Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dell launches "Vostro" for small business market (

BEIJING, July 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Dell gained a larger share of the small business market Tuesday by launching the "Vostro" brand of notebook and desktop personal computers designed to simplify tech support to small business with 25 or fewer employees.

Vostro, a Latin word meaning "yours," joins Dell's existing product lines, which include Inspiron for consumers, the Latitude and Optiplex for large companies, and the XPS for gamers.

Vostro PCs will come with a suite of subscription-based services and a dedicated tech support staff, said Frank Muehleman, senior vice president of Dell's small and medium business group.

Vostro systems will be available with Windows Vista or XP operating systems, but won't come with any so-called "trialware," or sample versions of software that expire after a few weeks or months, Muehleman said.

The systems include three notebooks with screens ranging from 14 to 17 inches and starting prices from 449 to 799 dollars. A desktop version will be available starting at 319.

CEO Michael Dell said at a press conference in New York a customer without any IT experience can get a Vostro PC up and running in six minutes and can connect it to the company network in only six steps.

Vostro will also come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and services that Muehleman said would make it easier for small businesses to focus on productivity instead of technical computer issues.

Perception key in setting policy, Bernanke says


WASHINGTON -- If the public thinks inflation will go up, it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. People could demand bigger raises to pay for more expensive gas, groceries, or rent - and that behaviour, in turn, can make inflation worse.

If, on the other hand, it feels pretty comfortable inflation won't flare up, people might go about their business - for the most part - as they usually do.

Those "inflation expectations," the mind-sets of both the public and investors about where prices are heading, play an important role for Federal Reserve policy makers in their efforts to tame inflation.

"Undoubtedly, the state of inflation expectations greatly influences actual inflation and thus the central bank's ability to achieve price stability," Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday in a speech at the conference of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which shed light on the role consumers and investors play in influencing the country's economic well-being.

If investors, consumers and businesses feel confident that the Fed will keep prices stable, Mr. Bernanke suggested, they may be less inclined to act in ways that could aggravate inflation. He also said that people may be less inclined in such circumstances to worry that inflation will eat away at investments and paycheques, and might feel better about long-term financial planning.

"Experience suggests that high and persistent inflation undermines public confidence in the economy and in the management of economic policy generally," he said. And that can hurt "risk-taking, investment and other productive activities.

In his remarks, the Fed chief didn't say anything specific about the future course of rates in the United States. The Fed's key interest rate has held steady at 5.25 per cent for just over a year. Before that, the Fed had pushed rates up for two years to fend off inflation, the longest stretch of increases in the central bank's history.

At the Fed's last meeting, Mr. Bernanke and his central bank colleagues said the biggest risk to the economy was if inflation failed to recede as they anticipated.

Mr. Bernanke's remarks yesterday touched on the challenges of measuring inflation expectations.

"If the public experiences a spell of inflation higher than their long-run expectation, but their long-run expectation of inflation changes little as a result, then inflation expectations are well anchored," he explained.

"If, on the other hand, the public reacts to a short period of higher-than-expected inflation by marking up their long-run expectation considerably, then expectations are poorly anchored, he said.

Although inflation expectations seem much better anchored today than they were a few decades ago, "they appear to remain imperfectly anchored," he observed.

Jury in Black trial struggling to reach verdicts (Times UK)

James Bone in Chicago

The jury in Lord Black of Crossharbour’s US fraud trial raised the possibility last night of a mistrial on some counts. On their ninth day of deliberations the jury indicated that it may deliver only a partial verdict – possibly as early as today.

Jurors sent the judge a note saying that they were deadlocked on some of the 42 charges against Lord Black and his three co-accused. “We have discussed and deliberated on all of the evidence and are still unable to reach a unanimous verdict on one or more counts. Please advise,” the note said. “PS We have read the jury instruction very carefully. (page 75)”

The parentheses suggested that jurors had paid special attention to the final page of the 75-page jury instruction on how to reach a verdict. That page charges that jurors should “consult with one another, express your own views and listen to the opinions of your fellow jurors. Discuss your differences with an open mind.”

But it adds: You should not surrender your honest beliefs about the weight or effect of evidence solely because of the opinions of your fellow jurors for the purpose of reaching a unanimous verdict.”

Lord Black, who was given 30 minutes to get to the Chicago court from his hotel, arrived in a tan suit with no socks inside his loafers. His daughter, Alana, arrived shortly afterwards. But his wife, Barbara Amiel, did not turn up.

He watched blankly as the jury filed into court to hear the judge repeat her instruction. The 62-year-old former Telegraph chairman could face the rest of his life behind bars if convicted of looting $60 million (£30 million) from the newspaper group he ran, once the third largest in the world. He faces a total of 13 charges of fraud, tax evasion, obstruction of justice and racketeering.

There was no indication whether the jury was deadlocked on charges against Lord Black or on counts against his codefendants. Ron Safer, defending Mark Kipnis, one of Lord Black’s codefendants, asked the judge to accept a partial verdict and declare a mistrial on the unresolved charges.

“From their note they’ve clearly been at this state for some time and it is our opinion that we accept what they have and thank them for their service,” Mr Safer said.

The prosecution also asked for the judge to accept a partial verdict, but requested that the jurors then be sent to try to reach a decision on the remaining counts. Judge Amy St Eve told the jury to continue their deliberations, saying that she sometimes sent a deadlocked jury back twice. But she said that she would consider accepting a partial verdict if the jury sent a second similar note.

The nine women and three men on the jury later left together without any obvious bad feeling and said that they would resume work today.

The jury is required to fill out a 30-page verdict form that starts with the 13 charges against Lord Black and then moves through each of his three co-accused. Their initial notes to the judge indicated that they started by examining “noncompete” payments made to Lord Black and the three other exectives as the newspaper company disposed of its US and Canadian assets from 1998-2001.