th, 2009
03:52 AM GMT
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A new, slimmed-down version of PlayStation 3 hit store shelves across the world last week. But where is PlayStation 4?

According to game industry executives: A long way off.

It's been three years since the PS3 and Wii made their debut; four years since Microsoft released the Xbox 360. As the average console life-cycle is roughly around 4 to 6 years, we should be hearing rumblings about the successor to the current generation of consoles right about now.

Instead, industry figures are lining up to say how long this generation could last. Electronic Arts' CEO John Riccitiello spoke of an "extended hardware cycle" on an earnings call. Activision boss Bobby Kotick echoed those sentiments, while Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter told Edge he didn't expect the next hardware cycle to start until 2013 - if ever.

Why the wait? Microsoft and Sony spent billions of dollars to create the Xbox 360 and PS3 - money they'd like to recoup. Sony Computer Entertainment's Kaz Hirai admitted to the Times Online that they are losing money on each PS3 Slim they sell.

The exception is Nintendo. The company has steadily increased spending on research and development, from $34 million in the 2003 fiscal year to $430 million in 2009. Last year reported that Nintendo was working on the next-generation Wii for 2011.

Another reason for an extended console cycle could be the ability of the current generation of consoles to update themselves via the Internet. Both the Wii and PS3 have added major features through software updates, while the Xbox 360's interface was completely redesigned last year. And Microsoft has promised to add more functionality at the latest this year, including Facebook and Twitter.

The "Big Three" are hoping these moves to freshen up existing models will keep consumers  from relegating the current generation of consoles to the closet.

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August 24th, 2009
07:30 AM GMT
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HONG KONG, China – The Hang Seng is up 80 percent since March. Hong Kong recently emerged from the recession. And in this volatile housing market, property prices here - always a closely watched indicator - are on the rise again.

Take a walk through one of Hong Kong’s sprawling malls, or try to fight your way through the congested stores in Causeway Bay, and it’s clear that shoppers are out in force.

Many are holding the view that the worst is over. They might be right.

But Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia,  says caution is still the key. In a chat with Biz Clinic, Roach gives his views on where things stand.

The markets: The markets are “a lot stronger than the underlying state of the global economy,” says Roach, who previously was chief global economist for Morgan Stanley for more than 15 years. That will raise some real risks for equities in the second half of this year.

It’s important to remember that as much as 75 percent of the world’s economy has been contracting, and the American consumer remains “dead in the water” right now, Roach says. “When markets go up, memories get short.”

The housing myth: The focus on the U.S. housing market is “overblown,” Roach says. In his view, the damage has already been done. And even if housing does stabilize, consumers are still “stuck with too much debt on overvalued homes,” he says. “And now they’re stuck with job and income problems on top of that.”

Shooting down ‘green shoots’: It’s been the catch phrase of the recovery, but Roach shrugs off the idea of so-called “green shoots.” “(It’s a) fiction that’s been woven around liquidity driven markets,” he says, and the current “green shoots” will not blossom into large plants or bushes.

Keys to recovery: Here is what needs to happen for a global recovery, according to Roach :  

  1. First, the world needs another consumer than the “overly indebted, savings-short American consumer.”
  2. Second, we have to watch private debt levels, as well as public debt levels brought on by the massive stimulus programs all over the world.
  3. There needs to be job growth. Without that, Roach says we could see “a recovery with limited staying power, and one that is anemic at best.”
  4. And lastly, the United States has to save again, and excess savers in Asia have to start spending again. If that doesn’t happen, Roach says he’ll be “very cautious about the prognosis for the global economy.”
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July 30th, 2009
05:01 AM GMT
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CNN – It's official. Yahoo's Search is soon to become Bing. In the hours that followed Microsoft's announcement of its deal with Yahoo, talk has turned to whether they can realistically achieve their goal of taking down Google.

Google's search engine has near total market dominance in the United Kingdom, with around 90 percent of users choosing Google, compared to around 65 percent usage in the United States. When CNN's Adrian Finighan went out on the streets in London he was hard pressed to find anyone who didn't use Google's Search Engine.

The success of Bing will hinge on whether or not it’s able to persuade users to switch search brands. I have to admit I'm a little bit skeptical.

Google is so popular that it's a verb as well as a household name. There are few brands that achieve this kind of popularity. I can only think of a handful of others: Hoover and, as a Brit, Sellotape.

What do you think? Should Google be worried by the deal? We'll be looking at the story again on Thursday’s World Business Today.

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Filed under: BusinessTechnology

July 2nd, 2009
08:25 AM GMT
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) - For many Indians, a four-wheeled family car is the stuff of hopes and aspirations.

And Maruti Jayawant Bhandare – a 43-year-old man living on $160 a month by mending shoes from his tiny stall in Mumbai – learned earlier this week his dreams might have come true.

News reporters told him he was one of the lucky first 100,000 customers selected for the world's cheapest car, the Nano, being built by India's Tata Motors.

He was one of 206,703 people who in April booked what has been billed in India as “the common man's car.” He paid Rs 140,000, or around $2,800, for a deluxe version of the Nano; the basic model is priced from $2,000.

A cobbler booking a Nano made news in India, where a car ownership is a luxury for most. Here was a potential car owner who lives in a rented room in a Mumbai tenement with his wife and two school-age children.

I called him after seeing news reports he was among the first. Bhandare was eager to receive his tiny, jelly bean-shaped car – although he had yet to learn how to drive.

Still, he was a little unsure when his car would arrive since Bhandare doesn't know how to access the Internet to check the delivery information the company provided. So he gave me his details to check the company Web site for his application status.

Alas, I found the earlier press reports were incorrect – "Mr Maruti Bhandare" was not among the lucky first Nano owners. He is scheduled to take delivery of his car between January and March 2011.

A two-year wait for his sunshine-yellow hatchback sounded a bit too long for Bhandare. "I will go to the showroom, make some inquiries and decide then what's to be done now," he said.

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June 9th, 2009
01:36 AM GMT
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FARIDABAD, India — Power goes off as we drive into Harjit Singh's factory in this dusty industrial zone on the outskirts of India's capital New Delhi.
Singh, who makes fasteners and nuts for automobiles, turns to a heavy-duty generator lying in one corner of the factory floor as his workers struggles to switch it on. An elderly employee surrounded by idle machines continues his work with a handheld metal file.
In energy-deficit India, factory-owners like Singh – classified as micro and small enterprises – suffer routine power droughts like this. Still, these small companies manage to account for 39 percent of the manufacturing output and one-third of the country's total export.
The Indian government says this sector, spread over 12.8 million enterprises, employs an estimated 31 million people – a labor intensity four times higher than large enterprises.
But Singh says it is in a crisis now. "We are facing a business crunch, a major business crunch due to the economic slowdown," he laments as his machines rumble to life as power is restored.
He tells me that manufacturing activity has dropped considerably because of falling orders. Singh is caught in what he calls a "debt-trap" because costly banks loans to keep the business running.
His biggest worry is a permanent shutdown caused not by shoddy power, but by the financial crisis. In the past year he laid off 20 of the 38 workers. His sales are only one-fifth his 2007 volume. "I can’t help it, I can’t survive. I have to survive on the bare minimum," he remarks.
The trouble on Singh’s factory floor belies rosy headlines in the Indian press. "Get, set, grow," read a headline for the Hindustan Times. "Good news: At 6.7%, GDP grows more than expected," said a Times of India headline the same day.
But for Singh, it's unclear what lies ahead. He hopes the government will promote more bank loans for his ailing automobile sector, tax concessions and a curb on Chinese imports to keep his business from closure.

 "Something has to be done immediately; otherwise we’ve had it," he says.

October 13th, 2008
12:05 PM GMT
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RAND REFINERY, South Africa – It felt squishy – a bit like stuffing a mulberry into my ear. Still, I persisted and finally the soft foam rubber earplug slid into place. I put the other one into my ear and a muted silence filled my head.

"Mmmm kkkk ppp out," I vaguely heard my colleague Robyn Curnow shouting at me. I cocked my head to one side, and gingerly pulled one of the plugs out. "Mine keeps popping out," she repeated over the banging and clashing of heavy machinery.

I took it from her and showed her how to pinch the end before putting it in your ear. "Thnkks, I kpp sqshhing it the wrong way," I heard her say before we set off into the loud interior of the Rand Refinery, one of the largest gold manufacturers in the world.

Safety is a priority for management and certificates on the walls demonstrate an enviable record in accident-free manhours worked. Still, I couldn't help wondering why we needed earplugs to visit a gold refinery. I mean, after all, what does gold do? It doesn't squeal, or growl, or clatter – well, not that I've owned enough to hear it clatter.

It was only when we walked through the factory that I realized just how much noise and, by extension, effort goes into the production of pure gold (or 'four-nine' gold as the lingo has it here: 99.99 percent pure gold).

The factory is like something out of a giant alchemist's lab. There are flames and what look a little like glowing cauldrons – or more accurately – glowing crucibles, smoking as the molten gold pours out of them into molds. "We have to heat the molds or they would explode as the white hot gold hits them," explained managing director Geoff Millet.

It is hard work, gold refining. The workers are kitted out in in overalls, safety boots, goggles, face masks, gloves – all the gear they need to prevent injuries as they work in shifts around the clock.

The refinery has had to increase production in order to meet the soaring demand for gold as a safe haven while stock markets around the world implode. Traditionally, people turn to gold as a way of staving off economic disaster. No one can be sure what the future holds now but, at the moment, investing in gold coins or bullion is what many people hope will save them and their hard-earned wealth.

Standing in the darkened expanses of the refinery, there is something deeply compelling about watching the red-hot crucible tilt and a stream of molten gold pour out. It glimmers in the shadows, small flames ignite in the air around it. There is something mythical and deeply ancient in the beauty and the hope for power and economic salvation that humans believe it offers.

We were surrounded by billions of dollars worth of gold, but the shelves in the storage vaults were virtually empty because they have been selling off so much of the precious metal.

How long will this hunger for gold last? "I believe the sky's the limit," Geoff Millet told us.

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September 22nd, 2008
08:31 AM GMT
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HONG KONG, China - "What does that mean... in English?" That is the question I seem to get most these days. Short selling, credit debt swaps, bank holding companies - the business speak is coming fast and thick and it is putting fear into the heart of many journalists and non-journalists alike. Those of us working in CNN's business units have never felt so popular - if you can call it that.

Understanding and explaining what is happening in the financial markets is our biggest challenge right now. Some of this stuff, like short selling, is familiar territory for financial journalists. But some of the jargon is unfamiliar to us also, and we are working hard to learn and to translate it in a clear way.

If there is anything that needs to be explained, please post your comments on this blog or email

I tell my CNN colleagues who feel overwhelmed that the financial instruments involved in this meltdown are so complex that many of the bankers involved don't even understand them.

That might make them feel better - but then the same thought always sends me into a panic.

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September 9th, 2008
01:52 PM GMT
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The branding was not subtle. Giant banners reading PokerStars.Net surrounded the competitors in this year's Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macao event. I guess that is to be expected. Such online sites bring in much of the poker industry's revenue. They also sponsor many of the tournaments and competitors.

Watch CNN's Eunice Yoon on China's gambling habits

Watch CNN's Eunice Yoon on China's gambling habits.

The appeal, according to some players, is that anyone can play online. No intimidating casino, no need to travel - poker from the comfort of your own home.

But you can use online poker as a stepping stone. The appropriately named Chris Moneymaker, one of the game's biggest celebrities, won the 2003 World Series of Poker, and $2.5 million, after qualifying online.

From the players I saw in Macao, poker players pretty much run the gamut. Young and old, men and women. There was even one guy dressed as a joker.

So here come the questions. Do you play online poker? Would you play at the casino? Is there something about the Internet that boosts your confidence?

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