Thursday, 31 May 2012

A Review of the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550

Introduction:  The Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 has the advantage of a lot more RAM than some of its predecessors. It offers improved access to the Chrome OS system. The processor on the tablet is faster than the previous version. On the downside the price is a bit high. It also requires that the user is always online, a situation that is sometimes impractical in certain circumstances. Moreover it also suffers from the general limitations of the Chrome OS system. At $549, you might be better off looking elsewhere for an efficient tablet.
Specifications: One of the problems for consumers is the fact that up to date, they do not really understand the concept of Chromebook. The use of cloud-based applications and services is attractive until you lose your internet connection. It is at that point that you will be hoping for rescue by the Windows or Mac OS which work offline as well as online. In terms of portability the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 tablet is very thin. It measures 12” and can fit in most places. However you do not get a hard or CD drive. Instead you have to rely on some remote programs to carry out the basic functions.
What is the practical use of a gadget that requires you to be online all the time? In this review we were not convinced that the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 tablet is the answer. There are traditional alternatives which are much cheaper and yet as effective as this latest product. The battery life is necessarily very good but that is not always the primary concern of consumers when they are looking for a practical device. They have worked on the hardware but you would have to pay $549 if you wanted a Verizon 3G wireless antenna.
The specification includes an Intel Celeron processor and 4GB worth of memory. The hard drive has 16GB SSD. The full dimensions for the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 are 11” by 25” by 8.3”. It stands 0.7” tall with a diagonal screen size of 12.1”. This comes to 3.7lbs in weight when everything is included. Ultimately we found this device to be ultraportable during the review. However the pricing strategy and limitations discouraged us.
Pros: The device benefits from a faster and more powerful operating system than its predecessor.
Cons: The fact that you are required to be on the internet all the time is frustrating. We also feel that the pricing strategy is too harsh.
Editor Rating: The Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 deserves 3.5 stars out of 5 following this review.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels Boost USA Manufacturers

Efforts to boost USA production while protecting natural resources through anti dumping tariffs.
The news that the USA government is going to increase solar tariffs on Chinese cells was greeted by apprehension by the Communist State. However it may have the effect of boosting prices and even protecting the environment in the long run. On the 17th of May the USA created a new tariff regime of as much as 250% on solar cells made in China. [1]
Local manufacturers were delighted by the decision because they had been literally driven out of the industry by the foreign competition. This could not come at a better time given the fact that the US unemployment rate continues to hover at about 8.1% with serious problems in the manufacturing sector. In an Election Year, the decision was virtually inevitable.
The critics are worried about the energy industry
There was a vocal contingent against the move. These naysayers argue that the tariffs may have the effect of increasing the price of these cells and actually hurting the renewable energy industry in the USA. Nevertheless the US Commerce Department was of the view that Chinese manufacturers were abusing the rules by selling cells at a price that was below the costs of production.
Antidumping duties are a very powerful tool when dealing with a strong manufacturing country such as China. The new duties will range from 31% to 250%. As expected the Chinese government was critical of the decision, claiming that it would hurt both nations. The reality is that the USA government can no longer allow China to destroy the local manufacturing base through blatant dumping.
Alternative green energy measures
In America, the drive towards Green energy continues. For example the BNEF is of the view that wind energy is becoming competitive when compared to the traditional sources of power such as coal and gas. This means that local consumers will have greater control over pricing as a consequence of an increased level of competition. There will be viable alternatives. 
Michael Lawn of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance project believes that the new tariffs will boost an industry in which up to 4 companies applied for bankruptcy in 2011. Shyam Mehta of GTM Research in Boston believes that the Chinese will find alternatives: “China-based manufacturers would certainly have to raise U.S. prices to turn a profit…This is likely to lead to module price increases in the U.S., which would serve to dampen demand and installation growth.” [2]
Protecting American industries and the environment
It is generally accepted that the Chinese government is boosting domestic production through the use of subsidies. By contrast, the free market approach in the USA faces considerable pressure. At the same time it is the stated objective of the Obama Administration to promote the use of ‘clean’ energy.
Originally this project was meant to boost environmental protection and local employment. The Chinese saw an opportunity and began to exploit it. Gordon Brinser at the SolarWorld US Summit summarized the issues: “Commerce today put importers and purchasers on notice about the consequences of importing illegally subsidized and dumped products from China”. He also argues that imposing tariffs creates a new balance.
The practical implications of protectionist policies
According to Mr. Brinser, the new regime creates “the possibility that domestic solar manufacturing, environmentally sustainable solar production and robust global competition might one day soon return, boosting U.S. manufacturing jobs”. [2] A case in point is Suntech Power Holdings which was told to pay 31.22% in levies. They are the world’s biggest solar panel maker and could easily devastate American manufacturers.
Many local manufacturers have been complaining about a raw deal especially in terms of the Chinese currency manipulation systems. ‘Green Energy’ was supposed to be a big thing for American manufacturers but the laxity of the rules meant that they were still losing out. These tariffs are designed to help those struggling domestic entrepreneurs.
  1. E. Goossens,” U.S. Solar Tariffs on Chinese Cells May Boost Prices”, 17th May 2012, Bloomberg,
  2. G. Zapo,” Our Environmental Health”, 17th May 2012, Technorati,

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Spain and Greece threaten World Economic Stability

The Eurozone financial crisis might spread beyond the G8 countries
The future of the Greek economy has been in jeopardy for a very long time. The ramifications are being felt across the European Union and there is talk of an untimely exit. Meanwhile Germany continues to prop up a number of countries who rely on the currency for stability. Nevertheless there is real concern that the world at large will be affected.
During a G8 meeting at Camp David, the leaders refused to countenance the possibility that either Spain or Greece might leave the Euro. Hopes of calming the markets seem destined to be disappointed however. There is rumor that Bankia which is largely controlled by the Spanish government is losing depositors and could even crash before recovering.
Years of mismanagement turn into a major financial crisis
The news of a potential collapse prompted the credit rating agency Moody’s to downgrade the creditworthiness of many banks in Spain. In Greece the middle classes have taken to the soup kitchens in an act of pure desperation even as the chances of creating a broad-based government fade. If Greece left the Euro, the Spanish question would continue to needle investors.
In response the European Union claims to have created a ‘firewall’ to protect vulnerable economies like Portugal. However the scale of the problem means that these measures may not be enough to deal with the potential disaster. In fact the easier prediction is that the departure of Greece might trigger a rise in the interest rates offered for Spanish public borrowing.
Pablo Trian of the Esade Business School speculates on the effects of a Greek exit on the Spanish economy: "If people start to believe that the possibility of a new peseta is not some crazy hallucination they might take out their Euros and put them somewhere else." [1] Gayle Allard from the IE Business School agrees that individual investors may decide to abandon the currency.
The European Commission makes contingency plans
Already the European Central Bank and EC are drawing up contingency plans just in case Greece decides to abandon ship. Karel De Gucht is the Trade Commissioner and was at pains to acknowledge the reality of the situation. However there mixed messages from Olli Rehn who is the European Economics Commissioner: "We are not working on the scenario of a Greek exit. We are working on the basis of a scenario of Greece staying in." [2]
There are 17 countries in the Eurozone. Britain retains the Pound Sterling but the nationalists there claim that they have been propping up the currency. The USA depends on trade from the Union and China will not be able to sell its cheap products in the EU if the economies there collapse. This local crisis is taking on global dimensions. That is why President Barack Obama has been enlisted to provide moral support (for now).
Europe must learn manufacturing again
One major theme that is running throughout these crisis points is the fact that Europe no longer makes things. That honor has been handed to China, Japan and the USA.  Without a strong manufacturing base, these countries will continue to struggle. Relying on the Stock Exchange as the sole determinant of economic development is a dangerous strategy.
Can other parts of the world learn from this crisis? First of all the concept of ‘austerity’ politics no longer appears viable for the average voter. Nicolas Sarkozy and the Greek government paid the price. Others will continue to do so. South American countries are also learning about the true dangers of unbridled capitalism. Perhaps the world will turn to the Scandinavian Social Model as a compromise.

  1. J. Webb,” Fears mount as Spanish euro uncertainty grows”, 18th May 2012, BBC,
  2. V. Mock and M. Stevis,” 3rd UPDATE: ECB, Commission Working On Greek Exit Plans-De Gucht”, 18th May 2012, Wall Street Journal,

Has the FaceBook IPO been Over-Hyped?

Mark Zuckerberg is celebrating becoming a billionaire following the FaceBook IPO on the NASDAQ index.

There is no denying the fact that there has been lots of interest in the FaceBook IPO. Mark Zuckerberg has become a billionaire (on paper at least) and there are celebrity beneficiaries including Bono. The only problem is the possibility that the hype could be misplaced. Is this another Dot.Com bubble that is going to fall flat in a few months? The share offers opened on the NASDAQ index at $42.
The pundits anticipate that when all is said and done, FaceBook will raise $16 billion for its shareholders. The social networking website is currently controlled by Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Cox (Vice President-Product Development) and Sheryl Sandberg (COO). Three other high ranking executives are to benefit from the windfall.
A share offering that exceeded expectations
Although the quoted price was $38, the hype ensured that buyers had to budget for about $42 on the NSDAQ index. Investors expect that this price will fluctuate until there is a relatively stable model. The last time internet shares experienced such interest was in 2004 when Google did its IPO. FaceBook (worth $104 billion) is now officially more valuable than Amazon. [1]
Amidst the self-congratulation, there are indicators that some of the joy might be a touch too optimistic. Wall Street has been going through a particularly challenging phase despite the significant fiscal stimulus funds directed at it. The Euro is also facing pressure given the fact that there are rumors of a hasty Greek exit. Investors would be wise to take a cautious attitude to these IPOs.
A risky venture with numerous rewards
Although the venture has created over 200 FaceBook millionaires worth more than $30 million, there is plenty of skepticism from a professional point of view. The value of this company relies on users and their preferences. We already know that MySpace was unceremoniously displaced by YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter. There are no guarantees that the same cycle will not be repeated.
Last year the company had $3.7 billion worth of revenue. This is significantly less than Goldman Sachs which brought in $29 billion. Therefore it should be a cause for concern that the investment bank shares are currently half the value of the FaceBook IPO. Even with 900 million users, there is no guarantee that it will retain that level of brand loyalty. There are no captive audiences on the internet.
Getting ready for the inevitable drop on share prices
Already there were warning signs when the initial share price of $42 fell to $38. By the end of the day some shares had lost as much as 18%. [2]Tim Loughran is a Finance Professor at the University of Notre Dame. He explains the dynamics at play: "A 15 to 20 percent pop is in the realm of possibility…Given they already moved their IPO range up and increased the size, that's bullish to begin with." [3]This is not the kind of volatility that investors can afford to play with.
As a long term prospect FaceBook remains a risky venture. This is despite the fact that it has been described as the ‘Corporation of the Century’. The main problem is that it relies on visitor numbers and there are no mechanisms for ensuring that those visitors have no alternatives. Google by contrast has been able to establish an online monopoly in all but name, largely as a consequence of its exclusive power amongst the search engines.
  1. M. Norton,” Facebook, Zuckerberg Opens NASDAQ Trading On Day Of IPO”, 18th May 2012, It Pro Portal,
  2. A. Oreskovic,” UPDATE 3-Facebook fizzles in debut, shares skirt IPO price”, Reuters, 18th May 2012,
  3. D. Rushe, “Facebook shares open at $42 as it begins trading on Nasdaq”, 18th May 2012, Guardian,

Saturday, 26 May 2012

How Google is making Consumer Searches Easier

The Google Knowledge Graph is Just the Beginning of a Revolution
Google has been expanding its services to include mobile software and social networking facilities. The search engine has implemented flagship schemes such as Google+ in order to attract visitors. In this article we examine some of the initiatives designed to make searching for stuff easier.
The core search engine is intact for Google but they are constantly coming up with innovations that provide peripheral services. The Knowledge Graph is just one of the schemes that they have in mind. It is a search tool which was rolled out on the 18th of May 2012. Apparently consumers and non-specific searchers will find it easier to access relevant pages through this tool.
The premise of the scheme is that a search for a popular key word will trigger the creation of an information box on the side which gives the user more details about their search. At the same there will be algorithm protocols which effectively exclude those pages that are considered to be poor quality versions. Data scraping and ‘recycling’ are some of the indicators that a website does not have high quality information.
Google intends to reduce the prominence of poor quality pages
One of the advantages associated with using the Knowledge Graph is the ability to get summarized information about the page before visiting it. This will be particularly useful to those surfers that have limited bandwidth or the ones that are taking a cautious approach to visiting potentially dangerous sites. Users will also get a Google+ profile if the search term relates to a person or institution.
Shashidhar Thakur is the Tech Lead in search for Google. In an interview with ABC news, he described how data was sourced for this project: "The knowledge graph has been constructed using a lot of reliable sources of information, including the World CIA Fact Book, Wikipedia, etc. We also collect content of our own, like Google Books". [1] A team has been working on the project for 2 years. So far a database of 500 places, people and things has been created.
Access to results that are detailed and accurate
There are up to 3.5 billion defining attributes and connections which are used to enforce the accuracy of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). The Knowledge Graph box will be visible as soon as the Google Maps application is triggered. In terms of social media, the search engine continues to promote Google+. This feature has a bespoke social network as well as filtered results.
Obviously retailers are going to pay attention to all these developments because they directly affect sales. PJ Fusco is the Director of SEO services at Covario Inc. He is of the view that the planning process has ensured that commercial websites are not going to be negatively affected by the developments: “While it’s challenging to consider all the potential cross references that could be made between retailers and different data points in time, Google certainly is making discovering these potential intersections highly alluring for searchers.” [2]
How does this tie in with Google Panda?
Those websites that are unable to tighten their editorial controls are going to pay the price. Their rankings are likely to fall dramatically because they will be overtaken by more relevant pages. In fact Google has indicated that the search engine is likely to roll out more features for English language users.  The winner is going to be the ‘smaller merchant’ according April Anderson who is the Industry Director for the retail sector. [2]
Businesses are required to respond to these changes by improving the quality of content that they put on their pages. Those that were devastated by the onset of the Panda update will already have experience of recovery. These are the advanced marketing strategies that will be required for e-commerce in the future. Meanwhile the search engine continues to thrive.
  1. J. Stern,” Google Knowledge Graph: Search Just Got A Lot Smarter”, 16th May 2012, ABC News,
  2. T. Ruetter,” Google’s new search feature aims to increase relevancy”, 16th May 2012, Internet Retailer,