Wal-mart leading economic indicator

The old saying was "as goes Detroit, so goes the nation." Today, we should substitute "Wal-Mart" for Detroit. The ubiquitous retailer is the nation's largest private employer (1.1 million); it accounts for 9 percent of US retail sales. Its annual US sales of $203.7 billion dwarf the combined sales of the next four largest US retailers: Home Depot, Kroger, Target and Sears. To control costs and manage deliveries, Wal-Mart implemented a costly technology system in the '90s. Electronic data exchange allows it to optimally manage inventories with its 21,000 vendors. And the vendors take note: Wal-Mart accounts for more than half the sales of AT&T phone cards; 28 percent of Dial products; and 20 percent of sales for Hershey Foods, Clorox, Revlon and Rayovac. Analysts do not expect President Bush's tax cut to have much of an economic stimulus, based on sales at Wal-Mart. Sales at Wal-Mart and other "box"…continue reading →

Office upgrade touts collaboration

Reuters reports that Microsoft unveiled the latest version of Office today. The application suite is designed to allow people to collaborate on documents using the Web. Another reported feature is "self-destructing" documents. The Globe & Mail focuses on Outlook's spam filtering and Microsoft's positioning of Office for enterprise (group) use, versus "individual" purchase.continue reading →

A different tune (update)

Trade press and mass media continue to report on Apple's (new) iTunes for Windows. PC World reports that Apple sold 1 million tunes in three days after the launch. Internetnews.com likened Apple's move to throwing down a "guantlet" to other music sites. "I think this will come down to Apple vs. MusicMatch unless Microsoft enters, which is expected, and changes the overall dynamic," industry analyst Rob Enderle told internetnews.com. Articles (analysts) also reference the competing technologies -- Microsoft's Windows Media Audio (WMA, a proprietary codec designed to compete with MPEG3) and Advanced Audio Coding (AAC, an industry standard). AAC is designed to give the highest audio quality in smallest file size/bit rate. And it's not new. Moreover, many experts insist that it is "the state of the art in audio compression technology." The "battle" between MP3 and AAC has been compared with VHS-BetaMax, where the best technology "lost" due to…continue reading →